Posts Tagged With: leadership

Jesus’ Leadership Manifesto (An Encore Podcast)

While I am away speaking at a Junior High/Middle School Camp at a place near and dear to my heart–Hartland Christian Camp–may I welcome to the Upper Room, and Jesus’ farewell address to His beloved disciples.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, as we break the seal on this, Jesus’ final night before the crucifixion, I do so with something of a lump in my throat and the pinkish hue of embarrassment upon my otherwise rosy cheeks. This because this particular portion of the grand story of Jesus’ life and ministry hits me most personally. And if, as they say, “Confession is good for the soul,” then I make my confession to you, my beloved little Safe Haven family, tonight.

There is embedded within this most amazing scene, Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, a timeless lesson that, if only I could turn back the hands of the clock and the passage of time, I would have taken to heart way back when I was just starting out in my ministry.

This pointed and practical warning is as timely today as it was that night in that Upper Room when Jesus gave it to His disciples.

A timeless truth that has come to define my life and, more to the point, my ministry today. A living lesson of which you are the beneficiaries.

As we detailed last week, this so-called “Last Supper” was a modified Passover seder. I say modified because as we learned last week, the word seder means “order.” As in a carefully choreographed, specifically scripted order to the meal.

Yet, at certain significant points along the way, Jesus purposefully departed from that thousands-year-old order and added to that script.

Just as Jesus did here, in John 13, at the very beginning of their meal together.

It was certainly customary — very much a part of the script — for the host (Jesus) to wash His hands ceremonially as meal began. But why did He then wash His disciples’ feet?

Especially given that every other departure that Jesus made from the seder script expanded or enhanced the significance of their celebration of Passover, especially in light of His coming death as ultimate Passover Lamb.

Every departure, except for this one: Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.

A beautiful gesture, to be sure. The quintessential picture of loving humility and servanthood. So much so that foot washing in some Christian traditions even today, has been elevated to a sacrament or ordinance equal to that of Communion and Baptism.

You talk about, Paint the picture, Rabbi? How about Jesus kneeling as a slave to wash His disciples’ feet (including Judas’ feet) as a three-dimensional, high definition picture of this? (The this to be explained in the remainder of this Podcast.)

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Jesus’ Leadership Manifesto

45615Welcome to the Upper Room, and Jesus’ farewell address to His beloved disciples.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, as we break the seal on this, Jesus’ final night before the crucifixion, I do so with something of a lump in my throat and the pinkish hue of embarrassment upon my otherwise rosy cheeks.

This because this particular portion of the grand story of Jesus’ life and ministry hits me most personally. And if, as they say, “Confession is good for the soul,” then I make my confession to you, my beloved little Safe Haven family, tonight.

There is embedded within this most amazing scene, Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, a timeless lesson that, if only I could turn back the hands of the clock and the passage of time, I would have taken to heart way back when I was just starting out in my ministry.

This pointed and practical warning is as timely today as it was that night in that Upper Room when Jesus gave it to His disciples.

A timeless truth that has come to define my life and, more to the point, my ministry today. A living lesson of which you are the beneficiaries.

As we detailed last week, this so-called “Last Supper” was a modified Passover seder. I say modified because as we learned last week, the word seder means “order.” As in a carefully choreographed, specifically scripted order to the meal.

Yet, at certain significant points along the way, Jesus purposefully departed from that thousands-year-old order and added to that script.

Just as Jesus did here, in John 13, at the very beginning of their meal together.

It was certainly customary — very much a part of the script — for the host (Jesus) to wash His hands ceremonially as meal began. But why did He then wash His disciples’ feet?

Especially given that every other departure that Jesus made from the seder script expanded or enhanced the significance of their celebration of Passover, especially in light of His coming death as ultimate Passover Lamb.

Every departure, except for this one: Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.

A beautiful gesture, to be sure. The quintessential picture of loving humility and servanthood. So much so that foot washing in some Christian traditions even today, has been elevated to a sacrament or ordinance equal to that of Communion and Baptism.

You talk about, Paint the picture, Rabbi? How about Jesus kneeling as a slave to wash His disciples’ feet (including Judas’ feet) as a three-dimensional, high definition picture of this? (The this to be explained in the remainder of this Podcast.)

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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What I Wish I Knew Then That I Know Now (A First-Person Rendition)

if-i-knew2As you will hear in this PODCAST, I have now reached a point in my life and ministry where I am easily bemused. Bemused by a question that I get asked more and more frequently.

When I am out speaking at a camp or a conference, often times a young man or woman just starting out in the ministry, or headed for his first ministry, will with furrowed brow and pen poised at the ready ask me this singularly significant question:

What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

Meaning, if I could turn the clock back and start over completely…

What is the ONE THING that you know now that you wish you had known then?

What one lesson have you learned over your now forty-two years and counting of ministry that you wish you had learned right out of the chute, right at the beginning?

Ironically enough, it is the very lesson that Jesus sought to communicate to His men here in Matthew 10, this right at the beginning of their first missions trip.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

HAPPY LISTENING.

And if you are encouraged by this message, PLEASE “Share” a link to this podcast with your family and friends.

God bless you as you listen.

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An Inconvenient Truth for Every Church Member/Attender to Consider!

broken-churchYesterday I posted this rather brief, yet complementary (to Rick Warren) and self-disclosing (since my highlighting this one quote out of an entire sermon did not come out of a vacuum) statement on my Facebook Timeline:

Rick Warren rocked it today @R13 conference. “The average Pastor leaves because of 7 people.” Woe to those who run out their pastors.

The response in terms of both “Likes” and “Shares” and comments took me completely by surprise.

Sadly, Warren’s observation resonated with a whole lot of people.

So with that in mind, allow me, ever-so-briefly, to pull back the curtain and let rank-and-file church members in on a dirty little secret — an inconvenient truth that not too many worship service attendees know, but one that every pastor without exception fully and completely and sadly understands.

At first blush, one might be tempted to think, “7 people? How can only 7 people (on average) commandeer an entire congregation?” 

Well, before I answer that, let me assure you that Warren’s observation is spot-on. I’ve been devastated by two churches, both times because of the influence of — yes, it’s true — only 7 people.

Add to that the fact that within the last few weeks, I spoke to a now-former pastor of a mega-church who was kicked to the curb by the negative influence of — Are you ready? — a grand total of only 3 families. Do the math. We’re talking 6 adults out of a congregation of some three thousand, who effectively and systematically spread such malicious gossip about my friend to the masses that he could no longer minister effectively in that church.

How does it happen? you ask.

Here’s how. The inconvenient truth:

Those who oppose their pastors may be small in number, but they are free to spread their discontent about the leadership to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen.

Not only that, but they are free to name names. They are free to level any accusation that they want with impunity. They are free to spread outright lies. They can twist the truth and shade it to their advantage. Or they can tell the truth out of context, creating out of the truth a totally false reality. It doesn’t matter which tactic they employ. The results are the same. The damage caused is far-too-often irrevocable.

Now, here’s where we pastors are sitting ducks, defenselessly so. 

We refuse to lower ourselves to that level. We strive to stay above the fray. We do not name names. We do not traffic in malicious gossip. We take the high-road.

Simply put, they are free to say anything that they want to about us, while we refuse to return evil for evil, and therefore we say nothing. We can’t. We don’t. We won’t.

We refuse to discredit our critics, even as they work overtime to discredit us. We do not respond to gossip with gossip. We do not engage in a he-said, he-said defense of ourselves. We do not tell our side of the story. We can’t. We don’t. We won’t.

We do none of that because 1. It would be sin to do so; and 2. It wouldn’t do any good anyway because such self-defensive measures only intensify the conflict, leading to endless meetings producing conflicting/contradictory/confusing information. Congregational food-fights never lead to any positive or productive outcomes. And frankly, to engage in such worldly tactics is beneath the office of Pastor.

We can’t. We don’t. We won’t.

Look, not to put a personal spin on this by making this all about me, but only so that you know that I know where so many pastors are coming from. Much to my everlasting sorrow, there are people in my community (perhaps even some who will read this blog) who believe that I am fundamentally evil. They turn away from me when they see me coming down the aisle in WalMart. They warn other Christ-followers about me. In some cases, bad reports about me have been spread by individuals who have never even met me!

Why do you think that Jesus said,

A prophet is not without honor except in his own town…

Jesus knew something about being on the receiving end of malicious gossip. And He, in response, said nothing.

Neither do we.

God is our defense. And I’m OK with that. God takes care of His own. And that’s fine by me. He has, and He will.

But the devastation caused to the innocent bystanders — in churches of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands — is incalculable. Not to mention the damage to countless pastors, many of whom have left the ministry. This because the viciousness of a few (an average of only 7) cost them far too much in terms of their families and/or their health. Men and women who just wanted to serve God and love their people.

Yes, as I posted yesterday on Facebook, so say I now…

Woe to those who run out their pastors.

So what’s the answer? 

First: STOP LISTENING. Gossip is gossip, whether you are on the telling end, or the hearing end. Both the gossiper and gossipee is equally guilty before God for all of the damage done by the gossip.

The next time someone approaches you with a complaint about a pastor, humbly, graciously, lovingly, but firmly tell them to SHUT THE HECK UP!!! And then calmly walk away.

HAVE NOTHING TO DO with those who traffic in malicious gossip. Is that too strong for you? Then ponder this niggling little point: If they gossip about the pastor, what makes you think they won’t one day gossip about you???

I mean, look… Silly me… I thought church was about worshipping God. When did it become about finding fault with one another? Finding fault with our pastors?

How can we keep our eyes focused on God when we are looking for the faults in others? How can we keep our ears attuned to God’s Word when we give an ear to other peoples’ gossiping words? Especially about the pastor, the one tasked with teaching us God’s Word?

This is not complicated, my friends.

Second: PRAY FOR YOUR PASTORS. We’re just human. No one of us ever claims perfection. (If we did, you should run for the hills!)

Please. I beg you. Let us be imperfect. Let us lead from weakness.

Let us in our brokenness help to heal your brokenness. And when we do need breaking, trust me when I say that God is perfectly capable of breaking us without others lending Him a helping hand.

You know, it wasn’t long after I was thrown under the proverbial church bus that I stumbled into a friend’s church on a Sunday morning, and literally broke down and wept. Know why? Because the pastor of that church said this to his congregation:

You just love me, and are thankful I’m here.

I sobbed because that’s all I (or any pastor) has ever wanted. Just to be loved, and for the people to be thankful that we are here.

I really don’t think that’s setting the bar very high. Do you?

Finally: If you just can’t bring yourself to support your pastor, QUIETLY walk away. Don’t pitch a fit. Don’t raise a ruckus. Don’t devastate a church by sowing seeds of division within the church. If asked, just simply and quietly tell your friends that you are being led to worship elsewhere, period. Nothing else needs to be said.

Want to hear a lie? I mean a devilish lie. Straight from the pit of Hell itself. A lie that goes like this…

Pastors come and go, but this is my church.

Ummm, excuse me. Your church? I thought it was Jesus’ church. If it is Jesus’ church, it’s His call, and only His call, as to if or when He removes a pastor. Not yours! And certainly not the self-appointed seven.

So let Jesus be the head of His church. And if you are uncomfortable with the way Jesus is leading His church, QUIETLY find another one.

“Wow,” you might now be thinking. “You sound so angry.” To which I say, “I don’t sound angry. I am angry.” 

I am angry about all of the many pastors who once filled pulpits who are now sitting on the sidelines, this because of an average of only 7 sinning people in those churches.

I am angry about all of the “innocent” people who once went to church and loved it. But today, they will not darken the door of a church because of all of the in-fighting caused by an average of only 7 ungodly people within those churches.

I am angry about the many hurting people in our communities who will never turn to the churches in their communities for their longed-for answers. But why would they? Not when we can’t even keep our church-houses in order. All because of an average of only 7 self-focused people inside of those churches.

Listen. Don’t you worry about me being angry. Worry far more about God being angry. Because He is.

So, yeah. My Facebook post — or more accurately, Rick Warren’s astute observation — sure did resonate with a lot of people.

I am just oh-so-thankful for God’s gift of grace in my life, a humble little fellowship of loving, affirming, committed Christ-followers called The Safe Haven. A redemptive community where they just love me and are thankful that I’m here.

I pray that every pastor is as blessed as me.

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