Archive for March, 2007
Two things happened yesterday that bothered me. Both have something to do with “spiritual” leadership and make me wonder if the church would’nt be better off without leaders, as impossible as that sounds.
First, I received an email off site, that after telling me they enjoyed reading the blog said this: “There have been a number of times that I have wanted to write back (to me) but have been a little hesitant, not knowing who frequents the site”. That was a downright scary statement. I’m sure this person was not worried about my brother or nephew reading his comments.
The second thing that bothered me was something I read: Men and women in the Kingdom of God who do not have a healthy revelation of the weakness of their own flesh are dangerous if God anoints them for leadership and ministry. They can wreak havoc in the Kingdom of God through pride. There is nothing worse than a leader anointed in ministry who does not have a humble revelation of the weakness of his flesh. (I think this is a quote from Mike Bikle but I am not sure)
I think it is safe to say that many, if not most people, who are in positions of spiritual leadership either clearly understand this truth or they don’t. There really is no middle ground. The detox period from leadership I have had the last 18 months has shown me my own serious propensity was to lead from a position of control and authority rather than humility and weakness. But I came by it as much through nurture as I did through nature.
Sometimes I would like to call for a moratorium on the words leader or leadership and keep the moratorium in place until we can destroy the power positions of leadership that have become so prominent in the church. This is not a biblical model, it is a secular one but the secular institutions are long awake to the reality that it doesn’t work. At least it doesn’t work well or for very long.
What about using the title servant leader? Honestly, I don’t think there would be many seeking the job if there was no opportunity for recognition or elevation. Who among was would be just as willing to serve without the position of leadership? Even using this term it feels like the emphasis is still on the leadership part.
I am trying to work out the difference between leadership over and leadership among. Understanding the difference is the key, I think, to being a true servant who is in a leadership role.
If we are not willing to serve without title, position or acknowledgement, recognition or role than we are not serving.
Guess I still need more detox time because I am not sure I am willing…but I want to be.
By the way, there is no evidence that leaders from wherever, are screening the comments on this blog but it is sad that some of you are worried about it.
We can live without leaders like that.
For most recent info on Lee and family go here.
Some of you know that Linda and I have had a growing relationship with the Professional Bull Riders, largely because of our friendship with Todd Pierce who serves as pastor to the bull riders and others associated with the PBR. This friendship has allowed us to get to know several others close to the bull riding family like Cody Custer and Pastor Andy Taylor, who we will be visiting next week in Sayre, OK.
Because we know these men and their families and others, we have gotten to know in a lesser way some of the Christian bull riders, such as Lee Akin. Lee was seriously injured almost 3 weeks ago in a bull riding.
Todd spent several days with Lee and his wife Mary in the hospital in Alabama and others from the Family have gone to be with her since Todd’s return to Idaho and on to other PBR events.
This is what Todd wrote about the situation just a couple of days ago. I felt it was such a strong message, not only about the need the Akin family has but a stong exhortation to the Family to be serious about walking in relationship with the Father. I trust after reading it you will pray for a miracle for Lee and for Mary. They have a very young child as well.
Thanks for reading and praying:
As most of you know, I spent about ten days with Lee and Mary Akin in Montgomery , AL following his devastating accident. I won’t even attempt to explain all that happened during that time because it is all still such a blur. I will say this. Mary Akin is operating in the supernatural as she is walking in a miracles amount of Joy and Peace. Despite the overwhelming reality of Lee’s massive head injury and the many setbacks they have already endured. Mary has to hear the doctors’ daily reports that are typically presenting her with worst case scenarios.
This storm has revealed the character and depth of relationship she lives in with her Heavenly Father. I would hate to see what her life would be like during this time if she had attended a church because she wanted the social interaction or if she believed reading the Bible and going to meetings was her religious duty to appease an angry God. What if she studied the word in attempts to store up enough knowledge that she would be considered wise in her peer’s eyes? Worse yet, what if she had never been introduced to the Lord Jesus, the evidence of God’s love for people. She would have been devastated in every way.
Yet, because she had been walking in a living, breathing, loving relationship with her loving Father, she is able to remain unmoved by her circumstances. Has she experienced times of fear and frustration? You bet. But always coming back to her foundational belief that her Father is a good Daddy and if she could see the whole picture he was painting, she would fall on her face in worship and praise for his love.
As you continue to pray for her and Lee, don’t forget to thank him for the hardship that has brought hundreds of thousands of people together as they are unified in their prayers of love and desperation. We can’t loose. We know what it is like to be abased and to abound and we have found that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Make sure and squeeze those close to you a little tighter and longer tonight. Thank you Father for giving us the capacity to love in such extravagant ways.
In Jesus name, Todd and Leslie
Several weeks ago I asked you to help me spend some iTunes money I still had in my account and the suggestions were great. Here is what I loaded on my iPod:
Everlasting God-Brenton Brown.
Marvelous Light-Charlie Hall
Oh the Glory of it all-David Crowder Band
Only You-David Crowder Band
Whole Album-Hillsong United
Nothing left to lose-Mat Kearney
Too Good is True-Rascal Flats
I like it, I love it.-Tim McGraw
The Wanderer-Johnny Cash and U2
Jacob’s Dream-Jason Upton
Many of the suggestions I already had but thanks to all who participated in this little project.
I get quite a few emails from people too reserved to comment on the site. There is a certain fear in putting yourself out there, even if you do it anonymously In response to my post “What more can He say?” a friend wrote: “I always felt/feel unworthy because I don’t hear what God says to me. I think/wonder if I am still not forgiven? or if I have not forgiven myself? Is my commitment to God not strong enough?”
There is a lot that could be said in response to this dear child of God. For now I simply want to say to them, you are forgiven and free, now live in that forgiveness and freedom. Not because I say it but because your Father says it. Listen to Him: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1) Jesus gives us freedom so we can live fully alive in Him. Don’t go back to the burden of trying to find freedom on your own or questioning whether your freedom is real. Just receive it and enjoy it. Don’t make it so hard. He loves you and loves it when you live free.
If we want to hear the Voice of the Father we have to know that He loves us, accepts us, is literally thrilled with us and like any Father thrilled with His child, He wants to communicate with us. I love to talk to my kids. On the phone, through email, or in person. There is almost nothing that I would rather do than talk to them. Why? Because I am thrilled with them, crazy about them and want them to know that anytime, anywhere their Papa is waiting to talk to them.
That is the best illustration I have. If you believe that your Father can’t wait to talk to you than you will hear Him. If you believe He is angry with you, tired of your whine, not forgiving, than you just are not going to be tuned to His voice.
Receive His love-hear His voice.
To hear the voice of the Father we need to know from where the Voice will come. Listen to John Eldredge: When we set out to hear God’s voice, we do not listen as though it will come from somewhere above us or in the room around us. It comes from within, in the heart, the dwelling place of God. (Waking the Dead, p.105)
The enemy is a ventriloquist and he will speak things into your heart that you might assume are from the Father but he does not dwell in your heart. He wants to, but He cannot displace the Father, he can only try to throw his voice into the mix to confuse you. Any word that brings discouragement, disillusionment, fear, anger, frustration, confusion, condemnation, accusation-is not the Father. He does not talk that way.
So when you hear things in your heart (that place deep inside where you are most real, that place that the Spirit has made new) that suggest stepping out into untested territory, you step out because He promises to go with you. When you hear the Voice tell you to drop what you are doing and hug your spouse or kids, do it, He wants your love to deepen and grow. When the Voice says pray for the healing of someone you know needs it, it is the Voice calling you to faith and trust. When you hear the Voice of conviction it will never come as anger or manipulation, but as a loving Father protecting your heart.
If we want to hear the Voice of the Father we need to stay close to others who hear His Voice. Many times during the last 18 months I have heard the Voice because I was with people who trusted Him and knew the Voice.
Why does the Bible call us into community? Why are we encouraged to get together with other followers of the Cross? To fulfill some legalistic, hoop jumping foolishness? Of course not. We are called into community to hear the Voice. It is the safest and most likely place to hear it.
That is if it is really a community and not just a church.
I was sitting alone in a church service Sunday morning (not the church we normally attend) when the pastor asked if there was anyone who had a Word for us. Not being part of a church culture where that happens I was eager to hear what would be said. A woman sitting right in front of me took the microphone and said something like this: There is someone here this morning who knows their righteousness is as filthy rags but has not accepted that they are now dressed in the righteousness of Jesus. They have not received the white garment that was given to them when they confessed their sins. They are not fully accepting the forgiveness that is theirs.
I have struggled for many months to accept that I have been truly forgiven for my sins. I have a very clear understanding of the propositional truth that I am forgiven but I find it hard to accept the positional reality that I am forgiven and free, no matter what anyone else says. So when the woman gave that Word, I wondered if it was for me.
My friend, who is the pastor of the church I was in, tells me the prophetic Word has three purposes, to build you up, stir you up or to cheer you up. Or said another way the purpose of the prophetic Word is to strengthen, encourage or comfort. So was that Word for me? If the test is, did it stir me up, build me up or cheer me up then yes it was for me, because it did at least two of those things
Some might say that the Word spoken was so general it might have applied to anyone in the room. Probably true, but the fact that an invitation was given to share a Word and a Word was shared and it blessed me, is it not likely that the Spirit was involved in the process?
The truth for me is this. Wisdom is without question needed by every believer and wisdom comes from the written Word of God, but it is not enough, we need revelation too. It seems entirely possible, that knowing I would be in that service on Sunday, the Spirit revealed the Word to the sister who shared it, not knowing who it was for, in order for me to be stirred up to forgive myself and built up to live in the truth that I am fully forgiven and free.
I wonder how many times we get a prophetic Word the Spirit intends to stir up, build up or cheer up another Family member and we don’t share it, either because there is no opportunity given or we think it really isn’t important.
But one who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them. …but one who speaks a word of prophesy strengthens the entire church. (1Corinthians 14:3, 4b)
With freedom to think about it, I have been thinking a lot about revelation. That is, does God have anything more to say than He has already said? If you were raised at all like me than you remember an old hymn that goes something like this: What more can He say than to you he has said? The implication, of course is that God is done saying stuff to His people. The way I was taught was, its in the Bible what more do you need? Just get hold of the Word, and you won’t need anything else.
There is no question that we need to get hold of the Word, now more than ever. It is essential for anyone who would follow the way of the Cross, but the One who hung on that cross still has something to say to us. He said so Himself: I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when, he the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:12-13)
There is a lot that Jesus wants to say to us and now that His Spirit is right inside of us we should be hearing from Him pretty often.
I would often miss what He had to say, I think, because I didn’t believe He was speaking anymore, so my ear wasn’t in tune, and now I find that when I think it might be Him I question and second guess what I am hearing. Paramount to hearing is believing He speaks.
Listening is a learned ability. It takes time to ferret out the voice of the Father from the many other voices and it takes time to tune the ear. It takes time in His presence. It takes time building the relationship.
If you operate from the premise that He is still speaking and work hard to spend time in His presence than I think you will begin to hear His voice.
I like something John Eldredge says about hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd:You don’t just leave sheep to find their way in the world. They are famous for getting lost, attacked by wild animals, falling into some pit, and that is why they must stay close to the shepherd, follow His voice. And no shepherd could be called good unless he personally guided his flock through danger. But that is precisely what He promises to do. He wants to speak to you; He wants to lead you to good pasture. (Waking the Dead pg.102)
A good Father wants to tell his kids what they need to hear to navigate to good choices and right decisions. What more can He say? Much more. Listen.
Care to share with us what the Father is saying to you?
If you are interested in my travels I am in Butte, Montana as I write this, on my way home from spending 8 days with our Utah family. Traci, Brandon and the boys moved into a new home and I got the honor of helping, after Linda and I spent the prior weekend watching our grandsons, Sloan and Sean. I am tired but fulfilled in having the freedom, during these days, to be helpful. For years I was too busy to be very helpful. God does bring good from the not so good.
Brad recently wrote in his blog a very honest and poignant post on anger. I was proud of his vulnerability and proud of his mother for posting a comment that was on the mark. I was talking with Linda on the phone a couple of hours ago and she reminded me that anger is part of the grieving process and Brad is grieving the loss of something that was very special to him.
With that in mind this edition of “Thoughts that make me go “hmmm” focuses on anger.
Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back- in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you. Frederick Buechner
When angry count to ten; when very angry count to one hundred. Thomas Jefferson
When angry, count to five; when very angry, swear. Mark Twain
Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to. Harriet Lerner
Never forget what a man says to you when he is angry. Henry Ward Beecher
Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were. Cherie Carter-Scott
One of the statements, made more than once to me the last months, was this classic:
I was very angry but I didn’t sin.
Really? Very angry but no falling short of the glory of God?
That’s a thought that really makes me go “hmmm”.
Having been a youth pastor years ago and for almost 2 decades a strong and vocal supporter of church youth ministry and with a son in youth ministry, I think I know a little about what youth ministry needs to be about.
Two recent articles have caught my eye making me wonder if most churches including the ones I know something about, are serious about really ministering to kids. The report recently out from the State of Washington on youth health risks and an article in the Salt Lake Tribune about the amount of time spent plugged in to various media makes me wonder if the traditional means of touching the lives of kids has any future.
One church felt they needed to have a seminary trained youth pastor, believing that some how if they can get some one who really knows his Bible and can preach well (after all that is what seminaries train their students to do), that their youth ministry will some how deal with the staggering complexities of being a teenager today.
20% of high school students have been drunk at school in the last year. More than 20% of 10th graders reported being “high” at school and 10% say they have gotten high on prescription pain killers (do seminaries know about Oxycontin?) and 28 million dollars was spent last year by the State of Washington to try and stop this abuse of drugs by students. That approach isn’t working.
Then take the fact that students spend 22.7 hours a week watching TV, 8.3 hours playing video games, 13 hours listening to music, 4.6 hours text messaging (I stood in line at a Wendy’s yesterday watching a girl text messaging with fingers flying like the wind, the person she was messaging was standing just behind her in line!) 2.0 hours downloading music and 2.0 organizing playlists and 19.5 hours on the Internet. That adds up to more than half the week being massaged in some way by electronic media.
Is there anyone in church leadership today paying attention to these kinds of stats? Is there a seminary anywhere training it’s students to serve in this kind of a drug and media saturated culture? A seminary education alone is not going to help you break through this collective fog and reach kids.
What will make a difference? My opinion, and it is one formed over years of seeing who is successful in youth ministry, is that it takes at least 5 things to be an effective youth pastor, in this order:
1. continuity. that is staying in one place long enough to get to know kids and be trusted by kids so that they will turn off both the chemical and media and listen, not so much to the youth pastors words but to his heart. The average youth pastor stays less then 2 years in a church.
2. skill in media communication. Being able to preach is so far down the list it doesn’t even rate a mention, but skill in using media to catch kids hearts is near the top. Doesn’t change the content it simply re-forms it for kids spending 80+ hours looking at some kind of screen.
3. leadership that doesn’t meddle in the trivial. Trying to get a youth pastor to dress like the senior pastor or come to work at the same time the senior guy does or go to meetings is a stupid waste of time. A successful youth pastor works when kids are free and really doesn’t need to be in meetings to decide how many burgers to buy for the church picnic.
4. youth pastors who know the youth culture, not because they are young but because they read and listen and ask questions and then formulate answers that are real and hopeful, not some 3 point message with a cool poem. They know how to tell stories and to help their students tell their story. They know the importance of saying what needs to be said in 10 minutes and not 45. They know how to touch hearts more than touching heads.
5. pay them what you pay the top assistant in your church. My experience tells me they are way, way more valuable than ANY other staff person.
There are some seminaries working hard to be relevant in youth ministry education. Ron Marrs at Western Seminary is one, but any church that thinks that hiring a seminary trained youth pastor will some how get at the problems faced by our youth culture will just be trading one guy for another for another until they learn that a pastor with a seminary education without the 5 points I list above is just another pretty face.
If they can’t text message, and don’t have a playlist don’t hire her (or him).
Figured if I was in Zion, AKA Salt Lake City, I should write something about what makes this place what it is-Mormons. Everywhere you look from bill boards to churches to temples to banks, to bookstores make it impossible to miss that if you are not Mormon, or Latter Day Saint as they prefer to be called, you are in foreign territory.
When you look out the front window of the house Traci and family are moving in to, you see a new Mormon church and if you go look out one of the back windows you will see another one. Less than 100 yards separates them and that is not unusual. Every new development has a Mormon church sometimes 2-3. I wish I knew if the costs of building the church is borne by the developer but it wouldn’t be a surprise. The plot plan for the development has to include space for a Mormon church and certainly does not include space for any other church.
There is much right about the Mormon culture but mostly it is all wrong. Utah is near the top of the states in rates per thousand in bankruptsies, alcoholism, divorce, child abuse and a number of other social disorders that plaque the non-Mormon culture. On the outside everything looks great but inside the story is quite different.
I won’t rehearse the distinct differences between the Bible and Orthodox Christianity that has been carefully preserved for the ages and the relatively young sect that is Mormonism there are multiple resources to help you. (try here and here and here)
What concerns me is that as genuine followers of the God-man, Jesus, we need to get serious about providing the kind of community that draws people to us rather than living down to the reputation we have that we can’t get along and that we are good at shooting each other.
What is outwardly attractive about Mormonism is not their doctrine, the average Mormon is clueless about what their church believes, what is attractive is the culture that says you are welcome here and we will care for you no matter where you come from or where you have been.
No doubt the squeaky clean image of Mormonism, when seen up close pretty much shows them to be like everyone else, but whatever they are doing to market themselves is working.
As we think about what kind of community of faith we want to be, it behooves us stop getting so wrapped up in doctrinal disputes (we are all pretty Orthodox) and get serious about providing a culture of grace and mercy, brokenness and healing. When we get real about who we are as fellow strugglers and stragglers on a journey to wholeness and joy in the love of Jesus and power of the Spirit, we will be a whole lot more attractive and who knows, authentic Zion might break out in our communities.
After all we believe Jesus was God.
Thought maybe the title alone would get me a few hundred hits!
We are in Draper, Utah watching our two Utah grandsons, while their parents are on a brief get-a-way to Las Vegas. I have forgotten what it is like to care for two little guys full time even with Linda doing more than her share. I have great respect for single parents who do this all the time with no help. We are done in a couple of days but for parents who do it alone, it is never done. All in all being a grandparent is a good deal.
Pulled this book “Buck Naked Faith” off the shelf and started reading it. It is written by Eric Sandras a Vineyard pastor in California. It has some pretty strong things to say about the church and the way in which it has become stunted and anemic in our culture.
He talks a lot about whether or not we feel free to be real in the faith community we attend. Though we are all called to be like Jesus we are also individuals who embrace a multitude of different lifestyles and people who come with a variety of quirks. We are not all the same but there seems to be a pressure exerted by the church for us to conform to whatever the norm is of that Family.
Sandras encourages us to ask this question: Does my community provide an atmosphere of freedom that allows each person to be honest, gives them permission to stumble, and even lets them ask hard questions without the fear of punishment, shame or rejection? Is it just as okay to say, “I doubt,” as it is to say, “I believe,” in my house of worship?
It doesn’t take long for a community of faith to start acting alike and even to start looking alike. Standards of dress and behavior that are not really about looking like Jesus so much as they are looking like some conformity to what a community of faith has decided looks like Jesus.
Again, Dr. Sandras writes: Whenever we feel the pressure to conform, we should ask our selves, “Is this something Jesus would have died for?” This question should be applied to all of our church culture, from the importance of looking hip in church to the type of music we worship with to how we do evangelism. We spend a lot of energy in churches promoting our opinions. Soon our opinions become our creed, our creeds become our dogma, and then we find ourselves… trying to fit everyone into our expectations.
If Jesus didn’t die for it we probably shouldn’t either. I often ask myself the question related to all sorts of things “am I willing to die for this?” That is am I willing to let this issue be something that I am going to go all the way to the wall for? There really are not that many issues of conformity worth dieing for.
Seriously, do you think Jesus’ preference of an organ or a guitar on Sunday morning is what kept him on the cross?
Is the church you attend a safe or an unsafe place to share the secret side of your life? If your community members knew what was in your past or your present how do you think they would handle it? You can share your thoughts without using your name if you want.