Lessons from the Life of Robin Williams

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Last night I was devastated to hear of the news of Robin Williams’ death. However, what saddened me, almost as much, was to see Christian friends writing Facebook posts about what we can learn from his death. Sometimes I think we have to be careful trying to win points off of tragedies. 

Robin Williams was a man I have always admired, despite his obvious struggles. For years I have watched and re-watched clips of him on chat shows and stand up; not even mentioning the numerous times I have seen many of his hit movies. He truly was an entertainer and people were always drawn to him.

So rather than lessons from his death, I would like to instead focus on lessons we can learn from his life:-

  1. We should always be transparent

One of my favorite Robin Williams interviews is from 2007 with Michael Parkinson. Although he entertained as usual I also noticed he freely spoke of rehab and his alcohol addiction. Although his death was unexpected, he made his struggles well known. As leaders we must have transparency in our lives in order to fully steer through the storms of life.

  1. You can always be the life of the Party

His life may have been marked with struggles, but he never let it interfere with his calling. He entertained and was the life of the party no matter what he was going through. As leaders we can admit our brokenness and struggles, but we should never let it get in the way of our calling.

  1. A sense of Humor always wins hearts

Many, many, many people today will mourn the loss of a complete legend. Of course he gave us Good morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doutfire, Good Will Hunting, Hook and many, many more…but I believe it was his spirit and sense of humor that drew people in. Sometimes as leaders it’s important to lighten up, to joke and spread a little joy. This will win the hears of many.

  1. Live with No inhibitions

In his interviews with Michael Parkinson, Robin just oozes confidence and you can see that he thrives off the attention of the crowd. He excelled in the spot light where many people shy away. To remove self awareness and shyness is so important to the life of a leader. We live with eyes on us, especially when on a stage, and while nervousness and fear are natural, they are things we must learn to shake off.

  1. Be a Greater person than you are performer

There are many great performers, of which by far he was the best, but there are few truly great people. Reading through the tributes of the hundreds of people who knew him it is clear to me that he was a humble, kind, generous and sincere man. Many commented about his talent, but all commented about his character. We must learn to excel in Character, rather than rely on our charisma.

Children’s Ministry Nightmares

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One of my favorite shows right now is Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares…in fact…I may be slaughtered for this…but I love anything Gordon Ramsey! On my last two vacations I have visited Las Vegas and eaten at two of Gordon’s restaurants there…the Pub & Grill and Steak. BOTH the meals I had were incredible.

For those who don’t know, the premise of the show is that each episode Gordon tackles a failing restaurant and tries to work with the staff to turn it around. Without fail every week there are arguments and fall outs as Gordon Ramsey tells the owners and chefs just how bad the restaurant and food are!

And without fail EVERY episode either the owner or the Chef is in denial…they are often caught saying, ‘I would rate my food 9/10’ or ‘my restaurant is one of the best in the area.’ The truth is the owners of these businesses become BLINDED by their PRIDE.

In fact, although the general staff ALL knew how bad things were, the owners never heard their complaints. They were always deaf and blind to those close by them. Each week it took Gordon Ramsey, an expert from outside, like a bull in a china shop, to force changes and show the owners a better way!

Last year I invited a children’s pastor with tons of experience to visit my children’s ministry and give feedback on what he saw. We were looking at the best way to renovate our facilities and he had experience in this area. What I received was a ‘Gordon Ramsey’ style review of my children’s ministry that knocked me off my perch. In many ways it was like salt was being poured into my open wounds.

Although the critique was harsh and painful I learnt a lot from it and it gave me the kick in the teeth to get things moving!

So here are some things we can do to keep pride outside:-

 

  1. Always ASK questions
  • It is never the ‘learners’ who are full of pride
  1. Be your biggest critique
  • Remember nothing is perfect and changing is always necessary
  1. Remember where you were without God
  • Its hard to be prideful when your thankful.

 

What are some ways you safeguard yourself from Pride?

 

Following Great Leaders

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There are many good leaders in this world but not many do truly remarkable things and leave a long lasting impression in their field. From my childhood I have held one leader in extremely high regard…Sir Alex Ferguson…for those of you unfamiliar with the name…until a year ago he was the manager of Manchester United football club.

 

From humble begins he rose to manage one of the greatest clubs in the world for an incredible 26 years. Through this time he won 38 trophies, many records and of course a knighthood. He is regarded as one of the most successful, admired and respected managers in the history of the entire game of football.

 

This past week I completed reading his autobiography and too fell deeper in admiration for this incredible leader. However, one thing struck me, he wasn’t an easy man to follow. Although many people recognized his greatness and stuck by his side his entire career, there were a number of people who he rubbed up the wrong way. He knew control was key managing a football team, and so he worked hard to keep his. If people didn’t give their best or got distracted he would dock their wages. If football was no longer the first and only priority in a players life…he would get rid of them.

 

In his autobiography, he spoke of a player called Rio Ferdinand, who was growing in popularity. Magazines, radio and television pursued him to do interviews. One season Rio was offered the chance to travel to America to interview P. Diddy for a magazine but when word got to Ferguson he quickly shut it down. In his mind the opportunity would affect the fitness of the player and that would affect the success of the team in the coming games. To Ferguson, everything was about winning football matches…and if something got in the way of his team doing that…he dealt with it. This however often made him a difficult man to follow.

 

This of course got me thinking of other leaders and I began to resolve that the greatest leaders are the hardest to follow. Success brings many responsibilities and many sacrifices and so be apart of a successful team is no easy doing.

 

In a church context I have been privileged to follow many leaders…some of them have been truly great…and I have found similarly that the greatest leaders are often the hardest to follow. Here are a few reasons why:-

 

Great leaders have a higher standard

 

Great Leaders don’t please people

 

Great Leaders act in the interests of the team NOT individuals

Lessons from my first year in Full-time ministry…

As I approach the last few days of my first year in full-time ministry I wanted to reflect upon a few of my experiences and the lessons I have learnt from them.

It was a year ago this month that I left my family in England and I jumped on a plane with all my possessions in one suitcase to start a new life in America as a Children’s Pastor in Urbana, IL at Stone Creek Church. I had just finished Bible College, was turning 22 years old and yet I was somehow favored with an incredible opportunity to run the Children’s ministry of a large church with a monthly attendance of around 250 kids!

This has definitely been a crazy year, a rollercoaster of ups and downs. I have had some great wins and yet made some big mistakes too. There have been times I have loved my job and times when I wondered if I was really even called to ministry!  Through it all I have learned a few things; but working along side some seasoned Veterans…I am constantly reminded I have a long way to go and lot more to learn!

Here are my thoughts….

1.    God Equips who he calls!

As you can imagine when I came to America I was taking on quite a role…I definitely don’t think I could be accused of dipping my toes into full time ministry. I was entering a different culture, taking on a lot of responsibility…and entering a Church where I would be the youngest pastor taking on the least healthy and most important ministry in the church. It was a mess and quite frankly I was out of my depth….It was in this mess that I soon realized that God’s grace was made perfect in my weaknesses…I began to see that through my first few months God was equipping me for the task he had called me. He didn’t just call me and leave me high and dry!

2.    Find a Rhythm…doesn’t take 20 years to get burned out!

In Bible College we were often warned of the difficulties of full time ministry…especially the dreaded ‘burn out’.

I always thought it would take years to reach such a place; but in hindsight a year in ministry has been hard enough and there have been a number of times when I couldn’t have even imagined the possibility of lasting 1 more year…let alone another 19!

When I came to America I came with many ideas, plans and strategies…and as a single guy…I had plenty of time on my hands to implement them! I worked long hours 7 days a week and I didn’t bother taking my weekly days off because I was excited and ready to go! My work schedule led to choosing fast food over cooking and relaxing over exercising in my spare time. Although I soon felt the effects in both my effectiveness and my fatigue! Balance and a work rhythm are the key to success!

Slow and Steady might not win you the race…but it will ensure you finish it!

3.    Don’t forget to Love people…

In my first few weeks at Stone Creek we had our annual ‘trunk or treat’ kids event which I helped partially organize…that event over two locations was a huge success drawing around 1700 people…throughout the year we have had some great events and made some great strides forward with the children’s ministry services…but the biggest wins for my ministry have been the relationship I have with my families and my ministry to the kids.

Events are great and improving systems is important…but my primary role is to be a minister to kids.

Some of my greatest moments have been praying for my sick kids in the hospital, talking to my kids whose parents are going through divorce or visiting my kid’s sports games or schools. In essence those are the things I am called to do…in order that my kids will know God’s love…the rest is just a bonus!

4.    Ministry is more than just Loving people…

With all that being said…Ministry isn’t all about loving people…in fact most of your week isn’t spent around people at all…unless your one of the lucky ones!

Ministry is actually more to do with leadership than anything else. One of our main roles as ministers is to recruit and equip people to do the work of Christ. Full time ministry has been just as much about managing a team of volunteers as it has been about ministering to children….this is especially true for Children’s ministry! You will organize events, clean up messes, move furniture, organize teaching, arrange volunteers and much more…Pastoring people is important…but to be successful in ministry you have to do a little more than love people…

5.    An open door in difficult times doesn’t equate to God’s will…

My first year in full time ministry has definitely been a rollercoaster. There have been some incredible moments…and some moments I would rather forget. However naturally it has only been in the difficult times when I have questioned if I was really meant to be where I am.

The funny thing is that opportunities only seemed to arrive in the difficult times and never in the successful times. It is easy to think that an open door should be walked through…but its immature to believe every available opportunity is a God opportunity…and its worse to think that just because things are difficult God is moving you on!

I’ve often found that great favor comes when we are faithful to God and his purpose for your life!

Open to Anyone

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Last week I spent a week helping lead the kids ministry for a Christian camp. Such a ministry can often require a sizeable team and we therefore had to look further a field for volunteers who would be willing to take the week off work. Two of the recruits were a young non-Christian couple; one of whom had grown up in the Church. Both excelled throughout the week, showed a real love for the kids and by the end of the week had given their lives to Jesus.

 

How amazing is that!? It was a great week…but one thing caused me sadness. Before the week had even begun I separately spoke to two mature Christians who were both unhappy that the Church leadership would allow non-Christians on the team. Their concerns were understandable and they weren’t out to hurt anyone; but I was struck with the thought that at times the Church is so hesitant to allow people to belong that we end up hindering people from experiencing God’s love.

 

The Church community cannot afford to be a closed community with a member’s only lounge that others can’t access! We must allow people to get up close to see our lives and experience his love. When we allow people to belong before they believe or behave; we simply model grace. Jesus’ perfectly modelled it with Judas. A man who has robbing him and who he knew would betray him… yet a man he allowed in his life from dawn til dusk, for 3 life changing years. Jesus withheld nothing from him, treated him like the others, sending him out to heal (Mark 6), embracing him instead of rejecting him…he even washed his feet.

 

The challenge is to make a way for people to belong in your life and your Church. What people experience through belonging will soon break what they believe and bring their behaviour into line. Lives will change when they are allowed to get close enough to experience God’s Love.

Chaos Creates Opportunity

When the world sees the devastating reality of what the flesh can do
they are often shocked to their core.
When we remember the riots across the UK last summer we see that
most people found it completely disgraceful. When we saw terrorists
kill thousands on 9/11 the World stood still in shock that anyone could act
in such a way. Sadly it is often only in these times that we see the true
unattractive and repulsive nature of sin.
Yet through the chaos of these devastating events an opportunity was created and was taken by the Church.
An opportunity to take our light and our Hope to a broken world.
On 9/11 pastors around North America were invited to lead the nation through their mourning.
Through the riots in the UK the Church responded by cleaning up the streets.

I like the idea that for every action from the World, the Church has the ability to give an equally powerful but opposite action that can often restore the chaos that sin creates.

Its a challenge to the Church to take the evil of this world & to show the Love of God.
Chaos creates an opportunity for the Church to Restore & Heal.
Are we seeing & taking our opportunities?

Dealing with the Disruptive

As we look back on past seasons, with the beauty of hindsight, we can quickly see the leadership triumphs and faux pas committed by managers & captains. With this we also see their resulting impact on the season. This season the Premier League top spot has been passed around more times than Tulisa’s Sex Tape. So we are left with the question and thought of, ‘could this have been avoided?’

In many ways the premier league managerial position is the ultimate leadership challenge. A job where you can never be a people pleaser; yet one where you need to constantly keep people on onside.

From the board of directors, to the players, to the press, to the fans and to the FA… they could all at some point sway the decision to make you history. You can never afford to lose their support.

This season we have come to realise that the test to leadership is NEVER just how we lead the yes men but infact how we lead the egos & then deal with the disruptive few.

This year at certain times City took the forefront and powered ahead of the rest. Yet on one day, after one mix up & misunderstanding, things began to change. Disruption in the dressing room and chaos was unleashed around Manchester City. Acting firmly and swiftly the manager took a clean swipe and made his feelings known to the World. Making statements which turned out to be empty threats; but threats which had a big impact. Following this event and more miscommunication (or no communication) a team was without its top goal scorer (prev. season) for 5 crucial months.

Whether this leads to their loss of the season and their failure to progress in other competitions will soon be seen.

However in this Saga we can see that a number of leadership faux pas…

1. Communication Malfunction :-  Problems began when Mancini were misunderstood by Tevez. These communication errors continued and resulted in Tevez absconding. Leaders need to be clear &  concise when they communicate. Be aware of not only your language but also your gestures. Mancini never sat Tevez down after his actions and questioned him about his behaviour. He made assumptions & turned things from bad to worse.

2. Acting Irrationally :- Understandably Mancini was embarrassed that his player refused to play. But claiming on live tv to the World that he will never play again for the club is a response that will not convey the right message to the Player & is an action which in many ways was something he couldn’t control. Off the back of this threat Tevez saw no reason to stick around and left the country for 5 months. Leaders need to act after receiving council and speaking to the disruptive member…Don’t just be reactive but be proactive in finding the way to handle each situation.

3. Pride Hurt & Perspective Lost :- It’s true that a leader must be in control and that a leader can’t afford to lose the respect of his team. In this situation though Mancini was stung & felt like he needed to use power in order to assert his authority….all because his pride was hurt. As Leaders when our actions are birthed out of our own insecurities & annoyances we begin to lose perspective. Working & doing things for ourselves & not the cause the team fights for. When Mancini’s pride was hurt he failed to act in the interests of the team and the cause they were fighting for. At its core it was about him. A leader’s role is act in a way that brings the most fruit & success for the team and their cause. A leader’s role is to act out of this objective and not out of his own desires.

 

I may have made some unfair & uninformed observations about the Tevez saga but I am a United fan. By no means were Mancini’s actions terrible…at the time they were even praised….

But with hindsight I can’t help but feel like had he dealt with the disruptive differently then City would be smug right about now! 🙂