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.
Dan T. Cathy, president and COO of Chick-fil-A, spoke briefly at the EQUIP 2020 Global Conference in February 2012, held at Christ Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach. Chick-fil-A is more than just the fast food restaurant that made cows famous for saying, “Eat more chicken.” It is one of the largest family owned and successful businesses in the U.S. today with more than 1560+ units in the chain. Personally, I love their waffle fries!
Though the conference focused on biblical leadership, and specifically training international Christian leaders, Dan Cathy spoke on customer service—something all good leaders must be reminded of. I was struck by how well he had personally embodied the vision and how brilliantly he communicated it. From employees walking around the dining area asking if they may “refresh your beverage” and offering pepper from a large pepper mill for your salad, to coming outside with a large umbrella to bring you in from the rain.
"Aren't the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn't I wash in them and be healed?" So Naaman turned and went away in a rage. But his officers tried to reason with him and said, "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn't you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, 'Go and wash and be cured!'"— 2 Kings 5:12-13
In 1962, the Mariner I space probe was scheduled to travel to Venus and provide information to NASA scientists. It never got there, as it plunged into the Atlantic Ocean four minutes after takeoff. An investigation was launched into the cause for the crash and was later traced to the computer program directing the spacecraft. It turned out that somewhere in the program a single minus sign had been left out.
For some people, living out the basics of the Christian faith isn't exciting enough. Too insignificant. Not brave enough. However, the way a follower of Jesus handles small things, both in attitude and execution, determines to a large extent how they will handle larger things.
Naaman learned a lesson about this in today's passage. He was a mighty warrior of Aram but had leprosy. After getting permission to visit Elisha the prophet, he planned out in his mind exactly what would happen: Elisha would meet him, wave his hand, and call on God to heal him.
Instead, the prophet sent a messenger to Naaman, who told him to wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was upset with this cure. He wanted something with a little more fanfare. But his officers called him on his attitude and encouraged him to take Elisha at his word. When Naaman decided to bathe in the Jordan, his small act of obedience cured him of his leprosy.
So take the time to get to know God through consistent prayer. Read about the characters in the Bible and their triumphs and failures. Make the most of the opportunities the Lord presents, no matter how insignificant they may seem. After all, little things do matter.
I’ve been in the business of buying and selling talent (a nice way of saying “actors”) for about 30 years now. When I came to Hollywood in 1984, I was blissfully ignorant of the structures of power and fear that are so often the foundations of the entertainment industry.
I was also blind to the fact that God loved me and had a plan for my life in Jesus Christ. All these things would be revealed in time. In short, God found me, claimed me, saved me—and then asked me to become a talent agent. Through the hard-knock years of this profession, I’ve learned some lessons that have played dual roles in my life as a Hollywood talent agent and an associate pastor.
In my years leading in business and churches, I have known many people who claim to be leaders, but they are actually nothing more than controllers of people. There is a huge difference in leading and controlling.
In fact, the differences are almost exact opposites.
Here are some characteristics of environments that lead people:
Recently, I received a call into my Heal Your Servant conference call line. On the other end of the phone, there was the voice of a broken and frightened man. He was sobbing uncontrollably—so much so that it took over five minutes for him to gain his composure enough for me to understand anything he was saying.
He then began to just systematically break down his sexual sin. He stated that when he was a little boy, his dad was very dominating and abusive toward him, his mom and his sisters. The only time he would receive any accolades from his father would be when he acted out with verbal aggression toward his mother or sisters. His father claimed to be a Christian man and always quoted Scripture that emphasized man’s dominance over women.
Another megachurch pastor has stepped down after admitting to a long-term affair with a woman who’s not his wife.
David Loveless, former lead pastor of Discovery Church in Orlando, Fla., is the third in the area to resign in the wake of immorality in the past six months. He follows Isaac Hunter, former lead pastor at Summit Church, and Sam Hinn, former pastor of the Gathering Place Worship Center in Sanford, Fla.
If those were the only three pastors to rock their churches with sex scandals, it would be hurtful enough. But sexual immorality and idolatry are growing trends in the church—and I imagine they're more prevalent in the pews than they are in the pulpits. The spirit of Jezebel is usually behind this immoral trend.
It happened again. For the third time in six months, the pastor of a large church in my hometown of Orlando, Fla., has resigned from his pulpit because of adultery. I’m sad. I’m sick. I’m sorry for the pastors, and sorrier for the congregations that are having to deal with the fallout caused by bad choices.
I’m also cringing because an increasingly hostile public sees these train wrecks as evidence that Christians are hypocrites who preach one thing and live another. We stand for biblical marriage between one man and one woman, but in many cases those marriages are failing. No wonder the gay community hates our flimsy platitudes.
Why are we witnessing this epidemic of moral failure? Many factors could be cited (easy access to pornography, sex-saturated entertainment, the devil and his demons, etc.)—but I don’t think we need a list of excuses today. I’m tired of excuses. The devil does not make us do this. It is totally possible for Christian men and women to live in holiness today. The power of His grace is not affected by social trends or hell’s attacks.
Do you remember going to chapel in Bible college? Every once in a while, one of “the greats” would show up.
You knew you were listening to one of the great communicators when you heard two things:
1. "The Voice." It seemed to me that every great Pentecostal preacher from the early to mid-1900s cultivated what we referred to as "The Voice." It sounded deep, resounding with such vibrato that it just about rocked your bones. Every person in the room instantly snapped to attention when a preacher turned on "The Voice."
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.
The highest level in the prophetic realm is the office of the prophet.
And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. —1 Corinthians 12:28
The prophets will have the strongest utterances because they speak by the spirit of prophecy, the gift of prophecy, and also out of the strength of the prophet’s office. They have the grace to speak messages that go beyond words of edification, exhortation, and comfort.