FREE FORM FRIDAY: Meeting Assignment & Decision Worksheet

2 October 2015

Meeting Assignment and Decisoin Worksheet

(Note: Each Friday, I plan on sharing a form with you that I have found useful.   Feel free to link to this page to share it with others.)

It has happened at more meetings than I care to admit.  We have talked about a lot of items on the agenda (and some off) and the meeting is coming to an end. We seem to have accomplished a lot. Too often, however, when people leave several things happen that hamper positive results:

  1. People volunteer or are assigned to do something and they don’t write it down and forget to do it before the next meeting.
  2. Someone is assigned to do something, but they think that someone else is going to do it.   In fact, neither will.
  3. There is information needed that the group needs to get from someone,but no one is specifically assigned to do so.  What is everyone’s responsibility is no one’s assignment and no one gets the information needed by the team.
  4. In the discussion people are identified who need to be brought into the loop, but no one is specifically assigned to do that.  Again, it doesn’t happen.

Several years ago I designed the attached worksheet/form.  As the chair of the meeting, I wrote down on the sheet who was going to do what after the meeting was completed.  Then right before the meeting I reviewed the list with everyone so that everyone is on the same page as to who is going to do what.  Last the list is given to an assistant or secretary to email out to everyone.

It proved to be a very effective tool. I hope it is just as helpful to you.

Click to download form:Meeting Assignment and Decision Worksheet

Multiple Intelligences: What’s Your CQ?

23 September 2015

Everybodys a genius pin

My dad introduced me to collecting slogan/campaign buttons. He had a collection (actually pretty small I later came to realize) of buttons (the kind that you wear, not the ones used to fasten your clothes).  He had some that contained cultural references and some that were related to political campaigns. (Many who know me well, know that this sparked a life long interest in campaign buttons from presidential campaigns old and new).

One button in my dad’s collection that I specifically remember was an adaptation of a quote by Albert Einstein (“Everyone’s a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid.”)

The button was (if I remember right) put out by General Electric (note the red capital GE) and said, “Everyone’s a GEnius…only in different subjects”.

What was a nice slogan in the 1960s really has proven to be true.  Today we have the concept of Multiple Intelligences.  And that concept is really encapsulated in that slogan button from the 1960s.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of IQ (Intelligence Quotient).  Misunderstood and abused though it be, it is still a helpful tool.  Others may be familiar with EQ (Emotional Quotient, or Emotional Intelligence) as coined by Daniel Goleman from Harvard Univ. Less familiar, perhaps is one’s AQ (Adversity Quotient)-which measures a person’s ability to respond to adversity. This predicts who gives up and who fights back and wins.    (I think there should be a DQ: the ability to find ice cream no matter where he/she is).

Recently I was introduced to CQ.  Now there are a several characteristics called CQ, although they are somewhat related:  Creativity Quotient (the ability to generate innovative ideas and manifest them from thought into reality), Cultural Intelligence (the capacity to be effective in diverse cultural contexts) and Curiosity Quotient.

I briefly want to focus on CQ: Curiosity Quotient.

Earlier this year PWC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) released a survey of more than 1,000 CEOs asking about leadership traits that they see as increasingly critical in our world.  Holding solid places on the list were “curiosity” and “innovation”.

Comments in that survey included:

  • Business leaders who “are always expanding their perspective and what they know—and have that natural curiosity—are the people that are going to be successful.”—Alan D. Wilson, CEO of McCormick & Company.
  • What attribute CEOs will need most to succeed in the turbulent times ahead? “I would place my bet on curiosity.” –Michael Dell (Dell, Inc.)
  • “These days, a leader’s primary occupation must be to discover the future… [It is] a continual search.” –Ron Shaic, CEO, Panera Bread.

Leaders who are curious and inquisitive can “can set an example that inspires creative thinking throughout the company”, according to Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. “If you’re the boss, and you manage by asking questions, you’re laying the foundation for the culture of your company or your group,” Grazer writes in his book, A Curious Mind.

Part of the problem is that many leaders have gotten where they are by providing solutions and fixes, not by creating new questions!  Curiosity doesn’t come naturally to how many leaders have learned to lead.

How can the leader become more curious?  Some say that you can’t.  You either ARE curious or you aren’t.  I reject that.  I believe that all of us can grow in whatever areas we need (and desire) to.

Jonathan Wai in Psychology Today has listed seven ways to begin to become more curious:

  1. Read widely and follow your interest
  2. Polish your mind with the minds of others (related to the above, this involves not just reading books but by dialoguing with people who challenge and inspire you)
  3. Visit a physical bookstore or library and browse the shelves
  4. Be willing to ask dumb questions
  5. Put a lot of ideas and facts in your head: Don’t rely on Google
  6. Be an expert who is interested in everything
  7. Don’t just focus on puzzles but on mysteries

Do you think that people can grow in curiosity or is it a trait that is inborn and pretty much static throughout one’s life?   If the former, what things have you done to grow your curiosity?



Warren Berger, “Why Curious People Are Destined for the C-Suite.” “Retrieved from

Jonathan Wai.  “Seven Ways to Be More Curious” Retrieved from

Of Course They Want an Affair…Ministers and Relational Anorexia

10 September 2015


I have debated quite a while about whether or not to blog on the Ashley Madison controversy. Until today I saw no benefit in it. But after coffee with a non-profit leader/friend today, I felt compelled to add one more voice to the mix. Unless you have been under a rock the last month, you know that internet hackers stole and released the names of between 32-39 million paid subscribers of the Ashley Madison website which exists to help people hook up to have sexual affairs.

And that included an unknown number of pastors/ministers.

Two weeks ago Ed Statzer of the Southern Baptist denomination said that from his conversations with different denominational leaders, he expected about 400 pastors to resign on Sunday, Aug. 30.  I have not heard reports of mass resignations, but I am sure that some of it happened. At least one minister has committed suicide because his name was released as being on the Ashley Madison list.

While the naive are shocked (“Shocked, I tell you, shocked!”) by this, I am profoundly sad but not shocked nor overly surprised. Does that mean that I am cynical that lots of pastors are sexual deviants and cheaters? Not at all. I am not surprised because of the culture within the church which I have seen with my own eyes (and experienced in my own life) of relational anorexia. Anorexia is “an emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat.” What does it have to do with relationships and sexual infidelity?


I would propose that we should not be all that shocked by the numbers of pastors who have resorted to Ashley Madison type of contacts because so many of them are starving for meaningful and intimate relationships. Ashley Madison is not primarily about sex. It is primarily about relationships.  (Please note what I said…I didn’t say it isn’t about sex.  It is.  But for many it is primarily about relationship foremost.   The sex is the packaging it comes in). 

The stats have been widely quoted (I also have quoted them numerous times) regarding pastoral burnout. Included in the sad statistics are the findings that 70% of pastors reporting having NO close friends. Correspondingly 56% of pastor’s wifes–this survey erroniously presumes that all pastors are men–have no close friends.

Is it because pastors are social misfits and sociopaths? Um…no. It is because they have learned both by training as well as experience that to have close friends in the church is incredibly dangerous. Contemporary churches places pastors on a pedestal that no one can long stay on if they are completely transparent with those in the church about their heart and struggles. That doesn’t mean they are perverts. It means that they are humans. Humans who are susceptible to temptation and sin just like every other person. But to admit that susceptibility to anyone who is not totally confidential or who is in a position to affect the employment/leadership of the pastor is just too big a risk for most pastors to take.

The message of the church whether taught in seminary…as I was…or through painful experience…as I also have been…is: “If you have close friends in the church you WILL get hurt. And it will usually result in job termination.”

And so millions of pastors live in relational isolation. Even if they are close to their wives, there are intimate subjects that most men will not discuss with their wives because it is too threatening to the self-esteem of the spouse. (“I am increasingly viewing porn on the internet.”  “I find myself sexually attracted to the leader of the worship team.” etc.) And so the struggle goes inward. They may even be a part of a “men’s group” or an “accountability group” or an intra-denominational support system (groups of pastors of the same denomination supporting one another or a bishop or general superintendent who is charged with “shepherding” the ministers under his/her jurisdiction.) But many ministers have found that those groups are far from confidential and far from judgment-free. Over and over again, revealing temptations or even minor slips has had negative vocational ramifications.

And so they stay isolated.

But human beings are not made that way. A reworked verse from Genesis 2 comes to mind, “It is not good for pastors to be alone.”

But most are alone, and so the prospect of finding a relationship: even a false relationship based on mutual guilt is tempting. A site promoting affairs like Ashley Madison is like the old arms race between the US and USSR: M.A.D.. Historically, both the US and the USSR had way more than enough nuclear weapons to obliterate each other off the of the face of the earth. It was, in the parlance of the 1960s and 70s, M.A.D.: Mutually Assured Destruction. If someone is having an affair with another married person there is the hope that that person won’t tell because each will, in the process of revealing the affair, destroy her/his own marriage.

As I have said in several contexts, “False intimacy feels like real intimacy, at first.” But it is not real intimacy.   It feels emotionally rewarding.  It feels exciting.  Sexually, it feels good. But it is deadly.

So do I have a solution?

I don’t know. I suspect that the culture of the church is really too dominant to change (about that I AM cynical). And I suspect that too many ministers have been burned to suddenly (and frankly foolishly) become totally transparent with their congregation or congregational leadership.

Perhaps it looks like interdenominational pastors groups. Perhaps some interdenominational structure for support and accountability is possible. I don’t know. I would covet your thoughts on that.

However…I do want us to get past the notion that the numbers of pastors who fall into sin in places like Ashley Madison are sexual deviants and hypocritical perverts. They may be hypocritical, but it is a hypocrisy arising out of relational desperation. There is no safe place to go and so they stay isolated until they turn to illegitimate places to feel comforted, heard and even loved.  It may be Ashley Madison…it may be somewhere else.   I am not minimizing the sinfulness of the actions. But I think it is important to see the motivation for many that leads them into sinful relationships.

It’s not primarily about sex. It’s about meaningful, intentional, accountable and confidential relationships. Something of which there simply are not enough.   When too many can’t find the real thing, they will go looking for the counterfeit.   And it is destructive.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Ideas? Solutions? I would covet your input.

Questions About a Potential Coaching Class for Pastors

15 June 2015


I have developed and run (one time, to a privately invited group) a series of classes on “Coaching Skills for Pastors.” I isolate a dozen or so critical coaching skills, show how they benefit ministry and both demonstrate them as well as allow you to practice them with feedback. (It would not train you to be a professional coach or certify you as a coach. It would simply be an important set of skills that you can directly apply to ministry). The class would be 4-6 sessions long.

Two questions:
1. If I were open it up publicly, what would it need to do for you for you to seriously consider taking it?
2. While in-person is much more ideal with this type of interactive material, is it something you believe you would get benefit out of on a series of phone conference calls? (I have thought about taking it to different parts of the state/country, but that would increase the cost to participants.)

(If you know of others you think might be interested in this, please share this blog post with them. They are free to respond as well).

Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this.

Why Ministers Need a Coach

18 May 2015

This article by Ken Gosnell is almost 10 years old (published in 2005), but it is just as true now.  The original article can be found here.

The Harvard Business Review (November 2004) noted that coaching is a $1 billion business in the United States. Business leaders have recognized the need for coaching in their organizations, and churches would be wise to follow suit.

Coaching is unique and different from counseling. Coaching is about taking control of your life, being goal-directed and action-oriented, and deepening your knowledge of yourself. It allows the person being coached to dream big and then believe his dream can become a reality.

Coaching allows a person to focus on moving forward and gives him the courage to face his fears and step out of his comfort zone. It helps him take a hard, honest look at what is and isn’t working in his life.

Ministers need a coach. No other organization needs strong leadership more than the church. No business needs people to be aware of their potential pitfalls more than the church. Good ministers lead good churches and great ministers lead great churches. Coaching can help good ministers become great ministers.

Ministers need coaching because they are often left isolated and alone. In ministry the stakes are high, and ministers are often left alone to navigate the winds of change and conflict in their churches. Coaches can partner with ministers to help them have a broader view of their ministry. Coaches can identify the reality of various situations because they are detached from the emotions of the moment.

Ministers need coaching because they are often trapped in a forest of details. One great benefit of coaching is it helps the minister move past the pointless activities that do not help a church advance toward its desired goals. The minister is often swayed by opinions and expectations of the congregation. Although the minister must be sensitive to these expectations, he should also be shrewd enough to identify pointless activities that do not benefit the congregation. When priorities are blurred, it is a big help to call on a coach who can help decide the difference between the pointless and the powerful activities that should be accomplished.

Ministers need coaching because they must practice accountability. The number one task of a coach is to keep the people they coach accountable to reach certain goals and objectives. This is true in the sporting world and needs to be true in the spiritual world as well. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for a minister to be accountable to a person in his church. He simply cannot expose areas of weakness that might be exploited for various reasons. A coach provides a safe haven for the minister to express his innermost thoughts and opinions. The coach provides accountability. This allows the minister to truly become an example and a model to follow for all Christians.

Ministers need coaching because soon they will be called on to coach. Business leaders are receiving coaching now. Many of the most respected and admired corporations in the United States are spending major dollars to coach their managers. These same individuals will look to the church to coach them in their spiritual lives. Ministers must equip themselves to be good coaches. What better way of doing this than by first being coached themselves?

Ministers need coaching because they must model continual growth and development. Dr. Alan Nelson says, “Coaching is more about developing a person than it is about fixing a specific problem.” Coaching creates a powerful alliance between the coach and client. The relationship is designed to enhance and advance the lifelong process of human learning, effectiveness, and fulfillment. Leaders are learners. Coaching helps the person being coached learn about the thing they may have studied least—themselves. They learn what is working and what is not working in their lives. Then, they learn how to change.

In the December/January issue of Fortune Small Business, Lance Armstrong pays homage to his coach: “Chris Carmichael has been my coach, my trainer, and my friend for more than a decade. I would not be a Tour de France champion without him.”

The point is clear—even champions need coaches. Or, even further, a person will never become a champion without a coach. The church needs champions.


Again, you can find the original article here.

The Cost of Replacing a Minister or Key Staff Person (Part 2)

17 May 2015


On Friday I looked at costs 1-6 of replacing a minister or staff person, whether in a church or in a non-profit.    You can find that post here.  Here are costs 7-10 plus recommendations.

7. Lost knowledge and relationships. You can replace a body with a body and the basic functions can usually be covered, but there are the intangibles that are lost.  Knowing the people of the organization and the community, knowing the history and traditions, knowing the idiosyncrasies of members of the team, the trust that is built between team members over time, the location of certain pieces of information, including “who knows what?” and many other things that are known by the person who has left is simply gone when they leave.  I am working with a non-profit currently who is losing a key administrative assistant.  There has been no detailed plan of how a lot of tasks are done and the organization is too small for there to be anyone do cross-training. The organization is frantically trying to put that list of procedures together before the employee’s last day, but much will still walk out the door with that administrative assistant.

8. You thought I was going to talk about costs of the actual search didn’t you? Well, I haven’t gotten to those yet!  Depending on how the search is done there is the cost of advertising for the position.  Depending on the staff position to be filled, increasingly there are ministry “head hunters” to help a church find the right replacement candidate…for a fee, of course.   There is the lost time by administrative staff of receiving and processing applications.  There is usually a great deal of time spent interviewing candidates and calling references.  If any of the remaining paid staff are doing that, those tasks draw away from the job they are being paid to do.  (Hardly any, if any, churches have dedicated HR or recruiting departments devoted to doing that kind of search). If the candidate(s) are brought in, there is usually the cost of transportation, housing, “wining and dining” them to let whatever team is doing the hiring get to see that person in various settings. Once the decision is made, there are the costs of paying for or reimbursing a staff person for moving costs.

9. The reality is that a church or organization will almost certainly have to pay more for the new person than they were paying the former staff person. Why?  Several reasons: one is because the longer a person is in a position, the less likely it is that (even with raises) what the church or organization has been paying has been keeping up with the increasing costs salaries and benefits in the market.  I have known quite a few ministers (myself included) who left a church simply because they could no longer afford to stay in that position when other churches were paying much more to do exactly the same job.  And the prospect of bringing that church “up to scale” was almost nil.    It can be a rude shock for a church that is paying $___ for a staff person to realize that they cannot find anyone on the market who will take the position for that little amount of money..or those that will are not people that the church wants to hire!

10. Depending on the position, there may be training that the church needs to pay for to get the staff person up to speed on certain systems or programs that the church currently employs. Even if the person is not sent to a formal training, there are usually paid people who have to sit and show the new person how different things are done.  During that time they are not doing the job for which they are being paid.   You are paying two people to do the job of one!

20% of the person’s annual salary?  Other studies have shown that replacing a key person in a church or non-profit costs up to 150% of that person salary.  While studies show that this number can be justified in certain situations, I am comfortable sticking with the more conservative 20% number and helping people realize it’s likely much more.

The solution?

Not firing people who are ineffective and problem employees?  Of course not.  If left unaddressed not only will the church/organization suffer, but other employees…good employees…will become discouraged and begin to look elsewhere for employment.

Obviously as a coach, I believe that saving a basically good employee who has some productivity or interpersonal problems is well worth the cost of coaching.  Even good employees who are just stuck and don’t seem to know which direction to lead their departments can easily be rejuvenated with coaching.

While the cost of coaching varies depending on many factors (length of the contract, the frequency of the coaching, the number of persons in a church or organization receiving coaching at any one time, whether the coaching is in person or by phone or Skype, as well as other factors), the cost is only a small percentage of what the replacement costs would be.  It is not only a great financial savings, but, as seen above, it is a huge savings for the church in those “soft expenses” such as relationships, knowledge and momentum.

Replacing church staff and staff in non-profit organizations is very expensive.  Sometimes it cannot (and should not) be avoided. But often it can be avoided by investing in coaching for that staff person.

The parting comment I made to my coffee friend today was “When churches say, they can’t afford coaching for their staff, I smile and reply… ’In reality you can’t afford NOT to get coaching for your staff!’”

The Cost of Replacing a Minister or Key Staff Person (Part 1)

15 May 2015


Yesterday, I was having coffee with a minister friend here in the Portland area.  I commented to him that the cost of coaching a minister was very small compared to the cost of replacing a minister.

A recent review of eleven studies on the cost of employee turnover discovered pretty consistently across all professions that replacing a staff person cost 20-22%% of the amount of the salary of the person being replaced.

For example, if a minister was earning $50,000 (a low figure today especially when benefits are factored in) and leaves a congregation for whatever reason (discouragement, conflict, the leaders are not satisfied with his performance—whatever reason) it will cost that church approximately $10,000 to replace that minister.

When you have (especially smaller) churches who are turning over ministers every 2-3 years, the cost to the congregation becomes staggering.

My coffee friend today looked at me askance.  “$10,000?  Really?  That seems pretty high.”

I began to lay out for him some of both the hard and soft costs of replacing a minister and at the end both of us thought that the $10,000 figure was probably low!

For example:

  1. Severance pay and higher unemployment taxes.
  2. Lost families. Whenever a minister leaves, a congregation almost always loses families.  The cost to the church in that hits several fronts: volunteers, morale, but just as important…
  3. Lost contributions. Both those families that leave (obviously) no longer give to the church, but often when a church loses a minister many people (even if they continue to attend) let up on their giving.  Either they want to see which direction the church is going to go, or they (erroneously) believe that the costs of the church go down during the period between ministers.  Is this the way it should be? No.   Is this the way it is?  Yes.
  4. Lost productivity during the interim and then during the ramp-up once a new staff person is on board. That person was doing something, wasn’t he or she?  It is nice to say that things will continue as they have between ministries, but that is just simply not possible.  The productivity of the remaining staff and of the functioning of the area of the church that the minister covered suffers.  But that isn’t solved simply when a new person is hired.  The ramp-up time for a new minister or staff person to full effectiveness is measured in months and years rather than in days and weeks.   The productivity loss alone, in my opinion, is well over that $10,000 on a $50,000 a year position.
  5. The cost of an interim person, particular if the position is the senior minister or director of a non-profit. Does the interim make up for the loss of productivity that a staff loss brings?    A trained interim will do such things as preach and perhaps call on the sick, but it is impossible for the interim to do all of the tasks of a permanent minister. Plus, an informed interim has a different list of things to be accomplished during his/her interim-ship with the church. An educated interim helps the congregation do an extensive self-study to see what type of minister would best fit into the church.  There is usually a LOT of personal counseling that is done with people who are hurt or angry or fearful over the departure of the past staff person. An interim will cover SOME of the tasks of a permanent staff person, but cannot cover them all plus he or she has their own list of tasks specifically related to the interim period.
  6. Connected with that is the drain that covering that person’s responsibilities in the meantime. Other staff or volunteers often pick up some of the most important or public responsibilities, but they don’t pick up everything and what they do pick up takes away from the effectiveness of doing the job for which THEY were hired! As they are stretched thin, not only their effectiveness, but also their satisfaction and engagement suffer. The longer the search goes on, the more the dissatisfaction grows.  It is not uncommon for other staff to leave during or immediately after the interim period because they are simply “burned out” by trying to cover too many areas.

Part 2 including costs 7-10, recommendations and conclusion in my next post!

The Apostle John: An Example of Teachableness, Part 2

26 March 2015


(Yesterday we looked at the Apostle John and saw that there were numerous examples of his lack of love towards others seen in the Gospels. And yet John is paramountly known as “The Apostle of Love.”

How could that be, or more to the point, “how do we go from insensitive, petty John, to John “the disciple of love”?  The transformation seems almost as great as the transformation of Peter from denier of Christ to the bold proclaimer of Christ we see in the early chapters of Acts.”)  (Find that post here).

Part 2: 

I believe a big part of it was teachableness on the part of John (just as it was in the life of Peter). John was willing to be taught—through several means.

In the Gospels we certainly have a mixed view of John.  But in John’s Gospel of Jesus, (which he wrote decades after Christ’s resurrection and ascension), he recalls clearly that Jesus was trying to teach them of love throughout his ministry:

John 14.26-Jesus assure them that the HS, would teach them all things.

John 14.21- Jesus reminded them that “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

John 13:34-35; Jesus gave them a new command: to love one another.

John 14:15, 21,23,24,31-they were to demonstrate their love for Christ by keeping his commandments.

John 15:9,10,12,13,17,19; Christ has loved them as the Father has loved Him.  He exhorts them to “remain” in his love. They do that by obeying his commandments, just as Jesus has obeyed His Father’s’ commands. The (primary) command that Jesus wants them to keep is that they love one another as Christ has loved them.

John 16:27-theFather loves them because they love Jesus and believe that he came from the Father.

John 17:23, 24, 26- In his great high priestly prayer in Gethsemane, Jesus wants them to know that he has loved them just as the father has loved Him. He desires to continue to make the Father known to them so that the love the Father has for him can be shown in them.


A quick look at John’s first and second epistles and the Revelation which Christ gave to John have a steady drumbeat of lessons learned of his belief in the importance of being taught, particularly about love:

I John 1.1-God presented evidence to them (physically) about the Word of Life so they could learn

I John 1:5- We have heard a message from God and declare a message to you.

I John 2,7-8ff- The message of love isn’t a new message; it was included in the Old Covenant, but it came to have new meaning in the person of Jesus Christ and in John’s love for the readers of this epistle.

I John 2.26-27- The anointing they have received has resulted in them coming to new knowledge which John affirms they already know.

I John 3.12- An appeal for them to be teachable based on the (negative) example of Cain killing his brother Abel.

I John 3.16 & 4.9- We learn about love from seeing it demonstrated, particularly in the life of Jesus.

I John 4.1- Do not be gullible.  Learn but be wise in your learning.

I John 5.6ff- We learn from the testimony of the Spirit, water and the blood about the identity of Jesus.  But more than that we learn from the testimony of God.If you are going to be a Son of God, you must learn from God about Jesus.

I John 5.20- The Son of God has taught us understanding so that we know him who is true.

II John 5- This command to love is one that John has learned from the beginning, but he knows the need to pass it on to others.

Rev 3.18-the glorified Christ counsels the angel of Laodicea (through John) to buy from Him the things that are of ultimate value.

Rev.17.1; 21:9- The angel will teach John about the sin of the great prostitute and the kings who had adultery with her, and her punishment.

Rev 21;9-The angel will teach John about the bride of the Lamb

Rev 22.6 –the angel taught John what words were trustworthy and true.


This drumbeat of scripture may be a bit of overkill, but I think it supports my conclusion:  whatever hesitancies toward showing love that was in John was taken away (we don’t know if it was all at once or bit by bit) by the demonstration of Christ’s love through His crucifixion and resurrection as well as through the Holy Spirit’s teaching after Pentecost.

He continued to be teachable and through that he became the one we know today as “The Apostle of Love.”

By what moniker could you be known if you set yourself to learn the lessons that God is trying to teach you?

A profitable place to start is the Group Coaching Program beginning in April on Being Teachable that is based on my book, “TheTeachable Journey.” Space is limited. For more information, click here.

The Apostle John: An Example of Teachableness, Part 1

25 March 2015


When we think of the Apostle John, most of us think of the word “love”. That arises usually because of two facts about John:

  1. He is often referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This is what John calls himself, as a way of deflecting attention from himself in his Gospel account of Jesus’ life and ministry and back onto Jesus. Five times, beginning in the upper room and ending with Peter’s reconciliation with Jesus on the beach, John refers to himself in critical moments as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
  2. But John is also known for his use of the word “love”. Of course he uses the word to quote Jesus when the Lord famously states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3.16).

But he also uses the word on his own initiative. 65% of all of the uses of “love” in the New Testament are in the writings of John. [1]

Representative of those are the words of John in I John 4:

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.  (I John 4:10-11, 16-21).

John is not seen, however, as a great example of love earlier in the Gospel accounts.  In Mark 9:38-40 we have the account of John coming to Jesus to complain.  Earlier in the chapter we have the incredible account of Peter, James and John accompanying Jesus up an unspecified “high mountain” and being transfigured there before them.  Moses and Elijah then appeared with Jesus and talked with him.  A cloud enveloped them and the voice of God declared, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”  A pretty incredible experience.

Upon coming down from the mountain, they travelled to Capernaum.  On the way, Jesus overhead them arguing about which one of them was to be the greatest.  When confronted by Jesus, they sheepishly admitted the argument.  Jesus stated, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”   He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mk 9:35–37)

So, after seeing the glory of Christ displayed, heard the voice of God and been rebuked by Jesus about their unloving pride, how does John respond?

He approaches the Lord and whines, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” (9:38).


What love does that show to those who are doing miracles in Jesus’ name? What love does that show for the person afflicted with demons?


Jesus replies (I imagine with a patient look on his face):

 “Do not stop him…, for no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. (Mk 9:39–41)

John has a great deal to learn…particularly about love.

In the very next chapter of Mark is recorded a second opportunity for John to enter the school of love.

Matthew and Mark give the accounts a bit different spin.  Mark says that the event happened on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus has such a determination to get to Jerusalem that it alarmed those accompanying him.  Their fears are not relieved when Jesus tells them what will happen when they arrive:  “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mk 10:33–34).

What happens next differs a little bit between Matthew and Mark.  Mark says that James and John approached Jesus and asked him a request with which most parents are familiar: “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”   (That’s a setup if ever we have heard it!)

Matthew says that it is James and John’s mother Salome (Jesus’ aunt) who came and asked him a favor.  While Matthew’s account makes the most sense—Salome came and made the request with her two sons, they certainly didn’t disagree with her.  Mark just cuts to the chase and lays responsibility for the request on James and John themselves.

“Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:37)

There is the height of insensitivity for you!  Jesus has just said that he is going to suffer, be condemned to death, turned over to the Romans who will degrade him and then finally kill him.  And then (mysterious to them at this time) he says he will rise from the dead.

And so they come to Jesus, “Um, Jesus…if you’re going to die would you let us sit at your right and left hands?”  Perhaps they were referring to the resurrection…thinking that Jesus’ resurrection is going to mean he will finally come and take political power, “When you show them your power by rising from the dead and take your earthly position of power, will you let us sit on either side of you in your reign?”

They show the height of sensitivity and love.  (Not really.)

After trying to get them to see the seriousness of the situation into which he is walking, he simply tells them that these places are reserved to those for whom they have been prepared.  Very probably NOT James and John.

If being insensitive to the feelings of Jesus is not sufficient, they also show an attitude of superiority to the other ten disciples.  When the others found out about the request, they were (appropriately) indignant.  How dare these two put themselves into positions of authority over the rest of them?  (Perhaps some of them were wondering, “Why didn’t WE think of this?)

And so, how do we go from insensitive, petty John, to John “the disciple of love”?  The transformation seems almost as great as the transformation of Peter from denier of Christ to the bold proclaimer of Christ we see in the early chapters of Acts.

(To be Continued Tomorrow)

In the meantime, a great way to learn about your own teachableness (in love as well as in other areas) is to participate in the group coaching program that I will launch next month, based on my book “The Teachable Journey”.  Space is limited. For more information, click here.

[1] Out of the 179 times that the word “love” appears in the New Testament, 57 of those occurrences occur in the Gospel of John and it occurs 46x in I John. If you add 2 & 3 John (7x) and the book of Revelation (7x) that means that 117x

Why Should I Be Teachable?

23 March 2015
  • “I really have no interest in being teachable.”IAmNeverWrong
  • “I am not teachable and I’m OK with that.”
  • “At my age, I don’t think I can be teachable anymore.”

All of these are actual quotes that I have heard since I began to promote my book “The Teachable Journey.”  I would say that (so far) the biggest surprise for me as I have talked about being teachable is how many people simply write off being teachable as either something that is desirable, or something that is possible for them.

And yet, it appears that it shouldn’t have surprised me.  An infographic I saw today cited statistics that said only 61% of Baby Boomers would describe themselves as “Willing to Learn.”

39% of Baby Boomers are “not willing to learn”?  Wow.

Whether or not I WAS teachable, I have always believed that being teachable was a desirable characteristic.   Apparently not everyone believes that…

“So…” someone asked me last week, ”why should I be concerned with being teachable”?” I answered that person using the subtitle of my book: The Teachable Journey: How to Quit Making Mistakes and Open Your Doors of Possibility.

That subtitle was not chosen by accident: “How to Quit Making Mistakes and Open Your Doors of Possibility.”  That may seem like an exaggerated claim, the product of some marketing copywriter, but I really believe it speaks to the question of “why be teachable?”.

  1. To Quit Making the Same Mistakes.

We all develop habits.  We all have blind spots.  We all have ways of doing things that we just take for granted.    Everyone from teenagers to millionaire entrepreneurs fall prey to making the same mistakes over and over.  We look at certain people who have failed marriage after failed marriage.  Sometimes those of us on the outside know that the next one will fail too, because the person has not learned the lessons of the failure of the previous marriages.  Another person moves from job to job always ending each job with bad feelings and bad relationships.  And the pattern will continue…because it is all too easy to blame others instead of learning from our own mistakes.

In the book The Teachable Journey, I talk about my own struggles with making the same relational mistakes over and over.   Because of my own emotional needs, I saw more potential in others than either was there, or than they saw in themselves.  And this led to no end of trouble: I continually was spending way too much time with people who were not going to benefit from my time and attention.    Time, emotional energy…and money were invested without return.  Perhaps it was a “savior mentality”.  Perhaps it was idealism.  Perhaps it was a combination of the two.  But I kept making the same relational mistake over and over and it cost me dearly.  Only when I faced the lessons that I needed to learn and worked at it (actually, I’m still working at it) did those relational failures begin to lessen and did I become able to invest myself in more productive and satisfying relationships.

So…what mistakes (relational, financial, educational, whatever) do you keep making. Being teachable is a big step in changing that pattern.


  1. Open Your Doors of Possibility.

The second part of the subtitle moves the focus from backwards (the mistakes from the past that you and I keep making) to the future:  what possibilities exist before me that are unfulfilled because I have been unable to be open to learning new lessons?

Perhaps it is a new position at work. Perhaps it is a totally new career.  Perhaps it is a fulfilling relationship.  Perhaps it is greater success at an endeavor that has stymied me for too long.

Alan Hall, the Founder, Tempus Global Data and Grow America has said in Forbes magazine:

My first entrepreneurial venture was surprisingly successful and I recognized immediately that I enjoyed developing solutions for problems…. Sadly, the next four companies I launched were total failures. I lost my shirt with each endeavor. Bound and determined to succeed, I maintained a positive attitude by noting that the hard lessons learned from failures can be incredibly valuable.

Of all the tough lessons learned, being teachable and humble stand out as the most significant and critical attributes for success, not only in business but in any endeavor. Their evil twin counterparts, pride and arrogance, are the cornerstones of failure.

King Solomon wrote of the great possibilities that being teachable offered:

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. (Proverbs 2:1–8)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. (Proverbs 3:1–2)

We all know the well-worn description of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The new possibilities will not come from doing the same things the same old ways.  It is only when we are teachable and willing to learn new lessons (thus do things in new ways) that we are able to get different results.

Perhaps you are as successful as you want to be.  Perhaps you are earning all the money you ever want to earn.  Perhaps there is no (positive) legacy you want to leave after you are gone. (A lack of teachableness will certainly leave a legacy, but it will not be a positive one!).

If those things are true of you, then don’t worry about being teachable.  But if you want to stop making the same mistakes…and you want to open the doors of possibility, I would urge you to consider examining your own teachableness.

One way to do that is through the group coaching program that I will launch next month, based on my book “The Teachable Journey”.  Space is limited. For more information, click here.

What thoughts has this prompted in you?  Share them in the comments below.

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