Leadership Archive, 2022
10/17 On Finish Lines in Mentoring:
In mentoring, there is a time to challenge the mentee towards development, and, there is a time to impart the feeling that they have crossed a minor or major finish line and accomplished something. Mentees need both.
Leaders of all kinds tend to overdo the challenging part. They instruct, admonish, correct, critique, coach, inspire, and generally push for more and more development, sometimes losing conscientiousness that the human soul needs occasional finish lines. It needs to feel that it is hitting targets, making noticeable progress, and that developmental modules are really working. Finish lines, in turn, excite and inspire even more dedication to make even more progress and reach major life-changing or organization-changing finish lines.
A mentor can balance developmental pushes and finish line celebrations in a few ways. The simplest, most immediate way is through comments and conversation--the culture-creators in every relationship. When fitting and timely, the mentor needs to make celebratory comments about any progress or finish lines crossed. And, for goodness sake, do not negate the celebration moment by snarking, "But you still need to do better in this or that." Celebratory comments, with zero critique, will make the mentee's soul glow with satisfaction, and almost always open a deeper conversation where you can further detail and harp on their progress. Jesus was masterful at celebrating, in commentary and conversation, finish lines crossed by His disciples. See Luke 10:17-24 for an example. Notice also, how often the Lord ordains celebrations throughout redemptive history. We forget, or fail to understand, the potency and leverage of custom-fitted celebrations in personal or organizational development.
The bigger the finish line, however, the bigger the celebration needs to be, beyond comments and conversation. The possibilities are endless here, so be thoughtful and celebrate every victory on the level it deserves. You can really crush the soul of a mentee by not going the extra mile to celebrate a finish line that is significant. On the other hand, a well-timed celebration can add to a person's or organization's momentum towards more and even greater finish lines.
Resist the temptation to overcoach. Even the Lord does not overcoach. He said in Isaiah 57:16 (CEV): My people, I won't stay angry and keep on accusing you. After all, I am your Creator. I don't want you to give up in complete despair.
The ISV words it like this: For I won't accuse forever, nor will I always be angry; for then the human spirit would grow faint before me--even the souls that I have created.
As a leader who probably has further, wider, and deeper vision than those you lead, you will be tempted to address all that you see, i.e., you will overcoach, leading to their despair and faintness. Triage your developmental pushes. Time your developmental pushes. This means you will need to be exceedingly listenful, thoughtful, and prayerful in every moment with your mentee(s). Stay out of your autopilot personality type responses. Patiently discern every moment. If you can administrate and balance developmental coaching and finish line celebrations well, you can see accelerated and sustained progress in the individuals or organizations you mentor.
8/5 On Loving Power & Control:
Leaders, and everyone really, need inner sanctification from power and its various forms. Do not see power as some distant abstract concept that only politicians and celebrities possess. Every human being has a relationship with power, the majority simply are not aware of it. Let’s detail this.
We all know that person who, quote-unquote, loves power. Who needs to be in control. Who needs to be right. Who knows how to use anger, and its twin sibling, sulking. Who needs superfluous attention. Who talks too much. Who cannot see nuance or gray. Who needs to win. The parent who says, “Don't talk back!” (instead of, “Make your case respectfully.”) The leader who cannot delegate or interrelate with a counsel. The micromanaging spouse. The patron sibling. The mass shooter seeking a feeling of omnipotence. The anonymous internet person trying to feel power by shooting from the cowardly shadows of usernames and avatars. (Many Christians are a disgrace in this regard. If this is you, John 3:21 rebukes you. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.)
The Trojan Horse, however, in focusing only on strong-smelling forms of power play is that we miss the more subtle, covert, odor-free forms of power play. The person who is everyone’s caretaker. The person who is always a deferential golden retriever. The person who uses money to influence and control. The person who discreetly leverages position or referent power. The person who bends information or facts. The pretty woman who uses her looks plus sass or sulking to get her way. The pastor or Christian leader who (mis-)uses scriptures to get bigger and more donations (i.e., more power), or, who cherrypicks and soapboxes spiritual themes to create denominational or movement hegemony, or, who is a seeker-sensitive candyman so everyone will like him/her (i.e., give him/her more power).
If we turn on the ambient lights we see that every human being wills to power, wills to interpersonal and environmental control, wills to determine and acquire. Think this is only true of ambitious post-childhood, pre-senior idealists? You’ve never seen toddlers in social action, or pastored a church of mainly seniors who are allegedly retired. Every mentally able human has the power impulse, which they act on, knowingly or unknowingly, with overt or sublimated tactics...until they experience deep inner sanctification from that impulse.
We may not be offering God a physical bull in a burnt offering anymore, but He certainly requires that you bring Him the bull within, the power impulse, and however you express it through your personality. The incredible thing is, God wants to give us strength and power—internally, interpersonally, even publicly for some. However, we have to first sacrifice our me-obsessed overt or covert power strategies. When we offer our bulls to Him, dying to every power play we use, then He can bless us with healthy power, power that is loving and good, power based on healthy influence—not shady, slimy, conniving, controlling, or me-obsessed. The Lord promises this kind of divinely-granted power to those who burnt offering their power to Him first.
Deuteronomy 33:17 (ESV): A firstborn bull—he has majesty, and his horns are the horns of a wild ox...
Psalm 92:10 (ESV): But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil.
5/4 On Counseling, Coaching, & Conversational Skills:
Christians are gradually realizing the significant limits to what famed revivalist Charles Finney introduced as "altar calls". In today's Christianity, altar calls have taken on new dimensions beyond the public calling of sinners to repentance (Finney's sole emphasis). Altar calls have become a time geared more towards individual Christians, i.e. praying for them, giving brief counsel, sharing Spirit-prompted messages, and other activities depending on the church or movement.
More and more Christians, however, are realizing the limits to what is now often called "altar ministry". After going forward dozens, even hundreds, of times to be ministered to individually, many Christians are realizing they are still not free or making satisfactory progress in life. Some have become cynical and stopped going forward or stopped going to meetings altogether. More mindful Christians and leaders have stepped back into reflective prayer, seeking to perceive what might be a missing variable or genuine weakness in today's altar ministry apparatus (and transformation mechanisms in general). Some leaders are (finally) realizing there is a need for depth counseling in many situations, or at the very least, more skilled and productive conversations about those situations, that are beyond the spiritual and practical scope of altar calls. Without at least some counseling competence in your ministerial operation, one aspect of the sevenfold Spirit of God is blocked or amputated altogether (Isa 11:2, Rev 1:4, 3:1, 4:5, 5:6).
The rest of this mini-article describes a few counseling/coaching/conversational skills I have found so very critical across a variety of situations over the last twenty-seven years of ministry. You do not have to be an official leader or Christian psychologist to develop these. Anyone can become more skilled and productive in one-on-one interface.
The ability to recognize and stop red herrings.
One of the greatest counseling mistakes I made as a young counselor was this: taking what people said at face value and ministering to them according to what they said. What an error this was. Today, I watch leaders and ministering Christians make this same mistake copiously. In one-on-one moments, what people say is not always exigent or a root cause or even genuine. To be an immediate vehicle of the Wonderful Counselor, you have to sniff out intentional or unintentional red herrings...diversions, evasions, side issues, and symptoms-vs-roots.
Do not be so gullible conversationally. Not all tearful prayer is genuine (Hos 7:14). Not all confessions have the same priority. Not all issues have the same priority. You must be a loving bloodhound in the conversational matrix.
The ability to uncover defining secrets.
Hiding sin, vulnerability, deep gloom, crucial events, dark spots, and otherwise important information electrifies the power of demonic negativity in a person's life. Yet, curiously, many Christians persistently hide what I call defining secrets.
To be powerful in one-on-one moments you will need dexterity at probing for defining secrets. The air may get thicker and uncomfortable. You may encounter vicious, or creatively suave, defense mechanisms. But, if you do not at least try to go for the transformational jugular, you will not see the dramatic changes you dream of seeing. How can I say it another way? Many leaders or ministering Christians are simply fake nice. They rush to comfort and hug and oooo and ahhh and lay hands and speak destiny blah blah blah...when they should slow down and probe for what is not being said.
The ability to pinpoint the most exigent need or action-plan.
Sometimes the person is not offering a red herring or hiding defining secrets, they genuinely are not aware of their most exigent need or action-plan. It is the skilled questioner and listener, under a manifestation of the Spirit of counsel, that must find this collaboratively with the counselee. This particular ability is not a how-to formula, but an intuitive art, an art centered on clever questions, perceptual listening skills, getting past the fog, and finding the exigent zone. Regarding perceptual listening, resist the impulse to talk too quick and talk too much. This is a significant weakness in most people, especially those in people-helping work. Crucify headstrong pride, the need to assert yourself, a lack of basic patience, and loving to hear yourself talk.
The ability to not back down when they break down.
This may not seem like a quote-unquote skill, but oh it is. Have you ever brought someone to (or been with someone in) a moment of truth, a real transformational moment, and you backed down? Instead of calmly-assertively following through with the moment, you felt bad for them and rushed in to comfort and rescue? Genuine transformation depends on you not backing down when a person is in the scorching hot crucible of change. Join them in whatever way is reasonable, love them in whatever way fits the situation, pray with them if they allow it and it is appropriate, but keep respectfully pushing them through the eye of the needle.
This is quite a talent to develop with the Holy Spirit, because, on one hand, we are to have heart and empathy (Ro 12:15), but on the other hand, we cannot contradict and fight the Lord when He is bringing rebuke, discipline, and consequences to a person who really needs it (Heb 12:5-13, 1Co 11:29-32). Agree with the Lord's breaking, flow with what He is doing, and respectfully push them through the eye of the needle.
The ability to use anointed scriptures for any and every situation.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, 2Timothy 3:16 says. Knowing the entire Scripture at a broad expertise level equips the ministering Christian for any and every situation, verse 17 says. The idea here is that we fill our inner person with a very wide and very deep understanding of the entire Word. Then, from this macro, comprehensive understanding, the Spirit illuminates the specific situational passage for the moment.
It is crucial to realize not every Bible verse is relevant at a given moment. There are specific verses the Spirit anoints with lightning relevance for a given situation. Paul says exactly this in Ephesians 6:17, telling us to take "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God". Paul is not referring here to a general expertise in Scripture (Greek logos or gnosis), but a situationally-relevant word (Greek rhema). He is referring to a situational dagger used in close combat (Greek machaira), specific verses the Spirit singles out and anoints in the situation.
In counseling/coaching/conversation, we cannot only sniff out red herrings, uncover defining secrets, find the exigent, and not back down at sensitive moments. We must eventually and finally use the dagger of the Spirit, the rhema-scripture(s) He is anointing for that moment.
11/24 /21 On Psychological Sickness in Pentecostal-Charismatic Leadership:
The growing crisis surfacing in the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, projected to reach some type of critical mass in 7-10 years, is that of hidden psychological sickness among its leadership. While the movement has restored precious blessings and needed dimensions to the global ekklesia--a fuller worship experience, a redeployment of all the spiritual gifts, a celebration of women in ministry, a revival of supernatural Christianity, and others--it has also brought new problems and crises into the ekklesia. One of those crises is unaddressed mental illness within its leadership, hiding under the cover of revelations, visions, dreams, "feeling in the Spirit", manifestations, and sociopathic leadership structures.
JDM believes, unapologetically, that God speaks today in a variety of ways. We absolutely reject cessationism. We absolutely reject the idea that God took a power nap after the New Testament was written and compiled. The crisis is not whether God still speaks today or whether God still acts miraculously today. Of course He does.
Rather, the crisis is that an astonishing lack of wisdom has created a shelter for psychological sickness in Pentecostal-Charismatic leadership, a shelter that takes the form of spiritual language and themes. For example, what is often imagination and hallucination is called a vision. What is often a dream rising from the subconscious, and its unresolved wishes, hopes, concerns, fears, and traumas, is called a prophetic dream (see Ecclesiastes 5:3 and Isaiah 29:7,8 for two great scriptures on self-dreams). What is often natural intuition (which is often wrong) or simply strong emotion (which is often wrong) is called feeling in the Spirit. What is often a psychotic break, a fit of mania, or unhealed trauma expressing itself psychosomatically is called a divine manifestation. What is often raw control and congregational stranglehold is called spiritual authority and "touch not mine anointed" (read The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen). What is often malignant narcissism, and varying levels of sociopathy or psychopathy, is called being "a king and priest upon the earth".
Once again, I reiterate, the referred-to spiritual concepts and practices have New Testament support. Does God occasionally speak in a vision or dream? Of course. Do our spiritual senses sometimes present themselves as an impression or hunch or felt disposition? Sometimes, yes. Does God occasionally manifest in great power upon our being, leading to intense emotional or physical reactions? Sometimes, yes. The issue, then, is not in these and other concepts and practices the New Testament strongly supports. Rather, the issue is in how they are being manipulated to hide, suppress, ignore, or fully deny serious mental conditions in leadership.
In many Pentecostal-Charismatic groups, the psychological sickness in leadership is so well-hidden from the people, so well-suppressed even from themselves, so well-ignored under the constant distraction of endless ministry, so well-denied to anyone with a suspicious or trained eye, that such leaders can go many years on end without getting the professional help they need. The most heartbreaking layer of this crisis, however, is the fate of the common people within such churches and ministries. They sense something is significantly unhealthy and broken with the leader(s), but they cannot pinpoint it for a variety of reasons. Without enough knowledge and maturity of their own, without enough spiritual skills and psychological skills and life skills to uncover what is actual reality, they are swept away in the zeitgeist these deeply unwell leaders cast upon them.
What does one do? As I have said for many years, born-again individuals in the Pentecostal-Charismatic zone have to do brutally honest soul-searching. Uncomfortably honest soul-searching. Ask yourself questions with God that you really do not want to ask. Why, really, are you involved with the groups you are involved with? Is it because God truly called you there (the typical knee-jerk answer)...or is it your own deeper issues attracting you to such groups? In those groups, are you finding cover and false shelter for areas deep inside where you need outside help and unusual growth? Are you following this or that leader because your own issues match that of your leader? Be honest. Your emotion and imagination are masquerading as revelation.
You cannot outrun the light and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. A disastrous crisis is looming and metastasizing in the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. The crisis is emanating from leaders who are significantly unwell psychologically, unwell enough to need professional help spiritually, practically, and possibly medically. Have the wisdom, self-awareness, and maturity to see this now and seek out healthier pastures with healthier shepherds.
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