A wise man once said, “Don’t tear down a fence until you know why it was erected. There may be something beyond the horizon you don’t want to come after you.”
When I was a small child (I don’t remember this, but only the stories told about it) I was spending time with my aunt and uncle in Florida and was curious about a plastic container near a sink. It had little covers over the two very small cup-like things and there was water in them. I had never seen a contact lens holder before, so I opened one of them and inadvertently washed a contact down a drain. It was not what I intended.
Can I call that an accident? Certainly not! It only happened because I was doing something else I was not supposed to be doing. I did not mean for it to happen. It was an unintended consequence.
In leadership, this principle plays out time and again. In church leadership, these choices seem to magnify intensely (mainly because churches are people and the variables on decisions with people are innumerable). Effective leaders, however, must become adept at forecasting unintended consequences. This involves more than acting and then praying that God protects you from consequences. It involves more than asking three friends what they might do in a similar situation. It means learning to examine a matter from a variety of perspectives.
Here are 4 tips:
- Ask, “Why is this necessary?” Write down the reason that this change or action is required in your current context. In other words: what problem are you seeking to fix, what question are you seeking an answer to, or what outcome are you trying to achieve?
- Ask, “How will those immediately affected perceive this action?” When Martha hears you say that you are moving her Sunday School class to the other end of the hall, what will go through her mind as to the rationale? Remember, everyone listens through the filter of their own experiences. Those likely differ from yours as a leader.
- Ask, “How would this be reported on the evening news?” News reports, at times, scare me. In our attention-deprived culture of soundbites, every story is to be condensed to 90 seconds. If someone were observing your action and then editing the entirety of it to 90 seconds, what would make the highlight reel? Your church cancels a particular outreach event…for (prospectively) a hundred good reasons. If none of those were understood, what would onlookers assume was your motive. As bad as it sounds… “what will people think of your decision?”
- Verify and Adapt. Take your new information and verify that the consequences of the decision or change are worth it. Then, adapt your message to address beforehand as many of the downsides as you uncovered. If the new direction is good…press on, but be wise as you lead others in the new direction. Don’t complain about people throwing rocks at you when you could have removed them but, instead, left them lying around on the ground.
What might you add to this list if you had written the article? I’d love to hear.
A few days back I posted an article on How I would grow spiritually in 2018. I wanted to expand on one of the pieces of the plan…why I read devotionals as part of my daily strategy.
Encouragement. God often has a way of speaking to my heart through another writer’s words. Chambers, Blackaby, Johnny Hunt, Boyd Bailey, John Piper… they’ve all been used by God to scratch an itch…sometimes when I did not even know I had one.
Growth. I learn things about how to communicate truth by reading how others do it. I know that sometimes, when I speak, my “prophet” can come out and even a good and true and correct and even helpful word can be lost in the delivery.
Perspective. Community was always part of God’s plan to grow us. Someone once said that if you refuse to listen to others, soon you’ll not have anyone speak to you that has anything to say. (Insert Facebook counseling reference here).
Primer. I usually read my devotionals first. Before by Scripture time. It helps “prime the pump” of my mind…allowing me to ease into an encounter with God’s Word. Devotionals are written conversationally so they digest a little easier. At least they do for me.
My devotional “stash” shifts every year it seems, but I have some classics I come back to often. Here are a few. I recommend checking your App Store if you use a device during your devotional time. All of these except one are available online. Since I always have my tablet with me, they are readily available…taking away the excuse of inconvenience.
My devotional reading takes about 15 minutes a day.
What’s the financial investment? It is up to you. I purchased the print devotional at a conference I think…and the Chambers, while free, I purchased an App for .99 that gives me both classic and modern language and an easy share feature…but it is available in Facebook and online too. It was just convenient to spend the dollar. As always, I recommend a donation to the other ministries who have put together these tools. The time and technology are not free and I think $20 here and there is good stewardship and support.
No way pastor! I don’t have time for five devotionals. I have a real job! I get it, friend. Two things.
- First, this is all part of my personal discipline. I am not “on the clock” at my “job” when I get in my quiet time. So, it’s kinda like you and your real job scenario.
- Second, I didn’t start with five and I am not militant about it. Sometimes their daily writing is boring and I may skim one…or be pressed because I overslept and only get one or two and have to read the others online during the day (if I get to them at all). Maybe try one. CHAMBERS is my classic go to…and Hunt’s Devotional is my favorite…mostly because it is written by pastors and I hear their heart as I read it.
So, enjoy…and if you have something to add or are doing a better plan, share in the comments and I would love to hear and learn from you.
Grace and Peace,
So, yesterday, I posted an article on How I was going to grow in 2018. Today and for a few more days, I am going to expand on parts of that post in hopes of “selling you” on the benefits of some of the components of the plan. [That kind of disclaimer must meet the approval of the Federal Trade Commission- FTC] 🙂
I really have come to like Dr. Robby Gallaty and Replicate ministries. I spent a little time talking with some of the guys who lead this ministry and love the direction. Some of the men in our church use this plan as the backbone of their weekly discipleship group meetings (D-Groups).
While I have “liked” the ministry, this is my first time going through it, in earnest, personally. Here is what I think really connects-
- Accessibility. I love that there is an app for this that includes the Bible (CSB) though I prefer to read from my print Bible, that there is a plan with checkboxes for the daily Scripture, a built-in place to journal reflections, and the ability to do this in community. (You can form groups that read along the same plan together and even share journal reflections if you wish).
- Bible-centric. I have a deep conviction that any good growth strategy has to MAJOR on Scripture. Even if you don’t understand everything well in the beginning, by reading it, you gain something and when you read it again, you gain more. I greatly prefer bible-centered time over book-centered (i.e. a group reads a book together and discusses it). Those are good, and have their place, but should never take priority over Scripture study.
- Cost-effective. I know dudes who will spend $800 for a new phone and tell me they don’t have $20 for a Jesus conference. This ministry takes away that excuse by making the “bones” of this program available at no charge; however, I always recommend supporting their ministry by purchasing books or making a contribution. You don’t manage a tool like this for free.
- Scalability. By that, I mean that you can get in and out of this by reading, journaling, and memorizing a couple verses in 10-15 minutes a day. Or, as you grow and God speaks, you can invest more time for a greater return on your investment as the Lord leads.
I remember rolling out an initiative at church a few years back and one of my “opportunity people” (the guy who never agrees with anything, and gives you an opportunity grow in grace and improve your prayer time) came up to me to tell me why he thought my plan was wrong and he was going to do his own thing which was better! Well, he didn’t. He ended up leaving the church, and another church, and another church and is now giving some other pastor opportunities to grow in grace. In the end, my experience with him reminded me that, as an old preacher once said, “I like what I do better than what you’re not doing.”
There may be better things out there, and even better for you. If you are doing something that works…GREAT! But if not, try this. If you’re not sure if your system is working the best…try this for a season and you will have something to compare it to. If you have something better, tell me. I love to learn about new and better tools to help people become like Jesus…starting with me.
You can get info on Replicate Ministry and the F-260 Bible Reading plan HERE, or by searching for their App in your devices store.
If you want to discuss joining a group with me to grow together and find some accountability in the new journey, hit me up. We can do it!
Grace and Peace,
In the last post, I observed that many in the local church have lost the sense of what it means to be a member of a church. Partial responsibility rests on leaders who have failed to teach on this in an understandable way. To some degree, we may cast blame toward the culture which helps establish the norms of our lives. Still, some responsibility must rest on an audience that “tunes out” uncomfortable or contrary information…regardless of its source. Today I want to expand on the idea that having the different “classes/types” of people (Examiners, Consumers, Participants, and Partners) in the assembly of saints (the church) is actually helpful.
Perhaps you’re asking, “How can unbelievers amid the church be helpful?”
- First, we must recognize that Paul observed the presence of unbelievers in the church and even argued that some consideration should be given to their presence (1 Corinthians 14). You don’t include such considerations unless their presence is a reality and somehow consistent with godly design. Part of the “helpfulness” is mission. When missionaries engage new people groups, they first seek to learn culture and then establish bridges between the gospel and the new culture so that the gospel can be communicated contextually. If unbelievers are present among the assembled church, a bridge has been identified that facilitates gospel communication.
- Second, the presence of unbelievers serves to sharpen and equip believers in their missional skillset. Again, a bridge exists and if it is appropriately used, believers gain valuable insight and even empathy toward those who are far from God.
- Third, the presence of unbelievers makes for a more natural engagement with a gospel witness. If an unbeliever is at a church service, it is not unusual to ask (or be asked) about spiritual condition. In fact, it is expected.
As for believers, having participants in the church is part of the discipleship process. There will be believers who grow in relationship and growth is a process, not an event. One doesn’t become a Christian and suddenly become a “Paul” or “Peter” type instantly. There must be “room” in the church for spiritual immaturity to grow toward maturity. As church planters, Jodi and I recognized years ago that we should engage new people quickly in the life of the church. Some were spiritually immature and others weren’t disciples, but how much spiritual growth is required to open a door, hand out a worship program, adjust sound levels, or set up chairs? Often, the “thin threads” of relationship were strengthened through service, paving the way for more depth of discipleship to occur. This last statement must be an intentional pursuit. It is wrong to reinforce that “you’re ok” to an immature believer or a lost person by giving them a place of service without challenging them to grow as disciples. How tragic it would be for a man to have confidence in his unchallenged spiritual condition simply because he fulfills a role in church life and assumes that since no one has challenged him to grow, he must be “ok.”
There are more “comfortable” scenarios than worshipping in a mixed-company room with unbelievers, the spiritually immature, and those who are growing in faith. What the church is called to though, is not comfort but a mission of making disciples. This is our ONE JOB.
November 5, 1995.
22 years ago yesterday. One of the significant milestone days in my life. I was working as a Deputy Sheriff on second shift when I was instructed to serve a warrant. I contacted backup, per department procedure, and proceeded to “set up” on the house where the man would be.
He was early.
Backup was delayed.
The situation unfolded rapidly, and I ended up in the fight of my life. There is little more arresting in life than hearing the “Officer Down” tones and knowing that you are the officer in peril. It was a life-changing day.
I learned through the experience how very little control I have in life. I learned that even if you do everything correctly, you still cannot control all the variables. I learned that even if you do everything correctly, someone will still question and critique what you did. I learned that even if you do everything correctly, you are still mortal.
I saw the face of evil. I saw the sacrifice of brothers and sisters in uniform that placed themselves in jeopardy for a fellow officer. I saw the need to take inventory of my life and examine priorities. What was it that I truly valued? How did I want my life story recorded? What did I need for my children and wife to know that only I could help them understand?
The events of that fateful day resulted in a suspect’s death. A parent lost a son. Siblings lost a brother. That day brought lawsuits and mandatory counseling, review boards and state police investigations, all of which cleared me and the other deputies involved of any wrongdoing, but it brought something else…
God used that day to cause a self-assured and self-sufficient young man to ask some important questions about faith. Within months, Jodi and I returned to church (from which I had complacently allowed…or maybe caused…our family to drift). I had a pastor teach me to read the Bible for myself. I had strong men invest in my life to disciple me…some formally and even more informally through their example and gracious truth-speaking into my life. Men like Sam League, Shane Alexander, Terry Wedgewood, George Wyatt, Greg Dixon, Steve Ellis, Johnny Condrey, Jack Givens, Michael Cloer, Don Dunavant, and countless other influences.
The results of that day, looking back on 22 years…is that I have two sons that love and serve God. I have a precious wife whom God uses to equip and encourage women in the faith. I have a ministry of shepherding people, some of whom I have seen God do amazing things in and through. I have an appreciation for life, faith, and God’s sovereign care for rebellious young men that I don’t think would be true apart from the drama of that fateful day. I have a passion for men who “strap up” every day and stand a post between evil and its potential victims.
Today I am grateful for God who gloriously works to recall rebels and restores them to service for His glory.
Don’t despise what you do not fully understand. Put your faith in God who never is caught off-guard and never is found lacking in ability or compassionate concern. The moment you question that…return to the cross and see how far He has gone to rescue you and choose to trust Him.
Recently, Jodi and I rented a paddleboard while spending a week together at the beach.
I must say that as someone who has never surfed or even successfully waterskied, my first try on the board was not very impressive. I had no idea what I was doing so those first rides lasted between 10-60 seconds. (Jodi, of course, owned it like a boss from the beginning). Honestly, it took me a couple of YouTube videos to get the basics down and day two was pretty good. Jodi and I both paddled a bit and had a good time. We also met some folks who seemed to have interest in our paddleboard “sea stories.” We thought they might want to give it a shot themselves so we offered up the use of the paddleboard for them to try.
Husband, “No I’d probably break something.”
Wife, “I can’t since I have a terrible fear of sharks.”
They were very interested in what it was like for us, but their fear of injury or “Jaws” kept them from even trying the board for themselves. This encounter made me think: I wonder how often we forsake “what could be” because of fear?
- Afraid of what they might say, we refuse to ask that special someone on a date.
- Afraid of getting lost we never leave the guided tour to experience the heart of a City.
- Afraid of what “might happen,” we never travel beyond our own country or even our state.
- Afraid of being “turned down” we simply don’t apply for a new job.
- Afraid of failure, we choose never to return to school and complete a degree.
- Afraid of rejection, we never share the gospel with others.
When we choose to allow fear to drive our actions, we acknowledge a (little g) god in our lives. It may be safety, security, control, or some other form of that false god, but, in our fear, we choose to serve it ahead of our goals, dreams, or even calling.
Fear is a non-negotiable in life. Everyone is afraid of something, sometimes. If you have no fear, you have a rare genetic condition called Urbach-Wiethe disease; or, you could be a run-of-the-mill psychopath who experiences fear but doesn’t recognize it. Otherwise…everyone experiences fear. Fear, though, is not the problem. What we do with fear determines our destiny and indicates Who or what we serve as our god/God.
Peter tells us to take our anxiousness/fear to Jesus (1 Peter 5:7). Paul says to seek God rather than serve anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7). Jesus tells us to believe (have faith)…because faith conquers fear.
Now, certainly Jesus did not direct me to go paddle boarding; however, the board serves as a good analogy to understand how to find victory over our fears. We pursue our objective with passion and refuse to quit.
Honestly, paddling was cool but what I really wanted was to get up close to some dolphins. On day 3… I did. The water was choppy but I had mastered how to use it like a kayak so when we saw them beginning to play about a half-mile out, I looked to Jodi for approval, grabbed the board and took off for the open water. It took a bit to get out there (since they did not exactly wait on me). I had to plot an intercept course on the open water, but it paid off. I came to within about 15 feet of three dolphins playing as they surfaced near me. It was amazing! (In fact, it is what I had prayed for earlier that morning when I sat a few hundred yards offshore scanning the horizon. I told the Lord that He was all I needed but that I would love to see some dolphins up close if He’d let me.
When the dolphins submerged again (not to return), I looked down and was well beyond the emerald green water we are known for on the Gulf coast. In fact, I could barely make out the spot of beach I had departed from…but I did it! I saw the dolphins up close, simply by getting on the board, paddling hard and not stopping until I go there.
Our new friends…they never broke anything and they were certainly not eaten by sharks…but they also didn’t see the dolphins.
Here is the question…do you want to see the dolphins the Lord has in store for you?