The Trust Factor

by Jeff Faull

Stephen M.R. Covey calls it “the one thing that changes everything.”  When you have it, you can move forward quickly, confidently and positively.  When you don’t have it, your enterprise, organization or endeavor is hindered, even paralyzed.  According to Covey, that one thing that changes everything is trust.  Covey’s New York Times Best Seller, in fact, is titled The Speed of Trust.
Covey maintains the one commodity often overlooked and underrated in organizational health and efficiency is this trust factor.  He is not nostalgically longing for the days of deals sealed with a handshake or a verbal commitment, but he does maintain that where genuine trust exists, progress is made and the speed of our accomplishments and productivity is accelerated.  In fact, Covey introduces one whole chapter with the striking statement, “nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.”  He repeatedly affirms that “the ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is the key leadership competency of the new global economy.”
Covey spends the remainder of the book fleshing out practices and behaviors that create, build and maintain trust. He calls them “the thirteen behaviors”. The thirteen behaviors he suggests for trust building are:

  1. Talk straight: avoid spin and doublespeak; kindly tell truth and paint an accurate picture of reality
  2. Demonstrate respect: display kindness and respect, even when there is no apparent reward
  3. Create transparency: be authentic and honest; have a “nothing to hide approach” that removes suspicion and mistrust
  4. Right Wrongs: apologize and admit when we’re wrong; try to make it up to people when we fail them
  5. Show loyalty: be loyal to other people on the team.  Never throw others under the bus.  Keep confidential information private.  Protect each other’s reputations.
  6. Deliver results: do what you promised; over-deliver; be punctual and thorough in following-through; as Covey says, “establish a track record of results.”
  7. Get better:  constantly grow and improve; consider and respond to constructive advice and even criticism
  8. Confront reality:  be willing to see things as they are; own what is un-pleasant. Jim Collins said in Good to Great, “confront the brutal facts.”
  9. Clarify expectations:  overcommunicate; never assume that everyone knows what is expected; clarify desired results and unacceptable alternatives
  10. Practice accountability:  insist on ownership of outcomes from yourself and from others
  11. Listen first:  seek to understand; open ears before opening the mouth
  12. Keep commitments:  do what we say we are going to do
  13. Extend trust:  we cannot be trusted if we’re unwilling to trust others first

These ideas – this whole book – should be an unnecessary reminder for Christians.  It wouldn’t be too difficult to attach specific Scriptures onto each of these thirteen behaviors.  We are followers of the One who said, “let your yes be yes and let your no be no.”  We believe the claim of the Psalmist when he described integrity as one who “swears to his own hurt and changes not,” (Ps 15:4).  We resonate with the Apostle who tells us to “put aside falsehood and speak truthfully to one another.”  The benefits of the speed of trust should be ours by default.  This is where we live and should be a given for believers.  Nowhere should the value of trust be more evident than in the church world.
We all know, sadly, that trust is painfully lacking not only in our culture but in churches as well.  Dysfunction and disingenuous behavior by both individuals and teams in leadership only perpetuates suspicion and difficulty.
Remember the various people that Paul recalled in some of his most trying moments:

  • Onesiphorus, who showed up when everyone else deserted
  • Timothy, a son in the faith and kindred spirit to Paul, genuinely concerned with others’ welfare more than his own
  • Epaphroditus, one who persevered in his ministry through life-threatening illness
  • Stephanus, devoted to the Church and her ministry in Greece along with his family
  • Aquila and Priscilla, who “risked their necks” for Paul

Paul trusted all these people deeply; he knew he could count on them because of the integrity and character they had demonstrated.
Now more than ever, followers of Jesus need to rebuild and inspire trust in a world that seems to have lost the concept.

What I Wish my Elders Knew about Me

by Rick Grover 

Let’s face it.  The relationship between elders and a senior minister is tricky.  When I started as the senior minister of East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, one of our elders told me we had to learn to dance together without stepping on each other’s toes.  Indeed.  It took time, patience, humility and a lot of communication, but I can honestly say our elders and I are now doing the waltz together. 
You can too.
When I talk with senior ministers around the country, I hear a similar story: “I wish my elders knew __________ about me…”  Here are five of the most common “blank fillers” ministers wish their elders knew about them.
1. I wish my elders knew me personally and not just professionally.  Our relationships cannot completely center on the church’s wins to celebrate, conflicts to resolve, staff/volunteer issues, or finances.  I know that I work much better when I know we are friends and we’ve got each other’s backs.
2. I wish my elders knew I am for them and not against them.  I know I get defensive at times, but “we’re on the same team,” and I’m playing to win with you, not to boost my individual stats.  I want to learn from you and share with you.  Forgive me for the times I spout off about my “wonderful” vision and get frustrated when I feel like you’re holding things back.  Thank you for leading with faith, and with a healthy dose of caution.
3. I wish my elders knew how hard I work at preaching, leading the staff, visiting the sick, “marrying and burying,” witnessing to the lost, discipling the saved … and still protecting time for my wife and kids.  Someone once told me it must be nice to work one day a week.  It took effort not to hit him.  I know that you, my brother and elder, are working very hard in your career and in leading our congregation well.  Thank you for acknowledging that I am, too. 
4. I wish my elders knew how much I love the church.  I really do.  I want to see the church grow in healthy ways, and I get just as frustrated as you do when the church is plateaued or in decline.  My work here is not just a job.  I love the people I serve, even when a few of them get under my skin. 
5. I wish my elders knew how hurting and alone I feel at times.  While it’s not my intent to complain, there are moments when I just want to throw in the towel.  I’m sure you have felt that way before.  If I can’t be vulnerable with those who hired me and can fire me, to whom do I talk about these moments?  Fellow elders: ensure that your preacher participates in a pastors’ covenant group where we can let down every guard, talk about how we’re really feeling, encourage and support each other, and let brothers look into every dark corner of our souls.
Elders, as one of these senior ministers who wants to know you better and be better known by you, thank you for fulfilling your role of shepherding, teaching, and caring for the flock. 
Your task is difficult yet rewarding.  It is demanding yet enriching.  It is burdensome yet fulfilling.  Thank you for getting to know your preacher.  Thank you for encouraging him, praying for him, and letting him know we’re in it together.  All you need to do is learn to dance without stepping on each other’s toes.

Conflicted Calling

by Dick Wamsley 

Sometimes Christian leaders struggle with apparent conflicts in their roles.  Like the two-faced image of the Roman god Janus, we feel pulled from opposing directions when deciding what action to take as elder, pastor, shepherd… 

Peter, a recognized leader of the apostles in the infant church in Jerusalem, dealt with this conflicting pull.  On the way to the Mount of Olives following the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me…,” to which Peter flatly, courageously, replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will,” (Matthew 26:30-33).  Only moments later, around a fire in the courtyard of Caiaphas’ house, Peter cowardly denied that he knew the Man being tried inside. 

Peter also seemed conflicted in the calling Jesus issued to him on another occasion.  Soon after Jesus began preaching, he saw Peter and his brother, Andrew, fishing on the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus simply said, “Come…”  That was a calling to aggressively seek other disciples.  Peter and Andrew immediately left the nets.  Yet after the events of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and death, Peter went back to fishing.  Following the resurrection, Jesus met Peter again at the Sea of Galilee, and questioned Peter three times about the sincerity of his love for Him, and Peter replied three times affirmatively.  Jesus then told him to feed his lambs and take care of and feed his sheep – a call to be a shepherd (John 21:1-19).  

We sometimes feel conflicted in our roles, but God’s expectations of us are always in line with his Word and in what He calls us to do.  We just struggle in knowing how to best carry out His will.  Perhaps moments like these are “tensions to manage” more than outright conflict in our calling.  

First century church leaders often found themselves managing these competing tensions.  The leaders of the church in Corinth were told by Paul to exercise needed discipline regarding the man among them “sleeping with his father’s wife.”  Paul even advised them to “hand this man over to Satan, so the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord,” (1 Corinthians 5:1, 5).  On the other hand, the apostle Peter wrote, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder … Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care…” (1 Peter 5:1-2). 

Christian leaders today must continue managing the very same dynamic tension.  We must be compassionate shepherds, leading and feeding those placed in our care, reflecting Psalm 23, John 10, Ezekiel 34, and so on.  At the same time, we take a firm stand against immoral cultural norms, against those who would teach what is not True, and against inappropriate behavior by other leaders.  The tension is intensified when having to make decisions about a staff member who is loved, who also needs to be held accountable to those high standards. 

Preachers find that they need to be strongly prophetic when proclaiming biblical moral standards, and in the very next moment pastoral when comforting and encouraging hurting people.  Too often preachers hear complaints about prophetic preaching being “judgmental,” and in the same breath that his pastoral presence is “soft on sin.” 

By the time Peter wrote his letters, (First and Second Peter), he seems to have learned a good sense of balance between these tensions.  

In his first letter, he encouraged those suffering under persecution, and appealed to elders to shepherd God’s flock, (1 Peter 3:8-22, 5:2).  Yet in his second letter he strongly condemned false teachers, (2 Peter 2:1-22).  Having such a proper balance on both sides of our call to lead is key.  That balance will help prevent short- and long-term consequences of favoring one over the other. 

None of us can strike that balance perfectly all the time.  Perhaps that is why Paul always insisted on a plurality of elders.  And the next time you feel that your calling is driving conflict in or around you, take courage that you are in good company.  Maybe it’s not full-on conflict in your calling, just a season of tension that, with the help of your Father and among brothers, will be managed well.