Category Archives: Leadership

Seeing Through the Stained Glass

Yesterday I shared a story that appeared on the front page of the Fort Worth Star Telegram.  It was an article about Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary installing a series of custom stained glass images that “will immortalize Baptists who helped effect the culture change to more conservative attitudes in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Apparently the project was the dream of Dorothy Patterson, wife of the seminary’s president Paige Patterson.

“My dream was to portray the 20 year history of the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Church”, said Dorothy Patterson.

You can follow this link to read the complete article: Stained-Glass Windows Honor Leaders of Fort Worth Seminary

My post simply stated “There’s just something about this that rubs me the wrong way.  Am I alone?” and included a link to the article.

As it turns out, I am not alone.  So far there are 55 comments from 42 different people.  I will be the first to admit that this doesn’t fall under the category of “going viral”, but I was surprised at both the number of comments and the emotion behind many of them.

I am an infrequent blogger at best, but the response to the post made me want to better express my thoughts on the subject.

Let me begin by saying that I’m not against honoring men and women who’ve contributed to the kingdom.  I think their stories need to be told, and their examples should be held up for future generations.  In fact, looking through a few of the names and images of those in the project’s first stage, I am certain that those whom the Patterson’s are seeking to honor were (and are) men and women who genuinely love God and the church.  There isn’t one name I don’t respect.  In fact, many of them are pastors I have admired for years who have tremendous ministries, but I wonder – are they all deserving of stained glass?

Maybe plaques and portraits.  But stained glass in a chapel?

Stained glass has been used throughout history to tell the stories of the giants of the faith and to beautifully illustrate the basics of theology for a largely illiterate audience.  I admit that I may be elevating the medium of stained glass to a place it doesn’t deserve, but in my mind stained glass is a kind of sacred ground reserved for only a select few.

I’m not saying that a few of these individuals may not deserve to be immortalized in stained glass one day in the distant future, but for now it seems a bit premature to immortalize the major players in the conservative resurgence, especially when the wounds of that battle are still healing.

Taking it a little further, the whole project feels  slightly self-serving and comes off as an attempt to engineer a legacy.  In my thinking it is the role of future generations to look back and honor the contributions of their predecessors by immortalizing them in stone or glass.  However, in this case, it seems like those who’ve made a contribution to the Conservative Resurgence are trying to secure their place in history (and some would say their version of history) while they still can.  To be celebrated and immortalized is something you leave for history to do for you – not something you take upon yourself.

That being said, here is what I propose (as if anyone on The Hill cares)…

What if the seminary leveraged its tremendous research resources to unearth the stories of Southern Baptist pastors and missionaries who served and sacrificed anonymously for most of their lives?  What if we could find some accounts of a pastor who served for 30 years in a small country church meeting the needs of a rural farming community?  What if we could find an example of a missionary who went to a country to which she had never been and learned a language she did not speak, all so that she could love a people she had never met?

Over the next 50 years thousands of students will come to Southwestern to prepare for a life of ministry.  Imagine them walking through the chapel past those faces etched in glass.  In a culture that has become increasingly infatuated with the glow of celebrity, what better message can we convey to these students just starting their ministries than to tell the stories of the great men and women who faithfully served the Kingdom year after year without recognition, without applause, and without the promise of stained glass?

Am I being naive and idealistic? Probably. But if Dorothy can have a stained glass dream, so can I.

Beautiful Limitations

On a recent installment of Weekend Edition, NPR’s weekend news show, host Scott Simon was interviewing Cristina Pato, a Spanish musician who is best known for her work as a jazz pianist.

ImageDuring the interview I learned that she is also an accomplished vocalist and flutist, but it was another instrument that she plays on her latest jazz album that really caught my attention.

The bagpipes.

I had always associated the bag pipes with half-drunk scots wearing knee highs and kilts.  What is a female, Spanish, jazz musician doing playing the bagpipes?

Apparently bagpipes can be found in many different cultures all across the world.  Who knew?

Simon then played a clip of the Miles Davis classic “Blue Green” that Ms. Pato covered on her new album, but instead of the trumpet she uses the bagpipes.  I’m not a big fan of jazz but even I was impressed by what she was able to do with the pipes.

After the clip played she was asked how she got that sound out of an instrument that is not known for  its subtlety.

She said “It has so many beautiful limitations that it really makes you work harder to get things done.”

Beautiful limitations.

I have always heard that one of the characteristics of a good leader is an unquenchable optimism. No matter the circumstances a leader always sees a brighter future for his company, country, organization or church and wants to take others there with him.  Where others may look around them and only see limitations, a leader looks and sees beautiful limitations.

It’s not that the leader is choosing to ignore the hurdles or is blind to the obstacles; just the opposite. He sees them, in vivid detail he sees them, but he isn’t daunted.  He is energized. Where some can only see an obstacle he sees an opportunity.

How can any limitation be seen as beautiful?  It’s because the limitation will make both the leader and the organization better. To the leader any limitation is just another chance to imagine and create, to dream and innovate, to work harder at something the leader is passionate about, and for that he calls them beautiful.


What Do You Want?

Effective Decision Making

*As I write this I have assumed that time in prayer and the advice of wise counsel is already a part of your decision making process.  

The best leadership books I’ve read all seem to have an ability to take an idea or principle that has been floating around in my head, unformed and undefined, and transforming it from an intuitive hunch into an executable idea.  The books that have made the biggest impact don’t tend to pass along new information. Instead they have the knack for giving solid form to preexisting but intangible ideas. They provide “handles” that allow you to grasp the idea and really use it.

This past week I read The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker, and there were a few moments when the book did just that.

One of those moments was when Drucker was discussing decision making and he introduced and defined the term “Boundary Conditions”

If I understood it correctly boundary conditions are the objectives the decision has to reach for the results of the decision to be considered successful.  Boundary conditions ask the question, “What are the minimum goals this decision has to attain?”   They help to bring clarity to the things that really matter and keep the nonessentials in the background where they belong.

This was especially helpful to me because I am in the middle of a huge decision.  We are in the process of identifying and hiring our next worship pastor at Hulen Street Church.  Throughout the process I have been operating under assumed boundary conditions, goals and objectives that have been floating around in my head but I had never sat down and codified.  As I am in the process of making this decision I thought I would be helpful if I put the objectives for this hire down on paper.

As you read them remember these are the conditions that allow the decision maker to stay focused on the critical criteria that should direct the decision.  As I began to put these conditions down on paper I had to resist the temptation to get “granular” by defining every little desire I have and responsibility I want this new staff member to fulfill.While there are other responsibilities I would like our new worship pastor to be able and willing to do (ie. facilities management, youth worship, and general administration) they are not the critical responsibilities that will have the greatest impact on the church.  That being the case these are the criteria (from most important to least) I am using to focus my thinking in the decision making process.   These are the things we have to have, the rest (if we can get them) are just gravy.

4 Boundary Conditions for the Worship Pastor at Hulen Street Church

We are seeking to hire a Worship Pastor…

…who exhibits a greater desire to worship God and pastor people than to be on a platform.

…that has a high value of excellence and can establish, maintain, and hold others accountable to those same standards.

…who has the musical ability to continuously improve the musicianship of our band through coaching and training.

…who has the knowledge (or the willingness to gain the knowledge needed) to enhance the physical worship environment through media and technology.

Not only do boundary conditions help to define the desired result of the decision, but they are also useful in the information gathering portion of the decision making process.   For instance, if you were trying to decide who to hire or which direction to go you could use the boundary conditions to formulate 4-5 different questions or hypothetical situations that would come at each condition from a different angle.  Questions crafted from boundary conditions, and the answers they provide, are much more able to inform your decision

Are you facing a decision?  Chance are you already have a set of boundary conditions floating around in your head, but have you taken the 30 minutes needed to sit down to define them and refine them?  When you consider the months or even years that you will have to live with your decision, 30 minutes doesn’t see too much to give to help make it a good one.