Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Real Leaders Hire

   Today I am continuing my look at how real leaders function in today’s world.  This post describes how I have observed the most effective leaders are totally secure in their own skin.  Show me a person in  a leadership position who is insecure and I will predict when chaos will happen.
   There are a number of ways we can tell if a leader is secure.  One way is how he/she relates to the subordinates on his/her staff.  I knew a church in Texas where a very effective associate pastor was in charge of the youth, education and music programs.  The [pastor left for greener pastures and a new pastor came in.  This pastor had been very successful in his west Texas pulpit, but he did not have any staff, other than a part time music director.  Now, he came to the new church and found several staff, people who were loved by the church members.  When you have never had to share the affections of the people , you find yourself getting a bit envious at the way the people treated these staff members.  They actually loved them all, including the associate pastor in charge of education, youth and music.
   This was a new experience for the incoming pastor.  He had never had to share the love of a congregation with anyone else and he did not know how to handle it.  On one occasion the pastor saw the associate pastor speaking to a deacon in the hallway.  He waited until they were finished and then called the associate to his officer, where he lambasted him for “talking about me” to a deacon.  When told they were not talking about him, the pastor insisted on knowing exactly what they were talking about, if not him.  When told, all he could say was, “O.K., then.”  No apology, no remorse, nothing.
   This pastor had a first class associate but could not trust him because he was insecure.  Needless to say, the associate soon left the pastor to himself and went on to a worthy career.  The pastor went nowhere.
   You can tell a great leader by the kind of people he brings on to his staff.  Here is the formula I have seen over and over again.  First class leaders hire first class people.  Second class people hire third class people.  You can see it in churches, businesses, schools…everywhere that leaders function.
   A first class person brings other first class people because that is who God directs.  Second class people often ignore God’s leading and bring to the staff people who will not take the spotlight away from the person in the position of leadership.  They are often incompetent, and will eventually cause problems.
   More churches have been injured in this way than in almost any other.  If a church calls an incompetent pastor, it is likely he will hire incompetent staff and that is the germination of a problem.
  So, yes, you can judge the leader’s competency by the kind of people he hires to assist him.  First class people hire first class people.  Second class people hire third class people.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Three Words All Great Leaders Will Say

For years (more of them than I care to remember) I have watched leaders of all kinds. Political, church, business, etc. are all places where leaders are needed and where they function. I have noticed something about the great leaders. They all possess similar traits.

Almost all leaders I have watched are bold, courageous, visionary, men and women who can think strategically and do not have to run around telling people what a great leader they are.

Every great leader I have known has had the ability to admit when they were wrong. Bold men and women will usually make a mistake somewhere along the line and when they do they should not be punished for it. The really great leaders don't fear punishment, they just do not like to fail. However, people will fail, if they are doing anything at all. They just admit they were wrong, back up and get a new start. Of course, if failure is a constant, that is another thing.

I have learned some things about leadership. First of all, leadership is not about a position. You can put a man in a position of leadership, but if he is not a leader chaos will reign, eventually. That is the very reason we have chaos in a nation or in a church. When you have a non-leader in a position of leadership, he will always resort to authoritarianism to get things done. He starts acting like an emperor or a king. That's when chaos starts.

Another thing I have learned about leadership is that it is a collection of traits, never just one thing. When the people fall in love with one thing a person does well, such as make a speech or a sermon, and puts that person in a position of leadership that requires much more, chaos will reign again. That's where a lot of search committees in churches fail. They get swept away by a great sermon (speech) and they just forget to ask about anything else.

In my lifetime we have elected a few presidents who were magnificent speakers, but lousy leaders. Their administrations were largely ineffective. Failure to understand basic governing techniques has ruined many a president and many a pastor.

I know I have many pastors who read this blog. I want to ask you to consider your own leadership style. In particular, look to see if it is being effective. Are you accomplishing anything you believe is your vision for the church. Is anything happening that would not happen if you were not there?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Are We Living In The Last Hours?

   No less a light than Billy Graham wondered out loud this past week if we are living in the last hours before Jesus comes.  Hardly a day goes by but what we read or see more news stories that make us all wonder if we are not living in the last days.  Story after horrific story continue to bring us to question what we ought to do, or question if there is any hope for our redemption as a nation.
One of the most difficult things for modern Christians is to learn how to function as a Christian in a non-Christian world.  I think I have some good news for you on that point.  The good news is that this is the same dilemma Christians have faced ever since New Testament times.   It was a matter of such import that the Apostle Paul wrote  a letter to a young church in Ephesus to talk to the about just that subject…how to live in a non-Christian world.  Before Paul offered guidance on this subject, though, being the scholar that he was, he sought to first establish a doctrinal foundation, which he did in the first three chapters of his Ephesians letter.  So, he begins by talking about what God has done for those of us in Christ before dealing with how God expects us to live.
Ephesians shows what God has accomplished for believers in Christ and praises God because God had blessed them with every spiritual blessing. Those blessings include a permanent salvation, which is characterized both as redemption and as forgiveness of sin. God had adopted Christians as children and sealed them with the Holy Spirit. Paul described God’s gift of an enduring salvation, a salvation that enabled Christians to live righteous and holy lives.  
   He could have written that letter today.  If he had written it today, I wonder how many of us would have embraced it.  How many of us would live lamenting the goings on in our world and simply forgetting that God is a loving God Who has promised eternal joy and bliss for His people.  If anyone should be optimistic today it is Christian people.  How could anyone who has been given eternal life be overly concerned with this life?  This one is temporary.  The one to come is forever.
   I do not know if we are living in the last hours.  Neither does Billy Graham, even though he wondered about it.  Frankly, I am not nearly as concerned about when we are living as I am about how we are living. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Worship Is A Privilege and a Commandment

Worship: Adoration, love, reverence, respect, devotion, veneration, adulation 

Perhaps no other Christian responsibility is more misunderstood than the concept of worship.  There is so much going on in the church world that is called worship, but which, in my opinion, does not pass the test of true worship.

   Scripture tells us a lot about worship.  Here are just a few passages regarding worship:
·        Exodus 34: 14;  '…for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord …is a jealous God.”
·        Psalm 2:11  “Worship the Lord with reverence.”
·        Psalm 66:4;  “All the earth will worship You, and will sing praises to You;”
·        Matthew 15: 8-9;  “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
·        John 4:24;  “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
·        Philippians 3: 2-3;  “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;  for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ and put no confidence in the flesh,….”
   A careful reading of these texts will teach us all we need to know about worship.  It will also reveal that much of what we call worship does not meet the smell test of real worship.  Too often, what we refer to as worship is nothing more than adulation of a preacher’s sermon or of a great chorale done by the choir and orchestra.  These are not worship at all if the participant in the hearing is not focused on the Lord.  Now, I love a great sermon as much as anyone, but unless I am asking, “Father, what are you trying to teach me with this message?”, it is not really worship.  II love music as much as anyone, but listening to a great choir is not worship unless one is focused on the Lord with all one’s heart and mind.  That means not enjoying the music for the sake of enjoyment, but for what it means in the veneration of our Lord.
  We cannot be thinking about where we will eat lunch and call it worship.  We cannot be asking, “Did I turn the stove off?” and worship at the same time.  Worship requires that we are focused on the Lord and Him alone.  That is why so much of what we do is not worship, even though it was intended to be.  Worship is not what someone else is doing, it is about our focus on the Lord.  The preacher is preaching to everyone and the choir is singing for everyone, but only those who are focused on the Lord are worshipping.
   When we go to church to worship, we are participating in corporate worship, but that should not be the sum of our worship.  Read those verses above once more and see if I am not correct.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not A Time For Blogging

   Sorry about not posting a blog on Wednesday of this week.  My wife of 60 years had knee replacement surgery on Monday and I have not had time to think about blogging.  I will get back to it soon, but for now I need to focus full attention on her.  At this writing (Thursday morning) she is still in the hospital and I am not certain when she will be coming home.  Please bear with me and pray for Martha's recovery.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doing Evil In God’s Name

   Very little in our world demonstrates evil more than  an individual or group committing atrocities in the name of God.  That is pretty much what Jihadists are doing all across our world.  The latest group calls themselves ISIS or ISIL, basically calling themselves an Islamist state.  At this point their territory seems to be about half of Syria and one third of Iraq.  It almost seems that this group is emboldened by our president’s oft repeated “no boots on the ground” mantra.  Without having to fear an American military force, ISIS or ISIL commits its atrocities on the innocent and the ill-equipped militias they have thus far encountered.
   Were it not for our country’s leaders constantly telegraphing that we will not send military into the fray, this Jihadist group might fear we will battle them, but in the meantime feels emboldened to have their way against the unarmed or unabled.   We just keep on telling them what we will and, more importantly, what we will NOT do.  Meanwhile, we continue with the minimal drone and air strikes, which, though limited, have already made a difference.
   Back to the point of this post.  ISIS is not the first group to do evil in the name of God.  Frankly, even so-called Christians have done the same.  Just think about the French history, when a cardinal of the Catholic church  led what has become known as the Inquisition.  Thousands of people were put to death on the order of Cardinal Richelieu, who wielded almost absolute power over the life and death of those he considered enemies of the church….his church.  Even though Rome disapproved of the cardinals actions, he still committed evil acts in the name of the church.
   Doing evil in the name of God can be seen in modern times, not only in the Middle East, but inside the doors of the church.  We have all heard preachers stand in their pulpit and tell the world that, “God told me to…..”  in reference to acts of sinfulness.  Too often preachers have mistaken their own pride for the voice of God.  I have seen people’s church membership terminated by some of these preachers for nothing more than  committing the sinful act of disagreeing with the pastor.   
   If you find yourself in a church where one person stands as the arbiter of what is right and what is wrong, run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit and get out of there.  You are in a situation that is no better than what ISIS is doing, slaying all who disagree with their version of their religion.  Do you really think Jesus wants His name associated with a church like that?


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Lost Art Of Witnessing

    “…you shall be my witnesses….” Acts 1:8

   Family members of ours attend worship at Life Church, which is a teleconferencing kind of church.  In other words, the person who started the Life Church movement preaches in Edmond, Oklahoma, but he is seen and heard in 199 other locations across, Oklahoma and Texas, and perhaps other states.  As I understand it, each of the 200 locations has a pastor who shepherd the flock in that location, but the preaching is done from Edmond, the home church.  This past Sunday the 200 congregations of Life Church baptized 3,000 people, and average of 15 per location  That is a phenomenal record of achievement of the most important thing a church should do, bring people to Christ.  I commend the Life Church movement for what they are doing.  At the same time, I recognize that too many churches in my own denomination have gone more than  a year without baptizing a single convert.
   Going a year without a convert is not an issue if the people of that congregation are faithfully witnessing.  After all, Hudson Taylor went five years without a convert after going to Burma as one of the first missionaries of the modern missions movement.  Converts are the business of the Holy Spirit, not the church members.  The business of the congregation is to obey the command of our Lord, as seen above, to be witnesses of His grace.  My own experience has taught me that if we were all being the witnesses we should be, there is no way a church could not be baptizing new converts on a regular basis.
   Back in the 50’s churches were always having what they called “soul-winning” training.  A Baptist preacher named Gene Edwards wrote a number of books on the subject, books that were taught in many churches in week-long studies in how to lead people to Jesus.  One of those books, Soul Winning Made Easy, taught a methodology one could memorize and use to “lead” people to Jesus.  Truthfully, it was an exercise in mental gymnastics designed to trap people into answer “yes” to a series of questions, the last of which was “Will you accept Jesus as your Savior?” .  Because of the way he had answered all the preceding questions there was no way for him to gracefully say “No” to that question.  When he answered “Yes” we would consider him saved, and rejoice.
   That is not what Jesus was talking about when He told us to be His witnesses.  He wasn’t talking about memorization of a foolproof method for bringing people to Jesus.  All Jesus wanted His disciples to do was to deliver an honest testimony of what the Lord’s grace has done in our lives.  If you are a person who organizes their thoughts, think of it as being this kind of testimony:  First tell what your life was like before Jesus came into it.  Then, tell how Jesus came into your life.  Finally, tell what your life has been like since Jesus came into it.
   In discipleship language a witness is someone who gives first-hand testimony of an event he/she experienced.  This is the art we have lost.  We are just not witnessing as we should or as we once did.  If we were, the baptismal waters would be stirred regularly. At least, that is what I believe.  With whom have you shared your experience with Christ this week?