Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lent Now Crosses Over to Protestants

[By OSEYE T. BOYD - The StarPress, East Central Indiana]

As a growing number of Protestants recognize the importance of the 40 days leading up to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, more of them are observing Lent.

Long associated with Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopalian and Lutheran denominations, Lent is the 40-day period beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending at Easter. It's a time for Christians to focus on their relationship with God and remember the 40 days the New Testament reports Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting, praying and resisting temptation from Satan.

Numbers of Protestants observing Lent aren't available. However, local pastors say it's growing as denominational walls crumble and more ministers of different denominations understand the importance of the tradition and share it with their church members.

How Christians commemorate Lent varies. Some give up food, known as fasting, while others pray or read the Bible more or volunteer their time in the community. Although it's not forced, some pastors do encourage members to fast while others give weekly sermons focused on Lent.

"It's just something that's individual to them, although I did share with them on Sunday that for something to be given up or for it to be a sacrifice, it should be meaningful to them," said Jack Anderson, pastor of the Church of God of Prophecy.

While High Street United Methodist Church isn't observing a Lenten fast, members are encouraged "to take the next step on our spiritual journey." It's up to individuals to determine what the next step should be, Senior Pastor Jack Hartman said. Hartman is giving a series of Lenten sermons.

"My analogy is it's kind of like courtship before you get married," Hartman said. "You really can't experience the fullness of Easter until you know the events that led to that."

Prayer Restrictions - A Presidential First

Notwithstanding the president’s righteous campaign talk about how committed he is to the separation of church and state, White House aides are now in the business of vetting prayers said before Obama rallies by individuals whom they’ve asked to do the praying.

Read this remarkable story by the enterprising Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News & World Report. Apparently no previous White House has gone down this road. If Bush had done so, Gilgoff wouldn’t be the only one on the story.

[from the Weekly Standard Blog by John McCormack]

Improving Your Leadership Presence

1. Get feedback. And don’t ask just anyone. You need to know how the people you serve really feel. You also need to know how your contemporaries feel. To know how people really feel, the feedback must be anonymous in some cases. Every organization's culture is different. But you cannot lead effectively without influence. You have to know if the influence is there. "He who thinks he leads and no one follows, is just taking a stroll in the woods."

2. Get advice. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Allow God to guide you through His Spirit and others He has placed around you. I heard one leader say, "I don't care what or how they are doing things in another state." Knowing where you stand against the target is important; so is getting advice on what to do differently. Every leader at every level needs more than one mentor. One mentor can sometimes be wrong. Also, get advice from your colleagues.

3. Observe role models. One leader said, "I am the role model." Be careful. Pride goes before a fall. Start paying attention to other leaders who are being effective. Watch how they conduct themselves, and see if there are things you can pick up.

4. Use a coach or consultant. External coaches or consultants are often used to help prepare high potential leaders to get ready for or transition into senior positions, and are often called on to assist with presence. It is easy to develop tunnel vision without the fresh look of an outside consultant.

5. Take a presentations skills course. A lot of leadership presence has to do with honed presentation skills. Giving good presentations is a known technology, and there are several workshops you can take, including:
- Blessing White’s Leading Out Loud
- Communispond’s Executive Presentation Skills
- Dale Carnegie has a number of programs
- Join your local Toastmaster’s

6. Take a media training course. Too many leaders do not understand how to effectively communicate with this generation. They use all technology and media. While learning how to deal with the media is something only the highest ranking executives will need to learn, you can use the same techniques to improve how you field tough questions thrown at you. There are also executive presentation and media training consultants.

7. Talk to an image consultant. This is a resource and industry I've only recently become familiar with. I was asked to find help for a leader who kept injuring his own reputation. There was no moral failure, but his likeability factor was just very low. After some research, it turns out there’s actually an Association for Image Consultants International that provides professional certification and a consultant directly.

8. Join a gym or work out regularly. Body language speaks volumes. And, much body language comes from how we move around. If our balance is off, we have difficulty getting up or down, or if we can't dodge a thrown shoe quickly, we come across as out of shape. People feel better about following a (physically) strong leader. It also speaks well of our health stewardship.

9. Learn how to lead meetings. Meetings are where we “show up” as a leader. Like presentation skills, there’s a science to meeting management that can be learned. And honing your meeting leadership skills helps you become a better meeting participant. Ask a skilled trainer to teach you "facilitation" (how to lead a discussion) skills.

10. Read. Among other titles, consider books on leadership, presentation skills, and biographies of role model leaders.

Are there other ways to improve leadership presence? Please comment with your ideas.

[Based on Great Leadership by Dan McCarthy]

Today's Word

"So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'" — Matthew 25:20-21