Admitting Weakness

I won’t be so naive as to say the long, dark valley of leadership can be avoided by learning to name your failures. In fact, new and, at times, more difficult challenges will arise simply because you begin admitting your status as your organization’s head sinner, and the normal challenges will remain whether you confess your flaws or try to hide them. But realize that most leaders invest too much capital obscuring their need for grace, which not only keeps their staff at arm’s length but also subverts their trust and steals energy and creativity they could otherwise devote to the inevitable crisis that continue to arise. And, perhaps even more dangerous, hiding failure prevents leaders from asking for and receiving the grace they most desperately need to live well, not to mention lead well. -Leading With A Limp by Dan Allender

One idea that is changing the way I think…

Now one of the buzzwords around today is the word “missional.” People want to create missional churches or missional programs or missional small groups.

The problem is that we don’t have a “missional” problem or a leadership problem in the Western church. We have a discipleship problem. If you know how to disciple people well, you will always get mission. Always. You see, somewhere along the way we started separating being “missional’ from being a disciple, as if somehow the two could be separated. Pastors started saying they didn’t want to be inwardly-focused so they stopped investing in the people in their churches so they could focus on people outisde their churches.

Granted, we should focus on people who don’t know Jesus yet, but Jesus himself gave us the model for doing that: Disciple people. If you know how to actually make disciples, you’ll reach people who don’t know Jesus. Because that’s simply what disciples do. That was Jesus’ whole plan. If you disciple people, as these people do mission in their everyday comings and goings, with the work and shaping of the Spirit, the future of the church will emerge.

-Excerpt from Mike Breen and Steve Cockram in their book “Building A Discipling Culture: How To Release A Missional Movement By Discipling People Like Jesus Did”

When are we going to stop talking about being missional?

When we fail to see the connection between daily life and the Mission of God we are in danger of living in our own fabricated man made story.

The couple wanted to know when the church was going to stop talking about the Mission of God and the idea of being missional. The answer was rather simple and straight-forward, “never”. We can’t be faithful to God’s Story and stop talking about the main theme.

That little conversation really did happen. Sadly, the couple really did leave the church. The reality is that many of us fail to see that EVERY area of life is wrapped up in the redemptive Story of God, otherwise known as the Mission of God. In all seriousness, to stop talking about the Mission of God is to stop talking meaningfully about everyday life. Consider this…

  • The greatest need that you, your marriage and your family has is to experience the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. Redemption of fallen creation is the Great Story we find ourselves in.
  • Your workplace has meaning not because you collect a paycheck there rather because God wants to use you and your work for his redemptive purposes.  Your cubicle is filled with purpose and meaning because it is a sphere of God’s redeeming activity.
  • Your neighborhood, your suburb, your city needs one thing more than anything else, for you to understand, embrace and join God in the redemptive work he is already doing.
  • Your church (any church) will become ingrown, lacking in purpose unless they align all of their activities with the redemptive activity of God in the world.

Blow your mind and do a detailed study on the word “redemption” in Scripture. What you will find is that participating in this all-encompassing redemptive Story of God is what life is all about. We can never stop talking about it.

The Church Is Much More Than A Hospital

Frequently I hear people refer to the church as a hospital. I know what they mean. The church is a place where the broken and hurting receive healing. I agree that spiritual healing is available in the body of Jesus Christ. But overall I think the metaphor is incomplete and in fact it’s a bit misleading.

Growing up one of my favorite shows was MASH. MASH stood for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Today the term MASH is no longer used in military circles. Instead they call it a Combat Support Hospital. That’s what a church is, a Combat Support Hospital. We are living in a hostile land (Ephesians 6:12) and our mission is to bring the gospel to every nook and cranny of society. No doubt injuries will occur as we lay down our life for this Christ glorifying endeavor. Fortunately as the church gathers we are strengthened, refreshed and equipped so that we can go back and live as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.

When we say the church is a hospital it leaves us with the impression that receiving healing for our personal wounds is the end game. That’s just the beginning! We are healed so that we can bring healing to others.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. -Matthew 16:18

The Pursuit of Significance

Man is it subtle.

Where am I finding my deepest sense of satisfaction in life? What is it that truly makes me happy or joyful? I know what pastors are suppose to say, think  and believe. But what I’m supppose to think and feel does not always line up with what is really going on in my heart.

I like it when there are alot of people in church on Sunday morning. No, I like it alot. The converse is also true. When there are not alot of people in church on Sunday I feel depressed. Borderline embarassed. On those days the drive home from church is pure misery. I intentionally force myself to think about things other than ministry just to keep myself sane.

What is the issue? I recently spent a little extra time praying and fasting and it confirmed what I already suspected. The pursuit of significance is one of my idols. I often mouth the words, “I want Christ glorified”, but if a little of that glory comes my way I won’t fight it. The battle does not stop and it’s intense.

Part of the problem is a lack of gratitidue on my part. Failing to be greatful for the kingdom work that God has given me to do here on earth. I end up begrudging God for not making much of me. Come on, who doesn’t want to be a part of something big? Dreaming big is not a sin. The sin is that my joy is not full unless I have been made to feel significant.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
(John 15:9-11 ESV)

I may never pack the house to the rafters on Sunday, write a killer book or be on a speaking circuit. I have to come back to this very basic truth, the gospel tells me that Jesus is enough.

Leader or Manager?

The following is a quote from “Leading With A Limp” by Dan Allender

The difference between a manager and a leader is the internal urge to alter the status quo to create a different world.  In that sense leaders are prophets.  They see the present as incomplete and inadequate and are willing to risk the comfort of the present for the promise of a better tomorrow.  A manager, on the other hand, is content to keep the organization running as smoothly and efficiently as it can function. A manager serves to keep the plane in the air, whereas a leader wants to put a new engine on the plane midair.

A manager wants to approach the inevitable chaos with the tried and true methods that have worked in the past. In contrast, a leader knows that as difficult as it is to bring about change, not to do so will destroy the community. There can be no freedom from the bondage of the daily rut without the chaos that comes from leading people out of the status quo.

Dan Allender, “Leading With A Limp”

A leader who desires nothing more than the status quo becomes an ostrich with its head in the sand. A leader must be troubled and discontent, and he must ask the question, How can tomorrow be better than today? He must be a visionary, living in the tension between how to honor what is good and true today and yet be discontent with today in light of what could transpire tomorrow. He is torn between what is and what could be, yet he speaks the future into the present due due to his compelling desire for change. P. 58

Addicted

I understand why people smoke. The hit, the drag, the pleasure. I get it.

I do the same thing a million different ways. A lustful image, coveting a bigger role in ministry, exercise, money, accolades, sports, performance, food, relationships and the list goes on. Maybe one more hit will satisfy.

Addictions come from the very core of who we are. We have empty and broken spaces in our soul. So we desperately try to fill up the dead places of our life to alleviate the pain, or perhaps to deal with the numbness. Seductive, tyrannical addictions are always present to fill in the gaps.

I constantly need to be reminded that Jesus is the only One who can fill up every area of my broken life and heart. Only Jesus can fill me with a pure, lasting pleasure that does not kill me in the end.

…the fullness of him (Jesus Christ) who fills all in all. -Ephesians 1:23 ESV

The Pretense of Leadership

I still remember the Sunday morning like it was yesterday. I mentioned in a sermon that as a pastor I feel like I have just enough light to see a couple steps ahead of me. In other words, I was admitting my limitations regarding my ability to know what was going to happen in the future. I was dropping the pretense of leadership that acts as if it “has it all together” and instead let people into my heart and mind for a moment. That was a mistake. Later I heard that there were people who were disappointed with my comment; no doubt they wanted a leader who sees clearly into the future and knows exactly where they and the church are going. As a leader you remember those moments. You begin to believe that it is safer to keep up the illusion that leaders always know the right thing to do and how to do it.

The problem with this illusion is that it kills the pastor’s soul; the weariness is sure to lead to burnout.

The gospel tells us a different story about leadership: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

This is upside down leadership. Leadership that admits it is weak and that through our weakness Jesus will show himself to be strong. Paul’s messsage about leadership is absolutely counterintuitive to the way many in the world (and the church for that matter) think about leadership. Yet to the leader who is despairing of the burden caused by pretending it gives hope, it gives life.

I am currently reading a book about leadership called “Leading With A Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness” by Dan Allender. I am finding it refreshing, honest and raw when it comes to the burden and the joys of leadership. I am looking forward to sharing my throughts about the book in the coming weeks.