Archive for Confessions

My Favorite Mistakes of 2016

As each year ends, I like to look back at both my successes and misses. Both of them help me to adjust my trajectory moving forward.

I find that leaders must make some significant mistakes if they hope to make spiritual progress. I’m skeptical of the leader who doesn’t have a limp, or who are fearful of the whiplash that’d come from living transparently.

I like to share my mistakes with others, even to weave them into a weekend service message, in the hope that others in my life will realize that sometimes theirs aren’t all that unusual. In fact, sometimes theirs are better and funnier than mine.

Here a few from this year to mull over.

 

  • Not enough margin for failure

I tend to see “Margin” as the part of life that allows me to live in “Balance.” I no longer believe in the concept of balance. That word comes from physical matters such as walking. If you tape the walk of someone, then play it back in slow motion, you might surprise at just how “unbalanced” balance is. Just as one leg comes to the end of its forward stride, it looks like we are about to fall forward. Then at the last second, the other leg comes forward. Step after step this is repeated, as we move forward.

In short, my thinking has been akin to “Either goes for a win, or don’t try at all.” To fail in ministry can sometimes bring finances stresses.

If you are the pastor of a church of any size, and tick people off, for necessary reasons or not, chances are some will withdraw their financial support. We have to do what we have to do. Just make sure you must do it and make the call to change comes out of necessity, not your personal anger.

Most of the heroes of the faith in Scripture went through large trials. I’ve noticed that the majority of the biblical characters went through great trials. The trials weren’t so much a surprise as for where they came from – sometimes from God alone, but sometimes brought most of it on themselves.

Without their failures and some of the suffering of it, I’m not sure we’d have the famous “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews chapter 11.

  • Didn’t move into the future wilder and far riskier

If you are a leader, you may have been told in one way or another, that you’ve been too wild and dangerous. Some who look up to us want an absolute guarantee that they will not be a challenge with possible failure. If you model by testing others, you will make some feel uncomfortable. Without saying a thing leaders send a message that how they live is how their followers ought to live as well. Some critics in your world of influence may interpret “Failure” as real failure instead of seeing some of the spiritual parts that come with following God.

“Not wild enough?” you ask. “I thought great models of leadership were “Mature” and had few missteps.”

I don’t want to be a killjoy about your 2017, but if you insist on playing life safely, you won’t make much progress this year.

  • Didn’t ask for help

When I don’t ask for help or decide not to wait for it, bad things tend to happen.

Twice in the past couple of years, I needed help with simple moving – once a desk and later a sign on the sidewalk. Both times I could have gotten help. In fact, others volunteered to help me if I could just wait a few minutes till they arrived.

In my impatience a commercial from years ago captured It featured a Bandolero akin to revolutionary Pancho Villa. Ammunition belts crisscrossed his chest, and he gripped a six-shooter in each hand. His line was epic – “I don’t need no stinking help!” That could have been my slogan more often than not. After all, why wait when I can do it quickly by yourself.

I didn’t hold on, and I paid a huge penalty. Both of these weren’t your normal crashes. I dove headfirst into a wall once and onto the with the other.

When I severely broke my upper arm, I was in such pain that when the EMTs showed up, I passed out twice from the severe pain. With the other, it was my foot that broke two places. Both breaks were unusually severe according to the ortho doctors. The nurses got to know me so well on the many visits they knew me on a first-name basis.

Each break took me out of at least some commission for six months.

Even when I was finally “Healed” in the words of the ortho doctor put it, the bones were obviously not lined up. The ortho doctor declared “Basically cured” and that was as close it comes in their world.

God usually transforms the goofball blunders I make to sew his wisdom into the soil of my heart.

  • Sometimes I didn’t stop when God stopped

Scripture and people’s testimonies convey this same truth. All things eventually come to an end. One day each of us will breathe our last. As an insurance sales friend puts it, “The latest stats still indicate that the worldwide mortality rate hovers right around 100%.”

All things come to an end. Even what starts out to be exciting, is useful and fun will one day come to an end. As a Swedish missionary says, “Fire tends to go out eventually. Plan and train others according to that truth.”

Are you thinking about starting or building a mega something? Don’t look at the initial costs. It’s even more important to be in touch with the reality of money, and people power you’ll need further down the path.

Believers will inherit the challenge to sustain the mega-facilities or programs you started. Will they rejoice in what you are doing, or will they put your picture on their dartboard as a practice target?

It ‘s hard to get an accurate bead on “Real reality” when our default line is, “God told us to do thus and such.”

It has been easy for me to confuse enthusiasm with wise, thought through spiritual direction.

Like never in life, I’m committing to two vital convictions.

  1. I will find at least one experienced coach/mentor in life. Most of being a great coach come from finding a person who is willing to open their calendar to you and who has made enough significant mistakes that they can share their discoveries.
  2. For the rest of my life, I intend to be all about training several people who can replace me they have my same vision and heart. I want them to continue all the parts of the vision God sponsored.

I want them to be far more successful than me. Most leaders make training far too complicated matter, to the point of their being nearly impossible to pull it off by most leaders. “But I want to produce high-quality disciples. Let’s just do it the way Jesus did. Let’s just bring them along as we live life and do outreach and ministry this year.

During college, Inter Varsity Fellowship trained me to lead in light of the short duration of students’ availability in college. As a leader, I had two years of relationship till they began to have super jammed schedule with internships or possible training for a job.

Let’s adopt those two key words in the New Year.

  • Didn’t adequately express my love and appreciation to friends who had made a difference in my life

This year four friends passed. Three of them were completely unexpected. They weren’t obviously sick before they passed.

The year before I lost 5.

As you scan the list above maybe, you can relate to one or two. I hope the encouragement there will help you. If not, then just pray for me as a mistake-riddled person in 2017. I vow to make new and even better mistakes in the coming 12 months!

Steve Sjogren

Kindness.com

Mentees: Are you failing enough to succeed?

As much as you like the group you serve, one day you will move on. Others may carry you out feet first, but you will definitely move on from your group.

Are you raising up others to take your place when you leave?

Early on in my life as a Believer a mentor of mine impressed on me the vital importance of replacing myself with others I felt good about leading after my time was up. I’ve led and transitioned with a number of groups since then. Some of those have gone well, others not so much!

Here are some gleanings I’ve picked up.

  1. Pray your replacement in. God wants to bring a mentee(s) your way. Ask him to stir it up.
  2. Scan the horizon. Someone is always on the way. You won’t notice what God is providing if you aren’t looking.
  3. Make yourself available. Be willing to be inconvenienced.
  4. Decide to fail a lot. We usually fail when we aspire to not fail. You won’t succeed unless you fail frequently. Take on the counsel of G.K. Chesterton. “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”
  5. Pray that when they leave you won’t hold it against them for long. What am I saying? It’s common to part ways with a mentee under stress. It happened with Paul and those he coached in the Book of Acts. Don’t be surprised if the same thing happens to you, at least for a time after you part ways.

Celebrating My Greatest Mistakes Of 2011

At the end of the year some time ago I gave a message on a few year-end reflections I had cloaked around “My Biggest Mistakes of the Year.” To my surprise more listened to that message than any in the previous year. The following year I did the same with fresh, new mistakes. Again, there was an enthusiastic response. I continue to make this a year-end message, but I am now doing an enhanced version online for some of my sites – thus what you are now reading.

On the surface of things, it may seem a little dark to ponder one’s mistakes, but I don’t see it that way, and neither does God. In the Bible, God consistently choose people who were prone to make mistakes yet went on to be stellar examples of lives strongly lived.

Peter, for one, was a mistake maker who went on to great things. His mistakes didn’t impair him from greatness. He took risks that often led to failure but always left a deposit of faith in him. He was able to walk on water when the others were afraid to step out of the security of the boat. He failed after a step or two, but he received an amazing installation of faith just the same.

What you read here are my confessions from this past year. Each of them is an area where I blew it but then made a mid-course correction along the way.

Click here or on the above image to download the PDF.

Focus on the future

Did you know that Apple stock purchased in 1997 has gone up 9000% to today’s market? I came close to investing heavily in Apple at around that time. I felt led of the Spirit to do so but made a fatal mistake – I consulted an expert who knew all about investments. The famous words spoken by a Christian money manager were, “What’s an Apple?” A couple of years later I felt a similar leading but made the same mistake of consulting this expert. I explained that the iPod had just been on the cover of Time magazine. His response was, “What’s an iPod?” (I was on my second one.)
Lessons learned:
  1. It’s probably not good to confine decisions to Christian professionals (strike probably; insert your own stronger word as you see fit)
  2. There’s no point in punishing ourselves for missed opportunities. Nothing will change as a result. List your learnings and move on.
  3. God’s leading always trumps the experts – ALWAYS, no matter what your age, experience and field of endeavor.
  4. There are always going to be more opportunities in the Kingdom of God. God not only owns all the gold and all the silver, because he is the Creator of opportunities. For those who are relatively free from fear doors will open passages we can walk through. I’d much rather have future opportunity than merely the present accumulation of goods. Goods come and go (mostly go). Opportunity is going to open amazing doors and prove that God is who he says he is.

The power of the kindness of God

I read Romans chapter 2 for years before the light went on with an important verse one day – 2:4b. “The kindness of God leads to repentance” (NASB). A powerful force is released in the lives of others when we do a small thing – when we show the kindness of God in a practical way, even when that kindness is done in a seemingly small way.
Your acts of kindness release a desire in those served to repent. The problem we face in evangelism is we can try to talk people into changing their hearts when God isn’t initiating the change. That’s a tough sell. I love this verse because it promises that what we do leads to a “radical change” as the Message puts it.

I’m no evangelist

I recently took the online inventory commonly referred to as the APEST put together by Alan Hirsch and company (TheForgottenWays.org). I scored as a Shepherd-Prophet and not an Evangelist! In reading the SP combo I realized I have always been one who sought to passionately lead people to do things more than doing those things myself. Makes sense. I’ve always said, “My desire is to get people to do evangelism more than for me to do evangelism myself” so that test summary seems right on target.
That’s true for all the five-fold gifts. They are given “to equip the saints do the work of the ministry” more than to accomplish that work alone.
Now go do the work that matters – however you’re wired.

It’s not such a bad word after all

once they experience a bit of the joy of it. I use the term “Kindness outreach” instead of “Servant Evangelism” at first to woo people into the cusp of outreach, but then I don’t worry about using the “E” word. Once they experience it they are no longer fearful. As one formerly fearful guy recently asked as he beamed, “Does this ever get old?”

Being Yourself or Being Outward

Like most people, I’m an introvert by nature. The ironic truth is, I struggle with the notion of doing an outreach every time it comes to going out to serve others. The consistent thought that goes through my mind is, “Isn’t there a book I need to read?” Or, “Don’t I need to study something right now?” Even though I have been doing outreach for 30 years I still go through this routine each time an outreach is scheduled. If that is the way I’m wired I suspect there is something in you that that resists reaching out. The bottom line is this – sometimes it’s best to not be ourselves.

“Evangelism” or “Missional”

I am officially skeptical of the term “missional” at this point in the game. I have heard and read a pile of material on mission this and mission that, but have seen precious few practical results. I am fairly convinced that most of those who write under the rubric “missional” are confessing that they know little of practical outreach. The word is mostly a theory in spite of its promise to stimulate an outward focus.
It can become an end in itself to study and discuss the attributes of outreach while never getting around to actual outreach. It has become faddish to talk missional but not actually do missional. On the other hand, the term “evangelism” is in your face and practical. It may be more of an old-fashioned term but everyone knows that it is activational. There is no doubt that when one uses the “E” word one is talking about actually doing something. Call me crazy, but I suggest we drop the “M” word in favor of the tried and true “E” word.

Low risk.

I mean minimizing what can go haywire.
A lot of what I tried to do early on in the Christian life was high-risk ministry. That is, a lot could go wrong. Sometimes a lot did go wrong. There were a lot of moving parts to go haywire. It was marked with complexity so there was the great possibility that something would go wrong. The more complex we make something the more likely it is to break down.
I like cars that are cool. A friend of mine has an amazing car that has a lot of features. It is quite impressive, or at least it was impressive for its first 18 months until little things started going wrong with many of the shiny dodads. It wasn’t long after that that the manufacturer’s warranty expired, then he was stuck with a vehicle that was riddled nit picky problems that drove him crazy. It got to the point that he couldn’t even get his windows to roll down without investing $500. Ouch! There is an outreach lesson to the wise in this car story. Sometimes it’s better to stick with the basic model and steer clear of things that are the extravagant versions.

I’ve done a lot of things that have gone south, especially in the realm of outreach. I’m at the point now where I seek to minimize the risk as much as possible. Instead of going for the glitzy, I say let’s just go with the basic approach that will get us from point A to point B efficiently. Quick, easy, no one gets hurt. Let’s wash cars. Let’s clean toilets. Let’s mow lawns. Let’s knock on doors at the trailer park and give away juicy, fresh hot hamburgers by asking, “How many would you like?” There’s not a lot of room for error there. There’s not a lot that can go wrong. I like that. I think you will too. Let’s go do some damage to the powers of darkness.