Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Making a splash ...

I was completely soaked from head to toe. I couldn't have been any more wet than if I was standing in my bathroom shower.

But I wasn't.

I was standing on the sidewalk next to a public street a few hours after a heavy rain. A car had driven by, recklessly plowing through a mass of water flooding up against the curb. As the car careened through the giant puddle, the water became an airborne tsunami that drenched me seconds later.

As the water slapped down upon me, the coldness of it took my breath away. The wetness of it plastered my clothes to my body. The sheer selfishness of it by the driver momentarily took my contentment away. I was stunned that someone would care so little (and be so oblivious) of others around them. I wasn't thinking very kind thoughts about the driver of that car!


I was completely soaked from head to toe. I couldn't have been any more wet than if I was standing in my bathroom shower.

But I wasn't.

I was laughing, and playing, and having a blast jumping and splashing in the rain and puddles with a childhood friend.

Well, I say "friend," but I don't remember his name. It was when we were very young. We weren't the kind of friends who played together regularly. But we were playing together that day.

While out in the rain, one us playfully splashed the other with a jump in a puddle. The attack was answered, and a water fight immediately ensued. We couldn't stop laughing all the while we splashed each other.

Although we were very young, and not best friends, for that moment we were enjoying life together. It was okay that it was wet and cold, because it was a warm moment with a friend.

We were in the puddle together.


Two different true events in my life. Both involved a water puddle. One was a terrible experience, the other a joy.

As we go through life, we splash the lives of others with ours. It can be a terrible experience for them, or a joy.

We can be like the driver of the car, who thought only of himself, and getting to where he wanted to go for his benefit, without any consideration of those around him.

Or we can be like the momentary friend. Even if you don't spend a lifetime together as buddies, you can make the rain and puddles of life a little more enjoyable for others, at least for a moment. That is, if you're willing to get in the puddle with them.

Jesus got into the puddle with us: "But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children," Galatians 4:4.

How are you making a splash?


Monday, August 29, 2011

The need for death ...

One of my favorite quotes is: "Wherever you go, there you are."

I like that quote (although I have no idea who originated it) because it's true.

When you go to work, there you are.

When you go to school, there you are.

In any kind of relationship you experience, there you are.

When you meet with friends, there you are.

When you "go to church," there you are.

When you interact with your children, there you are.

When you join an activity, there you are.

No matter where you go, what you do, or what you experience, there you are.

Into every thought you have, emotion you feel, action you take, you bring your sinful, broken self into it.

You cannot take off the sinful nature momentarily so that it doesn't affect the thought, the emotion, the action or interaction. It is who you are.

That's why there is an essential need for death.

To be anything other than a broken, sinful human being, we must die ... spiritually, that is. And that is exactly what we experience as Christians, as the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 6:1-7:

"1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin."

What's the outcome of this spiritual death?

"11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. 12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires," Romans 6:11-12.

Paul continues this kind of thinking when writing to the Ephesians:

"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago," Ephesians 2:10.

What does that mean?

Now it means when you go to work, there you are as a new creation in Christ.

Now, when you go to school, there you are as a new creation in Christ.

Now, in any kind of relationship you experience, there you are as a new creation in Christ.

Now, when you meet with friends, there you are as a new creation in Christ.

Now, when you "go to church," there you are as a new creation in Christ.

Now, when you interact with your children, there you are as a new creation in Christ.

Now, when you join an activity, there you are as a new creation in Christ.

Now, no matter where you go, what you do, or what you experience, there you are as a new creation in Christ!

Spiritual death, being buried with Christ, and raised with Him as a new creation in Him, has changed everything.

At least it should.

"12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God," Romans 6:12-13.

How are you doing with that?


Sunday, August 28, 2011

A start is not a finish ...

Half measures usually are a sure way of creating problems.

Imagine these half measures:
  • The fire truck that gets to the fire, but doesn't break out the water hose.
  • The ambulance that drives up to the front of the hospital, but just parks there.
  • The surgeon who makes the cut, fixes the problem, but fails to stitch closed the incision.
  • The businessman who makes the sales pitches, but never closes a deal.
  • The parent who loves their children, but never disciplines them.
  • The person who expresses love, but refuses to receive love.
  • The Christian who daily reads their Bible, but never prays.
Such half measures would create severe problems. One of the most common half measures I've witnessed as a pastor and a clinical counselor are people who can and will easily apologize profusely for poor or even sinful behavior, but consistently fail to repent of such behavior.

It's one thing to pour out your heart in an apology, it's quite another to actually change one's behavior, to repent.

Living in addiction is an extreme example of this type of behavior. Addicts often are deeply sorry, intellectually, for their behaviors in their addiction. But often not sincerely sorry enough to change their behavior. Their addiction will rule over them until they go beyond apologizing, to actually repenting.

This ugly half measure is described rather colorfully in Proverbs 26:11, "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness."

The Israelites of the Old Testament were often quick to apologize, but lacking in actual repentance. Hosea 6 captures this fact. In verses 1-3 we see the attitude of the people supposedly swing to God:

"1 Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. 2 In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. 3 Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

Sounds good! But God had heard such apologetic words from His people many times, often without genuine repentance accompanying the statements. Verses 4-7 record part of God's response to these empty words:

"4 O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the Lord. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight. 5 I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces — to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light. 6 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings. 7 But like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust."

An apology is a good first step to real change. But an apology without changed behavior is an affront to a relationship, including our relationship with God.

Do your words match your actions? Has your apology to God included a change of behavior? Or are you still saying one thing and doing another?


Thursday, August 25, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Surprised By Oxford" surprised and captivated me!

"Surprised By Oxford" managed to surprise me, and to captivate me just a couple pages into the prologue!

This memoir, written by Carolyn Weber and published by Thomas Nelson, reads like a New York Times best-selling novel, compelling me at the end of every chapter to turn the page and start the next.

That surprised me, considering my initial trepidation for selecting this book to review. When I was scanning the review offerings by Thomas Nelson, I wasn't drawn to anything available. But the title "Surprised By Oxford" sparked my curiosity, so I read the publisher's description of the book. This was supposed to be a memoir of a woman in her first year at Oxford. At that, red flags flew and sirens sounded ... I immediately suspected a more poetic, "chick flick" version of a memoir.

I couldn't have been more wrong!

Instead, I found myself completely captivated with the true story of a bright, personable, intellectual feminist arriving at Oxford University to study Romantic Literature, and what turned out to be an incredible journey to faith. From her background of coming from a broken home, to the eclectic characters that would enter her life during that first year at Oxford, this memoir captures an amazing conversion experience, and a compelling story with something to entice just about anyone: churning theological struggles, intrusions of literature and poetry, the charm of Britain, stories of friendships, hints of a romance, an example for the guys of how to be a "Christian gentleman," and for Christians on how to share Christ in a way that your friends can receive.

Weber does a brilliant job of leading the reader into her thoughts and heart as she wrestled with her crumbling agnostic worldview, showing how discovering the grace of God changed her life.

Occasionally, I noted the writer got a little heavy with perfecting her writing, a common glitch among literary experts who want to capture just the right phrase. But then, I found myself once again captivated by Weber's brilliant, clear story-telling.

"Surprised By Oxford" is surprisingly powerful in drawing the reader into Weber's personal discovery of God's grace. It's a story that not only will captivate you, but bless you as well.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A flash from the past ...

If you had to pick a fashion trend from your past to come back into style again, what would you pick?
  • Bell bottom pants?
  • Some loud plaids?
  • Polyester?
  • Padded shoulders?
  • Fat lapels?
  • Shirts unbuttoned down to your navel?
  • Platform shoes?
  • Leg warmers?
  • Baggy workout pants?
  • Half shirts?
  • Tube socks?
  • Parachute pants?
How about hair styles?
  • Crew cut?
  • Bo Derek-style dreadlocks?
  • Bowl cut?
  • A mullet?
  • The bee hive?
  • Feathered hair?
  • Pig tails?
  • Perms?
Fashions and styles fade, but given enough time, they often come back, at least for an encore.

The same goes for ideas, and one of the most common concepts to bounce back among Christian circles --- especially within men's ministries --- is the idea of legacy.

We don't dwell on legacy for long, perhaps because we don't like to think about death. Death frightens many people, so they avoid the topic. As a result, we don't give as much consideration to what we'll leave behind us when this life is over.

When we do think about legacy, it's often in terms of accomplishments we leave behind. The writer of Hebrews gives us a distinct idea of an enduring legacy in Hebrews 11:4:

"It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith."

Is the faith you live out an example that could endure time? Will your faith be your legacy, or the lack thereof?


Kind of like guys in skirts ...

I couldn't help from noticing the headline since it was accompanied by the photo of a man wearing a skirt.

Someone had posted a link to GQ Magazine's latest story about skirts being the new fall fashion trend ... for men. Several photos of male models sporting the new styles at a runway show accompanied the story.

I would not be surprised that, at least in the short run, the designers of these new styles will have some level of success.


Because they're very deliberate with their attempt.

They aren't easing their way into a new look. They aren't slowly morphing from pants to shorts to kilts to skirts. They jump.

They're deliberate.

We never succeed with plans that are not executed. It's not often we achieve much with subtlety. Half measures often achieve limited results, at best. Most of the things we can really call achievements in our lives come from what we are deliberate about.

When we are deliberate in our following of Christ, we usually hit the mark. We bring ourselves into communion with God and stay there. We're deliberate about it.

When we are deliberate in our loving others, others usually feel loved.

When we are deliberate in our profession, we often succeed.

The problem is, we often are not deliberate about much, or much that is important, and then not deliberate with consistency. There are various reasons why ... we lose interest, we allow ourselves to be distracted, we aren't really very sincere in our efforts, we don't persevere long enough.

But when we are deliberate --- consistently, with perseverence --- we often achieve what we're aiming to accomplish.

What are you deliberate about?


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A lesson from a culture gone wrong ...

Why is the church so ineffective in influencing or changing our culture?

That question is the cause for a proliferation of new books by church leaders, and a leading focal point in their blogs and conferences. In spite of the fact many of today's church leaders seem almost obsessed with the topic of culture, the church has been losing its influence within our culture rather than making significant gains.


Perhaps we could find some answers in scripture by contrasting our experience with the story of a different culture gone very wrong.

If you think the culture in America is bad, be grateful you don't live in Ninevah during the days of Jonah. In the short Old Testament book of Jonah, we see a culture in this great city that's gone so wrong God is preparing to destroy the entire city! But in the final outcome, the city was spared and a culture was dramatically impacted.

Here are three things we can learn from that story of a culture gone wrong:

It's people, not culture ...
Some of today's church leaders have lost sight of what is of primary importance to God: people, not culture. I'm not saying God isn't concerned with culture. Wasn't it a failed culture that brought about God's judgment in Ninevah?


It was the sin of the people.

Certainly, a city full of people steeped in sinful living creates a culture God would abhor. But it's not the culture that is God's primary focus; culture is the outcome of how individuals choose to live. God's primary concern was the people who created the culture:

"1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 'Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are',” Jonah 1:1-2.

God didn't say His judgment was coming because of how wicked the culture was, but how wicked the people were. That's not an issue of semantics; God understood something today's church leaders seem to be consistently missing.

A popular Christian writer who is influential within the church on the topic of culture argues that you change culture by creating more culture. By doing that, you're simply adding to the existing failed culture. You change culture not simply by contributing to it and making more of it, but by changing the people who create the failed culture!

That's why Jesus called us to make disciples rather than to make culture. Change will come to our culture more dramatically when those who contribute to our culture become disciples of Jesus Christ. Ironically, though, we fail at impacting our culture in this way by putting a focus on changing culture rather than primarily on making disciples.

Being focused on "culture" can cause us to put our primary concern on a nameless, faceless blob of humanity. It makes ministry impersonal specifically because it's not oriented to the person but, rather, the collective outcome of personal behaviors.

An unaligned will ...
God's desire wasn't to destroy the city of Ninevah, but to save the people in it by calling them to repentance. To accomplish that, He instructed Jonah to deliver His message to the Ninevites. But Jonah's will wasn't aligned with God's, as is glaringly obvious in his response to God's commission to him:

"But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish," Jonah 1:3.

A city full of people stood in peril of perishing by God's judgment against them because God's servant wanted to go in a different direction.

Things haven't changed much!

The Commission Jesus gives us is, "19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you ..." Matthew 28:19-20a. Talk about a powerful way to impact culture! But is this Commission our focus? Or are we often going in a different direction?

A judgmental heart ...
When Jonah finally got his act together and delivered God's message to the people of Ninevah, they repented! In Jonah 3:10, we read this statement revealing the grace of God:
"When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened."

What an awesome picture of God's love! Surely, as children of God, our great desire would be to see the lost repent and know the grace and love of God, right?

It's wasn't Jonah's desire:

"1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it: 'Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 3 Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen'," Jonah 4:1-3.

Jonah didn't see the people of Ninevah the way God did. He certainly didn't love them as God did. Instead, his heart was judgmental toward them. Even though the people repented and "... put a stop to their evil ways ..." Jonah was angry that God changed His plans of destroying the city!

Things haven't changed much!

We don't love the people in our time the way God loves them. If we did, we would align our will to His and place a premium on reaching people rather than being distracted with culture.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Take a hike!

Of all the places I've had the opportunity to visit, Venice, Italy stands out as being unique for a simple reason: no cars!

That's right, an entire city where there are no cars.

Coming from a culture that has a long, almost emotional "love affair" with the automobile, it was almost mind boggling to visit a place where cars simply don't exist.

Even if you wanted to have a car shipped in, you couldn't drive it anywhere ... there aren't any roads! At least, not the kind we have in America. Instead, there are canals filled with water that are maneuvered by boats and gondolas, and paths for walking that are often just wide enough to comfortably walk side-by-side with someone.

The difference is a much more intimate city.

Just during the few days I visited Venice, I found I had a much greater feel for this city because I explored it on foot. You can't escape the greetings from shop owners standing in their doorways, or the occasional conversations with locals and herds of tourists you share paths with. You're forced to be up close and personal with everyone and everything. Instead of getting in a car and driving by people and places, you walk alongside them in Venice.

The same was true when I lived in Hawaii because I lived in Waikiki, a place where I owned a car. But I didn't use my car in and around Waikiki, only when I traveled further into Honolulu and beyond. That's because Waikiki is a compact and congested city of highrises that makes getting around in a car difficult. By traveling around Waikiki on foot, I got to know the city --- and the people in it --- much more personally than if I simply drove from point A to point B, bypassing everyone.

The lessons of Venice and Waikiki stay with me: if you want to understand your community better and more intimately, spend some time walking through it. By traversing your town on foot, you'll notice places you never knew existed, you'll meet people you didn't know, and you'll get a better feel for how people live there. The great value of walking through your community is that you'll purposely take note of it instead of passing it by, and that will broaden your understanding of the people and the place around you.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

What do people see when they look into YOUR eyes?

Today I was reading through a blog post written by a Facebook friend when a sentence jumped out at me:

"Every day, little ones look into people's eyes, to see if they see a kind heart."

That connected deeply with me for a few reasons, both personal and professional, and because I have, on many occasions, witnessed this behavior common with children.

The last time was in a Starbucks. I was enjoying a cup of coffee while working with my laptop when a small child joined her parent who was waiting for their order. The little girl was oblivious to the world, twirling and spinning in self entertainment when, suddenly, she spun to a stop and saw me. With a straight face, she immediately looked directly into my eyes for just a few seconds.

It was fascinating to "see" the shadows of thought that crossed her face as she peered into my eyes. For just a couple seconds, this child didn't know if I was friend or foe. Something she saw --- or didn't see --- in my eyes and face told her I was "safe." She relaxed and smiled.

It is a tragedy this world is so broken that children learn at the youngest ages that not everyone is safe, not everyone is reliable, not everyone has a kind heart. That some will hurt you, even intentionally.

As adults, we tend to continue the habit. We still look into eyes to see if behind the face there is a kind heart.

Helen Lemmel wrote a hymn that gives us wise direction as we search longingly for kind hearts:

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."

Our God is safe for us, He has a kind heart! 1 Chronicles 16:34 states, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever."

Not only can we find safety, rest, and peace in the kindness of God, but through His kindness we can experience the changing of our own hearts so that when others look into our eyes, they see a reflection of Christ and the kindness of His heart in us.


Friday, August 19, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Radical Together" an effective Round 2 for "Radical"

After loudly challenging individual Christians to live in radical obedience to Christ in his best-selling book "Radical," David Platt now challenges Christians and churches to be "Radical Together" in his latest book by that name (published by Multnomah Books).

"Radical Together" is an effective follow-through to Platt's original challenge for radical obedience, but don't expect it to hold quite the same level of eye-opening punch. With what is considered to be faithful Christianity and effective "church" being so far removed from an accurate biblical context and mired in current culture and corporate concepts, "Radical" served as a bold, no-holds-barred message of truth that connected within the church like a prize fighter's right upper-cut to a glass jaw.

The result of the first book? Many Christians have stepped up to the challenge to live a life of radical obedience to Christ. But many others were profoundly impacted by the message intellectually, but have yet to change their lives in any substantive way. "Radical Together" attempts to help readers take the step from being punched with the truth to actualizing a radical faith.

For those who were hoping Platt would tone down his message and provide Christians with more wiggle room for maintaining their mediocre faith, you will be disappointed. Starting with a somewhat mellow opening, Platt again builds a crescendo of biblical teaching designed to get churches to radically rethink and reorganize what they consider to be obedient faith.

Platt uses just six simple chapters to unfold his challenge of being radically obedient together. He starts by challenging readers to break out of traditional or modern cultural molds for Christian living and how we "do church" by looking past some of the good things we're doing to consider what would be best. Platt shows how we can actually fall short of God's will by settling for doing some things that really are good, when we are quite capable of doing better.

I was happy to see the inclusion of chapter two, as Platt attempts to resolve a tension created from the strength of his message in the original book. Some have criticized Platt's "Radical" message as being too focused on doing things for God, sounding more like a works-based faith. In "Radical Together," Platt clarifies that a radical obedience to Christ is a natural result of an overflow of joy from walking with God.

From there, Platt identifies the Bible as being the source of his challenge, as well as being the power source for radical obedience. While it is vital to make scripture a central source for Christians, Platt missed coupling scripture with its essential partner: prayer. He later highlights the essential role of prayer in the last chapter of the book, but not pairing it with the role of scripture weakens the adequacy of the focus.

Then Platt manages to step on more toes by challenging readers to get the process of church right, clearly stating that it's not about slick performances, comfortable places, ministry professionals, or church programs --- all the things we currently make the central constructs of the modern church. Instead, Platt redirects us to the biblical concept of mission for the church, and lands another strong bout of the "radical" message once again.

Finally, Platt states something that left me applauding loudly: he says he's become "nauseated" by all the talk of "vision" among church leaders in a Church that remains so mediocre. Platt gets something that most church leaders who use a business construct for the church miss: that is, the church is to be directed by Christ's mission for the church rather than man-made visions for it. Vision should be about how we execute achieving the mission Christ has already given to His church.

"Radical Together" concludes with a renewed challenge for Christians and churches to be just that ... radical, together!

Are you in, or are you out?


I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting to the point ...

Imagine if Jesus had said this ...

"You should come to Me in order to find your way to the Father"

... instead of this ...

"Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one can come to the Father except through me'," John 14:6

Would it have made any difference?


The first sentence --- not actually stated by Jesus --- contains an element of truth. If we want to be able to have a right relationship with God, our first step is coming to Christ. However, that sentence sounds more like a suggestion, and a suggestion gives the impression there are other options.

Fortunately, what Jesus actually said, as recorded in John 14:6, is unambiguous and makes clear there is only one avenue to achieving a right relationship with God, and that is through Christ alone.

The danger of ambiguity ...
While Jesus taught with great clarity, many of today's church leaders don't. Ambiguous statements that require greater context than what is given often comprise the content of modern biblical teaching. Such ambiguity can leave listeners or readers in the confusing position of trying to read between the lines or making assumptions of what the leader "actually meant."

Ambiguous statements are like panning for gold: somewhere in all the mud, dirt, sand, and gravel may be a valuable nugget. The problem is leaving learners to sort through it all. Some might (and often do) mistakenly value "fool's gold" for the real thing.

In our modern culture, ambiguous teaching is prominently projected throughout social media venues. Being limited to only so many characters that can be transmitted, quotes containing partial or contextual truths are routinely passed to thousands of "followers" or "friends." With a click of the mouse, ambiguity -- and its accompanying potential for error --- is proliferated in seconds.

On the hook ...
You catch a fish by wrapping something tasty looking (at least, to a fish) around a sharp hook in order to lure, pierce, and capture the prey you're seeking.

Satan "fished" for humans in the same way in the Garden of Eden. He wrapped part of the truth of what God had said around a lie and, once bitten, snared his prey into sin.

The same thing happens today when leaders are willing to convey untruths alongside snippets of truth. While the element of truth may be snagged by followers, so are the partial truths or whole untruths that accompany the ambiguous communication. The result could be discovering you're doing the fishing for the wrong person!

Let's be clear ...
It was common among people living in the time of the Old Testament to make a vow in an attempt to eliminate any ambiguity about their intentions. However, what the words of a vow meant to one person could mean something different to someone else. Wrapping intent in many words didn't necessarily make things clearer. Jesus addressed that issue and gave us simple direction on how we can communicate clearly. First, He said:

"33 You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black," Matthew 5:33-26.

Then He added this powerful statement in verse 37:
"Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one."

The direct exhortation from Jesus is to make our communication a concise statement of truth. If we say "yes," no one should be left wondering if we possibly meant "maybe," or even "no." This kind of communication eliminates ambiguity.

Clever v. clear ...
Too many of today's communicators are more interested in being thought of as being clever than they are about being clear. They want to make their mark as a communicator rather than contain their communication to the effective telling of truth. One effort builds a brand, the other builds a disciple.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reppin' like "Jersey Shore" ...

Just how bad does your reputation or character have to be for someone to offer to pay you to NOT be associated with them?

That's what clothing maker Abercrombie & Fitch has done by publicly offering to pay big bucks to the TV show Jersey Shore if they will STOP dressing its stars in A&F fashions (you can read the story here ).

While those big names battle over their association, I'm reminded of another story when someone of even greater stature was concerned about how his association with someone affected others. We find that story in Psalm 69:5-6:

"5 O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you. 6 Don’t let those who trust in you be ashamed because of me, O Sovereign Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Don’t let me cause them to be humiliated, O God of Israel."

King David, the most celebrated king in Israel's history, was concerned about how his life reflected on his God. It's a concern the Apostle Paul encourages us to share:

"And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father," Colossians 3:17.

Does your character or reputation draw people to Christ, or repel them? What can you do to represent Jesus in a way that honors Him?


Living buy faith ...

The backbone of the American economy has long-ago shifted from manufacturing to being the world's leader in providing a broad array of service industries.

It's not simply that Americans provide services for purchase, but we live by purchasing services.

We pay people to launder our clothes, mow our lawns, change the oil in our cars, decorate our homes, fix our appliances, mend our clothes, bathe our pets, clean our pools, cut our hair, paint our nails, massage our aching muscles, cook our meals, clean our houses, make our coffee, move our furniture, entertain us, match us with a mate, plan our weddings, tutor our children, mentor our careers, manage our money, compute our taxes, care for our ailing parents, and even to serve others in our place.

We've developed a culture in which we buy the kind of lives we want to live, and maintain it with monthly payments, service fees, donations, and other financial outflows. There's even the option of automatic deduction from our bank accounts for services so we don't even have to experience making the payments!

Sometimes, we even try to buy our faith.

Probably the most famous story of a couple who wanted to live "buy faith" is found in Acts 5. The first two verses of that chapter introduce the story:

"1 But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest."

When we try to buy life, we pay others to do the work so we can be provided with the comforts of life without the strains of it. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to live buy faith, giving enough to have the appearance of a genuine Christian walk without experiencing the whole cost of it. The result was immediate for both of them; when confronted by the Apostle Peter about their faux charity, they dropped dead (see verses 3-10)!

Trying to live "buy faith" cannot achieve what only living "by faith" can.

Things ended poorly for Ananias and Sapphira because of their attempt to live buy faith. In contrast to that story is Hebrews 11, which provides us with a list of men and women who are singled out as examples for us because they chose to live "by faith." In some of the most difficult and extreme experiences human beings can face, these spiritual giants chose to face the entire cost of obedience and allegiance to God. Their lives have a rich, enduring legacy because they lived by faith rather than buy faith.

Long after Ananias and Sapphira were buried, many are still trying to live buy faith. Some are willing to take the narrow path of following Christ by faith. Which one are you pursuing?


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "With" may be 2011's most important new book!

The question took me by surprise.

"Did you ever serve in the military?" the woman had asked me.

"No I haven't," I responded.

"Oh. Well you have such good, straight posture, I thought you might have served in the military," she explained.

That was the first time I ever had someone mistake my posture for being the product of military training.

That interaction reminded me of how people take note of our posture, physically or otherwise. Our posture says something about us. And nothing says more about us than the "posture" we take in relating to God.

In his new book, "With" (published by Thomas Nelson), Skye Jethani uses four simple prepositions to describe the postures we usually take in relating to God. In doing so, Jethani provides some of the most profound biblical teaching about relating to God that I have read in years, resulting in what may well be the most important book for Christians to be published in 2011.

With biblical clarity and a seamless writing style, Jethani describes how many Christians, churches, and ministries have entrenched themselves in a posture of life under, over, from, or for God, with each posture resulting in missing the mark.

Jethani writes, "... many come into Christian faith with great expectations. They have heard stories of jubilation and salvation, of the power to overcome this world and experience the divine in inexpressible ways. But once inside the ancient halls of Christianity many are disappointed. Where is the light, where is the illumination? Our hearts seek God and the goodness, beauty, justice, and peace we've been told he provides, but he often remains hidden behind the shadow cast by an evil world."


Because of the faulty posture we take in relating to God.

Jethani adds, "My concern is that we are inoculating an entire generation to the Christian faith." Out of that concern, he goes on to unfold through the chapters of "With" content formulating the subtitle of the book that serves as our challenge: "Reimagining The Way You Relate To God."

It's not a difficult concept. Correcting your posture with God can be identified in yet another preposition: with.

Reading this book will impact you as you see yourself in one or, more likely, a few of the postures the author describes. But by the end of the last chapter, those who truly long for communion with God will be reimagining how they will relate to Him going forward.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you are more than a Need, live like it!

From the content of many sermons and most of our prayers, the structure and focus of myriad ministries, and the way Christians often behave, you would think human beings are little more than living, breathing, unmet needs.

So much of what we think, talk about, and develop our emotions around, are what we consider to be our personal needs. But there's much more to being a person than the sum total of our needs! A constant focus on our needs has a draining effect on our lives: "Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up," Proverbs 12:25.

Consider this:
  • What would you have to talk to God about other than your needs?
  • What could your relationship with God be centered around other than your needs?
  • What could your energies be directed toward other than your needs?
  • What could your emotions be pointed toward other than your needs?
  • What could your resources be used for other than your needs?
  • What else could you accomplish other than pursuing your needs?
I'm not saying taking care of what are legitimate needs are unimportant or inappropriate. I am saying making a life out of pursuing needs isn't the kind of life God has called us to live.

The Apostle Paul shows us how to give appropriate attention to meeting our needs, and then how we can move beyond them to a fuller life:

"6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus," Philippians 4:6-7. In verse 19, Paul adds, "And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."

Paul urges us to come before God and tell Him everything we need. But after that, trust Him with our needs! By doing so, God will give us peace so we can move on with living rather than being mired down in worrying.

Therein lies the problem.

We may bring our needs to God, but we have a tendency to stop there and wait until God acts, building our anxiety with every passing moment. Instead of ...

Tell God + Trust God = Peace

... the way we often live is ...

Tell God + Look for Immediate Results + Don't Move Until God Acts = Worried

There's no peace living that way!

The Apostle Peter makes a clear, simple statement: "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you," 1 Peter 5:7. Because we can know that God cares about us, we don't need to make our needs portable. We can stop dragging them around, and being weighed down by them. We can have peace, and move on to living out a greater purpose for our lives than being bogged down by our needs.

How much of your "living" does pursuing your needs consume? Do you trust God with your needs, or do you stand around monitoring what He's doing about them? What more "living" do you have in your life beyond your needs?


Monday, August 15, 2011

"Please stand, and place your hands over your hearts ..."

What are some of the things you have memorized?
  • Your phone and social security numbers?
  • Your anniversary? (Guys, if you get that one wrong, you're headed for the dog house!).
  • Maybe your license plate number?
  • A dozen or so passwords for website access?
  • A sales pitch?
  • Some people have memorized lines --- even whole portions of dialogue --- from their favorite movies.
Here's one most of us will know from memory: "I pledge allegiance, to ..."

You know the rest of it.

Usually when we say the pledge of allegiance, we unthinkingly recite something we memorized when we were a kid. Our recitation often isn't accompanied by sober pondering and heartfelt devotion to what we're saying, it's usually something we say from rote. Yet, if we were put into a position of being questioned about what we're saying, we would likely affirm true allegiance to what we cite.

But how about this one:

"Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name," Hebrews 13:15.

When the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to "... proclaiming our allegiance to his name," it's not a hollow pledge made by rote that he has in mind, especially when we consider what "allegiance" means. defines "allegiance" as "the loyalty of a citizen to his or her government or of a subject to his or her sovereign."

Have you proclaimed that kind of allegiance to God, a pledge of your loyalty to Him as your sovereign? Is your pledge to your Creator a solemn statement of devotion, or just another memorized sentence?


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Why do Christ followers fail the "follow" part?

One of the greatest frustrations church leaders struggle with is trying to lead a congregation in following in the footsteps of Christ and getting a mediocre response in the lives of those they lead.

Why do people place membership in a church, call themselves Christian, then fail to actually follow Christ? There's more than one answer to that question, but here's one church leaders can directly impact: the failure of Christians to develop a biblical worldview.

The basic process of conversion itself doesn't equip Christians with a fully developed biblical worldview. Rather, it positions them to be able to start the transformation of their broken worldview into a new worldview, one based on biblical truth. But such a worldview has to be built through an adequate process of discipleship.

However, this is a topic we rarely hear church leaders address to any degree. Yet, the development and application of a biblical worldview would radically transform the life of each Christian who actually achieves such a discipleship process. The transforming impact on the life of the individual Christian would also directly impact the church and his interaction in the world.

This is a vital topic that requires more comprehensive coverage than can be provided here; I'm also not one to reinvent the wheel. Therefore, at this point I urge you to click the link provided below that will take you to an excellent series of articles by Del Tackett, writing for Focus on the Family, with regard to the vital need for developing a biblical worldview ...


Saturday, August 13, 2011

God is not a piece of cork ...

Our human bodies don't work very well with holes in them. In fact, we were designed with a casing of skin to keep contained as one unit what we need in order to function physically. Holes in our bodies cause malfunctions of the worst kind!

That doesn't stop many from teaching that deep within us is a "God-shaped hole" or "vacuum" that we need to fill with a relationship with God. That idea is a false concept built from humanity thinking too highly of itself.

Such a thought feeds the notion that we're actually self-sovereign beings that can simply be enriched by adding a little interaction with God, pretty much the same way we can be enriched with a spouse, or children, a loyal pet, or a rewarding career. God doesn't exist in order to enrich our lives, scripture teaches something quite opposite: we exist for His pleasure!

Look closely at what the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1:16, "... for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see — such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him."

We see the same idea echoed in Revelation 4:11, "You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased."

The reality for us as creations of God isn't that life is a little richer with God in it, but rather, the entire purpose of our existence is for God's pleasure! There's not some hole within us that needs to be filled with God; rather, our entire being needs to be lived in communion with Him.

When we understand that we weren't simply made by God, but that we were made for God, we get a clearer picture of our vital need for Him. We cannot fulfill the creative purpose of our existence by offering God a little room in our life; fulfillment takes nothing less than giving our lives in their entirety to God, for His pleasure.


Friday, August 12, 2011

From flash mob to flash ministry ...

Churches are increasingly turning to a "flash mob" ministry mentality in a effort to try to impact their communities with their presence.

A flash mob is a group of people who, seemingly spontaneously, burst out in a choreographed performance in a public place to provide a brief snippet of entertainment, then disappear as quickly as they appeared (as humorously portrayed in the video clip below) ...

Some churches have been doing something similar by canceling Sunday worship services once a month or once a quarter and instead turning out en masse somewhere in their communities to provide a form of service.

Personally, I applaud a more focused effort of getting whole congregations involved in making a difference for Christ in their communities. But the "flash ministry" approach can come with its own weaknesses if not done well. Sometimes, these efforts:
  • ... can lack personal passion. When a coordinator plans everything and you simply show up for an hour or two to pray, paint (etc.), and move on, it can be easy to miss sharing a real, personal part of yourself with others. Instead, you simply contribute to a project rather than create an ongoing connection with people in your community. The project may benefit someone, but if you don't make a personal connection as an Ambassador for Christ, you're missing the primary purpose ...
  • ... can maximize comfort zones ... When all we have to do is show up for a nominal amount of time and put in a little physical work before going home to our routines for another month or longer, we're not doing much to grow our service to others. We may actually be further enabling the maintenance of our comfort zones by finding a reasonably comfortable way to "serve" ...
  • ... can minimize personal cost ... When meeting the needs of others is reduced to a nominal contribution to a project, we minimize real costs to the individual. When we have a mindset that we need to minimize personal cost in order for people to serve, we're missing entirely the kind of love and sacrifice displayed by the early church.
The church, and those served by the church, can both benefit by Christian service that combines both individual efforts of agape love that stretches us, and combining our efforts. We should work together on those things that are too big to accomplish individually (either by sheer amount of work or prohibitive cost), but continue to place an emphasis on every follower of Christ impacting lives by spending themselves on others in Jesus' name. Like the video above highlights the value of timing, it's important to know when we can stretch ourselves in service to others personally, and when we need to come together so we can achieve even greater things together.


When a church lies to itself ...

Because I was going to be in town for a while, a fellow pastor asked me if I would participate each week in reviewing the Sunday morning service and activities. I agreed I would.

A couple of weeks later, I was dropped from participating!

This church, led by a good friend of mine, has members from the worship team, greeters, and various other members write down their "honest" assessment of the quality of each service, critiquing all aspects of the service from being greeted at the door to the fellowship that follows the worship hour.

What I noticed in the feedback provided by others was a whitewashing about what was really happening in the services at that church. The critiques were not honest, they were a focused attempt to find something good about the services, and most of the time that was the only thing shared.

My feedback, on the other hand, went beyond noting the few strong points of the service to include detailing the weaknesses. Considering there were more weaknesses than strengths, it was easy to do.

But there was a primary reason why it was easy to detail the weaknesses: Until that church learns to be honest about what it is doing poorly, it will not improve.

If every service is always "alright," and "alright" is always acceptable, it will remain mediocre. You cannot begin to purposely pursue improvement until you become discontent with your own level of mediocrity.

I give that church credit for having a system of reviewing what they were doing, whereas many churches do not. However, if you're only going to be dishonest with yourself about the quality of what you're doing, then you're wasting your (and others') time.

A church can benefit by routinely reviewing the quality of its work. But that effort needs to be an honest assessment so that you can identify and pursue areas that really do need to be improved.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why some of our intercessory prayers are ineffective ...

Be careful how you pray for someone you don't know, they may be asking you to join in their disobedience!

Have you ever had a request to pray for someone you don't really know? Maybe you've had people you know only through social media ask you to pray about something. Or perhaps you received a long list of prayer requests from your church. Maybe you've been given a one sentence request to pray for a friend of a friend you've never heard of. These requests for prayer may come from people you don't know well (or at all), yet they're asking you to pray in a specific direction or for God to accomplish something particular for them.

The problem is, you don't know the real context of their situation, so you don't know if what they are asking is the wisest thing to pray for them. Some may actually be facing difficulty due to their own sin, and are wanting people to attempt to pray away the circumstances that come from their choices.

It's because of this that many of these prayers are ineffective.

We see in 1 John 5:14-15 (and other passages of scripture) that our prayer requests should align with God's will if we expect for God to give us what we ask for: "14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for."

When we pray for someone we don't know or don't know well, it's better to bring before God only what we know will align with His will for that person. That might mean instead of praying in the specific manner that we've been asked to pray, we instead pray something like this:

"Father in Heaven, I don't know Joe, but Joe is calling out to you. I don't know his heart toward you, or the reality of his walk, I only know he's hurting. I also know you are His Maker, that you love him unconditionally, and that You have in Your heart only what is best for him. So I ask that while he is reaching out to You, that You would give heed to his current willingness to call out to You, and that You would answer his call with Your great love for him in the way You know what's best for him ..."

That prayer can go much deeper into really praying for what's best for the person making the request. Even if the person asking for prayer may not be asking for something that aligns with God's will for them, you can make sure your prayer on their behalf does!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do you like recipes? Here's one for spiritual maturity ...

Going to church every Sunday doesn't guarantee spiritual maturity. Neither does having a ten-minute daily devotional time or participating in a small group each week.

So what is a reliable recipe for spiritual maturing?

Let's look to scripture for the answer.

In Hebrews 5, the writer expresses a level of exasperation with some of his readers who remain spiritually immature when they should be mature believers by then. We read in verses 11-13:

"There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right."

The writer of Hebrews then contrasts his readers' condition with this statement in the next verse (14):

"Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong."

From that statement, we can devise the following recipe:

Training + Skill Development = Spiritual Maturing

The original word used for training is the same used for doing vigorous exercise, and the word for skill connotes the idea of constant habit. The combination is the concept of an actual commitment to rigorous learning, with a constant application of what is learned, to the point a level of skill is developed. We usually call this discipleship!

Is this the recipe you're using for following Christ? If not, you may not be experiencing much in the way of real spiritual maturing. But that's an easy fix: just follow the recipe!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: A timely, intelligent & valuable tool for equipping Christians ....

Probably every Christian has heard of atheism and likely has some basic idea of what it is.

But are you familiar with the New Atheism?

Are you aware this newer strain of atheism is so strident in its message one of its leading proponents teaches that some ideas are so evil those who hold them should be put to death simply for thinking them? And the evil ideas this person is referring to is belief in God?

In "Why God Won't Go Away" (published by Thomas Nelson) Christian apologist, theologian, and scholar Alister McGrath does a brilliant job of equipping his readers with a thorough understanding of New Atheism.

As classic atheism found itself tired and losing traction, leading atheist thinkers used the tragedy of 9/11 and the plight of terrorism to launch a new barrage of arguments about the evils of religion.

McGrath does a masterful job of explaining how four "celebrity" atheists were primarily responsible for giving birth to this new movement, thoroughly examines its three core themes, highlights its sharper irrational fundamentalism as compared to classic atheism, and brings us to the present position New Atheism now faces.

Although the author takes his readers into the intellectual and philosophical arguments used by the world's greatest New Atheism thinkers, McGrath writes in an easy-to-follow style that is understandable even for those whose eyes tend to glaze over when confronted with the maze of philosophical debate.

Finally, McGrath reveals the frustration these New Atheism leaders face when, in spite of their best efforts, God simply won't go away. McGrath writes, "God can no more be eliminated from human life than our yearning for justice or our deep desire to make this world a better place." But if these New Atheism leaders could have their way, both God and those who believe in Him, would be eliminated.

"Why God Won't Go Away" is a timely, intelligent, and valuable tool for equipping Christians that every believer would benefit from reading and having on a shelf as a resource.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, August 8, 2011

10 steps for church leaders who lead leaders ...

There's more to leading other leaders in the church than "vision-casting" or playing cheerleader. There are practical steps every senior leader can take to directly contribute to the success of the leaders they lead.

Avoid starting with a mistake ...
One of the most common failures many senior leaders make in their leadership of other leaders is launching a person into their leadership role without an adequate orientation to their new position, which is a perfect way to get off to a bad start.

Here are five steps a senior leader can take to get the leaders they lead off to a good start via an orientation process:

1. Clearly define the "organizational" mission and vision. The mission of the church, as provided directly by Jesus Christ, is to make disciples; the vision of church leadership is how that local church body will go about executing that mission. That can vary among local church bodies, and new leaders need to understand exactly what the vision of the church as a whole is so they can understand their part in helping to achieve it.

2. Assure the new leader's vision is in alignment with the mission and vision of the church. It's not enough to communicate what the mission and vision of the church is. Senior leaders need to ensure the new leaders they bring aboard have a vision for their area of ministry that is in alignment with the mission and vision of the church they are coming into. This seems like a "given," but many senior leaders only assume this about other leaders, only to later discover the new leader has a vision of ministry that doesn't fit with what the larger church body is pursuing.

3. Set parameters. Every leader needs the freedom to lead their area of ministry. But each ministry has its own parameters, and the new leader needs to understand what they are. A leader needs to know the perimeter of their area of responsibility, how far they can go, where they can expand, and where to stop. Senior leaders who fail to set parameters when orienting new leaders often have a new leader they later have to rein in.

4. Clearly communicate expectations. It is unfair to hold someone accountable for expectations that have not been clearly communicated to them. As part of the orientation process, make sure new leaders clearly understand:
  • precisely what will be expected of them;
  • how the results of their work will be measured;
  • when the results of their work will be measured;
  • and what will be done with the measurement of the results of their work, even if the results are positive (for example, if their work has brought about better than expected results, the leader may challenge them to a greater vision, etc.).
5. Complete pre-launch preparations. Make sure the new leader receives any training that is needed (as simple as how to use the church's computer software and telephone system, budgeting processes, general operations, or specific material or curriculum being used, etc.) and receives all the supplies he will need to function. This should include having items such as email, voicemail, printed business cards, computer access, and a workspace with basic office supplies available for the new leader on his first day at work. The leader will feel more welcome if you have him added to the leadership information on your church website right away rather than taking months to include him.

Ready, set ...
With this orientation complete, it's time to put the new leader to work. Here are an additional five steps a senior leader can take to lead their leaders to success in their areas of ministry:

1. Get out of the way! Let your leaders lead. Nothing inhibits a new leader's start more than having his leader always looking over his shoulder or stepping in the way. Give your leaders room to do their work.

2. Keep your leaders positioned for success. Not every ministry will be in the spotlight at the same time. It's important that a senior leader not let the work of other leaders be lost or diminished when an emphasis is on another area. Additionally, it's important the senior leader routinely bring to the front what is happening in each ministry to keep that leader and his area connected to the larger church body.

3. Provide real support. Some simple things a senior leader can provide as ongoing support of the leaders they lead include:
  • Equipping - Your leaders may need advanced discipleship, additional training, further professional development, ongoing study, etc., in order to be successful in their area.
  • Supplying - Make sure your church "supply line" remains adequate for each of your leaders.
  • Encouraging - Your leaders will be busy being key sources of encouragement for those they lead. You will want to make sure they are encouraged in their work.
  • Example - Don't just talk the talk. Provide the leaders you lead with a living example of the quality of leadership you expect from them.
  • Access - As a senior leader, you're a primary ministry and leadership resource to the leaders you lead. Make sure each leader you lead has a reasonable avenue of access to you.
4. Routinely measure results. Help your leaders be accountable for their leadership by routinely measuring the results of their work. How and when results are measured, and what is done with the results, should be achieved according to the plan you laid out as part of the orientation for the new leader. The measuring of results is a primary tool for the senior leader to help the leaders he leads stay on mission for ministry success, or identify corrections that need to be made in order to achieve desired outcomes.

5. Celebrate success, correct deficiencies. Emphasize and highlight the successes of your leaders. Express your appreciation for them both publicly and privately. If a leader falls short of the expectations you have previously communicated, work with the leader to develop a plan of correction that can help them achieve the results you're expecting.

This is not, by any means, a complete list of how senior leaders can help the leaders they lead be successful in the ministry areas they are responsible for. The focus here is on practical steps of leadership basics, without which senior leaders will find their own work hampered by disappointing outcomes from the leaders they are responsible for.

Senior leadership takes real work and real investment in the lives of other leaders that can't be done from an "ivory tower."


Looking God in the face ...

Are you a busy person?

Sounds like a crazy question in this day and age, but there's "busy" and then there's really busy!

A few years ago, while leading a business organization and continuing with a counseling ministry, I was so busy I had to break down my days into 15 minute increments. What that meant was that few people were scheduled for "face time." A lot of work was done by phone and email. Face-to-face meetings were generally limited to issues of top priorities and needs first, then to maintaining relationships, followed by time for building new relationships.

When you're busy, face time goes to what's really important.

When I was last in Arizona, I called the office of a mega church that I had been a part of prior to going into vocational ministry. This church had played a key part in my early spiritual development but it had grown significantly since I was last involved with it. So I hoped to meet with the current Senior Minister to learn about the life of the church as it is today.

The question was, would the Senior Minister of a church pushing 15,000 members make time for me?

He did. We had a great face-to-face meeting, and it was a blessing to learn about what this church is doing around the world in Christ's name.

There's a unique value in having "face time" with someone. We understand each other best when we can look each other in the face. The face is where we display our true selves; the subtleties of our thoughts and emotions find their expression on our faces, and that expression deepens our communication and connection with those we have "face time" with.

The Bible has a few hundred references to the word "face." Often, it refers to a human being who has "fallen on their face" in worship, fear, or reverence of God. Here's an interesting thing, though. In many of those situations, we see God instruct the person to stand and turn their face toward Him.

God wants face time with us!

Not only does He want to see our faces clearly, He wants us to see Him clearly as well. We understand Him better when we take the time to look Him in the face, and He delights in our putting aside our pretensions and be "real" with Him.

Through Christ, we can raise our faces off the ground and look God in the face, both now and in the future. First John 4:17 states, "And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world."

Are you making face time with God your top priority? Or do you bury your face from His?