Archive for Leadership

What’s the Purpose of the Church?

Screen Shot 2011-09-01 at 4.59.45 AMA number of years ago, in my first pastorate, I remember the ongoing sense of confusion and frustration I felt regarding the purpose of The Church. I would often get asked “What are we doing?” and I knew the question was more comprehensive and challenging then our next event, bible study or teaching series. The question had to do with the greater purpose and overall mission of the “exclesia” – the Body of Christ.

I was stumped. Oh sure, I could muster some semblance of a response such as “We’re just gonna love God and love people.” That, by the way, isn’t a bad answer. I, however, was regurgitating something I had heard from yet another leader at yet another pastors breakfast. In no time I would respond to the “what are we doing?” question with a wide-eyed “Um, we’re reaching the world for Jesus” or “We’re making it hard for people to go to hell in our city.” Were we to reach the lost or feed the found? Ahhh…the pressure!

My understanding of the church’s purpose would flip-flop after every compelling book, conference or sudden epiphany.

Until I was about 30 years old and I spent a week with Pastor Jack Hayford.

When he spoke to me, and about 45 other Christian leaders, the lights began to come on, the fog started clearing, and I began to understand, deep in my heart, the fundamental framework for the local church.

And I haven’t looked back since. Like a gymnast, I finally stuck the landing.

By the way, it should be mentioned, that this wasn’t rocket science, a newly fashioned and fanciful theological construct, nor a secret-now-revealed to the best and brightest. It was simple, and it was explicit in the Bible. But, it finally made sense.

So Christ himself gave [the church] the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

 

The Church exists to equip people towards maturity in Christ Jesus.

Deep breath. I remember a wave of revelation coming over me like it was yesterday.

The church, and all it’s wonderful gifts, are to be aimed, like a strategic missile, at the mission of equipping (which in Greek is the word “katartizo” meaning “to mend”) the saints for the work of ministry. That’s discipleship. Like we say at West Salem Foursquare Church: we exist to Make More and Maturing Disciples.

That, my friends, can be done in amazingly creative and diverse ways. For example, at our church, we’ve determined that we’re gonna hit our goal by investing in The Big Three: scripture, small groups and serving. Other congregations may achieve the goal differently. More power to ya. Like it’s been said, “There’s more than one way to skin that cat.”

But, let’s at least aim for the goal: equipping people towards maturity (which in Greek is the word “teleios” meaning “brought to it’s finished end”) in Christ Jesus.

Based upon my observations, you may have push-back, or at least curiosity, regarding the value of evangelism. Shouldn’t the mission of the church be reaching and/or returning people to Jesus? Doesn’t the church exist for those yet to be found (ie: lost)? This is precisely what you’ll have to wrestle with, as I did. Here’s a piece of understanding from Pastor Jack Hayford, that helped me immensely: evangelism is the natural overflow of an equipped (mended and maturing) follower of Jesus.  

Equipping is the bullseye. Evangelism is the byproduct.

Leading Through Tough Stuff

Last week, myself, along with my friend Randy Remington and facilitated and lectured at one of my annual Leadership Symposiums on the the topic of “Leading Through Criticism, Conflict and Change.” 

As a resource, I gave out the following blog post that I wrote back in 2010. I wanted to REPOST it because I think it’s helpful for leaders of all kinds to know how to navigate tough situations like the one Solomon famously faced. 

Enjoy. 

 

In 1 Kings 3 Solomon, in a dream, asks the Lord for wisdom. His prayer is one that I have asked on a number of occasions and in various ways:

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? 1 Kings 3:9

Although a dream, this nighttime prayer became a reality. Solomon was indeed graced with immense wisdom. We discover its practical implications through an interesting encounter with two mothers (albeit prostitutes) that came to Solomon to have a disagreement settled.

One of the mothers had rolled over onto her baby in the middle of the night, smothering the little one. She then switched the dead baby for the living one. This was a classic “While You Were Sleeping” moment. However, like any mother worth her salt, the woman knew that the dead baby simply was not hers.

The battle of words begins: Yours. Mine. Not Yours. Alive. Mine. Dead. Yours. Mine.

Enter Solomon.

After listening to the arguments, in a bold move, Solomon presented a solution. His remedy has become a prototype for conflict resolution. Throughout the centuries, leaders have leaned upon Solomon’s sagely advice:

Bring me the baby. Oh yah, and a sword too. Gasp. I’m gonna split this cute little thing into two evenly divided pieces. Bigger Gasp. Each of you will get a piece. That should settle this. Another huge Gasp. 

In church life, Lead Pastors have to “split the baby” all the time. Not literally, of course. The baby is representative of ministry focus, good ideas, financial resources, etc. etc. All ministry leaders have their “babies” – the ministries they oversee, the specific ideas and concepts they generate, and the passions that are burning brightly within their hearts. These all must be cared for and nurtured and yet, sometimes, the baby must be split. Not every good idea can be integrated. Rarely are there enough resources available for everyone’s passion to be released at the larger, congregational level.

So how does a leader “split the baby” effectively? Here are few thoughts:

1. Pray for wisdom
Before issuing a decree, talk to the Lord. This can happen on the fly or over time. Sometimes decisions must be made quickly and the leader must seek the Lord in “real time.” In other situations, wisdom would demand a reprieve in order to pray. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I will need to get back to you. I need to take some time to pray about this. Will you join me in praying this through?” Scripture tells us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

2. Listen closely
Leaders often have very refined views and directions that have been shaped over time, and therefore can be predisposed to poor listening skills. Ok, maybe that’s just me. In other words, we have been around the leadership block and we have heard many things, often with similar, predictable patterns (ie: been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!). Because of this, it’s so important to fight the urge to tune out, but rather listen…closely. The next best idea may be in the your next conversation. The Holy Spirit will often steer our hearts as we listen to his voice and to his people.

3. Value subtleties 
When leaders are called upon to make decisions regarding great ideas with limited resources, one must depend upon subtleties. In Solomon’s case the subtlety was how the real mother refused to see the baby split (thus killed), but insisted that the fake mother receive him. This expressed true love, not selfishness. We need the wisdom of the Lord to pick up these kinds of subtleties when it comes to leadership decisions. Often when deciding between ideas we must actively listen for the little details that separates good from great. These subtleties will serve us in our decision making process. And we MUST make decisions…

4. Make clear decisions
At some point, after seeking the wisdom of the Lord, listening attentively, and weighing out the subtleties, a leader must make the call. That is what separates leaders from..well…followers. When you feel as if you’ve gotten the best information possible and have prayerfully been submitted to the wisdom of the Lord, then one must make a decision. If it is to “split the baby” then do it. If there are other options, then choose one. This is the tough stuff of leadership, and we wish we could “defer” it all the time. That would mean, however, that we aren’t the leader we think we are. Leaders make clear decisions.

5. Move on
This may sound cold and heartless, but, leaders have to “move on.” There will always be another decision to make. Even if you feel that you “really messed up” the last one: move on. You will live to fight another day. There will always be another “baby to split.”

Leaders: seek the wisdom of the Lord, listen to your people, value the subtleties that surface, make the hard calls, then move onto the next challenge. This is leadership. It’s not always easy. But, man, it is vital.

Take the Plunge!

The following blog post is about WATER BAPTISM. If you are interested in baptized at West Salem Foursquare Church please check out this link: WSFC WATER BAPTISM.

 

We are offering baptism at EVERY service during the ENTIRE month of SEPTEMBER!

We encourage you to TAKE THE PLUNGE!

 

In Acts 8 we read about Philip’s encounter with a man from Ethiopia. Philip took the opportunity to expound upon the scriptures and introduce the Ethiopian to the saving knowledge of Jesus. While talking they came upon a body of water, and the man asked if he could be baptized. The New King James version of the Bible says that Philip responded with this prerequisite:  “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

Before being baptized in water one must come to a place of surrender to Jesus by making Him the Lord and Savior. Our resolve must be similar to the Ethiopian man, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”   Salvation is necessary before taking the next step of Water Baptism. If we have made Jesus the Lord of our life then Water Baptism is an appropriate next step!

Obedience

Jesus left His people with two specific commands that are vital to our growth as Christians. The first is communion (the Lord’s Supper) and the second is Water Baptism. He gave the church these sacraments as a reminder of his death and resurrection. Water baptism is not  our salvation, it is only another step of obedience in the plan of God. It symbolizes “death to self” and “new life” in the power and purposes of Christ. In a very real sense we are saying “Not my will, but yours.”

Identification

In Water Baptism we are identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Romans 6:3,4 attests to this when it says,  “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

When we are submersed into the waters of baptism, we are symbolically, yet very intentionally, dead to our old ways of living. Simply put: it is buried! As we come up from the water we are made alive to the new life found in Christ. Now that our old life is “dead unto Christ” you want to be sure not to go digging it back up!

Confession

Water Baptism is a public act that renounces sin from our past and professes faith in Christ.  It’s a public expression that Jesus is Lord and that we are now a part of the family of God. Many have referred to baptism as a “outward sign of an inward work.”  It’s a visible and audible confession to our friends, family, and church of the deep work Christ has done in our life. The Book of Acts chapter 10 refers to many individuals that responded to the message of Jesus. During this time the Apostle Peter asked if “anyone could keep these people from being baptized with water.”  The answer was obviously “no” and therefore they were publicly baptized as an open acknowledgement of Christ as Lord.

Release

Nothing could be greater than a life that is fully ALIVE through Jesus Christ! That happens when we are not trapped in bondage to our sin and guilt. In baptism we are crucifying the sin of our life and coming alive to Christ. There is great joy when we are alive to Christ and dead to sin. Water baptism is a symbolic statement of this new life and marks a point of release into further growth and ministry for us as believers.

Not only is Water Baptism a Biblical command, but it is also modeled to us by Jesus who himself was baptized as described in the Gospels. He knew the importance of this sacred moment and calls us to the same obedience, knowing that it will mark a significant point of blessing for our lives!

Say It With Me: Change is Good

Over the last few months I’ve been able to watch a transformation happen on the corner of Wallace Drive and Glen Greek in beautiful West Salem. I drive around that area quite often on any given day, whether I’m heading home, going to the church, hauling our kids to events, or getting groceries at Roth’s Market.

OK…I also fuel up at Starbucks pretty close to there (I’m actually writing this blog post from that hallowed spot).

The transformation in progress involves the ripping down of some old buildings, and tearing out sidewalks, in order to make way for something NEW. We are getting a re-routed intersection for better traffic flow. I personally was wanting a new strip mall, or if I’m lucky, a Vespa dealership, Trader Joes, or H&M (here’s to dreaming).

Regardless, sometimes things have to be torn down and replaced when they no longer serve the purposes for which they were intended. That’s not always a bad thing. Change is good.

Say it with me:  Change. Is. Good.

That wasn’t so hard, right?

God is into change too. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

The old becomes new in Christ. That can be a long, painful process for us, but the end-result is oh-so worth it.

Even when it comes to our methods, programs, styles, and preferences we have to consider that God is into change. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 9:16-17 “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wine skins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wine skins, and both are preserved.”

The work that the Lord wants to do in us in these days, I believe, is a NEW work. He desires to change us; making us more like himself.

Are you open to this?  Thankfully, we have a great promise in the Word of God that “His Mercy is New Every Morning.”

Let’s lean into his NEW mercy together!

5 Kinds of Books I Focus On

Ask around and the people closest to me will heartedly confirm that I read a lot of books.

A LOT.

I have a book going ALL the time. Actually, I have a bunch of books going all at the SAME time. I realized recently that I’m a “binge reader.” I tend to get a handful of books from the library or Amazon and then I dive into them all and see which ones “catch on.” Some of them don’t really grab me so I simply set them aside. No worries. Perhaps I will engage them at a later time. Perhaps not.

Other books (plural) gain traction, and I love it when that happens. I’ll keep one in my backpack. Another 4-5 are bedside. Still others are available in my “currently reading” piles at my office and home study. I even keep books in my car (currently there’s about 15 in the backseat), on my iPad for when I fly, and, yes, by the commode (don’t judge).

Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, had it right: “There is no end to the writing of many books and reading many of them makes the body tired” (Ecc. 12:12).  With all these books at our disposal, one may wonder how I choose WHAT to read.  Glad you asked…

Here are Five Kinds of Books I Focus On…

1. Resource Books.

These kinds of books are those that are currently popular or people ask me about. As a pastoral leader, I get asked often about certain books. Folks wonder what I think about it or if it’s the kind of book they should read themselves. Obviously, I can’t read every such book, but I think it’s important for me to be somewhat conversant.

ExamplesLove Wins by Rob Bell, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson

2.  Research Books.

Many of the books I read serve as background for a particular preaching or teaching series. These may be commentaries, topical studies, or textual/expository (verse by verse) materials. These can often be dry, so I read research-like books sparingly.

Examples:  Ben Witherington III Socio-rhetorical Commentaries, Jon Courson Bible Commentaries or The Reason for God by Timothy Keller.

3.  Recreational Books.

Occasionally, I want to immerse myself in a good novel. Give me a well-written “political, who-done-it, edge of my seat, thrill-ride” of a book and I’m in my happy place. Toss in a Iced Triple Espresso and I’ve transported into the “third heaven.”

Examples:  Anything by writers like John Grisham, Brad Thor, or Vince Flynn. Pretty much if it’s under $10, fits in my backpack, and I can get ‘lost’ in the action, I’ll read it.

4. Renewal Books.

This is a pretty broad category for books that benefit my personal growth, leadership development, and character development. These may be new releases from Christian authors, but I try to limit those because so much of what is being currently written is nothing new or revolutionary. Therefore, I lean mostly towards biographies. Biographies let me do the work of gleaning the lessons, growth points, and leadership concepts rather than having them spoon-fed to me.

Examples:  Biographies by David McCullough (John Adams is my favorite), Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson, and Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.

5. Retreat Books

Throughout the year I have scheduled retreats for prayer and solitude. During these times I bring with me contemplative works – often old and classic. These are far from “pop fare,” but rather, deep wells of wisdom from seasoned sojourners.

Examples:  The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence or anything by Eugene Peterson.

Ah, books. I love them.

By the way, if you’re ever asked what book you’d choose if you were to be marooned on a deserted island, you may be quick to say “The Bible.” I can’t argue with that choice too much because The Bible is without a doubt my favorite book in the world. But, I would tend to agree with G.K. Chesterton when he responded to that question with: Thomas’ Guide to Practical Ship-Building.

Think about it. 🙂

Our Emotional Health

Every morning I step onto a scale in order to weigh myself. I don’t HAVE to do this, but I CHOOSE to. Some days I’m encouraged by the progress I’m making in terms of “dropping a few lbs” and other days I want to get the scale professionally checked for accuracy (know what I’m talking ’bout?).

Being faced with the truth can be frustrating. But the numbers don’t lie, and neither are they personally invested; they are merely reporting information. It’s our responsibility to consider those numbers and give them subjective weight (pun intended).

What will we do with the information that the scale has revealed to us?

How will we process it?

What actions will come as a result?

Information should lead to introspection.

Truth begets thoughtfulness.

To get physically healthy we must wrestle with what the scale reveals. Such is the case with the physical, but what about the emotional? We can’t weigh JOY like we can pounds. Can we say no to ANGER like a donut? Friends, it’s difficult to quantify our emotional health, and much easier to hide than the physical aspects.  Don’t you wish we could simply step onto a scale, get a read out of emotional health, and then take appropriate steps? But alas…

What are some things that we can do in order to enhance our emotional health?

1.  Enlist Coaching and Accountability.  Get yourself a team of quality people that are rightly aligned with your desires for better emotional health. You cannot afford to go at this alone.

Who will coach you?  These ought to be people that are further along in their life journey, and have seen a degree of success in areas of emotional health.

Who will cheer you on?  These are folks that you can be completely transparent with, and that will in turn spur you on.

For me personally, I have enlisted a couple of older, wiser, Godly men that graciously serve as my coaches. These are not “buddies” (although we have mutual friendship), but rather they are “clear voices” that I have chosen to listen and respond to. As well, I have those that cheer me on;  “emotional health running partners”, if you will, that are on a similar track as I am, and get the rigors of the race.

2.  Set Goals and Plans.  Once your team is in place, then together you are able to set some targets and timelines. Perhaps you are determined to focus your energies towards increasing your joy quotient, lowering stress, or getting a handle on depression. Set some goals regarding those areas of emotional health, and then expand upon that with clear and reasonable plans (how the goal can be achieved). This all seems very ethereal, I know, but the process is well worth it.

Perhaps you may set a goal of waking up happier three days a week. Or you may want to respond to adverse situations with less anger. Set those goals and plot out the plan. It’s important to write it down and then communicate it with your avenues of accountability. In other words, inspect what you expect!

3.  Celebrate Wins and Forward-Progress.  An important step in our emotional health is to celebrate successes (or even hints of success). It’s been said: “What gets celebrated gets repeated.” Of course, we know from various schools of thought such as child psychology, that positive reinforcement is an important facet in the forming of habits (hopefully good ones).

So, if you or those you’ve enlisted to help you, see areas of emotional growth, then be quick to celebrate! That kind of energy can be marshalled in order to tackle other aspects of emotional health and growth.

Why is all of this so important? Well, because Proverbs 4:23 tells us “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Other translations of this passage call our heart the “wellspring of life.”

In other words, our emotional and spiritual heath matters.

Keep up the good work.

 

 

 

Through the Roof

Zig Ziglar once said, “I have such optimism, I’d go after Moby Dick and take the tarter sauce with me.”

I love this quote, because I am an optimistic guy. I enjoy taking on big challenges (I know, I know…I’m kinda sick in the head).

I tend to look at impossible situations with tarter sauce in hand.

I’m a cup half FULL kind of person.

What about you?

Recently I was in Capernaum on the north side of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It was at this historical site that Jesus was teaching in a home. You can read about it in Mark 2:1-12. As Jesus was teaching in a packed out home, four guys brought their sick friend in order to receive a healing touch. They couldn’t get through the doors or windows due to the volume of people engrossed in Jesus’ teaching. There was simply NO WAY to get their friend inside the house.

Or was there?

It is at key junctures such as these that most people get discouraged and walk away (picture Charlie Brown sulking).

But not these guys. They went after Moby Dick with the tarter sauce in hand!

They went through the roof.

Not many folks would think to go through the roof. That takes work, costs money, makes a mess and causes a scene.

AND…it’s what gets friends healed.

I love the optimism. May we become more and more like these guys, especially when it comes to our friends that need to get to Jesus.

Young Mountain Men

I saw something in the Bible that I hadn’t seen before.

This is not abnormal, in that I’m always discovering things in the Bible that are new and revelational. But, in this case I thought I had “mined” most everything out of this particular passage: Genesis 22.

Genesis 22 is about Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah (fairly familiar story, right?).  Obviously the primary characters are Abraham and Isaac. You could also throw in an angel of the Lord and an innocent ram caught in a thicket.

The angel of the Lord, speaking on God’s behalf, gave last second instructions to Abraham to NOT slaughter his son Isaac (whew). Evidently, God was looking for obedience more than sacrifice.

Abraham passed the test. End of story, right? Nope. I found something that I hadn’t seen before. There are two other characters in this story that leapt off the page in my most recent reading of Genesis 22.

Two Young Men.

When Abraham woke up early in the morning, verse 3 tells us that he not only saddled his donkey, but he “took two of his young men with him.” No big deal, huh? Abraham probably needed some extra help for his journey. OK…so I read on.

Coming to verse 5 I discovered a second reference the young men: “Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey.'”  That caused me to underline the passage in my Bible AND go back in order to underline verse 3. I’ve been reading the Word of God long enough to pick up on patterns such as these. As a matter of fact, under my breath I whispered “I’ll bet these young men show up again in this passage.” And with that, I read on…

In verse 19, my suspicions were confirmed: “So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba.”  

OK. So there it is: three references to two young men in a story that is predominately about Abraham and Isaac.

Who are these young men? I don’t know, but their inclusion in this story has reminded me of some really important things in leadership and ministry.

1. Take others with you to the mountain. Abraham obviously took Isaac with him, but he extended his circle to two young men. I love this model. It may not always be practical or possible to take people with you, but when you can, do it. As a pastoral leader, I try to make room for as many young leaders as I can. Going to Costco? Grab someone. Heading to a conference or hospital visit? Bring a young leader with you.

Recently, I invited two of our leaders to go on a road trip with me to a memorial service for Jerry Cook, who is an author and Foursquare legend. With notebooks in hand, we captured our thoughts and impressions during the service then debriefed over a meal and the trip home.

Are you climbing a mountain (metaphorically speaking)? Then, bring others with you.

2. Young leaders are developed daily…not in a day. There came a point in the journey to Mount Moriah that Abraham determined the young men should “stay here with the donkey.”  Man, that must have been frustrating for them. Who wants to babysit a donkey when they could climb a mountain? I’ve known many emerging leaders that have felt similar frustrations; desiring to experience more and lead further.

Friends, leaders are not made in a day. It takes time. Be thankful for and faithful with the opportunities you’ve been given. I often say this to young leaders: “Don’t demand a ministry. Develop one.” And that may involve the care of donkeys, while more seasoned leaders go to the top of the mountain. You’ll most likely get there some day, and when you do you’ll realize just how stinking hard it is, and the intense sacrifice that is involved.

So, be patient.

3. Develop long-term mentor/student relationships. In verse 19, when Abraham returned to the young men (with an alive Isaac in tow), they all together “arose and went together to Beersheba.” One can’t read too much into this, but I appreciate the imagery of them all moving and living together in one place.  For me, it illustrates symbiotic relationships that can be formed and nurtured between mentors and students over a long period of time.

There are great benefits found in learning communities of mentors (Abraham) and students (young men). In my personal and ministerial life, I have grown to highly value the godly, older men that have access to my life. Similarly, I’ve chosen to be that kind of a person to a number of younger leaders.

So much is gained. So much is learned. So much is deposited…and withdrawn.

Are you a leader? Do you have “young guns” around you and going places with you?

iLeadership

As the primary leader in a growing organization, I am always on the look out for good people to be a part of our team. My eyes are perpetually peeled. I’m looking as I stroll through the church lobby during our weekend services. I’m watching out of the corner of my eye while ministering at camps, retreats or conferences. I’m scanning to see who is serving, caring, giving, and developing their God-given talents for Kingdom purposes.

I love my job.

Occasionally I have the opportunity to invite certain folks to join our team. It doesn’t happen often and it isn’t for everyone. Of course, any follower of Jesus could have the capacity to be a leader, and may function as such to varying degrees, but not all can be called or commissioned to full-time, professional service in the local church. That simply wouldn’t be practical or possible.

When I look for leaders, I watch for three very important characteristics in that person. I call it iLEADERSHIP.

1.  Leaders that Initiate.

First and foremost these individuals must be able to move forward with initiative and not wait for someone to hand it all to them. We know that the road to somewhere nasty is paved with good intentions. Good intentions are noble but not enough. One must take further steps to initiate action.

2.  Leaders that Integrate.

I look for people that can partner and play well with others. Lone Rangers need not apply. Sure, those kinds of folks may be workhorses and high capacity initiators, but if they don’t have chemistry with a team then problems will ensue. Mark my words: in the short-term you may think you have secured the best leader, but in the long-run you will experience acute misery. So, place a high value on integration.

3. Leaders that Innovate.

Simply put: they have the capacity for change. One must be able to creatively take nothing and make it “something.” It’s an art (Max DePree calls it Leadership Jazz). Understandably, not everyone can pull this off. That’s OK, because the Body of Christ is big and all are welcome. But when it comes to leadership, I find it extremely important to have people that can embrace change and run point on innovative efforts. 

This is iLEADERSHIP.
What leadership characteristics would you add?

Preachers and Drunks

JesusLovesYouThe story is told of a drunk man that stumbled through the woods until he came upon a preacher baptizing people in the river. He tripped into the water and bumped into the preacher who asked the drunk, “Are you ready to find Jesus?” “Yes I am,” the drunk replied. The preacher dunked him into the water then pulled him up and asked him, “Brother have you found Jesus?”  The drunk replied, “No!” Shocked at the answer, the preacher dunked him into the water again a bit longer. He pulled him out of the water and asked again, “Have you found Jesus, my brother?” The drunk again answered, “No, I have not found Jesus.” By this time the preacher was at his wits end so he dunked the drunk in the water again, but this time he held him down for about 30 seconds. The man started flailing his arms and legs so the preacher finally pulled him up and asked the drunk the last time, “For the love of God, have you found Jesus?” The drunk wiped his eyes and caught his breath only to say to the preacher, “No, but are you sure this is where he fell in?”

Aside from the obvious theological problems of this story, there is a bigger reminder to us about how Jesus can get lost by Preachers and Drunks alike.

Sometimes we lose him in the cultural stereotypes that we’ve been given. Other times we lose him in the trappings of the church, with all it’s traditions, rules, and hypocrisies. Oddly, we can sometimes lose him in the Word of God. We can become so caught up in the phrases and miss the person. This is verified in Jesus’ own words found in the Book of John “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you have life” (John 5:39,40).

Where did Jesus fall in?  Where can he be found? How can we truly understand his love for us? I like how the French Philosopher Maurice Blondel puts it: “If you really want to understand a man, don’t just listen to what he says but watch what he does.”

We know that Jesus loves us because the Bible tells us so (you’re humming the children’s song right now, aren’t you?). But what I appreciate about Jesus is that he didn’t just TELL his disciples (us) about his love…he SHOWED them (us).

I believe he showed them (and still does to us today) with a towel, tears and a table. I want to unpack three  familiar passages and look for where Jesus fell in…

Towel // John 13

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:1,4,5)

It was historically customary for a servant to wash the dust off of the feet of anyone who entered the home of the master.  But in this particular case no one did that, so the guests feet remained dirty until Jesus humbled himself, took off his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist and began to wash their feet. 

Jesus was showing us what love looks like. He knew that before he could TEACH he had to TOUCH.  The disciples didn’t need a lecture on dirty feet. Neither do many of our unsaved friends. They need someone to get down and simply wash off the crud!

I love how Philippians 2:7 drives this home. Note the connections I’ve made to John 13:  “He made himself nothing (took outer clothing off), being made in human likeness (towel), and took the very nature of a servant (wash the disciples feet).”

This is how Jesus SHOWED us love.  How else does he show us? 

Tears // John 11

Jesus wasn’t there when his best friend Lazarus died. When he finally arrived everybody was a mess. Mary was crying. The Jews (perhaps paid mourners) gathered around the grave and joined in the grieving. This must have been like a room full of people watching Marley & Me or My Sisters Keeper (trust me: these are Weep-Fest films).

Vs. 34 – “Where have you laid him?” “Come and See Lord,” they replied.

Vs. 35 – “Jesus wept.”

Vs. 36 – “See how much he loved him!”

Jesus didn’t just say it, he showed it. You may wonder why (if he really loved him) he didn’t do more than just cry. Other wondered that too:

vs. 37 – “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

If Jesus really loved Lazarus, why didn’t he keep him from dying? The same logic can be applied to this question:  Why doesn’t Jesus keep bad things from happening to us?  If he’s really sovereign then wouldn’t it make sense for him to cut off death, pain and suffering at the pass?

Consider this scenario:  Have you ever said to someone “I don’t want you to fix it. I just want you to listen?” Over the years, I have discovered that some of my greatest growth has come out of lots of pain and I honestly didn’t need someone to fix it, but instead I needed to know someone was walking with me, listening to me, and weeping with me.

Such was the case with Jesus.  He wept before he ever raised Lazarus from the dead. You know, perhaps the greater miracle is that the God of the universe can cry. Through his tears he SHOWS us the full extent of his love.

Table // Luke 7

In Luke 7 we discover a pretty shady meal time. The table was set and around it we have a Pharisee, a Prostitute (called The Sinful Woman) and Jesus.

This all sounds like the makings of a good joke: A Pharisee, a Prostitute and Jesus walk into a house…

Both the Pharisee and prostitute were shunned by society, but Jesus sat at the table with them. That’s him showing LOVE. Thankfully he does the same with us. He invites us, with our shady backgrounds and sinful propensities, to eat with him. He welcomes us to the table.

Consider the Last Supper.  At that particular table was one who would deny him (Peter), another who would betray him to be killed (Judas), and a bunch of folks that would abandon him (rest of the disciples).

Looks like Preachers and Drunks are in good company.

Towel, Tears, and a Table: It’s through examples such as these that we discover again how God demonstrated his love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us” (Romans 5:8).