The time for change has come. After 7 years and 8 months as Lead Pastor at Cross Community Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, I have accepted a new assignment. Letha and I are moving to Minnesota where I will assume the role as the State Administrative Bishop for the Church of God. Rather than leading a local church, I will be a pastor to pastors. Leadership development, local church consulting, fund raising and church planting will be some of my highest priorities. It should be fun!
We are very thankful for the time we have spent here, for our friends and for the blessing the church has been to us. But we know that God is providing this transition for us. We are excited about the future!
Pray for us as you think of us. We will be moving the second week of August (last day at Cross Community is August 12). If you’re in our area, we’d love the chance to say goodbye before we leave.
Goodbye sandy beaches, hello land of 10,000 lakes!
I’m not being morbid today. I am simply stricken by the profundity of communication that can happen when you look at a person who is dying – IF they know they are headed to heaven once the death process is complete. As a pastor, I have had this experience several times. I sit at their bedside and talk. Sometimes it is a bit awkward. Sometimes small talk just seems empty. There is almost a point when eternity comes up.
But beyond the conversation, there is a look, eye to eye. They don’t look away. They won’t break eye contact. I usually do that because I am uncomfortable, I am not accustomed to such an intense look. It’s as though they are thinking deep heavenly thoughts, and it cuts right through you.
I saw that look in my mother’s eyes yesterday. She will soon be leaving this world. Her look was intense, more intense than any other time I remember in my life.
My Mom has no fear. She is a dying saint.
Leaders don’t evade responsibility by passing it on to someone else. I am observing an abundance of – avoiding hurting someone’s feeling by not dealing with an issue – going on by people in positions of leadership.
Legend has it that the term “passing the buck” comes from poker. The dealer, in an effort to eliminate accusations of cheating, would pass the deck to the next player and he would cut it. In the old days, a buck knife was often used as the marker. So, when the dealer would pass the deck, he was “passing the buck”.
Leaders must be willing to accept the responsibility for tough decisions, even when those decisions are not popular. If we are not strong enough to make the tough calls, the organizations we lead will suffer. Don’t push the problem on to the next guy. Muster some backbone and deal with it. Be strong. Lead.
No more passing the buck!
God has the very best for us but most of us never get there. We settle for blessings like money or security or other things we can acquire. While these things are considered blessings, they should be considered as second-rate blessings. In other words, you can do better.
Let me explain. When most American talk about “being blessed”, they are talking about material things: houses, cars, boats, jobs. Without doubt, these things are provided by God – and they are blessings. But sometimes the acquisition of these blessings has cost us something of much greater value. While it is not always the case, some lesser blessings cost us greater blessings. We have traded. If financial gain is the best blessing you have, you are not experiencing God’s best. According to Jesus, you can’t serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)
Plainly put: if you skip worship to go out for a day of relaxation, your relaxation is a more valued blessing to you than experiencing God’s presence with your church family.
If you make a lot of money on your job but you neglect your family in doing so, your money is a more important blessing than your family.
You have blessings, but they are lesser blessings. You have settled for second-rate.
Life has fooled us. Many of us have been duped into thinking that $ = blessing. Dig a little deeper and you get to real blessings, like: Relationships. Love. Eternal life. The Presence of God. These are first-rate blessings – Greater Blessings!
Jesus asks you a very straightforward question: “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?” (Mark 8:36) I think we know the answer: lesser blessings.
Don’t settle for the lesser blessing. Let God give you His very best!
An age-old question in life is: can people really change? Can a bad guy become a good guy or can a true jerk become a nice person? While I try to be optimistic about redemption and fresh starts, my experience is that most people are pretty much who they are by the time they are 25 or 30 years old. That being said, I do believe that people can make transformations in their lives. But these transformations, if they are legit, are usually motivated by one thing:
A major crisis.
In order for a person to truly change, something big has to happen. I am reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Here is a quote that will let you in on his thesis: “first, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future” (loc 454).
(the “habit loop”)
Duhigg says that if we are going to change a habit or behavior, we must first change the reward. If the payoff is big enough, we will change. So crisis may not be a tragedy. Crisis is simply a point of experience that motivates us to do something different.
If you are a 40 year-old male who is still addicted to porn, you haven’t yet experienced a moment of true crisis. If you are a 50 year-old female who has no real friends, you have not yet reached the crossroads necessary in order to make real change.
I am praying that we can all create our own personal crisis that is required for us to engage in real change. If we don’t we may be doomed to being who we are. While we may not be all that bad, the idea of no positive change is depressing.
Jeremiah 13:23 asks, “Can a leopard change its spots?” I don’t think so.
But I do think we can change – if we want to badly enough.
What do you think of this statement? “No response is the new ‘no’.” Here is what I mean: When you ask someone for something or request someone to get involved in a particular thing and you hear nothing back from them…you can assume that the answer is “no.” Apparently it is no longer necessary to actually say “no”. Saying nothing at all will suffice.
Our church staff experiences this frequently. My daughter, Jessica is a missionary and has to search for churches in which to raise support. From what she tells me, it is very common to receive no response at all from Pastors. Voicemails and emails remain unanswered most of the time.
I know I have been guilty of this. I get a message from a salesman or a band or an itinerate preacher who wants to be invited to come to our church. It is always uncomfortable to make that return call. I’d rather not, but I try. Putting myself on the other end of that call, I would rather hear a “no” than to be left hanging.
I just wanted to post this as an encouragement to leaders. People deserve to be treated with respect. It doesn’t feel good to be on the receiving end of a “no” response, but it sure beats being left hanging. We realize it is difficult to do. But go ahead and respond – with a “no” (assuming your answer is not “yes”). You will feel better and the person you are responding to will feel better. And then they can move on to the next person they need to ask.