Archive for August, 2011

The Brotherhood – part 5

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence.

Who can you count on?

For most of us, finding the answer to that question is a pretty big deal. I know I want to be surrounded by people I can count on, whether the setting is my work, at home, or even on the ball field. Knowing I can depend on the person beside me allows me the security I need to give my best to whatever task is before me. When I can count on those people, I know they care about the things I care about and that they will give their best too.

I wonder if God looks at us with the same desire. He tells us what He’s passionate about and lets us in on His specific plans and purposes. My guess is that He’s looking for us to choose whether or not we will be faithful to such things–whether or not He can count on us.

Around church, we hear the word “faithful” a lot. Someone might say that being “faithful” to church means you attend a certain number of times. But the core issue is really dependability. Can God count on me? If so, then I could be labeled “faithful” to Him.

I want my friends to know they can count on me. That means I really want to be strong for them. I won’t let them down. And I certainly want to be that guy for God even more!

I want to care abut what He cares about and then be ready to deliver on any way I might discover that I can make a difference for Him. I want God to know that He can count on me to always give my best to His heart because every day, that heart is becoming my heart too.

The Journey with David – 10

10. Saul was very angry, the refrain galled him (1 Samuel 18:8).
We can understand Saul’s displeasure with the people’s chorus, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.” Perhaps to this point, the idea of David as a threat might have been an inner pang Saul was doing his best to ignore. Not any more.

Saul’s jealousy of David finally boils over the surface when the women of the town dance in celebration of David. No mention is made of David’s response to these things, but given his later protection of Saul’s right to lead, I would imagine he didn’t encourage the women’s chant. But still they chanted.

Perhaps the point here is to let the people do the chanting. Even though David will always act with integrity toward Saul, he won’t be perceived that way.He will be accused by his king and have all sorts of unfair accusations heaped on him by a leader he has sworn to serve. The people’s chants aren’t helping their relationship, but David is wise in not leading the procession of reveling in their praise. People will speak their hearts, but David must guard his.

If you’re not the leader at the top of the organizational chart, people may sing your praises. You probably can’t stop them, but don’t make the mistake of being their piano player.

It’s the reality of David’s star rising while Saul’s fades and falls.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Who’s On Your Side?

When I first stepped into the pastoral role of a aging, struggling congregation, I wasn’t sure what to believe would be most important. In the years since, that answer has become quite clear–building the right team.

I look back now and see how fortunate I was to have people who believed in me come alongside and help me as we pursued the change that could bring new life to the church. I am forever grateful to people who filled various valuable roles.

First there were those among the church’s elected leadership who decided that bringing my wife and I to their church and city meant they would stand with us in every setting. Now you might think that’s a “no-brainer” since these were the folks principally responsible for the church’s decision to choose us, but I’ve learned since that sometimes those key leaders can be the first to turn on a new pastor. A pastor needs those he works with most closely to support him both publicly and privately. If leaders can’t do that, stepping aside may well be the best option. No organization can grow if its leaders are pulling in different directions.

Of course, there were those who stood ready to help too. Dozens of these people offered to lend a hand with this need or that. Some had been with the church for years and others were among those we were newly meeting, but those with a helpful spirit made pastoring an absolute joy.

A few folks chose encouraging us as their principle focus. These dear friends couldn’t fully grasp all the elements of our assignment, but they got close enough to know our hearts and hurts and were the first to pray with us and offer encouraging words.

The list could go on for awhile.

Too many pastors feel as though they are reaching for a better day by themselves. They need a team. People who care…people who believe…people who dream…people who think…people who understand that the leader can be lonely and an easy target for enemies.

When a leader knows he has a team supporting him or her, that leader can move forward more quickly, climb higher than before, and of course, the church climbs as well.

If you’re a pastor, start building such a team. Share your heart with those who seem most committed to your church. Let them in on your dreams as well. And be sure to let them know you need their support and strength. You can’t go forward on your own–God doesn’t build His Church that way and you weren’t made to lead alone.

The Journey with David – 9

9. Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house (1 Samuel 18:2).
David has proven so valuable to Saul that the latter is determined to keep the new hero with him. Saul will ride the coattails of David’s greatness, yet somehow believes he can control that greatness and garner its benefits for himself. One who has lost his own forward momentum has little choice but to attach himself to the greater momentum of another.

Now, one might be tempted to see in Saul’s actions a mentoring relationship or some other investment in the next generation were it not for the evil that has taken his heart. His true motive will be revealed soon enough. One has wisely said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” While at this point in the story, we cannot be certain which side of the phrase Saul is practicing, clearly he wants David nearby.

But Saul will soon learn that you cannot control the blessing of God in another person’s life. Rather than try, Saul’s better course of action would have been to draw close to God and experience His blessing as well. But Saul’s human nature will only be satisfied in controlling David and trying to somehow live in the blessings David is reaping.

It won’t work. Soon they’ll be singing of how Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands. God’s blessing will lift the younger man to greater prominence and Saul’s purposes in keeping David near will fail.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – part 4

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence.

Who gets your best?

Excellence is the 4th commitment of the Brotherhood and it’s the promise we make to ourselves. So the best answer to the question above is “I do.”

As men, we are required to wear many different “hats” and give attention to numerous projects and details that affect everything from life as a husband, a dad, a boss, an employee, a son, a coach, even a church member. Lots to do for each of us right?

Sometimes giving our best ends up yielding to just getting stuff done. We can shift into achievement mode and work our way through a “to-do” list with the simple goal of just meeting the expectations. You know, not too much effort. Just get it done and get by. A lot of people live that way.

But such an approach to life ends up robbing us of the best things life can bring. When we do just enough to meet the requirement, we never end up reaching for our best, going the extra mile, or proving our abilities. We just meet the minimum standard–and the life we get as a result has a bit of a cardboard taste to it.

Giving your best in everything you do doesn’t take that much additional effort. In fact, when you give your best, your work proves more satisfying, your relationships more enjoyable, and your life a whole lot more fun!

But the best part of giving your best is that you prove to yourself again and again just how much excellence you are capable of. You also end up growing that ability and moving your own personal bar a bit higher with each try.

Excellence not only brings you the best life, but the effort rewards you with a satisfaction that just getting by will never offer. Anyone can do the minimum. Why live there? Why not reach for more and join the small handful of folks who are enjoying the fruits at the top of the tree?

Chase excellence every day! You deserve it!

Notes from the Journey with David – 8

8. I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty (1 Samuel 17:45).
I can imagine David’s speech to Goliath being one of the most pleasureful earthly moments Heaven ever saw. David’s words clearly proclaim God’s presence with Him and his absolute confidence that God supported his mission that day. The confidence of David’s words strikes me deeply. Who wouldn’t want to live with that kind of assuredness? Certainly David’s unlikely victory with a small stone makes a remarkable story, but his speech may be one of the greatest expressions of faith.

To look at the battlefield that day, one could easily agree that God’s help will be the only means of success for David. But none of the other warriors had confidence in God’s help. If He won’t help them, why would He help David? So David’s words would sound foolish to the army of Saul–familiar, but foolish. They had likely heard the same sermons of God’s power that we hear, but David’s actions attempt to trust in those familiar words.

David’s choice to live the words of confidence in God is what faith is all about. He took up God’s cause, dependent on God’s strength, and he ran forward with the body of a boy, but the voice of a champion. Little wonder that God aided the aim and force of a small stone.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Getting on the Same Page

Honestly, vision is a word that is overused. For many, the mere mention of the “v” word causes the eyes to glaze over as the reader imagines another round of motivational speeches that amount to very little for the organization. Vision books and seminars are everywhere, and many already have cool phrases on their walls or church bulletins. But does it really matter?

A vision that moves your congregation does.

You see, after awhile every organization expands to the point that its activities and departments can take on a life of their own. So in the church, the youth group has their own unique direction, while the women’s group is going another way. The children’s ministry has chosen their focus and the senior adults have established their own routine. Everybody’s going somewhere, but nobody’s really going the same direction.

The result is a “silo” mentality–everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. Like the people of Israel in the book of Judges, they really need a king. And vision is that king.

When a church identifies its true vision, the first benefit is found in bringing everyone to the same page. Imagine the synergy that could happen if the same passion drove the youth group and the women’s group. Sure, they’ll express it differently and at various volume levels, but when an entire church knows what they are reaching for, they can begin reaching for it together.

Vision statements that try to capture everything we do, actually help us very little. They reinforce the silo mentality because everything we’re currently doing seems to fit under an umbrella that’s too wide to function effectively. When a church knows its true heart and its capacity for effective ministry, its ministries can begin to re-orient themselves around that vision and begin walking together, rather than pulling in different directions.

Vision is critical. It’s absolutely necessary before there can be shared vision. And, shared vision is what brings momentum to the ministries of a church. It’s worth the effort every time!