Monday, December 24, 2007

Thomas Merton on Christmas

May this be a time of increasing wonder at the miracle of God coming into our world in Jesus of Nazareth! (The picture of the left is of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Israel - I was fortunate to visit this place of wonder several years back with my wife).

Merton's short reflection on the meaning of Christmas is a worthwhile read during this time of celebration. A short extract:

"Advent for us means acceptance of this totally new beginning. It means a readiness to have eternity and time meet not only in Christ, but in us, in Man, in our life, in our world, in our time. The beginning, therefore, is the end. We must accept the end, before we can begin. Or rather, to be more faithful to the complexity of life, we must accept the end in the beginning both together.

The secret of the Advent mystery is then the awareness that I begin where I end because Christ begins where I end. In more familiar terms: I live to Christ when I die to myself. I begin to live to Christ when I come to the "end" or to the "limit" of what divides me from my fellow man: what I am willing to step beyond this end, cross the frontier, become a stranger, enter into a wilderness which is not "myself," where I do not breathe the air or hear the familiar, comforting racket of my own city, where I am alone and defenseless in the desert of God.

The victory of Christ is by no means the victory of my city over "their" city. The exaltation of Christ is not the defeat and death of others in order that "my side" may be vindicated, that I may be proved "right." I must pass over, make the transition (pascha) from my end to my beginning, from my old life which has ended and which is now death to my new life which never was before and which now exists in Christ."

Thomas Merton. "Advent: Hope or Delusion?" in Seasons of Celebration. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1965: 96-97.

Have a wonderful Christ-filled Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Wisdom of Tenderness

A good friend of mine, from the UK, sent me the following recording of an interview with Jean Vanier:


I discovered Vanier through the writings of Henri Nouwen. Vanier's radical commmitment to active love as the primary expression of Christianity has had a providential impact on my own developing thoughts on authentic Christian Leadership. I am more than ever convinced that the call to follow Jesus is a call to let go of our desperate desires for prominence, privilege, prestige and self-enrichment. To follow Jesus is to commit to a radical divestment of every claim of self-interest so as to be free to love. Most of my current thinking revolves around the consequences of this commitment to mimetic love. Can I let go of everything on order to love? As Vanier says:

Yes, I come back to the reality of pleasure and to the reality of what is my deepest desire and what is your deepest desire. And what — and somewhere, the deepest desire for us all is to be appreciated, to be loved, to be seen as somebody of value. But not just seen — and Aristotle makes a difference between being admired and being loved. When you admire people, you put them on pedestals. When you love people, you want to be together. So really, the first meeting I had with people with disabilities, what touched me was their cry for relationship. Some of them had been in a psychiatric hospital. Others — all of them had lived pain and the pain of rejection. One of the words of Jesus to the, to Peter —and you find this at the end of the gospel of Saint John — "Do you love me?"

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

JMT on Advent

Please accept my apologies for not blogging regularly this month. I have been neck-deep in writing and submission deadlines. I expect to get back to sharing my current thought sometime next week. In the meantime I will let John Michael Talbot' s recent Advent reflection speak for me:

Peace and Good in Christ!

We come to the beginning of another Advent. We have done it many times before, and will probably do so again. Only God knows the future. And we come to the beginning of another liturgical Church year. We come again to a time of penance and conversion; "Lent with a little sugar on top," as I have often said. There is not necessarily anything new to be said. Most of what we would say has been said before by many others. But "repetition is the mother of learning."


What strikes me with this is our notion of moving through time. In the west we usually think of time as having a beginning and an end. It can be seen as a line that starts in one place, and goes to another. In the east people think of time as a circle without beginning or end. There are strengths and weaknesses with both. The weakness of linear time is that it gets so goal oriented that it can fail to live in the present moment. The problem with cyclic time is that it can lull us into a state of sluggishness.


Pope Benedict XVI has put these two concepts together in a kind of "corkscrew" approach to time. It is both cyclic in that it goes round and round, and linear in that it begins and ends someplace. I really like this description. It is typically brilliant and insightful of Pope Benedict XVI.


For many years I have proposed a similar model; that of a spiral staircase that goes up or down when viewed from the side, but seems to go round and round in the same space when viewed from below or above. This model emphasizes that ordinary life tends to go round and round with the same mundane issues over and over again. What makes our progress good or bad is which direction we are going. St. Peter Damien of the 11th century semi eremitical reform of western monasticism, and a leading cardinal of the Church of his day, says that you either go up or down every day of your life. If you try to stand still you begin a downward spiral.


Life is a decision. Love is a decision. The question is what we will do as the same issues of life come around again and again. Will we choose to follow Jesus this Advent, and continue our journey upward to heaven? Or will we just stop trying and begin a slow downward spiral?


Chances are we elder members of the Church will not hear much new this Advent. Chances are that we have heard it all pretty much before. But the challenge of what we do with the message of Jesus for us this Advent remains a matter of life or death for us all. We can choose to follow Jesus, or we can just give up, or block it all out once more.


This Advent, rise to the challenge. Though the issues might seem to get old, the challenge never gets old. It is always new because every day of our life is new. Let's convert, let's do penance, let's rise and walk up the spiral staircase with the help of the grace of God. Let's not get lulled into to a sense of the all too familiar and try to stand still. It only leads to falling back down the stairs. It leads to sin, sadness, and spiritual death. Jesus wants us to have life and have it abundantly. This Advent let's choose life, and live. God grant you a most blessed Advent this year!


In Jesus,


John Michael Talbot

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rebuilding the Church

A recent post on John Michael Talbot's blog hit home. I am increasingly concerned about the "commercialization" of Christianity. I long for the day that our message and image in the public eye will no longer be characterized by our seemingly incessant greed for money, fame and influence; but rather our love, devotion and passion for Jesus and people. JMT writes:

Luke 19:45-48

My house is meant for a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves. v. 46

The Jews had externalized and commercialized even their place of prayer, so they had come to externalize and politicize God’s peace. They had missed the internal, so God would never give them the external.

FIRST SEEK INTERNAL GRACES

Ironically, God will give external graces if we first seek the internal ones. "Seek first his kingship over you, his way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides." But we must also have a detachment from the external before we can find the internal. "You cannot give yourself to God and to money. What man thinks is important, God holds in con­tempt." Or, "If anyone comes to me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be my follower." Yet he goes on to say there is no one who has given these things up "who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as much - and persecution besides - and in the age to come, everlasting life."Without internal prayer we can never have lasting peace. We cannot have real prayer with such a gross commercialization of spirituality.

REVERE OUR HOUSES OF PRAYER

And what about today? Never before has there been such an overflowing torrent of Jesus "junk." Today we must return to a reverential use of our houses of prayer. It is fine to have books available as a ministry and service to the people of God, but commercialization in God’s name will surely bring down God’s wrath!Is our present abundance God’s gracing of externals because we have sought only the internal? Are we truly detached and poor in spirit? Or have we simply set up an abundance of money changers’ tables in the house of the Lord? We cannot have peace until we pray, and we cannot pray without overturning these money changers' tables within our own hearts and souls, as well as within our local house of prayer.

by John Michael Talbot

Here is a link to John Michael Talbot's blog: http://johnmichaeltalbot.blogspot.com/

Monday, November 19, 2007

Love louder than Thunder

When psalms surprise me with their music
And antiphons turn to rum
The Spirit sings;
the bottom drops out of my soul.

And from the center of my cellar,
Love,
louder than thunder
Opens a heaven of naked air.

New eyes awaken.

I send Love's name into the world with wings
And songs grow up around me like a jungle.
Choirs of all creatures sing the tunes
Your Spirit played in Eden.

Thomas Merton. [Selection from] "Psalm" in The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. New York: New Directions Publishing Co., 1977: 220-221.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Clean Heart

"The fruit of silence is prayer

The fruit of prayer is faith

The fruit of faith is love

The fruit of love is service

The fruit of service is peace."

- Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Right Use of Knowledge

I was reminded of the following description of the right use of knowledge by a colleague, Dr. Mara Crabtree, this morning. It is always good and prudent to examine our motives in all that we do.

"There are some who desire knowledge merely for its own sake; and that is shameful curiosity. And there are others who desire to know, in order that they may themselves be known; and that is vanity, disgraceful too. Others again desire knowledge in order to acquire money or preferment by it; that too is a discreditable quest. But there are also some who desire knowledge, that they may build up the souls of others with it; and that is charity. Others, again, desire it that they may themselves be built up thereby; and that is prudence. Of all these types, only the last two put knowledge to the right use" (St. Bernard, Sermon on the Canticle of Canticles).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Power of Small Things

I have been considering Thérèse de Lisieux's (1873-1897) theology of doing the smallest of things with great love and devotion unto God, as a possible foundational construct in a renewed theology of "redemptive work". It strikes me that the beginning of this exploration must start with the ultimate purpose of all action: love. Thomas Merton puts it as follows:

"We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others. What do I mean loving ourselves properly? I mean, first of all, desiring to live, accepting life as a very great gift and a great good, not because of what it gives us, but because of what it enables us to give to others."

How will our perception and practice of work changes when our first and ultimate motive is love?

Picture: Martin Creed, Work No. 567: Small Things.

Small Things with Great Love

Friday, November 09, 2007

Brown's New Book on Hermeneutics

Roger Ebertz, a Christian Philosopher at the University of Dubuque recently published an inspiring and erudite article in the Christian Scholar's Review on the call for Christian scholarship to be Biblically grounded and engaged. Ebertz suggests that Christian scholars should extend the traditional worldview analysis methodology of research, an approach that has mostly become normative amongst Christian scholars, to include a central Biblical hermeneutical component. For Ebertz, Christian scholars carry a double duty in that they should not only be competent in the particular demands of their academic disciplines, but also in appropriate methods of Biblical hermeneutics that fit their field of enquiry. Ebertz's proposal is rooted in the conviction that Christian scholars operate within three defining contexts: (a) a specific social and cultural situation, (b) an academic field governed by specific research agendas and methodologies, and (c) a particular faith tradition. His proposal consists of an integrated research approach where these three contexts work together in the pursuit of truth: "The Christian scholar, then, seeks both to interpret her subject matter and to understand the Bible as it speaks to her and to her work as a scholar in the light of historical situation, her community of scholarship and her community faith. Thus the Christian scholar's hermeneutical task is complex. And yet she aims at the unity of understanding that affirms the sovereignty of one Lord."

Christian scholars looking at the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures often make interpreting mistakes because they do not consider the historical and cultural distance between themselves and the authors and audiences of those texts. Biblical hermeneutical methodology assists the serious interpreter of the Bible in reading these texts in an integrative, reflective, analytical, and yet still devotional manner. These models of interpretation are drawn from the conviction that what is needed is a multi-disciplinary approach to reading the Scriptures that keeps in mind at minimum the literary, social, cultural, historical and theological dimensions of the text and its people. Unfortunately, most Christian scholars have not been exposed to contemporary hermeneutical methodology and may not know where to start. This is where Jeanine Brown's new book on Biblical hermeneutics can be of great assistance.

Jeannine Brown's basic introduction to the discipline of hermeneutics offers a clear and practical interpretative model that highlights the communicative nature of the text of the Christian Scriptures. By rooting this communicative model in the theological concept of the incarnation, Brown bridges the world of systemic theology and Biblical studies and by doing so, makes a significant contribution to the various current theories and debates on the nature of the text and the discipline of interpretation. Brown's inspiring and clear approach makes complex theories of interpretation simple while at the same time communicating the wonder and power of the "Divine breath" of inspiration in the text of the Holy Scriptures.

Brown's book is divided into two parts: the first part lays a thorough theoretical foundation on the communicative nature of Scripture, whilst the second part offers practical guidelines for those desiring to read and understand Scripture as God's ever-present communicative act. Brown does not steer away from contentious or difficult issues in discussing the art of interpretation, but translates them for the reader into simple and palatable concepts, whilst pointing the way towards erudite and practical interpretative strategies. The book does suffer at times from an absence of in-depth discussions on the recent developments in socio-rhetorical and semiotic readings of Scripture, but makes up for this lack in its well structured treatment on the quest to derive meaning from a communicative reading of the text.

"Scripture as Communication" is a highly accessible book that lay readers, students, ministers and scholars alike will find to be rich in interpretive theory yet practical in its application. Brown's book makes an important and timely contribution in our common quest to understand and apply the message of Scripture to our own research.

It is my growing conviction that a clearer understanding of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures holds the promise of a resurgence of moral and values-based approaches to leadership today. Only when our understanding and practice of leadership is utterly informed and fueled by the Word of God will we have the kind of Christian leadership that will change the world. Jeanine Brown's inspiring book is a good place to start in our common quest for the recovery of authentic Christian scholarly leadership.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Love as the Source for Leadership

The following from Merton had me rethinking the importance of love as the base for all authentic forms of leadership. Merton asks for a redefinition of love in our consumerist society - I could not agree more:

"Psychologists have had some pretty rough things to say about the immaturity and narcissism of love in our marketing society, in which it is reduced to a purely egotistical need that cries out for immediate satisfaction or manipulates others more or less cleverly in order to get what it wants. But the plain truth is this: love is not a matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary. The insistence on always having what you want, on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is 'getting,' and grow up to the maturity of giving, without concern for getting anything special in return. Love is not a deal, it is a sacrifice. It is not marketing, it is a form of worship.

In reality, love is a positive force, a transcendent spiritual power. It is, in fact, the deepest creative power in human nature. Rooted in the biological riches of our inheritance, love flowers spiritually as freedom and as a creature response to life in a perfect encounter with another person. It is a living appreciation of live as value and as gift. It responds to the full richness, the variety, the fecundity of living experience itself: it "knows" the inner mystery of life. It enjoys life as an inexhaustible fortune. Love estimates this fortune in a way that knowledge could never do. Love has its own wisdom, its own science, its own way of exploring the inner depths of life in the mystery of the loved person. Love knows, understands and meets the demands of life insofar as it responds with warmth, abandon and surrender."

Thomas Merton. "Love and Need" in Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979: 30-31

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Leadership: Impact, Culture and Sustainability

The International Leadership Association's Conference (ILA) will take place next week in Vancouver, Canada. I have three papers that have been accepted for this conference:

Leading from the Desert: The Christian Monastery as a Spiritual Organization (Thursday, November 1):
This presentation builds on the ancient wisdom of the beginnings of Christian monasticism and illustrates the principles of building healthy and effective spiritually-based organizations led by integrated and grounded leaders.


Leadership Sins: Towards an Understanding of Leadership Failure (Friday, November 2):
Applying insights drawn from the philosophical and ontological exploration of sin in the early Christian Monastic traditions to contemporary leadership contexts provides leadership scholars and practitioners with a conceptual base to locate and identify the contributing factors of moral failure in leadership. This allows the possibility for strategically constructing programs and environments that will facilitate the formation of moral leadership in organizations.


Exegetical Assignments as a Form of Spiritual Formation (Friday, November 2):
This study examined the use of structured social-rhetorical exegetic assessments in two on-line doctoral programs, offered by the same school, as a means of stimulating spiritual growth and formation. The article presents background information on the five exegetical analysis phases of: (a) inner-textural, (b) inter-textural, (c) social-cultural, (d) ideological, and (e) sacred followed by the presentation of data collected from 31 doctoral students spanning two cohorts of both a PhD and applied doctoral programs. The data shows conclusively that the students perceive a positive impact on their spiritual formation through the use of the five exegetical assessments. The recommendation of the study is that Christian schools should consider the use of similar exegetic assessments as a means of helping students grow spiritually.


I have also been asked to fill in for a presenter on another panel and will present a recent paper:
The Role of Religion in Economic Development: A Case Study exploring the use of Religion in the Societal and Economic Transformation of the early Matthean Christian Communities (Saturday, November 3):
A recent study proposes that religious activities and beliefs are exogenous or independent variables in political and economic development. This study further shows that the interactions between religion and political economy generally involve two causal directions: economic and political development affects religiosity and on the other side, religious beliefs and activities influence economic performance. It is the second causal direction between religion and economic development, described above, that interests me as a scholar with interests in both the fields of theology and leadership studies. Thus, this paper seeks to describe the role of religion in economic development by exploring the use of religious knowledge to facilitate societal and economic transformation in the early Christian communities in which the Gospel of Matthew was produced.

Louis Morgan on Pentecostal History

One of our PhD students in Organizational Leadership, Louis Morgan, is the author of the cover article in next month's Charisma Magazine. The article is entitled "The Flame still burns" and is on the history of the Pentecostal church, the Church of God in Christ. Morgan writes: "One hundred years ago a son of slaves brought the Pentecostal message to African Americans in the South. Today, the Church of God in Christ is poised to spread the gospel worldwide." The article can be read at: http://www.charismamag.com/display.php?id=16085

Congratulations Louis!
Link to Louis Morgan's blog: http://morganonmission.blogspot.com/

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jay Gary on Forgiveness in Leadership

A good friend and colleague of mine, Jay Gary presented an excellent paper on the role of forgiveness in leadership at the recent "Bridging Sunday and Monday" Conference in Seattle. Here is an abstract of the paper:

"A recent leadership survey found that ‘mending relationships’ was considered a vital skill of effective leadership, rising above three skills previously ranked highest: individual resourcefulness, decisiveness and doing what it takes. Can workplace forgiveness help mend relationships that have once been breached? What leadership theories view forgiveness as central to their theories? How do Christ-centered leaders embed a culture of forgiveness, especially in publicly held companies where religious and non-religious employees work side by side? This chapter examines how Christian leaders can draw upon the power of forgiveness to counter workplace dehumanization. It unfolds under five topics: (a) the construct of forgiveness (b) the leadership traditions that encompass forgiveness, (c) the developmental nature of forgiveness, (d) the research and measurements of forgiveness, and (e) how leaders can use interventions to cultivate an organizational culture of forgiveness."

Jay's paper make a significant contribution to our common quest to explore what an authentic Christian and compassionate approach to leadership could look like. His website can be seen at: http://www.jaygary.com/

Sunday, October 21, 2007

John Michael Talbot on "Standing for Jesus"

This has been a real busy time for me - but I wanted to post a short section from John Michael Talbot's blog that really touched home for me today:

Luke 12:8-12: "I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men - the Son of Man will acknowledge him before the angels of God. v. 8"

The world seldom speaks of Christ except to use his name in vain. Jesus is no longer found on the front page of popular magazines as he was during the days of the Jesus Movement. Today the world is preoccupied with the pragmatic realities of political power and money. It takes courage to stand up for the real Jesus of Bethlehem and Calvary, born in a shepherd's stable and crucified on a criminal's cross. It is not easy to stand up for the poor, or to give one's life for those treated unjustly by the political systems of the world.

THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL TEACH YOU
We may feel at a loss when asked to explain the way of Jesus. How can we put into limited words an infinite Living Word proclaimed throughout eternity? Paul said, "I did not come proclaiming God's testimony with any particular eloquence or wisdom ... my message and my preaching had none of the persuasive force of wise argumentation, but the convincing power of the Spirit." As Jesus tells us in today's gospel, "The Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment all that should be said."

PROCLAIM THE SIMPLE MESSAGE
We need not win an argument. We need only proclaim the simple message of Jesus. "The word of God will not return void," said Isaiah the prophet. Speak in clear simplicity and confidence. Let the Spirit do the rest. You may not win the intellectual argument, but you will win the spiritual battle for the soul! As Socrates wrote, "Just because you win an argument does not mean you possess the truth."Do we rely on the power of the Spirit when we share about Jesus with others? Do we share in the Spirit, or simply argue with the mind? The Spirit leads to humility and gentleness, while the mind only leads to presumption and pride. Do not be afraid. God will use your simple testimony and your personal story to evangelize even the powerful of this world.

- John Michael Talbot
Here is a link to JMT's blog: http://johnmichaeltalbot.blogspot.com/

Thursday, October 18, 2007

First Annual Roundtables of Contemporary Research & Practice

Regent University's School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship will host the 2008 Annual Roundtables of Contemporary Research & Practice conference on May 15-16, 2008, at The Founders Inn & Spa in Virginia Beach, Va.

Throughout this two-day event designed to facilitate interaction, learning and collegiality in a cordial environment, participants from around the world will gather to discuss contemporary research in the areas of global leadership and entrepreneurship.

The featured guest, Dr. Warren Bennis, will speak during the Friday morning plenary session and the Friday evening banquet. He is known around the world as the preeminent expert on the subject of leadership and has devoted more than five decades of his life to understanding and sharing the effective practice of leadership.

Papers are invited from the disciplines of business, leadership and entrepreneurship in the following six roundtables:

  • Biblical Perspectives in Leadership
  • Human Resource Development
  • Entrepreneurship and Global Business
  • Leadership and International Management
  • Consulting and Strategic Foresight
  • Servant Leadership

The submission deadline for completed papers is March 1, 2008. Full submission guidelines and the Call for Papers can be found online at www.regent.edu/roundtables. All papers will be reviewed by appropriate roundtable chairs and will be considered for the "Best Paper" award within their roundtable.


For more information, submission guidelines and to register for this event, visit www.regent.edu/roundtables.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Developing Authentic Leadership from the Image of God

I attended the "Bridging Sunday and Monday" Conference at Seattle Pacific University last week where I presented a paper on the implications of the theological concept of the Incarnation on the development of a possible model for Christian Leadership. One of our Ph.D. students, Rick Franklin presented an excellent paper on the Imago Dei as the source for authentic Leadership. Rick's paper opens many possibilities for exploring the dynamics of spiritual formation as it relates to leader development. The abstract for his paper reads as follows:

"Authentic leadership theory defines effective leadership in terms of self-awareness and self-regulation. In particular, the greater the extent to which a leader is aware of oneself (i.e., identity, values, emotions, etc.) and regulates leadership behaviors accordingly, the more authentic and effective the leader is in leading and empowering followers.

In this regard, self-concept plays a critical role within authentic leadership, in that, it is often the focus of self-awareness. In this paper, I suggest that a secure, authentic self-concept is effectively developed by anchoring it to a self-transcendent source. Specifically, I propose that the image of God (as a self-transcendent source) provides a secure foundation for self-concept. As such, the image of God in humankind provides the fundamental definition of self-concept and thus, can be incorporated into the process of developing authentic leaders.

This topic integrates leadership theory, spirituality, and biblical theology, which is unique in authentic leadership theory studies. It also has practical value regarding developing leaders with a focus on the internal dynamic of self-concept."

Monday, October 01, 2007

Finding our Rest in God

"The doctrine of man finding his true reality in his remembrance of God in whose image he was created, is basically Biblical and was developed by the Church Fathers in connection with the theology of grace, the sacraments, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the surrender of our own will, the 'death' of our selfish ego, in order to live in pure love and liberty of spirit, is effected not by our own will (this would be a contradiction in terms!) but by the Holy Spirit. To 'recover the divine likeness,' to 'surrender to the will of God,' to 'live by pure love,' and thus to find peace, is summed up as 'union with God in the Spirit,' or 'receiving, possessing the Holy Spirit.' This, as the 19th-century Russian hermit, St. Seraphim of Sarov declared, is the whole purpose of the Christian life. St. John Chrysostom says: 'As polished silver illumined by the rays of the sun radiates light not only from its own nature but also from the radiance of the sun, so a soul purified by the Divine Spirit becomes more brilliant than silver; it both receives the ray of Divine Glory and from itself reflects the ray of this same glory.' Our true rest, love, purity, vision and quies is not something in ourselves, it is God the Divine Spirit. Thus we do not 'possess' rest, but go out of ourselves into Him who is our true rest."

- Thomas Merton. "The Spiritual Father in the Desert Tradition" in Contemplation in A World Action. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1971: 287.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Take a risk with Jesus

The following is an inspiring blog entry from John Michael Talbot's blog:

LOOK TO THE HEART

Luke 7:36-50If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is that touches him - that she is a sinner. v. 39 Are we like Jesus, allowing ourselves to be touched, kissed, even washed by the tears of sinners? Do we look beyond the externals of morality, culture, and religion to the heart? Do we judge and condemn or practice mercy and justice?


BE SENSITIVE TO REPENTANT SINNERS

The Pharisees provided no water for Jesus to wash his dusty feet, no kiss of greeting, and no perfumed oil of anointing. Despite their rigorous religious exercises, they were sensitive neither to Jesus nor to a sincere repentant sinner. The woman was a known sinner, yet she experienced a radical change of heart. From her repentant heart, tears flowed and fell upon the feet of Jesus. Where she once embraced and caressed men for profit, she instead wiped Jesus’ feet and anointed his head out of reverence. These external acts are made holy because of her change of heart.


LET YOUR HEART BE MOVED

Jesus responded to the Pharisees criticism by saying, "I tell you, that is why her many sins are forgiven - because of her great love. Little is forgiven the one whose love is small ... Your faith has been your salvation." In this, Jesus directly connects faith and love. "God is love, wrote John. Likewise, the book of James reminds us that true religion consists of "looking after orphans and widows and keeping oneself unspotted from the world." How can one look after orphaned children and widowed women and mothers without having their hearts moved? The world tells us to look out for yourselves while James said we must not be defiled by the self-centeredness that hardens the human heart.“Love covers a multitude of sins,” says the proverb. So today let us be people of human love if we profess true faith in God. Today look to the sinner: the prostitute, the whore, the drug addict, and let your heart be moved. Treasure their tears, let them anoint your head. Let them kiss you and touch your life. Ironically, you might find your own life "cleansed" by the "unclean," and your openness may be the door to their salvation.


Take a risk with Jesus.


- John Michael Talbot


To read more from John Michael Talbot see: http://johnmichaeltalbot.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Leader as Spiritual Director

Lately, I have been taken with the idea that the basic premise of the discipline of spiritual directing could be a good metaphor to explore the intersection of leadership and spiritual formation. Barry and Connelly's definition for Spiritual Direction might be a good place to start:

"We define Christian spiritual direction as help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship."

Barry and Connelly's good definition reminds me of a description I once read of the ministry of the Old Testament Prophet, where the purpose of the prophet was to recapture the imagination of God's People back to Him. Christian leaders get the attention of those that follow and lead them back into the presence of God.

Source:
William A. Barry and William J. Connelly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction (New York: Seabury, 1982)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Leadership in the Love of God

"And today God keeps on loving the world. He keep on sending you and me to prove that He loves the world, that He still has that compassion for the world. It is we who have to be His love, His compassion in the world of today. But to be able to love we must have faith, for faith in action is love, and love in action is service."
- Teresa of Calcutta

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Giving all to Jesus

I recently finished the newly published book on the private writings of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. What struck me was her complete and total determination to offer her whole life as a sacrifice to God. There is story towards the end of the book where one of the missionary sisters in her community witnessed the following a few days before the death of Mother Teresa: "I saw Mother alone, facing....a picture of the Holy Face....and she was saying, 'Jesus, I never refuse you anything.' I thought she was talking to someone. I went in again. Again I heard the same: 'Jesus, I have never refused you anything.'"

May we learn to give all that we have in obedience to Him. Nothing less could be called authentic Christian Leadership.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Creativity, Tribulation and Virtue in Leadership

Jackie Faulhaber's sacred texture analysis of 1 Peter in the New Edition of the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL) explores the interaction between virtue, tribulation and creativity in leadership.

The abstract of Faulhaber's paper reads as follows:
"God’s strategy to diffuse Christianity in vacillating economic, political, and economic environments is creative and reflects his nature to work in inexplicit and paradoxical ways. In a sacred textual analysis of 1 Peter, employing the exegetical strategies of socio-rhetorical criticism, it is proposed that God uses tribulation and trials to effect individual and collective transformation. This transformative process, predicated on a believer’s grateful response to grace, produces organizational cooperation over competition, forgiveness over grudges, and harmony over discord, which is necessary to attain moral excellence and the good relationships needed for creating innovative organizations that require ongoing renewal for today’s turbulent environments that organizations face. This essay further focuses on the nuances of spiritual transformation and character development, a process similar to that noted by Paul in Romans 5:3-6. It also focuses on the creative tools Peter uses, such as metaphors and opposites, to teach the requisites for spiritual formation/character development, as well as transformational leadership used by Peter in seeking to transform the Christian community toward moral excellence."


Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Martyriological Model of Leadership

Jack Niewold's paper, entitled "Beyond Servant Leadership," in the new edition of the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL) makes a good case for a renewed and determined examination of our models of Christians Leadership in the light of the sacrifice of Christ and his early followers.

The abstract of the paper reads as follows:
I argue that the servant leadership model that has been widely adopted by Christians has not been an unmixed blessing. Servant leadership in its secular form is based on non-Christian secular and religious ideas. But even in its Christianized form it is reflective of a heterodox and distorted Christology, which it in turn helps to perpetuate. I attempt to identify the elements of Christology that modern evangelicalism and its version of servant leadership neglect. Next, I endeavor to rehabilitate these neglected aspects of Christology in order to formulate a new model of leadership that I call martyria, a biblical term that I briefly explicate. Following a short exercise where I speculate what martyria might look like today, I argue that it is within this new martyriological model of leadership that the servant motif finds its true home. The implication is that when servanthood is lifted from its matrix as adjunct to martyria and permitted to usurp a central role in leadership formation, the result is weak leadership ill-suited to the exigencies of our time. Martyrological or witness-based leadership, on the other hand, contains the role of servant, but is much better suited in critical ways to the present historical kairos.

For the full article, see: http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/jbpl/


Picture by Leon Gerome

Friday, September 21, 2007

Upper Echelons Theory at work in the Church in Ephesus

Gail Longbotham and Ben Gutierrez have an article in the current issue of the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership on upper echelons theory and the church in Ephesus. The abstract of this paper reads as follows:

This study relates Proposition 21 of Hambrick and Mason’s (1984) Upper Echelons Theory (UET) to Paul and Timothy’s leadership of the Ephesian church. Proposition 21 states, “In turbulent environments, team heterogeneity will be positively associated with profitability.” Using the texts of Acts, Ephesians, and I and II Timothy, this study demonstrates the merit of this proposition as evidenced in the historical, ministry context of Paul and Timothy as a leadership team in the turbulent environment of the first century and provides rationale for translating these concepts into a contemporary ministry context. A brief sketch of Paul and Timothy’s personal backgrounds (birthplace, family, education, and conversion experience) and leadership experiences provides evidence for the heterogeneity of their leadership relationship. Evidence of heresy and persecution support the contention that theirs was a turbulent environment. The conduct of the Ephesian church in the years after the instruction (documented in Acts, Ephesians, and I and II Timothy) and leadership of Paul and Timothy provides supporting evidence of the profitability of that leadership. A summary of the study, its benefits, and suggestions for future research conclude this study.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

What would Jesus Lead?

Jay Gary's paper in the new edition of the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL) is entitled: "What would Jesus lead: Identity theft, leadership evolution and open systems."

Here is the abstract of the paper:

Recent discussions of “What would Jesus drive?” by environmental groups have raised the issue of whether Jesus of Nazareth would embrace the industrial growth paradigm. This paper evaluates this public policy debate by examining various leadership typologies that have been used to study Jesus. Drawing upon Daft’s four-cell evolutionary theory of leadership studies, this paper lays out an open systems and post-industrial research agenda for leadership scholars as they examine Jesus’ actions within a first-century context.


Check out Jay Gary's site: www.jaygary.com

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Second Edition of the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL)

It is with great joy that I can announce that second edition of the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL) is finished and have gone "live" on the web today. This edition of JBPL contains a wide variety of views and approaches in our common quest to explore leadership perspectives in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. It is our hope that the articles in this edition will serve to further extend the base for rigorous and well-grounded exegetical research in leadership.

I want to thank the members of our international editorial board for their continued guidance and hard work. I also want to thank the dean and faculty of the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship at Regent University for their continued interests and support of the journal.

We welcome any comments, suggestions, and correspondence from our readers. I look forward with great anticipation to our continued interaction.
Peace and all good,
Corne J. Bekker
Editor of JBPL

Here is a link to online version of the Journal:
http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/jbpl/

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In the Footsteps of Saints Benedict, Francis and Clare of Assisi 2008

In the Footsteps of Benedict, Francis and Clare of Assisi Italy June 20-29, 2008

If you have a passion for discovery, consider joining us for an incredible learning journey as we retrace the footsteps of the Saint Benedict, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare of Assisi. This Study Abroad program, offered by the Regent University School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, will take you to some of the most significant sites of our Christian history and examine, firsthand, the dynamics that changed the world .
  • Retrace the footsteps of the Saint Benedict, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare of Assissi
  • Explore key historic sites through private tours.
  • Examine biblical perspectives, archaeology, theology, religion, humanities and the arts.
  • Gain spiritual insights and a deeper understanding of biblical leadership and its contemporary applications.
  • Enjoy the program as a leisure traveler or enroll for optional graduate-level credit (M.A. or Ph.D.).

For the first few years, the Leadership Study Abroad Program concentrated on the work, ministries, and leadership of the Apostle Paul in Asia Minor and Greece, covering most of the sites of Paul's first, second and third missionary journeys. The 2008 PROGRAM brings us to Italy, where we will walk in the Footsteps of Saints Benedict, Francis and Clare of Assisi.

The Entrepreneurs Guild

Entrepreneurs are drivers of the world economy. They are more than owners of businesses, they are innovators and, in many ways, trailblazers in commerce and industry. Within the many successes and failures are their stories. The Entrepreneurs' Guild seeks to tell those stories through a values-based worldview and, in turn, provide a stage for learning, dialogue and advancement of social business practice.


The [e] guild is co-hosted by Distinguished Professor and former Regent University President David Gyertson, Ph.D. and Regent Global Business Review Editor Julianne Cenac. Each digitally recorded program features leading and emergent entrepreneurs in dynamic and engaging interviews to uncover each guest's unique path to success.

The following notes is from Julianne Cenac, who oversees the work of the Guild:

"All,

I am excited to announce the upcoming fall series of the Entrepreneurs' Guild October 8-10th, 2007. Guests include: Pilar Nores de Garcia, First Lady of Peru; Ogbonna Abarikwu, CEO of CK Engineering, and Dr. M. G. "Pat" Robertson.

The Entrepreneurs' Guild is the vision of Dr. Winston and features leading and emerging entrepreneurs who have successfully integrated their faith in creating, launching and sustaining innovative ventures. Each program is digitally recorded before a live studio audience and will be available for viewing on the Entrepreneurs' Guild website.

While the website is being updated to include all the programs from the summer series, please click on the following link to view the outstanding interview with David Gyertson and Michael Louis of South Africa:
http://media.regent.edu/schgle/eguild/ep2_h.wmv

To reserve your seat(s) for the current program series, visit the Entrepreneurs' Guild website at:
www.regent.edu/eguild

In His Service,
Julianne Cenan"

Monday, September 17, 2007

Giving Ourselves to God

"If I am to know the will of God, I must have the right attitude toward life. I must first of all know what life is, and to know the purpose of my existence. It is all very well to declare that I exist in order to have my soul saveed and to give glory to God by doing so. And it is all very well to say that, in order to do this, I obey certain commandments and keep certain counsels. Yet knowing this much, and indeed knowing all moral theology and ethics and canon law, I might still go through life conforming myself to certain indications of God's will without ever fully giving myself to God. For that, in the last analysis, is the real meaning of His will. He does not need our sacrifices, He asks for our selves. And if He prescribes certain acts of obedience, it is not because obedience is the beginning and the end of end of everything. It is only the beginning. Charity, divine union, transformation in Christ: these are the end."
- Thomas Merton. No Man Is An Island. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1955: 63.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Response to a Comment on Yesterday's blog

I normally do not respond to comments left on this blog, but I would like to comment on an anonymous and good response to yesterday’s blog. It is a great joy that we can interact and learn from one another – so I offer my small contribution to this well thought-through response. The measure of success in leadership that yesterday’s response to my blog proposes - the quality of relationships build with God and others - is precisely the transformation of leadership values that Nouwen hopes for and proposes in his little, provocative book. A close reading of Nouwen will reveal that he does not propose that leadership should not be relevant, spectacular or heroic: it is the desperate temptations to be relevant (in Nouwen’s Dutch-informed sense of writing – a desire to play to the whims and movements of the market), spectacular and powerful that he identifies as the main temptations for those who lead. These are the temptations that often lead to the kind of dysfunctional and ineffective leadership that all of us have witnessed too well. For Nouwen obedience to God equals effective Christian leadership, authentic leadership in the Name of Jesus – and this could end up being very relevant, quite spectacular and full of the right kind of power – but those leadership results are ultimately the work of God. Nouwen’s genius lies in his understanding that authentic leadership cannot start with those desires – it has to start with the determined commitment to follow God – and to leave the effects of that leadership to Him. For too long have we located the phenomena of leadership solely in the person of the leader. I would propose that leadership is much more complex that the desires and actions of one person (as good, needed and intentional as they might be) – at minimum any talk of Christian leadership should include the serious consideration of the empowering presence of God, the community, context, organization, mission and followers. Nouwen proposes in a very simple way, based on his reading of the last chapter of John’s Gospel (21), that the phenomena of leadership includes and depends upon these above-mentioned constituents.

Does Nouwen’s small book on Christian leadership address all the philosophical or Biblical elements necessary to construct an adequate theory for Christian Leadership? I do not think so. But this book, written in the early 1980’s does open the door to start to examine what a communal, values-based approach to leadership could look like. Nouwen is no longer alone in his call to a values-based approach to leadership (one could consider the work of Robert Greenleaf, Richard Barker and even the most recent writings of Bernard Bass for a few examples of this). Leadership scholars world-wide has proposed that a shift is occurring in our understanding of leadership and that this new, emerging, post-industrial paradigm of leadership has helped leaders to start to think of leadership as something that is done in community instead of the acts of one privileged and empowered individual. This paradigm shift from extreme individualism to perspectives in communal leadership is a global phenomena and is contrasted by Jean Lipmen-Blumen (Thorton F. Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Drucker School of Leadership) with the individualistic, competitive leadership approaches of the past: “…we finally began to reexamine more critically our traditional concept of leadership. It is based on an outmoded ego ideal glorifying the competitive, combative, controlling, creative, aggressive, self-reliant individualist…”

I fully agree that Bruce Winston’s concept of Agapao love as the prime motivator of Christian leadership, is the closest we have come so far to describe this values-driven approach (and in my reading to the concepts Nouwen describes): doing the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time, to the right people will result in authentic Christian leadership that might very well turn out to be spectacularly relevant and powerful – but those results are God’s work, our work is to be obedient to the call to lead in the Name of Jesus.
I would also confess that Nouwen's three temptations: the temptations to be the person of the hour that is known for his spectacular and powerful personage and leadership are all temptations that I can deeply relate to.
Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Leadership in the Name of Jesus

I struggle with the shameless pride and determined self-promotion that so often accompany those of us who present ourselves as "leadership gurus". Am I tempted by the "style over substance" stance that leadership simply equals influence? Where are we leading people to? Henri Nouwen's little book on Christian Leadership, "In the Name of Jesus" remains one of the few voices that calls for a renewed commitment to authentic leadership.

Jeanné Morson's review of Nouwen's book summarizes his most important thoughts:

"The increasing trend of many individuals seeking to nurture their leadership skills is to submit to the motivational gurus who preach well-packaged and dramatically staged formulas for success. The quest for self-direction, personal efficiency and effective leadership habits, however, still leaves many individuals empty over the long run. The late Henry Nouwen provides the link that is essential for those individuals who not only seek effective leadership skills but an approach that is consistent with their Christian identity. IN THE NAME OF JESUS provides a foundational understanding of effective leadership that centres itself in Christ. Any proposal of personal leadership styles that negate or avoid this authentic presence can offer only a partial definition of what genuine leadership and effectiveness is.

Where leadership gurus talk about an individual's internalized habits and methods of empowerment, Henri Nouwen begins his reflections on Christian leadership with a focus on the collective. His wisdom is grounded in the foundation that we are a people 'called'. He acknowledges that it is the real presence of the Holy Spirit who motivates us toward a life that is lived not merely 'with' but 'for' others. This adds a distinctively unique layer to general leadership principles that tend to focus on an individualistic perspective. Nouwen's understanding of leadership is other-centred as opposed to self-centered; it is communal as opposed to individual. Skills are not what 'build me up' as a good leader, but what 'build us up' as a community.

Nouwen regards self-actualization -- that desire to be relevant, spectacular, heroic or powerful -- as a temptation. Leadership is not so much about personal effectiveness and success as it is about one's vocation to proclaim in the word and witness of one's life that God's redemptive presence continues to manifest itself even in the ordinary events of our lives. This emphasizes that it is not so much about what we do or who we are in terms of social labels, but our capacity to reveal WHOSE we are in the way we choose to live out our relationships and involve ourselves with the others in our community. According to Henri Nouwen, all principles by which we live, whether it be honesty, integrity, integrity, fairness, excellence, service, etc., pale in their capacity for effectiveness if LOVE is not at the root of them. Love is the first principle and finds its origin in what Nouwen refers to as God's first love - that creative extension of God's self into the life of the world. Stripped of all the criteria that made him relevant, spectacular and powerful, Nouwen discovered at l'Arche a deeper well-spring with which to identify his contributions as a Christian leader: "Success was putting my soul in danger...my constantly changing involvement in what seemed most urgent were signs that the Spirit was being suppressed." (P.10) Nouwen invites the Christian leader to nurture her/his spirit by contemplative prayer so that "we can keep ourselves from being pulled from one urgent issue to another and from being strangers to our own and God's heart." (p.28) Nouwen defines this balance as something attainable when one responds in the affirmative to Jesus' question: Do you love me?

For a society that measures successful leadership in terms of the effectiveness of the individual, Nouwen offers a counter definition that is witnessed by a "communal and mutual experience". (p.40) He reflects on the success of Jesus' disciples who were sent out in twos to proclaim the good news: Christian leaders are called to live the Incarnation...not only in their own body but... the corporate body of the community, and to discover there the presence of the Holy Spirit. (p.48) For Nouwen, leadership cannot function apart from the community.Like other types of leadership, Christian leadership too can get tangled in the charisma of a high profile individual who has all the skills to function well and be effective within the community. Nouwen challenges all Christian leaders to function WITH and FOR their particular community, not in the radiance of their own name and reputation but IN THE NAME OF JESUS. "

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Unmasked Leadership

"Our media are saturated with images of individuals wearing the mask of 'all togetherness'. I rub shoulders daily with people quick to reassure me of the unreality 'I'm fine, thanks'. I find myself trapped in a superficial community, stuffed in my self-imposed cocoon of fear and shame, afraid to admit my brokenness and weakness. I can't face the possibility of rejection and loss, not making the cut, not fitting in. To break out of this prison, we are invited into the honesty of becoming vulnerable. Vulnerability dismantles our obsession with getting it right.

As I take off the mask of 'all togetherness', I discover a vast world of freedom. In my vulnerability, I become accessible to fellow companions on the journey. My vulnerability invites others in, offers understanding and empathy, but also can be a cry for help. Even though vulnerability's path is often painful, its reward of deepening intimacy is welcome. Being vulnerable opens my heart to a larger worldview. I become free to explore beyond the exhausting self-focus of supporting my false image of 'OKness'. I find myself challenged to deeper transparency as I sing along with Leonard Cohen 'Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in'."

- Steve Imbach (A Spiritual Director with Soul Stream in the Vancouver Area)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Gentle Leadership

"Once in a while we meet a gentle person. Gentleness is a virtue hard to find in a society that admires toughness and roughness. We are encouraged to get things done and to get them done fast, even when people get hurt in the process. Success, accomplishment, and productivity count. But the cost is high. There is no place for gentleness in such a milieu.

"Gentle is the one who does "not break the crushed reed, or snuff the faltering wick" (Matthew 12:20). Gentle is the one who is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of the other and enjoys being together more than accomplishing something. A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. A gentle person knows that true growth requires nurture, not force. Let's dress ourselves with gentleness. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us."

~Henri Nouwen

Friday, September 07, 2007

Leadership Wisdom from Unlikely Voices

I am rereading Dave Fleming's book, "Leadership Wisdom from Unlikely Voices." It is excellent and practical exploration of the leadership wisdom that the leaders from Church History offer us. Fleming surveys leaders such as Francis of Assisi, Augustine, Hildagard of Bingen and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It is a worthwhile read.

Here is a link to Fleming's website: www.davefleming.org

And his blog: http://davefleming.typepad.com/

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Privilege of Focus

“Keep a clear eye toward life’s end.
Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature.

What you are in His sight is what you are and nothing more.

Remember that when you leave this earth,

you can take with you nothing that you have received

– fading symbols of honor, trappings of power

– but only what you have given:

a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”

– Francis of Assisi (1182-1226 AD)

Friday, August 31, 2007

New Book by David Miller on the Theology of Work

There is a great new book out by David Miller of the Yale Center of Faith and Culture on the theology of work. The book is enitled " God at work". Here are a few reviews on the book:

"The most thoughtful attempt so far to take both religion and business seriously as partners."--Harvard Business Review"As both a theologian and a business person, David Miller provides a unique perspective on the faith/work movement. This book contains a scholarly review of its roots, a careful and thorough description of its current momentum, and a thoughtful critique of its future. It is a must read for the person who wants to understand how God and worship relate to the reality of the workplace." -- C. William Pollard, Chairman Emeritus, ServiceMaster


"Rather than celebrate late life atonement to compensate for careers of corruption, David Miller shows a long, proud tradition of leaders who reach for purpose in their work and compassion in their workplace. This richly textured, historically accurate and spiritually uplifting book should be read not only by those who need it the least and will love it, but also by those who badly need it and don't know it." --Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Senior Associate Dean, Yale School of Management and co-author of Leadership and Governance from the Inside Out


"God at Work, by David W. Miller, is an important contribution to the discussion of the growing role of religion in business life. It ought to find its way into MBA courses on human relations, business ethics, and marketing, among others." --Robert W. Fogel, Charles R. Walgreen Professor of American Institutions, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago, and 1993 Nobel Prize Winner in Economics


"David Miller explores the next major chapter that most companies are wrestling with on the Diversity and Inclusion journey --- religion in the workplace. He provides excellent insights. " --Steve Reinemund, Chairman, PepsiCo


"God at Work draws on Miller's background in corporate management, theological training, and extensive research to provide an insightful analysis of recent efforts to bring religious faith into more active engagement with the complex decisions of the contemporary workplace. At a time when corporate scandals have rocked the nation, this inside look at the ethical challenges facing top executives is sorely needed. Miller shows that local congregations have seldom provided guidance for members with managerial responsibilities and academia has rarely provided a hospitable environment for discussions of faith and ethics in the business world, either. Still, there are some hopeful signs that this neglect is changing. Miller's engaging discussion helps chart the course." --Robert Wuthnow, author of The Crisis in the Churches: Spiritual Malaise, Fiscal Woe

Interview: Bruce E. Winston, PhD at Online Degrees Online

There is a great interview with my dean and mentor, Dr. Bruce Winston at Online Degrees Online: http://www.online-degrees-today.com/blog/2007/08/30/interview-bruce-e-winston-regent-university/

Working with Dr. Winston has been one of the most transformational events in my life. I am deeply grateful. The following is one of those deeply inspiring Winstonian sayings on leadership:

"A leader is one who can clearly communicate a vision and motivate others to action...one who discovers and maintains a lifelong pursuit of God's truths to positively impact individuals and the world."

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me

Blood of Christ, inebriate me (refresh me)
Water from Christ's side, wash me

Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Your wounds hide me

Suffer me not to be separated from You
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto You
That I may praise Your with Your saints
and with Your angels
Forever and ever
Amen

14th Century Christian Prayer

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bridging Sunday and Monday: Making Faith Really Matter in Business: Seattle Pacific University

This is from an online brochure of the Christian Business Faculty Association:
Over the past two decades the Christian community has seen an explosion of activity around the subject of the “ministry of our daily work.” The growing number of books on this subject is one piece of evidence. Pete Hammond (with Paul Stevens and Todd Svanoe) published an Annotated Bibliography in 2002, and maintains an exploding database of books and other publications on the subject. The Marketplace Ministry report from the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism conference in 2004 demonstrates the international nature of this activity. Marketplace ministries have “sprung up” in cities around the world. It appears that God is truly at work stirring passions and insight regarding the wholeness of the gospel and the destruction of the “sacred/secular” divide. Theology of Work is even finding its way into a few seminaries.
From this foundation, we seek to go deeper. If God cares about our daily work, does he also care about its institutions: government, education, the medical field, and business? And if so, what do the Scriptures have to say about how this work should be conducted? And if Christians can grasp what the Bible is saying about this work, does this insight translate to a secular world where the authority of the Scriptures is not recognized?

For those of us in business, the development of faith and work integration provides the foundation for developing a biblical view of business. At the School of Business and Economics at Seattle Pacific University, we started this discussion in earnest in 2002. The result was a paper published in 2004 on our view of the biblical purpose of business, [Van Duzer, et. al.].
Using biblical language, the paper demonstrated that God cares about the institution of business and has called people to that field to carry out his work in this world. The fundamental conclusion of that paper was that the purpose of business is to serve. Two vital ways that businesses serve are to distribute goods and services that are needed in the world, and to provide meaningful work enabling people to respond to God’s call for them to work. This is a vastly different conclusion than Milton Friedman drew, and many people accept today, that the purpose of business is to maximize the shareholder value subject to the constraints of the law and ethical norms.

We also believe that when something is true, it is true even for those who don’t recognize biblical authority. We have found that our conclusion about the purpose of business can be discussed using different arguments for audiences who don’t look to biblical authority for answers, such as Rotary, universities, and general business groups. Since most ethical problems in business over the past decade have come from greed rooted in the bottom line, these ideas on purpose offer hope through another way of thinking about business.

Now the question is this: can we go another step deeper? If biblical insight can help us understand the purpose of business, can it also help us understand the practice of business? Can we look at areas of business such as leadership, organizational culture, marketing, finance, human resources, and corporate social responsibility and gain biblical insight about them? And if the answer is yes, can we take this insight another step further to develop business theories that can be communicated in a secular language, offering insight to business leaders for all sizes of businesses, from all cultures, and all types of industry.

That is what the conference “Bridging Sunday and Monday” is all about. We put out a Call for
Papers and selected responses from 14 universities (both general universities and those that call themselves Christian) with research ideas in these areas. We had numerous responses from faith-based practitioners in business who have found insightful ways to carry out their work in honor to God. We organized sessions for the presentation and discussion of these ideas on October 4, 2007 in Seattle.

Our goal for the conference is to bridge two gaps. The first is between Sunday and Monday. Can we create a strong link between biblical faith and the practice of business? Of course this means acting ethically, and finding ways to demonstrate our commitment to Christ. But it means more than this, in demonstrating the missional value of business as more than a means to some other end.

The second gap we sought to bridge was between those in business and those in the academy. Many academics have not had to deal with the day to day challenges of being in business, while many people in business have not sought to ground what they do in solid theory. So sometimes these groups talk past each other, or don’t talk at all. By having strong representation from both communities at this conference, in each session, and in the presentations, we looked to create a dialogue.

Ultimately, however, Jesus calls us to be stewards of the resources he has given us, and to be accountable for our work in the world. While we believe that business is a worthy calling, some recent activity in business has been far from worthy. The identification of new and better practices for business can bring healing and help to a hurting world, with the end, that “they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,” Matthew 5:16.
A one day conference, October 4, 2007 7:00 am—4:30 pm (includes breakfast and lunch)Seattle Pacific University. For more information click on this link or any of the links below.

Program
I. Introduction, why the importance of the subject, what else has been done

II. The Purpose of Business—Jeff Van Duzer

III. From the Viewpoint of a Person of Christian Faith in Business

A. Don Flow—CEO and Owner, Flow Automotive Customer Service

B. Jack Van Hartesvelt—Executive Vice President, Kennedy Associates Negotiations

C. Sherron Watkins, former Vice President of finance, Enron Dealing with Crises

IV. Business Leadership

A. Gerard Beenen, Carnegie Mellon University, and David Miller, YaleUniversity “Do Biblically Consistent Models of Leadership Work?”

B. Corne J. Bekker, Regent University “Sharing the Incarnation: Towards a Model of Christological Leadership”

C. Carter Crockett, Westmont College “In Search of a New Language and Model for Business”

D. Kristi Nelson, Seattle Pacific University “Using Power for the Greater Good”

E. Rick Franklin, Biola University and Regent University“ Authentic Leadership from the Image of God”

V. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

A. Dan Lawson, Ashland University “Applying Christian Values to CSR and Workplace Ethics”

B. George S. Babbes, Azusa Pacific University “In Search of a Sustainable CSR Business Model”

C. Samuel Seaman, Pepperdine University “A Personal Ethic to Sustain Virtuous Business”

D. Faith Wambura Ngunjiri, Yale Center for Faith and Culture “A Case Study of Cascade Engineering Company”

VI. Human Resources Practices

A. Mark Russell, Asbury Theological School, and Jeff Russell, YaleUniversity “A Theological Foundation for Off-Shoring Practices”

B. Jay Gary, Regent University“ Does Forgiveness Fit in the Workplace?”

C. Oneita Burton, Abeline Christian University “Faith-Based Approach to Organizational Communications Research”

D. Sean McHugh, Vice President, Block Imaging International “Designing and Leading Company-Wide Spiritual Development Programs”

VII. Organizational Values

A. Robert Eames, Calvin College; Stacy Jackson, Todd Steen, andSteven VanderVeen, Hope College “Making Values Matter in Organizations”

B. Tom Buckles, Biola University “Teaching Values in a Christian Business School”

C. John Kilroy, Emerging Concepts LLC “Values from the Beatitudes”

VIII. Marketing

A. Gary Karns, Seattle Pacific University“ A Theological Reflection on Exchange and Marketing”

B. Steve Strombeck, Azusa Pacific University “Corporate Integrity and Communication Strategies”

C. Marketing Business Leader—not yet finalized

IX. Finance

A. Tom Cottrell, University of Calgary “Resolving the Scriptures and Corporate Financial Markets”

B. Grant Learned and Herb Kierluff, Seattle Pacific University “Sources and Uses of Wealth from a Christian Perspective”

C. Finance Business Leader—not yet finalized

X. Conclusions and Panel Discussion: Denise Daniels, Chair; Don Flow, Jack VanHartesvelt, and Sherron Watkins


How to Register - Through the CBFA conference site http://www.spu.edu/sbe/cbfa/index.htm

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Immersed in the River of God

"But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14, NIV)

"[A] mature contemplative is far more simple than any child or any novice, because theirs is a more or less negative simplicity-the simplicity of those in whom potential complications have not yet had a chance to develop. But in the contemplative, all complexities have begun to straighten themselves out and dissolve into unity and emptiness and interior peace.

The contemplative, nourished by emptiness, endowed by poverty and liberated from all sorrow by simple obedience, drinks fortitude and joy from the will of God in all things.Without any need for complicated reasoning or mental efforts or special acts, the contemplative's life is a prolonged immersion in the rivers of tranquility that flow from God into the whole universe and draw all things back to God.

For God's love is like a river springing up in the depth of the Divine Substance and flowing endlessly through His creation, filling all things with life and goodness and strength.All things, except our own sins, are carried and come to us in the waters of this pure and irresistible stream."

Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions Press, 1961: 266.
Photograph by Thomas Merton.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

John Michael Talbot - Psalm 42 - Live

Psalm 42
1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"
4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.
5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and 6 my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
8 By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock,
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?"
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"
11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Forecasting Patterns of Change

My good friend and colleague, Jay Gary (http://www.jaygary.com/) is hosting a one day foresight seminar on September 20, 2007. Graham Molitor will be the main speaker.

Mr. Graham Molitor is a foremost authority on forecasting government policy, is president of Public Policy Forecasting, and former vice president/legal counsel of the World Future Society. He headed lobbying staffs at General Mills and Nabisco, chaired a legislative Commission on the Future, directed research for the White House Conference on the Industrial World Ahead, served on the White House Social Indicators Committee, and served in elective, appointive or advisory capacities in each government branch -- executive, legislative, judicial, and independent regulatory. Graham is the editor of the Encyclopedia of the Future (1996) and author of over 100 journal articles and essays on social and technological forecasting. Molitor will be offering seven 30-minute lectures on September 20th to a Doctoral residency, in a video-taping format.

The seminar topics will include:

  • Scanning the Environment
  • Framing the Issues
  • Advancing the Issues
  • Resolving the Issues
  • Cyclical Patterns
  • Bellweather Jurisdictions
  • Next Five Economic Eras

Here is a link to the seminar's web page: http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/conferences/foresight/home.shtml

Mentoring vs. Discipling Followers

Leadership Talks feature a new recording done by Dr. Bruce Winston and myself: http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/leadershiptalks/home.htm
The write-up for the recording is as follows:
As a leader, mentoring or discipling followers is vital to the future of your organization. But, is either one better than the other? What are the differences between mentoring and discipling? How do each of these relate to succession planning? Join Dr. Bruce Winston and Dr. Corné Bekker as they address these questions and more in their discussion regarding the biblical and present day use of mentoring and discipling followers.