Category Archives: Leadership

Not Everybody Likes You or Me (And It’s Okay)

Not Everybody Likes You or Me (And It’s Okay)

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The desire to be liked and approved of by others runs deep in most of us. Maybe all of us. We are wired for connection to other humans. We are made to be in meaningful relationships. And when we know or sense that someone in our sphere of influence doesn’t like us, it hurts.

From the time we start school as young children, we do whatever we can to gain the acceptance and approval of others.

  • If we’re nerdy, we play the smart card.

  • If we’re goofy, we play the fun card.

  • If we’re athletic, we play the jock card.

  • If we’re musical, we just play something, anything (even a trumpet) to fit in with others who are like us. Hoping beyond hope that others will embrace us as valuable.

As we enter our teen years, we might feign apathy and act as if we don’t care about being liked.

But we do care. A lot.

Over time, after a broken heart or two or twenty, and after rejection after rejection, we typically start to withdraw in an act of self-preservation. However, our retreat from people doesn’t stop our deep-seated need to be recognized and accepted.

Of course, there are some who seem to be liked by everyone, but even those chosen few wrestle with a latent fear of falling out of grace with their peers. These gods among us know how fickle fame can be, and they are painfully aware of the unpredictable nature of mere humans.

We all long for love.

We all want to be valued.

We all desire to be desired.

We all check the number of Facebook likes on our latest post.

For me, I am keenly aware that people are visiting our church every Sunday and that they evaluate me on a regular basis.

Every time I speak, people are appraising me and my abilities.

Is he funny? Is he practical? Is he inspiring? Is he biblical and sound? Is he too old or too young?

Do I like his style? Do I like the way he dresses? Do I relate to him? Do I understand him?

Those questions and many others are running through the hearts and minds of the new folks.

Of course, the old-timers are asking different questions.

Have I heard this talk before? Is that message going to help me grow? Why does he care so much about this topic? Why should I care? Does Kurt care about me?

Trust me; I know what’s going on. I’ve been at this a long time.

When I write, either a blog or a book, the tape playing in the background of my mind is often asking, Will this resonate with the reader?

Like you, I want to be liked. I want to be accepted. I want to be approved of rather than rejected.

But here are some realities I wish I would have learned decades ago:

  1. Everything you do is a bridge to some and a barrier to others. Some will be drawn to you, your style, and your personality. Others, not so much, and it’s okay.

  1. If you are always striving for the approval of people, you will find it difficult, maybe impossible, to be consistently faithful to God and His call. You simply won’t be esteemed by everyone, and attempting to be is an effort in futility. It’s okay that not everyone likes you. Really.

  1. Because you failed to meet expectations (reasonable or not), early fans sometimes become later critics, and that’s okay too. You’re never going to keep everybody happy all of the time.

So what can you do?

In the words of Brennan Manning, “Be who you is or you is who you ain’t!” Today, to the fullest extent possible, be who God created you to be. Be in Christ. Be real. Be true to yourself if you want to be true to others.

Of course we need to grow. Without a doubt, there are plenty of character issues that need to be addressed. I’m not suggesting that you or I just wallow in the wastelands of idiocy.

But if you are not comfortable in your own skin and accepting of who you are today, right now, then you’re destined to be a grumpy, bitter, and depressed soul.

For some, my current mental, physical, or spiritual condition may be intolerable, and they don’t like me.

It’s okay. It is what it is. I am what I am.

I’m no Jesus, and even He was despised and rejected. Why should you or I expect to be loved, accepted, or liked by everyone?

Bottom line: to live uncontrolled by the need to be liked by all is liberating and the path to abiding joy.

Live free today.

“Jesus did not fully trust them.

He knew what people are like.

He didn’t need anyone to tell him what people are like.

He already knew why people do what they do.”

John 2:24-25  (NIRV)

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16 Responses to Not Everybody Likes You or Me (And It’s Okay)

  1. Awesome message Kurt. I really appreciated this message. Going to get to my sons for them and their children to read. God Bless You, have an awesome day. I am in AZ for a couple of days.

  2. I grew up as a people-pleaser, and as time went on, I almost lost my soul in the process. Thank God for the rescue!
    No, we can never be liked by all, nor can we fit the bill for all. We must be ourselves, the selves God created us to be.
    Thanks for this inspiration, Kurt!

  3. I like your blog. I believe I remember one of your sermons from years ago where you said that 10% of our acquaintances do not like us.

  4. I wouldn’t know anything about not liking you, because I do like you. You’re just so darn likable. I figure if there’s somebody out there that doesn’t like me (and I know there are one or two out there), then they are clearly in error and I forgive them their mistakes. 🙂

You’re Not Always a “Great” Leader (and It’s Okay)

You’re Not Always a “Great” Leader (and It’s Okay)

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We live in a time when the pressure to be a great leader is a clear mandate for everyone from pastors to business executives. Being average is unacceptable. Leadership books and conferences are everywhere. I have no fewer than thirty books about leadership in my personal library. If you Google “leadership,” you’ll find about 775,000,000 results.

Leadership is a big deal in today’s world.

Yes, leadership matters.

Of course, mediocrity is never a good thing.

Personal growth is always preferred over the status quo—especially if the status quo is pathetic.

Being better is always a worthy goal.

My concern, however, is the growing internal conflict I see in leaders who will, quite frankly, never be all that great.

On our best days, most of us are average.

A lot of us are one or three-talent people rather than five-talent worldwide rock stars (a loose reference to a parable by Jesus). In the story, the first guy got just one bag of gold because the boss knew what he was capable of handling. Evidently, the other guys received more because they could manage more.

The number of bags (i.e. talents) wasn’t the issue.

I’m afraid we’ve missed something important in this parable. In Jesus’ story, the owner gave to each person “according to their ability.” He gave each of them what he knew they could successfully oversee.

Here’s a well-known leadership principle: Giving too much to someone too soon sets them up for failure, especially if it’s well beyond their capability or gift-mix. Stretching people is fine, but breaking individuals with a load far beyond their capacity is not.

Of course, the main point of the parable is simple: Be faithful with what you have. Be diligent. Work hard. Do your best. But for heaven’s sake, don’t compare yourself to the five-talent people.

For years, I fell into the trap of comparison.

I would watch myself on video or read something I’d written and get mildly depressed because, well, because I was average. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’d never be a Rick Warren, Bill Hybels or an Andy Stanley.

Sadly, I measured myself and my success by a standard that God never had put on me.

Certainly, I want to grow and develop as a teacher and an author, but I’ll never be gifted to speak like Beth Moore or write like C.S. Lewis.

And it’s okay.

Really. It’s fine.

I don’t have to be a “Big L” leader to be counted trustworthy or approved by the Father.

What am I responsible to do?

Grow. Be faithful. Be committed and true. Be the best me I can be in Christ and stay the course no matter what may come.

God expects you and me to use what He gave us. He’s looking for devoted, reliable, and dedicated servants, not superstars.

When Jesus returns, He won’t care whether or not you made it on TV or a bestseller list (and I suspect you won’t care then either). The only question will be, did you do your best with His investment in you? And the only thing you will want to hear is, “Good work! You did your job well” (Mark 25:21 MSG).

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to be motivated by a fear of being average. Not everyone is born to be great.

In reality, average does not always mean mediocre, and ordinary doesn’t always mean you’re second-rate. The truth is, average is acceptable if average is your best. Just be better tomorrow than you are today.

So, take a deep breath. It’s okay to be normal. Most of us are.

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14 Responses to You’re Not Always a “Great” Leader (and It’s Okay)

  1. Yep. It is better to be faithful than famous, and worse to be fearful than a failure.

    At least, that’s what i always got out of that parable. Thanks, Dad!

  2. I like this, Kurt. The big guy has a role that suits his gifting and he’s called to fulfill that role. Another guy (or gal) may not be in the forefront or regarded as extraordinary
    but that doesn’t mean the role isn’t truly great.

  3. Thank you Kurt. I needed this today. I’m going to add that it’s ok if my kids are average with flashes of brilliance. Thank you for your message Sunday and for your book “Epic Grace”. I was visiting from Lewiston and happy to get your book at church! I’ve been reading and soaking in grace. When I finish reading “Epic Grace” I’m excited to pass it on but also feeling like I will want to just start at the beginning and read it again for myself! I’m going to need to buy more copies. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing with us. Thank you for being faithful with what you have been given!

  4. God doesn’t expect us to BE the best in the eyes of the world, but only to DO our best with the gifts He’s given each of us. If we sit back complacently, saying we’ll never amount to anything, we will be like man who hid the one sack of gold in the ground. And truth be told, we won’t amount to anything because we never even tried!
    Great post, Kurt!

  5. Jerry Cooke had a grasp on this. His words have had long term impact on how I choose to live life. “Do well that which God has called you to do. Don’t spend time doing well, that which He has not called you to do.”
    Great man! Great words!!

Help, I’m the Old Guy on Staff! (How to Manage Millennials with Mercy)

Help, I’m the Old Guy on Staff! (How to Manage Millennials with Mercy)

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I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I became the old guy on our church staff. I don’t think of myself as old. I’m social media savvy. I text on my iPhone 7+. I don’t use it, but I even have a Snapchat account (I’m not sure why.).

Of course, I don’t wear skinny jeans, spike my hair, have a long beard, or have the coolest eyeglasses. I don’t sleep more than 6-7 hours a night. I still say “dude,” and I enjoy a mid-afternoon power nap. I also now qualify for the senior discount at a growing number of places.

Okay, at almost 60, maybe I am old, but I’m learning some things about relating to millennials. I’ll get there in a second, but let’s first attempt to describe who is what.

The generation breakdown is a bit difficult to define. In fact, the census bureau doesn’t classify the different generations except for Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964, who are roughly 52-70 years old).

The media, or some self-proclaimed pundit somewhere, have said that Gen-Xers are those born between 1965 and 1981, those who are 35-51. Millennials are typically those under 35, born between 1982 and 2004.

I’ve never been a big fan of pigeon-holing people, and there are plenty of folks who defy definition, but I recognize that some significant differences exist among these age groups.

That being said, how does a Boomer love and care for a staff comprised of some Gen-Xers and lots of Millennials?

Here are seven lessons I’m learning:

  • Be a good listener. If you’re a pastor, you’ve told couples a thousand times, “You’ll see some major improvements in your marriage if you work on your listening skills.” We all know how important this is, but we senior pastors (pun intended) have a nasty habit of liking the sound of our own voice when it comes to managing staff. However, it’s better to ask insightful and useful questions and to listen sincerely. You’ll make great headway with a Gen-Xer or Millennial who feels genuinely heard.

  • Clearly define your expectations. Listen first and listen well, but you’ll avoid a lot of frustration with everyone if you work hard to spell out what you want (or don’t want) and when you need it. Communication is a challenge when assumptions are made and ambivalence and indecision are present.

  • Pick your battles. On a regular basis, while being challenged by one of the young bucks on my staff or in other areas of my life, I’m consciously thinking, “How much does this truly matter? Is this a hill worth dying on?” Be honest. When it’s all said and done, does their way conflict with your ultimate goal? If you’ve defined the “win” (your clear expectations), it’s okay to give a lot of latitude to those doing the work. Of course, there are times when you should pull rank and say, “Thank you for your input, but this is what you’re going to do.” Just make sure those times are done in love and after you’ve listened to them well. Also, learn to under-react rather than over-react.

  • Don’t get defensive. Millennials are sometimes combative. I know that’s a generalization and not always true, but it is a common trait among the young. They rarely lack an opinion, and they often won’t back off until they feel valued and heard (review the point above about listening). Yes, it’s irritating when it seems like you aren’t being respected and your experience is being rejected or discounted as irrelevant, but take a deep breath and work hard not to be aggressive, defensive, or cynical because doing so never ends well for anyone. Remember, Millennials want to be valued (which is a good thing), and their opinions matter too.

  • Be mindful of the common ground you probably have with Millennials. Keep in mind, many Boomers (myself included) once were the arrogant, cocky, self-absorbed, know-it-alls who challenged everybody. Sooner or later, most people figure out that the generation before them weren’t all idiots and that experience actually does matter.

  • Lead by example. Words matter. Actions matter more. If you want them to work hard—then work hard. If you want them to have a servant’s heart—serve. If you want them to listen more and talk less—listen more. If you want them to learn from their elders and be teachable—you keep learning too. Being a lifelong learner isn’t easy. At my age, I’ve caught myself thinking, “I deserve a break. I shouldn’t have to work 10-12 hour days anymore. Where’s that life cruise-control button?” But relevance and respect must be earned, even if you’re old.

  • Be patient. If heading up a church staff and being the lead pastor were easy, you probably wouldn’t be needed. Believe me when I say, staff challenges are common. Put two or more humans together and some conflict is inevitable. Be patient with your young staff, and be patient with yourself.

Mistakes will happen. People will fail you, and you will fail them, but failure is always an opportunity for change and growth.

I’m thankful for the younger staff who surround me. I believe in them, and I see enormous potential for the future of the Church led by these young people. I deeply value the input and perspective of the young. In many ways, my Church is what it is because of the Millennials who contribute so much to who we are and what we do.

Sure, you and I might be old, but God’s not done with us yet. We still have the opportunity to shape the generations in our wake. Whether we do or don’t will have a lot to do with our attitude.

Enough said. Time for my nap.



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8 Responses to Help, I’m the Old Guy on Staff! (How to Manage Millennials with Mercy)

  1. This is really sound advice Kurt! I find as I get older, I much more enjoy listening to others rather than myself (which use to be the other way around when I was younger, lol).

    However, I do enjoy the wisdom and discernment that comes with growing old too!

  2. Yep! There’s still lots of life (and wisdom) in this Baby-Boomer yet!
    Great advice on how to communicate with and encourage the younger generations, Kurt.

What If Pastors Were Like Some Politicians?

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Nar B W Chlld Covering EyesGenerally, I avoid politics. That’s not to say I avoid voting or my civic duty. In fact, since I turned eighteen about a hundred years ago, I have always voted (though not always for a candidate you might expect).

As a pastor, and the leader of a church with Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and probably an anarchist or two, I’m careful not to take sides. And for those wondering, I’m not making a political endorsement now either.

However . . .

Does truth matter?


Is it okay that we live in a “post-truth political world”? No. Not at all.

Truth and trust always matter. And for the record, it seems that candidates from both major parties seem to have a problem with telling the truth.

What? Politicians lie?!

Uh . . . yeah.

And so do preachers from time to time.

But no one wants a lying wolf for a pastor. No one sane.

Because they are leaders in the Church, we hold pastors and priests to a pretty high standard, and we should.

Polics Lying Poli

Most of us would never tolerate a pastor who . . .

Is a liar

Is rude and crude

Is mean and divisive

Is image rich but character poor

Is focused on himself and his needs (a narcissist)

Most of us would fire a pastor who . . .

Acts like a bully

Swears on a regular basis from the pulpit

Shifts his theology to suit the crowd

Has a weak moral compass

We expect a certain level of moral character from our spiritual leaders, and rightfully so. But perhaps we should hold politicians to a higher standard since they lead everybody.

Some will say, “We aren’t electing a pastor-and-chief!” and I would agree. But our commander-and-chief has more influence and power than any pastor on the planet.

Maybe his or her character matters too?

Politics Lie Truth

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PIAD Front PanelEpic Grace Cover High ResMr Mrs Front Panel


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9 Responses to What If Pastors Were Like Some Politicians?

  1. PERFECTLY said…it is a struggle to prayfully ask who the best candidate is… I DID agonize ALOT over this when it was time for our turn to vote couple weeks ago.. This shouldn’t be hard right??? In the grand scheme of things.. but I still voted.. & I prayfully hope I made the right choice

  2. It’s sad that our country has strayed from our Christian roots and fundamentals. The country and the world has become lovers of themselves as Jesus predicted. All we can do is pray and try our best to bring people into the body of Christ, and let our light shine everyday! Thank God that Jesus is coming back soon to fix everything! 🙂

  3. Having served in political office in the Idaho Legislature I can tell you that most people who go into political office do it for the right reasons because they want to make things better but the system corrupts people if they do not have a strong moral compass that drives them, must be biblical based and believers who will not deviate from the truth of scripture and the call to be a servant to God and the people.

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