From the category archives:

Protecting Your Investment

It’s a common subject of conversation I’ve had with countless people.

If you’re ever more than toe-deep in Church World, eventually the conversation will make its way to the pastor of whatever church.

Your pastor.

My pastor.

You-the-pastor.

He the pastor-wannabe.

And so it goes…

  • I don’t like my pastor.
  • I love my pastor.
  • My pastor’s a jerk.
  • I’m not getting fed by my pastor.
  • My pastor just resigned.
  • I wish my pastor would resign.
  • We’re looking for a new pastor.
  • We have a new pastor coming.
  • My pastor can’t preach.
  • My pastor isn’t very organized.
  • My pastor left under a cloud of suspicion.

Hey, I get it.  I’ve been on both ends of those conversations and have had all of that and more said about me, and often for good reason.  People a lot smarter than I am have done quite a bit of research about members of the clergy, and they have made some startling discoveries.  Care to guess what the most shocking of them all is? [click to continue…]

{ 3 comments }

It was a new day at Grace Church.  A new pastor was coming, and this would be his first weekend.  People were excited, and they needed to be.  Grace had gone through an ugly split that had left a lot of angry, hurt, and confused people in its wake.  A pretty solid plug of people had started Faith Church down the road and had contacted the outgoing pastor from Grace to help them get started.  Some people had left for other churches.  Some people had quit attending anywhere.

One of the walking wounded was a former associate pastor – Chris Naylor.  Chris had received “the right foot of fellowship” from the previous administration.  Though he had found other opportunities for Kingdom service, Chris was still a member – at least on paper – at Grace.

That’s why I was a little surprised when I asked Chris and his wife Rachael if they were going to hear the new guy that weekend, and both immediately, categorically said, “No.”

Ooh.  Sorry I asked.

“My friends think I’m bitter,” Chris added.

“Are you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied honesty.  “How do you balance the fact that on the one hand I love the church and wish nothing but the best for them, but on the other hand, have absolutely no respect for their system of leadership or the choices they have made?”

“I don’t know.”

Chris was just getting warmed up as Rachael was tearing up. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Have you ever woken up first thing in the morning and realized you were in a museum?

And you were what was on display?

You may not have recognized the location at first because everything seemed so real.  You were traveling through one mental display after another of your past life.

Names.

Faces.

Feelings.

Friends.

Sometimes the scenes are wistful and happy reminders of people and days gone by.  Sometimes you’re reliving the glory days.  But sometimes it plays out more like a horror movie or a disaster cleanup.  It’s ugly – and you’re the reason.

It may be a new day on the outside, but in here you’re trapped in the old ones. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

In your Christian practice, do you find yourself drawn more toward law-based living or more to grace-based living?

Students in a class I teach deal with that discussion question.  I always look forward to their answers.  Nearly all of these students are pretty seasoned in their faith, so the overwhelmingly most popular answer is grace-based living.  After all, that’s the “correct” one, right?

Nobody ever gets misty-eyed in church singing, “Amazing Law, how sweet the sound…

There are, of course, some brave souls who cop to law-based living.  Some do it as an aw-shucks-pray-for-me kind of confession.  Some try to reframe the question.  “I prefer to think of it as obedience,” one student said recently.  I like that.

Others crawfish a little more and ask questions like, “Now what do you mean by that?”

See, nobody wants to admit they’re a legalist.  [click to continue…]

{ 6 comments }

The call or opportunity to lead is a call or opportunity for conflict.  I doubt if I’m the first to tell you that, but if so, well, sorry.  That’s certainly true on an interpersonal or team level.   It’s also true organization-wide.  Whether you’re leading a church or a business, a nonprofit or an institution, a state or a nation, the bigger they are, the harder they brawl.  Or squall.

If your goal is to avoid conflict at all costs, let somebody else take the leadership roles, because what you’re saying is that you don’t want to influence anybody.

Assuming you’re still reading, let’s assume that the idea of conflict hasn’t scared you off – at least not yet.  I have good news.  Some of the greatest demonstrations of leadership in history took place when someone rose to face the challenge of seemingly impossible conflicts.  So if your organization is facing competing values and visions, wise leadership can help make it stronger and more successful than ever.  If it’s true that conflict is the moment of truth in any relationship (and I think it is), then the way you lead your organization to face those conflicts sets the course of the organization, sometimes for years.

It’s important to remember that the people in your organization have brains, hearts, and feelings, just as you do.  Resistance to your or the organization’s direction is a way of saying you haven’t communicated the vision clearly.  Or maybe you haven’t anticipated their objections or their priorities.  Maybe you have yet to earn the trust of the people.  Or maybe they are insecure in the roles in which you are asking them to perform.

Here are five ways to work with – not against – the members of your organization to turn conflicts into jumping off points. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Perdido Key, Florida.  I was in a hotel room, desperately reading my Bible, even more desperately crying out to God.  Somewhere along the way I had, well, lost my way.  And I couldn’t find my way back.

Back to a consistently focused walk with God.

Back to a first-love commitment to Jesus.

Back to a sense of spiritual usefulness and power.

Back to a faith that could at least move me, even when it couldn’t move mountains.

Back to the hope that somehow tomorrow could actually be better than today.

I could have told you how to find your way back to wherever you left your path.  But I was lost as last year’s Easter egg when it came to me.

I heard all the things I already knew in my head.  Didn’t help.

I heard all the platitudes and steps and methods I’d told others and they had told me.  Ditto.

I heard all the sermons I had preached to others about coming back to Jesus, and they were profoundly useless to me.

And what I was reading in the Bible wasn’t helping much, either.  I kept reading passages in psalms where David would pray things like, “Vindicate me, O God, because I have walked in my integrity.”

I didn’t have any integrity.  And the last thing I needed to see in that situation was vindication.  Justice either.

In desperation I silently cried out, “God!  Is there a verse in there for the rest of us?”

And He showed me something that changed my life. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

I don’t know what else to call them.  But if they were all in the same vicinity or neighborhood, they’d be part of a ghost town.  They’re usually uninhabitable, with windows and doors gone or broken, and the roof letting in morning sunshine.

There’s at least one near you somewhere, but it may not be as easy to see as the hundreds that dot the wide open landscape near where I live.

Abandoned, but never empty.  For lack of a better term, I call them ghost houses.

Not haunted houses, though I’d rather not wander into one of these things after dark.  Broad open daylight either, for that matter.

Once upon a time these places provided a home for families.  Now they sit empty.  Sometimes the reason is obvious; sometimes it doesn’t make sense at all. Just in the last week I’ve seen several once-lovely and spacious homes now left to the elements, vandals, and critters.

Maybe someone died, and left no heir.  Maybe business dried up or sold out and forced a move.  Maybe the place got tied up in some sort of disagreement in court or with a bank.

Regardless, the end result is the same – empty, eroding testaments to lost usefulness and life.

Oh, if they could talk!  Oh, if they could teach us!

Call me weird (okay, who said that?).  But what started as a years-long fascination has led me to visit and photograph over 200 of these old places over the last week.  Most were houses.  But there are also old stores, gas stations, barns, schools, and even a few abandoned churches.

Some are part of the three certifiable ghost towns I’ve visited (a story for another day).  Most stand alone on the edge of town or in the middle of nowhere.

Nobody built one of these planning for them to sit desolate.  But sit they do.  And while the ghost houses have lost their primary purpose because nobody can actually live or work in them anymore, they being dead still speak.

And no, they’re not hollering, “Boo!”

They’re teaching some powerful lessons that speak to us as individuals and leaders, churches and organizations. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

I once read that among those who run in marathon races, somewhere around the 18th mile to the 22nd mile of that 26-mile run, the runner hits “The Wall.”

(That’s about as close as I’ll ever get to a marathon, other than the three days I just hiked through the Disney jungle, but I digress…)

The Wall is a place so hard that the runner thinks he or she can’t possibly continue the race.  It’s a little uncertain whether The Wall is physical or psychological, but it’s real.  And the temptation to drop out of the race is greater at this point than at any time in the race.  The runner feels he can’t make it.  The lungs burn, the heart pounds, and the runner fights dizziness and nausea.  A little voice begins to whisper (or scream), “Why torture yourself?”

You may not run 26-mile marathons, but if you are a follower of Christ, that fact alone means you are in an endurance race.  And you can expect at times to encounter “The Wall.”

You will find The Wall when you have tried time after time to pray consistently, and have failed. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Have you ever been in a situation where somebody hated you just for showing up?  Maybe you did something really stupid or offensive.  Maybe they hate everybody who shows up.  Maybe they’re picking up somebody else’s offense or acting out long-held prejudices.  Regardless of what set it off, the bottom line is, they don’t like you.

And what’s not to like, right?

Everybody with any intelligence can see how awesome you are.  And yet some arrogant bozo (or bozette) won’t give you the time of day.  Or worse, is outwardly hostile.

What do you do?

Do you out-hostile them?  Or practice your own version of the Cold War?

Do you fire up your iPod with your favorite Willie Whiner and His All-Reject Orchestra tunes and have a pity party?

Do you ask God to whup ‘em or smite ‘em?

Or do you use this as an occasion to facilitate growth, understanding, renewal, and – dare I say it? – respect and friendship? [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Pssst.

Hey.

Yes, you.

We need to talk.  Really I need to talk and you need to just shut up and listen.  I don’t mean to be mean.  But the most elite fighting force in heaven or on earth is spread all around you.  Their shields are up, and nothing can penetrate them.  Their swords are drawn, and no force in hell or on earth can resist them.  And they’re on your side.

And they’re doing absolutely nothing.

Just watching you get your brains beat out by an enemy that is smarter, craftier, and more powerful than you are. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }