Thursday, January 31, 2008

Christian Org Charts

Man, I have been suffering from severe "blog-block" combined with extreme time demands. Just when I was committed to finding "rhythm" in my life, I was knocked over by a giant wave of urgency and out of control activity. Now that I have my head above water again, I am going to swim parallel to the shore for a while to get free from the rip tide.

This is not the subject of this blog, just an explanation, ok, excuse for my absence over the past week. I have still been reading some other stuff that is really great. Check out Perry on criticism and Troy on rhythm and discipline (rhythm was back on January 31). "Stuff Worth Your Time" (on the right sidebar of this blog) is just that. Click a few and you'll be challenged and blessed. Here goes the blog topic:

As a leadership development guy I am becoming increasing intrigued with the dynamics between structure and vitality, or maybe form and freedom. We certainly need structure. Imagine your body without bones. You would be a blob. "Hey, I want you to meet my pastor, Blob Jones." (Sorry, pretty corny. One of those days.) By the same measure if our bones become rigid we are unable to move. Meet Rigor Mortis, our pastor of finance.
The Body of Christ, i.e. the church, can suffer from the same problems. Movement can be impeded by stiff, cumbersome structure and can be impossible without the organization and leadership that structure provides.

Recently Clay suggested we turn our org chart upside down. His vision is that we serve the people under us, not vice versa. God's work, the church, is at the top. God's servants, us, are at the bottom. This is a great concept but I am having a hard time making the intention of our organization show up in the structural diagram.

One way to understand the chart is to see that when God designs His org chart He puts the responibility of service on the one who higher up on the visual org chart. In the home, His org chart flows: Husband, wife, children. You certainly don't want to invert that! But look at the role of the husband. It's all about the wife and in chapter six, the children, too.

The Corinthians misread their org chart and functioned like the Gentiles who saw leadership as lordship. The person above someone else on a Christian org chart has been placed there to enable the person below them to reach their full potential and assist them in accomplishing what God has called them to do.
Hey, guy at the top, when you look up, what do you need from the people or person over you? The people below you need the same thing.

Just thinking.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Besides all this . . .

Pardon me while I get a little pitiful. I'm going to go ahead and do this blog because I want to encourage anyone who is experiencing pain as a Christian leader. Check it out!

Pain can be external or internal. I have often said, "I would sooner take a physical beating than endure the emotional pain that ministry often produces." Physical wounds can be numbed and bandaged. Maybe I even like the fact that many people come to comfort and sympathize with you when you are bandaged or bruised. However, when we are bleeding inside, it often goes unnoticed.

After thirty years of ministry you would think that a person would get used to the pain of dealing with people. Surely the scars of experience should numb any new injuries. Knowledge and experience should guard a veteran's heart and prevent this pain. Paul talked about his external and internal pains as he wrestled with Christians at Corinth. He recorded this testimony:

"Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? " 2 Corinthians 11:24-29

This morning I am wrestling with some of that pain. God has reminded me that He could let my heart become calloused to prevent the pain. Or I could avoid being used by Him and thus avoid the pain. When given these two options, I am able to put the pain in perspective. The Scriptures teach us that to know Christ is to experience both His power and His suffering.

I think I'll go see Rambo this afternoon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Periods. and Question Marks?

The other day, in a note, I witnessed a person pouring out their heart and some of their conclusions about life. What was interesting is that almost every statement ended with a period & a question mark. As I considered this oddity, I realized the openness of this person's life.

As finite people, we can never securely put a period behind a conclusion we have drawn about life, people, or the world around us. Unless we are willing to follow our periods (personal opinions) with question marks, we are not available for growth.

Throughout Matthew chapter 5, Jesus told the religious people that what they felt they had fully understood about God's law was not the final thing God would have them understand. They had put a period on their knowledge of God and failed to continue to seek to know Him and to find the Truth that would set them free.

As a church, we are a bunch of people who have discovered the Source of our answers, but are still growing in our understanding of the answers. We all have questions and God has answers. We will never fully understand the final answer to life's questions while we are still in the corpse of this flesh, even though God has revealed them in His Word. Ours is a pressing on, ever growing, from glory to glory relationship with our God and Savior.

Putting a question mark at the end of our understanding is not to say we cannot know something but it does remind us that there is more to know.

May this be a year of growing in our knowledge of God and not the year we groan in what we think we know. My prayer.

Just Thinking.?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Encouragement is Contageous

Sometimes there just doesn't seem to be much rest between challenges. As leaders, the conflicts we are facing often affect the morale of the whole team. All this is not a new or unique thing. The Scriptures record similar environments for God's servants hundreds of years ago. Here is what Paul experienced as he dealt with issues at Corinth and throughout the region of Macedonia:

"When we arrived in Macedonia there was no rest for us. Outside there was conflict from every direction, and inside there was fear. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged , encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told me how much you were looking forward to my visit, and how sorry you were about what had happened, and how loyal your love is for me, I was filled with joy! " 2 Corinthians 7:5-7

Check it out!
  • Ministry can be stressful. (Stay healthy.)

  • Conflict has impact on team morale. (Stay close to your team.)

  • God is the encourager of His servants. (Stay close to God.)

  • God uses us to encourage one another. (Be an encourager.)

  • Thorns in your flesh can turn into tools in your hand when God is at work. (Don't take issues personally.)

Encouragement is contageous. Let's see what happens when an epidemic of encouragement breaks out in the church.

Just Thinking.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Be Still

Man, I can't believe how this year is starting off! It seems that I do not have a moment of quiet lately. I keep saying that it is only temporary but I fear that it will become as temporary as the "temporary" fix done in home repairs that often is never completed until the house is sold.

There is so much going on and so much lying ahead that it is hard to be still. And yet, in stillness we find renewal, wisdom and strength. I know a lot of people who read this blog are caught in the same rushing currents of the river of life. I thought I would share some thoughts on taking time to be still:

Samuel told the people of God, "Now stand here quietly before the LORD as I remind you of all the great things the LORD has done for you and your ancestors. " 1 Samuel 12:7 This alone is a great reason to be still!

"But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD's victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out there tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!" 2 Chronicles 20:17 Have any struggles you are facing tomorrow? Know it is the Lord who will deliver you, as you yield to His presence in your life and the situation.

We all know that: "God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble." Psalms 46:1 But the psalmist also says, "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalms 46:10

The story is told of two birds sitting on a tree limb, watching people anxiously scurrying to and fro. The one bird looked at the other and said, (I know birds don't talk. Bear with me.) "Why do people run around with such anxiety?" The other bird replied, "I don't know, maybe they don't have a heavenly Father to watch over them like we do." Matthew 6:24-34

Trying to be still.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Recently I have been increasingly conscious of the interpersonal struggles that emerge as a church grows and as strong personalities are recruited for leadership. My heart is grieved and actually experiences pain when I see darts and defensive posturing among God's children, especially leaders. We fall short of God's desire for us. Remember what God modeled for us in the Scriptures?

"And all those who had believed were TOGETHER , and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with ONE MIND in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals TOGETHER with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." Acts 2:44-47

We will always be dealing with issues and conflicts as people and especially as leaders. Paul, the apostle, was a leader that had to deal with some of the "junk and funk" (Clayism) of doing life with people. It appears as though people haven't changed much. He had to remind the people he was working with that he was all about them.

"Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. I do not speak to condemn you; for I have said before that YOU ARE IN OUR HEARTS TO DIE TOGETHER AND TO LIVE TOGETHER. Great is my confidence in you, great is my boasting on your behalf; I am filled with comfort. I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction." 2 Corinthians 7:2-4

Everyday we can build up or tear down. We can encourage or discourage. We can brag on someone or we can backbite someone. We can be filled with comfort or filled with anxiety. We have joy in our afflictions or let our afflictions rob our joy.

Let's get it together.