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.
I have a heart for leaders. Especially church leaders. I’d love to help others learn from my mistakes. In fact, that’s a huge motivation for this article.
With that in mind, here are seven simple leadership tips:
1. Fight fewer battles where the win doesn’t matter as much. Okay, honestly, this is hard, because usually people are bringing the battle to you. The petty complaints. The constant grumbling. But it’s nothing new. Read the Old Testament. The key is to remember the overall vision. What’s the end goal? Go for that, and don’t be distracted by the things that won’t matter in eternity.
As a Christian who works in Hollywood, nothing frustrates me more than seeing the vast chasm separating those two worlds from each other. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.
For too many generations, we who claim the name and the cause of Christ have ceded pop culture to others, walking away years ago in a well-intentioned but ultimately self-defeating attempt to lodge our displeasure. We have all too often allowed ourselves to get involved in harebrained, quixotic efforts (boycotts, letter-writing campaigns, etc.) that have amounted to little more than making us look like a bunch of whiney chumps.
Much of our failure with Hollywood is due to a severe lack of relationship. We demand changes, issue threats and dismiss a whole industry as evil, all without ever trying to build any trust or friendship. It’s like a stranger telling you you’re fat and demanding that you go on a diet. They might be right, but how would you feel?
Grace Hill Media, the company I founded 13 years ago—it wasn’t even a company then, just me—has been trying to change that one project at a time. We’ve worked on more than 350 movie and TV projects now, including Les Misérables, The Hobbit, The Blind Side, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Bible series, The Chronicles of Narnia series, Walk the Line, Man of Steel and 42, to name a few. Our goal is to extract spiritual lessons from secular films, highlighting for the faith community entertainment that shares in our beliefs, explores our values and enhances and elevates our view of the world.
But it’s time for a grander vision for the world’s 2.2 billion Christians to change the future by looking to our past.
There was a time when the Church was a patron of the arts, where we worked in concert with the great artists to create timeless, transcendent beauty. We wanted great art, and we were willing to pay the best artists to make it. I dare you to walk in St. Peter’s Basilica and not be awestruck. Or stand in front of Michelangelo’s Pietà and not be moved by the sacrifice of Mary. I dare you to visit Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” fresco at the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan and not be lured in by the startled reactions of the disciples when Jesus announces that one of them would betray Him.
But the definition of “patron of the arts” has changed over five centuries. No longer a rich aristocrat, a “patron” today is the audience, the ticket-buying consumer. And that’s how we can forever alter the cultural landscape. Christians are a huge demographic in this country and around the world. If only a tiny percentage of us decides to act in unison, we can make any project we want a hit—any time we want. We can turn the game of Hollywood on its ear by making ourselves a desirable, bankable audience.
If we support movies that spotlight and reinforce our biblical values—as we did with the excellent, Oscar-winning Les Misérables—Hollywood will make more. That’s how the industry works; it chases money and momentum. In fact, already in the pipeline are projects like Noah, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky, and a retelling of the story of Moses being developed by Steven Spielberg. And there are countless others in development: Paradise Lost, Pilate with Brad Pitt, Cain and Abel with Will Smith. The list goes on and on.
Each time one of these projects gets made, it also gets marketed with tens of millions of dollars, both domestically and internationally. That’s a free global advertising campaign for our faith. That means the Bible becomes a staple in pop culture. The gospel gets preached worldwide.
When that happens, we’re looking at another Renaissance. And isn’t that a lot more appealing, and eternally significant, than another boycott?
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead a breakout session at Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Conference 2012 titled, The Non-Confrontationalist’s Guide to Confrontation. Last week, we posted here reason No. 1 you want to lean into conflict. You can catch up here.
Today, let’s address reason No. 2:
Conflict Hinders Collaboration
Don’t be deceived into believing that a small conflict has a small impact. A small conflict grows over time. It slowly erodes trust between team members. If not addressed, it becomes the purple elephant in the room that everyone knows is there but no one wants to talk about.
In a recent conversation, I was reminded of a set of questions that Marcus Buckingham developed to measure job satisfaction. This list is several years old, but it still provides great insights. I challenge you to consider going through these questions with your team. (My team will.)
1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment that I need in order to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. In the past seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission or purpose of my company make me feel that my job is important?
9. Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?
10. Do I have a best friend at work?
11. In the past six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
12. This past year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?
Which one of those 12 questions challenges you the most? You can check out the rest of the magazine article originally published in Fast Company.
By the way, Buckingham also has a resource available called The Truth about You (Thomas Nelson, 2008). It’s a toolkit including a DVD, interactive book and a “rememo” pad to help you enjoy higher satisfaction with life and work.
Among other things Buckingham confirms, “You’ll never turn your weaknesses into strengths.” I hope that sets you free.
All of us want to be part of a team that is successful, accomplishes goals and gets things done. But a “make it happen” team culture is only possible if we, as individuals and leaders, are truly committed to do our part in helping create that team culture.
So here are 15 keys I’ve found for how each of us can contribute to that end:
1. Your yes is yes, and your no is no. Do what you say you will do.
2. You take responsibility before being told.
They were completely amazed and said again and again, "Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak."— Mark 7:37
Leaders pursue excellence. They lead their organizations, their families, their businesses, and, in fact, their very lives striving for their best.
Jesus was committed to excellence. God gave his very best--his Son. And, as the New Testament writer Mark reminds us, God's Son gave his very best--his life. He made the best wine (see Matthew 14:13-21), and the limbs he restored were perfect (see Mark 3:1-5). His followers should do no less. Less than our best is inadequate, considering the fact that God has given us his very best.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry." Whatever our role, our position, our organization, or our lot in life, we should strive for the best. The measure of our success should not be attached to our particular career or what we earn but on our character and what we give.
Excellence does not mean being the best but being your best, understanding that variation makes all the difference in the world. Excellence is being better than you were yesterday. Excellence means matching your practice with your potential.
Some people have fame thrust upon them. Very few have excellence thrust upon them. Excellence is achieved. What will you do to have people say, like they said of Jesus, "Everything he does is wonderful"?
Just because people look at us when we stand to deliver a homily, we must not automatically think we possess knowledge, authority or anything not available to the least among us. They could be listening for God.
Just because they fill the pews to worship God and, in the process, listen to our sermons and say good things afterward, that does not mean they are there to hear us. They could be there for greater reasons.
If they laugh at our jokes and weep at our stories, we are not to think ourselves gifted communicators who have mastered our craft. It could be they are people of grace and graciousness.