Monday, January 29, 2018

Meekness: It's not what you think it means.

It's been a while since my last post. It's been a very fruitful couple of months. I'll have to share another time.

It's often stressful and life draining to live out our faith in the marketplace. It will challenge our faith, integrity, and character. It will be wear us down spiritually, physically, and mentally. But, I also draw closer to God and depend on God more in those situations. Importantly, I grow in wisdom and character. I was reflecting on Matthew 5:5 this afternoon. I hope it encourages the Christ Followers in the marketplace.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5)

Meekness {Gk: praeis} is not about weakness. Our translations and modern understanding of the word often misses the breath of the word. Praeis often is taken to be understood as gentle and being nice to others. Maybe fluffy? Christ followers live this out by become a doormat for others to trample on, passive, showing unwillingness to challenge the situation before them, and often in the form of escape and retreat. Rather praeis refers to "exercising God's strength under His control – i.e. demonstrating power without undue harshness." More, to demonstrate "gentleness (reserve) and strength." (see

To be meek is to know how and when to use a sword but to keep the sword in the sheath. That is the posture of meekness and it is the posture that we are to enter the workplace each day---to be on the front lines for God.  It didn't say it was easy; often times it's frustrating and fearful.  But if God put me here, and I am to remain in my calling (1 Cor 7:20), am I not to serve those around me as if I am serving the LORD himself (Col 3: 23-24)?  

More, to "inherit the earth" is to obtain possession from our Father for we are His children. We are to ground our identity in knowing and being God's children. Therefore, to be meek and to be a child of God is to have power and authority, and responsibility to act as regents of the Kingdom in the world.

Be Strong and Courageous, Christ is in you. God is with you in the workplace. Be bold.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Where Jesus Died: George MacLeod

Many churches today struggle to reach out to the next generation.  In order to stay relevant post-enlightenment, the church has retreated from the fields of science, business, and arts and focused on developing the spiritual lives of believers.  While spirituality is important for the life of a person, the result has also caused the church to be further disengaged with the critical issues that affect our neighborhoods.  Platonic thought continues to permeate the church–somehow believing in Jesus became a first class ticket to Heaven. Really? More, one of the repercussions is for Christians to escape from the world and further live dualistic lives where we prize the sacred and denigrate the secular.  We are no longer living holistic lives when we do that.  This is a misunderstanding of the biblical narrative specifically God redemptive purpose in the world today and into the future. God desires to redeem and reconcile all of creation to himself and invites us to participate in that redemptive purpose.  This means, as God's redeemed people, we are to take both our faith and work seriously.  We are also to live incarnationally as the God-man Jesus did, 2000 years ago on earth. I would contend that to live disintegrated lives of faith and work is a failure to live out our God ordained purpose for us as his image-bearers who were created reflect His image into the world and back to Him.
George MacLeod reminds us of the importance of living out an integrated life where spirituality meets the marketplace. 

George MacLeod on Where Jesus Died

Only One Way Left (The Iona Community: 1956), p. 38. Jan 01 . 1970
The cross must be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am claiming that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse,and soldiers gamble, because that is where He died and that is what he died about and that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about.

We are to be rooted in Christ and to grow spiritually to become mature Christ-like followers.  But also to Go!  Go into the world without fear for God is ahead of us, and with us.  To be in the world but not of it.  As "Church", in its original Greek meaning, is to be governors in the city who decide matters for city. Reflecting on the account of the blindman according to John 9, he doesn't begin seeing until he goes to the pool of Siloam (which means sent)--and after he goes, washes and returns he then is seeing. Essentially, it's not adequate to simply believe but also to connect what you do after you believe.  As Christians, we are not suppose to be clean and tidy or retreating or escaping from the world; we're supposed to be in the thick of it all–in the action with our hands dirty as MacLeod reminds us. And if you listen to your heart, you will know this is true.  Jesus Christ didn't seem to mind being in the messy world--I didn't say it was easy.    And it is only when we, as the salt and light of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit, embrace the world and live out our lives in the marketplace will His faith, hope, and love permeate throughout it.  

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Reinforcing and Modeling Behaviors: You are all together the team

It was our second game day with my U7 team yesterday.  We split our team up to be an Away and Home team. I got to coach the home team which consisted of four players--four players are also needed to form the basic diamond formation.  Our technical trainers have drilled into the coaches’ heads the importance of the diamond formation.  In our training sessions and in our recent game day we began to also instill in the players' minds and in game play to form the diamond shape–reminding them consistently and often, as this is still U7.  My co-coach and I agreed to focus on our diamond formation this week–communication with the co-coach and having consistent coaching plan is also essential.  Then make sure to clearly communicate the goal and desired behavior to your team. 

During the games, I would encourage the boys to get into their diamond and complement them when they formed one. This is an example of where praxis is important–it's not enough talk about it–we (as coaches for these young players) need to be on the field, show them, and to point them to look at each other.  When we had water breaks, I would complement each and everyone individually on a job well done and praise them on the wonderful diamonds they were creating on the field. Reinforcement of the goal and desired behavior matters.  As an aside, I would say, focus only on the positive at this level.  And I must again complement these kids because by the end of game day, they played hard, they had fun, scored a bunch as a team; impressively, these boys got into their diamond formation at the sound of my voice.   They even figured on their own to always have one person stay behind (as the other 3 played offense) in event of a sudden breakaway from the opponents.  I thought the other team would demolish our team because they were physically bigger than my boys; however, the other team were disorganized and simply became demotivated due to the lack of instruction and coaching that was taking place.  After the game, my co-coach shared with me how impressed the other team's coaches were with our teams because of our ability to organize.  Secretly, I felt a bit like Leonidas from 300.  This was a stark reminder of how important having a coach is in not only the soccer game, but also strong leadership on ANY team for that matter.  

This leads into my second point.  As coach (or managers), we are not only dictating instructions or shouting commands from the sidelines. We cannot be hiding or highlighting only the negatives and failures.  We need to BE the extra player on the team.  In soccer, there are 11 players (10 plus goalie); Coaches are like the 12th player.  This is going to be different for older kids and other parents and coaches will probably see me running around like a madman.  If you know me, you will probably hear me from a kilometer away.  And when the players are running up and down the field, I’m right behind them and cheering them on. You cannot help yourself to be excited when you see these players play! They are simply amazing to watch.  Others can say what they want, but my philosophy is the same whether it is coaching a U7 team or in the workplace–managers and leaders need to be part of team. They need to know you got their back.  The team needs to know that you are there for them, care for them and work with them in training and while on the field.  Leaders/Coaches are on the field; they are always energetic, energized and ready to celebrate with the players and always ready to encourage them.  Also, always be ready to tie the laces of one of your players–they are your All-stars.  Contrastingly, when the coaches are unenthusiastic and lacking passion, these players at this young age will feed off that energy and passion.  Moreover, we need to model the behavior we want to see in others.

Another tip for coaches–when you see the other team demoralized cheer them on too because it is not about winning; next season, some of these players could be on your team.  In the end, we are all playing a part in coaching the future superstars of team Canada and the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Be proud of your team but also be proud of all these players.  Celebrate them and motivate them through engagement, encouragement and empowerment.  

When you are having fun, everyone will have fun too!  

Monday, September 25, 2017

Are we making work overtly complicated? Faith Work and Soccer

I signed up to be an assistant coach for a U7 soccer team.  Also known as "football" in other parts of the world.  We are the Orange Panthers.   I've never coached soccer nor have really played the game.  Always trying something new and push ourselves by doing something new right? Absolutely and I'm super excited for the upcoming season.   First off, do not under estimate what kids at this level can achieve; they are truly amazing to watch.  I'm constantly surprised by how they have become more confident in themselves and their abilities in the very short time together.   

Last week was our first Training Day where we learned some of the drills.  But the highlight for me, and what got me started in writing this post, was when we played a few short games of some 2 on 2, 3 on 3 scrimmage.  This was my first opportunity to coach players in a game; it was a practice game, but it didn't matter to these kids.  

In the workplace today, we're inundated with reports, metrics, process, procedures, policies, and progress updates-- the list goes on of the numerous tasks we need to complete.  People are less engaged with what they do, they're increasingly confused by the goal and objective of the company, they're burnt out, they need to attend countless meetings, and are often taken away from doing the "real" work.  Sounds like your work place?

With 3 boys on one side, and 2 boys on the other.  I gave my two teams the exact instructions with equal excitement and enthusiasm.  1) Work together  2) Score in the net!  When it was their turn to play, I cheered them on and shouted out a loud "Go!"  These kids ran out there, performed, and celebrated as they jetted back with giant smiles after scoring a goal.   We did high-5s, low-5s, anti-gravity-5s and celebrated every goal together.  And before the next team ran out on the field to play the next round, I reinforced how amazing they were, repeated the same instructions, and cheered them on.  We had fun!  And I only got one question: What's the score?  (We're not suppose to keep score, but let's say we did well). 

This brings us back to the question.  Are we making work overtly complicated? How different would our work environments be if we, as managers and leaders, practiced giving clear and short list of goals, empowering and encourage our teams to do it, and finding ways to celebrate our successes (and misses).  This means we celebrate regardless how big or small the task may be or even when we don't score.  And remember to have fun while doing it! 

It works with a U7 soccer team, and I have a hunch that it would likely work with adults too.  

Friday, August 18, 2017

God is calling You: A life long Journey of Discovery.

God is calling you

It's not for me to tell you what God's calling is for you.  It is a life long journey of discovery; it takes time, patience, asking, seeking, knocking, and discernment.  It is important that our life and what we do every day is in line with God's calling for us.

Calling requires a Caller. God is always the caller.  Like sheep who know the voice of the Shepherd, we need to know the voice of our Caller.  It is the Creator, the Almighty who Calls. It is God who is already doing the work, and calls us to join Him to participate in His work in building for the Kingdom. 

Calling requires a Receiver. You and I are the receiver. Again, you need to listen for yourself.  It is not for someone else to tell you YOUR Calling.  We listen with humble hearts.  We need to be actively listening for the Caller and to be open and available to what the Caller will call us to.  We participate in what God is already doing in the world.  

Calling requires a Message. The message is an invitation.  The message may not be what we want to hear.  The message will move us into action.  When we hear the message, there will be a gut feeling that moves us into action.  It will still require discernment-continuous discernment- to ensure that it is indeed Jesus' voice.  And while it stirs us and may even give us a feeling of inadequacy and fear, it will also give us peace. The feeling of inadequacy is not to deter us, but it does ensure that we depend on God because our calling is often a bigger than ourselves and does invite us out of our comfort zone.  It will draw us into deeper relationship, trust, faith and dependent life in the Triune God. 

What is God doing around you?  What talents and gifts have God gifted you for service in the Kingdom? What need is in your city or your neighborhood? What are you passionate about? What verse or story in Scripture has God placed in your heart today? Sometimes our calling may be prompted by situations that upset us?  What do we care about?

It's important to remember that it is not what others want for you, but what God wants for you; the distinction is important to uncover our motives and motivations because when we encounter failure, it will be the motivations and convictions (remembering it is God who Calls) that will help us through it.  Talk about it with elders and people you trust.

How you live out your calling requires imagination! There is no formula.  Be willing, open, and available to what God is doing, trusting in Him, and take steps by talking to others about it, taking action to test it.  We may have many passions and have many ideas but we need to incarnate those passions and ideas in practical ways--take action.  Remembering that it will take time so be patient and there will be risks.  Pray and ask God to bless you if it indeed God's calling for you.  More, remember that it is God's calling for you-you are not alone; the Holy Spirit is with you from beginning to end, and God will also bring other people along with you to support you and to encourage you.  God will equip you and empower you for the task.

I get anxious when I wonder if i'm doing what God is calling me to.  Am I doing what God has called me to? What if I miss my calling? I was reminded by a wise friend that our calling is one of the paradoxes of our lives.  "Calling" is a military term in response to a King.  Fundamentally, it is less about what you do and more importantly about our response to the One who calls.  We can be called to run a company. We can also be called to clean the hallways of a school or clean the sewer pipes.   Work is to glorify God and there is therefore no hierarchy of work.  And if and when the King calls you to something else, we respond, we go, and we do it equally well, bringing our best tp our work, and with all our heart, mind, and soul.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Living life at Godspeed: It's not what you think.

We have presuppositions and expectations of what church should be.  We may even believe that if certain elements of church are present or missing, it is therefore church or isn’t.  And before you read on, I invite you to watch a short documentary (30 minutes in length) titled “Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known.” It’s a story about an American pastor who journeys to Scotland with presuppositions and expectations of church and desiring to change the world, but arriving and is transformed himself by the life experiences of the Methlick parish.  

Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known
The Ranch Studios: Danny Lund

One of the opening lines of the video, “If you want to walk like Jesus, you have to slow down.”  Every city has a unique pulse and speed.  In the city, there also seems to be an urgency to get things done and to accomplish something--to be successful; and when we aren’t doing something exciting and if aren’t working towards some goal we often feel inadequate--even guilty.  Others may think there is something wrong with us.   Spiritually, if we’re not feeling great emotionally about our faith, about God, about church and about life in general, we feel that something must be wrong.  

The video Godspeed is a reminder that if we want to walk like Jesus, to experience the life and what it means to be human, we need to slow down.  3 kilometers an hour.   And in walking like Jesus, we slow down to really get to know people--really know people and their stories but to also to allow others to know who we are; knowing means to know each other as persons created in the image of God, to know each other’s fears and aspirations, our insecurities,  our struggles and our hopes.    The thing is, relationship is organic and it can’t be structured; when we try to force it, or if we have an agenda in mind--trust is broken even before the relationship begins.   The foundation of church is on relationships (relationship with the Triune God) and the embrace of the each other.   Slow down.  Slow down.  Slow down.  And in walking like Jesus, at Godspeed, we will experience God when we in fact “slow down so that we catch up to God.”  This is what I am learning to do; and personally, it starts with being--who we are: a child loved, forgiven, and reconciled with God our father.

While work is important to God and our work indeed matters, we also need to be reminded that the work is not the end in itself.   God is to receive all the glory.  We are building FOR the kingdom--we don’t build it.  We also have be careful not to be doing for the sake of doing; or doing because of someone else’s expectation for us. Don’t get trapped in the frantic whirlwind of doing or keeping yourself busy.   In my experience, that only leads to burnout--work becomes meaningless.   In other words, work with purpose and intentionality.  As an aside, occasional reflection on where you’re heading, what problem are you trying to solve, our strengths and values, how do I make a difference to the situation, and so forth can help us re-calibrate.   Another tool is to think about what are some things in your schedule you need to stop doing, start, or slowdown?  There is nothing wrong with slow--slow is good and imagine what life would be like if you began living and working at Godspeed.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

World Economic Forum: A growing number of people think their job is useless. Time to rethink the meaning of work

Article from World Economic Forum:  A growing number of people think their job is useless. Time to rethink the meaning of work

And I would say, Work Matters because the Creator God Works!  And we get to join in God's cosmos redeeming work!

I met a young man yesterday who was struggling with this question about what does faith have to do with our work.  Our society and church cultures continue to promote the dualism between the sacred and secular; the good and bad; and inside and of the world. Rather, everything that we do has the potential to be good work--it is all because of God's common grace.  And even when we think its bad work, God has a way to transform it into good in the end.  But it does require us to innovate new ideas, seek out new opportunities, and be empowered to make a difference wherever God calls us.  You can choose to live as a victim; or embrace our God given identity as children of God, those created in God's image, and ambassadors of His kingdom.  We are ekklesia! (I use the Greek, because the modern understanding of 'church' fails to describe its full meaning.)

Friday, June 30, 2017

MVP (Mission, Vision, Plan): Leading Change and Building for the Kingdom

mission vision plan damonmak.blogspot.comAn organization's longevity is dependent on having a strong Vision, Mission, and a Plan for execution. I will refer to these three elements as MVP. The MVP will face the greatest test when an organization, company, or church community is in the midst of transition.  Businesses desiring to grow or attract increased funding will also need a compelling MVP.  Before starting a new venture, it is also important to clearly write down the MVP and invite others to critique it.  I argue that all corporate decisions need to be made with the MVP in mind. Without these key elements and constant reinforcement and review of them, especially if there isn't clarity around the MVP, the company will inevitably face turmoil; for those who are part of these communities will likely leave it frustrated or lost.  Or if they decide to stay, they will likely either be disengaged or worse, attempt to sabotage it from the inside.  Therefore, the leadership responsible for carrying out the MVP have a crucial role–they need to believe it, live and breathe it, and are willing to carry out the organizations MVP even when the risk of failure is high.  More, they are responsible for communicating the MVP to all levels of the organization; we'll talk about how to create greater engagement in another post but communitas begins with a clear MVP. 

While I titled the acronym MVP for easy memorization, Vision comes first.  
"Where there is no vision, the people perish." Proverbs 29.
VISION: When crafting the vision, our eschatology (e.g. end-purpose and belief of future new (renewal) heaven and new (renewal) earth, coming down of the new Jerusalem to earth, re-purposing) in relation to "Genesis-intent" (Genesis 1 and 2, creation mandate pre-fall) may help shape the organization's vision; considering the grand narrative of God's past, present and future plan may help inform our vision.   If we are to be faithful stewards of creation and shalom-makers, the vision needs to connect with the missio Dei (God's mission). Ask yourselves, Who is God, what does God care about, what will God do in the end, and what does God desire for creation. Hence, I contend that the vision must include aspects of shalomshalom of persons and creation in light of God's shalom and telos (end-purpose and ultimate glory).  Seek to clearly articulate how the organization's vision of the future better the lives of people in way that they flourish, thrive, and become more whole persons, how the organization will improve the relationships between people and with God, or help humanity become better stewards of creation.  The vision doesn't have a time limit; and it is best that it doesn't. All to say, when crafting the vision statement, dream big and be open to the possibilities; more often than others, the vision will not be achievable pre-parousia.  While the vision is a big, it includes clarity of what the organization is specially called to do. Be attentive to what particular area of that vision God is calling the group to. It may include a statement of the problem in which the organization is desiring to solve.   In addition, it may reflect what a changed society, people, persons and so forth could become when the vision is achieved. Essentially, the vision should include why the organization does each day matters–its purpose for existing, raison d'être, and/or purpose for serving others. 

MISSION: Vision and mission can often sound the same. For me, they are different but are intricately connected and interdependent; I make the distinction by stating that vision is future oriented and our hope for the future.  Mission brings greater focus by helping us to understand who we are today and what we are to do specifically in light of that grand vision. In other words, what does God desire for us to do today. Both vision and mission are therefore important.  It is, if you will, our mission-role in the inaugurated Kingdom as we set a course towards the vision. The mission clarifies what the organization is called to do today as we participation with God's work in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit collectively and in each of us.   Our mission arises from God and stirs our hearts and calling us to join Him in the work--it is our response and how we are to engage and participate.  More, the mission is how that vision is incarnated in our context, in our organization or business. Moreover, the mission is for understanding the purpose for the day-to-day.  But while the vision is big and bold the mission has to be realistic and practical; individuals within an organization should not find it too hard to connect with the organization's mission.  Thus, it is important that when crafting the mission statement, involve as many people from within the organization in the discernment process, to gather other perspectives, and to listen (and to listen well) to what others and essentially what God is saying; further, allowing others to weigh in will receive greater buy in later on. 
"Mission, then, is ultimately not about getting individuals right with God but about incorporating them into a new community that partners with God in redeeming social structures and healing the world." - Tim Keller, Center Church.
PLAN: Before we Plan for execution, come up with the map of how we plan to reach the vision and create structures for implementing the mission, we need to have clarity and focus on our mission.  I occasionally run into questions of why actions are being undertaken; when this occurs, it is because people are confused and asking how actions are in line with the mission (and vision).  The mission needs to be front and center in the day to day operations. Decisions and organization goals should be considered in light of the mission.  There may be many opportunities that arise, but if it doesn't align with the mission, we can say "NO" and not pursue. Having the ability to say "NO" to things should liberate rather than limit us.  When establishing the Plan,  create a timeline as best as you can to accomplish milestones and goals established by the leadership.  Identify strengths and limitations and resources necessary to accomplish the tasks. This is the time to craft the strategy for execution and implementation.  Include specific actions and S.M.A.R.T goals for tracking progress.  Establish checkpoints for when to evaluate progress and for when to discuss recourse and actions when there are hurdles.   In the beginning, it is important to review more frequently but as a "groove" is established, let things simmer. More, in the Planning stages identify key players and ensure clear accountability structures and escalation points.  Importantly, listen to feedback from the constituents and reassess if we are detracting from our mission--being attentive to God's voice always.   Ask questions or ask around if you are not sure.  

There is a tension during the execution.  We have to remember that we are participating with God in God's mission and work in the world. We need to hold lightly to our agendas.  Ultimately, it is for God's glory.  Failure is an option--it's reality because we are still in the moment of the "now but not yet".  But on this side of eternity, we focus on doing our best and remember that all we do is for God. We are to be good stewards of God's resources in our businesses and communities that we lead.  This is another way of saying that we must allow God to be God; allow the process to take its time--enjoy the process and journey.  It is about working with God through it all, so remember to not take yourself too seriously. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Circle of Friends (Proverbs 27)

circle of friends proverbs 27
Proverbs 27 is packed with wisdom.  In reflection, several passages reminded me of the importance of who forms your circle of friends and your inner circle.  I have to admit this is not the best exegesis of the text.  The one verse that stood out was verse 17 "Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another" which got me thinking about the other parts of the passage that speaks on the importance of friends (neighbours), friendship, and those people who form our circle of friends.  When we speak of "friends", everyone will define it differently.  Jesus had his 3-12-72-1000 and he interacted and related with them differently at each level.  One question today is who forms your circle of 3, 12, 72, 1000?   
  • 3: Peter, John (Jesus' beloved disciple), James (Mark 14:33-34, Mark 5:37)
  • 12: Jesus' Disciples (Mark 3:14)
  • 72: Jesus sends out them out (Luke 10) two-by-two
  • 1000: The crowds who followed Jesus and witnessed his ministry
We probably don't think about it too much other than to look at the number of friends you have on Facebook, but who is your 3-12-72-1000?  And if verse 17 is true that "iron sharpens iron"--who we "hangout" with day-to-day will shape who we are and become, what we believe, how we behave, our worldview, and how we live out the rest of our life.  Our friends matter.  And when we clearly understand our circle of friends we can be more intentional and focused on who we spend time with, and who we allow to influence us as individuals. I'm not saying to ditch all your friends tomorrow and pick three people hang out with every day; and maybe you do need to reassess. I am saying to be more aware of those few individuals in your life today who you will allow to be the iron that sharpens you; and vice versa. 

Friends allow us to be individuals--loving us and and gracefully accepting us for who we are but also desiring us to be transformed from the inside to be more like Christ each day.  As friends, we can be free to be who we are as well as being able to freely speak our hearts to each other.   And when you read on, you will find that genuine friends are not necessarily the people who flatter you and simply associate with you because they like the things that you do--in fact will refuse to flatter you and be overly impressed by you or what you do.

  • Let me highlight a few verses from Proverbs 27.
  • 2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.
  • 5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
  • 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; 
  • 9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
  • 10b  Better is a neighbour who is near than a brother who is far away.
  • 17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
  • 19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.
  • 21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.

Proverbs 27 begins with essentially the warning of not being a fool.  A food being someone who toots her own horn (2), boasts about what he will do tomorrow (1), provokes others (3), and is wrathful, angry and jealous (4).  

A friend rebukes (5) and it is good that a friend openly and honestly rebukes you and has the permission to be that voice in your life; at moments, our friend's voice can be as Christ Jesus himself to us.  To clarify, our friend is not Christ's voice and whenever we think we hear Christ's voice we will need discernment, but regardless our friend's advice should point us to Christ.  While rebuking is often sharp and criticism, it must be done respectfully, and with grace, honour and dignity--the relationship must be respected; but sometimes (as my wife does sometimes) needs to do it directly to keep me from making a fool of myself.  When your friend rebukes you, it will hurt (6) (not harm us) and you will be upset sometimes; however, we all know that we will be better people and sharpened by those words.  For a friend to rebuke us, is to in fact show care, concern, and love for us--they genuinely care that we are being shaped to be as God desires to be. At the foundation, there is trust and agape-love; rebuking "in love." Our friends will keep us honest and be ready to check our motives when needed.  

While a friend can rebuke you, your friends are also the ones who will praise you (2) and champion you; your friends are the ones who will support you, pray for you, and give you wise counsel (9).  When a friend counsels us and walks with us in our discernment and decision making, it will be sweet and make our heart glad.  Our friend is not to tell us what to do, but walks beside us and ensures that we make the decision, trusts that God has spoken to us, and supports us regardless of the outcome.  As mentioned earlier, a friend, therefore, is not there to flatter us but is invested in us and desires our hearts to reflect who we are made to be--as God's image bearers and as God intended them to be; in other words, friends care about our character and integrity, and ensure that we live authentic lives and thrive as persons.  When we are praised (21) or receive praise, who we are on the inside often is revealed--it is a test of our character and specifically concerning our humility.  Our friends are those who will support us, and stand with us in the spotlight or in the "rain" when things get rough; they will also be there to keep our feet on the ground so that the praise doesn't "get to our head".  

We also don't think about who we influence day to day. We definitely influence our close friends and they influence us--the 3 and 12.  Often we forget that when we interact with our 72-1000, it can have a profound effect on those people as well as the people who they influence; Our influence ripples out if you will.  What we say and do matters; what we don't say or don't do also matters.    Each day, we are to be Christ to the world.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Theology of Hiring and Firing

the theology of hiring and firing hire and fire well

If you are running or managing a business, you will need to hire and (hopefully only on the rare occasion) fire an employee.  As a follower of Jesus, how do you approach these scenarios? How do you make the right decision? Is there such thing as hiring and firing well? These are massive topics and there are countless books written on each subject. Both have its unique challenges.   In reality, every hiring or firing situation is different from the next.  Today's post on the subject is not intended to be a set of rules to follow or does it include everything that is needed when faced with the decision; rather its intention is to help us make better decisions and be faithful to who we are as Christians and leaders in the workplace.   I will also do my best to succinctly highlight the theological implications.

In beginning, we need to remember who we are as our identity matters. We are loved by God and His grace is enough. God has given us the ability to think, reason and discern--we are empowered to decide and decide well.  We are vice regents in God's Kingdom; again empowered to make decisions with God and to be stewards of God's resources. More, we work in participation with God in the world, and in our businesses, to maximize God's shalom. 

It is important that we ourselves are committed to making the decision as managers or business owners; while you may consult others, we need to make the final decision ourselves as responsible, accountable, mature adults and mature followers of Christ. To not make a decision is an avoidance and abdication of responsibility as a manager. Good management requires us to decide well since we represent the company. Further, when we demonstrate good management, we demonstrate good stewardship not only of the company's resources but also God's resources because we also represent God in the world. 

It's key to remember that it's not about being or making the perfect decision.  The reality is that it is impossible to make the perfect decision--we can only do our best for the moment we're in.  And once the decision has been made-made in and at peace and joy with our decision- we commit to it, and accept it as the best decision; we cannot at a later time regret our decision as it is almost always an imperfect situation. Remembering also that hindsight is always 20-20.  Importantly, the Holy Spirit (along with our business community) is with us throughout the decision making process--we are not alone in making the decision.  The goal, in most decisions is to aim for a win-win-win situation where you, the other party, and God win and win together.

As an aside, I think our culture has adopted a false understanding of love where we accommodate and tolerate inappropriate behavior because accepting their behavior is the "loving" thing to do.   However, the loving thing to do may in fact be to correct and reprimand the behavior--including firing.  It may be the right thing to do because you love the person.  As a father, I will put my boys in time-out or restrict television time if they disobey mom or dad; To ignore or tolerate their disobedient behavior would in fact not be the loving thing to do.  In fact, when I am impartial, they definitely know and will behavior differently knowing that I am.  Maybe a post on minding children some day.   

We also need to be reminded that the person we are hiring or firing is also made in God's image--someone God deeply cares for.  He or she is also on a journey to discover who God is, and who and what God has called them to.  We get to journey with aiding that individual in that journey--it is a indeed a privileged and why it is such an important task for us as managers and employers to do our best to discern well. As such, we must always treat him or her with respect, dignity, and agape-love.  We are to always act justly, fairly, honorably and with grace. 


Hiring is about building a flourishing community where individuals can flourish.  Hiring is also bringing along side others who are committed to serve a mission and purpose. 

It is often helpful to begin by understanding what are the budget constraints for the position. Most positions have a limit; if there isn't a limit I'd like to know what company doesn't.

I prefer an interview process that involve multiple interviewers--it helps alleviate biases and potential conflicts of interest.  As the hiring team, it is important to talk before the interviews to understand what is required and what are nice-to-haves in a candidate. Also, certain positive or negative characteristics may be observed by other interviewers that we miss which may be important to determining who you hire in the end. More, as hiring is about building community, the interview process should involve those from the community-managers and future team-members. 

Hiring often is about looking for potential and possibilities--not only what and who they are today, but what they can become in a few years time in both skills and character. Hiring someone strictly based on skills for the job may give the team temporary relief and lighten the workload; however, from experience hiring based on character, integrity, virtues, teach-ability is of more importance--skills you can teach, character (being) is much harder to shape.  That said, we also believe that the Holy Spirit can transform anyone; so i'm not saying its impossible, just takes longer and patience. What i'm also not saying is to ignore skills and competency and hire only based on character; we want to hire those that have relevant skills and demonstrate competency, however, we want to ensure the candidate we're hiring is a fit for the team and community--specifically, culture fit.

Building community requires finding the best candidate who will best serve the customers, the team and company, and the community.  Will the clients trust him? Will she be capable of building relationship and collaborating with the team?  Is she interested in their personal success only or are she interested also in success of others and the client? What are the motivations for getting the job? A suggestion would be to look for individuals who are interested in investing in others and the success and flourishing of others in addition to achieving personal success.  Furthermore, look for candidates who exemplify the company's culture and can add to the existing culture--a person who can flourish in the existing culture, and reinforce the existing culture and promote a culture that is consistent with the vision of the culture and where you desire to see culture become. 

If possible we also want to understand the person's purpose and passions, their strengths, and talents so that we can do our best to facilitate them in fulfilling their vocation. We want to hire someone who will thrive in what they do, and also elevate the flourishing of those that he or she works with whether its with people inside or outside the company. It's a great feeling to see a person who we hire succeed, grow, and become who God created them to be. 

There is no perfect candidate and we need to be reminded that we are to do our best.  As a cautionary note, do not hire simply to fill a position; there may be challenges later which will impact the team dynamics or morale.  There is always (at least there should be) the option to not hire at this moment and wait with the intent to continue searching for additional candidates.  Again, being aware of the reality that we must decide and cannot delay our decision indefinitely; Also being aware that when we delay the process we could be negatively impacting the team productivity and team morale.  Unfortunately, we can also loose the position due to budget or business changes.  

Hiring is two ways; the person being interviewed is also looking for a match.  As you are getting to know the other person, they are doing the same.  Don't be disappointed if he or she turn your offer down--it happens. And if you find a candidate, congratulations! Celebrate and welcome them--seriously welcome them! 

While we hope to hire someone for the long term, there may come a time where they may leave the business for another opportunity, or lay the person off. Sometimes, it means we need to fire them.


There comes a point when a manager needs to decide whether to terminate the employee from the company. Firing is never easy--if it's easy, something is wrong.  As a Christian, we often are unsure of what to do in these situations because the Bible says that we should love our neighbors and we should have grace.  Right? At the same time, we are also stewards of the resources of the company and it is our responsibility as managers to represent the interest of the company. But we also want to be faithful and loving follower of Christ.  We can be stuck between these tensions.   As managers of the business, we can experience decision-paralysis around firing. 

Firing often has a negative connotation and being fired is often associated with failure. Firing someone is neither a reflection of your character nor connected with your identity.  Neither is a person who is fired a bad and evil people--people are intrinsically valuable. There may be all sorts of reasons why the person is not performing at the level expected for the job. Sometimes the reason is a poor choice in making a decision. We won't go into all the possible reasons for firing in this post.   

Again, good management is good stewardship of the company's resources as well as God's resources. 

Whether its negotiating a deal or firing, we need to prioritize the relationship; at the beginning, during, and after the process, the relationship between the the manager and employee (or those involved in the process) must be maintained or better.  Grace and dignity matter profoundly in these situations. 

Alright, here are some considerations:

1) What is the reason for firing? Are laws being broken? Breach of contract? Breach of work relationship?

Is the individual not meeting the requirements of the job? Is the employee aware of the requirements of the job and have those requirements been communicated clearly and understood?  As managers, we need to confront the issue as soon as possible.  If possible, collect data to substantiate the reason and to eliminate any subjectivity.  Some reasons are immediate grounds for termination, some are not; consulting or getting a second opinion is always a good idea in these situations. 

2) How has this employee performed in the past? Is the behavior out of the ordinary for this person? Is he going through a transition outside of work that is affecting his performance? 
Is their performance improving just slower than expected--they may be struggling to learn something.  Be sensitive to cultural differences as some people from other cultures are more vocal about expressing their challenges--some not as much. Some employees will be satisfied with meeting the requirements of the job and it is possible that she peaks at some point; remembering also having such individuals on the team bring stability to the team.  Coaching the employee may help them break-through the hurdle. 

3) Check your emotions.
Consult with another manager colleague who you trust to understand if they are observing the same behavior.  The intent is not to gossip, but to have a trusted colleague give feedback and shed any wisdom on the situation.  Is there data to substantiate the problem you are observing.  Make sure you are at peace before addressing the concern with the employee and/or when making the final decision; if you are not at peace, wait or take a break.  Take a walk, make sure it is not "emotional leakage" from some else that's happening in your life or from a previous incident.  Understand the situation at the moment.

4) How is the individual's behavior impacting the rest of the team. 

If you notice a problem, the rest of the team is definitely aware of the problem.  They are observing your leadership and how you address the situation.  How you address the situation (or if you choose to ignore) will positively or negatively impact the morale of the team.  Once trust is broken with the team, it will be very challenging to regain trust with the team which will be a challenge on its own. 

5) Is there a position in the company where the individual may thrive?
There are people that I've worked with who thrive once they move to another team.   This should always be considered especially if the person demonstrates commendable character, integrity and work ethic and is a positive impact to the culture of the company.

6) Do they need additional training and coaching?  
Listen and try to understand why the individual is under-performing; it may be an opportunity to pastor.  Do they feel they are contributing to the success of the business? Do they understand the business and the purpose of the business.  Are the goals of the company clear?  Do they have S.M.A.R.T. goals? Setup a performance improvement plan for the next few months and plan to coach them to achieve the level expected. If she continues to not meet expectations, your decision to terminate their employment should not come as a surprise. Opportunities to coach and mentor,and discussions around their performance should have been exhausted before going forward with firing. 

7) Is the job they are doing the individual's calling? A job isn't necessarily their calling; they may be experiencing a transition point in their life.   Future post coming on calling.

The decision to hire or fire is never easy. There is great honor in participating with God in His work in the world.  It's also important to remind ourselves that we still work and live in the messy middle between the now and not yet.   Colossians 3:22 states that "Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord."  We may very well need to obey our bosses, even with great reservations, their orders to hire or fire--we need to follow through. Lord have mercy for we redeemed-sinners.  In addition, we can have having faith, hope, and love because the Holy Spirit is with us at each moment as we maximize God's shalom in the world.  Do your best.  It will require boldness and courage as we integrate faith and work and life. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Reality of Sexual Exploitation (City in Focus Event)

Work matters to God and is an important part of God’s created order. We are created to work and be stewards of God’s creation.  However, we need to be reminded that while the Kingdom of God is inaugurated here on earth, we still live in a world that is corrupted.  That is the tension we experience in the now but not yet.  Work can also corrupt and be corrupted. Today’s post is a stark reminder of why Christ Followers need to be salt and light in the world.  God calls us all to join Him in the redemptive work and to transform our cultures and society for His glory.

May 26, 2017 - Vancouver Club - City in Focus Event: Human Trafficking

Picture a full bus load of men coming to Vancouver.  And instead of going on a cruise together or sight-seeing, they come to Vancouver to buy sex from exploited women and children.
That was the essence of a comment made by one of the attendees in a conversation I had after the breakfast talk on Human Trafficking hosted by City in Focus last Friday.  
On the panel that morning was Cathy Peters (International Anti-Human Trafficking Advocate), Phil Reilly (Director of Development and Mobilization for IJM, BC), Sister Nancy Brown (Covenant House), and Gwendoline Allison (Foy Allison Law).  The discussion was mediated by Tom Cooper.
Surely human trafficking cannot be that big of a problem here in our beautiful city? We would be naïve to believe that the ads in the local newspapers for nail parlors, escorts and massage services are what they advertise.  Those are the services that publicly advertised; with the emergence of the Internet, many of those services have gone underground.  
Some other comments from the morning:
  • 20% of the prostitutes (women and men) are from the streets, and 80% from the Internet. 
  • 50% of those women are aboriginals.  
  • Globally, the sex industry accounts for $120-150 Billion USD which affects approximately 2 million children who are exploited for profit.   
  • Vancouver is the largest Sugar Daddy city.  
  • There is a child pornography problem right in the city.
  • Canada has the top 3 sites for hosting material for cyber sex trafficking.
With sex trafficking affecting so many people and of such big magnitude, why is there so little being said by our media?  It’s not difficult to deduce why.
The solution is not easy nor simple. It is multi-faceted and complex.  As our panelists pointed out, “Without addressing the demand for buying sex, we cannot hope to reduce the supply of victimized people.”  The way forward does begin locally, here in our city.  Change begins with raising awareness, increased enforcement and improved laws, education, and the pulpit.  
Need for greater awareness.  Without reports to the police, the crime hasn’t been committed; that is one of the reasons why media doesn’t talk about it.  To simply advocate that the victims go to police and report the problem is also to dismiss the emotions especially fears of a each person who are traumatized by their perpetrators.  Our society has turned prostitution into a choice–a choice of work or choice of the individual.  However, if you are poor–it is neither a choice nor is it work.  We need to name it for what it is–exploitation.
There is also a need for increased police involvement and enforcement of the law.  This will obviously require the review of our existing laws around the selling of sex and buyers of sex. It was troubling to hear a comment made during the session that the police often are not (and cannot be?) involved unless a girl goes missing, or has died from an incident.  In Vancouver, there is yet to be a someone charged for the crime.   The directive to take action needs to come from the top levels of our government and lead by the leaders of our city and police.  More, we need funding and programs to help trafficked individuals transition out of prostitution.  
There needs to be improved education.  Some of the girls that are lured into the sex industry are girls; Under aged girls who are too young and naïve to realize what is actually happening.  Trafficking of boys and girls are typically for labour or sex.  This is Vancouver I’m talking about.  Some girls from other countries are lured into the industry with the false promise of better education in Canada.  The poor are being exploited.  Education of our children needs to happen at an early age.  And it needs to begin in our homes; At the core, it’s about helping them understand their value as persons as well as educating them on the dignity of all humans and that all human life needs to be respected.
Lastly, something must change in our local churches.  The Church needs to be at the forefront of the battle in what Cathy Peters summarized as a “fight against evil.”   In other words, the weekly message from the pulpits needs to change. When we are Pro-Life, we need to be concerned about the entire life and all stages of the individual’s life–”from Womb to Tomb” as Tom Cooper exhorted. We need a renewed understanding of who we are as persons made in the image of God.  People, in particular women and children, cannot be equal if they are treated as objects–objects that can be consumed or bought and sold as commodity.  All people are precious in the heart of God.  If the Christian message is simply about being saved and going to Heaven after we die, we are perpetuating the problem.  If the Christian message is about shalom, justice, compassion, love, kindness, rescue and restoration–we, as the Body of Christ, need to take action today to live out what we in fact believe in.  This is a calling to the whole people of God, and we need to work together NOW.

“Having heard of all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.” - William Wilberforce