Thursday, February 28, 2008

Inefficiency and Leadership

My week has been very busy. And more inefficient than normal. The inefficiency is due to a young 26 year old man I have been visiting who is dying of cancer. He has two boys ages 8 and 6 and is a single dad - raising these two kids with the help of his mom and dad for half of every week. I have known Brian since he was just a little older than his oldest son. Eventually he would make it into my Youth Group and cause all kinds of problems there! He was a bit of a rebel and would get into some trouble. Throughout his short life I have gotten calls from him or his mom when things were falling apart - substance issues, relationship issues, issues with the law, issues with his landlord. And starting about a year ago - issues with a deadly disease. He began to turn his life around. He made the right decisions, he stopped doing stuff he should have never been doing in the first place, but the disease continued to advance.

Right now the disease is getting the best of Brian. He can't get out of bed - he's lost about 70 pounds. He doesn't have much longer. I have tried to be an example of love and grace for all these years. I have invested a lot of time trying to help. As of yesterday - Brian still wasn't ready to make any kind of faith commitment to God. In a way I can understand. He doesn't see the justice in all of it. Honestly, neither do I.

All I know is that I will continue to spend time and energy on his behalf because his soul and his legacy depend on it. I will continue to make the 30 minute drive each way to visit, I will continue to cry out in prayer, I will continue spending days off to bring food and firewood, I will continue to call attorneys begging for pro-bono work to get his papers in order, I will continue to open the scriptures to him when I see him. And with a task-oriented personality like mine, and with a business-oriented mindset, this kind of work feels inefficient, like I'm not getting my list checked off for the day. When it comes to the soul of another human being - I'll choose inefficiency any day.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I read a great quote the other night. Be careful reading it - it may play with your mind and heart for several days like it has mine...

"Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying." A.W. Tozer

Sunday, February 24, 2008

People Read the Old Testament Wrong (Part 1)

OK - the truth is most people don't read the Old Testament at all. But those who do often view the stories in the OT as isolated instances - stand alone stories with moral lessons almost like Aesop's fables. Therefore, many people know the story of Noah's ark, Jonah and the whale, Joseph and the coat of many colors, David and Goliath, and on and on. Don't get me wrong, there are some lessons to be learned about faith from these individual stories.

But over the last year or so as I've read through the Bible again with a group of guys, I was reminded that the far more beneficial way to read the OT is as a historical narrative. A story of people and generations that are all woven together as part of the same story of God's redemption.

Today was the last week of our SHAPE class at Grace that I had the privilege to teach with Mike Hartle. What a great class! This is the day we talk about experiences and how God often uses our past experiences in life to shape the way we do ministry. I used several scriptural examples of how God does this and I want to post a few of them as reminders of the importance of our experience and at the same time a reminder to read the OT as a historical narrative.

First is the story of SOLOMON. He's famous for answering the big question correctly! God told him he could have anything he wanted and he asked for wisdom. Have you ever wondered why he asked for wisdom? If we view this as a stand-alone story we could come up with all kinds of potential reasons. Maybe he was more spiritual than the rest of us, maybe God inspired him in the moment to respond with this model response. Or maybe we need to think about the backstory for a moment.

Remember who Solomon's mother was? Bathsheba. Yes - that Bathsheba. The one who gave in to the advances of Solomon's dad - David. Solomon was the king that succeeded David on the throne - and I wonder what his growing up years were like listening to the stories about the inappropriate relationship his dad and mom had. He had a front row seat to see how the aftermath of his father's decision affected his ability to lead and rule. Maybe Solomon asked for wisdom so that he wouldn't repeat the mistakes of the past. One of my great desires is to be a student of the past - both my own past and my ministry past - so that I don't repeat the same mistakes again. In the words of a young pastor Steven Furtick:

I don’t mind those I lead making mistakes. In fact, I prefer it. If they’re not making mistakes, they’re probably not playing to win. I just want you to make new mistakes. Different mistakes than you made last time. Mistakes that reveal a new level of effort, or a new frontier of endeavor.

Most leaders don’t mind mistakes. They just can’t stand to see the same mistakes over…and over…and over again. Mistakes are fine (even mandatory) as long as we’re cruising down the open highway. But they make me car sick if we’re simply circling the cul-de-sac.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Names, Prophecies, and Asking the Right Questions

Caleb Isaac - faithful, bold, loyal - laughter
Chase Bradshaw - hunter, gatherer - (also reference to the "chase" after Aslan in the L.W.W.)
Ayden Joy - fiery, happiness

I'm amazed at how much kids live into their names. It's actually very shocking. It's like parents speak these prophetic words into their kids at birth and children live in to, or live up to, those names for the rest of their lives. If you haven't had kids yet - be very intentional about naming them well.

We've prayed life and leadership into our kids the whole way - I have prayed specifically that my kids would grow to be "leaders of men" - that they would "live into God's destiny for their lives" - that they would consistently "show their friends what Jesus is like."

And as a follow-up I have found it to be so important to ask my kids the right questions at the end of the day. Often parents talk about "how was school," and "what did you learn." More and more I've been asking my kids "how were you an example to your friends and teachers today?" and "who did you show Jesus to?" My kids are ready and willing to respond to those types of questions and it has been pretty cool to hear their examples of influence in their schools. The names we give our kids, the prayers we pray for our kids, the nature of the conversations that we have with our kids are critical in helping them to live in to their God-soaked destiny.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Emergent Church

Pastor Al referenced the Emerging Church in his sermon this past weekend. Like all "movements" it is very difficult to define because it has so many facets. I found a helpful chart that kind of maps out some of the new terminology and major players.

You can find more here

The Value of Team

OK - I'm going to give it a shot - to officially get in the blogging game. I'd like to post some musings on leadership in the church, the spiritual life, and some personal stuff along the way.

I foolishly agreed about 4 months ago to be the head coach for my son, Caleb's, 9-11 year old football team. It is an indoor, tackle football league, 11 on 11 with full pads. My dad agreed to help run the team - do the major instruction and practice scheduling - (my dad is a long-time football coach, an all-americal football player from college, a member of several different halls-of-fame, and also played a couple years in the NFL). Needless to say we had the most experienced coaching staff in the league! Anyway- a lot of these kids never played football before and when we hit our first game after only two weeks of practice we were in trouble.

Here's why we were in trouble early on. We decided to teach fundamentals. While other teams were putting in half-back passes and double reverses - we were showing our kids how to make their first step a playside step, how to do their job and their job only, how to reverse pivot on the midline on some plays but not others. We walked in to our first game with only a handful of plays ready, but having made progress on the basics. We got beat 8-6 against a sub par team. We struggled and lost 2 of our first 3 games - but could see our kids slowly "getting it." We have won our last three games 48-14, 52-0, and 66-0. They got it.

Now I swear we don't go to the Belichek school of coaching! We tried our absolute hardest not to run up the score, but it's hard to hold back kids who are just doing the little things right and it leads to touchdowns! Our success is an outgrowth of fundamentals - doing the little things right. Our kids understanding that they don't need to make a tackle on every play -they just need to do what they're supposed to do on every play.

I have learned great leadership lessons from teams. Some of the most poignant to me as of late:
1. The fundamentals of leadership are character related.
2. There is someone who is perfect to do every ministry job - and that someone is probably not me.
3. Do the little things right and the big things take care of themselves (Lombardi)
4. Tell people exactly what their job is and then reward them for doing their job - they will do it with joy even if it's not the job with the most glory.

We have our final game on Friday night at 6:45... i pray you'll take the lessons from running a team and lead well!