The War Is Here …

Merry Christmas

For years, I have heard my conservative Christian friends rant about the supposed “War on Christmas“, which by default became part of a larger “War on Christianity“.  

Their proof seemed rather thin to me, consisting mostly of some people in some stores saying something seasonal other than “Merry Christmas” to them and actions by schools, organizations, companies, and public spaces to reflect and respect the reality and the diversity of American society, rather than some half-imagined and more idealized version.

I did not believe that any war was being waged on Christians in this country.

I was dead wrong … Continue reading

Book Review: “I’ve Got Your Back” by James C. Galvin

I've Got Your Back cover

Okay, let me get this off my chest first …

… I am not a big fan of narrative works, where a story and characters are used to explain a message, describe a process, or delineate functions.

… I do not care much for language that includes a significant amount of “Bible”, “Jesus”, or “God” and related words.

… I do not relate well with Bible verses which are chosen to illustrate a point without a thorough discussion of the context, background, and history of that verse.

… I do not agree with the concept that younger people always need to be taught leadership by an older and wiser person.

This said, I thoroughly enjoyed  I’ve Got Your Back by Jame C. Galvin,  a narrative form story about four young people learning leadership through coaching by an older person, with ample Bible verses sprinkled throughout and prolific use of all those words I mentioned above … go figure.

The Background …

“When it comes to leadership, everyone is afraid of something.”

Randall, Brad, Valerie, and Lynn are young college graduates in different positions and work environments, with different types of challenges.  Some of the challenges involve common leadership issues, while others are more complex. Much like Jesus and his disciples, the group meets regularly to share food, reflect on their lives, and support each other.

Not everyone in the group really wants to be a leader, at least at first.  All face different issues and challenges.  As the four deal with their various situations, things do not always go as hoped or even as planned.  Others do not immediately respond to efforts to build relationships or solve problems.  The “messiness” of the workplace is realistically conveyed, with no easy solutions or victories.

Jack, a former Special Forces soldier and missionary, serves as their guide as they explore biblically-based leadership in the workplace, is on his own quest.   Jack provides the structure within which they learn about leadership and followership, as they discuss and consider their varied situations and challenges.  Jack is also searching for his own next calling.  The way in which he resolves his own quest is foregone, but quite satisfying.

Ultimately everyone grows through coaching and reflection on what Christianity has to offer us about leadership and about followership, which are deeply linked.

The Strength …

“It’s hard to lead when nobody will follow …”

Galvin spins a reasonably well-told tale, and his dialogue generally rings true, although at times, you can see the bottom line or the lesson coming from a long way off.  Each of the five main characters is portrayed in enough detail to give us a feel for them as people and an understanding of the different personality elements which challenge their ability and desire to lead.  The action moves at a pace which keeps us engaged, but also allows us to reflect on the leadership path they learn and follow.

I would guess any person reading this book will find something which resonates with them, even if only in retrospect.   The people and situations are based on jobs and situations which reflect entry into the world of work.  Both those in the midst of their careers and those who are just beginning their careers will find much to consider in these pages.

However, the great strength of I’ve Got Your Back  is the leadership and followership model unveiled by Jack through the story arc of weekly meetings with the young leaders.

Many leadership models exist and some of those are also based on biblical study and principles.  What makes this model different from many others is the tiered approach to evaluating a person’s leadership and their followership qualities.  Followership is the primary element, while leadership flows from a good understanding of how to follow well.

The Elements …

“Not all follower abuse is intentional.”

ABUSE:  First, Jack identifies and explains four type of follower abuse (incompetent, disempowering, manipulative, toxic) using the situations faced by each of the young people to help us understand and relate to behaviors which are all too common in our workplaces and institutions.

FOLLOWING:  Next, he makes the point that being a good leader means you must first be a good follower.  Followers are divided into three types:

Type I Following God (spiritual authority)

Type II Following Inherited Authorities  (parental or legal authority)

Type III Following Another Person (with or without authority)

I found this very helpful as it reminds us that all authority is not the same and that all following is not the same.

Then five competency levels for each type of followership are identified and discussed, ranging from the highest level (Wholehearted Disciple, Activist Citizen, or Courageous Follower) to the lowest level (Wayward Disciple, Lawless Citizen, or Disruptive Follower).

LEADING:  Once followership is understood and practiced, Jack next introduces a theology of leadership, which is really a model for our life journeys, including the role of fear, brokenness, and redemption.   We return to one of the book’s main themes:  Good followership comes before good leadership.

It’s a deceptively simple model to trace, but powerful in the implications for leadership and living.

The Bottom Line …

“This kind of leading and dancing is so smooth that it is like dancing.  One partner is the leader and the other is the follower, but they glide across the floor as one unit.  It’s difficult to observe who is leading and who is following.”

I went into this book, expecting a usual combination of biblical exhortations and fluffy thinking about loving your neighbor or something similar.  Books with an overtly religious tone often do not translate well into the non-religious workplace.

I came away impressed with the value of the follower and leader model outlined in “I’ve Got Your Back”  This is a book and a model which I will use in many situations in the future.

To get the full model, you should read and reflect on the book in the context of your own leadership journey.   Well worth the time and the cost for anyone who aspires to learn  a very useful leadership role at work or in their personal life.

Basking in the glow of learning something useful about helping people lead in the Heartland ….



All Means All ….

Point of Personal Privilege:

As they do every two years somewhere, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly met this week in Orlando, Florida to conduct business, network, and worship.

Today, they adopted GA resolution 1327- summary follows:

“Becoming a People of Grace and Welcome to All

The General Assembly calls upon the Church to recognize itself as striving to become a people of welcome and grace to all God’s children though differing in sexual orientation or gender identity, affirming that neither are grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, and calling upon all expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as a people of grace and welcome, to acknowledge their support for the welcome of and hospitality to all.”

We are a congregationally based denomination and our resolutions do not bind any person or congregation to comply.  Some individuals and congregations were on the other side of this decision.  Some of those on the winning side are already praying for them, and thus it almost always with when Disciples disagree … and they do often disagree on the details.

The neat thing about Disciples is that we continue to worship and work together, even as we disagree.

As a public message about who we think we are, this is a big step toward a new and much more inclusive future.

Feeling pretty good about being a Disciple in the Heartland  ….


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

This is not about church … that’s just the context for a leadership coaching question.

Some of you know I am a member of a specific Christian Protestant denomination. Like many, our mainline small band has experienced change over the years and it’s not always pleasant.  One of the primary issues is the conflict between older members who bewail the lack of engagement of younger members and younger members who bewail the lack of energy and opportunity combined with envious eyes toward “the way it used to be.”

This particularly affects our newer ordained ministers. To read about the struggles of one articulate and very passionate young leader who is leaving our denomination, go to “SO LONG”  Here’s my response to Ryan’s announcement:

First, thank you for your contributions. They have not been ignored or missed, but our denomination will be lesser for your leaving.

Next, a word to those who see things differently.

Well, yeah … we all have our personal realities, shaped by our experiences, our backgrounds, and our psychological and emotional make-ups. Where some see death, others see growth. It’s not about deciding which is right, it’s about deciding which is your vision and acting on that.

I feel regret because I’m afraid you are just one of many, ordained and lay, who see their future serving God in other ways than through the Disciples. I have served in lay leadership positions with several congregations, worked for a national ministry for 10 years, and have a deep affection for the Disciples. I also see what I name as “warts” in our denomination.

Bottom line: we each have to do what we see as the best earthly manifestation of God’s will for us and trust that we are doing and being close to what he wants and asks of us.

Godspeed, friend, and you aren’t really moving that far. God appears to be pretty popular in OKC and unlike us humans, he does not have a denominational preference:)

My questions on this early Spring Sunday morning (yes, I know it’s technically still winter and I don’t care):

What would you say to a young and somewhat frustrated person who wants to serve and cannot find a way to do so in their current environment?

How would you advise them on whether they should stay or go?

Eagerly awaiting the blooming of flowers, growing of grass, and your responses in the Heartland.