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Worth a Look 10.14.14

Oct 14, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers by Graham Cole. $1.99.

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? How does a person resist him? Ought we to pray to the Spirit? How do we quench the Spirit? How do we grieve the Spirit? and How does he fill us?

Tim Challies – 7 Things Your Church Needs from You:

I chose to speak about how any Christian (not only young adults) can make a church better and stronger. Here are some of the things I came up with: 7 things your church needs from you.

The Atlantic - Buy Experiences, Not Things:

Waiting for an experience apparently elicits more happiness and excitement than waiting for a material good (and more “pleasantness” too—an eerie metric). By contrast, waiting for a possession is more likely fraught with impatience than anticipation.

Here’s a post I contributed to Church Leaders - 5 Tips for Promoting Causes in the Local Church:

What do you do when one person wants their passion to be the primary passion for the whole church? This is the tricky part. You want to encourage and bless the efforts in the world without allowing your congregation’s primary focus be diverted to other activities. You don’t want church members passing out voter guides or hijacking every small group experience so that politics reign supreme.

There are no easy answers to this question because every church and every community and every activist is a different mix of personalities and passions. But here are some principles to keep in mind…

Joel Miller – What’s the Difference Between Prayer and a Selfie?

The entire Christian life is communal, encompassing how we worship, interpret the Bible, and especially how we pray. Given the individualist bent of our wider culture, that means purposefully leaning toward the instruction of the church and praying not just for ourselves, but for any and all.

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Why I Publish the “Know Your Southern Baptists” Series

Oct 13, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Church-On-HillOver the weekend, I was tagged in a Facebook conversation. Anthony Bradley was lamenting my “Know Your Southern Baptists” series for making TGC lean too heavily toward Southern Baptists, because there is no comparable series for Anglicans, Presbyterians, etc. This charge caught my attention since Christianity Today’s recent profile on me in their millennial edition mentioned this as a distinctive element of my online work:

While other young Christians may be casting off denominational identity, Wax celebrates the legacy of the SBC with his blog series Know Your Southern Baptists, featuring the church’s pastors, authors, and musicians.

Anthony is a writer I pay attention to – a mix of insight, wisdom, and all-around feistiness that makes him always interesting to read. So, since I was part of “instigation tagging” – a new phrase that popped up in the comment thread (yes, Anthony, please write about this new phenomenon!), I thought I’d jump in and explain the rationale for the “Know Your Southern Baptists” series.

Moving to TGC

When I moved my blog over to The Gospel Coalition’s website in 2012, I spoke of TGC as a ”neighborhood” I was excited to belong to and serve. I mentioned several reasons for moving my blog, expressing first my affinity for TGC’s Theological Vision for Ministry and also how much I had benefited from the other bloggers on the site. My third reason was related to my denominational home:

I want to see Southern Baptists represented in this neighborhood. Although several of the contributors to the TGC group blog are Southern Baptists, there hasn’t been a consistent SBC voice at The Gospel Coalition. The Southern Baptist Convention is the most populous denomination within evangelical circles, and as a member of a Southern Baptist church by conviction and confession (Baptist Faith and Message 2000), I hope to accomplish a broader goal of “being Southern Baptist among and for evangelicals.”

There are eight regular bloggers at TGC, and at the time, I was the only Southern Baptist among them. This, despite the fact a large segment of TGC’s readership belongs to the SBC.

On Denominational Identity

Evangelicalism is often critiqued for its lack of ecclesiology. The neo-evangelical movement depended, at some level, on putting aside our denominational distinctives in order to come to the table and have fellowship. One of the unintentional side effects of this ecumenism is that it downplays the importance of the local church, which leads to, in my estimation, a weaker evangelical movement. Evangelicalism is only as strong as our churches are.

I remember having lunch one day with an Eastern Orthodox priest in Kentucky. We were talking about our respective churches, our similarities and differences, and he relayed to me a situation where he was asked to pray at a civic event in his city. He was asked to pray a generic prayer that would not offend anyone. His response? “I am not a generic priest. You’ve asked an Orthodox priest to pray; you’re going to hear an Orthodox prayer.”

I am not a generic evangelical. I am a Southern Baptist who loves and wants to edify likeminded evangelicals in other denominations. My churchmanship doesn’t mean I take an adversarial posture toward other brothers and sisters. I am not in the SBC over against over denominations, but for the benefit of my brothers and sisters who are in other churches.

And how could I not adopt this outlook when I have benefited from so many people outside of the SBC? My blog readers aren’t surprised when in the space of just last week, I recommended the Anglican turned Catholic G. K. Chesterton, interviewed a writer from the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, provided a summary of the work of a United Methodist theologian on Thursday, and then featured a Southern Baptist leader on Friday. Anyone reading Kingdom People on a regular basis is going to learn from others.

Why “Know Your Southern Baptists?”

Several years ago, Joe Carter did a blog series called Know Your Evangelicals, in which he posted profiles some of the most well-known evangelicals of our day. I found the blog series to be helpful, and so about a year ago, I chose to do something similar with the Southern Baptist Convention.

In a day when we are less and less likely to feel any sense of loyalty to the churches we’ve been shaped by, I believe it’s helpful to express gratitude for the good God is doing through our denominations and networks. If Kevin DeYoung were to do a blog series called “Know Your Presbyterians,” I’d be the first in line to rejoice and give thanks to God for the glory He is receiving from my Presbyterian brothers and their ministry. I’d also love to see a series on influential Anglicans, so I could get to know and learn from some of them too.

The Your in the series title is intentional, not because all of my readers are Southern Baptist (they aren’t), but because I believe Southern Baptists are at their best when they are among and for evangelicals. So, there is a sense in which a missiologist and researcher like Ed Stetzer doesn’t belong just to the SBC. He is yours too. The same is true of Matt Chandler preaching, Beth Moore leading conferences, Trip Lee rapping, Russ Moore fighting for religious liberty, and any other number of prominent Southern Baptists who are serving others through their ministries.

Conclusion

I love The Gospel Coalition and what it stands for. I love the cultural engagement I see on the website. I love Keller and Carson and the vision they have put forth.

But I come to this place with a strong ecclesiological identity, and even though I’m going against the grain of evangelicalism’s muted denominational distinctives, I believe I’m a better blogger, writer, and thinker when I recognize and affirm my local church affiliation rather than keep it under wraps. Evangelicalism will be stronger when we come together as robust and committed church people.

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Worth a Look 10.13.14

Oct 13, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America by Anthony Bradley. $0.99.

Liberating Black Theology does more than consider the ramifications of black liberation theology; it suggests an alternate approach to the black experience that can truly liberate all Christ-followers.

Emily Whitten – Reading is Spiritual Warfare:

Christians often disagree about what kinds of books ought to be read and at what age. But our disagreement is more than that, really. Many Christians don’t see reading as spiritual warfare at all. Here are two big reasons I think this is the case.

See the Ebola Epidemic in Pictures:

The World Health Organization estimates that the Ebola virus has killed more than 3,400 people in West African countries and infected twice as many since the recent outbreak began. The World Bank estimates the economic impact of Ebola will exceed $32 billion by the end of next year. This collection of images shows the effects of the epidemic over the the last month in Africa.

Church Times chooses the 100 best Christian books of all time:

Best is, of course, a value judgement. We have kept it for this project because it is so obviously subjective. “Best” does not just cover a book’s intrinsic worth: it also prompts a consideration of what a book can achieve. Throughout our debate, we found ourselves balancing a title’s historical position with its place in our memories. A different set of judges on a different day — perhaps even the same set of judges — would certainly have come up with a different list. But, perhaps, not that different. Although there is no science in literary (let alone spiritual) criticism, we none the less approached the search for the 100 Best Christian Books in a scientific way.

7 Things to Pray for Your Children:

Jesus promises us that if we ask, seek, and knock the Father will give us good in return (Luke 11:9-13), even if the good isn’t apparent for 40 years. And because Jesus regularly asked those who came to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51), we know that he wants us to be specific with our requests. So, here are seven helpful, specific things to pray for your children:

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Lord, Help Me Redeem the Time

Oct 12, 2014 | Trevin Wax

clock-tickingThou Great I AM,
Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur
at the thought of a Being
with whom one day is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day.

A mighty God, who,
amidst the lapse of worlds,
and the revolutions of empires,
feels no variableness,
but is glorious in immortality.

May I rejoice that,
while men die, the Lord lives;
that, while all creatures are broken reeds,
empty cisterns, fading flowers, withering grass,
He is the Rock of Ages, the Fountain of living waters.

Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions,
from uncertainties of the present state,
to an eternal interest in Christ.

Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen,
and is only an opportunity for usefulness.

Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time,
to awake at every call to charity and piety,
so that I may feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
instruct the ignorant,
reclaim the vicious,
forgive the offender,
diffuse the gospel,
show neighborly love to all.

Let me live a life of self-distrust,
dependence on Thyself,
mortification,
crucifixion,
prayer.

Valley of Vision

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The Will of God Expressed in Christ

Oct 11, 2014 | Trevin Wax

cypriancarthageNow the will of God is what Christ both did and taught:

  • Humility in conversation
  • steadfastness in faith
  • modesty in words
  • justice in deeds
  • mercifulness in works
  • discipline in morals
  • to be unable to do a wrong
    and to be able to bear a wrong when done
  • to keep peace with the brethren
  • to love God with all one’s heart
  • to love Him because He is a Father
  • to fear Him because He is God
  • to prefer nothing whatever to Christ
    because He did not prefer anything to us
  • to adhere inseparably to His love
  • to stand by His cross bravely and faithfully
  • when there is any challenge on behalf of His name and honor
    to exhibit in our speech a consistent confession
  • in torture, that confidence with which we do battle
  • in death, that patience whereby we are crowned.

This is the desire to be fellow-heirs with Christ.

This is to do the commandment of God.

This is to fulfill the will of the Father.

- Cyprian, The Treatises of Cyprian: On the Lord’s Prayer, 15 [Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5], adapted

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Know Your Southern Baptists: Eric Geiger

Oct 10, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Eric GeigerName: Eric Geiger

Age: 38 (October 30, 1975)

Position: Geiger is vice-president at LifeWay Christian Resources and leads the Church Resources Division.

Previous: Geiger has served in several ministerial roles in the local church, including the executive pastor at Christ Fellowship in Miami and student pastor at Liberty Heights Church in Cincinnati.

Education: Geiger has a doctorate in leadership from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Books: He has authored or co-authored several books, including Simple Church (with Thom Rainer), IdentityCreature of the Word (with Matt Chandler and Josh Patterson), Transformational Groups, and Transformational Discipleship.

Why he’s important: Geiger leads the Church Resources Division at LifeWay, overseeing the kids, student, adult, worship, leadership, consulting, and discipleship ministry departments. His book Simple Church, co-authored with LifeWay president Thom Rainer, is a best-selling church leadership book.

While at LifeWay, Geiger continues to serve in the local church as a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. He blogs at EricGeiger.com and oversees Church Leaders, LifeWay’s church leadership site.

Notable Quotes:

True discipleship is transformation, not information or behavioral modification.

Worldliness is more about what we pursue than what we avoid

The human heart is guilty in need of transformation not pure in need of protection.

The end result of discipleship is not merely learning everything Jesus commanded, but obeying everything Jesus commanded.

A plagiarized biblical vision is always a good thing

Church programs were made for man, not man for church programs.

Others in the “Know Your Southern Baptists” Series:

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Trevin’s Seven

Oct 10, 2014 | Trevin Wax

TrevinSeven1webKindle Deal: Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities by Jonathan Dodson & Brad Watson. $2.99.

1. Six Lessons I Learned as Rookie Pastor

2. Two years ago, I jotted down 10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate is Never Asked By the Media. This year, a reporter asked a variation of one of these questions. Progress!

3. Mark Coppenger – Gordon and the Accreditors

4. No More Museums to Faith in Boston – Gordon College’s Accreditation “Not In Jeopardy”

5. A review of Bryan Loritts’ Right Color, Wrong Culture

6. David Murray – 9 Vital Answers about Depression and Suicide

7. Stunning photographs of icebergs in the icy sea around Antarctica

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Richard Hays and the New Testament’s Witness on Homosexuality

Oct 09, 2014 | Trevin Wax

006063796XOur journey through The Moral Vision of the New Testament continues as Richard Hays devotes a series of chapters to the New Testament’s witness regarding specific, controversial issues. (If you’ve gotten behind in the reading or you’re just joining us, see the reading schedule here.)

Two weeks ago, we looked at the question of Christians using violence in the defense of justice. Last week, we looked Hays’ treatment of divorce and remarriage. Today, we tackle the controversial issue of homosexuality by asking Hays’ question: How is Scripture rightly to be employed in our deliberations about this matter?

Key Texts

Hays admits that the Bible rarely discusses homosexual behavior, but in both Old and New Testaments, the texts are “unambiguously and unremittingly negative in their judgment.”

  • Gen. 19:1-29: Hays believes the story of Sodom and Gomorroah is irrelevant to the topic because its focus is gang rape and other passages focus on the city’s pride and excess (Ezekiel 16:49).
  • Leviticus 18:22, 20:13: The holiness code explicitly prohibits male homosexual intercourse.
  • 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 1 Tim 1:10, Acts 15:28-29: The early church adopted the Old Testament’s teaching on sexual morality, including the prohibition of homosexuality.
  • Romans 1:18-32: Hays believes this to be the most crucial text for Christian ethics concerning homosexuality because it condemns homosexual behavior from a theological framework. In this context, it is an example of idolatry, an expression of humanity’s rejection of God’s design, and the consequence of God’s wrath.

Synthesis: Homosexuality in Canonical Context

Hays does not see diversity in the New Testament corpus, since the witness against homosexual practice is univocal. But how do we understand this prohibition within the larger canonical framework?

  • First, we note that God’s creative intention for human sexuality is the backdrop for New Testament teaching.
  • Secondly, the Bible describes our fallen human condition as being in “a state of self-affirming confusion” as a result of our bondage to sin.
  • Third, the Bible undercuts our cultural obsession with sexual fulfillment by “demythologizing sex.” Sexuality is never the basis for defining identity.

Next, Hays looks at the question through the three focal lenses:

Community: Sex is not a purely private affair, but something that concerns the church. To engage in sexual immorality defiles the body of Christ.

Cross: The cross models the way the church should respond to persons of homosexual inclination: not in condemnation but sacrificial service. The power of the cross means “no one in Christ is locked into the past or into a psychological or biological determinism.”

New Creation: Christians struggle to live faithfully in the present time. The transforming power of the Spirit is already present, and yet we live with the reality of temptation.

Hermeneutics: Responding to the New Testament’s Witness Against Homosexuality

Where do we go from here? How do we apply the New Testament texts to the issues of today, “as the church faces new and forceful demands for the acceptance and ordination of homosexuals?” Hays starts by showing how the New Testament speaks to the issue:

  • Rule: The New Testament affirms the witness of the Old, but does not clearly articulate a rule against homosexual practice.
  • Principle: The prohibition is part of what it means to honor God’s creative design and glorify Him with our bodies.
  • Paradigm: In the paradigmatic mode, the New Testament is emphatically and entirely negative.
  • Symbolic world: Homosexual activities are “explicitly and without qualification” identified as symptomatic of humanity’s rebellion against God.
  • Other Authorities: Tradition of the church has considered homosexuality as contrary to God’s will. Reason makes the case for sexual orientation that is unchangeable, but research is disputed, and even if a genetic link for same-sex preference were proven, it would not make homosexual behavior morally appropriate. Experience of homosexuality today may be different than in biblical times, but the Bible’s witness is clear.

Hays concludes:

“Marriage between man and woman is the normative form for human sexual fulfillment, and homosexuality is one among many tragic signs that we are a broken people, alienated from God’s loving purpose.”

Living the Text: The Church As Community Suffering with the Creation

  • Should the church support civil rights for homosexuals? Hays says yes.
  • Can homosexuals be members of the Christian church? Yes, they already are, but like all believers, they must reshape their identity in conformity with the gospel.
  • “Is it Christianly appropriate for Christians who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation to continue to participate in same-sex erotic activity?” No. Unless they enter a heterosexual marriage, they should seek disciplined sexual abstinence. “Sexual gratification is not a sacred right, and celibacy is not a fate worse than death.”
  • Should the church sanction and bless homosexual unions? No.
  • Is the imposition of celibacy on homosexually oriented persons different? No. Heterosexually oriented persons are also called to abstinence apart from marriage.
  • Should homosexuals expect to change their orientation? Hays gives an eschatological response of “already / not yet.” Unless we live with the hope of the Spirit’s transforming power “already” available, we are hoping for too little from God. Meanwhile, the “not yet looms” large and many may not experience freedom from this struggle in this life.
  • Should persons of homosexual orientation be ordained? Yes, if seeking to live a life of disciplined absence.

Some Personal Considerations: The opening of this chapter differs from the other in that Hays tells the story of his friend, Gary, a gay man who wrestled with the biblical teaching on sexuality and eventually came to the conclusion that he must renounce homosexual activity as part of his pursuit of Christ. Hays was wise to begin this chapter with a personal story. Too often, the perception of the church is that Christians are more concerned about having the right position on homosexuality than loving and serving our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors. By beginning and ending this chapter with reference to Gary, Hays reminds us that the discussion concerns people made in God’s image, people we are called to love and serve.

Hays’ chapter on homosexuality, recommended by N. T. Wright as the best brief treatment of the issue, puts forth a consistent ethic of sexuality that is based in God’s design, Scriptural support, and the tradition of the church. I have quibbles here and there: his brushing aside the sexual element of Sodom’s sin (referenced in Jude 7), and his blanket endorsement of “civil rights” without qualification. (Does supporting protections for gays and lesbians against unjust discrimination mean he would support the civil redefinition of marriage?)

Hays’ words of counsel for the church are based in love and Christ’s call to holiness, but it is hard to imagine how his vision would play out in real life unless one is part of a community that practices meaningful church discipline. Implementing his suggestions seems almost impossible apart from a biblically functioning church.

What do you think of Hays’ summary of New Testament teaching on this controversial issue? 

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Worth a Look 10.9.14

Oct 09, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. $3.99.

A few essential insights into the Bible can clear up a lot of misconceptions and help you grasp the meaning of Scripture and its application to your 21st-century life. More than half a million people have turned to How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth to inform their reading of the Bible.

Bart Barber – A Ragamuffin Fundamentalist:

Mullins’s complaints about fundamentalism are often right on-target. We indeed ought to care more about the poor if Jesus really is our Lord. We do have a problem with materialism. There are parts of the Bible that are more confusing or more difficult or more troubling to our established patterns of living than we are often willing to let on. We do indeed struggle with a tendency toward elevating our own invented rules over the plain teaching of what God has revealed in scripture. But Mullins had a way of enjoining us to consider those failures that always prompted me to want to be MORE faithful, not to give up on the whole enterprise and sell out to the culture.

Thom Rainer – 9 Trends in Pastor and Church Staff Compensation:

Some of the current trends in pastor and church staff compensation are surprising to me, while others are about what I expected.

Damon Linker in The Week - Why Do So Many Liberals Despise Christianity?

Liberals increasingly want to enforce a comprehensive, uniformly secular vision of the human good. And they see alternative visions of the good as increasingly intolerable

Andrew Wilson – Sexuality and Silence:

I’ve heard rumours of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches in the UK and the US. I don’t just mean a trend that takes hold silently; presumably most trends do that. I mean a trend towards silence: a decision not to speak out on issues that are considered too sticky, controversial, divisive, culturally loaded, entangled, ethically complex, personally upsetting, emotive, likely to be reported on by the Guardian or the New York Times, uncharted, inflammatory, difficult, or containing traces of gluten.

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The Ripple Effect of Our Leadership Influence

Oct 08, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Jenni-Catron_Rec-ReadsMy reading pile always has a leadership book or two. If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed that after you read a dozen or so of the most popular and respected books on leadership development, you start to see similar patterns and arguments. Many of the books sound alike. So whenever I pick up a book on leadership that says something unique, I stop skimming and start reading.

My copy of Jenni Catron’s book Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence (Thomas Nelson, 2014) is all marked up with sentences I’ve underlined and notes I’ve made in the margins. Jenni spent years in the Christian music business, she served alongside Pete Wilson at an influential Nashville church – Cross Point, and she is now on the leadership team at Menlo Park, where John Ortberg is pastor. Today, she joins me on the blog for a conversation about stewarding our gifts and influence for the good of God’s people.

Trevin Wax: You define “clout” as “the influence that God has given to you and to no one else.” Leadership impact is determined by how you manage this clout. Why is it important to know the particular ways God has gifted and called you?

Jenni Catron: I believe that God has designed each of us to impact the world in a way that no one else can. You have a specific purpose – a calling – that only you are qualified to fulfill. The unique combination of your gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities equips you to lead and influence those around you unlike anyone else.

I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Galatians 6:4-5:

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

This truth brought to life for me the significance of understanding our influence. God challenges us to “make a careful exploration” of who He has made us to be so that we can do our “creative best” with the life He’s called us to lead. Knowing how God has gifted you and understanding His calling for you is critical to unleashing your clout.

Your God-given influence is a gift to you and others. We need you to thrive so that you can help others thrive.

Trevin Wax: I appreciated the way in which you distinguished between different ways “clout” will manifest itself. The arena of influence may be different. Billy Graham has influenced more people than an ordinary pastor. The key is to recognize that we have significant impact on the people around us, no matter how large the arena of influence. How do you encourage and challenge people who wish they had a bigger arena of influence?

Jenni Catron: It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others, but in doing so we miss what God wants to do through us. When we fixate on what someone else is accomplishing, we squander the opportunities right in front of us.

Influence has a ripple effect. We never know who might be impacted by our investment. I’m sure there were people who had a significant influence on Billy Graham’s early life. Little did they know that being faithful to invest in this young leader would result in tidal waves of influence for generations to come.

We never know how God is using us; so be faithful to steward the opportunities and the relationships He’s given you right now. When we can find peace with the gifts that we’ve been given and aren’t tempted to compare ourselves with others at every turn, we begin to enjoy the freedom and purpose of living from our unique God-given influence.

Trevin Wax: I was struck by your candid confessions of vulnerability and insecurity throughout this book. In almost every chapter, as you deal with certain “clout-killers,” you speak from personal experience as having manifested many of these negative character traits (jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.). Why do you think it’s important to lead from a position of weakness, not just trumpet your strengths?

Jenni Catron: I believe that leaders must lead themselves well to lead others better. Leading ourselves well includes taking a hard look in the mirror to identify our weaknesses. Leading from this place of vulnerability allows me to be honest with myself and others. It forces me to humbly acknowledge where I need to grow and what I need to learn.

In his book, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer says it this way:

“Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way.”

I think people appreciate this in leaders today. We don’t need to go to an unhealthy self-deprecating extreme but humble transparency is refreshing. Honest leaders are simply willing to acknowledge where they need to grow, admit when they’ve gotten it wrong and reflect a desire to keep growing to get it right.

Trevin Wax: When you talk about the paralyzing nature of fear, you mention how often the Bible contains the phrase, “Don’t be afraid.” My favorite line in the book – “God doesn’t say, ‘Do not be afraid. You’ve got this!’ He says, ‘Do not be afraid. I’ve got this.”” You write about your church’s leadership during the Nashville flood of 2010. What did you learn from this experience about confronting fear?

Jenni Catron: The Nashville flood was a defining moment for me as a leader. Everything in me wanted to hunker down with my family, watch the dramatic news footage and eat comfort food until everything was alright. But that wasn’t what God was asking us to do. People needed help and they needed hope and someone needed to step up to fill in the gap.

I learned through that experience that we often confront our greatest fear at the crossroads of influence. We face our greatest fear at the threshold of our greatest opportunity to make an impact.

Because our church leaders were willing to confront our own fears, we were able to make a significant impact in our city. We earned influence that may not have come any other way. It was an opportunity for our faith to grow as we experienced God’s work through us in spite of our own fear.

Trevin Wax: Another great insight in your book – “Comparison twists what should be unique about us into something that we are either grossly dissatisfied with or disproportionately proud of.” How does the comparison trap lead to a leadership train wreck in either of these two directions?

Jenni Catron: For most of my life I thought comparison was the way to navigate the world – see what others are doing, compare that to my life, make adjustments, and compare again. I believed that comparison was a necessary skill for survival in a world that compares and competes over everything. The problem with comparison is that it doesn’t end with a simple sizing up. Our temptation to compare distracts us from being who God has called us to be.

The pendulum swing of comparison has us envying one person one minute and then diminishing the value of another the next. In one direction we can fixate on what we don’t have and how we don’t measure up. This type of comparison leads to jealousy, envy, greed, dissatisfaction, and ungratefulness. We wind up feeling grossly inadequate.

In the other direction, comparison leads to pride. We begin to see ourselves above others and consciously or not diminish the value of others. Even the disciples were guilty of asking Jesus who was greatest among them (Luke 9:46-48).

Trevin Wax: Patrick Lencioni, one of my favorite writers on team dynamics and leadership, wrote the foreword and says it’s one of the best books he has ever read. How did you connect with Lencioni and why do you think he appreciated this book so much?

Jenni Catron: I connected with Patrick via a mutual friend and was ecstatic he agreed to write the foreword. Patrick works with leaders and their teams all over the country and I think he sees firsthand the need for leaders to get more honest about the issues that hold them back personally. Patrick resonated with the idea of the “clout killers” and the need for leaders to understand how these issues might be hindering their leadership. I think that Patrick would agree that the healthier a leader is, the healthier the team will be.

Trevin Wax: Thanks for stopping by, Jenni. And thank you for writing a helpful book on leadership.

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