Hoping to grow wise.

Rob Maupin


Posts Categorized as: leadership




O humility, how expensive you are...

Your cultural bias DICTATES your first emotional response to a new form of leadership

My mom did not like whining*. My two older brothers and I have laughed for years at the memory of Mom getting that fierce look on her face and then flicking us right in the lips with her finger if she caught us whining. She would look us right in the eye and say, “You may be angry, you may complain, but you may not whine.” Seriously, try popping yourself in the lips to see just how well that gets your attention!

I also remember that she was very efficient in emergencies. For many years she served as an emergency room nurse. While that had some upsides, the downside of that, of course, was that if one of us started crying, she would go into crisis mode and go straight to the heart of things:

Mom: Are you bleeding?

Me: (sniff) No…

Mom: Do you require medical attention?

Me: (sniff, sniff) No….

Mom: Why are you crying?

Me: (awkward pause) I don’t know…

Mom: Well then, stop it.

Me: uh…ok…?

Now, this is not to suggest my mother was lacking the maternal instinct or capacities. She was warm and kind to so, so many people. She genuinely cared for us. In fact, she was occasionally irrational in her defense of us. But she had a real displeasure for men who were full of self-pity or weakness. Mom walked past me one time when I was being super-lazy and kinda whiny as a teenager. She asked what was wrong. I was feeling sorry for myself (over a girl), and she said in mid-stride, “no wonder she doesn’t like you…try acting like a man.” Ouch. My Mom was interested in her boys being strong. Add my Dad into the mix, and you get an idea of some of my upbringing. Phrases like pony up (and other less-appropriate phrases) were just part of the lifestyle. My brothers and I had boxing gloves, and we were allowed to use them. I sometimes joke that instead of a “fight-or-flight” reaction, I have a “fight-or-fight-meaner” kind of experience.

Now there was another element to this. Because I loved my family and had so much respect for my parents, I was proud of our heritage and our way of life. We were not financially successful, but our way of life felt authentic and in-line with the entire corpus of Louis L’Amour books on the shelf and the stack of John Wayne videotapes that grew as the years went by.

When I left home, that was the paradigm I had for what a person should act like. This was the model I had imbibed from an early age. But when I got to college, I started coming into contact with people who were so very different. I honestly didn’t know what to do. The introvert in me just avoided the issues (even though I was intensely curious), and I also had to learn to deal with a host of emotional issues I had been avoiding. But here’s where it got really difficult: I was asked to lead others—uh oh…

Like all young leaders I started with what I had—and I made some terrible decisions in the midst of God using me anyway. However, I soon realized that I was fairly one-dimensional in both my understanding and expression of leadership. Really, I had never questioned or thought through why I believed the things I did. I had, like virtually everyone, looked to the leaders I knew (parents, coaches, and community leaders) as my examples. But my failures and stresses forced me to start a journey to try and understand leadership per se. I began reading anything about leadership that was recommended by leaders I respected. I read and asked questions about leadership all the time! But I still had so far to go.

The most significant turning point in this journey came while I was in graduate school at Wheaton College. I took a class on cross-cultural leadership with Dr. Robert L. Gallagher. He pushed me to start thinking of leadership in new ways I had never dreamed of. In another class, Dr. Scott Moreau asked us to reflect on our own “cultural myths.” The word “myth” is cowboy talk for nonsense. I felt offended. Then he explained that “cowboy talk” is just one cultural form among so very many. Oh, so humbling… These two men challenged me so deeply about my own self-perceptions and about what I thought “ought” to happen in leadership. My own cultural bias dictated my emotional response to a different form of leadership! And I learned that I was responding out of hurt rather than clear thought and love. As the old saying goes, “The fish is the last one to understand the concept of water.”

Fast-forward to our team office in Mexico City. I had been reading a book about emotional IQ and leadership. I shared a particularly relevant thought to one of my teammates. It was received in a less-than-impressive manner. He directly challenged me that day to base my leadership thinking off of the Bible first and western ideas of it later. That day I began a process where I read the Old Testament twice and the New Testament four times and I marked every single instance of leadership, management, logistics and use of power in the entire Canon. That took two years. During that study I took copious notes as well. When I finished I realized that a great deal of what I thought GOD said about leadership was just not there. It was (in major part) just my culture… Well… nuts.

Once again, fast-forward on my timeline to the basement in one of the buildings at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. I was in my third year of doctoral work, and I was learning about leadership theory from one of the best: Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Glanville. She (and another professor named Dr. Alan Weaver) were REALLY working me over about leadership. I finally began to put together some of the questions I had had for so many years. As I learned about how to determine things that are supra-cultural vs simply mono/multi-cultural I began to learn about leadership in it’s most basic form. Wow…the light bulbs started flashing.

At this point, if you are still reading, you either have way too much time or you care really care about leadership. I still write and think about it because of the deep, deep needs that our nation/world face today. I don’t want to wait on the sideline wringing my hands, lobbing the theological pot-shots at those who disagree with or frighten me. My heart and energy are for the good work of Christ and His Kingdom and because of that, I want to go forward and be helpful. I suspect you do too… So what’s the point of this particular ramble?

1. We’re not as smart as we think we are

In this season of elections, tensions and overall “the-sky-is-falling” times, we need to think more clearly. We all want to be the person that is clear about what is really going on. I read post after post on social media about how stupid (x) folks are. All of us have our blind spots and while we are able to grow in Wisdom, it takes a great deal of work to do so (cf Prov 2:1-6). Most of us have adopted more of our culture than we are aware of. When, as a young man, I was thinking about how people should lead, I wasn’t thinking in terms of my cultural preferences or even what the Bible, as a whole, says about leadership… I was using my cultural bias as my barometer for what was true. The problem is that our cultural blind spots make us feel self-righteous. Which leads to the second issue.

2. We’re not as grace-filled as we think we are

I recently was talking to a friend who teaches leadership at a very high level indeed. As we were discussing spiritual formation techniques, he mentioned that one of his colleagues was a hard-core proponent of the 38 hour work-week for all Christians. This point of view comes from the idea that to know God, we need time. And when we work too hard we take from ourself the capacity for long seasons alone with God. I get it. But my friend’s point was that their particular community/context was not filled with people who had the kinds of jobs that allowed that kind of schedule; especially with the normal 10 hours of commuting time built in. He said quietly (and sadly), “Sometimes I feel like he’s being a grace-filled pharisee.” I read stuff from pastors who say harsh things about Christians who disagree with them. They rain down judgement on anyone who has a different view of the way ministry ought to be. Often, this is just our cultural bias talking. So really the way to look at this is…

3. The proof is in the fruit

I was so encouraged recently by an article about Conservative churches helping refugees despite some of the tenuous issues involving terrorism and immigration. Instead of ranting about how we should feel about all these things, they just began helping and serving and doing. A friend of mine in Joplin has had a goat roast for the last ten years to meet people from other cultures. A young leader I know in Rhode Island mobilizes their church to help all the middle schools launch their school year! If you want to find people who are living out Micah 6:8, you have to look carefully—and they’re usually not viral. Want to see leadership? Look at places that have amazing results. Most of the time, they’re not getting a ton of publicity because they’re busy doing the work. Paul’s words, “God cannot be mocked.” still ring true.

Earlier I mentioned Dr. Betsy Glanville. During my dissertation writing process, we had a small argument about the structure of one of my chapters. I was convinced I had it right. As we talked, she finally said, “I’m done talking with you about this. You need to learn to think more clearly!” She actually told me that until I read a book called, “Thinking Skills,” she was done arguing. Talk about humiliating…But I DID read it… and she was right. I was making assumptions, not making my case well and arguing from passion rather than logic. After reading the whole book I sheepishly approached her, and instead of arguing I asked her to guide me toward a better way of saying what I intended.

Humility has come hard for me. It has cost me a lot—work, time, humiliation and lots of apologies. But it mostly cost me things that I really don’t want: Pride, stubbornness, self-deceit and isolating myself. I still work hard to understand truth, and I still want to think as clearly as possible. But I hold my opinions much more lightly than before… it costs too much otherwise. Pray for me. I need it.

*I am writing in past tense about Mom. As I write this she is still alive but in a memory care facility, and she is no longer at the same capacity as before. The tense is only indicative of the era…


Toward the Breach

It seems that for now, I cannot avoid the autobiographical. I’ve written drafts for three or four posts but they all fail in several areas; most notably in passion. So my apologies.

We recently sent my oldest to college. During our last night at home together I gave him a final “Dad talk.” I reminded him of just a few things that he already knew but needed emphasis. It didn’t last very long. What I really wanted to do was to send him away with my blessing. I had to wing it of course. No one ever taught me the formality of that process so I laid my hands on his raggedy, adolescent head and waded in. I ended my rudimentary attempt at a Biblical ritual by praying Numbers 6 over him with lots of tears but only a few catches in my throat. In traditional Garrett fashion he quietly accepted my touch in a humble yet strong way. In what was a very weird, awkward and holy moment I felt as close to Garrett as I can remember. My firstborn, doing exactly what we wanted him to do, was leaving with my blessing to go make his way as a man in this world.

The next day, I left for yet another trip and during our final hug, I whispered, “Be brave.”

He nodded, I got choked up and we parted ways. Of course I was saying that to myself just as much as I was to him. His Mom and sister bravely took him to college—lots of tears there. Our adjustment at home is new and weird and wonderful because although this is painful, this is what is supposed to be. We WANT him to be brave, to be a man, to do daring and godly things.* And now Kate has to face her remaining years of High School alone. She too needs to be brave right now. Driving a stick, social pressure, her vasculitis, future decisions etc. All of those things are now upon her. Shannon and I are staring down the barrel of all kinds of new frontiers. Everything is changing and we all need to learn to be brave.

As one of those families who has adopted a somewhat gypsy/activist/suburban/missionary/homeowner life, we have had lots of moments where we had to move toward the breach. What I mean is that as we move down (or forward in) the timeline, God continues to bring us to cross roads that will force us to choose. This is a complicated and multi-faceted issue but in the end, we are all forced by the inevitability of time to choose something. Courage is needed because of our inherent desire to avoid pain. It is always some kind of battle. When that battle has a breaking point, that is the direction we need to go toward rather than shun. Our courage is directly tied to the cost of a certain decision and I have chosen the cowardly way far too many times. As I face my embarrassing cowardice I consistently hunt for images and words in the Bible that remind me to manifest courage.

I have been studying the Gospel of Mark for some time now. Yesterday the phrase describing Joseph of Arimathea in Mark 15 just jumped off the page at me. He was a prominent member of the council and he was “waiting for the Kingdom of God.” He had been on the periphery with Jesus. He was soul-kin to Nicodemus—A believer but not ready to pay that real cost of losing his comfortable place and resectable power. But after Jesus died he “gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus” (Mk 15:43). I was struck by the proactive statement: “he gathered up.” (Pause to consider) Joseph ends up, by the brute force of time and circumstance to finally have to make a choice between his former life and Jesus. To do so meant a great deal of perceived loss. So he had to get courage and go forward, toward the crossroads and change the course of his life. Many times in the Bible you see the phrase “take courage.” or “be strong and courageous.” The result of doing this is that you become courageous by choosing and grabbing courage in a painful situation.

We live in this awful yet wonderful time. Politics and fury make our world feel like something out of the miserable part of history books. Fear is absolutely rampant. How do we live in hope? When violence and manifest evil make headlines every day how are we to move forward with church planting, prophetic living, loving our neighbors (who are not like us at all any more) and raising our children to be brave? Should we be positive or cynical? There is a false kind of courage that makes some Christians reactive. Love turns to defense, attacks replace conversation and the fringe-voices that only hold judgement get too much attention. People want to fight or flee. The fight option seems harmful and mean. Consequently many of us take the flight option. It’s true: we can try to hide, protect ourselves and keep everyone from harm. But the timeline toward terrible things is marching on…we cannot avoid it. Choosing comes upon us all.

What we need now is to gather our courage. God is not weak. He is not inactive. It is in the breach where we find a chance to be change agents! We get the awesome and terrible privilege to stand with Jesus and co-labor with him (I Co 3:9). We get to share in both his sufferings and his glory (I Pe 4:13). We are ambassadors, agents of reconciliation, healers, pastors, teachers, servants, truth-speakers, prophets, worshipers, and seed-sowers. It takes courage to listen to our enemies, to love those who hate us and wish us harm, to try new, costly endeavors, to learn new work skills or to create something for God. Courage is needed for church planters, leaders, CEOs, moms, students, accountants, service workers and everyone who calls on Christ in every workplace. Only courage will give access to radical generosity, bold leadership and big attempts for the Lord. Courage is required to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey in the small and unknown sacrifices.

The costs are going up for those who follow Jesus. But the alternative is by far a worse option. Don’t be afraid—take courage. I know it sounds trite…it’s easy to say but it is hard to do. But this is the season to go toward the breach.

I remember the first sermon I ever preached. It was terrible. I thought I was going to die in the pulpit of the Algoa Mens Penitentiary in Jefferson City Missouri.

After 7 minutes of inane gibberish I just sat down, experiencing my first flop sweat; dizzy with both shame and adrenaline. The first sermon was hard. The second was even harder because now I knew what a bad preacher I was. 27 years later, I make my living by speaking and leading and it brings me joy rather than mind-numbing shock. Yet each time I preach or speak in public I am still required to gather courage to do my job. To lead my family, to love my aging parents and to participate in this amazing endeavor of church leadership, I am still required to gather my courage to obey my King. Please pray for me. I need it. If you want, let me know how I can pray for you.

As always, if you want to discuss any of this, hit me up on Twitter @MaupinRob, Facebook or email me at robmaupin@mycompasschurch.com.


*Garrett is studying to become a missionary pilot…he is choosing a very brave pathway indeed…please pray for him.


Hiatus, Transition and New Beginnings

There have been several friends recently who have commented something to the degree of “…gave up on the blog, huh?” I suppose I did. It was not a conscious decision by any means but life got a little out of hand for a while.

Last August, Garrett started his Senior year of high school (note his cool Senior pic).

Kate started her Freshman year. Between football, choir and a host of doctor visits we had a pretty full schedule. On top of that, we were trying our best to purchase a home. We had lived in a house owned by the church since late March and we felt we needed to put down some roots. We spent a lot of time trying to find the financing to do that. ON TOP OF THAT, the church/missions ministry was growing and I was still teaching part-time for LCU. It got a little crazy.

In December we closed on a house in the kids’ school district and then we left for Christmas. We were stopped cold (sorry) by a blizzard on our way to see family but when we got back to Texas, I started remodeling the house. For six(ish) weeks I would work all day at church and all evening at the house. An untold number of friends and church members helped us and finally in February, we moved in! Throw some mission trips into the mix and then getting Garrett graduated and I just lost the concept of keeping up with the website.

As I write this, Garrett leaves in four days for LeTourneau University. It’s a crazy time in life. Kate will soon get her license and is as busy as ever. Shannon is now an associate youth pastor at Compass and our lives are wonderfully full in a challenging and lovely way. Our home is beautiful (all who know Shannon are not surprised) and we LOVE being a part of our church.

However, there is one continuing challenge that we need to face. The medical bills that have grown up around us during this time of transition/diagnoses are pretty impressive. Nothing like some people suffer but for now, they’re a tad out of our reach. My petitions to God about this were answered one day during a prayer retreat. I was asking God to give me the money for those medical bills. What I believe I heard surprised me: “work harder.” In this particular age, there is a great deal of talk regarding the imbalance that many Americans face with busyness. This is a valid issue. But as I tried to weasel out of more work, I became more convinced this was what is required.

I approached several friends and asked them to send speaking engagements my way. That did not work out. But, one friend got me connected with CDF Leadership Capital and I applied to work as a part-time leadership consultant with them. For the last few months, our team has been working to get an amazing group of talented facilitators together hoping to be a blessing to churches around the world! It’s a very exciting thing. In fact, I was just certified to facilitate the Paterson Center StratOp™ tool. It’s amazing.

So, here’s the point. I took a year off of writing. That’s long enough. Some of our big transitions are over, the hiatus is over and I am going to press forward at Compass, LCU and CDF to do all that I can to serve my role in the Kingdom of God. If you care to comment or communicate, email me at robmaupin@mycompasschurch.com and I will get back to you.