…self-deception is one of the chief characteristics of addiction.” -Michael John Cusick, Surfing for God
In recent years Christians have spoken openly about addictions in the church. Members as well as pastors have confessed the reality of a double life, hidden, and enslaved. Porn, pills, pot, and food are just some of the ways Christians are coping with life in destructive ways. Recently, I’ve observed what I believe is the newest addiction on the rise in the church. The new addiction that I speak of could be at an all time high among believers. It’s the new elephant in the pew that we aren’t talking about. Our silence may be due to the fact that this particular addiction, though easily detectable, is quite easily disguised. What I mean by that is that it has become such the norm, and so readily accepted that we’ve lost any sense of discomfort with it.
The addiction I’m speaking of is NEGATIVITY. I’m guilty of indulging too so that’s why it’s easy for me to write about it. You may be a user of negativity and just not realize it. Take a few moments and think about the last time you got together with friends after church for a meal. Inevitably the conversation comes around to the worship experience, the sermon, or some random observation about church. Then the urge hits and just like snorting coke off a mirror you’re whisked off into a negativity high. It may start off innocently enough, besides none of us really want to act out, but we can’t really help ourselves. I’m ashamed to say that it happened to me recently. More disappointing for me is that I was around new and younger leaders. I know better than that but I couldn’t resist the urge.
We disguise it behind rather superficial phrases like, “Well I hate to be negative but…”, or “I’m sorry but…” or it may sound more like the typical user, “Why doesn’t the pastor do…”, “Isn’t the church going to…”, “If something doesn’t change…!”. Sound familiar? And on the surface at least, it would appear that those comments are fairly innocuous. Sure, it’s hard to know the context, and it’s tough to judge when someone is tripping out, or high on negativity. Their eyes likely aren’t blood shot, and there’s no odor to give the illicit usage away. But the reality is we all know when the conversation gets filled with the smoky air of negativity. It actually leaves us feeling pretty high, and pretty good about ourselves. After all we’ve managed to effectively articulate our utter dissatisfaction with Christ’s bride and those that lead it.
That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t voice our honest thoughts on the church and where she’s headed. It is to say that perhaps the church and her leaders are better served when we make things less about us and our well-informed opinions and more about seeing ourselves as part of this imperfect bride we call the church. If those of us with strong opinions about the church spent half as much time engaging in real activity to bring about change we might very well have the church we’ve always wanted. Our (mine and yours) negativity could just be the thing that’s keeping us from getting there. I’m not naive and I’m not advocating for pushover believers that just go along with everything with little thought. There is a time and a place to offer direct, and important feedback. I just happen to think it isn’t around the dinner table, at the coffee shop, or in the car on the way home from church.
I’m calling for an end to the illicit, and abusive use of negativity. I’m praying that we take the first step and admit that we have a problem being downers. Here are a few ways I believe we can kick the addiction:
- Annihilate your SOAPBOX: Reject the urge to get high and mighty with your opinions especially in small settings around people you know and who likely agree with you. Essentially I’m saying keep your pride in check! This is especially true for leaders. We just can’t give in to the lure of negativity even when frustrations run high, and we just need to blow off some steam. Give honest, appropriate feedback, but only in the right setting, never among new leaders, young leaders, new members, or new believers.
- Tame your TONGUE: James taught us that the tongue is a powerful thing. Sometimes emotions run high and it’s easy to spout off about the church. A good friend of mine always says, “loose lips sink ships!” If that’s the case the church is on it’s way down quickly. We can stop the negative descent, inject some positivity, and watch the church come back to be all that God intends. The tongue can be particularly destructive when we begin to speak of church leaders negatively. I get it, our leaders are easy targets so it’s natural to want to throw them under the bus in front of others. But we do great harm and it only reveals the immaturity of our own walk. As a Christ-follower make it a point to push back against those who are constantly putting down church leaders through unhealthy, destructive, and negative talk.
- Join the MEDIOCRITY: So if we have a beef with the church, whether legit or not we’ve got two choices: stay or go. What I despise is those who stay only to be antagonists, berating the bride every chance they get. They’re like the obnoxious parent at a little league game questioning every call by the umpire. My advice to those of us guilty of using negativity…join the mediocrity. No one is saying the church is perfect and we’re certainly not saying it’s leaders are infallible. We perform in a mediocre way quite a bit. To come across as one having a superior idea or vision of what the church can and should be, but then to separate oneself from that which you deem mediocre, and then claim to be united with it is the height of hypocrisy. Join the mediocrity, have the courage to stand with the imperfect church. Own the good and the bad and not just when it’s convenient. It’s ok to apologize for us as you stand with us but don’t you dare speak of the church as “them” and call yourself a member of the body of Christ.
Romans 12:3, “I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.”
The WCA Global Leadership Summit is coming to a close. Unfortunately I had to leave the host site I was a part of before the final session. I thought I would share the insights, inspirations, and most significant messages I took away from day 2.
This specific post is about the guy who really blew my mind today. Business professor Vijay Govindarajan. He was amazing and everything he shared had deep implications for the church. Here are some of the things I took away from his interview with departing WCA president Jim Mellado:
- “Ongoing operations are at odds with innovation.”
- “Dominant logic is a double edged sword.”
- “Dominant logic can become our self-imposed boundaries inhibiting innovation”
- “Innovative leaders have to be humble.”
- “Innovation is not about value for money, it’s about value for many.”
- “Conflicts are healthy, providing you know how to handle them for the benefit of your future.”
- “The role of an innovative leader is to be humble and to harness the abilities of their organization.”
- “Box 3 is a bet on the future.”
- “The central leadership challenge is preserving dominant logic while overcoming it.”
He covered a ton of great material with obvious implications for every organization but in particular churches and denominational systems.
He spoke of the “3 box strategy” which involves:
- Box 1 = Manage the Present
- Box 2 = Selectively Abandon the Past
- Box 3 = Create the Future
In order to initiate “innovation” or create a “box 3″ it requires:
- Performance Engine (“mother ship”)/Shared Staff + Partnering w/ “Dedicated Team”.
- Project Team = Dedicated Team + Shared Staff
- The dedicated team is custom built for the initiative.
- The shared staff retains in its existing responsibilities and supports the initiative.
Other key thoughts:
The way to hold the “box 3″ accountable is to evaluate their ability to learn. They will have the opportunity to conduct low cost experiments to determine their effectiveness.
Again this was an absolutely riveting interview. I’m certain I haven’t even scratched the surface of the material he covered but this is what stuck!
I had an honest church leader tell me once that I’m, “not a leader”. Since that time I’ve been haunted by that comment. Now understand, I am the guy who has always been upfront or behind the scenes leading something. From my time in grade school as a Pathfinder (Boy Scout/Girl Scout Club type of organization) through my High School years serving as class pastor, and religious vice president. Not to mention summer camp, leading an English language institute in South Korea, and serving as Student Association president on my University campus. I also founded and operated a successful non-profit organization (Dream Kids Inc.), and I’ve led multiple churches, and teams on various projects successfully.
Still, to this day, that comment, “you’re not a leader” echoes in my mind. Honestly I think there’s some truth to it. Leadership doesn’t come easy for me. What I think I’ve learned over the years though, is that while leadership may not be my primary gift, leadership is still demanded of me. More importantly, while leadership may not come easy that doesn’t give me an excuse to avoid legitimate leadership development even as a “non-leader”.
In observing those who are effective leaders I’ve learned that they don’t rest on their success. They are constantly being challenged. They read about leadership, attend workshops on leadership, and are consistently seeking ways to hone their skills as leaders. Further, the best and most humble leaders aren’t afraid to have their world’s rocked by a speaker that may challenge their own thinking or practices.
That’s why I can’t urge you enough to attend The Global Leadership Summit (August 8-9). The Global Leadership Summit is an annual leadership development conference hosted by the Willow Creek Association and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL near Chicago. In my mind it is the premier leadership event in the country designed to both inspire and equip any leader of any generation. Willow has been doing the Summit since 1992 and it now serves 170,000 leaders representing more than 14,000 churches.
Over the past ten years I’ve attended the event off and on. The last couple of years the church I led in Salt Lake City, UT was a Premier Host Site affording me the opportunity to not only attend the Summit locally, but also get up-close access to the team at Willow Creek that makes the Summit happen.
Here are 7 reasons I’m attending and why I believe you should attend:
1. Everyone Leads Something. Your family, team, church group, you name it, and it requires a leader. Something I learned from a previous summit is that YOU may very well be the most challenging person you’ll ever lead. Everyone leads something, including YOU, and ME. Whatever WE lead will have a better chance of reaching its fullest potential as we become better leaders.
2. Personal Renewal. Leadership takes its toll. The summit is for renewal and restoration. You’ll come away with new energy ready to take your organization, family, or team to the next level. You can’t help but get the sense that every faculty member (speaker) at the Summit is invested in your renewal. You’ll know that from the moment they speak.
3. Recapture Vision. Again, from a past Summit I learned that “vision leaks” which means as leaders we have to recapture and recast vision constantly. The summit always stirs up vision, allowing leaders to have renewed conviction about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
4. Networking. Connecting with other leaders is powerful. You’ll meet other leaders who could become allies or partners. It’s an opportunity for more conversation that may stretch you or affirm you. Can’t say enough how much I personally enjoy meeting other leaders and finding out what their teams are doing and how they are fulfilling their God-given mission.
5. It Will Disturb You. There’s a good chance you’ll hear something you don’t like. Get over it. The summit is designed to challenge leaders to think about leadership and not just in the way they’ve always thought about leadership. The “disequilibrium” of the summit keeps it provocative and compelling for leaders ready to become more effective at leading.
6. See Excellence on Display. The summit is done extremely well. It’s not perfect, but it is intentional, well thought out, and executed to the glory of God. As a leader I appreciate churches that don’t hold back in hosting an event that will leave a lasting impression on hundreds of thousands of people. You’ll hear world class speakers, and the music, interviews, and videos are exceptional.
7. Because of Bill. From what I can tell Bill Hybels (sr. pastor/chairman of WCA) was put on this planet to help other leaders. He’s helped me and countless millions of pastors. I love his saying, “the local church is the hope of the world! But in order for it to reach it’s redemptive potential it must be well led.” I think he’s right on, and I don’t think you’ll find anyone more qualified to lead you through 2 days of leadership development. I’ve met and interacted with Bill on several occasions. I’ve joked with him that I’m the one Seventh-day Adventist pastor who was able to convince his church to be a Premiere Host Site for the summit and that he should be thankful because most Adventists believe he’s the anti-Christ! He laughs but is always encouraging and grateful for the support.
The Summit starts tomorrow and runs through Friday August 9. There’s still time to register and attend a Premier Host Site near you!
“The trajectory of your relationship with God depends on your metrics: what is your goal? That, as much as anything else, determines which transformational pathway you will follow, and how far you will get on the journey. If you don’t care much about God or eternity, you’re not likely to get very far; your metrics will examine personal happiness, lifestyle comfort, wealth accumulation, and personal health. If, however, you live for God, then you will use a completely different set of measures – ones designed to help you keep moving toward a more Christ-like life and more spiritually fruitful journey.” George Barna, Maximum Faith, p. 34
Relationship. This is what causes us to be in the kingdom of heaven. Paul said it best in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ…”. God’s laws or commandments set forth the perimeters to receive the greatest blessings from the relationship (“knowing”) that He originally designed. Everything that is done within the context of our relationship with Jesus Christ reflects our gift of faith (trust) in Jesus. Our “works” reflect the same character that Christ exhibited while here on earth because the more intimate we are with Him the more like Him we become. Thus good deeds, love for others, and sacrifice, are all evidence of a relationship with Jesus.
We receive the greatest blessings as we operate within God’s designed plan for this sacred relationship. Disobedience does not disqualify us from eternity, rather our consistent disobedience and disrespect for the relationship will bring hardship, pain, and suffering. The believer that continues down this path ultimately may find the love of another and determine to step outside the sacred relationship thus choosing to be lost or separated from the God forever.
This is the believer’s prerogative. At any given point in the relationship he or she can choose to leave. It is not God’s desire for anyone to leave (2 Peter 3:9), he desires a deeper, life-altering, relationship with every believer. But in His love he always gives us the freedom to choose.
Sabbath is about relationship. It is the believer’s opportunity to honeymoon with God. It is a time for a Holy consummation of the union between God and man. It can be the height of spiritual celebration. As with the human marriage relationship there is to be time to enjoy the company of God and concentrate fully on Him. It is not only physical rest from our manual labor. It is spiritual rest in the finished, complete, atoning work of Jesus.
Our activity should be characterized by a favoritism toward the things of God. As Christ followers we are given freedom to live out Sabbath as our Spirit-influenced conscience dictates (Gal. 5:1). In other words, it isn’t up to the church or any institution to tell us what we can and cannot do when it comes to Sabbath living. The issue isn’t to force the relationship, the issue is flourishing in the relationship and experiencing the best God has to offer.