Archive for July, 2016

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 330

  1. …and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved (John 20:2).

That John is speaking of himself is verifiable from others’ telling of the story. That he refers to himself this way is fascinating to the historically-distant reader. Why this description when a simple “I” or “me” would do? Is there some lesson that the now elderly apostle is conveying? We can surmise that John’s intent is not to imply that Jesus loved him more than He loved the others. Instead, it’s more likely that John can think of no more appropriate way to describe his personal connection to Jesus. As the last remaining apostle at the time of his writing, John likely had to manage his place among the churches very carefully. How easily he could have become an object of their worship–one who “was there” for every moment folks treasured in their faith story. Even today, such a one would be revered and elevated in the public eye. So, John chooses a label for himself that points more to Jesus than it does to him. “I’m nothing more than one whom Jesus loved….like you,” he could have said.


Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 329

  1. Early on the first day of the week, while its was still dark… (John 20:1).

How did those who loved Jesus spend the agonizing hours between the Cross and the empty tomb? We can’t be sure. But we do see this moment where Mary Magdalene is scurrying back to the site of life’s worst possible day. It was here that they laid Him. It was here, in a fresh cut tomb near the spot where he was crucified that she had watched hope die the most tragic death. And it is here that she must come in the dark hours of a new week–one void of the future she had imagined. Spices in hand, Mary will cling to this place until they seal it shut or maybe she will cling to this place forever. We must never forget that before anyone could proclaim “He is risen” these friends had to face “He is dead.”


Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 328

  1. He was accompanied by Nicodemus (John 19:39).

Here’s another man stepping from the shadows of faith. One wonders at the intellectual and emotional roller coaster Nicodemus rode through the life and ministry of Christ. He made his bold move, coming to Christ at night with his questions. Now, he stands alongside his latecomer friend, Joseph, as they make their contribution to the story. Did Nicodemus resist the actions of the high priest? Was he a voice for Jesus and righteousness as the religious leaders plotted their evil. Or did he stand silently by. More concerned with preserving his place and his quiet approach to Jesus? If he did, then these are the actions of a man too late (at least in the current moment). What he couldn’t do before, he now finds the courage to do in this moment. The actions of these two, Joseph and Nicodemus, ought encourage us to bring our faith in Christ into the bright light of public awareness. Yes, there may be cost, but what is the price of waiting too late to let our faith be seen?


Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 327

  1. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews (John 19:38).

By the time John writes his Gospel, a half century has passed since the events he describes. So are John’s words a surprising revelation to his first readers? Is this man’s faith still a secret or has his secret always been a part of the story’s telling? Why risk identification with Jesus now–when He’s dead? Perhaps the crucifixion scene has nurtured such deep remorse in this man for his silence that he’s now willing to be accused of believing in Jesus. It seems there may be a sense of “too late” for this man’s loyalty to Christ. Of course, we know there’s more story to come, but this man doesn’t. He’s too late to take his stand, to be seen among Jesus’ adoring crowd. It’s been his secret, one he kept until his chance to stand for Jesus has passed. That’s the nature of secret faith–it always leaves us wishing we’d done differently. 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

An Important Look into Your Church’s Culture – Part 3

In this series of blogs, we are focusing attention on the hardest places–churches that are seldom addressed in most of the church health literature. These are places where strong leaders seldom go, energetic people seldom stay, and new days simply don’t dawn. So, year after year, the pages of the church calendar find a way to be flipped, but stories of impact are primarily told elsewhere.

In our third installment, let’s consider a bit more about targets. We said last time that finding what you CAN do or what God has designed you to do is an important step. But honestly, sometimes even that can be a puzzling journey.

So, let’s start with a question. How would you finish this statement?

“I wish we were more                     .”

Now before you overload that small blank with dozens of ideas, here are the ground rules. First, you can’t put something in there that your current congregation cannot achieve. For example, “I wish we were more musical…or more talented…or more wealthy” are all off-limits. Wishing for what you don’t have or for people you don’t have gets you nowhere (as you already know). Instead, focus the question on something you can become together.

How about, “I wish we were more friendly…more open to outsiders…more active in our community.” Now, you get the idea. What you’re doing is taking a first step toward a new day by becoming people you may not have been. This is vision–describing today what we hope to reach tomorrow (actually it’ll take a bit longer).

Now, be careful here. Don’t aim for the moon on this first step forward. Instead start a bit smaller. Choose something important, but not something that make take a dozen years to achieve.

In the first year of our effort to revitalize the church I pastored, I determined that we would learn to love each other. Our bigger dream was to love a lot of other people, but I figured if we couldn’t do a bit better with what we already had, those future folks might not receive much better. And, our little group of good folks had a bit of a history of missteps with each other. So, I targeted an entire year of Sunday evenings for this focus. I preached love and we practiced love. Some services ended with us praying together, others ended with us telling our life stories to one another. Several ended with us eating together–something we were already pretty good at.

The point is–our target was something that mattered and something designed to reshape us (not something designed to grow our church). Of course, every success we had began to effect everything about our church. While we were trying to love each other, God started bringing us other people to love too, and we found ourselves well underway toward our new day.

Once you decide what that first target will be, there’s a critical next step–and we’ll tackle that step in our next installment.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 326

  1. “It is finished’ (John 19:30).

I wonder if the disciples heard Him? Clearly John did as he records this moment for us, but his position seems near the front, next to Mary, close enough to receive Jesus’ final instructions for his life. But what of the others and how might they have interpreted this statement. You see, they didn’t understand the nature of His death. They only saw the end of their hopes, the end of their ideas, the end of…Him. So perhaps in their ears, “it is finished” sounded like the acknowledgment of defeat–the “I tried but they would not” acknowledgement of a son who has failed his father’s mission. To them, his words may well have been a concession speech to the power and authority of the victorious religious leaders. “It is finished” means there will be no more. Nothing…but maybe a return to the family fishing boats with nothing left but thoughts of what might have been.

But Jesus wasn’t finished…he was finishing something forever.


Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 325

  1. “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “here is your mother” (John 19:26-27).

Love one another. Even as He marches toward the assigned agony, Jesus’ continues the message of His mission. The grieving mother is attached to the love of a disciple. This is what we do. We fulfill His mission when we love one another, when we step into one another’s lives with the compassion and support of real family. We prove we are His when we do the hidden things; not the moments of accolades, but the small sacrifices that provide hope and future for the broken. The text says simply that John took her into his home–a small matter, surely. But there are no small matters in the kingdom of God. I would imagine those we see as small may be our truly greatest moments.


Categories: Leadership Journeys