What Will You Change in 2019?

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What will change in my world during 2019? I’ve been reflecting upon that question.

God willing, I will be publishing my first book next year and creating adjunct materials – such as an on-line course – to supplement it. Yet I will need to continue seeing clients and growing my burgeoning counseling center and satellites.

As I ponder those challenges, I realize it’s not just my “to do” list that will change, but me: how I envision the future, the roles I play and the way I operate.

I must adapt, grow, re-evaluate and revise my way of doing things. I’ll have to let go of some old habits, develop new skills and, perhaps more importantly, revise my mindset. I’ll have to relinquish a few familiar tasks and master some new tricks!

As you race into the coming year, your challenges will differ from mine. Your challenges may be exceed mine, your obstacles may prove more or less difficult than mine, your opportunities may prove few or many relative to those of others. We each have our own journey to traverse.

Yet, every one of us faces the challenge of personal growth, the choice of who we become and the call to follow Christ more closely.

So, what challenges will you face in 2019?

What difference do you want to make in the world in 2019? (I love the saying, “You may not be able to change the world but you can change someone’s world!”) So, whose world will you change in 2019?

What difference do you want to make in the church? As worn-out as the saying may be, for church leaders, there’s great opportunity to “think globally but act locally”. What will you change, God willing, in your church?

What about family? Personally, as a grandparent, I want to visit more with my grandkids and stay connected to them. What about you? How will you improve your relationships with spouse, children, family or friends?

Finally, what about you? How will you grow in the coming year? What changes do you need to make in habits, attitudes, mindset?

I would love to hear your comments on the challenges before you this next year and how you intend to meet them!

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Three Pain Points to Help You Connect Powerfully with the "Festive Stress" Crowd

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I’ve been thinking about how you, my readers - mostly pastors - can make the most of your Christmas season messages to really connect with people. Simple empathy provides one great way to connect with people and let them know that you and God “get” their circumstances.

Now, I’m not saying everyone in your church experiences distress or depression during the holiday festivities. However, some sitting in your church services this month may be pretty stressed out. Just how difficult can the Christmas and holiday season be for some people? Stressful enough to give them a heart attack, according to one study![i]

I also know that many of your churches conduct “Blue Christmas” services. You have a sensitivity to the hurting during the holidays. Still, I would like to remind us all of of three big reasons many people find the Christmas holidays wearying.

1. Past traumatic events become inextricably linked to the context of the holidays. In my own office, one of my co-workers lost her husband to a deadly motorcycle accident 25 years ago on the eve before Thanksgiving. She stills struggles emotionally during Thanksgiving week. Others suffer similarly because of tragedies that occurred in their lives during some previous Christmas season.

2. SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder doesn’t help. Sure, the red, green, blue and white lights sparkle in the darkness! They’re pretty. For some people, in certain climates, that’s just not enough to overcome the depressing effects of shorter days and reduced daylight. There’s plenty of scientific evidence that lack of sunlight creates unhelpful psychological and physiological changes.

3. We should all love each other but reality is that some people’s families get on their last nerve! Sure, the beauty of the holiday season is opportunity to get together with family and loved ones. Trust me on this, though, based on countless hours of counseling experience – some parents (or siblings or grandparents or what-have-you) criticize, pry, pick at, irritate, tease, aggravate and verbally abuse family members. In some situations, these behaviors have gone on for years. Who would really want to subject themselves to that kind of torment?

Hopefully, the majority of people on your pews don’t struggle with any of the above issues. They’re happy during the holidays. They eagerly rejoice in the coming of Christ and celebrate the Incarnation.

However, to really connect deeply with everyone who comes to your church, bear in mind that for some, they just can’t wait to get it all over with.

I believe God’s Spirit will help you make connections between the Christ who came to bind up the broken-hearted and the realities of tragedy, depression and dysfunctional families!

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will help you to do so compassionately and powerfully for the benefit of those feeling stressed by the season.

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[i] Retrieved 11/29/18 from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/01.cir.0000151786.03797.18

 

Gen Z Pain Points: Connect Powerfully with Young Adults by Relating Your Preaching to These Three Issues!

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Marketers worry about reaching Gen Z - described by some as the 18 to 22 year old crowd. No wonder! Gen-Z will surpass Millennials in 2019 as the most populous generation, comprising roughly 32 percent of the population according to some researchers.

Marketers want to target messages to them and ensure their - that is, the marketer’s - survival!

How much more should we as Kingdom leaders strive to know and understand today’s young adults in order to reach them with the gospel message, disciple them as followers of Jesus and develop them as the future leaders of the church?

So what do young adults have on their mind? The answers, according to recent research by the American Psychological Association (and others), may surprise you!

As you prepare your messages for the upcoming Christmas season, find a way to apply your points to the three concerns below if you want to deeply connect with the Gen Z listeners in your audience.

Pain Point 1: Loneliness

Would you have guessed that Gen Z comprises the loneliest of all the generations - self-reporting even greater loneliness than the seniors in the Baby Boomer generation?[i]

“Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out,” according to a new survey from health company Cigna. One out of five Americans has no person they can talk to.

And the loneliest generation? That would be Generation Z, defined in this survey as those 18 to 22. Their average loneliness score is nearly 10 points higher than the least lonely generation — the Greatest Generation, those 72 and older.

While it’s tempting to blame Gen Z’s reliance on smartphones and social media, the data don’t bear that out: The survey didn’t find a significant difference in loneliness levels between those who used social media often or infrequently.

Speak to loneliness and you will connect with lots of people - including young adults!

Pain Point 2: Insecurity About the Future of the Country

A 2018 report from the American Psychological Association entitled Stress in America reports that Gen Z - more than any other generation - feels stressed and insecure about the future of the country. The report states:

Many Gen Zs feel stress and concern about the nation. Gen Z’s reported average stress level related to the current state of the nation is 5.4 (on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress”), on par with the national average for adults overall regarding the state of the nation (5.3).

Young people, in old-fashioned terms, worry about “what the world is coming to”. Could there be some opportunities during the season of Christ’s coming into the world to address that issue?

Pain Point #3: Safety

The same APA study cited above also reveals the following:

For a majority of Gen Z youth, gun violence—mass shootings and school shootings—are significant sources of stress. 75 percent of those in this age group report mass shootings as a significant source of stress, and nearly as many (72 percent) say the same about school shootings or the possibility of them occurring. [ii]

75 percent! Regardless of your personal politics on the topic of gun control, fact is that many young adults worry about becoming a victim. There must exist any number of ways to relate those concerns and the state of the world to the many promises of God in Christ.

The Prophet Joel once voiced the wonderful promise that “your sons and daughters will prophesy”! (Joel 2:28 - 30) If we take those young adults seriously, use our emotional intelligence to identify with their pain, problems and concerns, even those of us who are older can connect with them powerfully!


[i] Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/05/03/gen-z-loneliest-generation-social-media-personal-interactions-column/574701002/ on November 25, 2018.

[ii] Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2018/stress-gen-z.pdf on November 25, 2018.

3 VERY SIMPLE PHRASES THAT WILL MOTIVATE YOUR TEAM WAY MORE THAN YOU THINK

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(Republished with permission of Carey Nieuwhof. He’s founding pastor of Connexus Church. Carey's also the author of several best-selling books. I subscribe to Carey’s blog, find him insightful and wanted to introduce you to his work. Learn more here.)

Sometimes, it’s the simple little things that get you further ahead in leadership than you imagine.

Simple things that, honestly, most of us forget because we’re too busy.

In the everyday hustle of answering 100 emails, jumping from meeting to meeting and moving in and out of dozens of conversations, we forget what really motivates people and makes them grateful.

And next thing we notice, morale has slipped.

Performance drops.

The mood has shifted.

And if we’re not careful, good people start drifting away, stepping back or leaving.

These three little things won’t solve any deep culture issues but it will help stop the day to day drift, discouragement and indifference that characterize so many workplaces.

The challenge is that in most settings, work becomes transactional. It’s all about getting things done, and we forget that the people we work with have emotions, feelings and things that motivate and demotivate them.

Don’t miss this: leadership will become transactional if you let it. So don’t let it.

Here are three simple phrases you should master and memorize to help your team stay motivated.

1.HOW ARE YOU?

I know this feels like kindergarten…seriously, the simple phrase “How are you?” is a key to motivating your team?

Well, yes.

The reality is, as a leader you will always be tempted to restrict your conversations with your team to what they’re doing.

But as my friend Jeff Henderson once told me, wise leaders talk to a team member about how they’re doing just as much as they ask them about what they’re doing.

I start pretty much every one-on-one meeting with a team member with the question “So how are you?” And then I don’t let them give me a one word answer.

There are so many benefits to this. First, they’ll know you care, because you do. A surprising number of people don’t care how anyone else is doing, so that puts you in rare company.

Second, you’ll learn a lot about the team members you work with. Your conversation and relationship will be deeper and richer.

Finally, when things aren’t going well, having the deeper conversation allows you to sort through whether work is creating the problem or whether the problem is outside their job.

The default for most people is to blame work, but you’ll be surprised how many times an team member, after sorting through their issue with you in real time, will conclude by saying “You know, this doesn’t have much to do with work, but thank you for caring.”

That helps them (because they’ve isolated the issue) and it helps you (because the default in our culture is to hate our jobs and blame our bosses). You’ve become an ally in their desire to make life better.

Leaders who care tend to end up with teams that care.

2. THANKS FOR HELPING US _______

I love this little phrase because it does two things. First, it expresses much needed gratitude. See below for more on that.

But second, it reminds people of the mission. And that’s the point. Just fill in the blank with your mission.

In our case at our church, I might say “Thanks for helping us create a church unchurched people love” or “Thanks for helping us lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus.”  That’s a simple and succinct summary of our mission and vision.

In my company that runs my blog, books, speaking and leadership podcast, I’ll tell team members “Thanks for helping people thrive” because our mission is just that: to help people thrive in life and leadership.

What you’re doing with this simple phrase is connecting dots.

You’re helping your team members realize that they are directly helping a mission that’s bigger than you and bigger than them.

After all, nobody wants to work for you. You and I are not motivation enough.

But people are designed and created to work toward a mission bigger than you and bigger than all of us.

So go back to your mission, again and again and let people see how they’re accomplishing it.

Don’t have a mission that’s bigger than you? Well, that’s a whole other level of problem.

If that’s the case, then it should be no mystery why you have difficult attracting and keeping a great team.

3. I’M GRATEFUL FOR YOU

Two out of three phrases listed here spring from gratitude.

Gratitude is a master virtue for leaders because most people feel under-appreciated or unappreciated at work (not to mention in life).

If you’re wondering whether that true, just ask yourself: do you feel adequately appreciated for all you do?

Didn’t think so. So let’s continue.

Here’s what’s at stake. If you don’t express your gratitude, that unexpressed gratitude will eventually become regret because once someone leaves, it’s too late.

A great leader, feeling unappreciated, decides to move on and your main emotion (after shock) is a profound sadness.

For that reason, leaders, unexpressed gratitude eventually becomes deeply felt regret.

Your best people will move on if they feel unappreciated or under appreciated.

Why? Because people gravitate to where they’re valued most.

You do. So does your team.

A FUN LITTLE BONUS

You know how else you can cast vision and motivate the team? Every time you send an email.

Bake these into your email and you can motivate every time you connect.

Something like:

Hi _________,

Hope things are going well for you!

Hey….(main subject)

Anyway, I appreciate you! Thanks for helping us move the mission forward.

Carey

See how simple that is?

THE LITTLE THINGS ARE BIGGER THAN YOU THINK

5 Ways to Demotivate Your Team

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You work with a team, no doubt. Whether you lead a dozen paid associates in a huge church or a handful of volunteers in a smaller setting, you lead a team.

As the leader, you have enormous impact on their levels of enthusiasm and engagement. Problem is, if you let that enthusiasm and creative thinking go unchecked, it may lead to growth and progress beyond your comfort level and ability to control!

Now, we don’t want that, right?

So if you are determined to squelch the personal growth of your staffers, frustrate them to no end, restrict the potential of your church and generally demotivate your team, here are five of the best ways to do so.

1. Quickly nix any new ideas from the start.

Make sure to set your default immediate answer to anything new as “No!” This strategy prevents initiatives that may take things out of your control. A great side benefit – it will also work to help reduce the likelihood of new ideas springing up in the future.

2. Publicly criticize any mistakes make by subordinates.

It’s not wise to take them aside privately and use the error as a teaching moment. Certainly don’t do that and then follow up with the affirmation that you know they’ve learned something that will help them succeed in the future! If you take those steps, you’re practically guaranteeing the subordinate will develop into an even better leader. Who knows what would happen then?

Remember, humiliation and embarrassment can serve as powerful tools to squelch any future goof ups. Most people won’t even try!

3. Micro-manage your leaders.

It’s not good enough to just kill their ideas! You also need to ensure they have no leeway to try their own methods for getting things done. Otherwise, before you know, they may not even depend on you! So make sure to spell out every detail and then watch ‘em like a hawk.

4. Do not conduct periodic mission, vision, and strategy review sessions with your staff.

You probably don’t have a bigger vision for what the church is about. If you do, you may not have it written down. However, even if you have those kind of statements, there’s no reason to use them in any kind of concrete way to inspire, direct and motivate your staff!

5. Forget about recognition for your staff, leaders and volunteers.

Why would you? You do all the work anyway! No, they’re just doing what they should be doing so no need to go to all the trouble of speaking a few words of gratitude, praise and affirmation!

Bonus Tip: Do not communicate when implementing a new plan.

Suppose something slips by you and somehow the church launches a new program or initiative. Do not communicate early and often about the upcoming changes! Leave people in the dark as much as possible. That’ll leave them off balance and unsure how they should participate. It’s a great de-motivational strategy!

(In case you’re not completely sure, yes my tongue is firmly planted in cheek throughout this article. I’m just kidding.)

Still, is it possible you’re following one of the “strategies” above and inadvertently demoralizing your team?

Just something to think about; hope it helps!

 

 

 

5 Simple Ways to Empower People

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Empowerment means simply to give someone the power or authority to do something. Jesus practiced empowerment:

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (Matthew 10:1 NIV)

Empowered people grow and thrive. Do they also make mistakes? Of course they do. But they learn. They progress. They become more engaged. God uses them in small ways at first, then bigger ways. Their enthusiasm becomes contagious!

You may pastor a wildly growing urban church or a small and slowly declining rural congregation (or in any of a hundred situations). In any case, won’t your work be more rewarding, your life a lot easier and your ministry more fulfilling if you have the kind of people I describe above working with you?

You can have those people if you learn how to create a culture of empowerment – and that’s not hard to do! You don’t need to be a leadership guru. No gimmicks or budget required!
 
Here are five ways any pastor can empower church and staff members. 

1.       Give Power through Relationship

Never underestimate the power of simply building relationships with people. It has the power to communicate care, warmth and belief in them. Sharing a little of your time and attention is sharing power.

2.       Give Power through a Shared, Dynamic, Compelling Vision

Avoid the stagnation of a stale, “yellowed placard on the wall only” mission or vision statement. Instead, revisit your mission statement with your board and congregation periodically. Ensure your statements reflect a relevant, current and inspiring church vision. Then be sure to infuse all your programs and communications with it.

A clear and activated mission and or vision statements inspires involvement and innovative ideas! (Need to work on a vision statement? Get my Vision Tool here.)

3.       Give Power through Invitation to Genuinely Participate

Let people know you are genuinely interested in their ideas, involvement, creativity and feedback. Then listen and respond. You will create an atmosphere in which people feel free to share their ideas.  
4.       Give Power by Providing Opportunities to Do  

Sense God desiring to use someone in your congregation? Speak to them and let them know! Allow people to attempt and try new things. Relinquish control – so hard for some of us to do! Let them go and grow and yes, sometimes fail.

5.       Give Power by Making It Safe to Fail

Did I mention that empowered people sometimes fail or fall short? Jesus empowered his 12 and they failed! So what did he do?

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Matthew 17:14-21a NIV)

Jesus viewed their failure as a teachable moment. No, he didn’t molly coddle the disciples. However, he ended by telling them exactly what would be required to fix the problem in the future and assured them that if they followed his instruction, “Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Wow, that’s the kind of leader (and pastor) that I want! The one who helps me get stronger, makes it safe for me to fail and keeps me energized to keep on growing.

That’s the kind of leadership your people want, too! Empower them! Who knows what God will do?

Get People Unstuck, Make a Bigger Impact

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I hear from many clergy that they feel stuck – or that their churches seem stuck in terms of both numerical and spiritual growth.

I also learned from my research a few years ago that some pastors question the impact of their ministries. They’re just not sure they are making a difference.

Do you struggle with either of those issues?

If not – and I’m being serious – please leave a comment below how you keep your church growing and yourself impactful!

If you do wrestle with moving your church forward and feeling that you are making a difference, I would like to suggest a partial answer to both problems by posing this question: do you focus on empowering the people you serve and lead?

Business literature uses “empowerment” terminology a lot, of course. However, we don’t have to look to management theory or psychology or the science of emotional intelligence to see the critical importance of using our leadership positions to empower.

The word means to give someone the power or authority to do something.

Jesus empowered his disciples:

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (Matthew 10:1 NIV)

Paul promoted empowerment as the very essence of church leadership:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry… (Ephesians 4:11 – 12a NIV)

But what does empowerment in church ministry look like? (It seems clear the Apostle Paul suggested that ultimately every convert would be involved in ministry of some sort!)

Let’s start by listing a few things that may be useful or even necessary in certain situations but definitely are not empowerment:

  • It is not simply telling people what to do.

  • It is not asking someone who appears somewhat capable to fill an available slot.

  • It is not making all the decisions about the projects and vision of the church.

What is empowerment in the context of church? I don’t know every answer to the question but I do know that first and foremost it includes leading people to a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. It means we make disciples, not simply converts.

I also know that we must create a culture of empowerment. But more about that next week!

Meanwhile, I have this challenge for you. As you prayerfully consider the people you lead, do you sense that God wants certain individuals to do something (large or small)? What kind of power or authority – again, large or small – could you invest in those persons that might encourage them to step out in faith?

Think about how you can empower them!

Are You Appropriately Assertive?

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The scenario: Senior Pastor Michael must interrupt Associate Pastor Julie’s long-planned weekend away with family and ask her to work instead.

How would you handle that conversation if you were Michael? Would you fall to the passive side, fearing to ask, knowing that it will be upsetting for her? Perhaps you would fall to the aggressive side, thinking, “I’m the boss so she will just have to do what I say.”

Perhaps, however, you would use the emotional intelligence skill of assertiveness.

In The Emotional Intelligence of Jesus: Relational Smarts for Religious Leaders, authors Oswald and Jacobson illustrate the crucial differences between passivity, aggression and assertiveness in this sample conversation based on the scenario above.

How do you feel about their suggested approach?

Michael approaches Julie and says:

“Julie, I know your husband Jake and you had planned to take your kids to the ocean this weekend. You have looked forward to this for several weeks.

As you know, I will be tied up all day Saturday with a retreat with all our church officers. That retreat has been postponed twice already, and it’s now or never. I’ve just been informed that Norm Nelson, who is both a friend and pillar of this church, has unexpectedly died. The funeral has been set for 2:00 p.m. Saturday, as this is the only time his extended family in Michigan is able to attend.

Julie, I need you to postpone that weekend with your family. At this late date, you are the only one who can lead portions of that retreat. I can be there for part of the time but not for a major portion of the event. I know you have the skills that are needed at that workshop.

In appreciation, I will go to bat for you so that you can have the entire Labor Day weekend at the shore with your family. I will also see to it that you have some extra time with your family over Christmas. I will mention the sacrifice you are making here at your annual review that’s coming up this fall. May I count on you for that Saturday retreat?”

According to Oswald and Jacobson, Michael took four appropriately assertive steps:

  1. Michael managed his own emotions while informing Julie he was clearly aware of her situation.

  2. He informed Julie about his general situation – the reasons he needed to assert himself.

  3. Then Michael provided the specific details in regard to what he needed from Julie.

  4. Finally, he expressed appreciation, offered all the rewards he could and confirmed acceptance.

Could you more easily get what you need from people and yet keep them happy? Perhaps it’s possible through appropriate assertiveness!

What's in a Name?

Are you powerfully influencing the people you lead for Christ?

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  • Are your church members supportive and in-tune with the direction you are leading the church?

  • Are your volunteers fired up and excited about their role in your organization?

  • Do your paid staff loyally stand behind you and love their jobs?

  • Do new visitors and new members feel warmly connected to the church and to you?

Power with people depends on your ability to connect with them at an emotional level. That’s one of the simple messages of emotional intelligence.

That’s not just my opinion as a Psychologist, by the way. For example, one Senior Professor of Leadership and Pastoral Ministry says, “What we haven’t realized for many years, and far too many don’t get it today, is how critically important our emotions are to effective ministry in general and leadership in particular. What I know now is that how you feel impacts how you lead and now followers feel about themselves when around and led by you affects how well they follow your leadership.” [1]

The really good news: something as profoundly effective as interacting with people in emotionally intelligent ways can often be expressed in utterly simple habits.

For example, the professor I quoted above (Dr. Aubrey Malphurs of Dallas Theological Seminary) devotes an entire 200-page book to ably explaining the concept of emotional intelligence. However, in the appendixes of skills, he includes among others, the Name Recognition Skill Builder.”

In other words, he suggests expressing emotional intelligence by learning to remember people’s names!

I couldn’t agree more. People’s names represent their identities. If you read last week’s blog, you know how important our identities are to us.

So with that in mind, I’d like to leave you with a challenge for the coming week. What about using Dr. Malphur’s system this week to focus on the skill and habit of learning people’s names? By the way, did you know that the Apostle Paul recalled the names of at least 26 members of the church in Rome in Romans 16:3-16?

So, no matter how large your organization or extensive your contacts, work on knowing people’s names - and the names of their wives or husbands and children, too!

You can do it, it will make a difference in the way people feel about you. Here’s the first three steps according to Dr. Malphurs:

  1. Make a special effort to capture a person’s name when you first meet them no matter who they are.

  2. As you shake the person’s hand, repeat the name. You may ask how it’s spelled.

  3. Focus on it in your mind as you talk with the person and use it frequently in the conversation.

Hope that get’s you started on getting better at remembering people’s names!

—-

[1] Aubrey Malphurs, Developing Emotionally Mature Leaders: How Emotional Intelligence Can Help Transform Your Ministry, 2018.

Your Identity Predicts Your Destiny

Your identity predicts your destiny.

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The way you see yourself inextricably links to the ultimate outcomes of your life. That’s why God so often initiated great changes in people’s lives by changing their names or challenging their self-perceptions.

Consider Gideon, just one of many examples.

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

(Judges 6:11 -16 NIV)

No need to belabor the point here. Clearly, the Angel of the Lord saw Gideon as a “mighty warrior” but Gideon saw himself as the least in his family, which was the weakest in his tribe, which was part of a nation abandoned by God and dominated by enemies.

God wanted to use Gideon but first some work had to be done on Gideon’s image of himself!

I won’t bore you by listing the many other Bible characters with whom God dealt in a similar fashion or by changing their names. If you think about it, you will come up with quite a list yourself!

So what’s the larger point?

Simply this: in God’s strength you are sufficient to the task to which God has called you. Yet you may find yourself fearful or failing or discouraged by obstacles or even blind to opportunities. (The same applies to me or any believer!)

So, I challenge you to ask yourself two questions during this coming week. Reflect upon these and ask God to grant you greater self-awareness:

First, what images do you have of yourself that limit you in pursuing God’s call?

Second, what are the Biblical images of yourself that God would have you adopt in order to see yourself as He sees you?

Do this, you mighty warrior, and see what happens!