Archive for July, 2012

Notes from the Journey with David – 105

105. And for the whole army, the victory was turned to mourning (2 Samuel 19:2).
No matter one’s personal situation, the leader is never not the leader. David has a right to grieve the loss of his son, but the impact of his grieving is felt across the kingdom. His successful army now watches their leader grieve their success. David’s grief cannot continue so publicly. A leader must always maintain a clear sense that his attitude reflects in and affects those he leads. If he is struggling, they will as well. If he is celebrating, they will want to rejoice too. You don’t get days off as a leader but must realize that your example will be followed on every day–even the really hard ones.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Taking Your Temperature

I spent this weekend worshiping with Cypress Grove Assembly of God in Grandridge, Florida. What a fun morning as their students had just returned from youth camp, and they were really engaged in celebrating God. There’s a lot of enthusiasm in a room when a dozen or so teenagers are down front, and on their feet before the first note of the opening chorus. In a room of eighty worshipers, you can’t help but feel that energy.

As I flew home last night, I thought a bit about the temperature in many of today’s churches. Who’s excited to be there? Who can’t wait to get to church and engage friends and the God who draws them together?

You see, I’ve been in services where some well-meaning leader says something like, “Wouldn’t you rather be here than in the finest hospital in the city?” Honestly, I’d rather be anywhere but in the hospital most days so I’m not sure a hearty amen makes that great of a statement.

A few years back, I stepped on an early morning flight in hopes of sleeping a bit more before the day really began. Instead, my seat mate regaled me with his excitement about the church he was attending. I hadn’t revealed my ministry occupation or even identified myself as a Christian, but he couldn’t help himself because of the extraordinary life change he was experiencing. When I asked him the name of his church, I wasn’t surprised to hear he was attending one of the fastest growing churches in our community. No wonder–with people this excited.

People are the church and people grow the church. Some saints have the idea that getting the right pastor or choosing the most attractive music will help their church become a big one. Now, pastors’ communicating abilities and quality musicians are important, and it can be hard for a church to overcome deficiencies in these areas, but a church grows because it’s people can’t help but overflow with enthusiasm on days like Tuesday.

As a resident of Southwest Missouri, I have frequent opportunities to attend popular shows in Branson, Missouri. Many of these shows have an average age demographic similar to a lot of churches. That’s right! The crowd is a bit older than what you’d find at many concerts or even ballgames. And where do these older friends want to sit at these shows? The same place their younger friends want to sit at concerts and ballgames–as close to the front as their wallets will allow!

But where do some of these same people want to sit in their churches on Sunday? You know ’cause you’ve seen your church’s front rows just wishing for a few occupants. And the best seats in the house are free! Why aren’t we as excited about our church and the chance to worship God together as we can get in less eternal celebrations?

If you want your church to grow, start rediscovering the joy of salvation and the dozens of reasons we have to celebrate God’s goodness. Be grateful for the people God has placed in your life, and take a few moments to realize that you’ve been given Good News from your Creator. Don’t let the familiarity of your local church spoil the enthusiasm you can feel as you gather.

Enthusiasm is contagious. When you’re excited about your church, others will get excited too. And those outside your walls will be a lot more curious about what’s inside.

Notes from the Journey with David – 104

104. Come what may I want to run (2 Samuel 18:23).
Ahimaaz is desperate to run back to David to tell him news of the victory. Though Joab warns him that such news will not be met with celebration, the young man is insistent. So Joab lets him run to David. But when he arrives, Ahimaaz fails to tell David the truth about Absalom. His behavior is like many who want to bring good news without the full truth. They want to tell leaders what they think leaders want to hear. Such behavior creates a false community. People who cater to a leader’s self-interests encourage that leader in unhealthy ways. Ahimaaz is motivated by the desire for reward, not by the things that have made David’s kingdom great. He doesn’t know his master’s heart and truly cares only for himself.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 52

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. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

Real men eat quiche–or that’s what they used to say. I’ve never been fully certain of what “they” met by that, but after a year of blogging for men, I thought a few words about how we take care of ourselves might be in order. Actually, after a weekend where I ate a hot dog at four different meals, well…

Those same “they” have also said, that you are what you eat. Aside from the silly humor opportunities when you’re eating turkey, bananas, or ham, there’s something to that statement. What you put into your body becomes, well, your body. And with all the medical insights we have about what is healthy and what is not, there’s really no excuse for being careless with our intake.

But there’s a deeper reason–you’re family needs you!

They need you around to provide the leadership and strength you were designed to bring. They need you around for the encouragement and support your words can offer. They need you around to provide the Godly legacy that can steer their futures. They need you healthy so you can be at your best as husband, dad, and granddad.

Isn’t that a good enough reason to steer clear of drive-thru windows? Isn’t that a good enough cause to commit yourself to pursue. You may not be a marathon runner or gearing up for the next triathlon, but can you at least run from the doughnut table (empty-handed)?

Seriously, life has a way of catching up to us. There comes a point where the doctor gets a little critical of your conduct and offers some “thou shalt nots” to your daily routine. Why wait until your arteries are clogged and you’re introduced to a new type of balloon that you’re grandchildren don’t want you playing with?

Doing what’s right also includes doing what’s smart. So take inventory of the number of hot dogs you’re eating and reach for some fruit instead. You might be making a difference that will prove important to your family’s future.

And don’t worry–I won’t talk about exercise next week…


Notes from the Journey with David – 103

103. I have no son to carry the memory of my name (2 Samuel 18:18).
Many leaders  can identify with Absalom’s regret. Though Absalom’s sorrow relates to his lack of an heir, many leaders fail to establish an heir to their life’s work. They spend themselves for an organization but fail to identify and equip someone to carry things forward. As the preceding verses point out, Absalom had erected a stone as a memory to himself since he had no son. Organizations where leaders fail to plan for the next generation often end up no more than an edifice of what used to be as well.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Healthy Deacons!

Each year, thousands of men and women are elected to serve as deacons of their local congregation. Unfortunately for most, there’s no training program or orientation for this line of spiritual responsibility.

Each year, at the first meeting with a new Board of Deacons, we discussed the healthy patterns that were essential for their efforts together. Here’s a few of those guidelines:

First, deacons are elected because they are servants. They have been chosen because of the ministry heart and involvement that people already see in their lives. As such, their greatest expression of their servant leadership will be seen as they serve in various capacities among the church’s ministries. A deacon who does not serve in any ministry capacity is an oxymoron. Frankly, wherever I see “board members” instead of deacons, the church’s leadership function is usually unhealthy. As a pastor, I was blessed to have deacons who were the most involved people in the church, both with their time and their giving.

Second, deacons serve as a team. A deacon has no individual authority whatsoever. He partners with other deacons in ministry discussions and decisions. If a deacon tries to act on individual authority, he is operating outside the biblical intent and the church’s bylaws–and it’s never healthy! Also, “subset meetings” (where 2 or 3 deacons meet without the rest) are inappropriate–even if the pastor is present. Deacons may not be unanimous in all decisions, but they must all be present for any substantive discussion of church matters. Subset meetings destroy unity regardless of their intent.

Third, deacons must maintain trust. The decisions made in deacon meetings are not confidential–they will be announced appropriately to the congregation. But the discussions held in deacon meetings are confidential. For a deacon to offer his full input into needed decisions, he must know that he will not be quoted outside the meeting room–ever, to anyone!

Fourth, deacons must support the decisions they make as a group. While a deacon may disagree with the majority on various issues, he must fully support the decisions made once they are made. The time to disagree occurs while the issue is being discussed, but the group must always act in unity after the decision has been made. Remember, a deacon has no individual authority so expressing a dissenting opinion is inappropriate.

Finally, the church has elected both the pastor and the deacons with the expectation that they work together in leading the church’s ministries. Deacons must give their best effort to supporting the pastor and his efforts to lead the church. A deacon is a part of the team to help implement the church’s vision–he is never to lead people away from the direction set by the pastor or chase any sort of personal agenda.

The office of deacon is so critical to the healthy functioning of the church. Done well, it can prove to be a most fulfilling way to serve God and His Church.

Notes from the Journey with David – 102

102. So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart… (2 Samuel 18:14).
Without a doubt, those things a leader fails to deal with will not go away. Instead, they will come back to cause him hurt and pain. Joab’s actions against Absalom are shocking, but not surprising behavior from a man who has lived violently and killed when David wanted peace. Joab has been acting on his own throughout the Absalom story, and David’s unwillingness to stop him now costs him his son. Perhaps David feels unable to confront Joab since the Bathsheba affair, but for whatever reason, his reluctance to stop Joab’s actions has now brought an enormous price.

Categories: Leadership Journeys