I tried to talk someone out of following Jesus

I did something strange two weeks ago. I met a guy who said to me, “I want to pray the sinner’s prayer”. And I proceeded to try to talk him out of it. My first response was something like, “let me tell you some reasons why that is a bad idea.”

I know I have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Here’s what happened: I could tell that this individual was in the middle of some type of crisis. I assumed that something had gone wrong in his life and He wanted God to make it better for him.  I have seen it a hundred times – a guy gets into trouble or loses his job or gets a bad diagnosis. And he wants to come to God only to get bailed out. Honestly, I have seen too many people who come to Christ in times of crisis only to abandon Christ as soon as the problem is averted.

So I asked the guy, “What’s the problem that brings you to Jesus?” He told me that his wife had left him and he wanted her back. I explained that giving his heart to Christ probably would not fix his problem. I asked him what he would do if she didn’t come back – or even if she did come back.  I asked if he intended to use Jesus to get her back. Was he trying to barter with God? After some very direct questions, he assured me that he intended to live for Christ the rest of his life regardless of what happened with his wife.

I was convinced. The guy prayed the prayer and I believe, gave his heart to the Lord. I haven’t seen him or spoken to him since.

My friend, Reese Hendricks reminded me today that this is a similar situation to what Jesus did with the rich young ruler. Only the results were different.  Jesus got to the heart of the issue and this man’s motives were not pure. So he walked away from Jesus.

I just wanted to be sure with this guy. I don’t know what I would have done if it had turned out differently. I am glad it went the way it did.


Yes, that is Jesus on the phone. At least He had the courtesy to step outside for His call.

My new pet peeve is cell phones ringing during worship services. Actually, it’s not a new pet peeve, it’s been around for a long time. Which makes it even harder to understand why people have not mastered the art of muting their phones.

During the announcements, we regularly request that people turn the volume down. People chuckle and do nothing. Nearly every week while I am preaching, someone’s phone rings. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been at THE most crucial point of the message only to have us all distracted by a ringing phone. At the risk of sounding hyper-spiritual, I believe that there is a diabolical (meaning from the devil) plan to distract us from the Word. I am about to cast out some devil from our services!

Recently, some leaders have suggested as potential solutions: public humiliation, a communal stomping of the ringing cell phones and open-air floggings. These are beginning to sound feasible.

By the way, we can’t legally install signal scramblers; that has also been considered.

I am open to suggestions…  anyone? Maybe the church below has a good idea…

which is your greatest teacher: failure or success?

I asked a good friend and great leader, Greg DuBose of The Bella Group, a question last week. It kind of stumped him at first, which has to be a new experience for him.  After a bit of contemplation, He gave a great answer.

Now I’m asking you – so here goes:

What do you learn the most from: failure or success?

After you answer, I’ll let you in on what Greg said.  By the way, let’s not have a one word answer. Give a little explanation – some dialogue would be good.

So, how ‘bout it? Which is it for you – failure or success?

the sweet spot of leadership

There is a phrase in baseball: The “sweet spot” on the bat refers to the specific place near the end of the bat where optimum potential energy is stored. On the ball, there is a place know as the sweet spot, in between the coming together of the seams – it is where most autographs are placed. The sweet spot is where you will gain the most response and reaction to contact when the bat and ball collide.  There is a distinct “crack” that results and the ball travels farther, because the batter has made a solid connection at the perfect point of both the bat and the ball.  The ball really flies when you hit it with the sweet part of the bat.

For me, the sweet spot of leadership is when a leader displays a perfect balance between passion and wisdom. Fall too far on one side or the other, and leadership will be impaired. Typically, young leaders have lots of passion but not as much wisdom and they pay for it. And older leaders lack passion but make up for it with more wisdom – they too, pay the price. Somewhere in the middle is where leaders find their sweet spot.

So when does the sweet spot come along?

I am not sure about a specific age or an amount of time spent leading but I do believe that we can go right through our sweet spot of leadership without even recognizing it or taking advantage of it.

I can certainly be considered as a middle aged leader, having been at this for a while now. But I still have a lot of passion – even to the point of it getting me into trouble from time to time. I hope that I am heading into my sweet spot of leadership. I think it may be just ahead for me. I think I need to add some more wisdom without losing my passion. I’m working hard on it!

I sure hope that, once I find my sweet spot, it stays for a while. I want to make solid contact. I want to hear the crack of the bat. I want to watch the ball fly. I want to hit a home run.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get there but once I do, I want to get as much done as I possibly can. I don’t want to miss my sweet spot.

Don’t miss your sweet spot.

4 encouragements for leaders

I spoke with a young leader today who is going through an especially challenging time right now. Seems to me as though most leaders are under the gun these days.  I thought this may be a good time to try to encourage my fellow leaders. I hope it helps. Think about these 4 things:

  • Passion is a non-negotiable. Many followers, especially lethargic ones, don’t understand passion. They mistake our drive and intensity for pushiness. While I know leaders can sometimes be overbearing, passion is an inner fire that burns for the accomplishment of a goal. We want to complete the mission and nothing can satisfy us until that happens. The fact that the vision is out in front of us keeps real leaders passionate. Know that some people won’t like that and may even criticize you for it. Our passion makes them uncomfortable. But if we lose our passion, we will fail. So leaders; don’t let anyone condemn your passion. It’s a gift from God – let it burn bright.
  • Naysayers are everywhere. When you are out in front leading, people will line up to tell you everything you are doing wrong. The world is full of critics. But most of those people won’t lift a finger to actually help you accomplish the mission. Don’t be discouraged. They did the same thing to all the great leaders of the Bible. Think about Moses. His followers hated him. Just today, Toby Morgan Tweeted: “sometimes God asks leaders to lead in a way that makes the whole congregation grumble. //see Moses.” They literally wanted to kill him (so watch your back!).  And all he had done was to obey God and try to lead them to the Promised Land. Learn how to allow your critics to say and do whatever they want, but you stay focused on the vision. Don’t let them distract you.
  • Leaders are change agents. Every great leader in the Bible brought transformation. We will need to do the same. Now, we know that people hate change. They want to stay in their little comfort zones (although they are actually very uncomfortable). But it is our responsibility to lead people to change. It doesn’t matter if your followers like you, God did not call you to get people to like you. So, go ahead and find out what God wants you to change and gently begin the process.
  • God called you to lead, people didn’t. You can never please people. But you can please God.  When it all comes down, the people who love you will love you and people who hate you will hate you. You have to be OK with that. But we will stand before God to give an account of our obedience to Him. He called you to be a leader. He is with you every step of the way. Be concerned about what He thinks and not so concerned about what people think.

It has always been tough to be a leader. But I believe the cost is going up exponentially. I admire anyone who has the backbone to step up and lead in this culture. The weight is going to get heavy – but you’re going to make it. Be strong. Do the right thing. Be radically obedient to God’s call. You may get kicked around now but later on, you’ll hear “well done” (from God).

Leaders, I’m praying for you today! Be encouraged!