Creating Trust Through Transparent Conversations

A leader within CRISTA Ministries said to me recently, “Transparency is almost always your best friend.” I have been thinking a lot about the concept of transparency, and what the Bible has to say about it. In a day and age when everyone seems to calculate their statements and responses in order to project the image they want –  or not offend others, or gain votes, or  win trust — I am realizing more and more the accuracy of the biblical teaching from Ephesians 4:15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Speaking the truth in love is not an easy thing for most of us. Actually pulling this off requires us to:

Walk in humility. Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” How we communicate openly and honestly is just as important as what we communicate. The tone of humility and grace helps pave the way for openness on the part of others.

Have a team of people you trust to help you see reality and gain wisdom. No one sees the whole picture. No one knows the truth completely. A group of people around us helps us see things from others’ perspectives. I John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” This fellowship not only keeps us in the light, but it helps us speak the truth in love.

Speak the truth as you see it with courage and a tone of tenderness. Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Be open to others who speak the truth to you. Not being defensive personally or professionally is a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity. Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.

I want to help others in my life grow and become everything God made them to be. Building a Christian ministry that reflects God’s desire to bring His Kingdom down to earth is a challenge, but it is well worth it.

I aspire to be transparent in conversations with my family and friends. I hope you noted that this is a lifestyle – it is not about adopting this as a tactic that rings hollow to those we are engaged with. I know how freeing and how challenging it can be to be open and honest in your communication with others. There is always some risk! Yet the other options just don’t sound that good to me.

Every Little Thing Means A Lot

You’ve probably heard of the New York Times bestseller Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, and It’s All Small Stuff by Dr. Richard Carlson. Every little bit counts.I copied this snippet from the book’s Amazon listing: “Are the little things in life driving you crazy? Isn’t it time you put these small annoyances into perspective once and for all?”

This #1 New York Times bestseller offers suggestions for daily changes that can add up to a more relaxed, stress-free life. Richard Carlson reveals ways to calm down, live in the present moment, let others have the glory at times, lower your tolerance to stress, trust your intuitions, and ultimately live each day as if it might be your last.

I have not read this book, but I get the point and agree with it.

But the title of this blog, “Every Little Thing Means a Lot,” is also true.

Everything communicates. Our body language, the tone of our voice, the exact content of the words we use. The font, the color and the size of the words we read. The accuracy of the things we say. The things we do, the things we don’t do.

I have an appreciation for good lawyers, because this is something they grasp. Details matter so much that they get paid real money to worry about them.

Leaders need to pay attention to the details.

For instance:

  • Don’t sign anything you have not read or don’t understand. Ugh. It is hard work to go the extra mile with proofing. It takes time and most often the document is fine anyway. When you have a leadership role in your family or at work, know and act like signing something means you are acknowledging its value.
  • Send well-written and well thought-out thank you notes. Few people do this anymore, even fewer make them sound personal. When I receive these and they are well done, I become more of a fan of the person who sent it.
  • Make good on your word. Do what you say. Through your follow-through, trust is built or diminished. Quit saying you will call someone to get together when you never intend to. This habit quickly wears down trust. I keep a note card in my pocket and write down what I promise.
  • Remember birthdays, anniversaries and important dates.
  • Learn people’s names. One of the most important words we hear is the sound of our own names.
  • While walking around our campus I witnessed one of our Vice Presidents bend down and pick up some litter and throw it in the trash. This was not in the job description, but man, was I impressed!
  • A person I work with on campus always rises when someone enters their office. This shows value and appreciation for the person paying a visit. I am trying to do the same thing.

The list could go on. Make your own. My point is that these things may seem small to us, but to others they will probably have a big effect. Have fun doing random acts that make a big difference.

Bob Lonac
President & C.E.O. of CRISTA Ministries

“Jesus” Leader are Powerful

The closer you get to Jesus, the more powerful you become as a leader.

A man asked the Pope, “How can you actually do more when you’re spending so much time alone?” The Pope's answer was, “How can I get anything done without being on God’s agenda every moment of the day?”

The value in our own walk with Christ is not only to make us into all that He desires for us to become, but to be the light of the world. We are called to make a difference in this life, and the closer our walk with Jesus, the bigger difference we will make in a world that desperately needs hope and love.

Why is this?

Jesus was the most powerful leader who has ever walked this earth. I would define ‘powerful leadership’ as both how many followers you have, and the effect you have on others’ lives for the good. Jesus wins hands-down on this measurement. Therefore, we need to learn how Jesus led, and get our power, insight and direction from Him.

The problem is that the Bible is very clear that “God’s ways are not our ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Here are some things the Bible challenges us with in regards to powerful leadership:

  • Humility trumps lording over people.
  • Great leaders know it is not about them, but about inspiring followers to a transforming vision.
  • Wisdom comes from multiple voices. Listening trumps talking.
  • The things we see are not the real and important things. The unseen things are more valuable than we know.
  • You cannot fake leadership. In the end we are all “found out.” Leaders know that the biggest challenge they have is in leading themselves, not others. Leading is just as much about who you are as what you do.
  • You can’t lead without knowing those you lead and being known by your close followers. This, in turn, casts a big shadow. When you make a point to know your team, they are more likely to do the same with the people around them.
  • You can do nothing of eternal importance without being grafted into Jesus who is the fruit-producing vine. We are only the branches. (John 15)
  • An intimate relationship with Jesus that is lived out daily, moment by moment, is the whole ballgame.

What is your reaction to these leadership concepts? Many of these I have heard and believed for a long time. But these truisms only empower you as a leader when you actually put them into practice, constantly and faithfully working them into your daily life. We know from experience that this is a nonstop battle. Our own humanity works against this and the evil in our world tries to interfere with the transforming process that Jesus wants to carry out in the lives of leaders.

As President and C.E.O. of CRISTA Ministries, it is my hope that every one of our leaders sees the purpose and value of walking the narrow path. We do this by recognizing that everything we do, great or small, has great significance.

Someone once asked the Pope how he is able to carry the burden of his office and to get so much done in a day. His answer was that he rises early and prays for five hours before he starts the day. “How can you actually do more when you’re spending so much time alone?” came the reply. The simply answer was, “how can I get anything done without being on God’s agenda every moment of the day?”

Jesus called this the narrow gate. I want to be a leader who goes through that gate!

President Bob Lonac
CRISTA Ministries

Prayer

Each year we have held an annual week of prayer at CRISTA. CRISTA was founded on prayer and has a long history of inviting God into our conversations on a daily basis. We hold various prayer times throughout the year but we always begin the new year with a week of focus on prayer. We are serious about prayer. The purpose is to both align the mission with His will and to ask for His blessings on our mission. We gather in various venues throughout this special week, sponsoring prayer walks to focus on each ministry and ending the week with a four hour corporate prayer and fasting session Friday afternoon on January 10. This is very important as we look back and reflect on God’s blessings and rededicate ourselves to the mission of loving God by serving people.

Our theme verse this year is (John 15:4) “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Although this is a pretty clear admonition from the lips of Jesus Himself, it does not seem to me to be an easy thing to pull off. The idea of remaining in Him is far more than a tip of the hat to God in our morning devotions. It is an all encompassing, personally transforming, minute by minute experience of putting out trust in God and living like we have done so 24/7. Religious activity does not have the aroma of abundant life. Only the Spirit of God, as He works through those who are “all in” will quench the inner vacancy that God but in every persons heart. At CRISTA we are trying our best to create a corporate culture that fans the flames of the work of Christ among us and through us.

A Community of Service

The employee and customer service experience is what defines CRISTA’s culture. Our mission to love God by serving people comes to life through our staff and volunteers.

Our employees are professionals who are passionate about growing in their personal relationship with Jesus both personally and in relationship with their colleagues. Every division meets weekly for a time to look at God’s word and pray together. It is a common experience to stop and pray with each other, with those we are serving and just about anyone else. We are acutely aware of our need for God’s Spirit to work in and through us.

In each of our ministries, the people we serve, whether they are students at Kings or Seattle Urban Academy, seniors who live on our campus, radio listeners, veterinarians, the poor in communities around the world, or guests at our two camps, they all experience highly professional, deeply engaged, passionate followers of Jesus.

People here are called to do this work. We pour time and training into them in order to help them grow and learn. We hold each other accountable in caring ways because we understand we are all flawed human beings. We “speak the truth in love.”  The results are in our own lives and in the lives of those we serve.

CRISTA will continue to grow and build on our 67 years of exceptional service to every community we are in across the United States and around the world.

CRISTA Prayer Week 2013

2013 should be a banner year at CRISTA Ministries. We are beginning the new year with CRISTA Prayer Week, January 3-9, 2013. We are working hard to include our entire world-wide ministries. We will start this week with a special devotion at Schirmer Auditorium on Thursday morning and conclude on the following Wednesday, January 9 with prayer walks around the campus. On Friday night you will find many of us gathering in Reimer library for a prayer and fasting event from 6:00 pm until midnight.

Our theme verse for 2013 is Romans 12:2, Do not conform 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. This verse reminds us that we have a special mission to accomplish – to live out God’s will in each one of us and through CRISTA as a whole.

CRISTA Prayer Week’s primary purpose is not to collect a huge list of prayer requests to ask God to grant. Intercession and petition are very important, but first and foremost this is a week to remind us about our relationship with Christ, our calling to daily be in His presences, to worship and adore Him, and to ask Him to be the one who guides and leads us. We are seeking to know Him and His will for us, focusing on those this year, and then ask Him for the desires of our heart.

There is nothing more important than this for CRISTA in this special week. I hope everyone in our community will enthusiastically participate. Many of our individual ministries will schedule prayer time with their team. I hope the kids at all our schools will learn more about prayer, I hope all our senior residents set aside special times to pray, I hope our listeners in broadcasting in the Northwest, Canada and Texas will pray with us, Camps will join in and all our overseas offices for World Concern and CVM will participate.

The exercise of prayer is hard work. It takes commitment. It takes faith. It takes time. Whether you are a staff member at CRISTA, a volunteer, a church partner or a donor, I encourage you to be part of this by participating in one of the events or participating in your own way privately.

Grace, Truth, and Relationships

CRISTA - Grace and TruthThis morning I read the opening chapter of the gospel of John which states that Jesus came to bring us grace and truth.  Those two words jumped out at me anew as I read, and I thought to myself, “Easier said than done.” I find myself fairly often trying to balance these two supposedly opposite values of grace and truth in my relationships.  Even this morning I was chatting with someone and encouraging him to share some difficult things with a colleague, which is not going to be easy.

We tend to think we are going to either win or lose in these hard discussions.  I think that there is a third way.  It is not splitting hairs down the middle or requiring one person to win while the other loses. We are capable of holding on to both grace and truth at the same time.  It is about how we feel towards the person we are addressing, the tone of voice we use, and non-verbal communication that shows you love and care about them and the issue at hand. I know in my heart when someone can say hard things to me and it comes from a place of love and commitment to our relationship, I am built up. Build someone up today. Pray for grace and truth, and give it a try.

Let’s Re-Brand Christianity Together

What marks the Christian "brand"?

I believe we have a significant challenge with the “brand” we call Christianity. 

What is a brand? If you look it up in the dictionary, ”brand” is described as a physical logo—the “stamp” that captures the unique picture of the organization, business, product, etc.

Scott Bedbury, in his book The New Brand World, takes a different and much more powerful look at what is involved in a brand. He writes that a brand is, “the result of a synaptic process in the brain.” According to Bedbury, rather than being merely a physical image, a brand is an experience.

What an individual thinks and feels when they encounter a brand is what makes all the difference. For instance, what a customer actually feels and experiences when they go into a Starbucks, or buys and wears a Nike product, is what drives people to connect. Likewise, what a person actually sees and feels when they encounter anyone who claims to follow Christ will influence their perceptions and feelings about what it means to be a Christian.

I believe that we have a significant challenge with the brand called “Christianity”. I think this challenge is encapsulated in this quote from Mark Twain: “If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be…  a Christian.”

When I encounter and get into honest conversation with friends who do not consider themselves Christian, here are some of the things I hear them say about Christians:

  • They are some of the most judgmental people I know!
  • They don’t drink, smoke, dance, or have any fun!
  • They are narrow-minded!
  • Church really doesn’t do it for me— I just don’t get it!

My hope is that  we would instead live lives so that people would say things like: 

  • I want to be around them, they are quality people. 
  • What do they have that I don’t?
  •  They serve the poor, oppressed, needy next door and around the world.
  •  They are generous with their love and resources. 
  •  They are on the cutting-edge of business, art, and music.
  • They live life with no fear.

Many of you originally came to Christ through meeting people like this!

I want CRISTA to be a light leading to the latter list. We have a clear opportunity to create a model of serving people through exceptional professional performance and delivering those services as passionate believers who actually live out the fruit of God’s Spirit in their professional and personal calling.

We have potential to make a significant impact in the community by being the brand. Let’s be on a journey to grow in this together.

I’ll leave you with this verse that so clearly exemplifies this call on our lives as Christians.

 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14

Bob Lonac

Bob Lonac
President & CEO
CRISTA Ministries

 

Nothing but the best from SUA, CRISTA and followers of Christ

Seattle Urban Academy staff, faculty and students celebrate a great night at the 2012 Miracle Event

Seattle Urban Academy staff, faculty and students celebrate a great night at the 2012 Miracle Event

It’s Wednesday morning, May 9. I just arrived at the office to write this blog after our annual Seattle Urban Academy (SUA) fundraising banquet at Benaroya Hall. Over 245 people heard the stories of three students who have had life transforming experiences through their involvement with SUA. This is a high school for youth at-risk with a faculty (one of which is a Fulbright scholar) and an administration that not only are great educators, but show up every day with a deep, genuine love for the students.

96% of SUA seniors graduate from high school.  89% go on from SUA to college, trade school or sustained employment. You only get this kind of outcome when you have people who are genuinely called by God to do their work, and therefore are gifted—and equipped—to do the work.

This is what CRISTA is all about. The CRISTA family of ministries serve people around the world through excellence in education, senior living, media and global relief and development. The CRISTA mission is carried out by highly professional, committed followers of Jesus Christ expressing their love for Him.

We want to continue to grow closer to Christ and grow in our ability to do His work in practical and life-changing ways in every one of our ministries. If we are called by God, I believe we should strive to be the very best at whatever we do. No mediocre work by His followers! 

Bob Lonac

Bob Lonac
President & CEO
CRISTA Ministries

Leadership of Transparency and Compassion

I enjoyed a recent opportunity to speak with the CRISTA Leadership Team at our annual summit meeting.

Last week we gathered 93 of our leaders for our annual three-day training session. Every year, this is one of our most important events. We invited Bill Robinson, President Emeritus of Whitworth University, to speak to us about leadership. This topic selection came out of a critical look at feedback received from our staff. Our goal for the time was to, as the leadership group, become 100% transparent and clear about what we expect of ourselves as leaders and how we can communicate that expectation to the 2,000 staff serving so enthusiastically in each of our seven different ministries.

It will take a few months to finish the process and I will make sure to keep you posted via this blog. I am grateful for the unity and commitment God is building through these great leaders He has brought to CRISTA.

We ended the training with the below quote from Henri Nouwen that exemplifies the kind of leaders we want to be.

“Mostly we think of people with great authority as higher up, far away, hard to reach.  But spiritual authority comes from compassion and emerges from deep inner solidarity with those who are ‘subject’ to authority.  The one who is fully like us, who deeply understands our joys and pains or hopes and desires, and who is willing and able to walk with us, that is the one to whom we gladly give authority and whose ‘subjects’ we are willing to be. It is the compassionate authority that empowers, encourages, calls forth hidden gifts, and enables great things to happen.  True spiritual authorities are located in the point of an upside-down triangle, supporting and holding into the light everyone they offer their leadership to.”

More than ever, I am determined to continue building leaders of compassion here at CRISTA.

Bob Lonac

Bob Lonac
President & CEO
CRISTA Ministries