At 60 years old, I can legitimately say I have perspective. I can look back and connect the dots of my life and look ahead with anticipation of what God has in store for me. Instrumental in helping me gain perspective over the past 11 years is being involved in several small group communities like Convene. Left on my own, it is difficult to hold my life in perspective. My worldview becomes narrow and biased. Isolation breeds self-pity, negativity, and ultimately, hopelessness. It feeds my ego, my self-sufficiency, my need for control. It creates an inward spiral that draws me further into myself. In contrast, community helps keep me in perspective. It shows me that I’m not alone in my brokenness. It allows me to understand my trials and challenges relative to other good people’s struggles. It helps me examine my own lifestyle and character and forces me to challenge my own limiting beliefs. Community creates an outward spiral that draws others into my life.
I have dozens of passports, and I need to renew them constantly. No, I’m not James Bond or Jason Bourne. I don’t fly from country to country using alternative identities to evade the NSA, CIA, or MI6.
I just love people. I enjoy meeting, understanding, encouraging, and working with them. And for that I need a lot of passports.
One for my wife, two for my children, over thirty for my relatives and close friends, and dozens more for coworkers, clients, and the other people I engage every week.
A passport is an authorization to go someplace you have no inherent right to be. In relational terms, it is the permission that people give to others to enter into their lives, to learn their secrets, to know their struggles, to offer advice and correction.
If you want others to allow you into their lives—including your employees and customers—you must earn a relational passport from each person you engage. The best way to do so is to relate to others in such a way that they would answer “yes” to three key questions, each of which encompasses a variety of sub-questions that roll around in people’s minds when they are thinking of opening up to you:
- Can I trust you? Will you keep your word and follow through on your commitments? Will you guard confidential information? Will you continue to respect and value me if I allow you to see my mistakes? Can I trust you with the “fine china” of my life?
- Do you really care about me? Will you look out for my interests as well as your own? Will you take time to listen to me? Do you sincerely want to serve me? Why? Do you care enough to push past my outer defenses and patiently help me sort out things I myself don’t yet understand?
- Can you actually help me? Are you able to deal with my concerns and needs? How are you doing with your own challenges and struggles? What kind of experience do you have? Do you have a track record of successfully solving relational and business problems? If this problem is beyond the two of us, do you have the humility and wisdom to help me find another person who has the experience I need?
Let these questions echo in the back of your mind as you relate to others. Ask God to enable you to answer them by engaging others with his humility, patience, compassion, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, honesty, and wisdom (Col. 3:12; James 3:17). If you do so, you’ll be well on your way to having more passports than you ever dreamed.
Ken Sande is the founder of Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360 and the author of numerous books on biblical conflict resolution, including The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict.
Do you want to build something that keeps bearing fruit long after you’re gone? Discipleship is the process of pouring ourselves into the lives of others, of modeling wisdom, humility and a walk with God. It’s what we’re commanded to do, and it’s at the heart of our relationship with God.
Encourage your team to participate in things that are close to the heart of Jesus. They'll learn by doing and experience Him in fresh ways. Let’s say you feel God leading you to support of a local abused children’s shelter through your business. If you take a few team member volunteers along as you serve the kids and people running the shelter, the team members will feel good about helping and some will catch a vision that may exceed yours. Acts of love and kindness are contagious.
It’s exciting to develop people who want to live the abundant life and get in on the adventure of building a God-honoring company. The challenges can be big—the rewards are even bigger! We have our marching orders:
“The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'” (Matthew 28:18-20).
As you consider developing people with a Kingdom purpose, who comes to mind? What’s one thing you could do to help them in their journey?
The eagle is the bird with the longest life span. It can live as long as 70 years, but to reach that age, the eagle must make a very serious and difficult decision. When the eagle is 40 years old, its nails become tight and weak, making it hard to pick up its prey, which is necessary for its nourishment. Its long, sharp beak becomes curved and points toward its chest. Its feathers by now are old, thick and heavy, making flying difficult. The eagle then has to decide between two choices: to die or to face a very painful process of renewal. This process will take 150 days. First, the eagle must fly to a high mountain and find a stone wall where there is a nest so it can stay without having to fly. After finding this place, the eagle begins to hit its beak against the wall until it falls off. Now it must wait for a new beak to grow.
Next, the eagle must use this new beak to remove every talon. When the new claws grow in, it begins to pull every feather off. At the end of these five painful months, the eagle lifts its wings and flies, renewed for 30 more years of life.
In our lives, many times we have to get away for a time of renewal so that we can continue to have victorious lives. We have to let go of customs, traditions, and memories that cause us pain. We need to free ourselves from the weight of the past and look forward to a valuable and enjoyable renewed life.
Sitting in Seattle this morning. Heading to the warehouse shortly to begin my work day. It's been my job for many years now...the buying and selling of goods. By profession you could say I’m a merchant! I understand the flow of commerce, of goods and service. Yet, I’m always learning and developing. The better the exchange and value to the client, the better the yield. So, when I come to this passage in Proverbs, I’m gripped. I stop short with its charge: “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).
The idea of exchange is exciting. I gain knowledge and give it away. Yet, I’m reminded of school days: of cramming for a test, just-in-time learning, and as soon as the answer is written down, the knowledge goes with it. My nephew is preparing to take the SAT and ACT to gain entry to college. How can any of us remember all those the facts and processes? I shudder to think of my score if I took the test today.
So, ironically, today I’m working in a capacity of exchange that has been my job for 16 years now. And yet, I’m still paying for variable costs that could have been avoided if I had managed the product and logistics more efficiently. When will I learn? When will I buy wisdom, discipline and understanding? When will I own it and allow it to own me?
Thanks to my work as a chair with Convene, I’m reading a thought-provoking and comprehensive business-planning book, Business Model Generation by Osterwalder. Again, I’m always learning. I study to learn and grow so I can avoid pitfalls in business. I study, as well, to help others in my circles to avoid the same patterns. I want to own those ideas so I buy them with my time, study and practice.
I’m young enough to have many miles ahead but more in my rearview mirror...
What wisdom, discipline and understanding do I own? What have I purchased along the way? What wisdom do I need to keep and not sell in a transactional exchange, but see it become woven into the character of my life?
Even today, in the commerce of day, let me buy so I need to keep...and hold on to it...so I may become a man of wisdom, discipline and understanding.