Welcome to this month’s Church Leader Insights. Be blessed!
Every time I see a homemade chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven my self-control is pushed to its limits.
What’s your temptation?
What about the more serious kinds of temptations leaders face when it comes to self-control?
Under pressure it’s easy to be swayed by your own emotions, make reactionary decisions, or be tempted to trade long term success for more immediate rewards.
Self-control is the ninth and last in the list of fruit of the Holy Spirit. It has always appeared to me like an out of place add-on at the end of a list of positive attributes.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
It appears like it’s the only fruit that is defense and the other eight are offense.
But I’ve learned to see self-control not as the caboose at the end of a powerful train, but the backstop. Without it, the others may easily be lost.
Love may be the engine that pulls the locomotive, but self-control is what keeps it on the tracks.
Without self-control, a leader will be sidelined, derailed, or perhaps taken out of ministry.
Curiosity starts early. Children throw cups from highchairs over and over, testing gravity and their parents. They repeat the same noises and ask the same questions, exploring sound and language. When everything is new, there are countless experiments to run. The answers are awe-inspiring: sunsets, gravity, hula hoops, and bugs.
As more and more questions are answered, our curiosity can subside or it can evolve. Philosophy, scientific innovation, and progress are the natural results of adult curiosity. Cultivating this curiosity is important in life, love, and success. Here’s why.
Curiosity enhances learning
Applying knowledge in innovative ways is essential to discovery and progress. Curiosity helps us to build that knowledge, making it available for novel interpretations and applications. How? The neural circuits of curiosity prime the brain’s learning circuits, creating stronger activation and increasing our ability to learn.
In a 2009 research paper published in Psychological Science, Dr.Colin F. Camerer and team presented curiosity as “The Wick in the Candle of Learning.” In the study, subjects were given trivia questions to read out loud and instructed to guess the correct answer. They were also told to rate their level of curiosity.
Functional MRI showed increased activity in the caudate regions of the brain, associated with reward anticipation, in parallel with participants’ curiosity levels. When correct answers were revealed, the learning circuits in participants’ brains were activated more strongly if they had guessed incorrectly.
Based on these findings, Camerer and his team hypothesized that “curiosity would be associated with memory enhancement for new information.” Indeed, a follow-up study revealed that participants were better able to remember the answers to trivia questions if they had been curious about them beforehand.
I love large churches. I was a pastor at a church that grew from around 500 to around 900—which, though it’s about the size of the creche in a megachurch, is fairly large in a UK context—and the church I’m at now had 1550 there three days ago, with a fourth site launching in October. Much of my day job involves helping my church, and often other churches, grow.
Many of my friends lead large churches. Many of the people who have influenced me the most lead large churches. I go to several leadership conferences every year, and I learn something about growing churches from virtually all of them. I run a training course for leaders that aims to help people grow churches. I mention all this to say: yes, there are theologians out there who think that large churches are a bad idea and we should have nothing to do with them, but I’m not one of them.
Lately, though, I have become increasingly aware of the mixed motives behind church growth. This might sound like a sinister remark, although I certainly don’t mean it as one. But I think it is true: there are various reasons why we want our churches to grow, and some of them are wonderful, but not all of them are. And I think self-awareness and honesty on that point are probably helpful.
Here are ten that I can think of:
1. The examples of growing churches we find in the New Testament. Jerusalem: from 120, to 3000, to 5000. Rome: from the first missionary, whoever it was, to a group large enough to be blamed for rioting under Claudius and then scapegoated by Nero, and beyond. And so on.
2. The career validation that comes from leading a large church.
I’d known Jeff (not his real name) for many years, as a client and as a friend, but I’d never seen him so thrown. I could feel his fear, his sense of uncertainty.
And it was with good reason.
Jeff was the head of sales for a company whose product was, more or less, impossible to sell.
His company, Golden Global (also not its real name), is an active fund manager. Active funds invest in particular stocks that they think will do well, as opposed to passive funds, which track an established index, such as the S&P 500. Today many investors are pulling their money out of active funds and putting it into passive ones. In January 2017 alone, investors withdrew $13.6 billion from active funds and invested $77 billion in passive ones.
It makes sense: In addition to charging dramatically lower fees, passive has outperformed active 92% of the time over the past 15 years. Like the rest of the industry, Golden Global’s fund performance has lagged.
Jeff was facing ridiculous odds even if his only goal was to keep cash from flowing out of Golden Global’s investments. But that wasn’t his goal. His goal was to increase total investment in Golden Global’s strategic products. By $2 billion.
So Jeff and his team were working harder than they ever had before, going to the clients they knew, making a case that had previously worked for their funds, selling their hearts out doing the things that they’d had success with in the past.
But it wasn’t the past.
Thank you to our sources for this week’s blog posts:
Dan Reiland – How The Best Leaders Develop Self-Control
Michael Hyatt (Erin Wildermuth) – The Science of Curiosity
Andrew Wilson – The Mixed Motives Behind Church Growth
Harvard Business Review (Peter Bregman) – How to Lead When You’re Feeling Afraid