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Christian Leader, Are you Forgetting Something?

Last week, Crossway author Sam Crabtree shared the plenary stage with Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention. Both speakers addressed the importance of Christian leaders affirming others.

In his book Practicing Affirmation, Crabtree explains in further detail why we should affirm people and how to restore affirmation to relationships that have been lacking it:

Corrections need to be overwhelmed by affirmations.

Offering correction, whether at work or in our personal life, is necessary and often helpful. Crabtree suggests that those corrections must be overwhelmed by affirmations in order to truly be effective. “If we have too much correction, and not enough affirmation, people will stop hearing our corrections; they’ll just tune out,” he explains. A habit of over-correcting and under-affirming also wounds relationships with spouses, children, co-workers, students, etc.

Why should we affirm people?

John Piper writes, “When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love for self.” However, there is a difference between godly affirmation and the kind of affirmation that puffs up. In order to affirm people, we must first learn to affirm God. For what should God be praised? (Ps. 150:2). Crabtree argues that “God is not given the praise he deserves when we ignore or deny the work he is doing in people.”

So why should we affirm others?

  • When we commend God’s image in people, God is glorified, and that’s why we were made—to glorify God.
  • By commending Christlike qualities, and celebrating them when we spot them, affirmation showcases the character of God, giving him honor for the kind of God he is.
  • It earns us the right standing from which to make suggestions. It gains us a hearing.
  • It lifts morale—in the home, the office, church, locker room.
  • It energizes people. It motivates them to action.
  • It makes us easier to live with.
  • It helps us practice looking at others positively.
  • It constructively uses time that could have been wasted on complaining.

How do you restore a pattern of affirmation to a relationship?

At first the other person may not believe you or receive affirmation well from you. That’s because of a deficit. Your checking account [so to speak] is in the hole. Here are some practical suggestions to reverse the trend of an overly corrective relationship:

  1. If he/she has stopped listening to you, quit preaching.
  2. Stop moralizing about listening: “You should be listening to me!” Instead, ask the Holy Spirit to do his job.
  3. Affirm. Stay up nights if you have to, thinking of ways to say what is so commendable in him/her.
  4. Keep up a steady, tender flow of words and gestures that confirm and commend them.
  5. Model. We don’t affirm any particular quality we don’t personally embrace and exemplify in some appreciable measure. If we try to commend punctuality while always running late ourselves, our hypocritical compliments become off-putting.
  6. Love the unchanged person as is. Be a blessing to that person before he/she listens to you.

Things are moving in the right direction when affirmation, not correction, is the pattern. Relationships are healthy when so much affirmation is being spread around that no one is keeping track of either affirmation or correction, because the relationship doesn’t feel predominately demanding, but refreshing. This is not a matter of a raw mathematical ratio, but a perception from the other person’s point of view. This requires us to see things through others’ eyes. Do they see us as affirming?

Content modified from Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree. Sam is a former public school teacher and has served as executive pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis since 1997. He is also lead pastor for life training, serving as the “vision keeper” of the church.

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February 27, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Leadership,Life & Doctrine,Loving Others,Marriage,Marriage & Family,Ministry,Speech,Vocation | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 8:00 am | (2) Comments »

From Success To Significance?: A Vocational Paradigm

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.

Guest Post by Tom Nelson, author of Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work

I don’t know if it is the stage of life I now indwell or the company I keep these days, but something seems afoot among my fellow baby boomers. Perhaps as the generation ahead of us is passing on with increasing frequency, our own mortality is confronting us more and more with each passing day. In any case, much has been made to those of us who are entering the middle years about moving from lives of success to lives of significance.

This beckoning to more fully embrace lives of significance touches us deeply as image bearers of the one true God. Often this call to significance is translated as leaving the for profit world of business to invest our time, talent and treasure in a non-profit faith based enterprise.

I do not doubt that God’s vocational calling can and does at times lead us from one work sector to another, but does the well intentioned clarion call beckoning us from success to significance bear up under the thoughtful examination of Holy Scripture?

With all due respect for my “half time” friends, I don’t believe a robust theology of vocation, carefully mined from the biblical narrative, supports the “half time” paradigm.

  • First: The Genesis creation account centers the definition of work not in terms of financial remuneration or an economic model, but rather to our contribution toward the flourishing of the common good and the cultivation of God’s good world.
  • Second: The Apostle Paul writing to New Testament churches emphasizes being faithfully present wherever we are providentially placed in the work place. Writing to the local church at Colossae, Paul avoids any kind of dichotomous thinking about either a successful or significant vocation. Instead he presents God-honoring work indwelling God-honoring motive in the broadest of categories of worshiping God. Paul puts it this way, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” Paul wants us to grasp that our work itself has more than instrumental value; our work whatever it is has great intrinsic value as an act of God-honoring worship. From Paul’s perspective we are given a great deal of freedom in our vocational endeavors as long as we direct them to the glory of God and the advancement of the common good.
  • Third: The matter of wise stewardship of the work skills we have attained over the years may very well be best used and further developed in the same for profit work sector. As one who has worked primarily in the non-profit world, I can speak from experience that while some “half-timers” find the transition to the non-profit world a good fit, but many do not. I don’t doubt that some non-profit enterprises have found “half-timer” contributions helpful, yet many I encounter have also experienced great difficulty. While both for profit and non-profit sectors can learn from each other, they each have unique dynamics that are vastly different. Many “half-timers” bring to the non for profit sector needed skills in organizational efficiency and pragmatic management, but what they often lack is the essential level of theological reflection needed to guide the organization in accomplishing its multiple bottom line mission.

So before we jump too quickly on the “half time” bandwagon, let’s both search our souls as well as the Holy Scriptures. Whether our lives have been marked by success, modest achievement or failure, our vocations are filled with great significance as we worship God in and through them.

Perhaps it is time we replaced a success to significance paradigm with a vocational paradigm of faithful presence. Where ver God has providentially placed you, whether that is in the profit sector or non-profit sector, be fully present for the Glory of God and the furtherance of Christ’s Gospel mission in the world.

Tom Nelson (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) has served as senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas, for more than twenty years. He is the author of Work Matters, Five Smooth Stones, and Ekklesia as well as a member of The Gospel Coalition.

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December 15, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life & Doctrine,The Christian Life,Vocation,Work & Vocation | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

Video: Justin Taylor Interviews Tom Nelson on “Work Matters”

Watch the recent interview below with Justin Taylor and Tom Nelson as they discuss Nelson’s new book Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work.

  • 0:20        Nelson’s heart behind the book
  • 1:48      Reasoning behind including short work testimonies in the book
  • 2:39      The importance of a correct theology of work
  • 4:24      Creating an environment that encourages a transformative theology of work
  • 7:12      Comments on James Davison Hunter’s “Faithful Presence”
  • 9:15      Defining work in light of unemployment
  • 12:03    Thanks and wrap up

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November 11, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News & Announcements,The Christian Life,Theology,Video,Vocation,Work & Vocation | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

How Do We Think About Calling and Vocation?

Author Tom Nelson helps us think about our calling and vocation in his new book Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work.

You can sample a free chapter, The Transforming Power of Work.

Nelson also has a great (free) audio series on this same topic:

  1. The Sunday to Monday Gap
  2. Work: A Four Letter Word
  3. Work and Hope
  4. Work and Hope (2)
  5. The Extraordinary Ordinary Life
  6. Gifted for Work
  7. Divorce from Reality
November 4, 2011 | Posted in: Vocation | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

Prosperity or Idolatry?

Is God opposed to prosperity? Where is the line between being grateful for the gifts he’s given us and idolatry?

Sometimes God offers prosperity as a blessing for faithfulness (remember Solomon?), and often it comes as a result of hard, honest work. It is certainly not wrong to provide nice things for your family, and laziness is far from condoned in Scripture.

However, our pursuit of prosperity can turn into idolatry if we are not careful. It’s easy to keep our eyes a little too focused on the prize, putting the gift above the Giver. On the other hand, if we shun prosperity for fear of idolatry, we run the risk of being ungrateful. How do we find the balance between prosperity and idolatry?

First of all, it is important to be a good steward of your gifts. Every believer is gifted in special ways, and we need to discover our gifts and use them for God’s glory. This may seem simple, but there is a deeper truth here. If we do our job because God gifted us in that area, we’re being stewards. If we do our job because there is money to be had, we’re on our way to idolatry. If one goes into medicine because he has been blessed with a scientific mind and a desire to heal the sick, wonderful. If he goes into medicine because it is the most lucrative profession he can think of, that is a different issue.

We must also prosper as God allows. Be the best you can be at whatever profession God has called you to, be it law or farming. We must also prosper in ways that are pleasing to God. Work hard, don’t cheat your boss. On a different note, we might get a job offer that sparkles with a dazzling salary and benefits package, but is in a field that may tempt us to compromise or does not honor God. It would be better to take a more modest job in a God-pleasing environment.

In the busyness of making a living and working hard, many people sacrifice their families. Some fathers are on the road 180 days a year, “bringing home the bacon.” Neglecting your spouse and missing your kids’ childhood is simply not worth the extra salary. Your bank account is not an adequate substitute for your presence. Ultimately, when you look back, you will not regret spending more time with family instead of chasing the last dollar.

From Voddie Baucham’s Family Driven Faith. Learn more or see related posts below:

November 3, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Idolatry,Life & Doctrine,Marriage & Family,Money,Money,The Christian Life,Vocation | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »