Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. — James 5:16
When New York's Citicorp tower was completed in 1977, many structural engineers hailed the tower for its technical elegance and singular grace. One year after the building opened, the structural engineer William J. LeMessurier came to a frightening realization. The Citicorp tower was flawed. Without his approval, joints that should have been welded were bolted. Under severe winds that come once every sixteen years to New York, the building would buckle.
LeMessurier weighed his options: Blow the whistle on himself. Suicide. Keep silent.
LeMessurier did what he had to do. He came clean. He confessed the mistake.
Plans were drawn up to correct the problem. Work began. And three months later, the building was strong enough to withstand a storm of the severity that hits New York once every seven hundred years.
The repairs cost millions of dollars. Nevertheless, LeMessurier's career and reputation were not destroyed but enhanced. One engineer commended LeMessurier for being a man who had the courage to say, "I've got a problem; I made the problem; let's fix the problem."
You may be at that point where you realize your life is like that flawed building. Although by all appearances you are strong and successful and together, you know you have points of weakness that make you vulnerable to collapse. Sin is corroding the very foundation of your life. What do you do?
You come clean, get help, and get fixed.
Confession is good for the soul. When we hide sin, we hide ourselves from others. Like William J. LeMessurier, when we come clean, we can, as James writes, live together whole and healed.
James is not suggesting merely to confess sin to a preacher or a priest. We confess our sin first to God, but we must confess our sin to those who have been affected by our sin as well. It is also beneficial to confess your sins to a trusted fellow believer who can offer a physical reminder of the grace of forgiveness and encourage you to live rightly.
So, confess your sin. Get it out of your heart. Make it right. And, move on.
Those of us who counsel pastors and teach future preachers sometimes caution them to “study the Bible for itself, just to receive the Word into your heart, not to prepare sermons.”
We might as well tell Sherlock Holmes to enjoy crime scenes for the beauty of the occasion and to stop looking for criminals; or tell Albert Pujols not to worry about actually striking at the baseball crossing the plate but to relax and take in the inspiration of the moment; or tell Joan Rivers to give up on plastic surgery.
Some things you do because this is who you are.
When a pastor reads a great insight in the Scriptural text, does anyone think for one minute that he is going to file that away in a personal-edification file, never to be shared with others in sermons?
Every year I get a complete physical from my doctor. It’s a thorough check-up from head to toe. I usually have the same initial thoughts about this invasive, needle-sticking, blood-sucking, finger-poking experience. First, I’m too busy for this. I just don’t have time. Second, This is not going to be fun! Third, I don’t want to know what I might learn! But the end result is always the same: I’m glad I did it, and it always leads to continued or better health.
Your church is similar to this experience. No one really wants to do a thorough and honest evaluation, but you are wise to do so. It leads to better church health and robust performance!
Every ministry, every organization, has something that’s not working. Do you have the courage to deal with it? Ecclesiastes 3:6 says there is “a time to throw away.” You don’t hear that preached very much. Yet it’s true. You need to ask yourself, “What is not working?”
Often the problem with churches and religious institutions is that things are kept long past their time of usefulness. A friend told me a funny, but true, story shortly after I came to the General Council office. When he was a staff pastor in a church in West Texas, a new convert came to the senior pastor and said, “Pastor, those old flowers on the Communion table—they’re plastic, they’re old, and I love to put bouquets together. Would you let me make a fresh bouquet?”
Autumn is coming before we know it! If your church staff is like most, you are gearing up to start your fall planning.
Here are some things to consider as you put your planning down on paper:
1. Why do you do what you do? For every event or series you put on the calendar, ask yourself “Why?” If you answer, “Because we always have the ladies' tea the second Saturday in November,” it might be time to change your traditions.
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is this: “Do you have any sample performance evaluation forms you can send me?” To be honest, I do have samples, but I never send them.
Why don’t I send them? Well, let me ask you: Have you ever seen a traditional performance evaluation system that actually improves performance? Probably not. To my knowledge, no such form exists. You don’t need a sample form. Instead, you need to lead well.
There’s a perpetuating myth in leadership circles that every good leader does annual performance reviews. That’s not true. You can be a great leader without going through the agony of filling out your annual HR evaluation forms.