In 1990 my wife, Karen, and I began an endeavor that would forever change our lives. What began as a church plant became a radical reordering of our personal priorities and approach to ministry. We became painfully aware during our early days as church-planting pastors that we were far off course from God’s heart toward people of different ethnicity than us.
We slowly realized our ignorance of the daily issues that affected people of color. We also became aware that our day-to-day lives were void of any genuine friendships with non-whites. We, of course, “loved everybody.” The problem was you couldn’t tell it by our lifestyle or relationships.
I began to ask, “Why don’t our churches look like heaven?” Out of that question rose a powerful new quest in our lives.
Every week it seems there is another scandal breaking out with a high-profile person, whether in politics, sports, media or the church. A person could have done much good their whole life but with one act of passion destroy everything they have built.
Proverbs 22:1 teaches us that a good name is worth more than riches. One of the things I have found out through the years is that a person’s name and reputation are their greatest capital in regard to opening doors and having influence in the world; this is a quality people look for even more than gifts, talents or leading a successful enterprise or ministry. This is because people know success built upon gifts and talents and not on the foundation of character and integrity will not last in the long run. All of us are tempted to fall and have the capacity to fail because of our sin nature.
If you’ve been tracking my posts recently, you know that I have just returned from speaking at a conference in Australia. I understand the significance of conferences and their service to the body of Christ, but as a pastor, it is very easy to get caught up with the hoopla and adrenaline that big gatherings bring.
It is also very easy to get by with lowered standards because conferences—particularly large ones—keep people at a distance. By that, I mean people don’t get to see you up close. In a local church, regular interface with members and staff reveal the good, bad and uglies about you.
That’s why I am writing this post: to remind myself of the noble call of God on my life and the high standards that come with it. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, writes:
About 20 years ago, you might have seen me with a cape and a huge “S” on my chest that stood for “Superpastor!” Well, maybe not literally, but you might have wondered if I thought I could run meetings faster than a speeding bullet, preach more powerfully than a locomotive and leap ministry issues with a single bound.
You probably know the routine: Our church had plateaued at a few hundred people, and I was the reason. I did almost everything: counseling, coordinating, leadership of all meetings, etc. If our church was to change, I needed to change.
Since I have my pilot’s license, God used that to teach me my primary role in the church. Simply put, He focused my attention on three aspects of flying: 1) communication with the controller; 2) navigation of the plane; and 3) speed and altitude. Similarly, as a pastor, I needed to 1) keep in touch with “the controller” through prayer and study; 2) prayerfully and creatively navigate our direction through the grid of the church’s vision; and 3) strategically determine the pace and spiritual altitude of the congregation.
Core Values: The ideals and values we hold that are non-negotiable, that serve as filters for all of our efforts to accomplish our mission. (My working definition.)
The story of Jehu in 2 Kings 10 came in front of me recently, and reading it again, several things really struck me.
Jehu found Jehonadab coming to meet him. He greeted him and then asked, “Is your heart one with mine?
Unity. We can’t accomplish the mission God has given us (helping people find, follow and be- like Jesus) if there is division in the ranks. Without unity, you will be thrown back two steps for every one you think you’ve made.