Leadership

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#Shepherd#Platform#Integrity

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

In Psalm 78:72 it says of David “With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with skillful hands.”  Some translations use the word “integrity” for upright.  This verse is talking about David’s approach toward the people of Israel. David served the people as their shepherd with integrity. That verse has always been at the forefront of my brain ever since I read it years ago.  It serves as a challenge to me to shepherd the people i serve with integrity.

Maybe that is why I have not cared whether I became “known” or not.  Oh…wait a minute. That’s not true. There was a time I cared a lot…an awful lot. I would hear of friends of mine who were preaching at large churches or conducting meetings in other churches and the “J” word would kick in. (That would be “J”ealousy for those who are unsure).  But then I began to think about time and schedule. I began to be involved in watching my daughters play ball. I wondered about sermon prep. When did they have the time to do that while jetsetting all over the globe? (Then I found out many of them have assistants who do all the research and sometimes even write the sermons).  I thought about the one thing I really like to do as an aside (cycle) and wondered when could I do that? Certainly not on a plane or in a hotel (stationary bikes are another word for B-O-O-O-R-I-N-G!).  Perhaps the biggest revelation in all this was “finding” the verse from Psalm 78. When would I have the time to be a shepherd?  Now, if I wanted to be a CEO-type  then, by all means, have at it! But I wasn’t called to be a CEO. I was called to be a pastor, a shepherd. The day I realized that was the day I quit worrying about what others thought; how big I could get; how “known” I could be; and became satisfied with being a shepherd of the church God gave me to serve.  Amazing how the perspective changes.  My worst enemy (ME) was put to death that day.

I’d rather be found faithful shepherding my sheep in an obscure, out-of-the-way little town than be serving an image of myself being applauded.  I’d rather be here than anywhere else.

#Stand!#Don’tBowDown!

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

With traveling to PA and then to Ohio my week definitely got away from me as did posting about Sunday’s sermon. Let me put it this way: I started a new series last week that will go through the whole summer. I am calling it Heroes. The first one last week was from Daniel 1. If you read that chapter you know it is the story of Daniel and his 3 friends: Rack, Shack and Benny (as Veggie Tales puts it).  It was titled Cooperation without Compromise. Daniel and his 3 friends had the choice all of us have when confronted by a “test.”

  1. The first option is Absorption. This person basically is absorbed and assimilated into the culture.
  2. The second option is Withdrawal. This is commonly seen in cults and, in the days of the early church, the Essenes. We see this now in the Amish people who believe withdrawal is the best way to avoid evil. (Have I got news for them!)
  3. The third is Cooperation without Compromise. This is the Daniel way. I’d like to encourage you to read Daniel 1 to find out how that happens.

This week’s sermon is called We Won’t Bow Down! Bet you can’t guess what that story is about!! 🙂  If you guessed Daniel’s three friends give yourself a virtual high-five. Daniel 3 is where the story is.  I’m not going to say much more about it here except this- Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego made a choice not to bow down to the image. They were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace when they were given one last chance to change their minds. I love their words: “We believe our God will deliver us but even if not we will not bow down!” WOW!!

So Sunday I’m going to take that very familiar story and try to breathe some life into it so that we can all walk away, especially the dads, with a resolve to stand not bow. Your prayers would be appreciated. Thanks.

#LoneRanger#DIY

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

On my other blog, Living in the Shadow, I touched on this idea of being a Lone Ranger or a Do-It-Yourselfer (DIY). Since that is more of a devotional blog I had to limit what I said and how I applied it. I’d like to expand on my thoughts here.  Perhaps you might like to read my devotion here and then come back with an idea of where my head is.

As a pastor, it is easy to get the “heady” idea-both personally and given by others-that I (any pastor) is a solver of all sorts of problems. When I was talking about going into the ministry when I was in high school, I can still remember my mom turning in the car and saying, “Just remember, honey, to do it for the right reason.” You see, back then the pastor was “the parson” and looked up to by about everyone. The business community respected them. The schools looked to them for help.  No question the people in the church sought him out for help in about every area of life. As I see it, pride was a constant enemy to guard against.  But, of course, it is no longer that way. For the most part it is because of our changing world. But some of it is our own fault.  Pride did become an issue. As well as several other nefarious acts.

As I have gotten older I have realized more and more that the Lone Ranger with the silver bullet was not wise. For years I thought I could do my work on my own, by myself. Experience AND AGE has taught me differently. In spite of myself, I have come to see God is so much bigger than I had given Him credit for and can actually work better if I get out of the way! 🙂 🙂  We often hear people talking (myself included) about how we often put God in a box. Well, I have come to the conclusion that is what I often did. Not on purpose mind you, but I have to now admit that. I had narrowed Him by my own attitude.

You can see how God handled that in Numbers 11 and by checking out my devotion. But what is interesting to me is Joshua’s reaction.  He had been with Moses since childhood and saw God’s involvement as a threat to Moses’ leadership. Moses gently corrected him. Joshua saw God as acting outside the system he was used to. But God was expanding Moses’ influence and Joshua’s perception and world. I like the quote I read by Skye Jethani in his book, Immeasurable. He writes:

Rather than operate like the wind, we’d prefer the Spirit operate like an electric fan that we can control to perpetually blow in the same direction. (p.90)

I’m not an advocate of “willy-nilly-Spirit-work” but he has a point. Sometimes God just doesn’t operate like we would like Him to. “The wind blows where it wants” is also true of the work of the Spirit. What Joshua needed to realize, and I do as well, is that God will do what He wants with or without my input or help.

I need to get out of His way. I also need to realize I am not a Lone Ranger; I need others to help do the work. Moses had 70 others (Numbers 11). Joshua had to get with the program. May I, may you, be humble enough to submit to His agenda.

#SayWhat?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

I don’t normally do this type of post but it is one of those “I-just-can’t-help-myself” moments. Notice the title of the post and when I am done hopefully you will understand why I have chosen that title.

Like I said, I try to avoid this type of post but I have become passionately concerned about the Gospel. I remember once in a college class the professor was talking about one of the personalities and the issue of defending the Bible came up. The personality said, “The Bible doesn’t need defended.” So it may seem to be superfluous for me to write this post but I feel a very strong urge to write this. I guess some might see it as nit-picking where I don’t need to pick nits but I do hope you will see why.

I recently read an article written by Al Mohler entitled “Theology makes its way into the headlines again.” The rest of the title is a dead giveaway as to the reason for my post so I’m going to hold off on that. Edward Luce, who is the American editor of the Financial Times in London, visited Lakewood Church and then wrote about it in the pages of the Financial Times. His article was entitled “A Preacher for Trump’s America: Joel Osteen and the Prosperity Gospel.” Now you know…

I’m not going to comment on the article but I do want to share a few things that were in it and they are not political! They are insane. They are ungodly. They are heretical.

First, the insane. Luce writes, “With a fortune estimated at $60 million and a mansion listed on Zillow at $10.7 million, Osteen is hardly living like a friar. His suburban Houston home has three elevators, a swimming pool and parking for 20 cars, including his $230,000 Ferrari 458 Italia.”  {My comment:I guess the prosperity gospel has really worked for him! But that is insane! Asking people to sacrifice so someone can benefit? Nah doesn’t fly}.

Now for the heretical. Two things.

Paula White, another heretical prosperity guru (now married to Jonathan Cain the keyboardist for Journey) said, “Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is Satan.” Say What? What did she just call Jesus?

Mr. Osteen comes down to Jesus’ last words spoken by Jesus on the Cross, “It is finished.” And we are told that Jesus was not actually declaring His imminent death. In effect, said Osteen, Jesus meant instead, “The guilt is finished, the depression is finished, the low self-esteem is finished, the mediocrity is finished, it is all finished.”

Can I gag? Do you get that same lurching feeling? How, in the name of all that is holy and righteous, can two people get things so wrong? And they are not alone. I could name names but will choose not to.  And there is more to the Financial Times article, but this is enough. Make no mistake about what I am saying please! These are not godly speakers. (I cringe at using the word preachers about either one of them). This is pure, unadulterated heresy.

My questions are many but three stand out: why can’t people see this? Are we so biblically illiterate that we have no discernment? Why are we not speaking out against junk like this?

So…what do you think?

Sheep

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Sheep are stupid. Get one sheep running and they will all run. If one plunges to its death, the others will follow.  Is it any wonder then, why a shepherd was so important for a flock? Not in my mind.

Sheep are stupid. But as a pastor and as a leader I HAVE to be careful how and why I say that. They do, after all, consider me their leader and will (generally) follow.  🙂  If I say they are stupid…okay let’s say “not so smart”  to be kinder…what does that say about me?  See my point? 🙂 🙂

But this is not a post about the sanity of sheep or the insanity of the leader/pastor.  I want to consider something else. Scripture often compares God’s people to sheep. That ought to humble us. We need godly shepherds to lead us. Luke 15 tells us the story of the lost sheep. Jesus tells us He is the “Good Shepherd.” So that definitely puts us in the sheep category.

When it comes to the local church, I believe the “office” of pastor is a Scriptural term. Some refer to that as an elder in the church. Others, like me, take the passage in Ephesians 4:11 as one of the ministries of leadership in the church. (I do not believe in the “five-fold ministry” that some teach. The Greek language shows pastor-teacher as the same person not a separate entity. For those who care it is called Granville-Sharps Rule. You can look it up for an explanation of you care to.)

But my thoughts this morning are not geared toward that aspect of being a shepherd. I’m concerned about the reports I hear from local people, and on blogs, about the “heavy-handedness” of pastors. Lords. Dictators. Abusers with words.  Iron-fisted. Those who use their legalism as a hammer. I remember hearing Charles Stanley saying once, “Shepherds don’t beat sheep; they feed sheep.”  I cringe, and it is all I can do to stay quiet, when I hear someone local talk about being beat into submission by words from the pulpit.  “If you divorce you will go to hell.”  “If you don’t tithe you are not a real Christian.” “I’m the pastor and since I’m in charge I have the say-so around here.” Say what?  Since when is the church “his church” anyway? The last time I looked it said Jesus was the head of the church. Nowhere in the Bible does it give any shepherd the right to beat the sheep.

Case in point: When I was struggling with the whole Church, Inc concept, I was told the pastor had the vision. God gave him that vision. He cast the vision and the leaders and the people followed. This principle sets the pastor up for a huge fall or a huge success, depending on his influence. Corporate America may work that way, but the last time I looked the Bible calls for plurality of leadership. I personally believe that the temptation to become controlling and to overstep our reach is one every shepherd must fight. IMHO it is outside my role as a shepherd to manipulate and control the sheep God has given me to shepherd.  I believe God has given me the sheep He has to love, nourish and care for…not beat them into subjection.

What are your thoughts?

Effectiveness#3

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

This is my last post on the idea of Effectiveness as the church’s moniker and guiding principle. I’d encourage you to read Effectiveness #1 & #2 to see what my stream of thought has been.

Skye minces no words when we says,

We have replaced the love of the living God with sacrifices to the Idol of Effectiveness. When we bow to this idol, it steals our joy and replaces it with an unbearable burden. (P.24)

Because I was enamored with Church, Inc for awhile, I not only agree but also have to add something else. When I was pursuing this false idol the words which came out of my mouth quite a bit were “Excellence,” “Relevant,” ‘Impactful,” and others. All things were to be done with excellence and if not, I was embarrassed. Relevance is still around today. I dress casual but trust me when I say I DON’T wear the latest fashions (including $1000 shoes); sport a sleeve of tattoos (not that it is immoral but I just choose not to); nor do I globe trot the country because I have the latest “hot” thing. I prefer my local church and being a shepherd.

Here is what I finally learned (and Skye backs it up…not that he needed me to say that! 🙂 ): God does not judge whether I am relevant, or doing things with excellence or am making a global impact. He is more interested in me being faithful to the calling He has placed on my life. At the end of the day, that is all I need to concern myself with. Have I been faithful to Him? I don’t think He really cares about HOW I did them (excellently, etc) but whether I DID THEM for His glory.

Effective or Faithful? I cast my vote for Faithful.  How about you>

Effectiveness

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

I’m going to steal from my other blog for this week. I have been reading through (for a second time) and writing about a book by Skye Jethani called Immeasurable. I thought I would take this week here to write some thoughts about a chapter he titles Effectiveness. For today, here is a test:

Leader A. Lifted an entire nation in a time of despair. He mobilized his people against unimaginable odds with a clear vision and inspiring passion. He launched a movement that has impacted literally everyone alive today. He set in motion an industrial and scientific revolution that produced the first computer, the first jet airplane, began human exploration of space, and unlocked the mystery of nuclear energy.  Almost every aspect of the modern world has, in one way or another, been influenced by this man. By the time he died at the age of only 56, everyone on the planet knew his name. Without a doubt, Leader A changed the world.

Leader B. Lived during the same era. In fact, he died just 21 days before Leader A, but his life was very different. At the height of his influence, Leader B ran a school with just a hundred students. He wrote a few books but was not widely regarded.  He was beloved by his friends and family and had a reputation for being both intelligent and faithful, but at the time of his death almost no one knew his name, and most considered his life’s work unfulfilled-including Leader B himself.

So, given the choice, which leader’s strategies would you rather study? Which man’s life would you rather emulate? Which leadership conference would you rather attend-the one featuring a keynote address by Leader A, or the one with a small workshop in a back hall facilitated by Leader B?  GIVE YOUR ANSWER NOW (before I give the punch line).

If you are inspired by the world-changing effectiveness of Leader A, congratulations! You’ve chosen Adolf Hitler. Leader B was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was executed by the Nazis for his relentless opposition to Hitler.

So…how did you do? Whom did you pick? You see, simple effectiveness is not enough.  We often equate effectiveness with success. I once heard someone say, “It is not success that matter; it is faithfulness that matters.” I agree. To be “successful” is not wrong; it’s okay. But it is far better to be faithful to what we have been called to do.  I want to pursue this line of thought this week. Hope you will join me.

Appreciation

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

Tonight is one of my favorite nights of the year.

IT IS VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION NIGHT!

Once a year Ryan, Diana and I give a night to honor our volunteers.  In the past we have done skits; shown videos of Tim Hawkins and other Christian comedians; provided a full-course mean (catered not cooked by either of us); given away prizes and just had a general all-around good night. I like to spend the night personally thanking each volunteer for making things go this past year.

Last year we switched things up a bit by renting our local Tivoli theater and showed The Incredibles. We gave each volunteer a ticket for free popcorn and a drink, gave away prizes, and had a great time. We decided to do the same thing this year. Good thing because all three of us have been swamped with life and this takes a bit less effort than doing skits, finding and paying for a catered meal, setting up tables and chairs and clean-up. This year we will be giving each volunteer a ticket for a free popcorn and drink and also have some door prizes to give away. What are we showing this year? The movie I consider one of, if not THE best animated movie ever made. CARS. A movie with a message about cooperation, pride, teamwork and getting along. All essentials for any team-volunteer or paid- to be successful.

If you are from OVCF and have volunteered and happen to be reading this, strap on your seat belt, grab some popcorn and a drink, and enjoy the ride with us! By the way, we never turn anyone away who wants to join us. I’d like to invite you to come join us if you are reading this from somewhere else on the planet but you may find that hard to do. Come virtually. About 6:00 pop in CARS in your DVD player, make some popcorn and grab a pop or water and join us. Sorry we can’t share our door prizes with you. The M&Ms might get melted or old (or eaten) by the time they reach you. 🙂

Update

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

In yesterday’s post I told of the opportunity to pray at the Indiana State House of Representatives and I asked for prayer. I thought I would share an update with you since I know some of you prayed. It will also save me from responding to each comment (even though I normally do).  First, a picture.

That is me with Representative Bob Heaton. I’m the one in the tie. Oops…the one without a jacket. 🙂 Yeah…that tie is an anomaly. When I asked about apparel the lady I spoke to bust out laughing when my comment to me wearing a tie was “Bummer! I don’t even wear one of those on Sunday morning.”  When I was joking with Rep Heaton on Saturday morning about the tie, he said, “Yeah. They are kind of sticklers about that.” No way was I going to be a rebel. However, it is a cycling tie!  Bob is a super nice guy, one who truly cares for his constituents. He played ball at Indiana State University as a teammate to Larry Bird.  He is 6’5″ so I guess my doctor was right about my height. In college I was listed as 6’3″.

They wanted it brief (3 minutes or less) and even without knowing that, I was already there.  I thought I would let you see what I said and prayed:

“In the OT book of I Kings there is a story told of Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Two woman had a baby and came to him because one of the babies died and was switched with the other. They came to Solomon and his test was to divide the baby in half. The one mother said, “Oh no don’t do that!” while the other said, “Go ahead. He shall be neither of ours.” Solomon wisely knew who the real mother was. My prayer for you is a prayer for wisdom. On that note, let’s pray.

“Father, you are the giver of wisdom. We thank you for this day you have given us. We thank you for the opportunity to meet on this day which honors two of our greatest presidents. I thank you for each man and woman present in this room today. I pray for wisdom in their conversations which must take place. And I pray for wisdom for the decisions which must be made today. Give each of these men and women a heart of discernment for right and wrong. And help them to make decisions which will benefit the citizens of this great state of Indiana. I pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.”

There you have it. Why not take a moment and pray for your legislators and senators and the leaders of our country right now?

Two insider pictures of the “floor.”

 

Aftereffect

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

I remember watching MacGyver years ago and one of the scientific principles he used several times was “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I didn’t post yesterday (Monday) because I can attest to that.

This past Sunday we had our Day of Service (DoS). You can read about it here. But it was so much more than just an afternoon of serving. In my case, it was several months leading up to the day.  For the last few years I enlisted the help of another church since it was getting way too big just for me/us. My friend, James, an Associate Pastor of another church in town, came on board and has been invaluable. Last Spring the Owen County Chamber of Commerce joined us, as they did this time. (I am a board member of the Chamber also).  The Fall DoS entails a bit more since we not only rake leaves, clean gutters, and help get people ready for winter, we also do free oil changes for those who need them but can’t afford them. Invariably, there is one or two who need a bit more. So OVCF paid for 10 oil changes; a set of wiper blades and rear set of brakes for the same car; and an extensive look trying to fix a speedometer cable. Along with that we raked, cleaned gutters, etc for over 30 people. And trust me when I say there were plenty of leaves! Sycamore trees and maple trees abound in our town. Jo and I were going around encouraging and thanking people, but ended up staying at one place as we bagged and emptied huge contractor bags full of leaves 4 times! As it was I took 2 of the bags to put on the garden we have on the church property (one of our ladies started it). Then it started raining about 3:00 and I heard some of the folks were raking in the rain.

Here it is Tuesday and I’m still not done. Still some debriefing to do with James and Cassandra. Still some notes of thanks to be sent to some local folks (Babbs grocery and AutoZone) for their help. Oh yeah…rest. I was dead on my feet Sunday night and even dragged yesterday some. But its a good tired. A tired that comes from helping others. From knowing you were doing what Jesus would do (although I’m thinking He didn’t have gutters, leaves, air conditioners to move, weather stripping to install, or gardens to clean out). Then again…

Tired but satisfied. Tired but fulfilled. Tired but knowing we served as our Master would.