challenge the process part 2

By Andy Stanley

So exactly how can you exercise your instinct to challenge, yet stay out of trouble with your superiors and those that God has placed in authority over you?  As a Christian leader committed to seeing the local church advance and make progress, what exactly should you do with all this?

1.  When an instruction is given, follow through now; debrief later.

When the discussion’s over and somebody looks at you and they’re clearly the authority that God has placed over you and they say, “This is what we’re gonna do,” then you do it.  Follow through first, and debrief later.  Your words and actions need to express, “I am clearly and squarely on your team and under your authority.”  It doesn’t mean you can’t ask, “Why?”  But you do so in the clear context of serving the organization at large and observing the chain-of-command perpetually.  And in your own style and your own way, you must learn to communicate both: “I am under your authority.  Can we talk about it?”

2. Never verbalize your frustration with the process in front of other team members.

There’s an incredible principle behind this suggestion:  “Loyalty publicly results in leverage privately.”  If you want to have leverage one-on-one with your authorities, then show support for his or her ideas and strategies in front of the team – even if you think they’re absolutely off the wall.  Likewise, if you want to lose leverage with your boss, then disrupt and ask challenging questions and foster division among the ranks publicly.  Support publicly; challenge privately.  Reverse those two things and you surrender your authority as a leader within your organization.  Again, it’s okay to think different, and it’s okay to challenge.  But the method you use, and the place you choose is critical.  Everybody who has authority is also under authority.

3.    Don’t confuse your insights with moral imperatives.

Even if you’re sure you’ve been given a superior view of the world, that doesn’t mean it’s a moral imperative that everyone executes your plan.  In other words, if you don’t do it your way, you haven’t sinned.  Believe it or not, there’s actually something more important than doing ministry the most relevant, cool, and effective way.  All that is important too.  But first, God is interested in seeing us learn to live and lead under the authority that God has placed over us.  Your awesome ideas that you are sure will work are not moral imperatives.  You have not sinned by doing ministry ineffectively.  You have not sinned by simply taking the marching orders from somebody who’s not as smart as you and doing things that aren’t as effective as you would like to have done them.

Sometimes when leaders are geared up and passionate about an area of ministry, there’s a temptation to justify flat-out rebellion for the sake of the mission and the cause.  God has you where He has you for a purpose.  Because God is using you not only to do your current ministry, but also to prepare you for whatever else He has for you.  Even if you never see your ideas implemented, you’ve had a good day as a leader when you’ve done everything you can to challenge while staying under the authority that God has placed over you.

4.    If you don’t learn to lead under, you won’t have as many opportunities to lead over.

Your ability to lead others is directly related to your ability to follow others.  Since God is the giver and the head of all authority, all people in an organization’s chain of command – leaders and followers – must ultimately answer to God.  So when you sign up to participate in authority, you automatically ascribe to the concept of following.  As a result, your ability to lead will never far exceed your ability to follow.

One of my favorite stories in the life of Jesus is His encounter with a Centurion whose servant was sick.  The Centurion had been watching Jesus and seen Him perform miracles and heal people.  So like many others who approached Jesus for help, he knew Jesus had the power to heal.  However, as a member of the Roman army, he brought an amazing perspective to the situation.  The Centurion didn’t approach Jesus saying, “Jesus, clearly You’re in charge, clearly You are an authority — therefore, would You come heal my servant who’s sick?”  Instead, He notices that Jesus is, “A man under authority.”  And based on that observation, He considers Jesus qualified to invoke healing power on His sick servant.

Every authority is under authority.  As leaders, we must challenge the process; but we must also work with the authorities that God has placed over us.  And we dare not upset His plan for us by rebelling against the ones God has placed over us – whether intentionally or unintentionally.


challenge the process part 1

By Andy Stanley

I think there’s something in every leader that yearns to try new things in new ways, to test the status quo – to challenge the process. If you’re a leader, you’ve probably had similar experiences all your life. Leaders are constantly evaluating and critiquing the world around us. When most people enjoy a great conference, we’re fixated on the methods that made it successful. There’s something in every leader that seeks to understand – to celebrate and to improve – the process at work behind the scenes.

The rest of the world is quite the opposite.  In fact, it’s human nature to gravitate toward the familiar.  And left to themselves, virtually every person and organization is in a subconscious pursuit of a status quo.  Eventually they will find it.  And they will work very, very hard to stay there.

In a changing world, familiar is no measure of effectiveness.  And the status quo is no benchmark for long-term achievement.  That’s why the world needs leaders to venture boldly into the unfamiliar and to embrace the uncomfortable – because the best solutions are often found in unfamiliar, uncomfortable places.

The instinct to challenge the process is a fundamental quality of every leader.  When God created leaders, he equipped them with an unsettling urge to unpack, undo, and unearth methods.  This explains your tendency to question everything around you.  It’s the reason you have such strong opinions – and such a strong desire to share them.  God wired you that way.  Deep in your heart you may feel that if you were in charge, things would not only be different, they’d be better.  This is not a problem of arrogance or pride.  It’s simply the way God wired you.  It’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, your zeal for improvement isn’t always appreciated out in the real world.  As a matter of fact, your natural bent for leadership sets you up for resistance from virtually all sides – including other leaders.  And unless you understand the nature of these dynamics, the very instincts that qualify you for greatness can also lead you to disqualify yourself and sabotage your opportunities.  Effective leadership means learning to challenge the process without challenging the organization.  There’s a fine line between the two.  But it’s a crucial line.

The first line of resistance the leader faces is the organization itself.  As we’ve already mentioned, organizations don’t like new ideas.  It’s enough of a challenge just figuring out the old ones.  So the last thing an organization wants is someone suggesting that we need to start all over again with a different process.  Your supervisors, advisors, elders, deacons, and staff all feel pretty much the same way.  Since human nature is to seek a place of equilibrium, change is seen as a disruption of progress.

The second line of resistance you face is from other leaders.  You might think you’d find an advocate in this group.  But by nature, when you challenge a concept, you challenge the conceiver.  You don’t mean it that way, but that can be how it’s often perceived.  Many talented leaders have “led” themselves right out of a job because their desire to challenge the process was misunderstood, or perhaps even threatening, to those in charge.  While on the other side of the spectrum, many skilled leaders have resigned themselves to conform to the status quo, squelching and squashing their natural instincts because there’s no obvious opportunity to be who God made them to be.

As leaders, we must keep a sense of diplomacy without shrinking from our scrutinizing nature.  When you stop challenging the process, you cease to be a leader and you become a manager.  Not that there’s anything wrong with managers.  The world needs those too.  But it’s a different job description from the leader’s.  And if you cease to challenge, then you have abdicated your true calling and giftedness in the world.

Successful leaders must learn how to alienate a process without alienating the people who created it, or the people who work it faithfully every day.

So exactly how can you exercise your instinct to challenge, yet stay out of trouble with your superiors and those that God has placed in authority over you?  As a Christian leader committed to seeing the local church advance and make progress, what exactly should you do with all this?

[Let’s pause and mull it over. More to come in the next post!]


the ice-cream lesson

I was at the playground downstairs doing my quiet time when three kids came to me asking if I wanted to buy ice-cream. Apparently, these siblings – a 15 year-old boy, a 12 year-old girl and a 9 year-old boy – had been knocking door-to-door to sell small boxes of ice-cream the whole night till there’s only one left in the styrofoam container. They asked if I wanted to clear it so they could go home.

At first I agreed. Then I realised I had used my last few dollars to eat kway chap with Debbie. They looked rather disappointed but thanked me politely anyway.

I walked away from the playground and decided to take a detour to nearby ATM. I thought they might’ve been gone by the time I went back but thankfully they were still there. The youngest boy was the first one to notice me walking back. He stood up from the swing and looked at me with his mouth open (yes, he looked blur and cute). I asked him if the last box was still available and he nodded quite enthusiastically.

As I took the last box, I began talking to the three musketeers while they packed up their container, dry ice and all those stuff.

Do you guys do this every night, I asked. Yes, they do this every night during holiday and every weekend during school terms. Why? Because they need the extra money for school fees and daily expenses.

Would you have time to study, I continued. Yes, parents make sure they’d still study hard. But they don’t have spare time to play with friends so they’d play among themselves.

They asked if I stayed around here. I said yes and asked them back where they lived. AMK, apparently. Why don’t they sell ice-cream there? AMK residents not only wouldn’t buy from them, they’d holler at the three for bothering them (Yes, you AMK peeps, go and reflect, haha!).

Don’t you guys get this treatment from people in Serangoon as well, I asked. Yes, they said, there were people who’d slam the door in their faces even before they finished speaking. But there were also people who’d buy from them. And they keep moving from cluster to cluster so that they wouldn’t ‘bother’ the same residents again and again.

Anyways, I wouldn’t post the rest of our convo up here but it’s safe to say it was the highlight of my day.

What do I feel towards them? Pity? No! Not at all! I think to pity them would be patronising at best, insulting at worst. If anything, I feel a sense of admiration towards these industrious, resourceful little people. And I think when life gives them a chance for better opportunities, they would be gutsy and diligent enough to reach out for it. I hope! Haha! I can only pray.

On top of that, it also reminded me of how rich I am. Yes, I don’t have a car or even a house of my own but I AM rich. And so are all of YOU reading this. We only feel ‘poor’ when we compare ourselves to people who have more than we do. We feel poor when we focus on what we don’t have instead of what we have

The truth is half the world live on less than $2 each day. The truth is, if you’ve had both lunch and dinner today, you’re in the top 10% richest people in the world. This is not to make you feel guilty for having more. This is just to give us all some prespective – that we actually have more than enough.

So please don’t ever tell me you’re broke. You don’t need to have more. You just need to better manage your finances. Or learn what it means to be contented. Or if you really need more, chanel those whining/ranting energy into selling ice-cream. It might really give us some perspective for real.

I’m blessed to bless others.
I’m loved and called to love.
I’m the hands and feet of Jesus.

“We’re the generation. We can’t afford to wait. The future started yesterday, and we’re already late.” – John Legend


wicked sick!


LXD will be out in 2010!


what separates captains from vice-captains

Loosely paraphrased from an article by Andy Stanley

There’s a vice-captain who thought he was ready to be the captain of the submarine. But his captain felt otherwise. So he went up to the captain and said, “I can do everything that needs to be done in the submarine. I know all the tactics. I know all the procedures. I have the respect of our men. I can do it. I’m willing to lay my life down for my men.”

The captain replied, “I don’t question your bravery and dedication. You may be willing to lay your life down for your men; but are you willing to lay their lives down as well?”

The vice-captain hesitated.

At this the captain continued, “You hesitated. But that’s the job of the captain; you can’t hesitate. You have to act. If you don’t, all the lives of the men who choose to follow you could be lost. You have to be prepared to make hard decisions with limited information. And if they’re wrong, you must be prepared to face the consequences. If you’re not prepared to make those decisions, you’ve got no business in wanting to be a submarine captain.”


Awesome point.



Thanks to my highly productive habit of surfing randomly, these are the few gems that I’ve come across these few days.

1. Dating Delilah: Purity from a New Perspective

I’ve heard about it sometime ago but today’s the first time I read it from cover to cover. An easy read. A fantastic reminder.

2. Your Pictures: Autumn

God’s whimsical creativity at its best. It tempts me to blast $1,500 to fly there and sit on those roll-able grass under a huge tree, reading the day away till dusk comes.

3. Flashmob: 100 Japanese

Some of you have seen Spore Flashmob that took place last week. Not too bad, Spore! Nevertheless, nothing can beat the wacky Japs…


when atheists believe

In recent years Great Britain’s chief export to the U.S. has been a payload of books by atheist authors such as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and literary critic Christopher Hitchens. They contend that faith is irrational in the face of modern science. Other prominent British atheists seem to be having second thoughts. Is there some revival sweeping England? No; they are examining the rationality of Christianity, the very beliefs Dawkins and others are so profitably engaging, but are coming to opposite conclusions.

Read When Atheists Believe by Chuck Colson

What does this tell us? People today have a caricatured view of Christians, seeing us as followers, often hypocritical and judgmental, of an outdated book of mere illusions. But if we can explain why Christianity is so reasonable, our faith becomes a very winsome proposition, which will at least open the mind, if not the heart, of many a doubter.

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