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Walk in the Light – Be Ever Accountable (guest blog by Matt Cooper)

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

Hello everyone!

My name is Matt and I’m part of the team at Ever Accountable. We offer tools designed to help people live above pornography and walk in the light through accountability.

Today I’m very excited to share some thoughts with you on the importance of accountability when it comes to winning the fight against pornography. Many thanks to pastor Bernie Anderson for letting speak to you from his blog – so let’s get into it!

When it comes to pornography, there’s one simple fact to be aware of: it’s a deed done in darkness. And why is it done in darkness? Because that’s where it thrives. If we find ourselves cornered and alone, that’s when pornography tries to tighten its grip. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us that two are better than one and because they can help each other up; naturally, our enemy seeks to tempt us when we are by ourselves, can’t be seen, and are therefore at our weakest.

So that’s the bad news, but here’s the good news: the Bible has an answer for how to have victory!
Ephesians 5:11 advises us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” In the original Hebrew language, the word reprove can be found to mean, “call to account” or “demand an explanation”. So, in other words – to be accountable for our actions! That, my friends, is a powerful key to success in the fight against pornography.

You see, accountability allows us to work together to overcome the temptation to view pornography. By sharing our deeds with a trusted friend, we are exposing them to the light and robbing pornography of its power over us. In this open relationship built upon a foundation of trust, we no longer enable the temptation of pornography to back us into a corner by ourselves. Without darkness and in an environment brightened by the light, pornography simply cannot survive.

The Bible counsels us to not go it alone and when it comes to taking advice, the Bible is one source I’ve learned not to question! So how do we incorporate accountability into our lives? First, we need to find at least one person we trust to who can serve as our accountability partner. This is the person we will open up to and look to for support. From there, we need to make sure that we leverage the tools available to us to make sure we are guarding the avenues to our soul – our eyes and ears.

One such tool is our Ever Accountable Android application for phones and tablets. Ever Accountable monitors internet browsing and application usage on mobile phones and tablets and sends clear weekly reports to the individual user’s accountability partners. We are also currently working to add an iOS version of our application along with supporting Windows PCs, those exciting developments are coming in the very near future.
In Romans 12:12, we read the following: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.”

Friends, I encourage you to live above pornography and walk in the light through accountability. You won’t regret it!

All the best,
Matt
Ever Accountable
matt@everaccountable.com

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5 Reasons The Summit is “No Shoes Required”

Global Leadership Summit

Global Leadership Summit

For two days every August Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Association host The Global Leadership Summit. When most of us are tempted to squeeze in one final summer vacation escape the Summit is it’s own escape for leaders of every stripe albeit for a divine purpose. This year I’ll miss the Summit. Not because I’m taking a break or planned something over the Summit (it’s been on my calendar since the last Summit). I’ll be taking care of my wife (an excellent leader BTW) who (unexpectedly) is having surgery the day before the Summit.

But I have to write about the Summit hoping that someone who has never attended will read and be encouraged to go (there’s still time to register here). Besides it gives me a little sense that I’m actually connected in some way (“there in spirit”). I don’t fall into that category of Summit veteran, but I’ve attended five Summits and I’ve been the lead pastor of a church that hosted back-to-back Summits as a premier host site. I’ve also witnessed up-close the impact of the Summit on the lives of leaders, not to mention my own. So here’s my list of why the Summit IMO is always a gathering where God is present and shoes are optional:

#1 Holy Ground: When God met with Moses on Mount Horeb He commanded him to “take off” his sandals because the place where Moses stood had become Holy ground because of God’s divine presence. There’s no denying that The Summit is God’s annual visitation with those who have been divinely called to lead. It is a sacred, holy, set-apart space, and anyone who has ever attended knows that. I attended the Summit at the Willow campus several years ago and feverishly attempted to take notes from every presentation. I soon learned that there was a disruption to my soul in this. It felt as if I was trying to “get my money’s worth” in a way. As if I had to extract value in a tangible way in order to justify the expense. That thinking is flawed for sure. The Summit is divine encounter. Notes are important and you’ll take some for sure but reserve your pen and paper for those personally profound truths that rattle you to the core. Don’t attempt to get it all it’s the equivalent of trying to get a drink from a fire hydrant and you’ll only find yourself frustrated. Trust me there are the note takers and God bless them for it and for posting it for the rest of us to consume later! (smile)

#2 Transformational: In George Barna’s book Maximum Faith he lists “brokenness” as the pivot point for real and lasting transformation to occur. I completely agree and the Summit is a place where you will find yourself in pieces. Bill’s opening message usually “rocks your world” from there, who knows. Most memorable from recent Summits is “mama Maggie” who gave a riveting, awkward, and profound, message about sacrifice and serving. Draped in a white, seemingly angelic robe, she wept as she spoke in a trembling hushed tone. Then there’s Pranitha Timothy again, a soft spoken woman, but a bold voice as an abolitionist that is changing history on behalf of those enslaved around the world. She is Director of Aftercare for International Justice Mission who spoke on caring for the soul in the midst of extreme challenges. Wow. Just wow. I’ve seen business men, pastors, and other leaders return from the Summit determined to take whatever they lead, to a whole new level. Bill refers to it as Holy Discontent. It isn’t contention, pretentiousness, or arrogance it’s singly a divine determination to truly be an effective leader wherever we are. So be forewarned wherever you take in the Summit whether on Willow’s campus, or at one of the 300+ premier host sites God may reveal himself in such a way that will mess you up!

#3 Focused: Every leader knows there’s always more we can do. In fact at some point in our leadership we’ve fallen into the trap of believing that our never-ending activity, full slate of meetings, and being constantly in demand somehow equates to effective leadership. Then we realize we’ve become ineffective at pretty much everything due to our lack of focus. Not so with WCA and The Summit. It’s about leadership. Plain and simple. There’s a very clear focus to The Summit that I love. Bill usually says something along these lines, “For the church to reach it’s redemptive potential it must be well led.” I love that and I love the local church. The Summit is focused on helping leaders of all organizations get better at leading. There’s no other agenda.

#4 Energizes: I thought about using the word “inspiring” here. The Summit is inspiring for sure but in a Summit talk in 2012 Bill Hybels talked about how the most important leadership asset a leader has isn’t “TIME” but “ENERGY” and the ability to “ENERGIZE” other people. I said it in my Summit post last year and I’ll say it again. I struggle as a leader. Leadership does not come naturally for me! I often cringe at the thought of being a leader and someone who God is going to “use” to carry out His mission. In fact I’m certain I’ve delayed, if not been a barrier to progress at times due to my lack of leadership acumen. But I find hope in this notion of ENERGY as a leadership asset! By God’s grace I do have that. In fact we all do and who among us can’t find the 3-5 or even 6 things in our organizations that we lead that need our energy and get behind them. The Summit is a power-packed, high energy, energizing 2 days that will energize even the most squeamish of leaders.

#5 Awakens: Like you, as a leader I lay awake sometimes in the early morning hours with visions dancing around in my head. Visions of what I believe God wants me to do and what He wants me to become. But after breathing out a quick prayer and rolling out those visions often get sucked into the vortex of the daily grind. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t to say that I just go about willy nilly with no sense of purpose, guided only by the tyranny of immediate tasks or mere whim! Okay, well, soooo maybe that happens some days! But I’d like to think there is some sense of vision that guides my life and ministry.

But when we’re in the trenches sometimes the original vision that inspired my devotion in the first place falls asleep somewhere in the soul. The Summit is everything I’ve said above but more than anything it is an AWAKENING (sometimes rude), a RESURRECTION if you will, of the vision that God placed in your heart and mind years ago! Think about it. If you had one event from the life of Jesus that you could go back in time to witness wouldn’t it be the empty tomb? Or maybe you would want to be there when Lazarus is awakened from his death slumber by Jesus? Both evidence the power of God to bring life out of death. This is a danger of The Summit too. You will come away different, re-animated, energized, alive, awake. People won’t know what to do with you! Oh, but wait, perhaps they will indeed “follow” you as their leader who is alive with renewed vision and hope.

If you can get to The Summit do it! Even if only for one of the days. It will be worth it. By the way feel free to go barefooted, it’s okay, it’s sacred, holy ground, and God commanded it.

Lead where you are.

Global Leadership Summit Day 2 (Vijay Govindarajan)

VijayGovindarajan_150The 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:

Quotes:

  • “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:

  1. Box 1 = Manage the Present
  2. Box 2 = Selectively Abandon the Past
  3. 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!

Global Leadership Summit Day 1 Takeaways

ImageBill Hybels gave an impassioned message about the leader’s need for courage.

Main scriptural reference Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Notable quotes:

  • “Every vision tests the medal of a leader.”
  • “Step out in faith despite the fact that you’re vibrating with fear!”
  • “There’s an extremely cool vision hidden within us.”
  • “Staff culture will only be as healthy as the senior pastor wants it to be.”
  • “Had to make some brave apologies.”
  • “A flourishing culture is far more productive.”
  1. Courageous leadership demands fortitude.
  2. Courageous leadership requires that we define reality.
  3. Courageous leadership means building a fantastic culture.
  4. Courageous leadership requires that we take our vision and establish values.
  5. Courageous leadership is required in order to finish strong.

He also mentioned:

  • It takes courage to keep leading amidst “blistering criticism”
  • It takes courage to keep leading amidst “heartbreaking disappointment”
  • It takes courage to keep leading when your marriage is under pressure or your son or daughter’s life is coming apart.

My thoughts:

Bill was really energized! It came through. He was intense, passionate, emotional. He made us laugh and cry but drove home some powerful lessons on leadership and courage. I rank this talk right up there with some of his best opening messages of past Summits.

The idea of culture really stood out to me. That’s where so many of us as leaders are. We’re trying to transform our internal culture or at least we pray to see God transform it. From what he was sharing it took roughly five years before they reach a level of “flourishing”. That’s with him agonizing on whether to address it or not. Problem is most of us leaders just don’t even go there! If we never take any intentional steps toward “defining reality” how can we ever begin to move from a place that’s toxic, status quo, or healthy?

The other thing that hit home was the “establishment of values”. Wow! That was powerful. The notion that we must move from having this “vision” to actually letting people know we can’t just talk about this anymore we must become this! He spoke about how it is the leaders job to finally say, “love it or leave it!”

Too many times we leaders leave it at the level of vision and hope and pray people just show up one day and get it. Moving to the place where that vision becomes a hard and fast value will take an enormous amount of courage.

7 Reasons To Attend the Global Leadership Summit

271372224_640I 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!

Myth #7 I Can Do It On My Own

Myth #7 I Can Get Free On My Own

“We have a better chance at survival if we work together!”

My quick response to this myth is, uhhh, how’s that working for ya!? Sure there are some exceptions (very few I might add!), but in general the solo approach to sobriety just doesn’t work. Here’s why, as a counselor once told me, “you’ll give in to the weasel every time!” In other words the majority of us men, if left to ourselves, will succumb to the pressure to act out. Truth is, there’s a “weasel” in all of us. The weasel rationalizes and comes up with justification for our misbehavior. The weasel lets us off the hook when it comes to holding the line on purity.

As much as we resist having someone else in our “business”, we do much better with a co-pilot, a coach, or an awesome friend on our journey toward a pure life. We need someone who won’t let us “weasel out” when things get hard. We need someone or a community of people who will speak truth into our lives even when we don’t want to hear it.

No question, it is natural to want to keep our struggle to ourselves and hope that in time the temptations subside. I get that. I did it for quite a few years myself. But it wasn’t until I began to open up about the sin that so hounded my soul that I began to see real progress toward sobriety. Quite simply, one of the most powerful things that led to breakthrough for me was that as I opened up I found that other guys would speak up too. There was an instant brotherhood and camaraderie in this. Generally you don’t experience this though unless you are first willing to be vulnerable enough to let someone hear your story first.

The Bible sheds some light on the drawbacks to going it alone as well:

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

But how can one keep warm alone?

12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Some might say, well I’m not really going it alone, I have God and it’s something I’m settling with Him. Of course that is part of the process. The Bible says, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” [I John 4:4] But the Bible is also very clear about another way to help those caught up in sin. Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently….” Verse 2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.”

There are other references that I could draw upon. The point is that even with our deepest struggles we are far better off in partnership with others as we attempt to tackle them.

My favorite seen in the movie Gladiator is the scene where Maximus and his ragtag team of fighters are in the arena going up against multiple enemies. Before the great battle begins Maximus says, “Whatever comes out of those gates, we have a better chance of survival if we work together.”

If you’ve been believing Myth #7 you will continue to fail. Find a community, start connecting, and getting accountable. In this arena you will only survive if you work together with others.

5 more Key Integrity “Shifts”

Making the "Shift"

Making the “Shift”

I really believe “Shift” must happen in all of us! Shifts are challenging transitions we make that ultimately lead to a life of integrity. Yesterday I listed the first of 10 Key Integrity Shifts that I believe have to be made in order to live a life of integrity in every arena of life. Here are 5 more:

#6. Graceless Religion, to Grace-filled Gospel (Romans 1:16) Religion has its place but believers are called to proclaim the message of a grace-infused gospel. It is a message of empowering love and acceptance that cannot be experienced anywhere else. Are you hung up on your “religion” or has the message of grace so touched you that you can’t help but speak of how “amazing” it is?

#7. Growing information, to Maturing spiritually (Colossians 1:28-29) Becoming a mature believer is more than acquiring more information about God and the church. It is living out the demands of the information we already have, because of the calling God places on our lives.

#8. Natural man, to Spiritual man (1 Corinthians 2:14) The leap from natural to spiritual is a mysterious work of the Holy Spirit. But it makes all the difference in the world. Living under the influence of the Spirit of God brings spiritual depth and clarity.

#9. Starved “Loner” to authentic Community (1 Thessalonians 1:8) “Life sharing” is vital to growth and development as a Christ follower. It is easy to go it alone, but when we do we sacrifice the benefits of learning and loving other believers. Without an experience of authentic community we’ll seek out illegitimate ways to fulfill that longing for life in community.

#10. Reluctant commitment to Radical connection (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLT) The word radical means to be “rooted”. It’s easy to find people who will “commit” to something, especially if there are benefits. But Christ calls us to a life deeply rooted in Him. It is far more than our sometimes shallow commitments. To be rooted in Christ is to move from being merely a fan, to being a fully devoted Christ follower.

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