September MailBag


Blogs are a one-way conversation. 

And that's not a bad thing. It's just the nature of the blogging platform.

The blogger (writer) creates content (blogs) for others to consume (read). 

But on the flip side, present society and culture is arguably more conversational than ever before.

Someone could write a book and another could trash it in the Amazon reviews. An online sports publication (e.g. ESPN) could give a recap of the game from the previous night and the comments section will blow up with disagreements and trollers.

In the world of the internet, it's a two-way street. 

And though this comes with all sorts of potential downsides, it also has its upsides.  

One of these positives is the ongoing dialogue which occurs on the basis of different people, with unique perspectives, chipping in with their own questions, thoughts, and proposals.

It's this very positive that inspired me to have a "MailBag channel." 

The Mailbag channel is rooted in my belief that there are many good thinkers out there who have amazing questions and thoughts which stem from day-to-day realities and interests. 

The Monthly Mailbag exists to give a voice for these minds. It's to interact with what people are actually thinking in the here and now rather than only through a one-way dialogue. 

Some questions will be playful, others practical, while others intensely personal, but these will be real questions, asked by real people. 

So with that being said, here's the 1st ever Mailbag Edition!

"Does a leadership title/position really matter for one to be a positive influence for the Kingdom?"

Anonymous / Los Angeles (CA)

Great question! I would say "No" and "Yes."

According to leadership expert John Maxwell, “leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another."

If we agree with Maxwell that leadership is ultimately influence, we know that titles and positions aren't everything since people are influencing each other all the time without any titles or positions.

For example, the friend who is always convincing his group of friends where they should hang out is a leader even though he doesn't have a title. Besides, don't we know plenty people with fancy sounding titles and positions who frankly have less influence than they're currently aware of? Didn't the religious leaders describe Peter and John as "uneducated fishermen" all the while being threatened by their enormous influence (Acts 4)? 

So no, a title or position isn't necessary in order to be a positive influence. 

However, where a position or title is really helpful is that it gives you permission

Here's what I mean: Have you noticed that when a group of people are deciding where to eat, everyone is kind of hesitant? How come no one jumps up and says, "I'm gonna be the leader and decide"? Cause we're afraid of someone saying, "And who gave you the right?" But if you actually did have the title of "Lead Food Decider," people won't second guess you.

In the same way, a title can give you permission to initiate and that's where formalities can be helpful. But that doesn't mean permission is the same thing as having influence. Influence is strengthened through permission. Permission doesn't guarantee influence.

"Could you start a podcast?" 

Eug Park / Yay Area (CA)

Eug, thanks for asking. Podcasting is something I have considered. I recently had a conversation with a good friend about a potential podcasting project down the road. 

I think one of the challenges of Christian leadership today is that there are so many potential things for individuals and leaders to dabble into. There can often be a blurry line between "could" and "should." "Could" I do a podcast? Perhaps. "Should" I do a podcast? I'm not sure. I think that's why it took so long for me to launch a blog. I was trying to make sure "could" and "should" were harmoniously married. 

But even if I did, what would be my motivation and goal? Who would be the demographic/target audience? What would I/we even talk about? I don't have the answer to any of these questions at the moment. 

Eug, maybe you should start a podcast and teach me how to do it! 

"How do you deal with constant loneliness? Not loneliness in terms of not being in a romantic relationship, but lonely as in you feel like you have no friends (when in actuality there are people around you) and feel like no one understands/cares." 

Anonymous / Cypress (CA)

Thank you for submitting this honest question. 

There are a lot of wrinkles to this question, but to get to the heart of the issue I'd be curious as to how you would define "friend.' How would you define what a "friend" is? What are some characterizations or marks of a friendship? Furthermore, how (on what basis) are you coming to those conclusions?

I ask these questions for good reason. Over the past 2 years, I've given a 3 hour seminar on the topic of friendship on 3 different occasion and one of the things I've discovered is how surprised people are when I ask these question. It's as if no one had ever asked them these questions before. 

Kevin DeYoung once said that friendship is the "most important-least talked about relationship in the church" and I think he's right because I'm beginning to conclude that most of us don't have a clarified definition of "friend" or "friendship."

We just have certain characterizations or idealistic pictures of what a friend is supposed to be like and therefore find ourselves disappointed in everyone else around us, and a little bit hypocritical since most of us don't live out our own definition of "friend." 

So I'd encourage you to be honest about your current definition of "friend" and consider whether that's what a "friend" truly ought to be. Weigh it out. Ask others around you for some feedback. And if you attend a church, go ask your small group, spiritual leaders, and pastor what they think a friend is. 

The reason why this is so important is because until you to come to a place of clarity in terms of what a friend and friendship is, your feelings will continue to toss you back and forth on who your friends are and why you're alone or why they've failed you. 

It's entirely possible that you may actually have good friends right now, but because of a lack of clarity about friendship, you may not be seeing them for the friends they really are. 

It's entirely possible that you may not have good friends. They may not really know who you are. They may not know your deepest longings. They may be clueless as to how you're feeling. But if they've failed you as friends, they should have the opportunity to know exactly how they've let you down rather than simply on the basis of your feelings. 

And it's also entirely possible that your friends may say that you don't allow them to be good friends in your life for whatever reasons. Maybe they would say you're closed off or that you don't make time for them. 

So, why not initiate a conversation with at least of these "people around you" and be honest about what you thinking and how you're feeling. Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised to discover how much people actually do know and care. Or maybe you'll be confirmed in your feelings but at least you'll have direction. 

So get moving. Talk to someone. To put it another way, respond to your loneliness.

Physical pain let's us know something isn't fully right with our bodies. Loneliness is the pain of the heart letting us know something is off with the human soul. It means we're craving connection.

It means you're a human being who has been wired and fashioned for relationship with God and other human beings. And that's a great thing. So yes ponder and consider, but get moving and talk honestly with someone.

It's easier said than done, but it's better done than said. 

Mailbag Edition occurs on the last week of every month.