As Giants Fall: Hybels, Patterson and the Lessons Learned

Some things I have learned about leadership and followership from watching the downfall of two giants among Evangelical Christians:

Greatness in one area does not mean greatness in all areas.

Success does not equal spiritual growth.

Not all of your strong convictions are the right convictions.

Just because your strong convictions were needed at one time does not mean they are needed now.

Most downfalls can really be attributed to Money, Sex, and Power.

Leadership is not about who can stomp the loudest but who has the character to demand respect and followership.

Sacrificing spiritual growth for worldly success never works.

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Crisis is not the time for placing blame but for soul searching.

Hero worship among church members is dangerous and harmful.

God’s kingdom and its work should outweigh any personal validation.

Your legacy is not more important than God’s will.

Compassion is always an underrated attribute.

One’s leadership is contingent upon one’s spiritual growth.

Pride really does come before a fall.

Maybe God prefers smaller and deeper rather than bigger and shallower.

We are all capable of missteps and not all of those missteps are punishable offenses, but some are.

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Women have been essential to the success of the church for 2000 years, it is about time they got more respect.

We should look to Jesus for direction and deliverance not our own strength or cheap solutions.

Leadership is a lonely place.

Christian institutions are instruments for God’s work not the purpose of God’s work.

People who call for other’s heads should be willing to work, and work hard, for the needed solution.

It is not enough to knock someone down if you are not willing to build something better up.

Jesus must increase but I must decrease.

 

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Listen to Your Life

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

-Frederick Buechner, Now and Then 

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Creating Bullet Proof Christians

If our interactions with Christ can move from mere belief to a trusting relationship, then wonderful things such as obedience, holiness, and love follow. We Grow Up.

This kind of trusting relationship comes from knowledge of Christ. In one of his letters, Paul discusses knowledge of Christ and that knowledge leading to endurance, joyfullness, and an inheritance of God’s kingdom. He is not talking about knowledge, as in memorizing some facts and figures to regurgitate later but knowledge that comes from a relationship.

When my wife and I play games like Charades or Fish Bowl we have a way of understanding what each other is hinting at way before others are able to catch on. This is because we know each other well enough to know what is inside their head at a given moment.

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That is the type of knowledge that Paul is talking about when it comes to knowledge of Christ. When I rely and trust Jesus to be who he says he is, then I am not just relying on facts to see me through my days but I am relying on the knowledge I have gained from interacting with Jesus and developing an understanding of what is close to the heart of Christ.

Could it be that the entirety of scripture is not to prove that God exists but to prove that God can be relied upon and trusted? This is a huge difference. When God is unhappy with his called out people, the Israelites, he doesn’t criticize their belief in him, he criticizes their disobedience and their willingness to chase after replacements for what God can bring them. Similarly, Jesus discusses people’s lack of faith, not their understanding of doctrine.

By combining knowledge of Christ, as described above, with trust in Christ we have a recipe for growth that can create individuals that can endure, that can withstand trouble, that can change the world. The early church is proof of this and we can be too.

*This post was inspired by portions of Scot McKnight’s book, The King Jesus Gospel.

My Homeless Beach Weekend

Taking twelve homeless men to a beach house on the Texas coast? What could possibly go wrong?

Nothing. Actually.

A lifelong friend helps run a Houston Homeless Chess Club Ministry and back in March asked if I would go along with them on a retreat to the Texas coast. I didn’t quite know what to expect, who does when it comes to the homeless. But those guys were so welcoming and hospitable. I learned from them what it looks like to be accepting of a stranger and about gratitude. Gratitude for the simplest of things.

“I couldn’t tell you the last time I slept in a bed,” said one man as he thought about the bed that was all his for two nights. This same man also told us that a full night’s sleep was a luxury because the Houston police will come around at 4:30 a.m. and kick him out of his sleeping spot.

As we set up and tried to account for things at the beach house, I couldn’t help running many of the accommodations and particulars through my middle class, spoiled mindset just to quickly be reminded that these are homeless people who have very little and even smaller expectations. Over and over they would tell my friend and I thank you for the food, thank you for the trip, thank you for coming, thank you for taking the time to be with them.

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Additionally, I learned the lesson of just making myself available without turning a charitable thing into a project.

Being present with people, making them feel valued, listening to them, serving them, getting to know them is a worthy effort that is not lessened because you lack a set of steps to take to get them out of their trouble.

I have worked with the homeless before and I am not trying to sugar coat their plight or look past the realities that have caused them to be homeless but what these guys have, that I often lack, is perspective.

When I gave a short devotional for them on Sunday morning and we talked about understanding the fullness of who God is, they went on an on about all that they had to thank God for. Yes, even in their homelessness, gratitude and thankfulness towards a loving heavenly Father was on the tip of their tongues. I don’t have that kind of thankfulness and lack that kind of divine perspective. These homeless guys taught me that I can look towards God with eyes that don’t constantly have to be filtered by my circumstances, good or bad.

As we were about to leave, one guy said, “You coming from Dallas to be with us, that is epic, man.” No, Eugene. Being reminded of what matters most and the true value of loving, accepting community, that is “epic.”

When Your Good News Is Not Good Enough

Scot McKnight says that, “If the gospel isn’t about transformation, it isn’t the gospel of the Bible.”

The gospel I see the most in churches is a reduction to mere statements of belief. Words are important and our beliefs need to be verbalized and stated confidently and with conviction. But, what we truly believe is demonstrated by how we live. That is the true test of our belief.

How we live is the part that needs to be transformed and mere statements of belief are not enough. When Jesus encountered people in need he expected and planned on transformation occurring. Zacchaeus was so taken by Jesus’ generosity and care for him, he decided to give half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times the amount to the people he had swindled. The woman caught in adultery, after being rescued from execution, was told to go and sin no more. Transformation was expected not a bullet list of new beliefs.

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Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

The rich young ruler had all of his beliefs down to the letter but he didn’t have the transformation that comes from making Jesus his Lord. He wanted to have Jesus without the transformation. It doesn’t work that way.

What is your life saying about your beliefs? Are you satisfied with your beliefs and patting yourself on the back for them but go on living with bitterness, lazy thinking, anger, worry, and longing? Let Christ transform you from the inside out, let him take residence in your self from top to bottom and change your mind and heart. That is the gospel, the good news of a life transformed by the power of Christ.