Posts Tagged ‘John Eldredge’

Exit Strategies and Succession Planning

March 27, 2014

[The following is another email to Russ–if this keeps going, I may need to start a blog titled something like Emails to Russ <G>. It follows on a conversation with him yesterday about his feeling the need to be planning an exit strategy and some frustrations he expressed about that.]


I had some thoughts on your comments yesterday about exit strategy and your dissatisfaction, thoughts that kind of gelled later on.

1) I’m not sure, strictly speaking, that a planned exit strategy is Scriptural. I don’t see Jesus advising the disciples to do so or to try to figure out how to pass the “company” on in any way other than organically, i.e., simply by being who they were and “doing the behaviors” of being a Christian, allowing the chips to fall where they may. I know that is counter-cultural, but statistically (I’ve heard) 50% of men who retire (I don’t think it applies the same to women, who aren’t as driven as men–see point #3 below) die within 1 year of retiring. I’ve heard others say you shouldn’t retire–find something else to move your competence into–e.g., volunteer work, etc.–that’s definitely a better option. Retirement is just not painted as an option in the Scriptures.

If you look at other examples in Scripture, you don’t see effective planning for succession as a matter of course. Usually it’s a pretty brutal thing as it happens–Jesus being the most notable example, though I think his exit was more planned than most, and you could argue from that, with him being our model, that it is indeed scriptural. You see David bungling the whole transition, and Solomon rapidly making a bunch of power plays to confirm his kingship. Samuel didn’t rear his sons well, and Israel booted his successors out on that count. Elijah resisted handing the mantle over to Elijah, and had to be forced into it (I heard a teaching once that Elijah was so afraid of dying that he deliberately didn’t do 2 of the last 3 things the Lord commanded him, had to be pressed into doing the one he did–handing off to Elisha–and was taken up in the fiery chariot strictly as an act of grace so he wouldn’t have to die! Pretty radical thinking there….)

2) This is not to say you shouldn’t plan for it or try to move toward it–simply that you need to place the whole idea before the Lord. The pressure to do this may be part of your frustration with the Lord (or it may not). One way to figure it out is to get some counsel–from your wife, from some other trusted Christian leaders you know who may have insights on it but also have a wealth and depth of background in being rooted in the Scriptures (Dr. Bob Shearer comes to mind–he has a law degree, a divinity degree, and at 70 is working full-time for FCA and just had his first grandchild–I’ll be glad to introduce you if you don’t know him. He too, like you, moved into this area).

Also, you might do a study of retirement and succession planning in Scripture. I could be totally wrong in what I said in point #1 above. My own course of life is a testimony to my lack of planning, which I am not entirely happy about–but at age 20, I simply wanted to get to the end of my life with a zero balance–and I’m headed there. I once heard a Christian friend I admired (now deceased), who had retired from Pickens County School District as a junior-high school PE coach and drivers-ed instructor, say, “When I was young, I decided I’d never be rich. I succeeded!” There may even be some good books or audio’s out there on the topic, though I’m sure a lot of them would be the product of the wealth and prosperity mentality prevalent in Christianity today–you don’t see a lot of best-sellers on going as a missionary, taking a vow of poverty, or even (to spin off your comment yesterday) fasting. Still, even some of them may have a nugget that encourages you.
3) I recently listened to an hour-long audio by John Eldredge (available on the Ransomed Heart website) which impacted me enough that I transcribed most of it. I’m attaching a copy of that. He has come to the conclusion that The Spirit of the Age [the title of the teaching], for our age, is DRIVENNESS, and he offers some pointers for helping us see that spirit for how it impacts us, and some ways of identifying it and potentially overcoming it. Great message. It helped me see the need to cut back (because of it and the situation with my grandson, I realized I need to resign from being chairman of a local organization I’m heading, and I’m in process of transitioning over the reins in the next month). We fail to realize how impacted we are by the world we live in, how we are pressured and molded into their way of thinking, contrary to what Romans 12:2 admonishes.

4) Sometimes, we feel pressure like you’re feeling as something akin to labor pains, and the birthing (for a first-time mother) has to be, without a doubt, something totally unfamiliar. Sometimes it comes unexpectedly, or in undesired ways, and is not at all pleasant, but, as Scripture says, after the baby is born, the mother forgets the pain she went through b/c of the joy of the newborn being there. That may happen to you also–what some have called “a suddenly”–something totally unpredicted and unpredictable. (That is what has happened to me over the last 2 years, with this latest grandson coming into my world in  a major way.) Joseph in the OT is a prime example–how could he predict after 2 “full” years in prison, he’s be Prime Minister of Egypt the next day? Could David foresee Samuel’s anointing, or the dozen years it would be in coming to fulfillment? (Interestingly, about the same time frame and roughly the same chronological ages [from age 17 to age 30] as Joseph’s journey from his visions to his ascension to power.) Jesus said no one could know the day of his coming, but that the pressure building up to it would be like a woman in travail. Imagine you were a Jew living in Germany in the late 1930’s–could you imagine the horror of the Holocaust having been consummated within a few short years? I’ve asked people, Is there any 5- or 10-year plan the disciples could have come up with on the Mount of Ascension that would rival what actually transpired?  Sometimes, it may well be that the pressure we’re feeling is meant to thrust us into a new birthing of some sort, something we could never in our wildest dreams have predicted, but which is so radically joyful that we couldn’t have anticipated it anyway!

Final thought: Basically, only you and the Lord ( and perhaps with some input from your wife) can figure out who, what and where you’re supposed to be in the coming days. And even then, keep in mind that famous old adage,

“Man plans–God laughs!’

With some joyful laughter (or a least a big smile) to mirror God’s–



Attitude Determines Destiny

January 30, 2013

Attitude determines direction. Direction determines destiny. Therefore, attitude determines destiny.

More and more, I am coming to realize that our attitude (a term commonly used by motivational speakers to describe our predisposition, the underlying and seldom-questioned presuppositions, and general focus of our being) determines the direction we take. If we expect positive results, and act in accord with that presupposition, we more often get positive results; if we expect negative, we get negative. And the process is self-replicating: More positivity breeds more of the same; more negativity leads to a downward spiral.

I just finished reading a book that brought that to the fore in my realizations more clearly than I had ever verbalized it. The book is titled The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story & Meaning of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus & His Family by Herschel Shanks & Ben Witherington III (2003). It is a well-written book (each writer writes half), based on the discovery around the year 2000 of an ossuary [a limestone burial box] inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” The authors do an excellent job of making their case, Herschel considering the archaeological authenticity and Ben focusing on the theological and historical authenticity and the ramifications they imply.

At the end of the book, Ben makes the point that historically there have been three primary stances on the relation of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and James that have been associated with major religions [it would take too long to explain these adequately, and is not relevant to my point here], and that, if indeed this box is authentic, only one can be true. In addition, he asserts that early on, the correct view got preempted with the incorrect ones over several centuries by biased agenda that church leaders came to the table with and consequently skewed the data and even falsified it in some cases.

This was a huge insight for me—not theologically, but internally. We have been dealing with issues in trying to take our business to the next level, and a few days ago, I had come to the realization that one of the key points in how we were differing was based on our prior assumptions. If we assume that a particular employee is self-serving, cutting corners, and scamming the company, then we look for data to back that up. If, to the contrary, we assume that he has the company’s best interests at heart, we look for data to back that presupposition up.

And we do that in all of life. John Eldredge, in his book Waking the Dead, indicts the present-day manifestations of most forms of Christianity for assuming that our hearts are evil, based on a few scriptures like Jeremiah 17:9. The result is a negative, self-flagellating form of Christianity that discourages almost everyone, including the one practicing it. However, to take the opposite position, if we assume that, when we are “born again” our hearts are renewed (having had the old, dead “heart of stone” taken out and replaced with a renewed “heart of flesh” per scriptures like Ezekiel 11:19 & 36:26), then we believe we can actually do good works without being duplicitous or hypocritical, that we can live a life of joy and expectancy, that life is worth living, and passion is worth having.

In a word, where you start determines where you finish. And how.

Motivational speakers sometimes ask, “What would you do if you believed you could do anything?” Definitely food for thought. What we more often ask ourselves is, “Why can’t I get through the day?” And the answer is that we see a metaphorical Great Wall of China, a Mount Everest, before us.

I heard tell of this recently from a guy well-on in years who moved into our area a few years back, took on the chairmanship of a newly-created visionary organization focused on where our county could be in 2025 (, and was promptly told by locals that there was no way he could raise large sums of money. He (and others who believed) raised over $100K, some of which is still being used to operate on today—and it is time to take that too to a new level.

Maybe it’s not always true, but if I believe the worst, most of the time that’s exactly what I get. Conversely, if I believe the best is possible and worth pursuing, at least I’m far more likely to make it happen. I’m reminded of a small-town service-station attendant (in the days when there was no self-service) being asked by two different couples at different times what the new town they were moving to was like. In each instance, he asked them what the town they came from was like. The first couple described it negatively, the second positively. He told each, “That’s what you’ll find here, I’m sure.”

We carry our own baggage with us for the journey we’re on.

Jesus, in His image of separating the sheep from the goats, bases the judgment of their response to His attempts to move them on their attitudes toward those who unknowingly represented Him. Each side either saw or didn’t see Him in the poor, naked, needy people who came their way, and were judged accordingly. Interestingly, neither had at the time recognized Him in them—but their predisposition to be looking for Him (even in “the least”) was telling.

Attitude determines destiny. We go toward what we focus on.

Where are YOU pointed? What are YOU focused on? It matters.