It’s funny. I don’t remember moving to Seattle.
To my friends in the Seattle area, those of us in East Tennessee are beginning to be able to relate to you. This year, we have been inundated with rain. While a normal summer for us is hot and fairly dry, our temperatures have hardly gotten over 90 degrees this summer, largely due to the overcast weather and almost daily showers that have kept the temperatures down and the humidity up.
All of this water reminds me of the lyrics of the Rich Mullins song "Screen Door":
They may not say it out loud, but I’ve talked with enough pastors through the years to know there are two key numbers they’re interested in: attendance and giving. Attendance matters because it’s one measure we have of the impact the church is having in a community.
Ironically, giving may actually be a better measure of the real heart change Jesus is having in people’s lives.
With that, let me share the data from the churches we’ve served. I have a feeling this is going to be very sobering for some of you.
The first church I served on staff was Lakeside Wesleyan Church in Lakeside, Calif. I was the very part-time youth pastor and lots of other stuff, and a full-time private investigator—just out of college at the ripe old age of 23.
The church had less than 200 in total attendance but was thriving with meaningful ministry. Richard Lauby was the pastor then, and under his watchful eye I learned much in ministry. From delivering my first sermon to reaching teens for Christ, it was a great adventure in learning how to make things happen with modest resources.
A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. — Proverbs 25:28
In ancient times, cities were often surrounded by walls for their protection. If those walls were breached in any way, the city became vulnerable to attack from a wide variety of enemies. The maintenance of city walls, therefore, was of constant concern.
Proverbs 25:28 likens self-control to a city wall. When we maintain self-control, we keep ourselves safe from forces that would wear us down, attack our weaknesses, and prey on our failures. Scripture warns us that losing our self-control can lead to disastrous results. We may have tendencies to lose our tempers easily, gossip about neighbors or coworkers, or criticize those in authority. We may have an unhealthy desire to own many possessions, an addiction toward food, or an obsession with television. A careless word, a broken promise, or a disrespectful action is an outward sign that our inner wall of self-control has collapsed. Weak self-control makes us vulnerable to living a life of hypocrisy, and then we lose all credibility as a witness to the freedom and joy of the Christian life.
But developing self-control is not just a matter of willing right behavior. We all have experienced the "just do it" break-down. We decide that we will finally regain control of a certain personal weakness only to find a few days later that we have succumbed once again to temptation. Self-control is not as simple as just "doing it" or "not doing it."
Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit desires to guide our lives. Only he can overcome our sinful cravings and build self-control with staying power. As we turn our moments over to the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will find that we are more often able to resist those things that used to prey on our weaknesses. It is with the power of the Holy Spirit alone that our walls of self-control can be securely maintained.
The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Gen 11:6).
When I travel to West Africa, my second home, it’s always frustrating. I know some of the language and can make my way through, but not well enough to really get anything done. So, my wife has to step in and speak the language (Her native home).
There’s a difference between just communicating and speaking the same language. When we speak the same language, a few words have the power to paint a much larger picture. And when trying to cast vision, you can’t just communicate, your words need the power to paint mind pictures.
Every leader will get one or more at some point in his or her leadership: the harsh, critical letter that is unsigned and unidentifiable. I recently asked via Twitter how leaders respond when they get the anonymous letter. The responses were fascinating.
First, it was evident that many leaders have received such letters. Second, most leaders and leadership groups view writers of these letters with a fairly negative view. They do not understand why they do not have the courage to criticize with clear identity, regardless of the consequences the writer may think he or she will face.