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The Authenticity of Disciple Making

The Stockdale Paradox by Niall Doherty

The Stockdale Paradox
by Niall Doherty

Some of the best lessons I’ve learned about personal development come from a book that isn’t aimed at the personal development market at all. It’s a book about business and leadership, called Good to Great.

Author Jim Collins and his research team spent five years trying to identify the common factors that separated good (or briefly great) companies, from companies which were able to achieve and then sustain excellence for fifteen consecutive years or more.

While reading, I realized that almost all the findings in the book could be applied on a personal level as well. (I’ve even written about The Hedgehog Concept here before.)

While I would highly recommend that you get your hands on this book and read it in its entirety, today I’d like to share a part of it that has stuck with me most.

The Stockdale Paradox
The Stockdale Paradox is named after admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a United States military officer held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale was tortured more than twenty times by his captors, and never had much reason to believe he would survive the prison camp and someday get to see his wife again. And yet, as Stockdale told Collins, he never lost faith during his ordeal:

“I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Then comes the paradox.

While Stockdale had remarkable faith in the unknowable, he noted that it was always the most optimistic of his prisonmates who failed to make it out of there alive.
“They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

What the optimists failed to do was confront the reality of their situation. They preferred the ostrich approach, sticking their heads in the sand and hoping for the difficulties to go away. That self-delusion might have made it easier on them in the short-term, but when they were eventually forced to face reality, it had become too much and they couldn’t handle it.

Stockdale approached adversity with a very different mindset. He accepted the reality of his situation. He knew he was in hell, but, rather than bury his head in the sand, he stepped up and did everything he could to lift the morale and prolong the lives of his fellow prisoners. He created a tapping code so they could communicate with each other. He developed a milestone system that helped them deal with torture. And he sent intelligence information to his wife, hidden in the seemingly innocent letters he wrote.
Collins and his team observed a similar mindset in the good-to-great companies. They labeled it the Stockdale Paradox and described it like so:
You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

AND at the same time…

You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
For me, the Stockdale Paradox carries an important lesson in personal development, a lesson in faith and honesty: Never doubt that you can achieve your goals, no matter how lofty they may be and no matter how many critics and naysayers you may have. But at the same time, always take honest stock of your current situation. Don’t lie to yourself for fear of short-term embarrassment or discomfort, because such deception will only come back to defeat you in the end.

Living the first half of this paradox is relatively easy, since optimism really isn’t that hard. You just choose to believe that it will all turn out for the best, and everything that happens to you is a means to that end. Simple as.

But optimism on its own can be a dangerous thing:

There’s no difference between a pessimist who says, “Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,” and an optimist who says, “Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine anyway.” Either way, nothing happens. – Yvon Chouinard

So you need to embrace the second half of the Stockdale Paradox to really make strides. You must combine that optimism with brutal honesty and a willingness to take action.
Now of course, nobody likes admitting that they’re fat, that they’re broke, that they’ve chosen the wrong career or that their marriage is falling apart. But admitting such truths is an absolute necessity if you want to grow and improve.

It might feel like you’re taking a few steps backward by doing so, but you can view that retreat as the pull-back on a sling shot: you’re just setting yourself up to make significant progress down the road.


blog by Jared C. Wilson


In the midst of my umpteenth re-reading of C. S. Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity, I came across this passage and found it holding new resonance. Apply what Lewis is explicating below to any of the following:

Church conflict
Relational jealousy
Sharing of news stories that confirms our suspicions about people on the other end of the political or cultural spectrum
The language that is used in clickbait links, soundbite videos, mocking memes, and exposé blog posts. We don’t say someone is “critiqued” or their ideas “debunked;” we say they were “destroyed,” “owned,” and so on. We use the language of humiliation or violence.
Here’s how you know if you hate something someone has done or if you actually hate that person.

The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

How about you? Is your hatred fed by confirmation bias? Do you dismiss correction of your critique because the corrections don’t fit your narrative?

Do you love to hate somebody? Do you hope for their failure and inwardly delight when it comes? Do you have the slightest inkling that your desire for justice has bled into desire for vengeance?

And if so: do you find any of that commensurate with loving your neighbor?

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
— 1 Corinthians 13:7

5 Biblical Principles For Becoming A Better Friend

Paul Tripp blog:

5 Biblical Principles For Becoming A Better Friend

How many friends do you have?

I guess your answer to that question will vary depending on how you define a friend. We have best friends, good friends, old friends, family friends, Facebook friends, and everything in between!

Friends are a wonderful thing. They make us laugh and lift our spirit with their presence. Our most memorable moments happen in their company. During difficult days, they surround us with love and support.

But no matter how many friends you have and how many moments you’ve shared, everyone reading this post shares one thing in common: we have never had, and have never been, a perfect friend.

By that, I simply mean that our friendships are never absent of disappointment. In some way, whether significant or insignificant, our friends have failed us, and we have failed our friends.

Think about it. While some of your deepest joys are the result of friends, so are your most painful hurts. There are nights with them that you never want to end, and then there are days when you wish you could live in isolation.

Friendship is an integral part of the human existence, and we all have been shaped significantly by relationships that are full of both bliss and sorrow.


It’s important to know why God designed friendship and what he has to say about it. Through his Word, he has given us an accurate lens that will keep us from being naïve but also prevent us from becoming cynical.

Here are a few guiding principles about friends that should help keep your relationships healthy:

Friendships are intended

In Genesis 2:18, God says that it is not good for man to be alone. This statement is broader than just marriage and applies to God’s design for all humanity. The word “helper” used to describe Eve isn’t defined her as a co-worker, but a companion. God created us live with companions because he is a social God, living in community within the Trinity as Father, Son, and Spirit.

There are benefits that come naturally from these friendships. Having a companion for everyday life is a beautiful one. Having someone to comfort you during tough times is another (Job 2:11). Honest friends who will call you to repent is a third of many more (Proverbs 27:6).

Christians, we need to seek out and immerse ourselves in community. While the “lone wolf” mentality is often applauded in our society, it is very dangerous and lonely to live in isolation. Don’t cut yourself off from people, because you’re cutting yourself off from your original intended design.

Friendships can become idols

While human companions are beautiful, the primary relationship Adam and Eve were designed to enjoy was their relationship with God. Vertical communion with their Creator would provide the foundation for their horizontal community. But since we tend to worship and serve creation more than the Creator (Romans 1:25), our friendships can become idols.

God has already given us everything we need in Christ alone for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). That means we don’t need to seek perfect relational satisfaction in imperfect people. The irony is that when we reverse the order and elevate people above God, we end up ruining those earthly relationships with the pressure we put on them to fulfill us!

Friendships will be difficult

The early history of friendship goes from perfect to bad to worse. The harmony of companionship disappears when Adam throws Eve under the bus to avoid blame (Genesis 3:12). Then, in the next chapter, Cain kills his brother Abel!

Many of us can’t relate with murdering a brother or a friend, but the same sin that ruled Adam and Eve and Cain exists in our heart, and in the hearts of our friends. We bring selfish motives, envy, greed, and more to our relationships, often without even knowing it. No wonder they’re so messy! Don’t be shocked when your friends let you down, or worse.

Friendships are redemptive

If God really loved us, wouldn’t he make our relationships conflict-free? I wish! But the fact of the matter is that the Lord’s primary purpose in our life is redemption – the ongoing removal of sin from our heart (Philippians 1:6). Nowhere is that sin more exposed than in relationship, where a flawed person lives with a flawed person in a fallen world.

When our sin, or our friend’s sin, is exposed, we have two options: run away or lean in. Do you hide in shame, defend yourself, shift the blame, criticize needlessly or harbor bitterness? Or do you confess your sin, seek forgiveness, speak truth, grant mercy, and encourage one another?

God’s design is that the trials of redeeming friendships will test and strengthen your faith, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). Don’t run away from these trials. Lean in and rejoice, even though you don’t feel like rejoicing!

Friendships have hope

We all look for tips and tricks that will improve our friendships – more effective communication, conflict resolution strategies, gender studies, personality typing, etc. Just go to the self-help section of any bookstore. But the reality is that there are no secrets that guarantee problem-free relationships.

Rather, our friendships have but one hope – Christ Jesus. The shattered relationship he experienced with his father at the Cross provides the basis for our two-fold reconciliation. Jesus reconciled us first to God, which then becomes the foundation for the way he reconciles us to one another.


I want to end with a powerful quote from C.S. Lewis. I know I just said there are no screts that guarantee problem-free relationships, but C.S. Lewis comes as close as it gets. He wrote:

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”

You see, when God reigns in our hearts, peace reigns in our friendships. Ultimate friendship will only be complete in heaven, but there is much we can enjoy now. The New Testament offers hope that our relationships can be characterized by things like humility, gentleness, patience, edifying honesty, peace, forgiveness, compassion, and love.

Isn’t it wonderful that God’s grace can make this possible, even for flawed people in a fallen world? This hope challenges whatever complacency and discouragement we might have about our friendships because there is always more growth, peace, and blessing that God’s grace can bring, right here and right now.

The hope of the gospel invites us to a holy dissatisfaction with all of our relationships and encourages us to tackle the rewarding but difficult work of redemptive friendships.

What is Time?

Paul Tripp blog

What Is Time?

We think so much of
times past
things to come.
We deal with so much
regret of the past
fear of the future
confusion in the present.
For us
time passes quickly
we miss a moment
days drag on.
anticipate what’s coming
hold on to what’s gone.
holds us
molds us
controls us.
God knows no time
never expects
never regrets
no looking forward
no glancing back
no surprises
no mysteries
nothing unexpected.
God dwells in an
eternal now.
All that he is
he has forever been
and will forever be.
With him there is no
He is security’s foundation
time’s sovereign.
In a world where
everything is ever
He is a rock of
eternal hope.


from Thom Rainer:


Multisite used to be something only large churches tried. Now, smaller churches are getting in on the strategy. Today we discuss why this is a good thing for smaller churches to consider.

Some highlights from today’s episode include:

All things being equal, “new” reaches people more than “old.”
You can start a new church/site/service and reach people you wouldn’t reach with an established church/site/service.
Going multisite is often better a stewardship of funds than building a massive facility.
The Millennial Generation is a leasing generation.
Leasing a facility for multisite makes it financially less risky and often assuages some concerns from church members.
Worship service gathering sizes are getting smaller to create greater senses of community and intimacy.
Multisite provides smaller churches the ability to grow while keeping worship gatherings smaller at the same time.
The multisite approach allows you to experiment.
The seven reasons smaller churches are going multisite are:

More effective at reaching people.
Better stewardship, especially with facilities.
Acceptance of non-churchy facilities
Acceptance of leasing instead of owning
They tend to be mid adopters.
The desire to keep the worship service smaller.
Processes and bugs are being worked out.

Happy 2017

25 days in, and 2017 has been full of drama.

Nationally, there are very public protests against our country and our President.

Nationally, there are people claiming to be afraid their rights will be taken away…you know…rights like the ability to murder the unborn.

Regionally, the newspaper celebrated a group of teachers from Austin College going to the protest…like they were heroes.

Locally, like in our church local, We have had people in the hospital every day since Christmas. Sometimes multiple folks in ICU. Several back surgeries, cancer, various other maladies.

My heart is heavy. The climate in our country is oppressive to thinking people on both sides of the argument. I am going to pray for our president and all of our leaders, even though I may not agree with every decision. My children deserve this much, but they deserve this from a free society as well as my home.

My heart is heavy. Our church family is hurting. There are genuine struggles in people I love and serve with.

The only answer is the same answer, PRAY. So that’s what I’m gonna do.


from Thom Rainer


A bully-led personnel committee ran Frank out of the church. They never told the pastor why they wanted him to resign. Jan was a very active layperson in the student ministry. A cartel of jealous church members pushed her out of the church.

I wish such examples were anomalies, but they aren’t. To the contrary, such incidents seem to be gaining traction. And, of course, they are both the cause and the result of the number of unhealthy churches in American.

I have written and spoken at length about this issue, but I have not yet addressed the aftermath of such bullying from the perspective of the victim. What is he or she to do after the horrific incident? Here are seven suggestions:

Take care of your family. That’s a tough order, especially when you are hurting so much already. But your family is in pain. They need you. They need to know all of you will be okay.
Pray with specificity. You should ask God for comfort, for strength, and for peace. You should ask him to remove the bitterness that such terrible abuse brings. Trust Him to do it, because you can’t.
Find a healthy church. You won’t find a perfect church, but there are many good and healthy churches. You can’t give up on churches completely because of the toxic cartel church. You need to remain in a local body of believers.
Move carefully before taking another ministry position. You need time. You need to take care of your family. You need to take care of yourself. The ministry position can come later, just not immediately.
Count your blessings. This saying is not trite. When we have been hurt deeply by church bullies and a cartel, it is easy and natural to focus on that hurt. Start focusing on your blessings. Ask God to open your eyes and heart to all the great ways He is working in and through your life.
Become an advocate for other victims. Don’t stay on the sidelines the next time you see bullying take place in a church. Stand up to the bully. Be a source of understanding and comfort for the victim. God can use your pain for His glory and others’ good.
Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t give up on God and local churches and fellow believers. Don’t give in to bitterness and self-pity. Though it sounds cliché, you can become a better person and believer in the midst of the struggles you are experiencing.
I wish we didn’t have to talk and write about such issues. I wish they didn’t exist in churches. But the greater harm would be ignoring this evil and letting it run rampant.

Bullying is evil. Cartels are nefarious as well.

But God is good. And He is greater than anything the world or the local church can throw our way.

Please Read

Thom Rainer Blog from January 9, 2017:
6 statements that can kill a church
Words can kill.
Words can kill churches because they often have deadly actions behind them. As we begin this new year, please allow me to share six statements that I have heard from church members whose churches have died.
Please hear that last statement again: These are statements from church members whose churches have already closed their doors. I am convinced these statements were major contributors to the churches’ demise.
1 “We pay our pastor to do evangelism.” The common meaning behind this statement is that the members have no intentions of sharing their faith. A church with non-evangelistic members is a dying church.
2 “Without our money, this church would be in trouble.” Ouch! The key word here is “our.” Members with this attitude do not give with an open hand; they perceive the money they give to the church is their money, not God’s money. This tight-fisted non-stewardship, if prevalent in the church, is a sure sign of sickness or death.
3 “This church is not meeting my needs.” For certain, members’ needs should be met. But have you noticed that, often times, the most needy members are the first to complain and the first to leave? We should certainly care for the needs of the flock, but the attitude of the members should be that of serving instead of being served.
4 “We pay the salary of the pastor and staff, so they should listen to us.” This deadly statement has two major inflictors of pain. First, the money is treated with a tight fist, as I noted above. Second, the money is used to control leaders. I served in a church where a member made that statement to me frequently. Years after I left, I learned he never gave a dollar to the church.
5 “We will let the next generation deal with change.” When older generations make this statement, they are resolutely refusing to make necessary and immediate changes. Sadly, the next generations won’t stick around in such a church to make the changes.
6 “I was here years before the pastor came; I’ll be here years after he’s gone.” This statement is one of power and control rather than service and giving. It’s about out-lasting each pastor to keep the church just the way the member wants it. It’s a statement that was commonly heard in churches that have closed their doors.
I remain an obnoxious optimist about our local congregations. But, sadly, many will die in this year and the next. Most of them will have had members who made these six deadly statements,
I pray your church is not among them.

Don’t Make Resolutions. Make Commitments.

Paul Tripp blog:

Don’t Make Resolutions. Make Commitments.

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions.

While I understand the desire for fresh starts and new beginnings, none of us has the power to reinvent ourselves simply because the calendar has flipped over to a new year.

But since the gospel of Jesus Christ carries with it a message of fresh starts and new beginnings – because of the forgiving and transforming power of God’s grace – looking forward at the year to come does give us an opportunity to give ourselves anew to practical, daily-life commitments that are rooted in the gospel.

Let me suggest seven commitments that all of us have been empowered, and should be excited, to make.

1. Be honest about your struggles.

Denial of your daily struggles with temptation and sin is never a pathway to change. The work of Jesus frees all of us to be honest about our weaknesses and failures without fear of God’s judgment.

The gospel welcomes us in our weakness to run to God and not away from him. The doorway to personal change begins with humbly admitting your need for the help that only God can give.

2. Rest in God’s presence and strength.

Refuse to load your personal potential and welfare on your small shoulders. Remember the Jesus is with you, in you and for you, and because he is, your welfare rests on his infinitely huge shoulders.

When you measure your potential, don’t forget that your life has been invaded by his power and grace. You could argue that Jesus is your potential.

3. Don’t look horizontally for what can only be found vertically.

Don’t allow yourself to be seduced into believing that life can be found in the people, possessions, situations, locations and experiences of everyday life.

Remember, the role of created things is not to give you life, but to point you to the One who is the Way, the Truth and Life. Refuse to try to satisfy your heart with things that will never offer you the satisfaction that you seek.

4. Deepen your relationship to the body of Christ.

You and I were never hardwired by God to walk with him on our own. God’s plan for us is deeply relational. We’re wired to be connected and dependent, not isolated and independent.

Live close to God’s people, inviting those around you to intrude on your private world and to function as God’s tools of comfort, encouragement, confrontation, growth and change.

Remember, sin makes it hard for us to see ourselves objectively and accurately. Personal spiritual insight and growth really is the result of community.

5. Argue with your own heart.

It’s a theme of my ministry that I will continue to repeat: no one has more influence in your life than you do because no one talks to your more than you do.

Don’t give way to self-talk that is marked by fear, despondency, futility, hopelessness or discouragement. Preach the gospel of God’s love, grace, presence, promises and power to yourself multiple times a day. Commit to carrying on a gospel conversation with yourself that never stops.

6. Work to assure that praise replaces complaint.

It’s sad, but true, that the default language of every sinner is complaint. Because sin causes me to think that life is all about me, it also causes me to constantly find reasons for being dissatisfied.

But when you and I are living for something bigger than our own pleasure and comfort, and when we’re committed to counting our blessings more than we count our complaints, praise will fill our hearts and punctuate our conversations.

How about committing yourself to beginning every day by counting the many, many ways God has showered you with blessings you could have never earned or deserved on your own?

7. Rest in the complete work of Jesus Christ.

You have reason for rest, because even though the calendar has flipped to a new year, your Savior still greets you with new mercies every morning, he still will not send you without going with you or call you to a job without giving you what you need to do it, and he still reigns over all things for your sake.

You can rest because you are in the good hands of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

So, as the new year unfolds, don’t fool yourself with grandiose resolutions that none of us has the power to keep. Rather, celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ and it’s huge catalog of graces.

Re-commit yourself to living every day in light of what you have been given in and through your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Happy New Year!

A Moral Obligation

What is a “Moral Obligation?”

Here is what Wiki says: The term moral obligation has a number of meanings in moral philosophy, in religion, and in layman’s terms. Generally speaking, when someone says of an act that it is a “moral obligation,” they refer to a belief that the act is one prescribed by their set of values.

So I have a moral compass guiding me to tell the truth. I have a moral obligation to live out the truth. I have a moral obligation to vote truthfully.

And that brings me to my dilemma. Do I vote for the candidate that I most closely agree with, or do I vote for the candidate that I disagree with, but has a chance to win? Do I vote for a candidate with similar values, or do I vote for a candidate with different values and lifestyle, but claims to be a conservative…just like me?

Do I vote for a conservative with a proven track record, but has no chance to win an election, or do I vote for the unproven with a better chance.

I think my answer will be found as I cast a ballot in the voting booth, for which some say I have a moral obligation to do. Some would also say that if I do not cast a vote for president, or write in a candidate that has no real chance of victory, that I do not have the right to complain about the results. Here is the truth, I can complain about the results whenever I choose, wether I vote or not. I can complain about the quality of the candidate, and the ideals that a candidate holds to. I can complain…but I will not…not much anyway. I will not complain, because I believe this to be what we deserve.

Lord Jesus, come quickly.

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