The deeper wisdom of Future Babble

Last week I wrote critically of the worldview underlying most of the sociology books I read using Future Babble as the prime example.

Future Babble is all about expert predictions gone horribly wrong. Daniel Gardner’s basic thesis is that a lot of experts are really bad at predicting what will happen in the future, but that people tend to keep buying into these predictions anyway.

It was an interesting book, and even though I find fault with some of the underlying assumptions, the book still has a deeper wisdom that is worth paying attention. I took two big lessons from this book.

Humble people are usually better at analyzing the future

Gardner makes a distinction between experts who he calls hedgehogs and others he calls foxes. Hedgehogs know one thing really well. They are smart and confident. They are usually the ones who appear as talking heads on cable shows. They sell lots of books. But they are often wrong. If fact, they’re no better than non-experts at making predictions about the future. Hedgehogs are also great at “explaining away” their misses. “I just got the timing wrong,” “If only this hadn’t happened,” “you misunderstood what I said to begin with,” etc.

Foxes, on the other hand, don’t focus on only one thing. They are less confident and more cautious. Because they are more nuanced, they’re less likely to be on talk shows and TV. They’re also a lot more likely to be right about the future. When they get it wrong, they’re more likely to admit it and learn from their mistakes.

Hedgehogs are marked by pride; foxes by humility. I think I remember something about pride going before the fall. We should be wary of our own overconfidence.

Be cautious of experts who are confident of what the future holds

Don’t be a hedgehog. But don’t trust a hedgehog either. They’re often wrong.

There have been many doomsayers throughout the years. The world was supposed to be way overcrowded by now, with the end of affluence, and whole sections of the earth wiped out by famine. The age of oil was supposed to be over.

There have also been those who predicted that all would be sunshine and roses, that we would be living in a Utopian age.

Neither of these predictions, confidently given, turned out to be correct. But a string of bad predictions doesn’t dissuade a new generation of confident pundits from boldly predicting the future. We should be cautious of them.

Gardner’s argument for why experts so often get it wrong is two-fold. First, we live in a complex world. Second, we’re biased in our judgments. I would agree with both of these (though for slightly different reasons than he does). I would add a third element. There’s another hand at work: the providence of God. He holds history in his hands and his ways are beyond and above our ways. Though we can expect the future to be filled with both highs and lows it’s less important for us to know exactly what those will be or when they will occur than it is to focus on our relationship with the One who holds that future. Uncertainty is a cause for worry, but God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of wisdom and self-discipline. Leave the future to God, focus on following him now.

Is the Church weak or strong?

Pretty-ChurchIs the Church weak or strong?

Whatever adjective you put before the word “church” makes all the difference in this question. Is the global church weak or strong? Is the American church weak or strong? Is my local church weak or strong?

But the question I’m asking is if the Church (big C) is weak or strong? Are believers weak or strong?

If you know me at all, you’ll know that I rarely answer a question like this by picking one of the options. Is the Church weak or strong? It depends on what you mean. We are weak in three senses, and strong in at least one.

We are weak in the measure of our humanity. In our humanity we are a breath, we come from the dust and will return to the dust. We are finite and limited. We make errors. We get things wrong. Our strategies are sometimes ill conceived, our execution haphazard. Even on human terms of strength and weakness we are often seen as weak or foolish before a world that idolizes money and success. I have no faith in the human strength of the church.

We are weak in the measure of our sinfulness. Yes, the church is God’s holy people. We have been forgiven and redeemed. We are being sanctified. But our sin is still always before us. We wage war with it and we have the ultimate victory, but in the meantime, it wins some battles. Sin hampers our efforts. It weakens us beyond our humanity. This weakness is to our shame.

We are weak in the measure of our following after the crucified Christ. Jesus came in weakness. He emptied himself of the glory due him and came in humility. He humbled himself to death on a cross. He gained victory not through human strength, but through self-sacrifice. When he calls disciples, he calls them to take up their crosses and follow him. We take that same posture of weakness before the world, a posture of humility, death to self, and sacrificial love. To the extend we embrace this weakness, this weakness is to our glory.

But we are also strong. Or, at least, strength is available to us.

We are strong in the measure of our being filled with the fullness of Christ.

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. – Ephesians 1:18-23

Paul prays that the Ephesians will know, that is, experience, God’s “incomparably great power.” That power is the power of the resurrection, of Christ’s position at the right hand of the Father, and of Christ’s reign over every power and authority, spiritual and physical, present and future. Notice the path of exaltation. Christ is lifted higher and higher throughout the passage. But the passage ends in descent, with Christ’s unique relationship with the Church – those who have put their trust in him. He exercises is headship over all things for the church. To the extent that the church is filled up with Christ, it knows the power of God. In this, then, we are strong.

How can we be filled up with Christ? By trusting and depending on him. Paul himself was no stranger to the weakness of the flesh, or of his battle with sin. But he learned that he could depend on God’s grace so that when he was weak, then he was strong, not a strength from himself, but Christ’s work in him. God gives grace to the humble. He strengthens the feeble. When we participate with him in his suffering, we can be assured that we will participate with him in his resurrection.

What does this power look like? Is it what the world will recognize as power? Perhaps. But more often it will only be manifested in weakness. It will show up as courage in the face of danger, hope in the face of suffering, perseverance in the face of temptation, and steadfastness under pressure.

So, is the American church strong or weak? Is the local church strong or weak? Is the global church strong or weak? To the degree we depend upon God and are filled up with Christ, we will remain strong.

On the pain of misalignment

The greatest moments of physical pain I’ve ever experienced have come from dislocation and misalignment.

Last year, as I was youthfully* bounding up the stairs at my church, I tripped over the lip of the next step. The ring finger on my left hand caught my fall. I got up, looked at it, and thought, something doesn’t look right. It was pointing in an unnaturally bizarre direction. I had dislocated it. After a trip to the ER, and a fair amount of pain later, it has been reset in its joint.

Earlier that same year I tore a muscle in my shoulder painting the ceiling of my house. I didn’t realize it at the time but a few days later I was lying on my back in a conference room at work in utter agony. The muscle had become inflamed and had knocked my back way out of alignment. I had a pinched nerve in my neck. The right side of my left hand was completely numb. A coworker drove me to an urgent care center. I was prescribed pain killers and muscle relaxers. For a few months, I went to the chiropractor three times a week.

Have you ever experienced the physical pain that comes from your body being misaligned? From a joint being dislocated?

Have you ever experienced the spiritual pain that comes from spiritual misalignment and dislocation?

Spiritual Misalignment

Sin is at the root of all spiritual misalignment. God created us to live in union with him, our wills, desires, motives, and actions, all aligned with his, acting in creative freedom, in a way that coincided with his own creative freedom. When sin entered the world, the alignment was broken. Our wills were severed from his. We became dislocated. That dislocation causes spiritual pain which we can (often successfully!) find ways to numb or to dull, but which continues to gnaw at the back of our minds.

Coming to faith in Jesus causes significant healing. Our sins are forgiven and we receive power from God to live new lives. In repentance, our wills align to God’s. We say “yes” to his way, are set free from the power of sin, and begin to walk in creative freedom.

But even Christians continue to experience the pain of dislocation and misalignment.

The misalignment between desires and actions. Paul complained about this: “What I want to do I don’t want to do and what I don’t want to do, I do!” His spirit within him, guided by the Holy Spirit, desired to follow God. But his sinful nature still held sway, and sometimes won. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” he asked. Christians in every generation can relate.

The misalignment between motives and actions. In some ways, this is the reverse of Paul’s experience, and it’s one I’ve experienced. As a pastor, almost everything I do, or at least everything I’m judged for, is public. It is seen by others who either approve or disapprove There have been times when that approval/disapproval has become more than just the natural outcome, but the motivation for my work. In those instances, I can still preach a good sermon, but my motivations are misaligned with the very sermon I’m preaching. I have found that often my actions are a lot easier to manage than my motivations.

Other misalignments. The list is long: The misalignment between the “ideal” Christian community and the actual physical church. The misalignment between the hope we know we should experience and the sadness we feel. The misalignment between our faith in God and the doubts we nevertheless experience (what James calls being double-minded.) The misalignment that comes from following God in private, but fearing to do so in public, or from boldly following him in public but turning away from him in the “privacy” of our own minds or rooms. These misalignments are always painful. They need healing.

Healing

Is healing from misalignment possible? Yes, by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. “By his stripes we are healed.” God is faithful to continue the work in us.

In many ways, spiritual formation is the process of recognizing and then healing misalignments. We don’t always feel the pain of spiritual misalignment, not because it’s not there but because our hearts are too callous to feel it. We don’t feel it, but it’s sapping the life from us. When the Spirit convicts us of sin we feel the pain, but in feeling it, we are opened to the work of the great Physician.

Sometimes misalignments come from painful circumstances. Sometimes these circumstances cause misalignments, though I suspect that usually they just reveal them. This is one of the reasons why suffering often produces spiritual growth. When we heal, we heal stronger.

But some wounds don’t heal all the way. That’s the lesson from my two injuries from last year. My ring finger still has an unnatural bulge. My pointer finger, the occasional tingle. Maybe this is true for spiritual wounds and misalignments as well. I’m pretty sure it is. This side of heaven, the healing will ever be slow and jerky. But we look forward to the day, not only to the final redemption of our bodies, but the final redemption of our souls, once again free to walk in create, aligned, freedom with God.

‘* I’m gratuitously including that word here because the rest of this post is going to make me sound old.

On the Self-Defeating Nature of Modern Social Science

I really like Social Science books. I find them fascinating and, usually, helpful. But more and more I am realizing that they can be self-defeating.

I just finished the book Future Babble. The thesis of the book is that “expert predictions” are generally terrible. The more confident the person making the prediction, the less likely they are to be right.

There’s a certain guilty satisfaction that comes from this book. You read story after story of how pompous and self-confident experts failed miserably in predicting the future. But after a little while Gardner begins to sound pompous himself and it loses its charm.

But there’s a deeper problem. Why is future prediction so often wrong? There are two pillars to Gardner’s argument. The first is that the world is too complex. The second is that our brains were not wired for this kind of thinking.

Gardner, like the vast majority of social scientists who I read, is functionally atheist in his writing (I don’t know his actual belief system but heaps as much scorn on “prophets” as he does on pundits.) He believes that our brains are merely the function of an evolutionary process. We evolved to survive and reproduce, not solve complex problems or look deep into the future. Our minds simply aren’t suited toward the work of making predictions. We are hopelessly biased.

But if our brains are not evolved to do this kind of abstract thinking, why should we trust the author of this book? Is my brain biased to find his argument compelling? Then again, maybe I’m biased against his argument? Can I trust my brain to correlate to reality? According to Gardner, probably not.

And so, as compelling as some of the points Gardner makes are, those very arguments undercut my belief that he’s even capable of making those arguments. It’s self-defeating.

There’s a similar sort of self-defeating argument in Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind (a must read, by the way). Haidt’s argument is both descriptive and moral. He is describing how we make moral judgments, but he also makes implicit moral judgments about our proper response to this reality. But for Haidt, moral judgments don’t correspond to moral reality. They’re not pointers to objective right and wrong. They’re merely the result of evolution. So, while seeing moral judgments in Haidt we also see through them. His argument might be interesting, but it carries no moral weight.

C.S. Lewis described this in The Abolition of Man as “seeing through” everything until there is simply nothing at all to see.

Alvin Planitinga in Where the Conflict Really Lies shows how this self-defeating argument plays itself on the naturalist worldview. If our brains have not evolved to making abstract rationale judgments – only survive and reproduce in a limited environment – why should we believe our own minds in making judgments about science and God.

Plantinga’s argument, then, is that there’s a fundamental conflict between science and naturalism (the belief that nothing exists outside of the natural world.) I tend to agree, and see the same truth play out in social science.

There need not be such a conflict in a Christian worldview. In the Christian worldview, we should expect to see, and in fact do see, a correspondence between the observable world and our ability to understand it. The world is fundamentally complex, yes, and we struggle to wrap our minds around it, but we can understand it, and we can have confidence that we can understand it because the same God who made it, made us.

Is God knowable?

IT & CO.

We are part of It. Not guests.

Is It us, or what contains us?

How can It be anything but an idea,

Something teetering on the spine

Of the number i? It is elegant

But coy. It avoids the blunt ends

Of our fingers as we point. We

Have gone looking for It everywhere:

In Bibles and bandwidth, blooming

Like a wound from the ocean floor.

Still, it resists the matter of false vs. real.

Unconvinced by our zeal, it is un-

Appeasable. It is like some novels:

Vast and unreadable.

– Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” – Ephesians 1:17

4137M0L1m+L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars is an exploration of the otherworldly. She wonders whether we are alone in this universe. Ghosts and spirits make themselves known. The dead enter a new plane of existence. She contemplates the divine. But any true knowledge of what sort of Being this might be is ultimately beyond answer. As in the above poem, It is “vast and unreadable.” Smith captures the agnosticism of our age. Yes, perhaps there is some divine energy, or idea, or person. But such a being is beyond our knowing.

Is God knowable?

Is it necessary to believe that God is “vast and unreadable”? After all, for God to be truly God he must be eternal and infinite. What can limited beings like ourselves know of The Infinite?

If we are left to ourselves, then yes, God is simply beyond our grasp. We can understand something of his divinity and power through creation. We can understand his moral beauty through our consciences; our grasp of the reality of good and evil. But this knowledge will necessarily be limited and obscure.

What we need is a God who communicates with us. Paul prays “I keep asking that the God… give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” In other words, knowledge of God comes through divine gift. Paul identifies that divine gift as the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” That Spirit is none other than God Himself in the person of the Spirit.

We receive knowledge of God through the Spirit. But how does the Spirit speak to us? Is it private, secret, and personal knowledge? While I think personal knowledge plays a part, the bigger part of the Spirit’s communication with people is public. The Spirit, through human agents, gives us the Scripture. (There’s a reason, Smith, why we search for the transcendent in Bibles.) The Spirit points us to Christ, the ultimate revelation of God.

God can be known, and not just known about. He is not an It, not an idea, neither “what we are or what contains us,” but who formed us, not “teetering on the spine of the number i” but ultimately real and self-existent. He is knowable because He has made himself known, and made himself knowable.

Has Christianity been “modernized”?

Pastor John and I received an interesting question last Sunday and I thought it was worthy of a rather extended answer. In general, most of my blog posts come either from questions I ask on my own, or questions posted to me. So, if you have a question you would like me to answer, I invite you to send it my way. 

Question (somewhat paraphrased): “There seems to be a big difference between “extremist” Islam and “modernized” Islam. I understand the majority call it a peaceful religion, and have reinterpreted many verses… although the literal interpretation seems to clearly stand as violent commands regarding what is ‘lawful’. From a Christian point of view, have we “modernized” Christianity?”

Answer: This a multi-faceted question and so I will address as follows. 1) In regards to Christianity, what could we mean by “modernized”? 2) Do we have a modernized version of Christianity? 3) Is such modernization a good thing or a bad thing? 4) What can we draw from the Islam/Christianity comparison?

1)     What could we mean by “modernization”?

Answer 1 – Modernization = Conformity: We could mean that Christianity, at its core, has conformed to the modern world. That is, that the Christianity we experience today is fundamentally different from that which was practiced in the first century. By fundamentally different, I don’t mean in its form but in its identity.

Answer 2 – Modernization = Contextualization: We could also mean that Christianity is fundamentally the same as it was at its founding but that it has been and continues to be contextualized (translated, adapted) to the cultures in which it manifests itself. That is, its core beliefs and values are the same, even though it is practiced in different ways in different ages and cultures.

Humans conform and contextualize all the time. Someone going to work wears “work clothes” and interacts with my co-workers in a “professional” manner, without changing who they are – contextualization. Conformity, on the other hand, would occur if that person worked in an unethical environment and therefore acted in a way contrary to their character.

2)     Do we have a modernized version of Christianity?

Yes, and in both senses… kind of. If we think of Christianity in sociological terms than what we see is that there is a great diversity among those who identify themselves as Christians. Many practice a conformed version of Christianity, changing Christian beliefs to fit the cultural values. The rest practice a contextual version of Christianity, attempting to translate Christian beliefs into the cultures language.

3)     Is such modernization a good thing or a bad thing?

That depends on what form of modernization you are referring to. Above I considered Christianity in sociological terms, as the actual practice of people identifying with a faith. But I would prefer to think about Christianity in terms of beliefs. In other words, a Christianity which has conformed to its culture has become something different, or if the conformity was only slight, it has simply lost its way on a belief or practice. From this perspective, modernization would be bad. Contextualization, on the other hand, is both necessary and positive, it’s a way of communicating a universal truth in an understandable way to a transient culture.

Several examples will shed important light on this.

Example 1 – Slavery: Slavery was social and economic reality during the era of the Old and New Testaments. It was quite different from the slavery practiced in the American South but it was slavery nonetheless. Both the Old and New Testaments assume this reality, but there are no explicit commands to abolish the practice. Today, all American Christians oppose slavery and find the practice abhorrent. In fact, Christians played a key role in abolishing the transatlantic slave trade and continue to play a key role in abolishing modern-day slavery. Did Christianity conform itself to the cultural norms or did it contextualize core beliefs of Christianity to a modern-day problem?

I would propose that Christians were contextualizing Christian truth to oppose slavery. What beliefs were contextualized? First, the Bible states that all people are created in the image of God. As an extension of this truth, people are not property nor are some people worth more than other people. All people deserve basic justice, including freedom. Second, we see a consistent moral argument against violence and oppression – and slavery is certainly a form of violence and oppression. Third, while Paul gives instructions on how slaves and masters ought to live together, he simultaneously undermines slavery but emphasizing that under Christ there are no slave/free distinctions. The point here is that ancient Christianity provided everything necessary to undermine slavery, Christians understood this, and applied that truth to abolish transatlantic slave trade.

Example 2 – Head coverings: In 1 Corinthians 11:2-6 Paul argues that women should cover their heads in worship. This is a difficult passage to interpret, but the key question is whether Paul was giving a command which applied to all cultures, giving a command to one culture but which carries with it some universal principle to be contextualized in some other way (example: Should Women Wear Head Coverings?), or was giving a command which only applied in one culture and has next to no application today. Some denominations believe that Paul’s command is a universal principle. In this case, modernization (not asking women to wear head coverings in worship) would be a form of cultural conformity. For others, not asking women to wear head coverings is a form of contextualization. The argument here is that the use of head coverings, or hairstyles, etc. communicates different things in different cultures. It communicated one thing in the Corinthian church, but communicates something totally different today. By removing this command, then, Christianity is modernizing, but not in a way that loses anything of its identity.

Example 3 – Gender accurate Bible interpretation: Just recently I read an Atlantic article with the headline: Southern Baptists Embrace Gender Inclusive Language in the Bible. The author Jonathan Merritt is referring to the a new Bible Translation, the CSB (Christian Standard Bible) that replaces “brothers” with “brothers and sisters” and “mankind” with “humankind”, etc. This is the same translation move made by the translators of the most recent NIV. For Merritt, this is a sign that the denomination is being moved by a more “progressive” doctrinal position and is a bellwether of things to come. The question is, is this translation decision a move towards “conformity” or “contextualization.” Some will certainly see it as cultural conformity wherein the translators are being swayed by the cultural pressure to do away with gender distinctiveness, but I think that such a view is misguided. The goal of the CSB (like the NIV) is not to translate word for word the Greek or Hebrew texts. Such a translation may be “literal” but it can also often be misleading. Instead, the goal of these translations is to express the meaning of the words. When Paul addresses “brothers” does he only have men in mind or is he referring to both men and women. It’s clear that he meant both men and women. His original audience would have easily understood this. And, up until very recently, all English speakers reading “brothers” in the New Testament would also have easily recognized this. Culture and language are always moving targets, and the translators decided that by translating the Greek word as “brothers and sisters” would clarify Paul’s meaning. In other words, there’s no loss, no cultural conformity, but instead contextualization, clarification, of the original intent.

The line between conformity and contextualization is not always clear, nor should we necessarily expect it to be. People will often disagree on where to draw the line but in general Bible believing Christians see modernization-as-conformity as a net loss and modernization-as-contextualization as a necessary means of speaking universal truth to an ever-shifting culture.

4)     What can we draw from the Islam/Christianity comparison?

Here I confess that my knowledge is rather weak, but it has been recently significantly bolstered by the writings of Nabeel Qureshi. I highly recommend Seeking Allah Finding Jesus and Answering Jihad. Contextualization is built into Christianity so that Christianity can be accommodated to a wide range of cultures without losing its core. Christianity is by far the most multi-cultural religion – the most multi-cultural anything – in the world. The same is not true for Islam. Qureshi would argue (I think) that Islam can only modernize by separating itself from its sacred texts. He wants to see Islam modernize, but not in the sense that it would return to its roots, but that it would move past them into something else entirely. In other words, Christianity is capable of modernizing-as-contextualizing without losing itself. The same does not appear to be true for Islam, though I would expect this final claim to be disputed by many practicing Muslims.

13 Trust Building Behaviors – Applied to Church Life

In my secular job I am part of a “Trust Team.” Our job is to identify behaviors which increase and decrease trust within the department – and then take steps to reduce the former and encourage the latter. Part of the exercise of this group has been to read through The Speed of Trust by Stephen R. Covey. Covey identifies 13 Behaviors which, when consistently done, increase trust in an organization or any social unit. In this post, I will attempt to see how these behaviors apply to church life, particularly to church leadership. The best I can do is sketch them out. I would be interested in your own experiences and insights in the comments below, or on Facebook.

#1 Talk Straight: “Tell the truth and leave the right impression” and balance it all with tact. Like many of the behaviors on the list, there’s a direct correlation to Scripture here: Speak the truth in love. This one easily applies to every personal interaction. Don’t be a jerk, but usually there’s no reason to beat around the bush. We build trust when we consistently talk straight. We undermine it when we code our words and force people to read between the lines.

#2 Demonstrate Respect: In other words, apply the Golden Rule. Christians have an additional theological basis for this. All people are created in the image of God. And, all believers have been equipped to build up the church. We respect others because of who they are, who they are in Christ, and because they have been gifted by God.

#3 Create Transparency: In regards to our finances– our books are open. In regards to our child protection policy – never a secret. If you want to know something that is going on at church, we’ll be as open as we can be.

#4 Right Wrongs: This means acknowledging failures, apologizing for them, and then making it right. There’s a powerful story told in our church. In the past – well before I arrived – the church was marred by conflict, particularly directed at a string of pastors with very short tenures. Then there was a season of healing wherein the remaining church members sought to make things right with those pastors with whom they had had conflict. This humility laid a foundation for greater love and unity.

#5 Show Loyalty: Covey gives two examples of showing loyalty: 1) Give credit to others whenever you can. 2) Speak about others as if they were present. This reminds me of the biblical model of conflict resolution in the church. In the case of conflict, go directly to the person with whom you have conflict. To smear them behind their back undermines trust not only with that person, but also with the person you’re smearing them to.

#6 Deliver Results: The first five behaviors focused on character – the foundation of trust – but Covey also argues the capabilities are necessary for there to be trust. The best way to prove that you have the capabilities to be trusted is to deliver results, to do what you say you are going to do, to accomplish your goal. It’s possible to be too results driven, but sometimes we forget that results still matter. We have a task to do and we should aim to be effective at that task.

#7 Get Better: I would submit that there’s a certain level of “godly discontent” that comes with leadership, even church leadership. Those who serve in the church should strive to hone their skills and their character. And the church as a whole can consistently ask the question – how can we better love God and our neighbors? It’s OK to acknowledge a gap between where you are and where you want to be.

#8 Confront Reality: Sometimes realities are hard to confront, but we need to do it. As a preacher, this means acknowledging head on hard passages of Scripture. Other times it may mean acknowledging difficult budgets or systemic sin. Christianity has all the tools necessary to handle the most difficult of realities. Jesus conquered sin and death!

#9 Clarify Expectations: I see a failure to clarify expectations consistently lead to failures in my engineering job, but this one applies to church work, too. It’s especially important when working with volunteers. Let them know what is expected of them, don’t leave them guessing. The same clarity is needed when constructing a shared vision, or giving applications in a sermon.

#10 Practice Accountability: Accountability is an important part of discipleship. Some people even have “accountability partners” or “accountability groups.” In regards to building trust, Covey stresses we need to hold ourselves and others accountable to poor results. We need to take responsibility for our actions, and hold people accountable for theirs.

#11 Listen First: Stephen Covey (the author’s father) is famous for saying – “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” In relationships, being understood is essential for trust, it’s also essential for giving good counsel (in church life, giving spiritual counsel). Failure to listen – either by not asking questions, or asking only to reply – will undermine trust.

#12 Keep Commitments: Covey refers to this as the “Big Kahuna” of all the trust behaviors. I agree. Failure to keep commitment undermines trust and consistently keeping them builds trust. We need to be careful about what commitments we make, and then stick to them. As an aside, this applies to more than just leaders. If you want your leadership to trust you as a member, keep your commitments in the small things and watch how you get opportunities for the bigger things. If you consistently fail to keep commitments, don’t be surprised when more opportunities don’t come your way.

#13 Extend Trust: Extending trust to others – when it is wise to do – is a good way to build trust. Trust those who are in charge of the ministries you’re not in charge of are doing their best. To some degree, this is founded on the same principles as “demonstrate respect.”

A low trust church will be ineffective for the gospel, it will be too marred by internal conflict, or too busy managing the costs of the low trust environment. A high trust church will be freed up to work on the tasks at hand. Lord, help us pursue relationships based on trust, and foster that trust for your glory!