Church Leadership

50 “Hellos!” vs. 1 “How Are You?”

When I was in student ministry I learned something about myself. Wednesday nights were crazy, fun, and insanely energetic. I felt a little bit like a rock star to be honest with you. We talked a lot about building relationships with teenagers, and ,in my opinion, did a pretty good job of it. However, looking back I think it could have gone even deeper relationally. What I learned about myself is that it is easier for me to say “Hello!” to 50 people than “How are you doing?” to one person.

It’s kind of like the difference between good and great. Telling people “Hi!” is good. You acknowledge them, show them that you realize they are there, and in most cases really are glad to see them. But to take that to a meaningful conversation by asking, “How are you doing?” begins to journey toward great. I understand that you can get a shallow response to this question, and it’s not the phrase itself that has the power. The point is, instead of running around just acknowledging everybody you take the time to get into one person’s business (in a good way). The relational leverage lies in your proving to them that you really do care. After all, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

This isn’t limited to student ministry. There are people that we run across everyday at work, at lunch, at the gym, at school, etc. that need to know that someone really cares. Our calling is to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves”. Seems like a logical conclusion then to say reach out to your neighbors and ask them, “How are you doing? LET’S DO THIS!!

Man (or Woman) Up!

I was reading the familiar account of  Adam and Eve this morning and it got me to thinking (rare, I know).

In Genesis 3 it says that when they did the one thing they were told not to do they had similar responses… blame. The man blamed the woman that “God gave him”. The woman blamed the sneaky old serpent. As a result of their sin judgment was passed down. The man would have to labor and work the land the rest of his life and the woman would have great pain in child birth (seems like she got the short end of the stick), and they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

That’s all familiar. My thought was this: What would God’s response have been if they would have “manned up” and owned their sin? If the man, instead of passing blame off to the woman, would have said, “You know what? I screwed up (not sure how you say that in Hebrew). I’m so sorry God!” Or if the woman, instead of using the infamous cop-out “the devil made me do it”, would have admitted her failure and been repentant.

Seems like there are several biblical examples of God showing great mercy and undeserved grace to people who acknowledge their sin and are repentant. I think about the story of Jonah that we have reduced to a children’s Sunday School lesson. He was sent to an incredibly harsh, sinful, pagan society in Nineveh. Upon hearing of their wrong doing, they promptly repented and God’s wrath relented. Mercy triumphed over judgment.

I think there is a lesson for us to learn here. We are going to mess up. We are going to fall short (all do… that sounds like a Bible verse). The primary focus should be how we handle that moral failure. Do we pass blame off on our parents for raising us a certain way? Or society for being so immoral? Or, like Eve, the devil?

That’s weak. When we mess up, we need to own it. After all, God knows every struggle that we have and invites us to share in His sufficiency. I’ll finish with a verse that I think is appropriate:

Hebrews 4:15- “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.”

A Gentle Reminder About Life

So most of my ideas are generated from current events or conversations with people. A.W. Tozer said that pastors should have a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. I think that makes perfect sense.

That was a setup for this: I had a conversation with a friend the other day about the dreams and aspirations he has. The result of that conversation was a couple takeaways that I think we would be wise to keep in mind.

1) We only get one shot at this life. Of course that is an obvious statement, but I bet we all find ourselves living lives that don’t prove that we know it from time to time. It’s easy to get trapped in mundane thinking. We get tired of the grind and it weighs on us. I get that. But every day that passes by is gone. Really. It’s gone. And it’s not coming back. I love the scripture that could help us keep this in perspective that says “teach me to number my days.” They are numbered. Let’s make them count.

2) Let’s dream big. Of course I have another quote that sums this up: “Have dreams so big that unless God intervenes, they will fail.” I am just not convinced that mediocrity was ever supposed to be part of the fabric of our lives. I don’t think the creative God we serve is limited to our efforts. Have audacious goals and pursue them wholeheartedly. God seems to reward hard work and excellence with His favor. It’s equivalent to Him putting His super on our natural, thus it is supernatural.

These aren’t novel concepts. Just things that I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time. Dream big. Make every day count. Trust God to do what only He can do.

Measuring Up

There seems to be a common thread that ties people of all social and economic genres together. While that is usually a good thing, I think in this case it is to our detriment.

The thread that I’m referring to is that of comparing ourselves to others.

I’ve seen successful people compare themselves to someone else in their area of expertise and diminish their worth because the other person has more or has done more. Of course it happens in sports. We “size-up” the opposition usually to find ourselves questioning our own faults and weaknesses. It happens to us at the gym, regardless of gender. “If I only had their _____.” Parents compare themselves to other parents. Teenagers do the same, to the nth degree. People who don’t have compare themselves to those that do. Those that do have find those that have more. Even pastors find themselves mentally and emotionally pitted against other pastors. They have a bigger church than I do. They preach better than I do…

It’s sad really.

A couple of things come to mind when I think about this struggle of ours.

1) You don’t know everything that goes on in the life of your comparison subject. Some people put on really exquisite fronts. The reality may be much harsher than it appears. Just because it seems to you that they have it all together doesn’t mean they really do. You know your faults inside and out and bring that to the table, skewing the comparison.

But the actuality is that it doesn’t matter if they are that much better than you.

2) God didn’t ask you to be somebody else. He asked you to be you. I have this redundant statement that I use as a reminder of this verity. “You are the only you and only you can do what you can do so you better do what God has called you to do.” Let me break that down for clarification.

You are the only you.
Only you can do what you can do.
You better do what God has called you to do.

The comparison trap is an easy one to fall to. However, it’s one that we should strive to prevail over.

We’re not called to measure up to other people. We’re called to be children of God. That is our identity.

Fighting Tendencies

The phrase or excuse, “That’s just the way I am” gets thrown around way too often, especially in light of the Gospel.

We all have tendencies that are contradictory to the truths found in God’s word. To forfeit effort to be pleasing to God in a particular area because it’s not something that comes naturally to you is really inexcusable.

To take it a step further, it’s actually pretty selfish.

Think about it on these terms: Personally, as I have aged my natural tendency is to be more introverted. My wife clowns on me because I don’t like to go to certain restaurants that I feel like I have to really work to create relational energy. It would be easier for me to be a loner. BUT that’s not what is best for the people around me.

Your tendency is probably not much different. It’s something you have to fight or else it would take over. Maybe it’s difficulties with punctuality, or depression or sarcasm. Whatever it is, if it’s not life-giving then it’s the opposite.

I heard a quote one time that really encapsulates this notion. A pastor told a staff I was on, “Always do what is best for the church.”

I think we could hold ourselves to that standard on a personal level and even take it as far as “doing what is best for those around us”. Is my tendency affecting those around me in a dissenting way? Is my timeliness (or lack thereof) encouraging tardiness to others? Is my lethargic attitude rubbing off on the ethos of my organization? Are there hints of cynicism in my conversation that create negative shockwaves?

We can’t be crippled by the tendencies that have carried over from our lives prior to being a follower of Christ.

It doesn’t really matter who you were. It matters who you are. And the way that I’ve got it scored you’re a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

There Is Something In Your Eye

Proverbs 22:9 says, “He who has a generous eye will be blessed…”

I love that. The indication is that if you look for opportunities to be a blessing to other people then it will come back around. I am completely in love with the veracity of that principle.

What really seals my fascination with the boomerang nature of generosity is that it is plays out in practice, not just theory. The driving force behind this blog action is just to encourage you with the reality of this, put some skin on it if you will (yes that’s gross).

I bought a MacBook Pro several months ago on eBay. I already had one that worked like a champ, but I’m a sucker for a good deal. It shows up and all is well for a month or so. The screen freaks out and after several hours of trying to fix it myself  (being a self-proclaimed Mac guru), I give up and decide to take it to the repair shop. This is not a rant about their lack of professionalism, but they had the dang thing for about 6 months. Needless to say it was repaired for FREE! That’s a pretty good start to the story, but really only the beginning.

As I said before, I already had one that I worked like a scalded ape so I didn’t really need it. I just figured we could use it around the church somewhere. Then the generous eye kicked in. I have a guy who works with me on all of our videos and gives a ridiculous amount of time and energy to Motion. I felt that it was the least I could do to compensate him in some form. The going currency in our economy must be Apple products.

This was on Friday. Now to set the crescendo of the story up properly I have to let you know that I have been wanting a 27″ iMac for about a year and a half. I’ve printed out pictures, drooled over them, looked for sales, and even considered selling my one and only kidney to get one of these monsters. On Monday I was having a conversation with a friend about how my 4 year old laptop is struggling to keep up with the video projects I’ve been working on. His solution: Let’s go get you a 27″ iMac, my treat.

I would say that brings us full circle. He who has a generous eye will be blessed. My suggestion: look for ways to serve people, love them and meet their needs and who knows what will come around. I’ll close with this thought from the Psalms.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

 

Last Call

Bartenders will give out the proverbial “last call” when it’s time to shut down. If you want a drink, you better get to it. 

While that is probably an awful analogy for the church, I think it’s a fitting one. This is a “last call” to all of those who are sitting on the fence pondering about whether or not they want to make Motion an integral part of their life. While you will always be welcome, this might be the last call for you to get in on the front end of all that God is going to do. I can’t think of a more exciting opportunity than to be on the ground floor of a move of God like we are going to experience. 

This is not an attempt to guilt anyone to responding. I honestly believe that if you don’t get in now that my only response can be, “I told you so.” I don’t want to have to play that card. I don’t want for you to have to wonder what might have been or what would it have been like if…. This is way to significant for what ifs. This movement that we are on the precipice of will be historical. I’m “fully convinced” of that. 

That may seem like an arrogant statement, but not in light of a leadership teaching that we heard from Stephen Webb of Elevation Church. He talked about how when we get to the point of realizing how great God really is, relishing in that truth, and the beautiful mystery that he chooses to use us in spite of us then nothing but incredible things can happen. 

There’s the call. The responsibility to involve yourself in something great rests solely on your shoulders. Answer the call. 

Fully Convinced

Fully Convinced. I use this term often.

However, something that I have noticed about my faith is that it is somewhat liquid. I’ll explain.

My thoughts about God and His nature and characteristics and what that demands of me are constantly being shaped, formed and reformed. What I thought about God 8 years ago was more rigid than I think He is today. Then I trusted more in my ability. Now I understand grace as unmerited favor. Then I acted as if I could make God love me more by an almost masochistic faith. Now I am learning the art of rest. You get the idea.

So what I was fully convinced of then is not what I am fully convinced of now? Maybe. I’m “fully convinced” there are aspects of our faith that will grow and stretch and change as long as we are alive.

However, I also think there are some constants that can provide some stability to our frenetic lives. Examples:

  • God is love. That never changes.
  • Jesus as Savior. That work has been finished, it can’t be tampered with.
  • Sin kills. Always has, always will.

This is where it gets practical. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it, thus being fully convinced. I find out what I am fully convinced of when I am backed into a corner. I find out what I am fully convinced of when one of the truths that I value is attacked.

Paul said in Romans, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

Whatever it is that you believe, believe it because you believe it. Not because somebody else believes it. Not because it was the most attractive option. Believe it because it has you fully convinced that its origin is one of validity.

This is so pertinent for followers of Christ because the passion with which we convey the greatest message of all time rises and falls on our belief in it. That’ s no small thing. Passionless delivery diminishes the effectiveness and value to the listener. Don’t try to sell me something that you’re not smoking!

The take away: Let’s get about the business of owning our faith. Let’s study, pray and trust the leading of the Holy Spirit to “Lead us into all truth”. BE FULLY CONVINCED!

Monday Morning Quarterback

If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase “Monday Morning Quarterback”, I’ll gladly enlighten you. By definition it is a person who, after the event, offers advice or criticism concerning decisions made by others; one who second-guesses.

I always feel a little like this the day after we have our experiences at Motion. When things don’t go quite as planned, or there are certain things that you forget to say that would have been perfect with point 1, subpoint b, or a technical miscue…. You get the idea. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

But here is the interesting thing: Most people don’t even notice the things that make me freak out. If I put it in the proper perspective it changes everything. They really are just mole hills, not mountains. Even with a few shortcomings people still connected relationally, had an opportunity to worship God and heard and applicable message about Jesus. Not a bad day.

While I’m not excusing laziness or sloppiness, I am saying that we can lose battles and still win the war. In the grand scheme of things, giving it all we’ve got is all that we are required to do. The rest is out of our hands and into some pretty trust-worthy ones.

If you’re looking for a life application, here it is. When we fall short. When we don’t think we measure up to whatever standard we’ve set for ourselves. When we look back and say, “I wish I would have…”. In the middle of the chaos that we create, I can almost hear Jesus saying to us, “Stop looking back. Stop second-guessing. Stop allowing shame and guilt to consume you. Look forward. That’s where I am.”

Here is great scripture to complete this thought.

Proverbs 21:31- Do your best, prepare for the worst – then trust God to bring victory.

Guaranteed Victory!

I’m an avid sports fan. I watch the sports. I watch the commentary before and after the sporting event. I even listen to the radio station that spends the majority of it’s programming on sports.

One of the most common phrases you hear in the sports world coming from confident, ambitious players is some variation of, “I guarantee a win!” Of course we know that they seem to be wrong most of the time. The ones that actually predict their victory are lionized like Joe Namath.

I was thinking about this concept of “guaranteed”. In our world nothing really seems to be guaranteed. Everything is changing, shifting and adjusting. Our careers, schedules and relationships are seemingly always subject to change. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, it just is the state of our society. In other words, it is what it is.

On the flip side, I was reminded of some things that are guaranteed. I think about 1 Corinthians 13 where it says, “These three remain: faith, hope and love.” I think about one of my favorite songs called “Your Love Never Fails”. I think about the scripture in Matthew 24 that says, “Heaven and earth will pass away but My word will stand forever.” Guarantees.

The point of all of these ramblings is this: The only real consistency that we are going to find in this life has its origin in our relationship with God. We know that things decay and depreciate. We, at least intellectually, know that people will eventually fail us. Even the things that we have some control over, such as our health, can take a turn for the worse without warning. However, if we keep the main thing the main thing it should certainly help us to have a better shot at a “Guaranteed Victory”.