Monthly Archives: March 2013

Deciding Controversial Issues

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Big decisions are being made right now. Many people are strongly opinionated about some current issues. Lines are being drawn.

But I wonder how most people arrived at their conclusion.

If you will allow me, I will humbly make some suggestions for anyone who is considering which side of the fence they are on regarding the issues in the news.

Don’t allow the media to influence you. They have an agenda. And they have no interest in your best interest.

Don’t trust the political parties. Once again, they merely use the citizens to get what they want.

Don’t form your opinions based on social media. Most people who voice their positions there have not studied the issues.

Don’t be influenced by celebrities. I heard a quote the other day: “What happens in Hollywood doesn’t stay in Hollywood.” While I wish that were not true, it is. Without being too harsh, we don’t need a bunch of dysfunctional rock stars directing our lives.

Don’t go by polls or popular opinions. These change with the wind.

Don’t make your decisions based on your emotions. These also are subject to change.

Don’t side with what seems right. Like it or not, we are sometimes easily deceived.

Don’t even base your opinions based solely upon the church because the church is made up of imperfect people.

So, where do we go to get the correct guidance when we are making our decisions about controversial topics?

I bet you saw this coming: Go to the Bible. And here is why:

The Bible is here to stay. It has withstood the test of time. It has survived all the scrutiny. It will not change. It takes no regard for what is popular or trendy. It is not influenced by popular vote. It is not even concerned with hurting people’s feelings. It simply is the truth. The reason it is the truth is that is it authored by God. He is the only One who never changes. What He says has always worked and it always will work.

A really good reminder about this is found in Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

Whether it is gay marriage or abortion or the economy, you just can’t go wrong siding with God. He has never been wrong, and never will be.


Don’t Blame Me, I’m Just the Leader

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Hey leaders, when something goes down within your organization, don’t let people blame you.

Step up and blame yourself!

That’s right. Leaders don’t run from blame and they certainly don’t blame other people. Leaders accept the responsibility for the need for change and they lead it! That’s what leaders do.

Leadership guru John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”  There have been times in my career that I have hated that adage. When things are going poorly and the team is not producing, I want to point at someone else and take the pressure off of myself. But it’s my job to lead the team into success. With certain qualifiers, as goes the leader, so goes the team. There will be times when someone else messes up. As the leader, we must be strong enough to shoulder the blame and do what it takes to correct the direction.

I heard a ministries consultant take another angle: If you’ve been at your current appointment for at least 3 years, you own every problem. You can no longer place the blame on your predecessor.  You’ve been there long enough to address it. As the current leader, it’s your duty to deal with it and fix it. We can’t exonerate ourselves from it or abdicate our responsibility.

Let’s use Jesus as our example:

In John 18:10, Simon Peter cut off the ear of Malchus. Jesus rebuked Simon and healed the guy’s ear! He explained that His kingdom was not one of violence.

In Matthew 17:24-27 Peter commits Jesus to paying taxes without consulting Jesus. Again, Jesus fixes the problem.

In Mark 9:14-29, Jesus’ disciples failed to remove a demon spirit from a boy. Jesus took care of the issue and set the boy free.

Notice something – not only did Jesus accept responsibility and fix the problems, He also showed His disciples how to prevent the problems from being repeated. He utilized them in the solution, training them for the future.

I love that! Real leaders are willing to meet a challenge head-on. They do whatever it takes to correct the crisis. They utilize the problem to train their team. And as a result, the team grows in its abilities.

So once again, when something breaks in the organization, don’t find someone else to blame. Just lead the change. That’s what leaders do.


Why It’s Good to be the Minority Sometimes

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When you are the only one in the crowd who looks like you and talks like you, it’s a strange feeling. But it’s a valuable experience for us know what it is like to be really different from everyone else.

This happens occasionally on missions trip. I have had a few experiences where I was alone in a foreign country; I didn’t speak the language and I couldn’t read the signs. This happened to me both in Haiti and in Indonesia. Talk about feeling vulnerable! I tried to make myself as unnoticeable as possible. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself. No eye contact, look confident and brave, try to look tough so as to discourage any would-be thugs looking for an easy mark. And once those experiences were over, it was a huge relief to get back with a more familiar crowd – where I was like everyone else.

The picture above is my 2 year-old granddaughter, Sophia. She is being raised in Central America where her parents direct an orphanage (casashalom.net).  She is the only white child among 70. Blonde hair and blues eyes really stand out. If her family remains there, she will be raised as a member of the minority culture. While she will certainly face challenges because of this, she will grow up with a unique perspective on life.

The more of a minority you are, the more you feel out of place. Well, you are out of place – that’s the point! Stuff happens in your heart when it is painfully obvious that you are not like everyone else.

I think that there is tremendous value in, from time to time, being in the minority:

  • You learn compassion and empathy for people who live this way. Many people spend their entire lives as a minority. They can never truly relax. They are always being profiled. Now you know a little bit about how they feel – there is value in that.
  • You increase your awareness of and sensitivity to the culture around you. You watch others and try to behave as they do. Becoming a part of the people takes top priority. This is a valuable skill for missionaries.  The Apostle Paul discusses this in I Corinthians 9:19-23.
  • You walk carefully, not wanting to offend someone or create a cultural faux pas. One unintentionally rude mannerism can get you into big trouble.  You grow in your ability to relate to other cultures.
  • Your vulnerability keeps your ego in check. It’s hard to be arrogant when everyone thinks you are strange.
  • You learn to appreciate your familiar surroundings. Once you get back home, you can feel the security of your safe zone, and it feels nice.

I believe this also relates to our lives as Christ-followers on this earth. The Bible tells us that we are aliens; we are not citizens of this world (John 17:14, Philippians 3:20, I Peter 2:11).  We must remember that we are out of place here. Let’s not get too comfortable. Let’s not let down our guard. Let’s walk carefully. Remember, we are the minority.

Go for it. Take a trip or put yourself in a situation where you are the one who is different. Be deliberate about it. I think it will change your perspective.


The Pressure is Good for You

images-123Who am I trying to kid? Stress kills, we all know it. Heart disease and addictions and insomnia – with results like these, it’s not sounding all that healthy now, is it?

Zero in on this: When managed properly, pressure makes us produce. Whether the squeeze is a quota to meet at work, a relationship to mend or a temptation to whip, the expectation that we will do well increases the likelihood that we will do well.  It’s in the nature of most of us to want to succeed at the things we try. Those who avoid pressure in all forms are trapped in a rut of intimidation. We need a little pressure to squeeze us out of these ruts.

There are some keys to keeping pressure healthy and to managing the amount of stress that works for our good.

Know how much is enough. You have to be aware of your trigger points. What are the signs that it is getting to you? Just this side of that, back off.

Be in control of it. Never let the pressure control your life. You call the shots, you be the boss of the pressure, not the other way around.

Take a break. Even non-geniuses know you need to vacate sometimes. A daily 20-minute power nap may do the trick or you might need a cruise from time to time. All work and no play makes Jack act like an idiot.

Share the load. One guy can do the work of two but two can do the work of five. Synergy is the principle at work here. Learn the skill of teaming up. The pressure sinks and the productivity skyrockets.

Measure the results. Note where you are now and note where you are after an especially pressure-filled season. You should be markedly ahead. If not, either the pressure managed you or it was unnecessary pressure in the first place.

Come on and admit it – the pressure brings out the best in you (if you don’t let it kill you first!).

Put into play this solid verse from the Bible:  “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” I Corinthians 10:13 (The Message)


Rules that will Keep your Church Building Like New

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Below are some easy to follow rules that will prevent your church building from getting dirty and worn out. Implement these rules and you will have no worries about the carpet wearing out or the paint getting fingerprints on it.

Rule #1: No children allowed! Kids are messy and they spill things. Parents who have small children should be discouraged from allowing them at church until they are old enough to behave themselves.

Rule #2: No activities! Lots of feet are tough on the flooring. More people flushing the toilets increases the water bill. The janitor has to work harder when the building is used. No activities will result in paint and carpeting lasting for 40 years plus.

Rule #3: Members only! The building is not available for use by community groups.  These “outsiders” didn’t pay to build the building and they don’t respect God’s house. Besides, some of them will smoke on the parking lot. (By the way, a couple of well-placed “No Trespassing” signs will send the message to the neighbors).

Rule #4: No multi-use of rooms. Each ministry should have exclusive use of their room and keep the door locked. Be sure to include many signs warning people who are not in that group to “keep their hands off” of the materials and supplies in the respective rooms.

Rule #5: No change of decorations, furniture or room usage allowed! Never consider updating from pews to chairs, from the awesome “mural” in the baptistry to something more modern or creating fresh venues for worship or ministry. If the décor was good enough for grandma, it is good enough for us.

Of course, if you follow these rules, your building won’t be necessary. People won’t come to church. They will find a place that is inviting and will discover a faith family that cares more about them than they do bricks and mortar.

The bottom line is: Ministry is about people, not buildings! While we are not to needlessly abuse the facility, if it is not wearing out, we are not using it to its fullest potential.

What “rules” would you add?