Sep 26, 2012

Jack Is Back!

Wondered what Jack Bauer has been doing since he walked away at the end of season 8?

Sep 25, 2012

When Leaders Blow the Call

Last night an epically bad call by replacement officials cost the Green Bay Packers a football game.  I didn't see the end of the game live, but I saw a sudden barrage of tweets as I was going to bed all lamenting the call and calling on Roger Goodell to end the referee holdout.  I saw the play repeated numerous times this morning on several morning shows.  It brought to mind several thoughts.  What do we do when those we trust in leadership let us down?  What are we supposed to think and feel when someone blows a call, not just in a football game, but in a strategic business or church decision?  In reality, this was a football game.  It did cost a team a victory, but lives aren't at stake and financial resources aren't at risk.  Here are some thoughts off the top of my head.  These are questions I think we can learn from moments like this.

1.  Are the right people in place to make the right call? - The first thing we notice from this situation is that the men that were on the field last night in the striped shirts really didn't belong on that field to begin with.  These men love football.  They obviously love to officiate football.  They were hired into this toxic environment because other men are fighting over money and benefits.  But, they are not the right people to be on the field at this time.  They are in this position as a substitute for the right people.

In the church world, we often have the right people in the wrong places or the wrong people in critical places in the organization.  We place people on leadership teams because they are nice people.  Or they are long-time members.  Or they make the most noise.  However, when it comes time to make a decision, they make the wrong decision because they weren't supposed to be in that position to begin with.  I have also seen this dynamic at work in professional ministry.  I am growing increasingly convinced that one of the reasons for high turnover and burnout in the church world is that many who are working in full-time ministry aren't supposed to be there to begin with.  They may love God.  They may love the church.  But passion isn't the sole quality of a leader.  Passion without competency is a naive attempt destined to fail.

2.  Have the people on the field been trained to do their job properly?  The officials that were in the game last night have been trained to officiate football.  However, their training was in a different environment - perhaps high school football, perhaps lower collegiate ranks.  These men were not trained to officiate the complex rules of the NFL at the speed at which this game is played.  In the last few weeks we have seen officials out of position to make calls.  Last night as the play finished, one official signaled one thing and the second signaled the opposite.  One of them look dumfounded at what call to make and was obviously just guessing - and he was the one who guessed right!

It's easy to see these guys weren't trained.  However, in the church world, we are guilty of this all the time.  We ask for people to volunteer to teach a class and then we give them a book and a roll and say "Good luck!"  We don't think through all the complexities of volunteering for a job.  We take for granted that they know many of the same things about the job that we do.  And when they do a poor job, we criticize the leader instead of evaluate the process.  I have been guilty of this far too often.  I have written off some very dedicated leaders early in my ministry because I was pitiful at training volunteers.  We often throw volunteers into the fray without thinking through our policies and training them on how to make critical calls regarding parents, security, answering tough theological questions, etc.   It's so easy to see in other organizations, but often so hard to see in ours because we think we've done all we can do.

On a personal note, let me speak to my pastor friends as well.  If you are in ministry, you need training. You are not an expert just because you have the title of pastor and the biggest office.  Your calling and gifts are not enough.  There is a dangerous trend emerging in ministry where I see a lot of young ministers who are "foregoing" seminary in order to attach themselves to a gifted leader or church and learn from them.  I have heard too many successful pastors belittle the seminary and education process. It is true that a lot of the practical things I learned in ministry, I learned outside of the seminary classroom.  There were many areas of working in the church I felt very unprepared for.  I am grateful that God placed some gifted and seasoned leaders in my life that gave me practical advice and examples.  However, there is also a price that needs to be paid in learning to be a leader.  In older days when a young man apprenticed himself to a tradesman, he spent many hours learning valuable lessons. He paid his dues.  I am afraid that a lot of young leaders are so frustrated with the ineffectiveness of many churches that they impatiently jump over some hoops in the process that will make them better equipped.  If you are called to pastor a church, you are accountable for the theological depth of that congregation.  That will not come from just reading John Piper books.  "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)  I am not suggesting that seminary is a "must" for everyone.  However, don't put off seminary just because you are trying to do "real ministry."  And don't put off stretching yourself with hard training because of fear or laziness.  If you have been to seminary, don't think that your degree is the end of your training.  Be a student of leadership. Find ways to improve your skills.  Create for yourself a personal improvement plan.

3.  What do you do when a obvious mistake is made?  It will be interesting in the next few days to see where this goes.  Fans, players, and coaches are frustrated.  Ultimately, the buck stops in the NFL commissioner's office to get the problem resolved and get the best men in place to call the game.  How will leader's react to such a volatile situation?

I believe one of the critical moments for us as leaders is not how we handle success, but how we handle failure.  What will we do when we make a decision and it backfires?  How will we handle accountability for our decision?  Will we try to spin the issue by saying "We did the best we could with the information at the time"?  Will we stubbornly dig our heels in and insist that the right call was made even when it's obvious to everyone else?  We don't usually have the luxury (or tyranny) of instant replay.  When we as a leader make a mistake, it is often what happens in the next few moments that will define our leadership in the organization.  And, we as leaders make a lot more mistakes than we like to admit.

What other questions come to mind for you about bad leadership decisions at critical times?

Sep 20, 2012

New Trailer for "The Hobbit"

A new trailer was released this week for the new Peter Jackson film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey".  This looks impressive and should be a great flick.

"Refined" Sins

I am leading a Wednesday night class at my church through Jerry Bridges book The Discipline of Grace.  I read this book about five years ago for the first time.  It had a huge impact on helping me rediscover the gospel and the power of grace.  Last night we were discussing chapter 2 in the book "The Pharisee and the Tax Collector".  As the title suggests, it is about Jesus parable in Luke 18.  It is easy on this side of the cross and the New Testament to see the obvious judgmentalism and hypocrisy of the Pharisee.  It's always easier to see Pharisaism in others, but it's often impossible to see in ourselves.

Also in this chapter, Bridges has a very good section on what he calls "refined sins" that we don't often talk about in church.  Here is an excerpt:
"A large part of our problem as evangelical believers is that we have defined sin in its more obvious forms-forms of which we are not guilty.  We think of sin in terms of sexual immorality, drunkenness, lying, cheating, stealing, and murder...Most often our sin problem is in the area I call "refined" sins.  These are the sins of nice people, sins that we can regularly commit and still retain our positions as elders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and yes even full-time Christian workers."
Bridges then goes on to identify some of these more insipid sins that many of us as Christian believers will commit and then quickly excuse or ignore.  One of these is a critical and judgmental spirit.  Bridges talks about how so often we don't take seriously Christ's warning to remove our log before we try to examine the speck in another person's eye.  Many in the Christian church make it a continual part of their character to criticize and put down others, especially other Christians with whom they may have theological differences.  Often I picture the world looking at us like the two curmudgeons from the Muppet Show who never have a kind word to say.  Another refined sin identified by Bridges is gossip, "the endless recounting and passing on of the sins and misfortunes of others.  We seem to get a perverse delight out of being the bearer of bad news about other people."  Bridges reminds us of Paul's admonishment in Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."  If we really take that Scripture seriously, then we are not to use the words of our mouth to ever speak to or about someone unless we are doing it for their benefit and building them up in the faith.  In my opinion, that would solve many of the conflicts we have in churches today.

Bridges also identifies other "refined" sins that are not always frowned on as much in the church.  Some of these include resentment, bitterness, an unforgiving spirit towards others, impatience, and irritability.  Bridges does a masterful job reminding us that while some sins have greater degrees of consequence or horror in our eyes, all sin grieves God.  The sin of gossip grieves God as much as the sin of murder.  The sin of bitterness grieves God as much as the sin of sexual abuse.  We must never make lighter of our sin just because we have done a good job avoiding the "biggies".

Can you think of some other "refined" sins that you can think of that we often tolerate, excuse, or turn a blind eye to in the church?

Sep 14, 2012

Around the Internet

Here are some great posts and articles I think would be well worth the read.

Life: A Fabulous Choice - This is a great post by my friend Jenny Funderburke. I worked with Jenny for many years and didn't know this part of her story.  This is a great post to remind us when demagogues stand up and cheer the ending of life in the name of a "woman's right" that there are much larger things at stake than "rights".

Why Little Kids Need Big Bible Words - I appreciate this post by Trevin Wax.  Trevin is one of the editors for The Gospel Project from Lifeway.  We are using this new curriculum with our kids and youth ministry here at SSBC.  I am glad to know these guys believe that even if the kids can't understand the word now, we are planting seeds for gospel growth later.

I'm Christian...Can I Vote for a Mormon?  This post by Denny Burk has a great video panel discussion from Southern Seminary to help people really understand the foundations of Mormonism and our political tensions as Christ-followers.  This is a vitally important topic that is causing a lot of tension for many in the church.  This video is a must watch.  These guys say it much better than I can.

Last Ounce of Courage - There is a new movie coming out this weekend that you may not have heard about yet.  It's called "Last Ounce of Courage" and it looks pretty good.  There was a free preview here in Alex City last night for pastors, but I couldn't go.  However, I have heard from some of the pastors that went and they highly encouraged us to let people know this is a great movie to see.  If you are looking for a movie to watch this weekend, I would suggest this instead of some junk about demon possession.

I just saw on some other's blog today that a trailer has just been released for the new movie on Lincoln directed by Steven Spielberg coming out this fall.  This looks pretty good.

3-2-1 The Gospel

This is an excellent video I found online that explains the gospel in a powerful way. Use this to remind yourself of the gospel truth and also to share with a friend and co-worker for discussion.

321 from Jeremy Poyner on Vimeo.