17Jan

Working Together

Ron Quint is a great minister and a close friend of mine. At a recent leadership conference, he taught an incredibly insightful class entitled Working Together. Below are some of his thoughts as well as concepts he shared from the book Polarity Management, which was written by Barry Johnson, PH.D.

                                                                                           

                    Working Together: Diversity, Dysfunction, and Transformation

   Introduction

  1. USA Pre-911 Intelligence Reports – The stakes are high in working or not working together.
  2. Working together is not easy and must often be done in the context of great complexity.
  3. Working together will demand that we all grow.

I.  Defining Moment  

    a. Described in Acts 15, the Jerusalem Council was one of the truly great moments in church history. It averted what could have been a movement destroying rift and produced an amazing plan to move forward that unified the church at this formative and fragile moment. It fostered unity in a faith community characterized by diversity. It was a victory for teamwork, for what can happen when God’s people work together to handle powerful forces that surge through the church.

     b. Paul and Barnabus were key leaders in the above mentioned process. It was they who ventured into and really pushed the envelope into the Gentile world. It was they who converted large number of Gentiles and shifted the conversation. It was they who pioneered the sensibility that there would be a different way of thinking about Gentiles who were converted as compared to Jews who were converted. What an amazing partnership and what a testimony to unity and teamwork.

II.  Sharp Disagreement

     a. 36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.'” Acts 15:36-41 (NIV)

     b. Their conflict that grew out of a genuine desire to serve God. It came out of the context of two powerful personalities with passionate convictions trying to work together and reaching an impasse.

    c. You’ve got to appreciate how real the Holy Spirit keeps things in His record of God’s people.

III.  The Paul and Barnabas Conflict

      1.  Different views of how to get the work done

          a. Barnabas – about the person… take time, be patient, help Mark grow … let’s listen to the person.

        b. Paul – about the plan… be urgent, cover more ground faster, reach more souls quickly… let’s listen to God.

IV.  Polarity Management

     a. Barnabas’ desire to slow down and help Mark grow…Paul’s desire to speed up and cover more ground… an example of a polarity… not a problem to solve but a tension to manage… different aspects of a bot h/and situation… not an either/or dilemma.

   b. Other examples of polarities we face: local ministry focus/collective ministry and collaboration and partnership between churches in a region, reach new people/help disciples mature, work together as a team/enable individuals to find their gifts and dreams…keeping our doctrine pure and being true to our heritage/learning from other groups, growing and staying relevant to an ever changing world.

     c. Polarities bring forth two kinds of leaders: Tradition Bearers and Crusaders… Tradition Bearers emphasis the good of how we have always done things….Crusaders tap in to the desire and need for change.

    d. They need to learn to talk to each other… the need to appreciate the convictions and/or fears that drive their perspective…the vision that they are seeking to fulfill.

    e. They need to open both/and scenarios rather than either/or challenges.

      Conclusion

      1. It is a sign of immaturity among God’s people when we cannot appreciate the different range of perspectives in ministry and value them all and make room for them all.

      2.  The great overall, non-negotiable, preeminent quality we must have in dealing with each other is love. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)

      3.  “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11 (NIV).  Isn’t this what Barnabas wanted Paul to see so many years before? Let’s take Mark with us because he will be useful to the mission. But Paul couldn’t see it then. Now he sees it.

           Mark it down. Some things you are resisting now you will grow to appreciate over time. Wouldn’t it be great if we could close the loop a bit on the learning curve on these things, take the edge off our differences, and bless God’s people with the benefit of the divergent perspectives we all bring to the table.

           What had taken place in Paul’s life for him to change so much in his view of Mark. In Acts 15 he was so strong in his position about Mark that he broke with Barnabas over it. Now, lonely, isolated, and broken, he sees his need for Mark. In this need we see the true strength of the church.

            How was it that Mark would have been useful to Paul? What did he have to bring? Well, all he did was give us one of the four gospel accounts of the life of Jesus. All he did was preserve the very stories, words, and actions of Jesus! Yes, I’d say that he proved pretty useful.

      4.  So it is with our working together. We may have situations that we just need to accept that we are not yet ready to work together. We need to allow some distance. Unity in these situations looks like space and room to work at ministry with different sensibilities. But we need to know that this is not where God’ wants us to stay. He wants us to get to the place where, even with the people we are in the most “sharp disagreement” with, we can say, “you are useful to me; I need you; let’s work together.”

10Dec

In Honor of Madiba

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Romans 13:7 (NIV)

Nelson Mandela was arguably the greatest global citizen, world leader, nation healer, humanitarian, and exemplar of Christ-like forgiveness, of the last half of the 20th century.

He chose to remain imprisoned until all of South Africa was free. He chose reconciliation when human nature called for retaliation. He chose generosity of spirit and warmth of heart over suspicion and bitterness. He chose Christ-like love over free flowing hate. Incarceration, instead of breaking him, ennobled him.

Borrowing a famous phrase from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Obama said this of Mandela: “…he took the moral arc of the universe in his hands and bent it toward justice.”

Truth be told, I can’t conceive of how Mandela grew so much as a person in such a prolonged a state of deprivation. He had to have been chosen for such a time as that. What a will, what a mind, what a heart, what a legacy.

Many want to change the world. Very few actually have or will. Madiba did, for our age and those to come. We are different people and a different people because of him. Thank God for Nelson Mandela and those like him.

11Nov

Hold On

This is one of my favorite pictures. It was taken by Stanley Hall on August 31, 1954.  Here is the original caption: “A passerby holds on to a tree for support as the hurricane swept waves hammer the sea wall adjacent to the Belt Parkway near 72nd Street in Brooklyn. The New York area and the New Jersey coastline were battered by Hurricane Carol as heavy rains and fierce winds disrupted power lines, felled trees and tangled air and highway traffic. The eye of the hurricane, which originated in the Caribbean, passed the Hamptons on Long Island. An estimated 175,000 persons were left without light and telephone service and thousands of persons evacuated summer bungalows along the southern shore. Gusts of 60 mph were reported in New York City, and 48,000 homes were without electricity.”

The interesting thing to me is that though the storm disrupted hundreds of thousands of lives and did million of dollars worth of damage, it eventually passed. Life in the area of Brooklyn that the hurricane damaged goes on to this day.  It’s a reminder to that no matter how badly the storm I may find myself in is raging, it too will eventually pass.

When I look back, I regret the times that I let go of the tree in the middle of a storm and got blown backwards, erasing the spiritual progress I’d previously made. We and I can keep covering the same ground spiritually because we let go and regress to where we were months or years ago. Then we spend our time trying to claw our way back. I’m thankful for the times when I’ve just held on for dear life. Then I was able to make progress and gain ground once the storm ended, rather than having to make up ground I’d lost. Surely, the grace to hold on when everything in you wants to let go is one of God’s greatest gifts.   

Robby and Robin Noll are real life heroes in our church family. He was our first baptism, on October 1, 1989. Two weeks ago yesterday and 24 years to the month when he was baptized he and Robin and others were able to baptize their 15 year old son Austin!  He is a remarkable young man who is known for his spiritual maturity and dependence on God through prayer, among many other great things. In addition, the Nolls recently adopted a four year old girl and a three year old boy.  Austin has been incredibly enthusiastic about being a big brother to them. Now they are one big crazy happy family! If you knew the Noll’s story and all that they’ve had to overcome, you’d be amazed. God does great work!

The point of all this is that you never know what miracles are on the other side of whatever storm you’re currently in. Yeah yeah, I know it’s easy to say this stuff when the sun is shining in your life and everything is great.  I’ve experience and seen others go through all kinds of seasons and I’m telling you, don’t let go! As David wrote and sang, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.” So I say again, hold on. “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.”

11Oct

David & Goliath Redux

Malcolm Gladwell is on of my favorite authors and speakers. His new book is entitled David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. The observations and insights he shares, about this beloved Old Testament narrative and life in general, are really interesting. Check out the interview in this article about the book and the short video below. You may have found your next great read of 2013.

11Sep

The Sandwich Generation

A while back, I was in an assisted living community and noticed a poster advertising a support group for people in the Sandwich Generation. Though I didn’t remember having ever heard that phrase before, I immediately and intuitively knew what it meant. Just to be sure, I “Googled” it and found it to describe the demographic of young and middle-aged  who are caring for their aging parents while also raising their children at home. So many Baby Boomers and Generation Xers know exactly what that feels like.

Recently, I read where China passed a law mandating that their citizens who were adult children had to visit their elderly parents on regular basis or pay a fine.  No that’s sad. To neglect those who got us to where we are because they can no longer provide us what they once did is so wrong. Part of the circle of life involves role reversal. The cared for become the caregivers and those who were once caregivers become the cared for.

Though the parallels are not exact at every point, I feel as though we as the leaders of the fellowship of churches of which I’m a part are in their own spiritual “sandwich generation.”  We must passionately reach out to the Millennial Generation and, as David sang, commend the works of God to the next generation. It necessitates expressing the eternal, unchanging message of Christ’s love in a way that connects with people in a confusing and ever changing culture. It also means being incredibly creative and culturally aware in our youth ministries, college ministries, and 20-something ministries, etc. We are unapologetically focusing on this as a church, for this fall season and in the future.

At the same time we are called to honor, continually renew, inspire, and empower our founding members who have heroically helped build our churches and have been faithful Christ followers for 10, 15, 20, or 30 years, and beyond. To neglect, ignore, or minimize these spiritual pillars would be unconscionable. Creatively winning the next generation and artfully re-envisioning our founding generation is the current challenge before us.

A good friend of mine who is an elder recently shared that he misses singing some of the congregational songs that came to mean so much to him decades ago as he was helping build God’s church. He then said that he realized that “he had his time” and that today is a new day and in that sense the next generation’s time. Solomon wrote that “there is a time for everything and a season for activity under heaven.” God help us sense in what season we find ourselves currently and which one is just around the corner. As with any relay race, knowing when and how to “pass the baton” is everything.

 

12Aug

Welcome to Holland

What do you do when the destination at which you have arrived in life is not where you planned to be? Some end up where the thought they would but many don’t. Those who don’t experience disappointment, be it mild of debilitating. Whether it’s a careen turn that didn’t work out, a relationship that went south, a health difficulty, a career ending injury, a financial hardship, an unexpected tragedy, or life in general wearing you down year after year, knowing what to do with in these situations isn’t automatic. Some tell themselves to just let it go or get over it. Others rehearse it for years and are stuck in a season of life that has long past. I think that how we process disappointment in life is one of the main factors that determine how much God can do in our lives and how things turn out for us.

Christ followers wrestle with the tension between having and managing expectations and living by faith in anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promises to them.  The New Testament writer who wrote to the Hebrews wrote that “faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.” On the other hand, Wayne and Clay Jacobsen in their book Authentic Relationships famously wrote that “expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” Even though going with the biblical author is the obvious choice, the truth of the Jacobsen’s statement is undeniable. I personally vacillate between the two positions; idealist and cynic, dreamer and doubter, positive thinker and pessimist. 

My favorite line in Benjamin And Roseamund Stone Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility  is “a cynic, after all, is a passionate person who does not want to be disappointed again.” Something about that statement pierces my heart. What I’ve found is that just about every person is passionate about something. It just gets beaten out of us. The Zander’s go on to write that “the secret is not to speak a person’s cynicism, but to speak to (his or) her passion.” I think that God’s truth, spoken with conviction, does that in our hearts. That voice that you hear that won’t let you stop believing for better, even though you’re barely hanging on, is God’s. Keep listening to it. I think we’re called to manage our expectations of others and ourselves while holding on, for dear life, to the promises of God. If we let go and give up, we’ll never know where the Spirit would have eventually led us.

I recently found a great resource in facing and dealing with disappointment. In 1987, Emily Perl Kingsley wrote an essay called Welcome to Holland.  Its purpose was to try to explain what the experience having a child with a disability is like.  Renay Jones did a reading of the essay in 2009 and posted a video of the reading, along with graphics and a special performance, on YouTube. Check out this short 3:46 video. I guarantee it’ll inspire you, present some solutions, and make you think.

 

10Jul

One Rebound Away

No, I don’t have any deep spiritual content for this month’s blog. Some of you are thinking: “that’s nothing new.”

Yes, I’m still sad about how the San Antonio Spurs lost to the Miami Heat in game six of this year’s NBA Finals.

No, I am not a big Spurs fan, though I think they are a model franchise, respect them, and think Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and the team were and are amazing.

Yes, I am happy for the Miami Heat, think that LeBron is the best player, am impressed that D-Wade, etc. stepped up when he had to, admired Chris Bosh’s presence of mind to get the rebound and make the right pass, and congratulate Ray Allen on hitting the biggest three of his life.

I guess I just hate to see anyone squander a golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I know they have worked long and hard to achieve. Maybe it reminds me of how cruel life’s twists and hair pin turns can be. In sports, as in life, you can go from cementing your legacy to losing a game that will haunt you the rest of your life, in 28 seconds. Losing a game is one thing. Winning a championship and then giving it away to the other team is another. One rebound away…one free throw away…Arrggh!

Yes I know that these are rich guys with rich people problems. They’re making tens of millions of dollars and playing a game that most people would give anything to make their living doing. Yes I realize that there is sex trafficking, war, poverty, abuse, heartbreaking lost-ness, and real tragedy everywhere every day. I’m just saying it makes me sad.

Yes, I know I need therapy.

9Jun

Was it Not a Dream?

 

Last Saturday, a great young man of God named Derrick Hinton and Trae’s and my beautiful daughter Tory were married. At the reception, my friend Daryl Reed went around telling people about how impressed he was that I’d held it together during the ceremony. Of course, that was up until the father daughter dance. After that, he went around again taking back everything he’d said about my remarkable composure.

Whew…man…It was quite a moment. I’m just thankful.

Sola gratia

Solus Christus

Soli Deo gloria

 

 

8May

Red Pill People

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”          Morpheus to Neo in The Matrix 

That has to be one of the best lines in film history. It’s universally understood. Everyone has seen The Matrix and all of us would like to believe that given the chance, we’d choose the red pill.

The truth is, we’re offered that choice all the time. The blue pill life of self service and comfort is always there for the taking. The red pill life of self sacrifice, for the sake of Christ and the benefit of others, is often overwhelming.  Still, there is something in us that wants to live for something greater than us, even if it’s harder. This tension persists and irritates, “like a splinter in your mind,” to again quote Morpheus.

This past Sunday, we called our church family to choose to be “red pill people.” We talked about the vision to which God is calling us and what it will take to get there.  We also went through our vision statement and core values, which are listed below.

Only time will tell if we’ll have the faith to enter God’s promised land for us or whether we’ll end up wandering in the proverbial desert, having succumbed to our problems, obstacles, and fear. Many of us are betting our lives that the Spirit of Christ within us will win out over our human nature, in the end. Thankfully, Jesus said that all that is required of us is a small amount of faith in a really big God. Now that’s doable; difficult at times – but definitely doable.

Our Foundation 

Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, by the power of God 

Our Vision 

We exist to build a God honoring church filled with thousands of changed lives

Our Mission 

Moving people toward Christ 

Our Way 

We start conversations that lead to turning points, one person at a time.

Our Core Values 

We believe in a great commitment to the greatest commandments and the great commission.

We believe that people deserve to be treated the way God feels about them.  

We believe that the proper response to the cross is to become a generous sower

We believe in empowering the next generation to take ownership of the church

We believe that everything is an experiment. 

We believe that people should discover and serve from their SHAPE

We believe in having a culture of mutual submission

We believe that every member is a minister

We’re not trying to build a ministry.We’re trying to build a family.

2Apr

Takeaways

Recently, some in our core leadership team and I got to go on a “cool church tour.” Three weeks ago we visited Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, New Spring Church in Anderson, South Carolina, and then attended the Drive Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, hosted by North Point Church. The following week, we took a great four day class on the ministry and mission of the apostle Paul. This course was skillfully taught by Gordon Ferguson, the Teacher for the LA Church of Christ.                                                          

So, there’s been no shortage of spiritual stimuli from the past few weeks but there has been a shortage of sleep. The trick with these kinds of things is being able to internalize, contextualize, and actualize everything you’re being taught. I know what you’re thinking: good luck with that. You’re probably right, but we’re giving it the old college try. Anyway, it would take a month to download and unpack everything but I thought listing a few takeaways might be helpful. So here goes…

Core Values From Elevation Church

“We are Ruth’s Chris, Not Golden Corral. – Simplicity enables excellence. We place a disproportionate value on creating a worship experience that boldly celebrates Jesus and attracts people far from God.”

“We Need Your Seat. – We will not cater to personal preference in our mission to reach this city. We are more concerned with the people we are trying to reach than the people we are trying to keep.”

“We Eat The Fish And Leave The Bones. -We will always maintain a posture of learning. We seek to learn from everyone and incorporate a variety of influences into our methodology.”

“We Are Known for What We Are For. We will speak vision and life over our people. We will lift up the salvation of Jesus rather than using our platform to condemn.”

Vision Statements from New Spring Church

“Everything about our services, outreach, next steps, teaching and evangelism is driven by change. Moving from death to life, seeing people saved by Jesus Christ, helping believers grow as disciples—the Christian life is marked by change.”

“We believe that growing people change, that we can’t live life alone, that saved people serve people, that we can’t out-give God and that found people find people.”

“New Spring Church has a passion to continue growing, impacting lives and using technology and the arts to reach 100,000 people for Jesus Christ.”

Bottom Lines from the Drive Conference, North Point Church, and Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley

“Confrontation and condemnation create ice (around people’s hearts). Conversation breaks the ice. Conversations create connections.” Gavin Adams

“One of the most common disconnects in church world is the discrepancy between purpose and approach. The approach a church chooses trumps its purpose every time.”

“Because you’re a leader, you won’t agree with me on every point. That’s fine. You can’t help it.”

“Assumptions over time can harden into organizational orthodoxy.” Justin Elam

“Jesus didn’t come to be right. He came to seek and save lost people.”

“The catalyst for introducing and facilitating change in the local church is a God-honoring, mouthwatering, unambiguously clear vision.”

Lessons From Paul: His Ministry and Message

Even though Paul dealt with constant crisis, torture, and sorrow, he was a glass half full person. He consistently focused on the good God was doing in the midst of difficult circumstances.

In 1 Corinthians 7 and elsewhere, Paul made clear when what he said was “thus saith the Lord” and when it was his opinion.

Paul had faith that when God said no and closed a door, he was opening up a better one.

Paul’s faith in people and his trust in their intentions and capabilities were impressive. He chose trust over suspicion.

“We want people to be impressed with God, not us.” Gordon Ferguson

Paul made things better or worse wherever he was because he stirred things up and brought them to a head.

The other thousand takeaways are going to have to wait for another time. Have a good one…

© Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved BricknDigital