Tag Archives: stewardship

Quick Review: Crazy Busy

As I’ve continued to prioritize some reading related to rest and well-being, I decided to read Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy as another resource to reflect on how to best steward my soul and my contribution, given the immense stress of my life with its many demands, especially in a different country.

This is a short book – about 130 pages or so and it could be read in 2-3 hours easy.  They are short chapters that cover a lot of the main areas that need attention in modern society impacting well-being and business.  Prioritization (mission creep), Parental anxiety, Internet and Technology addiction or even attachment, Sabbath and rest, Personal Limitations, and most importantly the heart issues that drive our decisions and behavior that are rooted in sin or immature character.

This book is not a deep dive into these areas, but a broad exhortation in these different areas to highlight a key overall concept – we need to choose what is best even over the good.  And the best is resting in and abiding in God as the source of life, trusting that He will do what only He can do and expressing that confidence in faith by only doing what we can/should for God’s glory.

So many of us are struggling here with one or more of these areas covered in this book and we need to stay vigilant to guard against these enemies of living out of God’s abundance.

For a deeper dive I still recommend Buchanan’s The Rest of God as a more devotional journey going into rest and abiding in God that will draw you more deeply into God’s presence.  But this is a good and simple exhortation that we all need on a regular basis to guard our hearts, schedules, and relationships from drifting away from abundant life in God.


New Article: Stewardship and Results-Based Leadership

Stewardship and results is an area where most leaders typically can really benefit from sound grounding as well as development.

I’m teaching a course on Strategic Planning and Organizational Leadership right now.  In my preparation I found something I had written several years ago and thought it would help fill one of the content needs of the course so I updated some things and am releasing this brief, 4 page article on Stewardship and Results-Based Leadership for Christian ministry leaders.

Feel free to read online or download the article for later.

Green Zone Leadership: Throwing Resources

The past few days I’ve posted on themes related to the movie The Green Zone from a couple years back and the book that inspired that movie, Imperial Life in the Emerald City.   The sub-title for the series could be called “How do we know we are serving?” or “How do we know our success is truly success when considered from a human and ethical lens?”

Leadership Phenomenon Observed: Throwing Resources 

One of the observed sources of inefficiency, lack of effectiveness, and even corruption in some places was the pattern of the U.S. government and the Coalition Provincial Authority was to try to solve complex and deep rooted problems by just trying to throw a bunch of money, people (often the wrong ones), and resources at the problem.

There were grand plans when the regime of Saddam Hussein was defeated.  The western world set its sights on turning Iraq into the proverbial “city on a hill” in the middle east of what a democracy could look like.  The problem was the infrastructure was a mess and there were deep rooted dynamics in culture and history that also contributed to the great challenges of leading “change.”

There was a budget and money going into the war for post war reconstruction, but was only a fraction of what would be needed to make up for decades of mismanagement and neglect.  Part of the story of the Iraq reconstruction is the competition for resources and money in particular.  Nobody had what they needed to do their jobs right – except for administrators.  There’s a lesson there – though this point would seem to go against the main point of this post.

Problem 1: Ignorant Allocation
One of the tragedies of the reconstruction is that money was often allocated by people who just didn’t know what the issues were or what was needed.  When people screamed loud enough, or if something was going to be especially strategic in terms of how people were going to perceive their efforts and progress, then money would get allocated.  But there was not much of a big picture framework of what was most important if the Iraqi people were going to be served for the long haul.

Problem 2: Indiscriminate & Impatient Allocation
Another tragedy is that when money and people was given, it was offered often in disconnection from unified understanding of what stewardship of those resources would look like. Money was distributed without plans and without real clear frameworks of what success would look like – or even what was possible.

There is also the issue of expected money and people to be able to magically solve complex problems quickly.  Western problem solving sometimes takes the form of just wanting to give people a bunch of money and snap your fingers and problem solved.  There’s almost an unconscious belief that money is a form of magic – that if you give money that the problem will get solved.   The problem – is that throwing money and resources is usually aimed at QUICK FIXES and not at the type of adaptive or generative learning needed for long term solutions.  There’s an arrogant, subtle blame-shifting attitude that can show itself too – well we gave them the money, so if the job didn’t get done it’s on them and not us.  This is the epitome of paternalistic, non-serving leadership.  Well give you the money and take the success when it happens, but if met with failure then it’s not on us!

Obviously Iraq post-war reconstruction is a case study on a massive scale.  But I see the same dynamics in other places.  We want to solve complex and deep rooted problems (particularly as it relates to cross-cultural dynamics) by just flooding those problems with money and people.  There’s more attention on how to get more people and resources then there is on what must be learned so that investment of resources will be smart and strategic and wise.  Failure to ground allocation of resources in generative learning (learning that leads to thriving, not just surviving) results in massive waste and poor stewardship.

Are we learning what we’re supposed to learn before we throw money and people at a problem?  We can’t learn everything beforehand, but we should be able to learn enough about WHO should be involved and therefore who else might be wise to include in the process of allocation for the sake of long term effectiveness.

Recommendations for the Aspiring Serving Leader

Don’t just try to solve big problems by throwing money and by trying to get “more people.” These decisions usually are birthed by insular decision making anyway.  Sometimes, a lot of the time, it’s easier to get money than wisdom.   If the goal is long term fruitfulness and the benefit of those you are seeking to serve, then we must get the needed learning and not settle for sugar daddy solutions or acts of desperation.  Sugar daddy solutions are when you are using money to try to achieve your agenda and accomplish your goals (but a secret agenda is trying to make yourself look good in the process). Acts of desperation is when you don’t know what to do so you just throw a bunch of money at a problem.

Both of these examples do not lead to serving.  They may “help” some things, but they aren’t transformational enough for those who are being served or for those that are supposedly called to serve.

Learn, Listen, Get a critical mass of the right people who can speak for the context that you are seeking to see change in and collaborate on solutions. A lot of bad decisions and waste of resources could be solved by making sure those that have the best vantage point for what’s needed are involved in the decision making.

But throwing resources and people against the wall to see what sticks is not serving.  It may feel like it at times. It may feel good to do something instead of nothing. When we throw money at the wall, the worst is that it goes to waste.  But when we throw people at the wall, they tend to get damaged or feel used.

We owe people more than that and we owe it to our calling and Maker to be better stewards of both money and resources even in the face of complex problems.


How do you guard against throwing money and people against the wall to see what sticks?  How do you work to see resources stewarded in the service of long term solutions instead of squandered for short-term solutions?

Addendum after initial posting:

This is an insight confirmed both by the green zone case study as well as through some conversations and contributions people have emailed me since posting. One of the challenges of “Throwing Resources” is that your success is misleading.  Sometimes you just luck out with an extraordinary leader or circumstance that can make the needed adjustments.  But the problem is when such decisions are made from centralized brain trusts, you’re likely more dependent on luck for success than you would like to admit.  There seems to be a higher correlation with decentralized allocation of funding and decisions about resources with long term success and the fruit of serving leadership.

Preparing Your Horse

I’m in between two medical appointments right now – one for having blood drawn and the other to have a procedure to have an ingrown toenail removed – and I’ve been rereading something that was passed on to me a while back from Larry Osborne’s book A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God.

In addressing the concept of stewardship, Osborne related his experience of battling depression when he was not experiencing “success” in ministry on the level that he had hoped or expected.  He says, “I was taking too much blame for my lack of success in much the same way I’d taken too much credit for my previous victories.”  He goes on to saw, “…results don’t always matter in  the spiritual realm.  They can’t be trusted as an accurate measure of God’s approval or disapproval.”
How counter-cultural is that?  It’s been so ingrained in me to measure results in the ministry that sometimes the spiritual dimension sometimes gets put on the back burner.  I think measurements are important and I think Osborne agrees as well.  His point is that there often are things going on in the bigger picture that really transcend any kind of objective or material measurements.
He draws from Psalm 73, the story of Achan in the book of Joshua, and a couple of other passages to make the point that we often cannot control our results and that stewardship cannot be completely linked to results sometimes.   In drawing from the biblical language, he says we are not responsible to win the battle, but we are responsible for whether our horse was ready and prepared for the battle.
I think this is an important lesson for me and for any leader.  We can spend all of our energy seeking to manage or control results, but can easily neglect to nurture and hone our spiritual attentiveness to what God is doing being the scenes.  We may not always know or be able to discern, but a humility and awareness that there is more to the story that what we see or have control over can lead to greater stewardship than just maintaining what seems like worthwhile results in the eyes of men.
It’s got me thinking about how I may be trying to win battles without a horse that is really prepared for it.  How do I need to prepare my horse for the day I may face the next big battle?

It All Goes Back in the Box – Ken Blanchard

While I’d like to get to Blanchard’s duck pond soon, I wanted to touch on something else I just realized. At one point of Blanchard’s session in the leadership forum he referred to an illustration by John Ortberg about how John used to play monopoly with his grandma. One of the lessons that Ortberg learned from his grandma was that “it all goes back in the box.” This became the title of his latest book. Blanchard spoke to this issue of living for the eternal and resisting the temptations of materialism and that leaders must lead in light of the fact that at the end of life, everything goes back in the box.

I just found out a day or two ago that Blanchard’s home was one of those lost in the San Diego fires. I was struck by how Blanchard was confronted with the harsh reality of how fleeting our worldly things and materials are less than nine months after speaking so clearly to this issue to hundreds of Christian leaders.

While no doubt painful, Blanchard has lived out the values that he has espoused in his teaching on leadership over the years. He has used his experience through this as a platform to speak out for what truly lasts in this world. See the following excerpt from Saddleback church’s web site:

“Ken Blanchard, author of the best-selling “One Minute Manager” whose San Diego-area home was consumed in the wildfires, joined Warren for two of Saddleback’s four services Oct. 28.

Blanchard, who also appeared on Larry King Oct. 26, commented about his loss: “As a follower of Jesus, I just tried to quiet myself because I knew that He wanted me to have peace and joy and righteousness.” He continued, “I am so proud of this country in crisis, but I also really want and hope and pray that when times are good, we can have compassion and love and serve each other.”


It’s a good reminder that when it’s all said and done, “It all goes back in the box.”