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GUEST POST: Redemptive Relationships

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GUEST POST: Redemptive Relationships

4 Ways to Build Redemptive Relationships

By Gary Reinecke on Nov 16, 2022 10:03 am

In a post-Christian context, one of the challenges when building redemptive relationships is discerning where to start. In our efforts to relate, serve, and ultimately build trust, sometimes we inadvertently do more damage than good. It can happen in subtle ways through words and actions that are intended to build bridges but, instead, create deep divides that are challenging to navigate.  

Have you said something that was received with a surprised look, hurt, or even anger?  I know I have. Fortunately, when this happens I have people around me that make me aware and those on the receiving end have been kind enough to forgive. There are times, though, when things are said that are offensive and insensitive that can lead to rifts in relationship if not quickly addressed. That’s what I would like to address here.

4 ways to build redemptive relationships

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1. Listen

Listen to understand so that you learn where a person is coming from. This is easier said than done. Before you form a judgment – stop, remain curious and ask questions. When you feel the urge to share your own thought or relatable story, decide instead to listen and understand.

2. Empathize

If there is one thing that followers of Jesus need to lead the way in, it is the art of empathy. With the ability to put yourself in another person’s position, you can earn the right to ask questions. The only way to do this is by getting into the muck and mire of people’s lives. Watch Brene Brown on Empathy.

3. Nurture Trust

This is vital. Until you have implemented the first two, listening and empathizing, you will find it challenging to build trust. Nurturing trust is not a one-time event, but a repeatable process that needs to be reinforced. 

4. Contextualize your message 

What about when you have something to say? There is a nagging question in the coaching community about feedback and it’s true, sometimes it’s important. We cover that topic in the post Coaches and Timely Feedback. If you are confident it’s time to speak up, remember to make sure what you offer is principle based and appropriately contextualized. 

Paul was astute at relating to people from different worldviews than his own. Think of what he encountered throughout his ministry:  navigating cross-cultural barriers, paradigms that were contrary to his, and an array of theological assumptions. A favorite example is when he encountered the “unknown God” in Acts 17:22-23

So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with. —The Message

Become a More Effective Witness

Reflect on these questions to assess how you can adapt your approach and build relationships with people outside of the church.

  1. What values do I need to hold true to?
  2. Which issues are non-negotiables for me? Really?
  3. What issues am I willing to let go?
  4. What am I unwilling to risk in this conversation?
  5. How can I create a win-win for this conversation?
  6. What should I look for to determine if people are uncomfortable?
  7. How will I respond when I encounter a sensitive topic?
  8. What possible subjects will this person find potentially offensive?
  9. How can I share what I need to share in a way that it can be heard?
  10. Who else could I include?

Cover Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The post 4 Ways to Build Redemptive Relationships appeared first on Christian Coaching Tools.



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GUEST POST: Lead a Reimagine Journey

                       GUEST POST: Lead a Reimagine Journey

Capitalize on your strengths

New blog post from Marcy Bradford

No leader is perfect. Rather than focusing on your weaknesses, you can learn how to make the best use of your strengths to get where you want to go.

One of the books I consistently use when I teach leadership in the Fuller Seminary D Min program is Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. It’s the newest edition of the book based on the classic StrengthsFinder Assessment—now renamed Clifton Strengths, after its inventor Don Clifton (1924-2003). 


Strengths Based Leadership

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The genius of the assessment—as well as the leadership books built around it—is that by knowing and embracing your strengths as a leader you can capitalize on them.  For example, the book makes a point that Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi were both great leaders, yet quite different from one another. There is no one profile of a leader, but rather a leader is one who makes use of his or her strengths to lead effectively. Essentially, use what you’ve got. 

Know your team

A corollary is then that you’ll need others on your team who can help you shore up the areas where you aren’t strong. For instance, a strong visionary leader may need an organizer to come along after them to put all the necessary follow up into place needed to bring the vision to reality. 

There is a great section in the book that breaks down the 34 strengths (or themes) into four domains: executing, influencing, relationships building, and strategic thinking. Ideally, a good team will have members representing strongly in each of those domains. 

Know your audience

Yet one of the best new features of this book is the addition of a section on why people follow. What needs do people have that good leaders meet? Rath and Conchie break down the four basic needs of followers, and then discuss how different kinds of leaders can meet those needs. I won’t give away any spoilers here, but this section along is well worth the price of the book. 

Know yourself

The core value of the book for anyone new to StrengthsFinder—is the ability to take the assessment itself and determine their own top five strengths. Knowing this information helps you utilize your strengths more effectively, determine who to work alongside on your team, and understand how you are uniquely positioned to meet followers’ needs.   

Five stars—highly recommended! 

The Leadership Difference

Effective leaders don’t come ready made. Sure some have a natural leadership ability but the best leaders hone and develop the skills needed to be effective. If you are running up against barriers in your ministry that aren’t specifically theological but are more about how to lead people and get along with them as you work together, The Leadership Difference is for you. LEARN MORE HERE.

Photo by samer daboul

The post Capitalize on your strengths appeared first on Logan Leadership.



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Phil Miglioratti


#ItSeemsToMe...the "lie" of #ChristianNationalism is the lie self-identified-Christians believe that the white-male-middle-class-America version is the only biblical application of the #Gospel.

Dogma ("a set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true"), including #evangelical systematic theologies, blend cultural perspectives and presuppositions with biblical truth. It is impossible to have a biblical statement of belief that does not get contaminated at points of application or intermixed when applied in social or political realms.

"Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the (religious) leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”" John 18:36 

Christian Nationalism, while for some is a simple desire for liberty and justice for all peoples, is inexorably bent toward the good old days of a Euro-centric culture which must be restored at any cost.


"I Am Not Not A Conservative"


You can be a Christian who is a conservative person but I do not believe we can be conservative Christians. Christ was radical. Authentic CHRISTianity must not be swallowed up by liberalism nor conservatism. Nor can we be anti-liberal (per se) or anti-conservative (per se). Liberal and conservative perspectives come from persons who are created int he image of God, who is righteous and just while calling for obedience and the freeing of captives. 


#ReimagineCHRISTIANITY...In America

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The #Reimagine Journey is the road less travelled towards God's wisdom
Did you know that the path of least resistance is seldom the best path?
Glenn Bleakney
That’s why so many believers swallow hook, line and sinker, the so-called wisdom of the world...
Because it is so often the path of least resistance. It's all about cutting corners, short cuts, overnight success without putting in the effort and it seldom delivers true and lasting value.
James 3 lets us know that there is wisdom from below (earthly wisdom) and wisdom from above (Godly wisdom) with the latter being the one that is truly POWERFUL!
You don’t want man’s wisdom, even though that is what is most commonly offered by men preying on the naïve and/or desperate. What you need in difficult times, indeed at all times, is the wisdom that comes from above. 
1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us that “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us WISDOM from God…” Paul goes on to tell us that we have been given the very mind of Christ, (1 Corinthians 2:16) who is the possessor of God’s wisdom, the revealer of secrets and the repository of all knowledge.
As Jesus Himself said, “wisdom is justified by her children.” (Matthew 11:19) So while it may look foolish, the proof is in the pudding as they say. When you think about it, wisdom is like money. It accomplishes what money can do, (and more). Solomon said, “Wisdom is a defense as money is a defense." (Ecclesiastes 7:12)
Wisdom is not some stored up suite of information. It is inseparable from God’s Word – the Lord Jesus Christ, who became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14) 
When you have Jesus living in you, you have at your request all the wisdom you need for any situation. If you seem to lack it, ask God who gives to all men liberally, without shaming you and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
Accessing this kind of wisdom is just one of the secrets of God that will propel you past (or through) any obstacle.
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Guest Post by Judy Douglass


I love long prayer walks. The beach is my favorite place, right at water’s edge. Mountains are a beautiful setting, but just breathing takes a lot of my attention. Wherever I walk, the time is always a treasured conversation with God—living out my word for this year, linger.

I talk with all of God—sometimes to the Father, other times to Jesus, also to the Holy Spirit. Or just to God or Lord. And even to various names He goes by—El Shaddai, Jehovah Jireh, Shepherd….

I invariably begin with a time for praise and thanks. Our God is so good, so worthy, so generous, so gracious. Last week I shared 7 Things God Loves to Hear from Me—some of the things I say to Him often.

And then I ask Him a question, or several, depending on what He has to say to me.

I always start with this first question, then go from there.

What do you want to say to me, Lord?

He opens—always—with words to affirm love and affection for me, of His pleasure with me. He tells me I am His daughter, His treasure, His beloved.

He usually gets specific about how I’m growing, where my life is looking like Jesus, a project I have done well, a situation I have responded well in….

These affirming words lead me to my next question:

Why me? Why are you so merciful, gracious, gentle, willing to use me?

Sometimes I think I hear Him chuckle. “Oh Judy, you know. I’m crazy about you. I love to do good to you, give gifts to you, see you shine. I made you the way I wanted you, with all those good works prepared for you. I love that you are seeking to do what I made you for—and I still have more waiting for you.”

What needs changing? 

What do I need to work on? What is keeping me from being and doing all that you have for me right now?

These days He keeps reminding me I seem frazzled and fatigued. In a hurry, or too worn out to do the next thing. Am I doing things He hasn’t asked me to do? Or ignoring something he wants me to address?

What am I missing? 

He whispers to me, “Remember, Judy, you can do nothing in your own strength, wisdom, even with the gifts I have given you. But I have given you, through the Holy Spirit, all that you need to do what I ask you to do

“Indeed,” he adds, “what I have called you to is impossible. But nothing is impossible for me. Let me fill you up, infuse you with my wisdom and creativity and unleash the power of the Spirit in and through you.”

What do you want me to do? 

“First,” He replies, “roll those cares on me. Remember, your burden is heavy, but I will gladly take it off you and give you my light burden instead.”

“Stop for a bit.”


“Let’s go over that list of all you have to do.”

So He points out the things He didn’t ask me to. He assures me he is pleased with my progress on things I need to keep pursuing. And then He reminds me of the highest priorities. Yes, some tasks. But in reality the true priority is people he has asked me to love, encourage, shepherd.

I wish I did this every day, but the beach is not out my door. And life has many demands. This I know: when I make talking with Him a priority, when I linger with Him, when I ask what He wants for me more than I ask for what I want—my life changes.

I rest more. I listen more. I gain greater clarity. Peace increases. Energy expands.


Want to join me?

What about you? What questions do you ask God? 

Judy Douglass is a writer, speaker and encourager.  She partners with her husband, Steve, to lead Cru. 

A former magazine editor and author of five books, Judy travels the globe to love and encourage staff to believe God for the more He wants to do in and through them. 

She writes at “Kindling” and tweets @Jeedoo417

{WIth thanks to Bob Tiede at Leading WIth Questions}

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Honoring Steve Douglass - My Cru Colleague

{GUEST POST - A Tribute to A Man Who Used Questions To Share His Faith}


Today’s post is going to be a departure from my normal posts.

This past Saturday afternoon, October 29th, Steve Douglass – President Emeritus of Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) took his first breath of celestial air.

Steve Douglass was my colleague and friend since 1980. He was also my mentor, not in a one-on-one way, but by being influenced through observing his leadership! He was one of the most genuine, caring, wise men that I have been privileged to know.  

Steve came to the ministry of Cru after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Business School. Through more than five decades of service, he held a variety of positions, including Vice President for Administration and National Director of the U.S. Ministries. In July 2001, Steve took over as the President of Cru from its founder Bill Bright. In October 2020, he passed the baton of President to Steve Sellers.

There are so many stories I could share – but one of my favorite Steve Douglass stories took place in Russia in 1994. Steve and his younger daughter took part in our mission trip to deliver food/medicine/clothes/toys to Russian children in hospitals, orphanages, and schools. Steve and his daughter just wanted to be regular volunteers and were assigned to a bus with 28 other volunteers.

On the very first day, one of the women on that bus came to Steve to share that her Dad, who was on the trip, was not a follower of Jesus and asked if Steve would please share with him. Steve, of course, agreed. But the week had passed without Steve finding any opportunity, until the final morning when Steve and this man ended up sitting across the bus aisle from each other as they headed out to their final day of distribution. Steve also noticed the man’s daughter sitting in the row behind them. She caught Steve’s eye and folded her hands and nodded – of course encouraging Steve to take advantage of this opportunity.

Steve began to engage her Dad in conversation and soon shared his story of how he had come to faith in Jesus. Steve then pulled out a little booklet, called “The Four Spiritual Laws.”

Her Dad quickly responded to share that while he meant no disrespect – he was not interested. So Steve put the booklet back in his pocket and continued to engage the man in conversation. He discovered that he had just retired at age 65 and had started saving for his retirement at age 22 and had been very disciplined in putting money aside every month and wisely investing it. Steve commended him for his efforts.

Steve then asked him how long he expected to live.  He said he hoped to be at least 85.

Steve then asked him, once you die how long do you expect to be dead? The man smiled and said, “I think that will be forever.”

Steve then asked him this question: “If I understand correctly you prepared for 42 years for your retirement which you hope will be at least 20 years. Am I correct?” The man confirmed that was true!

Steve then asked him this profound question: “How much time have you spent preparing for forever?”

The man was silent for quite a while. He then asked if Steve still had that little booklet, “The Four Spiritual Laws,” handy – as he was now interested in hearing!  Steve shared the booklet with him and when Steve shared that he could place his faith in Jesus right there on the bus, this man prayed with Steve to ask Jesus into his heart.

Steve shared with me later that it was God, who in that very moment, had given him those words and questions to ask. This was not something he had ever previously used.

If Steve was visiting with you today, he might ask you the same question: “How much time have you spent preparing for forever?”

One of my forever memories of my colleague Steve Douglass is that I do not remember ever a time that I was with him, either in person or via a phone call, that he did not end our time by praying for me! Every single time!

Here Steve shares his story of coming to Christ:


Below – I am reposting a “Guest Post” from Steve that posted this past February – of course sharing how he frequently engaged people to hear about Christ by asking them questions:

Helping People Become Interested in Hearing the Gospel Through the Use of Questions


Guest Post by Steve Douglass

We all have needs in our lives, don’t we? Some are pretty easy for us to meet—we are hungry, so we buy or fix something to eat. But some are much more challenging and seem to be beyond our ability to meet.

One time I was writing an article while sitting at a table in a McDonald’s restaurant. I was very focused and didn’t notice a woman walking toward my table until she was standing right in front of me.

She pointed and said, “Is that your Bible?” I said, “Yes”. Then she asked, “Are you a Christian?” Again, I said “Yes”. At which time she started explaining that she thought she was a Christian too but had some problems which were really bothering her. She had been living with a man for the last 10 years and had a child with him. The child was “special needs” and was challenging to care for.

After she went on for several minutes, I said, “Time out, time out! I think you are saying that you want to follow God as a Christian, but don’t seem to have the power to do that, right?” She said, “Yes”, to which I said, “Please sit down; you have come to the right table.”

She did sit down, and we talked for 20 minutes or so. I shared how she could appropriate God’s power to live her life according to God’s will. We prayed together and as she looked up, a big smile was beaming from her face. She had to go to work, and as she left I remember joyfully thanking God for what had just happened.

Think back on that interaction. I started by listening, discerned her need and asked if she felt she needed power to follow God. Normally I have to ask a few more questions to discern a person’s need. But once the need becomes clear, it is most often possible to connect that person with the powerful, wonderful fact that God is available to help, if the person is willing to trust Him.

I have found there are many needs which often surface:

  • Peace/Freedom from anxiety
  • Significance/Purpose in life
  • Love/Belonging
  • Forgiveness/A fresh start
  • Happiness/Enjoyment

And, I have found it is very helpful if I can give an example where God has met similar needs in my life.

So how do I find out what a person’s specific need is? I simply ask questions and pursue what I begin to learn about the person with more focused questions.

Let me give you an example. I was flying to Chicago O’Hare Airport. Across the aisle from me was a woman with whom I struck up a conversation. Her name was Joanne. Early in the conversation, I asked her “Where are you going after you land at O’Hare? I assume you might be connecting with a flight to another city since O’Hare is a hub airport.”

She said “no”, that she was driving on to her hometown. I asked, “And where is that?” She answered, “Rockford, Illinois”. I exclaimed, “You have got to be kidding me! That’s my hometown.” I asked a few more questions and found out that I had actually been in the furniture store her dad owned on the east side of town.

Before long she felt the freedom to volunteer that she had just gone through a divorce and was raising four young children by herself. I said, “Well, Joanne. I have never gone through a divorce, but I can only imagine that has caused you a lot of pain. Is that true?” She said, “Yes it has”. So, then I asked, “Could I tell you about how I have learned to deal with pain and anxiety in my life?” She said, “Yes, please do!”

Let me pause the story here and comment on what God used to get us to that point. Through initial questions and conversation, we established a measure of trust. Eventually, she was vulnerable enough to share a need she had that was beyond her ability to meet. Then, through two simple questions, it was possible to bring her to the point of listening to a portion of my experience with God.

So, I shared a personal example of how God gave me peace in spite of a challenging negative circumstance. And then with two more questions, I transitioned from my testimony to the gospel: I asked, “Joanne, have you ever experienced a relationship with God like the one I have experienced?” She said, “No, I never have.” Then I asked, “Would you be interested in hearing how you can?” She exclaimed, “Yes, I would love to hear about that!”

So, I explained the gospel to her and at the end asked if she would like to become a follower of Jesus Christ, accept His forgiveness, and begin to operate in His power. She said she thought she might have made some decision like that when she was young, but she eagerly prayed to be sure and especially to be sure she was operating in God’s power and peace.

SUMMARY: So, what am I saying? We all have needs, some of which are beyond our human strength to meet. But God is able to meet those needs. He does that if we confess our sins, accept His forgiveness, walk in fellowship with Him, and trust and obey Him. And the best way I have found to help someone be motivated to consider the claims of the gospel is to:

  • Ask questions and listen.
  • Discern what they already see is beyond their human capacity to cope.
  • Share how I have experienced God’s love and provision, even in challenging areas.

Almost always, at that point, people are very willing to hear how they can have that kind of relationship with God.

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Steve Douglass was President Emeritus of Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru.

Steve is survived by his wife Judy and their three grown children and ten grandchildren.

Steve was the author or co-author of several books, including How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun and Enjoying Your Walk with God. His radio program, Making Your Life Count, aired daily on 1600 stations.



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#ItSeemsToMe…A journal ​can be a​ metaphor for ​your faith journey​.

Your cover may be ornate, artsy, or​ plain. The pages may be bound or spiral. ​Call it a diary or your notebook. Small or large. Personal or ​customized for a group.

In any case, it gives you space to articulate your faith.

  • Clarify your beliefs.
  • Take notes on teachings.​
  • Quote wisdom.​
  • ​Set forth your convictions and commitment​s
  • ​Write down what you learn from conversations with other believers.​
  • Express worship and praise.
  • Compose prayers that ​reveal the desires of your heart.
  • Describe your attitude or view of life,​.
  • ​Remember ​opportunities when you share your faith.
  • ​Identify ​occasions of serving or caring for others.
  • Acknowledge struggles of how to balance righteousness​ ​and justice​; law and liberty.​

​Everyone has a unique journal that tells the story of their life of faith.

Some journals are well-worn with uncountable notes, questions, stories, maybe some poems or doodles.

Some look brand new. Not much to see or read. Maybe empty.

Phil Miglioratti @ The Reimagine.Network

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​Deconstructing or Reconstructing Faith​?
​Phil Miglioratti @ The Remagine.Network

Most pastors have heard of deconstruction and some say they’ve seen it in their pews, but no one knows exactly what faith deconstruction means.
Just because someone is re-evaluating what they believe, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve quit believing entirely.”​ ​ Li​z​zy Haselstine
#ItSeemsToMe…some ​evangelicals ​are deconstructing but many of us are reconstructing. Inviting a Spirit-led, Scripture-fed review and, as necessary, revision of the containers we have designed to ​carry, the templates we have constructed to ​codify​,​ our beliefs and perspectives. A faith journey to ​assess where​ true faith ​has been contaminated or compromised by traditions​​ and​/or​ cultural biases ​we have​ begun to think of as correct - faultless - universal expressions of Holy Scripture
“Many have been influenced by culture instead of by the church” ​(LH) ... ​but reconstruction recognizes that ​norms and standards of ​culture have also influenced the church. Identifying ​customs-traditions-values that steer or dilute Scripture is essential to both personal ​discipleship ​and corporate ​culture​.
“People rely on their circumstances to create their worldviews” ​(LH) ... ​but so does our theologizing. Our creedal statements remain foundational but our interpretations and applications need constant​,​ thoughtful reflection ​to​ identif​y​ perspectives that are based ​up​on ​or shaped by​our tribal​/temporal​ context.
“Before we self-righteously point fingers at someone questioning God, take time to consider what that person may have gone through or be facing and pray for them. When someone is deconstructing their faith, it is not a time to criticize or be skeptical of them but to love them well”​ (LH) ...​ and to listen. They may have wisdom from the Spirit that applies to us as well.​ Failure to listen and learn will only result in more deconstruction (unbelief) than reconstruction (renewed belief).
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GUEST POST ~ Don't #Reimagine Without This


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GUEST POST ~ Don't #Reimagine Without This


Dear Friends,

For most of my life I have struggled with finding a healthy sense of myself. To put this into a question I think we all have asked at some point: How do I live a life of genuine humility? I have spent considerable time in the ditch on one side of the path leading to genuine humility by thinking so poorly of myself that I never could find deep satisfaction and peace in my spirit. One of the advantages of growing older is that this has been less-and-less an issue. The danger for me now is to fall into the ditch on the other side of this path; i.e., to think too highly of my life and what I have accomplished by being faithful. Put very simply, I must be brought back again to two basic and life-changing questions: What is humility and how do I seek it and find it?

There is an old joke that says there was a minister who wrote his memoir and titled it: “Life Lessons in Humility and How I Attained It.” We laugh at this but the real danger is we neither know what humility is or how to pursue it. So few memoirs help us in this quest. Recently, at the encouragement of my dear friend Dan Brennan, I began to read a life-changing book titled: Humble: Free Yourself from the Traps of a Narcissistic World, by Daryl Van Tongeren, a professor of social psychology at Hope College (The Experiment: New York, 2022). This is an awesome and transformative work. 

Researchers have offered various definitions of humility. (Christians very often misunderstand this virtue by applying various false ideas to the Scriptures.) The core of humility is to have an accurate view of yourself, a view which includes both your strengths and your weaknesses. Van Tongeren says, “Humility is knowing yourself, checking yourself, and going beyond yourself” (italics are his). When we argue that we should not think about ourselves, or our strengths, we fall into an emotional and spiritual trap. Humble people know where they are strong and where they are weak. They are deeply aware of themselves. I am reminded that John Calvin said we need two parts of knowledge. He called these the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves. 

What then does humility look like? Van Togeren sees four types of humility. (1) Relational Humility, which is being other oriented and able to check your ego. (2) Intellectual humility, which is being open to new insights and always seeking learning. (3) Cultural humility, which is learning from others and not viewing your own culture as superior. (4) Existential humility, which is feeling grateful to something larger than oneself. For Christians this means we understand that God is infinite and beyond our ability to fully process in our categories, either theological or spiritual. We affirm truth but we do so knowing we could be wrong. Our perception is not THE TRUTH. Such a view creates the type of humility which fosters consistent openness and leads us to value others deeply. This 

There is consistent data to show that Americans are increasingly unhappy and anxious. This spills over into family life, church life, cultural life and politics. The cause of this anxiety is multi-faceted but social psychology shows us that we have raised several generations of adults who focus on themselves in unhelpful ways. Often these ways lead to serious narcissistic behavior patterns. I have seen this more and more in people I meet and interact with, especially some pastors who are often way too self-confident. Many pastors live out of a sense of their felt needs in order to be successful. They try to move churches and people to follow them as leaders to fulfill this deep need for affirmation. Frederick Nietzche was right when he called this way of living “the bitch goddess of success.” This form of modern idolatry nearly ruined me around my fortieth birthday. (God heard my cry for him and met me in a way that led to real deliverance.) 

Van Tongeren concludes his opening chapter with a fitting and helpful word to us:

So, let’s abandon our misconceptions about humility. It’s not punishment from the gods, nor is it a shameful humiliation or a badge of the weak. It’s a powerful way to approach yourself, other people, and the world—and it can transform your life for the better (Humble, 19). 

There is much in the broader Christian tradition to help us get humility right. Mother Teresa said, “If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.” St. Augustine once wrote, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it was humility that makes men as angels.” Let us learn this core truth and develop a deeply balanced and healthy view of ourselves. For truly “Humility helps us become self-aware and accept who we are and the world as it is” (Humble, 23).

Pax Christi,



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GUEST POST ~ Culture and Why It Matters

GUEST POST ~ Culture and Why It Matters

The One Thing That Changes Everything

Bill Zipp 

I love Kmart. But not for the low, low prices or the blue light specials. I love Kmart because wherever I travel in the United States, I can find a dead plant there.

Let me explain…

As a speaker, I’m often asked to address the topic of organizational culture. I begin my speech by putting a dead plant in front of the audience and asking the group what this plant needs. We generate a list—water, air, nutrients, re-planting, pruning—and discuss the ways in which this list parallels the corporate context.

There’s one problem with that ingenious idea, however. Where do you find a dead plant on demand? The solution: Kmart. They’ve never failed to deliver. There’s always a good supply of dead plants on their shelves from which to choose.

When I take my dead plant to the check-out line to pay for it, I ask the attendant if he or she could discount it for me because the plant is, obviously, quite dead. A conversation like this ensues:

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m not allowed to do that.”

“But the plant is dead,” I reply.

“It’s not our policy to discount dead plants. Then everyone would want them.”

“And that would be a problem?“

I’ve learned a lot over the years from dead plants about what it takes to build great organizational culture, but first, allow me to answer these two questions: What is culture and why does it matter?


Simply stated, culture is the combination of beliefs and behaviors any group of people embrace, from businesses to churches, families to nations. It’s the way people in these groups think and the way they act over time.

If a sports team believes it cannot win close games, its behavior reflects that belief when minutes turn to seconds on the clock. They stop playing with a sense of urgency and give up. In business, culture drives how we participate in meetings, how we treat our customers, and how we go about pursuing our goals and responding to the obstacles that arise related to them.

Culture is the undercurrent of all that goes on in your organization and the riptide that drowns any initiative that drifts into its flow. It’s the one thing that changes everything. Which makes building great organizational culture one of your top priorities as a leader.

The stark reality is this: you may have the best product at the best price. You may have the most brilliant strategy being executed by the most talented staff. You may have the latest cutting edge technology and the slickest social media presence, but if your culture is broken, all of that stuff—every bit of it—is dead on arrival.

Or in the words of Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!”


Okay, here’s what I’ve learned about culture: Great organizational culture has three intersecting lines. The first of these lines is your company’s guiding principles, its core values. That line then intersects with the products and services you provide and the way you treat people. Let’s address each in turn.


The starting place for culture is with beliefs. That is, a common set of characteristics a company is committed to carrying out, no matter what. You may refer to these as core values, or, as I do here, as guiding principles.

Companies with great organizational culture have intentionally identified a handful of these qualities and defined them as a group. Often, this process begins with individuals in the organization identifying their own core values, explaining them to each other, and affirming the shared commitments that surface in the process.

Don’t, however, jump into this process lightly. It isn’t for the faint of heart.

“Coming up with strong values—and sticking to them—requires real guts. Indeed, an organization considering a values initiative must first come to terms with the fact that, when properly practiced, values inflict pain and demand constant vigilance,” warns the ever-insightful Patrick Lencioni in Harvard Business Review. “If you’re not willing to accept the pain real values incur, don’t bother going to the trouble of formulating a values statement. You’ll be better off without one.”


If you’ve ever participated in a core values exercise like the one described above (It was all the rage a few years ago.), your company may have assembled a list like this: communication, respect, integrity, excellence.

Don’t those words sound great?

Here’s the problem with the items on that list. They were the core values of Enron as stated in its annual report shortly before the company’s epic meltdown, one of the worst scandals ever to have rocked the business world. Ouch!

The challenge, then, in building culture is not coming up with the ideals we espouse but actually embodying those ideals in the demands of day-to-day life. Doing them /no matter what/.

This means having your guiding principles drive the quality of the products you bring to market and the integrity of the services that support those products. It may mean declining to offer certain services because they don’t align with your values or refusing to provide certain products, regardless of their profit margin.

In other words, the creation of a company culture that’s consistent with its convictions requires that your values inform every marketplace interaction—from advertising to sales, from accounting to operations—or they are, like Enron, empty words on the wall (or in a glossy annual report).


Culture begins by what we say we believe, our guiding principles, and it continues by acting on those beliefs with specific, repeated behaviors. First with our products and services, and next in our relationships with people.

Token phrases, such as, “People are our greatest asset,” cause instant eye-rolls and cynical skepticism. Not, however, within companies with great organizational culture. These firms have allowed their values to inform daily interactions with their employees, creating an environment of mutual trust and respect.

Granted, working with human beings is infinitely more difficult than bringing products and services to the market, but this is where culture becomes deeply embedded in a company. And while volumes have been written on the subject, I offer some simple advice. Be honest. Be human. Be both at the same time.

Being honest involves speaking with clarity and candor and avoiding the deceptive guise of minimization or exaggerated overstatements. Honesty without humanity, however, can be harsh and hurtful. So along with clarity and candor, provide kindness and compassion. In other words, be human. And while you’re at it, be humble.

For my faith friends, you’ll recognize this concept as becoming more like our Savior, who is ”full of grace and truth.” Again, not one or the other but both completely. A fullness of grace and truth has the potential to create the greatest culture your company has ever experienced.

If your organization were a plant, how healthy would that plant be? Would it be dying on a shelf at Kmart or thriving in a fertile garden?

The choice is yours as a leader. It’s a choice to pay attention to the one thing that changes everything, empowering your people to stay true to their guiding principles with all your products and services and all your relational interactions.


With thanks to

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#ReimagineEVANGELISM...Cultivate a New Template for Conversations



Excerpted with permission from Chapter One of Dr. Heather Holleman’s just released new book “The Six Conversations: Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility”

I’VE NEVER MET ONE PERSON who didn’t wish they could have better conversations. When I begin teaching on this topic, students pay attention. They know their ability to connect well with others matters—not just to heal their chronic loneliness, alleviate relationship boredom, and improve the group dynamics in their clubs, but to also advance their professional goals. They also seek to repair relational damage with friends, family members, and romantic partners after a year that separated people based on political affiliations, views on the COVID-19 pandemic, and activity related to racial justice in the United States. The communication climate for so many has turned to suspicion, shame, hatred, and mockery. It’s a world of being canceled and unfriended if you say the wrong thing. So many of us feel awkward and unsure as we emerge from isolation. Like my students, you might ask these questions: How can I connect again with others? How can I feel close to this person? If my personal happiness depends on having warm relationships—like all the research shows—how can I become a better conversationalist to foster these connections?

As a writing professor studying rhetoric and communication, I’ve investigated the social science research and analyzed conversation practices, positive communication, and the relational warmth so vital for well-being, health, and happiness. Like you, I want to grow in my conversation skills. I want to foster the relational connections that allow for true fellowship with others.

But how?

Let’s start thinking about the best conversation you’ve had recently.

Think about the last conversation you had where you felt loved, understood, and connected to the other person or group involved. What was happening? Did you feel like the other person was genuinely interested in you? That they liked you? That they cared about your life? Did you feel like the other person shared in the conversation as well to create that closeness you’ve longed for?

When I can say yes to these questions, I know I’ve been in a great conversation.

Great conversations involve these essential elements of interest, liking, caring, and sharing. Great conversations cannot happen in the absence of one of these elements. And great conversations require cultivating the mindsets that continue to foster these elements. If I want great conversations, I need to know where I’m lacking and how I can develop my capacity for loving connection.


In simple terms, if I were to tell you the four most critical things to do to foster a warm and connected conversation, I’d say this:

Be curious

Believe the best

Express concern

Share your life

The technical research terms for each phrase above sounds much more academic: interpersonal curiosity, positive regard, investment, and mutual sharing. Essentially, these conversational mindsets and accompanying behaviors will build your friendships and teach you the art of positive communication—a form of conversation involving asking, complimenting, disclosing, encouraging, listening, and inspiring. These mindsets embody what researchers on relational closeness call “closeness-enhancing behaviors” of “openness, attention, and involvement,” as well as showing other people “dignity and respect.” We already identified these mindsets using different words when we thought about a great conversation we’ve had (interest, liking, caring, and sharing), so now let’s see them in action as what you can do: be curious, believe the best, express concern, and share your life.

My neighborhood friend and Penn State colleague uses the Four Mindsets in nearly every conversation we have. We recently began walking together once a week. She’s an engineering professor; I’m a writing professor. Her world is mostly math and technical problems; my world is vivid verbs and semicolons. She uses words I do not understand and delights in designing highly technical engineering problem sets for her students.

How do you create a warm relationship between an engineer and a writer? To make matters worse, she’s my opposite: she’s a runner; she loves adventure and travel; and she has a dog. I can’t run. I like to stay home. And I have three cats. This conversation shouldn’t work at all, right?

Here we go. I’m walking beside her (and her dog), and she immediately asks about my latest writing projects, my teaching, and my children. Genuine curiosityShe’s so interested in things I’m interested in. Next, she compliments me and tells me all the ways I’m inspiring her. Positive regardShe likes me! She’s already believing good things about me. She’s now asking me about my upcoming meeting and wants to brainstorm with me how I can achieve my goals. Investment in my success. She’s wanting me to win. She wants the best for me. Then, she’s vulnerable with me. She reciprocates when I ask about her engineering classes and her goals so it’s a time of mutual sharing. She shares vulnerably about where she’s struggling. An hour passes, and I feel the relational closeness and warmth that fuels us both for the rest of the week.

I even find myself liking her dog.

Think again back to your favorite conversations. When was the last time you felt truly cared for because of the questions someone asked you about your life? When was the last time you felt that another person was looking out for your interests, wanting you to succeed, and figuring out ways to personally encourage you?

My students often look sad when I ask them this question. I know it’s painful to feel alone and disconnected. But guess what? You don’t have to wait to start connecting with others. You can start the conversation revival right now. You can develop the Four Mindsets yourself along with me, and we can start today to engage differently in conversations wherever we are. We all need friends to share our lives with. God made us relational beings, and with the latest research revealing our need for connection, we can grow in the areas of curiosity, positive regard, investment, and mutual sharing. And then, we can teach others. You don’t have to wait to start connecting with others. You can start the conversation revival right now.

Let’s examine the Four Mindsets with more depth and analyze our own tendencies in each category.

Mindset One: Be Curious

In 1936, Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book selling over 30 million copies to become one of the best-selling books of all time. Carnegie claimed something so simple about how to make lasting friendships. Be genuinely interested in other people. He famously wrote, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Simple enough, right?

I recently asked my teenage daughter if she has any friends who ask her about her life and seem to care about what happens to her. She talks about how rare this is, how nobody ever asks her questions about her life, and how, in a school of over 2,500 teens, she could only name one person who asks her personal questions. I then asked my college students the same question, and one student cried, “When I’m out with friends, they never ask me one question about myself.”

The class nodded in agreement.

In my classroom, we talk about the epidemic of loneliness especially in teens and college students—and how disconnected everyone feels.4 Young adults long for someone to be curious about them, to draw them out and try to connect deeply through good questions, but instead, most people in their lives stay self-absorbed and self-involved. Young adults long for someone to be curious about them, to draw them out and try to connect deeply through good questions.

When we get together with friends, besides talking about the news or the weather or simply monologuing about work or children, rarely will someone ask a good question about our lives. It leaves so many of us frustrated, isolated, and empty after spending significant amounts of time in meaningless interaction.

If only we could foster curiosity about one another! If I could pick the essential character trait for my children and students to develop, I’d choose that of curiosity. In fact, I also talk to both my undergraduate and graduate students about developing curiosity as a key professional skill. In particular, I mean social or interpersonal curiosity—the desire to know and understand more about other people. I read and think about curiosity because I’ve learned that people who don’t desire to engage others about their lives—even at the most basic level of interest—stay disconnected, lonely, and perhaps even depressed. Psychology researcher Todd Kashdan feels so strongly about the value of interpersonal curiosity that he called it the “secret juice of relationships.” In fact, Kashdan argues that “if you take the fundamental things that people tend to want out of life—strong social relationships and happiness and accomplishing things—all of these are highly linked to curiosity.”

At Penn State, I’m known as the “Name Game” professor because I ask a key attendance question in every class designed to invite everyone in the room (myself included) to share something meaningful about their lives (and learn one another’s names). Why do I do this? As I encourage students to disclose information about themselves, and then begin to display curiosity about other people—even in just that brief moment of answering a personal question—the simple activity builds a sense of belonging, increases our positive mood, generates closeness, reduces prejudice, and enhances our creativity and productiveness. I’ll often ask the class, “What do you want to learn about each other today? What are you curious about?” They’ll often choose a question from my list of 100 favorite questions (see the appendix). We love answering questions about the first song we played over and over again or about something we’re celebrating. They love to talk about the best meal on campus (the spicy ramen) or the best class they’ve ever taken and why. Even questions like, “What are you looking forward to?” or “What are your weekend plans?” inevitably invite follow-up questions rooted in curiosity: How did you get those tickets? How did you become interested in that? Who else goes to that event with you?

Becoming More Curious: If you scan the research articles in both psychology, social science, and neuroscience, you’ll learn about both the scope and benefits of becoming a curious person. Leading researcher on curiosity, Todd Kashdan, explains curiosity like this:

Curiosity’s immediate function is to seek out, explore, and immerse oneself in situations with potential for new information and/or experiences. In the longer term, consistently acting on curious feelings functions to expand knowledge, build competencies, strengthen social relationships, and increase intellectual and creative capacities.

Essentially, curious people desire new information about others; they believe they will learn something important or meaningful. But how does one develop curiosity? How do we leave our homes to engage well with others about their lives?

  1. Get excited about all you’ll discover. Socially curious people love learning about others because they believe other people possess rich treasures of experiences, insights, and wisdom to offer in conversation. When we allow ourselves to feel curious about other people’s lives, we essentially believe that we will discover something meaningful and valuable from this interaction. Additionally, a curious person often has a humble, teachable heart—a heart set on discovering more about the person before them who is made in the very image of God. Imagine the person in front of you will offer wisdom and perspective because of their unique point of view. Psychologist and educator Mary Pipher reminds us how another person’s individuality is a “tremendous gift to the world” because it is a “one-of-a-kind point of view on the universe.” Even more, consider how other people are hiding a treasure within them; it’s our job to unearth that treasure—whether the treasure is how they see their world, what they know, or simply who they are in all their radiant beauty as children of God. What if you learn something that might change your life? What if they say something that unlocks a mystery for you? What if this person is the next step on your journey or vice versa? What if together you make a connection about something you would have never otherwise known? Sometimes I picture two people coming together in conversation like it’s a chemical reaction. Something amazing will happen in that moment. Something’s about to catalyze (great verb!).
  2. Invest in your own well-being. As it turns out, curious people maintain “high levels of well-being,” and curiosity serves as a key ingredient in a “pleasurable and meaningful life” as reported by Todd Kashdan in his research. In an article titled “Why Curious People Have Better Relationships,” UC Berkeley reports how curiosity helps us deal with rejection, makes us less aggressive, and helps our social life. I’ve heard someone say, “It’s hard to be mad and curious at the same time.” I thought about this statement when I received an angry phone call from someone of a different political position who wanted to complain to me about all the people who disagreed with her. Instead of being riled up and letting her comments fuel my anger, I said, “I’m so curious. Tell me again the story of why you’re so angry. Remind me why this issue matters so much to you.” Curiosity protected my own emotions in that moment and saved me from saying things in anger I might regret.
  3. Act as if you are curious. Since curiosity fuels creativity and joy—not only in families and communities but also in the workplace—business leaders have taken a great interest in how to cultivate a posture of curiosity. One business leader reports how a colleague began her journey toward living in curiosity. She began to ask herself this question: “What would I say if  I were curious?” This single question helped her build her curiosity. Does this sound too simple to you? Maybe it even sounds disingenuous—to pretend to be curious. Well, it’s a great technique to try, especially if you want to grow in conversational confidence: simply enter a conversation and let your mind role-play what a curious person would ask. Imagine you’re a curious person who loves gathering information about others for the pure joy of understanding their lives. You can use any one of the Six Conversation categories in chapter 8 to begin your journey into interpersonal curiosity.
  4. Let yourself even fall in love. Using questions fueled by curiosity will build connections to others, often with immediate results for not only friendship, but also for romantic connections. Perhaps you’ve heard of the famous New York Times article published in Modern Love called “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This.” In this essay, author Mandy Len Catron references relationship scientist Arthur Aron’s study of how to make strangers fall in love using just thirty-six questions. Dr. Aron succeeds in generating relational closeness in a lab setting in only forty-five minutes, because of how the questions invite self-disclosure. You can read Dr. Aron’s list of questions in Modern Love; my favorites from his list include these: What would constitute a perfect day for you? When did you last sing to yourself? What is your most treasured memory? Not surprisingly, Dr. Aron’s list of questions fits neatly into the six dimensions of what it means to be human.

So let’s be curious.

Curious people build better relationships. Curious people experience greater well-being and pleasure. Curious people become more creative and less stressed out. And your curiosity just might lead you to romance.


  1. Begin a conversation with these words: “I’m so curious. Tell me about ______________.”
  2. Make a list of people in your life you’d like to grow closer to. What are some things you’d like to know about them? Turn to chapter 8 on the Six Conversations and pull out your favorite questions from your favorite category.
  3. Attempt to ask a question rooted in curiosity to every single person you encounter—even strangers—and see the effect it has on other people (and yourself!). At the end of the day, record the most surprising things you learned.

Mindset Two: Believe the Best

Without positive regard (believing the best), our attempts at curiosity won’t make much difference. I’ve known people who act curious about my life for self-serving reasons; they want morsels to gossip about or ways to trap me in opinions they want to disparage. Or they just run through a list of questions because they are trying to connect out of duty or because it feels like a good leadership skill to ask a good question. Worse, I know they don’t necessarily like me or wish to warmly connect; they want to talk for argument’s sake. But when someone asks questions rooted in genuine interest from a position of love and respect, I love to open up to this person.

My marriage, parenting, and teaching rest on the foundation of this phrase positive regard—a term I borrowed from psychology—in particular Carl Rogers, who believed that the best way to help people is to first accept them just as they are without trying to change them, judge them, or shame them. He noticed incredible transformation in clients when he simply said, “I accept you totally.” In simple terms, positive regard means you position yourself to respect, admire, like, and enjoy the person with whom you’re in conversation. If you start from that point, you’ll find that conversation blossoms; people want to share their lives with you. They feel safe, understood, and cared for in your presence. Positive regard changes conversation, and it changes people within those conversations. Research studies even suggest that positive regard from coaches and teachers creates more confidence and motivation from athletes and students; positive regard helps others persevere through difficulty and perform better. Not surprisingly, in the workplace, positive regard among coworkers enhances job performance and even makes employees better citizens.

We naturally offer positive regard in our parenting when we say things like, “Nothing you could ever do would cause me to love you less or cause me to stop loving you. You can tell me anything.” But in a marriage, we often don’t start from this point. We instead begin from a point of suspicion, believing the worst, criticism, nagging, or blame. A marriage counselor once offered her best advice for the success of any marriage: believe the best about your partner. I was the type of newlywed who kept a record of all the ways I felt like my husband wasn’t meeting my needs. I would recall ways he let me down or chores he hadn’t finished. My toxic mindset made our marriage terrible until I began conversations by believing the best about him—and showing my positive regard with compliments and high praise. Twenty-two years later, our marriage has flourished. Just as I never judge or shame him, he shows me positive regard as well.

In our work lives, we often function as if others need to earn our respect and our time. When I applied the principle of positive regard in my classroom, I told students my teaching philosophy: I am with you and for you. Nothing you do in this class will change my positive opinion of you, and I will work hard to assist you in your professional goals. Not surprisingly, our classroom community flourished and students began to write more vulnerably and powerfully with an authentic written voice. My five-year research into the study of shame allows this kind of classroom; people can do bad things (guilt), but they are not bad people (shame).

In day-to-day interactions, especially with young people, positive regard matters most of all for helping others experience true belonging. In Belonging: Reconnecting America’s Loneliest Generation, researchers argue that “accepting young people without judgment is an essential condition for belongingness to occur” and that this belongingness is “the state or feeling of connectedness that arises when seen, known, and accepted by another.”

Finally, believing the best about people is a way of extending God’s grace to people. Grace refers to the unmerited favor of God; He loves us despite what we do. As a Christian, I know that God continues to bless me and love me in the midst of my bad choices or failures. When I extend this mindset toward others, I reflect God’s grace to them.

When I’m having trouble choosing to believe the best about someone because of their actions or attitudes that I may find morally reprehensible, I try to think of what this person was like as a child. I remember to discover the story behind why this person feels or acts as they do. Then I find myself overcome with compassion rather than condemnation.  The Four Mindsets of a Loving Conversation

How does someone know you believe the best about them unless you tell them? As you choose to believe the best, practice complimenting people in your life and telling them simple things such as, “I really enjoy talking to you.”


  1. Try to recall or imagine a person who loves you unconditionally—like a parent or grandparent. Picture how his or her face lights up when talking to you. Picture that loving presence who invites you to share your life and talk about things that matter. Try to model this behavior as you talk to others. To remind you, imagine what it feels like to enter into a conversation with someone who you feel judges you, who criticizes you, and who is looking for ways to put you down, improve you, or change you. Nobody wants to open up in an environment like this.
  2. Begin a conversation like this: “I’m so happy to be talking with you. I really enjoy connecting with you.” Offer compliments. Remember God’s grace extended to you that you now radically extend to others. Recent research from the Yale Relationship Lab on expressing gratitude for a friend showcases how doing so increases the sense of relational closeness. In this study, participants were encouraged to verbally thank a friend for something he or she did, express gratitude over a positive memory of that friend, or verbally indicate something you appreciate about your friend.
  3. Make a list of the people in your life you care most about. Write down several things you admire and respect about them. This will foster a mindset of positive regard, and it will give you suggestions for how to compliment them the next time you see them.

Mindset Three: Express Concern

If you’re learning to be curious about others and you’ve trained your mind to begin with positive regard, you’ll find that conversations might still lack the warmth and meaning you’re hoping for. What’s missing then is investment. Investment means you’re interested in the outcome of what a person shares with you, and you express concern about their lives. You’re devoting time and energy because you care about what happens to the other person. You’re invested in their lives. You’re listening in order to support, encourage, and inspire. Investment also implies a gain on the behalf of both parties. You link their success with your success, their failure with your failure, their sadness with yours. Investment is a form of support that moves beyond empathy; it’s a willingness to “carry each other’s burdens,” a biblical phrase written in the book of Galatians. Investment refers to a part of positive communication that focuses on “common good” (when one person thrives, we all thrive) and “supportive” interaction.

In a recent study on how people form “mutually responsive close relationships,” researchers stated that “an optimal relationship starts with it being a relationship in which people assume a special responsibility for one another’s welfare.” I’m learning when I engage in loving conversations with others, communicating investment makes all the difference in the quality of connection. Therefore, we can express concern about what someone is going through. Consider this: your friend might be genuinely curious about you and like you, but if he doesn’t really care about the information you’re sharing with him, you won’t feel the connection and warmth you otherwise could.

When I recently applied for a new career opportunity, I shared the information with a few friends. I found that the only friend I wanted to talk to about this new direction in my life was the one who showed true concern. She’d call, text, or offer to go on a walk and ask, “Okay, what’s happening with that opportunity? What’s the latest? How are The Four Mindsets of a Loving Conversation you feeling? I’m so excited for you. Tell me everything about it.” This same friend asked me about my latest book contract and celebrated me so much it felt like it was her book contract, not mine.

Professionally speaking, I’ve had supervisors who casually ask about my work with curiosity and perhaps even positive regard, but they show no genuine concern. It doesn’t really matter to them what happens to me. But I have one boss who shows sincere investment in my career: she inquires about my research, my writing, my contract negotiations, and my opportunities as if they were her own. She talks about my future as if it were somehow tied up in her own success. Guess which supervisor I most want to perform well for, who motivates me most of all, and who makes me feel valued?

Colleagues often ask me why I tend to enjoy perfect attendance in my classroom and why students visit in office hours and stay connected with me relationally even twenty years later. I believe the secret is investment and how I’ve learned to express concern about what’s happening in my students’ lives—whether they have an interview, a parent battling cancer, a breakup, or anything important they’re going through.

Expressing concern is perhaps the hardest skill of all because it involves the wisdom to know what to do and how to help with the information someone shares with you in conversation. Investment doesn’t mean to take on everyone’s problems as your own, but it does mean you position yourself to support others as you can, to care about them, and to imagine an interconnectedness with their lives. It’s a way to live communally and joyfully so that you genuinely celebrate with others just as you would mourn with them. Investment is a way to live communally and joyfully so that you genuinely celebrate with others just as you would mourn with them.


  1. Consider that someone else’s success is tied to your own and that you are interconnected. Begin a conversation like this: “What’s happening with that challenge or opportunity? I’m so excited to hear what’s happening there. Update me on your good or bad news. I’m here to support you.” My daughter’s kindergarten teacher taught all the students to make a “happy comment” if someone shared good news. Think about making happy comments, comforting comments, and supportive comments as someone invested in another person’s life. If you are unsure what to do or say, a person who is invested in another person might ask, “How do you like others to show their support to you?” You can also tell people the kind of support you are able to give. When friends are struggling, I ask, “How can I best support you today? Would you like a walk, a phone call, a coffee delivery, or a meal?”
  2. Find out what the people in your life are concerned about. What are their major stressors? What upcoming decisions loom? What are they worried about?
  3. Discover what the people in your life are celebrating or what good news they have. You’ll find in the Six Conversations chapter many ways to unearth information that you can express concern about—whether good news or challenges.

Mindset Four: Mutual Sharing

You can ask questions rooted in interpersonal curiosity, from a position of positive regard, and express great concern, but at that point, you might feel more like an interviewer or even a therapist. How do these skills lead to the warm relationships so vital for well-being? The last missing factor? Mutual sharing. In The Art of Positive Communication,  professor of Applied Communication Julien Mirivel tells us the seven behaviors needed in a great conversation. Besides greeting, asking questions, complimenting, encouraging, listening, and inspiring, great conversations involve disclosing personal information.

I’ll admit it: I’m the worst at this. I’m great at asking questions (I’m naturally curious about other people). I’m great at believing the best (I saw how it saved my marriage). And I’m growing in the art of investment and showing concern as God helps me truly love other people better. But I hesitate to share vulnerably. I like to stay in control of a conversation. I like to avoid any situation where I reveal too much about myself. I’m the type of friend who regularly hears this statement: “Hey! You’re asking all the questions. My turn! I want you to share now.”

Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s the fear of shame. Maybe it’s simply a form of control. Or maybe I’ve been in too many conversations where I do share something only to have the other person immediately make the conversation all about them. Worse, I’ve been in too many conversations where the other person spouts out advice or ways I need to improve. Have you experienced this? Sometimes our conversational histories have shut us down, but consider how vital disclosing personal information is to relational warmth. It might feel risky and even scary. Your heart might beat a little faster with the mere thought of talking about yourself with another person. But I promise you’ll gain all the benefits of warm relationships if you commit to grow in this conversational skill.

To grow in the mindset of mutual sharing, I work hard to disclose personal information. I’ll answer the question from the 100 favorites along with my students as honestly as I can. I am also learning to think about whether or not there’s a balance of sharing in my conversations. Has my conversation partner shared about their life vulnerably? Is it now my turn to do so? Then, I practice sharing my life. As a part of positive regard, consider that sharing your life is a gift to another person. Do we not believe that another person is worthy of this gift? Do we stay guarded and silent because we secretly believe another person isn’t wise enough, kind enough, or important enough to know us? Are we waiting for another person to somehow earn the right to our friendship?

Ouch. I’m like this. I close my heart to people all the time, but I’m learning to grow in the area of sharing my life with others.

Just recently, I endured an emergency kidney stone surgery. When neighbors came by to drop off soup and express concern, I thought about how to answer the inevitable question, “How are you doing?” Instead of saying “Fine. I’m fine!” I chose to share vulnerably about my fear and my pain. I even let myself cry in front of one couple who immediately asked if they could pray for me in that moment. I felt so loved and so connected to them. When my students asked me the next week all about this emergency surgery, I told them how I really felt. I then asked if any of them had ever endured something like my experience. That day, we connected like real humans about the pain our bodies go through throughout our lives.

When I forget to share my life, I remember a key research study on “closeness enhancing behaviors” in conversation. According to the research on the three best strategies to create relational closeness, openness—the “willingness to share personal information” and not “withhold private information” matters deeply. The other two behaviors—attention and involvement—relate to the mindset of investment. When we’re invested and share our lives, we’ll find we’re on our way to truly meaningful conversations with others.


  1. Think of how you relate to a person’s situation. In conversation, you can find common ground with others after they’ve The Four Mindsets of a Loving Conversation had ample time to share. Instead of interrupting to immediately discuss your life, wait until they have shared thoroughly. You might even ask, “Is there more to that story?” to make sure others have finished sharing what they want and need to share. Then it’s your turn. You can begin to share your life by saying, “I can relate to that. In fact, I recently . . .” If that feels too self-focused and not appropriate, remember you can talk about how another person’s situation feels to you. You can express raw emotion with them by saying, “When you told me that, I felt so sad. I don’t know what to say, but I’m so glad I’m here with you.”
  2. Consider topics on the subject of you. On any given day, develop the self-awareness to know three things you’re struggling with, three things you’re celebrating or happy about, and three upcoming decisions or areas of uncertainty. Discover your default conversation (what you tend to talk about and like talking about) from chapter 9. Let your conversation partner know you love connecting over these topics.
  3. Use the Six Conversations to think of categories of responding to and connecting to others. When it’s your turn to share your life, you can begin with these prompts:

This reminded me about a similar interaction . . . (social)

That made me feel . . . (emotional)

You bring up a great point that made me think about my body or environment . . . (physical) Your story makes me wonder about . . . (cognitive)

As you were talking, I began to think about this decision differently . . . (volitional)

As you spoke, I remembered something about my faith that’s helped me . . . (spiritual)

I’m still growing in the area of sharing my life. That’s my greatest deficiency in the Four Mindsets. What about you? You might feel you want to grow in the areas of being more curious or more invested in other people. You might read this chapter and think of all the people you’d love to see with positive regard. As you finished this chapter (alone or in a group), rate yourself in the Four Mindsets of a Loving Conversation and begin challenging yourself to learn and practice new attitudes and behaviors in conversation.


Circle the answer to each statement and take some time to answer the reflection questions.

Be Curious: I’m naturally curious about other people:

Rarely        Sometimes         Almost always

Reflect: Why do you think you feel this way? What happened to make you this kind of person? What’s your next step in developing this skill? What resistance or hesitation do you have to this conversational skill?

Believe the Best: I tend to enjoy other people, easily admire them, and respect them:

Rarely        Sometimes        Almost always

Reflect: Why do you think you feel this way? What happened to make you this kind of person? What’s your next step in developing this skill? What resistance or hesitation do you have to this conversational skill?

Express Concern: I have a hard time genuinely caring about what happens to other people:

Rarely        Sometimes        Almost always

Reflect: Why do you think you feel this way? What happened to make you this kind of person? What’s your next step in developing this skill? What resistance or hesitation do you have to this conversational skill?

Share Your Life: I love to share my life with other people:

Rarely        Sometimes        Almost always

Reflect: Why do you think you feel this way? What happened to make you this kind of person? What’s your next step in developing this skill? What resistance or hesitation do you have to this conversational skill?

If you’re anything like me, you might still have some resistance or hesitation in your heart about the Four Mindsets. You might have questions about your personality and how to apply this book to your unique situation. But, if you’re being honest with yourself (as I’m learning to be), we both know we long for close, meaningful relationships. And we truly want to become happier and more fulfilled people. While relationship science continues to advance the truth that we foster close relationships by becoming more open, more attentive to others, and more involved in their lives, you might want to embed this book—not only in science and data, but through what the Bible has to say about building healthy relationships. As you read on, we’ll look at conversations through a theological lens to inspire you to grow into the kind of person who regularly commits to starting and continuing loving conversations.

Note from Bob:  You can order Dr. Heather Holleman’s just released book “The Six Conversations: Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility” by clicking HERE



Dr. Heather Holleman is an associate teaching professor at Penn State, speaker, and author. She designs advanced writing curriculum for the English department and loves helping students thrive professionally. She has written eight books, including the bestseller Seated with Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison, and an award-winning book on evangelism (cowritten with her husband, Ashley Holleman) called Sent: Living a Life That Invites Others to Jesus. Her latest book, The Six Conversations: Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility helps fight the loneliness epidemic by inviting readers to enjoy better conversations. Heather also serves with Faculty Commons in the graduate student and professor ministry of Cru. She has two daughters and three cats, and she blogs daily at @  Her podcast is “The Verb with Heather Holleman.” When she’s not writing or teaching, Heather is growing a plum orchard, looking for turtles in the woods, or gathering with friends for dinner and a movie.

With thanks to Bob Tiede >>>

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What Is God Telling Me in The Hurricane?

Just read an article about the how God speaks in a hurricane.

The author used the storm as an illustration of God’s power and promises (all of which I believe) and several people responded enthusiastically.

But I was troubled.

Here is my response:

“We survived the hurricane with very little damage; my family and house are safe and I damaged. I am enormously grateful the storm took a turn away from us.

“But I wonder what my family and friends who sustained a direct and very damaging hit because of that turn would think about our spiritualizing the devastation that took place.

“As a survivor, I can resonate with using the wind and the rain as reminders of our God’s strength. But I wonder how I would read about a protected tree while my house was destroyed.

“Lately, it is not unanswered prayer that troubles me. But answered prayer does. (“Lord, turn that storm away from my house.”)

I am struggling with how to be grateful for an event that “blessed me” at the expense of others.

My faith in God is strong, unwavering.

My confidence in how well I understand God’s will and interpret God’s ways, not so much.

phil @ the Reimagine.Network 

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#ReimagineCHRISTIANITY…in America


Christianity's American Fate:

How Religion Became More Conservative and Society More Secular

Tracing the rise of evangelicalism and the decline of mainline Protestantism in American religious and cultural life


How did American Christianity become synonymous with conservative white evangelicalism? This sweeping work by a leading historian of modern America traces the rise of the evangelical movement and the decline of mainline Protestantism’s influence on American life. In Christianity’s American Fate, David Hollinger shows how the Protestant establishment, adopting progressive ideas about race, gender, sexuality, empire, and divinity, liberalized too quickly for some and not quickly enough for others. After 1960, mainline Protestantism lost members from both camps—conservatives to evangelicalism and progressives to secular activism. A Protestant evangelicalism that was comfortable with patriarchy and white supremacy soon became the country’s dominant Christian cultural force.

Hollinger explains the origins of what he calls Protestantism’s “two-party system” in the United States, finding its roots in America’s religious culture of dissent, as established by seventeenth-century colonists who broke away from Europe’s religious traditions; the constitutional separation of church and state, which enabled religious diversity; and the constant influx of immigrants, who found solidarity in churches. Hollinger argues that the United States became not only overwhelmingly Protestant but Protestant on steroids. By the 1960s, Jews and other non-Christians had diversified the nation ethnoreligiously, inspiring more inclusive notions of community. But by embracing a socially diverse and scientifically engaged modernity, Hollinger tells us, ecumenical Protestants also set the terms by which evangelicals became reactionary.


~>Reconstruct Your Biblical Worldview

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Deep thanks for everyone's concern and prayers ...

We hope to return home Saturday.

Extremely grateful our house appears to be intact, especially after seeing so many who have endured loss of property, many now homeless and without the huge sums of money needed to rebuild.

This has really messed up my praying.

I am not doubting God nor losing faith in prayer.

Just having trouble knowing how to thank God in a way that would not make me distrust or hate God if I heard that prayer while my house were not spared.

If I credit god for diverting the storm in an unexpected direction to bless me, does that mean God overlooked my cousin (damage to his home) or our friends (lifelong missionaries of the Church) in Fort Myers?

I am remembering afresh that faith, prayer, and life with God are rooted in both truth (there are some things we can know for certain) and mystery (there are some things we will never fully comprehend in this life).

I know the Spirit is leading me on is to expose blind spots, weak areas, and incorrect applications of biblical truths that infect my faith.

Recognizing answers, as well intentioned as they might be, that are simplistic is a part of that journey. I know Jesus wants to strip away the explanations I have created and replace them with the simple but radical truth of Scripture.

The Spirit is stirring up good-trouble.

#ItSeemsToMe...That's good.

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Why #ReimagineCHURCH…?

Why #ReimagineCHURCH…?


Because many congregations are using rotary phone mind-sets and methods in a touchtone age (digital; texting; video).


The http://Reimagine.Network was created to help you make the mindshift .


“In the decades after 1963, rotary dials were gradually phased out on new telephone models in favor of keypads and the primary dialing method to the central office became touchtone dialing, but most central office systems still support rotary telephones today.”

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Phil Miglioratti @ The Reimagine.Network


NOTE>>> I am not suggesting we reinvent God, only that we rethink, reimagine, the breadth and depth of the nature character of God, according to the revelation in Holy Scripture. Even as God is known, there is always more to know. Neither are we inerrant. #ReimaginePRAYER...and ask the Spirit to reveal more of the glory of the Eternal Creator God.


GOD is:

Grand - magnificent; awe-inspirin, resplendent, glorious; principal, foremost

  • Great -preeminent, masterful, extraordinary, unlimited, boundless
  • G​ood - true, honorable, pure, just, righteous, conforms/excceds the moreal order of the universe
  • Gracious - kind, merciful, compassionate; unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification


  • Omniscient - having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight
  • Omnipresent - present in all places at all times
    Omnipotent -  unlimited power, authority or influence


  • Deliverer - Savior: "There is no one else who has the power to save us, for there is only one name to whom God has given authority by which we must experience salvation: the name of Jesus." Acts 4:12
    Director - Spirit: 'Be continually filled with (yielded to the direction of) the Holy Spirit." EPhesaians 5;18
    ​D​estination - "We are citizens of Heaven; our outlook goes beyond this world to the hopeful expectation of the Saviour who will come from Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ...who will re-make these wretched bodies of ours to resemble his own glorious body, by that power of his which makes him the master of everything that is." Philippians 3:20-21


GOD is:

Sovereign - righteous ruler

Savior - resurrected redeemer

Spirit - radiant revealer

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#ReimaginePRAYER... Outward and Forward

#ReimaginePRAYER... Outward and Forward

Outward and Forward do bot replace Upward and Inward, but they are just as strategic.

  • Use these 6 "spheres" as a template for equipping believers to pray outward and forward
  • The spheres are based on who you pray with:
    • You, with Jesus (1:1 lime John the beloved)
    • You and a few friends/small group, with Jesus (1:3 like Mary, Martha and lazarus; 1:72 like the mission teams)
    • You and your congregation, with Jesus (1:120 in the Uppde Room)
    • You and a diversity of believers from across your community/city, and Jesus (citywide coordinatioin)
    • You and any of the above, with Jesus, focused on cultural issues and institutions (Mars Hill)
    • You and any of the above, focused on the nations (evangelism, disciple-making, church planting, missions)

Sphere #1 ... in my CLOSET

You and the Lord; one-on-one. Prayer-Closet Intercession.

Reply by Malva Birch

Sphere #2 ...with my COHORTS

Exploring the unique dynamics of small group prayer; Bible studies, Sunday School classes, fellowship groups, prayer teams...

TURN - The Upper Room Network

Sphere #3 ...throughout my CONGREGATION

Relating to the issues and ideas unique to the dynamic of praying with others; small or large all--the-congregation gatherings

Praying Together from 25 Different Locations

Sphere #4 ...across my CITY

Prayer, often collaborative, for the well-being of a city. Every family. Every affinity. Every community.


Sphere #5 ...penetrating my CULTURE

Focused on an outpouring of God's Spirit, bringing a renewed Christ-centeredness to the Church and a spiritual awakening in our nation's culture.

Crying Out To God:
Beyond Passive-Prayer into Passionate-Prayer


Sphere #6 ...for other COUNTRIES

•Global Focus (Nations / Missions) Prayer that reaches beyond our national borders ~ That the earth may be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea!

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GUEST POST: 6 Stages of a Dying Church

GUEST POST:  6 Stages of a Dying Church

  1. Recalibration. There is a sense that something’s wrong in the church, so the church responds in one of two ways. Do more of what we are doing that has proven ineffective. Or, secondly, seek a “magic bullet” program, emphasis, or new pastor. The church does not really want to change; it just thinks it needs an adjustment.
Six Stages Of A Dying Church

Six Stages Of A Dying Church

Contributed by: Sermoncentral // Sermoncentral

It’s not a pleasant topic.

But if we don’t talk about dying churches, we will act like there are no problems. As I wrote in Breakout Churches, the first stage for any church to reverse negative trends is awareness or, stated another way, confronting the brutal realities.

Somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 churches in America will close their doors in the next year. And many of them die because they refuse to recognize problems before they became irreversible

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