Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Refresh, Rebuild or Reboot

It's important for a leader to know whether it's time to refresh, rebuild or reboot. 

Before I was a lead pastor, I hadn't noticed the cycles of church life like I did once I was "the guy in charge." The first Memorial Day weekend followed by the summer slump of June freaked me out. Where is everybody? Will they come back? What did I do wrong? I talked with a more seasoned pastor who told me, "This is normal. People need to get refreshed. They will be back. Now relax the tightness in your chest and make sure you get refreshed too."

I'm not a great guitar player but I play a little. One thing the pros told me is that if you have a well-built guitar, it's important to loosen the strings especially when you fly. At 30,000 ft. the altitude changes and pressure changes of a cabin can bow the neck of a guitar if you leave the strings tight the whole time. 

I've found the same thing to be true in life. We need to loosen the strings and get refreshed. When we've been flying high for awhile, the strings of our lives can bow the back, bow the neck and even sometimes, break the heart. 

Every sport has a season when they relax the strings, both literally and figuratively. Why? Because they know you can't keep the hamstrings tight all year long! That first string team needs rest. Those muscles need a break so they can be refreshed. The fans need a break. The coach needs a break. Then when they come back next season they have a refreshed hope and expectation for a new season. 

  • Dad, your son needs a break from competition. Let him relax the strings and be refreshed.
  • Teacher, your students need to loosen the strings in the mind. 
  • Pastor, your church leadership needs to loosen the strings and be refreshed. Give the choir a break. Give the weekly chapels a break. Give the musicians a break. Give the staff a break.
Relax. Loosen the strings a bit so the necks will not be bowed. 

Then when they come back they will be refreshed. Even computer screens need to be refreshed!

Next time, we will look at the second word: rebuild.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Effects of the Resurrection

For many Christians around the world, the remembrance of the Resurrection was last weekend. But Christians should be careful not to just move on to, "What's next in the calendar?" 

Christ has been raised!

When Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 15, he doesn't say, "Christ was raised." Rather, he uses the perfect passive tense which means that an event happened for which we are still feeling the results! Subtle but important distinction. 

For Paul the point of the resurrection is not simply that the creator god has done something remarkable for one solitary individual (as people today sometimes imagine is the supposed thrust of the Easter proclamation), but that, in and through the resurrection, ‘the present evil age’ has been invaded by the ‘age to come', the time of restoration, return, covenant renewal, and forgiveness. An event has occurred as a result of which the world is a different place, and human beings have the new possibility to become a different kind of people.[i]

That's good stuff for a Monday morning! 

[i]Ciampa, R. E., & Rosner, B. S. (2010). The First Letter to the Corinthians (p. 756). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

God Doesn't Waste Your Waiting

I've spent a lot of my lifetime waiting. Much of it while complaining. (Is it coincidental that those two words rhyme?) I'm not a great wait-er. Like one pastor said, "If you're at the grocery store and see me in line, don't get behind me. You'll wait longer than ever because God seems to put me in places where He teaches me to wait. So if you're looking for the fast lane, don't follow me." Man, I can relate.

Our church sets aside 21 days in January for prayer. We pray on Wednesday evenings like we always do, but it becomes more intentional and shall I say "passionate?" during those 21 days. Some people fast their lunch hour and spend it in prayer at the church. Some gather on Saturday morning for an hour and pray together. It's really a blessed time that I look forward to and I usually come out of those 21 Days with renewed passion and vision. 

But then there's that not so fun part: waiting. Pray and wait. Wait and pray. Hopefulness. Weariness. Despair. Fight. Believe. Pray some more and...wait. 

But here's something I'm learning: God doesn't waste your waiting. It feels like wasted time to me. (Shouldn't I be doing something? Did God not hear me? Did I not pray "in faith"?) But not one minute of wait time is wasted time. 

Like Moses...you may wait in the desert of Midian until you are completely prepared for deliverance from your Egypt.

Like Paul...you may wait for God to take away the "thorn" but God is using that waiting in weakness to reveal His strength.

Like Mary and Martha...you may wait for Jesus to come as Healer (of Lazarus) but God is coming as Resurrection and the Life.

No. God doesn't wait my waiting. Even if I wait until the end of this life, it isn't the end. As C.S. Lewis wrote in the Chronicles of Narnia,

And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever; in which every chapter is better than the one before. (C.S. Lewis "The Last Battle")

Thursday, November 05, 2015


It's a question I'm asked as a pastor more than any other. I've asked it too. Most of the time, I think this question comes from a good motive. We want to know that our choice pleases God. We want our lives to count and for our days to have significance. 

But it can also come from a passive stance: maybe the truth is I want someone else to make the decision for me so I can be off the hook of responsibility? If it doesn't turn out like I thought, I don't have to blame myself. I can chalk one up to "God's choice for me includes suffering." Or, I simply don't want to put the time into seeking wise counsel from people who have walked where I've walked, read the stories of those who had similar decisions before them or set aside the time to seek the Lord and examine my motives in the light of the Scripture and the Holy Spirit. 

Without equivocation, I can name one thing for certain that is God's will. It's found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: 

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification..."

Paul the apostle, is emphatic. Know this: God's will is for you to be "made holy." The mission of the Holy Spirit in your life is that your body, your mind, and your spirit are set apart for His purposes. He wants you to glorify God through your vocation, marriage, money and ministry. This is God's will for you. 

I've found it helpful to change my prayer from, "God what do you want me to do?" to "God which of these paths will make me more like Your Son?" Or, instead of asking, "God, which path should I take?" ask, "God, which path leads toward glorifying You? Toward holiness?"

"Many Christians feel more comfortable with the idea that apart from Christ they can do nothing, than they do with the other side of that coin: that they can do all things through Him who strengthens them. ‘I can do nothing’ lets me off the hook; ‘I can do all things’ makes me wonder why I'm not doing anything. It's easier to piddle around wondering whether it's God's will that you rent this apartment or that one, than it is to face up to God's ultimate will for you: that you become conformed to the image of His Son." (John Boykin in The Gospel of Coincidence, pg 168.)

Ouch. I've been there. I've piddled around with those kinds of questions. Pulling back to ask the larger question is harder and more probing. But here's what I know: it's one thing that's certain in every decision. For the Christ-follower, I can know that God's desire is that I become a reflection of Jesus. 

Imagine how this could shape your decisions regarding: 
  • Which person should I date?
  • Which job should I take? 
  • Where should we go to church? 
  • Should I lead a life group 
Here's where you can find some clarity: this is God's will, your sanctification.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Yesterday I heard another story of failed leadership in a mega church. It's heartbreaking because I love the church of Jesus. I take no pleasure in the failure of any high-profile leader. 

The story goes something like this: 

A strong Lead Pastor decides he wants to travel more and devote himself to national ministry. The student ministry is booming and the young leader has wide impact among the students and young families. So the Lead Pastor installs the student minister as campus pastor and the Lead Pastor moves to more of an overseer role. What happens next is crazy. The newly-minted Pastor overhauls the staff. He moves most of what he would call the "old guard" out and replaces them with his young homies that he has done life with in student ministry. He goes on a "change everything" binge. He closes his ears to wise elders, seeing himself as young, innovative and moving the church forward toward much needed change. Of course, you know how the story ends. The church goes into a tailspin. Long-standing members fearful of the fast changes flee the church like a party that's just heard the word "Fire!" The young pastor thinking the problem is the sheep, exerts himself even stronger. What follows is a few angry outbursts against the remaining team until the overseer steps back in and recommends that he get a therapist. The overseer begins the arduous task of cleanup. After several years, the church has rebounded and the next transition is on the horizon. 

So what do we learn from this? Young Leaders must seek to serve, first, and seek to be an innovator, second. 

Reading today in 1 Kings 12, I found case and point. Rehoboam is Solomon's son who steps in as king. A prophet has already prophesied that the kingdom will be divided because of Solomon's divided heart. But how will this awful tragedy happen? Through Rehoboam's folly. Rehoboam is approached by the leaders, 

“Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” 1 Kings 12:4. 

Rehoboam says, 'Let me think on it for three days.' He seeks counsel from the "old guard" that was with his father Solomon and asks them what they think. 

And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” (1 Ki. 12.7) Good counsel!

But what does the young leader do? He goes to his young homies and asks them what they think, 

 And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,’ thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father's thighs. (1 Ki. 12:10)

In other words, tell them, "You think you had it rough before? I'm going to show you what strong leadership looks like! There's going to be some changes 'round here!" 

Rehoboam likes the sound of this. This is more his style. He listens and heeds the advice of these upstarts. And just as the prophet had foretold, the kingdom is thrown into full-scale civil war. A kingdom is divided, families are broken, and carnage ensues. How the story would have been different had he listened to the sage advice of the old guys! How much heartbreak could have been avoided had he gone with the wisdom of experience!

Young leader, seek to be a servant, first. A wise old man once told me, "When you become a pastor, don't make any changes for the first six months. Listen to the sheep. Serve them. Love them. Then, in time, they will trust your voice and you can begin the process of change. But do it slowly and they will follow you." Wise stuff. 

The same applies to any of you who are entering a new position. Are you stepping into higher leadership? Replacing a previous executive? New owner of an older establishment? Seek to serve. Listen to what the long-standing problems are. Are the employees frustrated over a copier that doesn't work? Are they nickel-and-dime'd with receipts for pens and donuts? Fix those issues. It will go a long way toward letting them know that you listen and you care. 

How about you? Have you seen similar horror stories? Or better yet, have you watched a new leader come in with a servant's heart and listen well? Sound off.