discussion ender

A few years ago, I had a friend who also worked on our church staff for a while. He was a strong individual, with lots of personality. He had a favorite phrase that he pulled out frequently in the middle of an especially heated debate. After making a definitive statement on a particular subject, he would announce, “end of discussion!” And you know what? He was usually right. Once people hear that their input is no longer needed, most of them will oblige – and quit talking about it. The problem with my friend was, there were times when the discussion shouldn’t have ended. There was more dialogue required. There was more than one important opinion. People were left divided when an agreement could have been reached. And his premature pronunciation of the conclusion of the talk was really counterproductive. That is unless he didn’t really care what anyone else had to say.

And that’s my point in this post.

If you want to shut down healthy discussion, adopt the following philosophy:

“To disagree with me is to disagree with God!”

But if you want to work through issues and learn and grow and understand healthy compromise, avoid this approach at all costs.

This is one of the most effective discussion killers known to humankind. After all, how can one argue with God? This discussion ender is usually utilized by well meaning but narrow minded people.  They assume that their opinions and God’s opinions are always the same.  Guess what? They’re probably not!

Once someone plays this trump card, whether or not they are right or wrong, they effectively eliminate the need for anyone else to contribute. The way I see it, there is only one person who can speak for God and that’s Him. And He does so quite effectively without our help.

Read His Word – He tells us everything we need to know in explicit detail.

And if you disagree with this post, talk to God about it – ‘cause He always agrees with me!

an ethics test

I feel like I’ve been to school this week. And I took a tough exam.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been challenged by someone who has been trying hard to get me to do something that I did not agree with. There was a lot of pressure to be involved in an activity that goes against what I know is right. This person was not trying to get me to do something illegal or immoral. But I did not feel right doing the thing and there was some coercion going on.

I searched my heart to be sure that I was not simply being stubborn. Letha and I prayed sincerely that God would clearly show us if we were missing something.  But in the end, I know deep in my heart what God wants. And it is not to be manipulated into doing something that I do not believe in.

Thankfully, I stood my ground this week and would not be influenced. And the person trying to do the influencing is angry. I don’t like it when people are angry at me but I feel such a lightening of the load.

While my decision to stick by my ethics will cost me in the short-term, I fully believe that God will reward my staying true to what I know is right. This is an ethics thing. I have to stay submitted to God and I have to remain honest with myself. There is no price that could be worth compromising those things.

too far gone?

I am praying for a stack of cards every day this week. This was part of my commitment on Sunday at Cross Community Church. We talked about how God never gives up on people, how there is no such thing as “too far gone” in God’s eyes.  I asked the people to write the name of a person or people that they have given up on. The response was overwhelming. The picture above is the stack of cards.

I was blown away by the sheer number of names. While I am not reading the cards, I couldn’t help but notice that many cards have multiple names on them. The cards represent a lot of giving up. But God has not given up. I am praying that God will bring these people to Him.

If you have a minute, can you pray for these people with me? Maybe your name is on one of these cards. If so, please know, there is no such thing as too far gone!

a high honor

I was privileged today to pray with a young man who surrendered his life to Christ. This individual came to me (with the encouragement and accompaniment of a friend) saying he was ready to make a commitment to Christ. I explained the simple process and gave him an opportunity to consider it further. But he was ready. This clearly was the work of the Holy Spirit. Amazing! So much of the time, I find myself trying to convince someone to come to Christ. This person needed no prodding. He had been in our worship event, he had heard the Word of God and it spoke to him. He is now trusting Christ as his Savior and life-leader.

I spoke today about how we are “never too far gone” that God can’t rescue us. I shared about how God captured Saul for His service (Acts 8 and 9). And God drew this guy to Him. He is now a full-fledged Christ-follower.

That’s what it’s all about. What an honor! The highlight of my Sunday. I am thanking God and praying for this guy.

A.T. Lowery

I have an “easy” memorial service tomorrow. By easy, I don’t mean simple or painless or shallow. I mean “easy” because there is no doubt about how this man lived or where he is now. The most difficult part will be to narrow down what to talk about so we are not there all day.

A couple of months ago, I told A.T. Lowery, “I talk about doing God’s work. You do God’s work.” My job as a pastor is to prepare people to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4) Heroes like A.T. Lowery do more than talk. They do.

He built hundreds of church buildings across the world. I don’t mean he just raised some money and wrote checks. I mean he physically constructed these buildings. He poured the footers, he drove the nails, and he carried the block. He built orphanages. He built homes for pastors. He was a builder, a worker. He labored countless hours in incredible heat and in uncomfortable climates. He spent years of his life on the roofs of buildings. He dug holes all over the planet.  And he did all of this with a burning vision of what needed to be accomplished.

A.T. led teams on short-term missions trips. Many of these team members became involved in ongoing missions, and some of them are now full time in the work. A.T. raised money for his projects. He always bought the supplies needed for a particular project. The host would simply need to provide a place for the team to sleep (usually on the floor of the building being constructed) and some food.   A.T. took care of everything else.

Many pastors have told me through the years about what a difference A.T. made in their ministry and life. He invested in them. And they won’t forget him.

A.T. Lowery’s work will remain. Here’s how it works:

A.T. built buildings. People gather in those buildings to hear about Jesus. They give their lives to Him. So, in a very direct way, A.T. was involved in bringing people to Christ. That tells me that he is receiving a great reward in heaven.

So I wonder how many people A.T. influenced to become Christ-followers. And I wonder, how great his reward in heaven must be.

Rest well, A.T.

some books i’m reading

I’m finding time to squeeze in some reading these days – on one of my favorite topics. The 3 I am working my way through currently are:

Reviewing Leadership by Robert Banks and Bernice M. Ledbetter.

Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

Being Leaders by Aubrey Malphurs

I don’t usually read three books at a time and certainly not on one topic. I find it difficult enough to remember stuff when I have only a singular source. But I am working on some projects that are calling for some expertise from a variety of sources.  And it’s going really well.

Banks and Ledbetter have some very useful assessments for leaders of leaders. I plan to utilize some of these for myself as well as with staff and leaders at Cross Community Church.

Malphurs does a beautiful job of creating some important distinctions regarding leadership styles and approaches. He encourages a lot of self-development which I think it good.

Sanders is a book that some leaders of our church are reading together. We are only doing 3 chapters a month so it will take a while. This is a re-read for me. It is a classic and I recommend for anyone in leadership on any level.

So tell me: what are you reading?