The Skill of Self Development

I am fortunate to work in a culture which values leadership development. We work really hard on developing skills to have tough conversations, recruit other leaders, and cast vision for volunteer teams. We talk about creating a culture and defining wins and replacing ourselves. Conversations around next steps and clarity and vision dominate most of our staff meetings.

While all of those things are important parts of my job, probably the most important is the skill of self-development.

Leaders are learners first and foremost and the day we stop learning is the day we cease to be relevant.

Think about it like bike racing. There’s a whole group of people (a peloton) riding towards the same destination. There’s an interesting phenomenon where if you aren’t moving forward in the group, you are moving backward. For whatever reason, sitting stationary will eventually spit you out the back and once you find yourself disconnected from the field, it is extremely challenging to catch back up.

Moving forward is uncomfortable. It requires passing people and working hard and being intentional. There is no sitting in.

Self-development should be the same way. It should be uncomfortable, challenging, and intentional.

I recently came across a survey reported by Business Insider in 2012 about the negative effect of only watching Fox News (It was later followed up by Forbes). Most alarming in the whole report was not the news outlet people actively chose to watch, but they only chose to watch one out of all of them.

The problem with watching one (or reading, or listening) is you never actually engage in thought. You never actually challenge your perspective or worldview. We tend to find conversation which does not make us uncomfortable and jump in… And apparently stay in.

Challenging our frameworks is hard and uncomfortable. It causes us to perhaps question everything we have ever believed about anything. For most, our worldviews are a house of cards. You pull out the bottom level and the whole thing comes crashing down and identity crisis ensues.

This happened to me in college (perhaps for most people, it happens in college?). I was sitting in a religion 101 class when my professor simply stated the archeological evidence for the Old Testament was practically non-existent.

Uh. What?

To the google machine, I went. His comment was a little bit of an exaggeration, but to my dismay, there is surprisingly little evidence for much of what I took as concrete fact. (Before you jump all over me… archeology is still a new-ish science and we continue to find more and more relics which give support to more and more of the Old Testament. For example, we now know King David was a real person).

Even in my seminary circles, there is an underlying assumption that much of what was written in the Bible was to tell us something about the nature of God and his relationship with humanity and not written as a history book in our modern sense.

When I came to grips with that, I was able to move past some of the historical issues and stopped worrying so much about it. Once I did, the Bible opened up to me like the sun coming up over the promised land of Colorado.

Here’s just one example: What do you think you will find if you looked past the current science vs. religion debate on the creation narrative in Genesis 1? Here’s what I found: I was created on purpose for a purpose. And that purpose was to partner with God in the act of creating good things; bringing forth beauty through creativity. Our vocation is the same today. What beautiful things are we creating? Where are we redeeming broken places? I see the whole world differently now.

Leaders are learners and learners challenge their own worldview.

Here are a few places to start:

  1. A Letter to a Christian Nation – Sam Harris
  2. Did Jesus Exist – Bart Ehrman
  3. What is the Bible? – Rob Bell
  4. Short Stories by Jesus – Amy Jill-Levine
  5. The Bible Tells Me So – Peter Enns

What has challenged your worldview? Let me know!

the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog or not necessarily the thoughts and opinions expressed by beachside community church or npm.