Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Building or breaking trust

Trust is a kind of “psychological contract” between persons in organizations. Zigarelli (2005) defines this “contract” further: “It simply means that employees perceive that there is an unwritten bargain in place between employer and employee. The employee’s end of the bargain is to do a decent job and to function within the established rules of conduct for the workplace. In exchange for this, the employee believes the employer has obligations in the areas of pay, promotion, job security, work assignments, hours required, and so on.”

Trust is critical in an organization because people will only take creative risks when they feel secure.  Elmer (2006) defines trust as, “the ability to build confidence in a relationship so that both parties believe the other will not intentionally hurt them but will act in their best interest.” In the leader-follower relationship, both parties contribute to the level of trust that exists between them. Consequently, if a person inherently lacks trust in his or her leaders without just cause, that relationship will be quickly deteriorate and eventually everyone loses.

Scheld and Dodrill (2003) researched whether or not Christian organizations have intrinsically high levels of trust. They surveyed over 15,000 employees of these organizations and the results show that simply being a Christian organization doesn’t mean immunity from low trust levels. The authors identified specific organizational attitudes, norms, and values that influence trust. The five key factors they discovered (in order of significance) were: a) concern for employees, b) openness and honesty, c) identification [with the mission, vision, and goals of the organization], d) reliability, and e) competence.

The move toward building trust in an organization begins with the leader. Zigarelli (2005) reminds Christian leaders that the “principle of reaping and sowing is in full operation here. Trust begets trust, distrust begets distrust.” He encourages Christian leaders to permit trust-oriented questions to enter the decision-making processes of their organization. He suggests questions such as: “Will my decision have the effect of increasing or decreasing the trust that employees place in me?” “Will the manner in which I am reaching this decision make my employees suspicious?” And “If I were on the receiving end of this decision, would I trust that the decision maker had my best interests in mind?”


Mike Henry offers these lists of trust building or breaking behaviours in two separate blog posts:

Trust building behaviours

  1. Give Win First. No one ever created a win-win relationship without letting the other person win first. If you refuse to let the other person win, you force everyone to contract and withdraw.
  2. Listen and learn. Attention, focus and time are scarce commodities. Consider how much (or little) time you spend focused on a single activity or person. Actively listen to others and work to understand them twice as long as normal today.
  3. Appreciate and value others. Simply forcing yourself to listen and focus doesn’t mean you will learn. Appreciation is the point at which you engage. Bring energy to maintain the connection with others out of your own internal desire. Appreciating and valuing another person builds trust. (Hat tip: Monica Diaz’s book “Otheresteem.”)
  4. Remember what you hear and see. If you appreciate something, you will process and consider it in a way that will help you remember. As you remember what you hear and see, others rest more in their understanding of you, and that builds trust.
  5. Trust others. Nothing betrays trust more than the lack of trust. Most often, people who won’t trust others do so because they can’t be trusted either. If you would never steal from someone else, why are you always afraid the other person will steal from you? Trust first.
  6. Find solutions. Begin with the belief that the other person can succeed. Don’t tell them their idea won’t work. Help create ways to make them successful.
  7. Make a sacrifice. Sometimes the solution to someone else’s problem is a sacrifice on your part. Be willing to be the solution to your teammate’s problems.
  8. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t make the same mistake twice. People will forgive errors made by genuine people attempting to do the right thing. Work hard to avoid repeat mistakes.
  9. Make it right. Even though errors can erode trust, you build trust when you fix a mistake well. Be proactive and do the right thing.
  10. Give generous credit and praise. People want to matter. If you help people be important and valuable, you become valuable.
  11. Do what you say. It all comes down to this. If you are not capable of delivering, people will like you but not trust you to lead.

Trust breaking behaviours

  1. Practice creative paranoia. Remember, you’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you.
  2. Make commitments to get others to do something. Choose what you do based on how you feel at any given moment.
  3. When someone suggests an idea, show them everything that’s wrong with it. They’ll love you for speaking the truth.
  4. Point out the mistakes of others. “Hey, they can’t get better if they don’t know where to improve!”
  5. Take credit for every good thing that happens on your team.
  6. Keep score on who drops the ball and remind frequently.
  7. When your leaders ask about a mistake that was made, make sure and let them know which team member made the mistake.
  8. Change your mind frequently with little reason or input.
  9. Speak in vague terms. If they go off and make a mistake based on their misunderstanding, that’s they’re fault.
  10. Look out for Number 1. Let’s face it, no one is more important than you. You’re at the center of the universe. If you don’t look out for yourself, who will. So make sure you get yours. After that, you’re free to try to be fair to others.


Elmer, D. (2006). Cross-cultural servanthood: Serving the world in Christ-like humility. Downers Grove, ILL: InterVarsity Press, p. 77.

Henry, Mike. (July 19, 2011). 11 Ways to Build Trust in Your Team. Smart Blog on Leadership, Message posted to

_________. (July 20, 2011). Top 10 Trust Killers. Lead Change Group. Message posted to

Scheld, K. & Dodrill, C. (2003). How High is Your Trust Level?: 5 Steps to Creating a High-Trust Organization, Christian Management Report, December 2003.

Zigarelli, M. (2005). Building Trust in Your Organization. Regent Business Review 18, (July/August)

Monday, July 18, 2011

The best of all professions? Really?

“The Christian ministry is the worst of all trades, but the best of all professions.” – Sir Issac Newton

Here’s a portion from a paper presented at the Orthodox Church in America’s 14th All-American Council “Our Church and the Future” in Toronto (2005): “A “normal” North American family seldom if ever encourages a child to pursue a religious vocation. Why is this so? This may be a generalization, but the priesthood is suffering from low self-esteem. Whether this is the product of priests giving a poor impression of themselves or from widespread secularization, priestly ministry is not the high profile career it once was. If in past times an ecclesiastical career was synonymous with social prestige and financial security, today pastoral ministry means being part of a class of people who are on the fringe of society and who may in fact be destined for a life of financial insecurity.” (p. 9)

I am reminded of the "hireling" figure mentioned in John 10:11-13 when considering some that might pursue ministry for its “social prestige and financial security.” Motivation for vocational ministry is such a dynamic thing. A once enthusiastic pastor can sadly be drained of their motivation by the struggle with conflict, bureaucratic structures, the slow pace of change, and a nagging sense of powerlessness to make a difference.

Consider Paul’s experiences compared to the “super-apostles” as recorded in his second letter to the Corinthians:

“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? ” (2 Corinthians 11:23–29, NIV)

But then suddenly Paul pauses to write: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (v. 30). Garland (2001) writes: “It is odd to boast about one’s weakness, but Paul’s declaration in 2 Cor 12:10 becomes the key for unlocking the purpose of this peculiar tactic. His weakness has a “revelatory function.” He will therefore tell tales of battle skirmishes, heavenly journeys with divine revelations, and miraculous cures but turn them on their heads. They do not show how brave and wonderful he is, but how great and wonderful the grace of God is that sustains him in his weakness.”

God triumphs amid human weakness, embodying the principle of Christ’s crucifixion and perhaps the notion of filling up in our flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions (cf. Col. 1:24).

Maybe now is the best time to encourage a child to pursue a religious vocation. When the social prestige and financial security are lessened the wonderful grace of God that sustains us is truly known.



Garland, D. E. (2001). Vol. 29: 2 Corinthians (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (p. 504). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

“Our Church and the Future”. (2005). Orthodox Church in America’s 14th All-American Council, Toronto, ON. Retrieved from

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Forming a Christian Heart: The Dream

One of the most popular worldview storylines is the story of the Dream (i.e., the American dream, the European dream, the Canadian dream). These dreams tell of a place where you can start with nothing, and, by your own hard work and determination, rise out of poverty and obscurity to become a successful person. Or perhaps a story of individuals finding security not through connectivity, kindness, sustainable development, and respect for human rights.

Our major institutions—education, business, even family—distribute this story to us in various forms. The media (esp. advertising) take this story and then reinforce it with alarming effectiveness to every component of our lives.


Jon Tyson (2011) in his article “Breaking the Mold” says the result of buying into this worldview holds “massive sway over the actual practices of our lives. Afraid of being left behind or missing out, we shop, browse, sit, watch, work, and spend, all in pursuit of this dream story. These practices set the pace for what we actually value, and these values often determine the major choices and habits that define our lifestyle. Here lies the tension we all feel: Our theology is defined by Jesus, but our lives are defined by some other lord.”


Reflect on this image as you read this quote from Tyson’s article:


Imagine yourself in first-century Rome, walking to attend one of the local house-church gatherings. You walk past the Palatine Hill, where the elites of Rome watch over the world's most powerful city and where Christian martyrs had been set on fire in order to light up Nero's drunken parties. You walk past the local theater, and hear the crowds roar at the retelling of the stories of Rome's history. You pass a group of Roman soldiers, taking a break from enforcing peace in the world—the kind of peace that had crucified a Jewish rabbi named Jesus about 25 years earlier. You continue on past the Circus Maximus, a giant chariot-racing stadium and gladiatorial complex, and you realize other believers had been martyred there for disloyalty to the empire.

You walk past dozens of temples to Roman gods, houses of prostitution, images of the emperor on buildings, temples, coins, and benches, and then enter a house where believers are meeting to worship Jesus as Lord and seek first his kingdom. There one of the elders announces that Paul has written a letter to your church. As you listen to teachings about…Then he reads: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:2, NIV)

You, a first-century Christian, would not have thought of one immediate social or political issue when hearing these words. Instead, you would have been overwhelmed with the reality that everything in your life—the story, institutions, practices, values, entertainment, and lifestyle of the empire—was working in unity to conform you into a good Roman citizen.

It was not one thing in particular, but everything in general, that was pressing you into its mold. The goal of a good Roman citizen was to embody Rome's values, to be an icon (a small image) of the empire as a whole.

Now reflect on this image as you read this:


Look around your lives today. You drive past hundreds of billboards everyday, all kinds of stores and services that want to convince you to spend your money with them so you can have possessions and symbols of success designed to produce envy in others.

You log on to your computer and can socialize with friends anywhere; some take on a second identity and form dangerous relationships that can get them into deep trouble.

You turn on the TV and can easily find images of violence you would never want to invade your real life – yet it’s entertainment to most of us.

Then you turn to read Romans 12:2 in your Bible: “Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (The Message)

Now you too realize that everything in your life—the story, institutions, advertisements, practices, values, entertainment, and lifestyle of the culture—is all working in unity to conform you into an icon of a good secular citizen.


Encouraging people to think Christianly about worldviews requires teaching approaches that raise awareness of an array of influences and processes by which people determines the pursuits of their lives. A worldview emerges from both the activities individuals engage in and the beliefs they maintain.

Many people in our congregations  interact daily with institutions, businesses, and schools that promote worldliness for our time. Any serious discipling work here has to take into account not just the sinful nature and tendencies of the flesh, but the realities of the world that powerfully and discreetly pull us into its story and mode.

How do these everyday worldviews play out in real life? Consider that if my identity – my heart – is invested in financial security rather than relationships then I may not think twice about long-distance relocating to pursue that dream opportunity with the big salary, even if it means leaving long-term relationships. Or, if my heart is invested in drawing my worth from what I own, then I will be much more vulnerable to using credit (money I don’t have) and go into debt to gain the possessions I don’t need to impress people I don’t even like. Smile

Our worldviews form in us like a story we buy in to. They are built on our desires (sinful or pure), they play off of our fears and drive us toward the things that make us feel validated. Because of this, we are attached to them, we feel deeply about them, and in some cases, we are neither fully aware of them nor able to explain them.

These series of posts have not been about forming an infallible way of thinking because forming the heart is about more than ideas. It takes into account the things we believe about what is real vs. what is not, how we respond to injustice, human need or evil, how we come to value work or play, our attitudes toward people who mistreat us, the relationships we choose to enter into, how we understand our identity, and what we do with our money.

The point of all this is not to develop an abundant intellect but to live an abundant life (cf. John 10:10). Let me close with this prayer from Paul:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14–19, TNIV)


Tyson, J. (2011). “Breaking the Mold”, Leadership Journal, June 13, 2011. Retrieved from

Friday, July 1, 2011

Forming a Christian Heart: Therapy

What aspects of modern life do you most appreciate?


Let’s consider the advances in knowledge which have made these possible. For example, technology relies on advances in sciences like physics, biology, geology, etc. The result is that we can build homes and cities, stay warm, store and cook food. Advances in medical knowledge rely on sciences like chemistry, biology, physiology, etc. The result is that we can treat illness; cure diseases, relieve suffering, etc. Overall, these things positively affect our quality of life.

But where does the knowledge of psychology and therapy fit into Hidden Worldviewsthis? What benefits has it brought? Wilkens and Sanford write: “The prevalence of therapy tells us something about the pursuit of salvation – we have this inkling that our lives are not yet as good as they can or should get. This represents a discontent with a partial life and a desire to pursue fullness.” (Hidden Worldviews, p. 161)

Discussions about wholeness in the Christian life bring to mind Paul’s comments: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (1 Thess.5:23-24). Throughout the letter Paul has been concerned with his readers dedicating their lives to God. Now he prays that God will “sanctify” his readers “through and through”; i.e. no part of our lives are unaffected by God’s influence.

Psychology seeks to help people through advancing research knowledge and practices of psychotherapy, consulting, counselling, etc. In general, the goal is to build whole and healthier people and communities.


But, what does it mean to be psychologically healthy? In general, it means possessing the tools for coping with difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook in which a person remains focused, flexible, and creative in bad times as well as good. As a worldview, psychology and therapy are affected by assumptions about the nature of humankind (and by what authoritative source we know this), the source of the problems people encounter, what solutions are effective, and what “health” looks like. 

Is “psychological health” a preoccupation for you? Your worldview may start being affected depending on how you interpret Counterfeit gospels2salvation through Jesus Christ. Trevin Wax in his book Counterfeit Gospels (2011) describes key points in the aberrant “therapy gospel” as: a) the Fall (i.e. human problem) is primarily about woundedness; the failure to reach our potential or wholeness, the lie we bought in to; b) Christ’s incarnation and death prove our inherent worth as humankind and empowers us to wholeness; c) salvation then is about healing or wholeness.

Aside from these obvious interpretive concerns, it seems there are aspects of following Christ that surpass the prominence of achieving psychological health. For example, the primary goal for a Christian is to know the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ which is eternal life (Jn. 17:3). Also, sometimes the primary way Christians know God is by enduring trials and experiencing troubles (cf. James 1:2-4; 1 Cor. 1:8-11). Do we talk about these harder aspects of discipleship enough? Perhaps we would prefer to think, counsel, and teach about the healing benefits of discipleship rather its costs. 

Still, an important biblical concept in this discussion is peace. Its nuances include fulfillment, completion, maturity, soundness of mind, harmony, security (both individual and communal), and well-being. However, peace could be disturbed if one does not live before the Lord and others in righteousness. In fact, peace is one of the fruits of righteousness (cf. Isa. 32:17–18). 

Traditionally, biblical teaching tells us it is knowing God through Jesus Christ (i.e., eternal life) and holiness that leads to peace not vice versa. When psychological health is pursued for itself, it doesn’t always lead to greater holiness.


Wax, T. (2011). Counterfeit gospels: Rediscovering the good news in a world of false hope. Chicago, ILL: Moody Publishers. 

Wilkens, S. & Sanford, M. (2009). Hidden worldviews: Eight cultural stories that shape our lives. Downers Grove, ILL: InterVarsity Press.