Leadership

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#Leadership#ChurchLessons

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

In my last post I featured Phil Cooke’s blog entitled Leadership Lessons from Joe Biden and Afghanistan.  At the end of that post I made a comment that I would apply it to church leadership. Here is my somewhat meager attempt at doing that. I am not a “Leadership Guru” by any stretch. I have weaknesses as a leader which I am aware of.  So please understand I am not speaking from a mountain of leadership expertise as though I am “the” leader. Far from it.  Here are my thoughts born out of my last blog:

1) Incompetent leaders can rise to remarkable heights. There is no question that many leaders “get there” riding on the coattails of several different things. Personality. Talent. Who-they-know. Just because they get wherever they are going doesn’t mean they are competent leaders.

2) Fantasy isn’t a leadership strategy. I had a dream once of being a pastor of a big church. Fantasy only as I soon found out. Reality: I wasn’t equipped for that nor gifted for that. I’m good with pastoring a church in a small town. I love the people here and this November, Lord willing, will start my 17th year. Living in a Disney fantasy world would have only left me high, dry, unfulfilled, and miserable.  Whoever said, “Reality s***s” has not lived in my world.

3) Leaders take the hits. Admitting I have been wrong seems to be the theme of my ministry. 🙂  I have been wrong so many times… if I could have received $1 for every time I was wrong and had to apologize, I could retire and live off the interest. Rats!  Should have started that jar a long time ago.

4) In a crisis, leaders must face the public. Back in January of 2011 I found out we had been embezzled to the tune of $200+ thousand. After telling the leaders and having a flash meeting with them, I went before the church family to inform them of the shortage. To say people were shocked, enraged, stunned (and any other adjective you can think of) would be an understatement. But it was the right thing to do. In my mind, it was the only thing to do.

5) Good leaders listen to advice. I won’t go into my thoughts on the arrogance of Mr. Biden not listening to his advisors. But many pastors don’t either. When it comes to important decisions which affect the whole congregation, I don’t make unilateral decisions.  There are two others on staff who are involved in helping to make decisions and if it is a major one, I take it to the elders.  I found out early on it is wise to listen to others…even if I may disagree.

6) Never forget that leaders who try to leave a legacy rarely do. The best legacy I can leave behind is that I was a follower of Jesus and loved Him with all my heart. The rest takes care of itself.  It is far too easy to try to please everyone if I am concerned with my legacy.

There you have my thoughts. Totally non-political. Thoroughly my thoughts.  Leadership is different. I used to think I was a great leader. No more. I am adequate at best. I still have so much to learn.

#Leadership#Afghanistan#Cooke

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

The following is an article by Phil Cooke on his blog.  He writes about leadership and other subjects on his blog at philcooke.com. I am including this article-not to make a political statement, but to make a leadership statement. Perhaps some good discussion can ensue in churches and among leadership about the way decisions are made and carried out.  Here is the article:

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM JOE BIDEN AND AFGHANISTAN

The documentation of President Biden’s decisions surrounding the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan are now legion. But aside from the tragic results those decisions have created, it’s worth looking at what leaders could learn from this debacle. In coming years, we’ll have a chance to see much deeper into this situation and how much it tarnishes his legacy, but for now, here’s a handful of immediate reflections that leaders should consider:

1) Incompetent leaders can rise to remarkable heights. In 1972, 29-year old Joe Biden ran for Senate against Republican Senator Caleb Boggs. I was a senior in high school that year, so that’s a long time. And yet, Robert Gates, who worked with him and served as defense secretary for the Obama administration, has been quoted as saying that Biden has “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Many of the changes he’s proposed so far in his presidency have made many ask why he hasn’t already accomplished these things over the last 40 years while in office. Never be caught off guard by poor leadership. In politics, business or the nonprofit sector, never think every high level leader deserves to be there or is capable of being effective.

2) Fantasy isn’t a leadership strategy. It’s well documented that Biden’s goal was to “bring the troops home” in time for the 20th anniversary of 9/11. That would have been a great victory and scored a lot of political points. But no matter how strong the fantasy, leaders must deal in reality. Ignoring better advice about a more thoughtful and realistic exit strategy, he chose the fantasy instead. It doesn’t matter if a leader’s fantasy is a new product launch, advertising campaign, fundraising strategy or anything else – reality is a brutal wake-up call.

3) Leaders take the hits. In spite of the overwhelming evidence, President Biden still hasn’t admitted he was wrong. It’s been a dark comedy watching members of his team like Secretary of State Anthony Blinken squirm during interviews trying to defend and support the president. But when a leader won’t admit a mistake, his entire team suffers trying to maintain the illusion. In far too many cases that only leads to disunity, frustration, and eventual splits in the team.

4) In a crisis, leaders must face the public. When the tragedy in Afghanistan began unfolding, Biden hunkered down at Camp David and it wasn’t until public criticism became overwhelming did he emerge from his vacation. But even then he refused to answer reporters questions, and immediately returned to his vacation (another big blunder). Only later did he respond to pre-approved questions. But during times of crisis, leaders must be available, candid, and open. For people to believe you’re in charge, you have to show up. Honesty and authenticity may be painful in the short term, but that builds trust far better than hiding.

5) Good leaders listen to advice. After the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, John F. Kennedy created the Executive Committee of the National Security Council whose express purpose was to openly debate issues surrounding national security. Kennedy realized the need to listen to all sides of an argument. President Lyndon B. Johnson actually designated an advisor to be his official in-house skeptic. The best business leaders are willing to listen to opposing ideas. Group-think is a massive mistake for leaders, and if you’re surrounded by yes-men and women, you’re headed in the wrong direction.

6) Finally, never forget that leaders who try to leave a legacy rarely do. A “legacy” isn’t something that’s manufactured, designed, or created. Numerous leaders have become obsessed with their legacy, but legacies are based on how others perceive you and your life’s work. So if you’d like to leave one, stop thinking about it and just get back to work.

I’m sure more lessons will unfold as time goes on, but the important lesson is that during moments of crisis, there is always something for leaders to learn. {End of post}

{My plan is to come back later this week to write about how these 6 lessons apply to pastors and churches. Please feel free to comment here or go to Phil’s blog and make a comment there. Please tell him I sent you}. 🙂  That, and just under a dollar, will buy you a fountain drink at Speedway gas stations.

#Discernment#Judgment

Friday, May 21st, 2021

In this day of the “Green Agenda” we are continually encouraged to be good stewards of our resources.  It shouldn’t take a New Green Deal to challenge us to reduce, reuse and recycle. I read that during one recent year the world was expected to generate 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage-the approximate weight of 7000 Empire State Buildings. I could cynically say we have become a “disposable generation.”  (I know bad joke). 🙂

That goes for the way we look at people too. Way too often we see people as not meeting our expectations so we write them off. They are “below our pay grade” so to speak. We disagree so they are not worth listening to. Their opinions and ideas are invalid, or at least not very important. It is especially hard for Christ-followers to listen without preconceived ideas and judgment. Barna took a poll and asked one question: what one quality above all others are non-Christians and lapsed Christians looking for in a person with whom they talk about faith. What do you think the answer was?

Ready?

62% said, “Listens without judgment.” That is not saying “without convictions” but “without judgment.” 

I think a perfect example of that is Jesus Himself and we find that in the Scripture and story I will be covering this Sunday. The Scripture? John 4. The story? The woman at the well.  Jesus shows us how to listen without compromising your standards and without cynical preconceived opinions and judgment.

I’d like to invite you to join us this Sunday-in person or by live stream. If you can’t, please commit to praying for us. Thanks.

#CustomerService#GoodorBad?

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

I’m going to blow off a little bit of steam. I will do it nicely and will not even mention the firm’s name since I do not want to cause heartache for the person if for some reason it was to get out. Here is what happened:

There has been an error in my billing from this certain company for close to a year now. When I realized it, I contacted their CS department to try to straighten it out.  She told me they couldn’t do anything about it. Now get this: it was their customer service rep’s fault. They put the service charge on the wrong phone. When we bought Jo a new phone in February, we put a line on her phone for her sister to use in the nursing home. Long story short: she doesn’t even know where the phone is (and probably hasn’t even looked), so I wanted to drop that line and save a line use charge of $25/month.  That sounds good until you look closer and see that the rep put the charges for Jo’s new phone on that line! So I tried to have them drop the charge and make the change. No go.

So I went to the local store rep to see what could be done. She (the store manager) listened and sent a request for a customer acceleration. After going back and forth I also told her I was due (way overdue since I still use an iPhone 5)  for a new phone and if they couldn’t straighten out their own CSR’s mistake why would I consider getting a new one?  Anyway, after several back and forths she told me she could fix it for me. When would be a good time to come in? I told her I was in jail, I mean quarantine for ‘rona so it would need to wait.  After several tries, we set up yesterday, Tuesday, at 1:00.  I get there at 12:45 and find out she stepped out for a few minutes to go check on her dog but she would be back in time. He asked my name and it should have been my first clue when my name was not on the list. So Jo and I waited…and waited…and waited.  Very patiently I might add. At 1:20 we left. I have yet to hear from her.

I hope you won’t take this wrong but I began thinking about the church and each individual person. As a church we are representatives of Jesus. But we are also representatives of our church family. When people walk into our church building (or see us online) how are they treated? Are we kind? Engaging? Welcoming? Did they find us real or planted there with fake, plastic smiles?

My feelings about this company were not enhanced by the discourse over the past two months, and most definitely by yesterday’s failed connection.  I’m hard-pressed to still consider this company as a carrier for my new phone.  Let’s not make the same mistake with our churches. The solution is us. Not “let someone else take care of it.” You be the rep!!

#EndofYearThoughts#Warnings

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

If you read my other blog-Living in the Shadow-you know I said I would be taking a break from my blog until next Monday, January 4th. But every year on this blog I feature some items that have caught my eye; a warning or two I might issue; and I always…ALWAYS…include a song. So here is my end of the year post with a random inclusion of ideas.

I read something this morning from 40 Days of Grace by Paul David Tripp that set my mind for an end of the year reckoning. These are all from Day 12-pages 30-31.

“We don’t grieve our sin because we don’t see it. It is ironic that we tend to see the righteousness we don’t and we fail to see the stains every day of our lives.

Here’s how confession works.  You cannot confess what you haven’t grieved, you cannot grieve what you do not see, and you cannot repent of what you have not confessed.

So cry out today for eyes to see, that is, for accurate personal insight…Because of him, you don’t need to be afraid of your unrighteousness; no, it is your delusions of unrighteousness that are the grave danger.” {End quotes}

There is always reflection that takes place at the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one. But the reflection is worthless if honest stock is not taken at the time of introspection. As Tripp implies we often get enamored by our own unrighteousness and don’t see the unrighteousness in us. Sort of like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. They were so blinded by their own self-righteousness they couldn’t see past the log in their eye.

And Tripp was so right! How can I truly confess my sin if I have not grieved over that sin. And how can I grieve over that sin unless I see it? Real, honesty confession requires, no demands, complete honesty in seeing my sin for what it is.

May the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 bring a new honesty to me.

So…there is my spiritual thought for the end of the year.

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One of the things “I predict” for 2021 is a greater assault on historic, orthodox Christianity. I once thought the old Emergent heresy/tripe/garbage had died an inglorious death. I could have only wished. My reading this past year has shown me that it is alive and well in “spiritual thought leaders” like Brian McClaren, William Paul Young, Richard Rohr, Tony Jones, Michael Gungor, Jen Hatmaker, the late Rachel Held Evans, and others. (Rob Bell used to be a big one also).  It has a new handle called “Progressive Christianity.” If you question my thoughts on its devastation to historic Christianity then you need to read Alisa Childer’s book, Another Gospel?I reviewed it here.  And may I also suggest you listen to Alisa’s podcast? She is engaging and has guests who study so-called Progressive Christianity. In fact, she went through a faith struggle of her own.

When it comes to reading material I am all for learning. But we also need to be careful what we feed our minds. GIGO was a famous moniker back in the early computer age. I propose that same thing applies to our reading. Filling our mind with garbage; books about mediation by Deepak and others; filling our minds with books like mentioned above are dangerous to our souls. I don’t always agree with what I read but I work hard at filtering out what shouldn’t be there. I am on a mission in 2021 to read those books which enrich me with spiritual knowledge, knowledge gleaned from a proper view of God and Scripture.

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Finally, I know I’ve gone on long. But I have to include a song. One is an end of the year song. One is a song for 2021.  First the end of the year song. I know it probably not your cup of tea but the 80s never died. They are sleeping. 🙂  And have they aged? You tell me. The voice has definitely lowered (as expected).

I have renewed my “love affair” with my all-time favorite band, DeGarmo & Key. This is absolutely my favorite song by them. It shows its late 70s vibe but the lyrics are what I expect for 2021. Please give it a listen.

Have a great end of the year and a good start to the new one.  See you in 2021.

#Ingratitude#Guilty?

Friday, November 20th, 2020

I read something recently I thought was good. One man wrote:

Wearing shoes is optional. But eating is not. Driving a car is optional. But once you choose the option, driving on the right hand side (in America) is not…I’m not saying these things are impossible. You can choose to go without eating, but if you do you must take the consequences. You must be willing to exist at a low energy level, to invite infection and disease, and, if you persist, to die. You can choose to drive on the left but will pay fines and cause accidents.

In our life as a Christ-follower, we have an option of being good stewards with God’s blessings, or using His gifts for purely selfish means.  It is sad that because Thanksgiving Day is approaching that we find ourselves focusing on gratitude and God’s blessings when, if fact, that gratitude and those blessings are all-year around.

I’m going to make a very blanket statement which I firmly and 100% believe: we who follow Jesus ought to be THE MOST GRATEFUL people of all. Bar none. This Sunday I am going to recap some thoughts about God’s blessings I spoke about last week, but then I aim to draw attention to some examples in the Bible of people who were ungrateful.  What strikes me even more are the words Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 6 where he reminded the people what they had to be grateful for but added these words: then take care lest you forget them. Do you think God had an idea about His people? About me? About you?

This is the last in my series called Q & A and it has a simple title: What about Ingratitude?  Obviously I appreciate your prayers, but let me challenge you to take one step more: spend some time in gratitude for all God has done and given you.

#Troublemakers#WhatToDo?

Friday, November 6th, 2020

Charles Schultz had a Peanuts cartoon where Linus was watching TV when Lucy demands that he change the channel to what she wants to watch.  He says, “No” and she threatens him again.  He then looks at her and says, “What gives you the right to come in here and demand your way?” She says to him: “See these five fingers? Separate they are nothing. Weak. But curl them together and they become a force powerful to behold.” To which Linus answers, “What station do you want?” As he walks away he is shown looking at his hand and asking, “Why can’t you guys get together like that?”

There is no worst kept secret than a church filled with fighting, or even specifically one or two people whom we will label as troublemakers.  In fact, someone has said, “Where there’s light, there’s always bugs.”  At some point in our lives-as a business, a church, a school, even personally-we will have to deal with troublemakers. But it just seems like the church troublemaker speaks the loudest, shares the widest, and spreads the farthest than any of those other examples.

What is a church to do? That is the title of my Q & A series question this week: What about Troublemakers?  I’ll be giving several examples of troublemakers this week and then use Diotrephes (3 John 9-10) as a main example of what is suggested we do with them (besides toss them out).  I’d appreciate your prayers this week. They mean a lot. 

#AnotherGospel#Review

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

When I first moved to Spencer to pastor Owen Valley Christian Fellowship (11/05), I was quite ignorant of a “new wave” that had struck the Christian landscape. It didn’t take me long to acclimate myself to this new teaching since a former staff member ascribed to it.  Even as I say that it wasn’t a “you are here now so I want you to know what I believe” type of situation. It unfolded over time until it became a full-blown storm.

First, the names. Rob Bell. Brian McClaren. Tony Jones. William Paul Young. Richard Rohr.

Second, the movement.  I soon found out the movement was known as Emergent.

Third, the teachings. Pure heresy. Questioning the Virgin Birth. The Bible’s Inerrancy. God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience. The Atonement. Penal Substitution (The cross was cosmic child abuse). And others.

Fourth, the response. Rob Bell disappeared off the face of the evangelical planet to become Oprah’s guru. #terrible loss#sarcasm.  And to my delight I thought it had disappeared off the face of the planet and had gone the way of the dodo bird.

Fifth, finding out I was wrong about #4. (not RB but the disappearing act of Emergent).  It went underground and since has become more known by another name-one that sounds much more “Christian”- Progressive Christianity. Doesn’t that sound like a cool-sounding name? It sounds relevant (whatever that is supposed to mean). It sounds…woke. (Can I tell you how much I dislike that term in any way, shape or form or use?).  I use that term to mean I got out of bed. I woke up.

Anyway, I thought Emergent was dead and buried but Alisa Childers has shaken my comfortable world with the revelation that, no it hasn’t died, it has just been repackaged with a new name. Same old garbage just a new name. Alisa has a history with this movement. As a member of the seminal girl group ZOEgirl she traveled the globe singing about Jesus, but it wasn’t until she attended a class (albeit it innocently) taught by a progressive pastor that her house of cards almost came tumbling down in a heap. Fortunately, the Spirit who lived in her was waking her and stirring her to “test the spirits to see if they are from God.” (I John 4:1)  She almost deconstructed (the term used for evangelicals who toss the historic Christian faith aside to often become an agnostic or atheist, aka woke).  Her experience led her to study and ultimately write a book called Another Gospel? She pulls no punches on truth. She pulls no punches in exposing the false teaching of Progressive Christianity. In fact, it is her life’s mission.  Her review of Rachel Hollis’ book, Girl Wash Your Face, went viral as did her review of Jen Hatmaker’s latest book.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Words fail. I picked last year’s Book of the Year (Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity). I personally feel this is worthy of being considered in that class for 2020.  I’ve been listening to Alisa’s podcasts as well and find them a rich source of information and thought.  I might suggest you consider checking that out as well.  You can find her at alisachilders.com

Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity

#SticksandStones#Words

Friday, September 18th, 2020

There is absolutely no doubt, and I mean NO DOUBT, that words affect us. Call someone a name and it sticks.  We used to say the old adage to make people think we weren’t affected by their words: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”  The only way I want to respond to that ditty is “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Someone has said the average American speaks about 700 times per day. If that sounds high, chop it in half (350). If that still sounds high cut it in half again (175). Face it, there are very few things we do 175 times a day, at least voluntarily. I’m sure I blink or swallow or breath more than 350 times a day but that is all part of God’s magnificent creation called the body.

Harmful words damage relationships and reveal a heart out of tune with Jesus.  Physical wounds often heal before emotional wounds. There are words said to us in the past which still haunt us.  Our heart flutters and our stomach turns when we hear them or think about them. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue holds the power of life and death.”

This Sunday my question is What about Words? (as if you couldn’t tell).  Prayers would be appreciated for this Sunday. Consider this quote by Ben Franklin: “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” ‘Nuff said.

#SoulCycle#Wellness#Prosperity(un)Gospel

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

I’m continuing with my discussion on this book:

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

Today’s installment is a bit more understandable than the last one here.  One of the most famous phrases used in today’s world is “It’s all about you.” “Seek your goals. Strive for the best. Do your thing.”  Now, understand I am not against setting goals and reaching for a dream. On the contrary, I think it is important to have goals and a place you want to strive for.

But I hate to be the bearer of bad news: IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.  No matter what an advertisement may say. No matter what an exercise lifestyle may tell you. Hence, the mention of SoulCycle. It is much more than physical transformation. It is more like a double whammy: material improvement and spiritual transcendence.  You aren’t just pedaling a bike to lose weight and become healthier in the process, but you are pedaling to become a better person. Their moniker: You are a Renegade, a Hero, a Warrior.  That sounds all well and good until SoulCycle begins to be seen as an emotional and spiritual outlet. Yeah…”God is a woman, and she’s a SoulCycle instructor.” Say what?

But it is more than SoulCycle. It is the whole Wellness Culture. Their philosophy can be summed up in a war between the authentic, intuitional self-both body and soul- and the artificial, malevolent forces of society, rules, and expectations. We are born good (Ahem!), but we are tricked, by big Pharma, by processed food, by civilization itself, into living something that falls short of our best life.  Hmmm. Maybe they can get Joel to teach them about their best life being now.  (Yeah…that is snarky…but true).

Folks, if there is ever a sense of hypocrisy, it is in this scene. They tell you things like “You are you.” “There is only one You.” “You are beautiful just as you are.” But then they turn around and offer you tricks (and I might add expensive ones) to better yourself, to make yourself more beautiful (at least according to what they think is beautiful).  The author gives so many different examples of this C**P that I can’t keep it straight. And, of course, neither can anyone else. If this one doesn’t work, I can always try something else. Then I can say, “Hey, I’ve tried multiple diets and they didn’t work. I found myself being like a yo yo until I tried Product XXX.”  And please don’t get me started on WW and its spokewoman! (I’ll reserve what I really want to say).

This whole scheme is what is called New Thought. But like many things,  New Thought is not new, nor is it thought. It’s a bunch of gobbledy-gook dressed up as intellectualism. It is called Transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau, and others).  It found its way into religion (I hesitate to say church) through a man named Phineas Quimby until one of his patients and disciples, Mary Baker Eddy,  founded a “church” called the Church of Christ, Scientist (aka Christian Science).

And here is where New Thought gets really warped or is that wrapped into the church world. Ever heard of a man named Norman Vincent Peale? One of his disciples: Robert Schuller?  And then a plethora of others:  Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, the Bakkers, Benny Hinn, and other Word of Faith false teachers; and now the current batch of false teachers (Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Todd White, Bill Johnson (actually all of Bethel), ad infinitum, ad nauseum).

I’m not making this up folks.  And you may think I have an axe to grind.  I guess in a very real sense I do. I see so much damage being done to the proclamation of the Gospel and the spread of the real message of Jesus and His life-giving death on the cross that it turns my insides. Jesus  is not for sale.  He is not some magic genie who can be conjured into blessing us because we declare it to be so.

Discernment. Discernment. Discernment. And do what I John 4:1 says to do: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”