Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The pain of leadership

i read an article this morning that challenged me to evaluate my leadership by asking the question, “what do i need to stop doing?”. this is a good question. the worth of our leadership (maybe our entire lives, also) is defined not just by what we do, but also by what we don’t do.

as i read about the lives and impact of great men and women throughout the ages, especially great leaders, one of the characteristics they share is the ability to stay focused on the goal…to strip away the things that keep them from achieving their dreams and forge ahead with singlemindedness.

the apostle paul lived this kind of life.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

now, here’s where my struggle is this morning… great leaders, in order to achieve great outcomes, must make difficult decisions where relationships (sometimes significant relationships) are the casualties.

this is obvious in the corporate world. ceo’s are hired for their ability to make strong and swift assessments and are rewarded for their resolve and determination to be decisive when it comes to the success of the organization. a company that exceeds expectations and rises above the riff raff of mediocrity almost always points to leadership that has had to come in and make the “tough decisions”.

in my experience, that means people are hurt, relationships are severed, dreams are squashed, and friendships are sent packing…all for the good of the corporation.

don’t get me wrong. i understand the need. baseball coaches have to cut players that are not good enough and replace them with better ones if they want to win. businesses must get rid of poor producers and raise up more successful sales people if they want to turn a profit. bosses need to be bosses…and employees need to know that their jobs are not safe just because their superiors are “nice guys” or “nice women”. i get it.

but what is supposed to happen in the church? what are we to do when the workers are late or sloppy or ineffective or careless or thoughtless or inconsiderate or unconcerned? what are we to do when the product we present is second-rate or offensive? what if the ministry we perform is substandard or even harmful to the mission? what if there is disagreement with the direction of organization or a challenge to the leadership position?

what if, in our effort to fix the problem, people get hurt and relationships get torn and friendships get shattered? what if, in spite of our best effort, decisions result in people leaving?

apparently, a strong leader says that the greater good has been served. what do you say?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


this past sunday, i talked about prayer. even doing my post-sunday, armchair-quarterback analysis of the event is still difficult. prayer is the most dramatic, intimate, mysterious, and defining moment in a disciple's life. it says more about who we are and about who god is (to us) than anything else we do on our journey. prayer is hallowed ground. prayer is the secret place.
  • prayer is an act of remembrance...
  • prayer is refocus...
  • prayer is an expression of faith...that which i cannot see (or feel) is non-the-less real...
  • prayer is realignment...
  • prayer is a command...it puts me in the right place!
  • prayer reprioritizes...it puts my issues in the right place...underneath the umbrella of god's greater issues.

more than anything else, prayer is recognizing that i am not in control. no matter how hard i try, i can’t do it! prayer is acknowledging that i cannot do it on my own…no matter what “it” is. prayer is where i willingly admit that i don’t know what’s best for my life (or anybody else’s life, for that matter), but god does. prayer is admitting that am human, that am weak, and that i’m really not too bright.

i am reminded, everyday, that people make bad decisions. decisions that hurt others and mess up lives and make mockery of god's grace and god's law. i see the effects of people living "out of control". god help us. amen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Giving our money 4

here's another thought about giving money from paul's second letter to the christians in corinth...

the churches in macedonia had collected money to give to struggling christians in jersusalem. in this passage, paul expresses what the real motive is for giving money:

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little." 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

as foreign as it sounds, the desire is for equality among believers. sometimes, god blesses people with a great deal of resources...while at the same time, there may be others that are in great need. the goal is for everybody to have their needs met (equality). sometimes, you will give out of your supply. sometimes, others will give out of their supply...maybe even to you!

it's kind of fascinating to me that paul's first goal is not to meet needs, but to experience equality. do you realize that the great "equalizer" is not what you make, but what you give?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Giving our money 3

i hear he's a free agent...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Giving our money 2

the apostle paul writes some amazing things about generosity in his second letter to the followers of christ in corinth. the macedonian churches had stepped up to financially provide for the church in jerusalem. paul uses that situation to teach us about giving in chapters eight and nine. here's one of his lessons:

Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 2 Corinthians 8:10-12

wow! can you imagine being the first one to give? and not just to do it, but to really want to do it? more than anything else, giving is a matter of the heart. but it isn't just a good intention or a willingness to do it, but it is actually the completion of it. we aren't to talk about giving. we aren't to hope to give. it's not enough to want to do it. we've got to do it!

the cool part about giving, though, is that it is to be done according to our means. god doesn't ask us to give what we don't have. he doesn't ask us to give above our income. he just says to do it in relationship to what we do have. if there is good heart, the worth of gift is judged by what we have...not by what we don't have or what our neighbors have or by what the person sitting next to you in worship has.

i think it's pretty comforting to know that, even though giving is required, it is never burdensome, never unfair, never taxing, and never unrealistic. god would never do it that way.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Giving our money

This past Sunday, I talked about why giving my money matters to me. Here's a look back...

It’s part of our heritage. God’s people have always taken care of God’s business. In the OT, God required it. In the NT, Jesus modeled it. I am a direct descendant of a giving God. I am related to those who left all behind to follow. I pursue the path of those who lived lives of generosity.

It reaffirms that it’s all God’s anyway. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 1 Chronicles 29:11

It has always been a tangible way to teach our kids (and anyone else’s) where our priorities really are. It put our money where our mouth was. We showed them that our faith meant business. When we said that we would seek God’s Kingdom first, they knew what that meant, because they saw how we directed our money. Giving our money showed them one of the most important ways we shared in the responsibility of being part of the family!

It has trained us to live on less…and put us in a place to give more. Giving our money to God (through the ministry of our church family) has always been a planned decision. Often, we have had to go without things we wanted, because we made a commitment. But, because it was planned, we did it. And we've always been able to give beyond…and God has always taken care of us!

Giving our money puts us in a place where we have to trust God. We (all of us)are an educated, talented, privileged people. It is easy to trust our ingenuity, our hard work, our training, our instincts, our experience, our abilities. But we are to trust God. One of the most tangible and life-changing ways to do that is to give enough of our money that we really have to trust God for something!

The best of all…When we give, we are blessed. All of those things we talk about and preach about and dream about and wish were happening in our spiritual lives begin to happen. Giving our money is powerful.

Check back in the days ahead. I promise I'll give you more to think about...