Blessed are the peacemakers…

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

I think all too often we seek justice at the expense of reconciliation.  We want to feel vindicated, but not restored.  We want someone to feel our pain, not experience our hope.  Reconciliation is hard and often reveals hurts we either forgot about or did not realize were there.  But the gospel is about reconciliation.  And as people of the gospel—people who have been reconciled to God—we are to pursue reconciliation even if it is not reciprocated.

So whether it is a night club in Orlando; or an African-American man in Baton Rouge, St. Louis, Baltimore, or Minneapolis; or Police Officers in Dallas; or wherever the next news story breaks may we be marked as peacemakers who champion the Gospel of Reconciliation because we are all created in and bear the image of God.

 

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Are You More Capt. Sobel or Maj. Winters?

 

I will not follow someone who does not have authority in my life.  There is an undeniable link between leadership and authority.  They’re inseparable.

There are two types of authority: positional and personal.  More than likely, principals, police officers, coaches, and politicians will hold positional authority in your life.  You will follow their leadership on the basis of the office they hold.

You build personal authority on the bedrock of relationships.  The deeper the relationship, the more personal authority someone has.  As personal authority increases, the extent to which you are willing you are to follow that person regardless of the destination.

I watch the series Band of Brothers at least twice per year.  The drama of the story, apart from the war and missions, is the rivalry between Capt. Sobel and Maj. Winters.

We first meet Sobel and Winters at paratrooper training in Toccoa, Georgia.  Currahee!  Sobel is Winters’ senior officer at the time (Lt. Winters when we first meet him).  Capt. Sobel is a task master; he persists in riding his soldiers.  He demands excellence and perfection from them.  He trains and conditions his men harder than any other company in the regiment.  In fact, Easy Company’s early reputation hinges on their peak physical conditioning.  It’s still a mystery, but somehow Sobel meets the high physical standards he has set for his men.  To make matters worse Capt. Sobel often finds the minutest infraction to deny a weekend pass for his men.

Contrast that with Maj. Winters who takes the time to get to know the men he leads and to care for their wellbeing.  Winters encourages his soldiers to follow Capt. Sobel’s leadership.  At one point a group of sergeants gathers to air their grievances against Capt. Sobel in secret.  In this moment, Winters could have led a coup against Sobel to seize leadership of the company.  But he didn’t.  Instead, he urges the sergeants to drop their complaints and go about it the right way.  The sergeants obliged.

In one notorious example, Sobel got his men “killed” in an ambush during a training exercise because he couldn’t read a map and lacked patience.  Capt. Sobel got reassigned before the D-Day invasion at Normandy.  His soldiers didn’t want to follow him into a training mission, let alone battle.

But those same men of Easy Company followed Maj. Winters from the D-Day invasion at Normandy to Bastogne and the Bulge all the way to Hitler’s Eagles Nest high in the German mountains.  The difference between Sobel and Winters was their authority with their soldiers: Capt. Sobel had positional authority, Maj. Winters had personal authority.

How does this translate to leading volunteers in student ministry?

By sheer virtue of your position as student pastor you have a level of positional authority.  Positional authority leads to transactional leadership.  Here’s the idea behind transactional leadership: let me instill in you these 5 principles of leadership to get a greater ROI for me.  Positional authority, transactional leadership is easy.  Transactional leadership acts and then listens.

What if you took your leadership to a different level?  What if you looked at volunteers as people, not pawns?  I would suggest that personal authority leads to relational leadership.  Here’s the idea behind relational leadership: let me get to know you, care for you, and mentor you to become the best leader you can be.  Personal authority, relational leadership is slower, messier, and riskier.  Relational leadership listens and then acts.  You can lead further and empower volunteers with an approach like relational leadership.

Transactional leadership is about the leader.  Relational leadership is about the people.

 

The Saddest Verse in the Bible

Do you have something you grew up doing as a child that you still do today?  What are the odds that one of your hobbies is the result of a parent or grandparent passing it down to you?  Maybe you grew up in a family that hunted.  Are you looking forward to the day you take your kid(s) on their first hunt?  Maybe it’s fishing or baking, or music, or reading, or woodworking or sports.  Chances are there is something you love, something you value, that you can’t wait to pass down to your kids.

In Deuteronomy 6 Moses addresses the nation of Israel.  And he said (my paraphrase): “Hey Church!  Listen up, this is huge.  Our God is one; he is the all-powerful creator of everything.  He’s the God who freed us from slavery.  Love him, worship him, and serve him with every fiber of your being.  Take these words to heart…pass them down to your kid(s).  Talk about it around the breakfast table, when you’re working in the fields, when you’re walking around, and when it’s time to lay them down to sleep at night.  These words need to permeate every aspect of your lives and homes.”

After this impressive charge to the nation, a few short years later we read the saddest verse in the bible.  “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” Judges 2.10b

God had freed them from slavery.  He provided for them in the desert.  Moses has died.  Joshua becomes the leader.  Joshua dies.  And in the opening chapters of the book of Judges they’ve already forgotten what God has done for them.  They did not know him.  They did not remember what he had done.  How do you forget about the parting of the Red Sea?  Or the scene as they looked up the mountain when Moses received the 10 Commandments?  How do you forget that feeling of deliverance as their toes hit the fertile soil of the Promised Land?

Maybe they got busy.

Or bored.

Either way they forgot their responsibility as a parent to disciple their kid(s).  And then the saddest verse in the bible was written.

May I offer two thoughts about discipling kids?

1.  You can’t lead someone somewhere you’ve never been

My kids are almost 5 and almost 2.  I am learning a valuable lesson: they see and hear and repeat EVERYTHING.  One day we were driving in the north Dallas area on a highway in a construction zone in traffic which is a recipe for disaster.  Add to it that my son was in the car with us.  My wife was driving when a semi-truck exited the construction zone without regard for the traffic and merged into our lane.  The truck almost hit us and forced us into the adjacent lane.  We narrowly missed hitting another car.  In a moment when depravity came screaming from deep within I proceeded to inform the truck driver that he was number one, if you know what I mean.  My son saw that and asked, “Daddy, why you pointing at dat truck?”  And every time…every time…for the next 3 months that we passed a semi-truck he exclaimed, “Look Daddy! A truck!  Let’s point!”  Parenting fail.

On the flip side, in remarkable age appropriate clarity, my son can also tell you what the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is about.  In fact, it’s one of his favorite stories in his Jesus Storybook Bible. Likewise, my almost 2 year old daughter repeats the motions and a word from a song they sing at church, “Pat the Bible.”  Each night I sing “Jesus Loves Me” to her as I lay her down for bed.  As she hears the words she will clap her hands in a patting motion and say joyfully, “Bible, bible.”

They pick up on much more than we realize.

Which is why if I want to disciple my kids, I need to have a flourishing relationship with Jesus.

I need to study my bible, pray, listen to God, serve, tithe, worship.

2. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink

My favorite football team is the 3 time National Champions Florida State Seminoles.  My wife’s favorite football team is the Texas Longhorns.  Almost since birth I have indoctrinated my son with all things Florida State, including the war chant and tomahawk chop.  But then the day came when I asked my son to do the tomahawk chop.  Instead he threw up his hand in the Longhorn symbol and shouted “Hook ‘em!”  My heart died a little that day.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

In some ways I think the same is true for our kids and their spiritual formation.  I can create the perfect environments for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts and lives of my kids, and they may not respond.  I can take my kids to a church driven by the gospel and that doesn’t babysit them.  We can do advent calendars until we are blue in the face.  We can listen to radio stations that are “Safe for the whole family.”  We can do all these things and much more in the name of Jesus, but until Jesus calls them to himself it is ineffective in saving them.   Sure, they’re all good things.  It even lays a foundation that “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”  But it does not make them Christ Followers.

I can’t make my children love God, but I can show them a God who loves them.  And that’s my job.  Reintroducing my kids each morning to a God who loves them, who has a perfect plan for their lives, and who wants a personal relationship with them.  Some days I get a gold star, some days I fail miserably.

It all boils down to this: we pass down what we value most.

3 Ways To Not Be A Leader

In the battlefield drama, We Were Soldiers there is a mountain training scene a little more than fifteen minutes into the movie where Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) looks to Sgt. Maj. Plumley (Sam Elliot) and says:

Moore: Now that young man is a leader. (referring to Lt. Geoghegan, played by Chris Klein)

Plumley: Yes sir. (looking through binoculars in a different direction)

Plumley: But that other fella. That big strong one there.  He wants to win medals.

Moore: (Picks up the binoculars and looks at Sgt. Savage, played by Ryan Hurst)

Moore: He’s eager.

Later in the movie, the men get dropped off behind enemy lines by helicopters. As they set up an initial field base, the battlefield is eerily still, the enemy attacks from what seems like every direction.

Lt. Col. Moore, in the thick of the fire fight tells his radio operators: “Hey! Hey! Calm down! Understand the situation and communicate clearly!”

I believe that is a message that any leader, whether in the military, the schools, corporate world, or church need to take to heart.

Calm down. Understand the situation. Communicate Clearly.

Let me suggest three ways to not be a leader…

1. If you want to not be a leader, sabotage your credibility with social media posts

In some ways I am sure that every modern President is jealous of Franklin Roosevelt.  The reality of his life bound to a wheelchair hidden from public knowledge.  That’s just not true today.  We know when the President makes a run to Starbucks or to grab a hot dog.  We know how many rounds of golf he has played and how many vacation days he has taken.

The technological revolution coupled with the explosion of social networking has had an unavoidable impact on the platform of our public leaders.  Political, athletic, entertainment, or religious leaders all feel its impact.  Think about some leaders who have fallen due to social networks.  Anthony Weiner, Ray Rice, David Petraeus, and more come to mind.

Might I offer three suggestions?

  • Ask yourself: “Am I saying something publicly that has the potential to affect my personal influence?”
  • Recognize that the things you say have the ability to alienate someone from your church/ministry.
  • Remember to check who/what you follow…because it is a reflection upon yourself.

2. If you want to not be a leader, act like Chicken Little

Do you remember the story of Chicken Little from elementary school or bedtime stories with your kids?  An acorn falls from a tree hitting Chicken Little on the head.  He surmises that the sky is falling and sets off to warn the king.  On the journey to the king, he warns everyone he comes into contact with.  In the more popular renderings of the story, a fox lures the group journeying to the king into his lair and eaten.  Because Chicken Little panicked and no one stepped up to lead, people died–ok, that may be a tad on the dramatic side.

Here’s the thing, even if the building is on fire, leaders don’t panic.  When leaders panic people get hurt; people get lost; people get left behind.  Solomon reminds us that “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV).

One final note, in the book Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley notes that leaders need: Competence, COURAGE, Clarity, Coaching, and Character.  Courage is not the absence of fear, it is moving forward in the face of fear.  Courage is not panicking.  Even if you have to manufacture courage, do it: fake it, ’til you make it.

3. If you want to not be a leader, always never be grateful 

I should begin by acknowledging this is perhaps the area where I need to grow the most.  I need to thank my volunteers more…we all do.  Think about it: when someone thanks you for doing something, how does it feel?  Why would it feel any different for the people you lead?

I don’t have the research to back this up.  But I think it’s safe to assume that there is a direct correlation between the gratitude you show towards the people you lead and the rate of retention you experience.

I believe that these two words will transform your leadership platform more than any others: Thank You.

Say it often. Say it sincerely. Say it publicly

Let’s wrap it up this way:

  • Leaders have integrity
  • Leaders have courage
  • Leaders have gratitude

The Other Side Of Love

A few weeks ago in my time with our students during our weekly mid-week worship service we were asking the question “Why Love?”  We answered that question with: “Love is not about getting, love is about giving.”  A few days later I was in 1 Corinthians 13, “The Love Chapter.”  As I was reading through the passage I began to wonder what the other side of love (in this chapter) would look like…

Paul’s words to his friends in Corinth:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13.4-8a NIV84)

 

My words, “The Other Side Of Love”:

Love is not impatient, love is not cruel.

It enjoys others, it is humble, it is meek.

It is gentle, it is others-focused, love reconciles, and love forgives.

Love seeks justice and invites authenticity.

Love always defends the defenseless, always holds onto faith, always believes, always endures.

Love always wins.

 

 

The 3 Worst Moments In The (Modern) History of Christianity

The 3 Worst Moments In The (Modern) History of Christianity

The title of the post pretty much says it all.  So grab your “A Bread Crumb and Fish” T-shirt and watch the videos below….

 

Sometimes you get tongue tied, and then there’s this:

 

Some things are better if never done at all, this is one.

 

*Drumroll* And the winner is…..

 

But wait, there’s more! Just in case you aren’t left speechless, here’s the bonus (not necessarily Christian) video:

 

Which ones would make your list?

A Letter To My 22 Year Old Self

A letter to my 22 year old self.

Dear Geoff,

In 2014 you’ll be 30 years old, have an amazing wife, and have two awesome kids! You will have experienced a lay off and find yourself serving parents and students in Texas. You will have seen a lot–suicide, drug addiction, leadership conflicts, and more–in student ministry, but will have more to learn.

Why not go ahead and get a jump on things? I want you to do four things: Serve. Learn. Read. Grow.

Serve, serve, serve. Serve everywhere you get the opportunity. Lead a small group–maybe even a small group of students you wouldn’t think you would connect with. Disciple a student. Plan an event. Clean coolers, clean the bus. Ask what gaps you can fill. Serve wherever there is a need.

Learn. Learn all you can, any way you can. Set up meetings and ask questions. Learn from past experiences and best practices of veteran student pastors and volunteer leaders. Ask parents what it’s like raising a teenager today and what they need from you as a student pastor.

Read. Read often. Follow quality ministry blogs, not just student ministry blogs. Read books, again, not just books about student ministry. Don’t worry about reading what is trendy, read quality.  I am sure these (non-comprehensive) lists will change, but here’s a start…

Grow. Grow as a Christ Follower. Read and study your bible constantly, buy a journal and jot down thoughts and prayers. If you’re not growing, you won’t be going.

Grow as a man. Take responsibility. Assert independence. Leave behind the things of your childhood and college years. Step up. Lead. There will be a time where the little boy needs to sit down and the man needs to stand up.

Grow as a friend. Don’t just acquire friends; be a friend. Be loyal. Love. Give. Listen.

In 2014 you will not be where you thought you would be, but you wouldn’t have it any other way.

 
What would you say to yourself at 22?