Three quick insights that I am taking away from the 2008 election . . .
- I am grateful for the democratic process. No matter who wins or loses . . . it seems that nearly half the people are always unhappy with the outcome. However, at least we have the privilege of casting our vote. There are people all over the globe who can only dream of such a right. For the people and by the people. No matter how heated and personal the debate get . . . not matter how divided the nation seems to be . . . when it is all said and done . . . one person concedes and the other is sworn in. There are few countries in the world where one party willingly and peacefully hands over the reigns of power without one shot being fired. The constitution is quite the governing document. Now one party has the opportunity to capture and carry out their vision for our nation while the other has the challenge of rediscovering and redefining theirs by the next election cycle.
- I am prepared to offer true and lasting vision. The votes are in and the situation is crystal clear . . . our nation is thirsting for leadership. They want someone to believe in. They are searching for such concepts as change, hope, and sacrifice. Everyone was designed with the desire to give their lives to something bigger than themselves. However, like any other elected official, Obama will never be able to keep every campaign promise that he made. He will fall short. He will fail some. Disappoint others. He is human (just like all the others on both sides of the aisle – or like you and I for that matter). The government can only do so much . . . they can never change a heart. The question is, what will the church do when the public realizes that not everything is going to get better overnight? That there are no easy answers. Will we ignore those who disagree with us? Will we rub it in their faces? Or will we actually present them with the One who can transform the world that we are a part of? Will we actually share with them the mission worth investing in? Will we offer them the Messiah? Jesus Christ. Will we be ready for such an opportune time in our history?
- I am confident that the Kingdom will survive another Empire. I love my country . . . for much of what she has done, for much of what she is and for much of what she could become. However, my allegiance will always be with Christ and the Kingdom of God. I will never allow my patriotism to blind me to an opportunity of righteous. The launch of our movement survived Rome two thousand years ago – it can surely thrive in the midst of an ungodly and unchurched nation. Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light . . . so maybe the church just has not been bright enough? Jesus once said to the first followers, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:25-34).
No matter how you voted this last Tuesday, no matter your party preference, or your political ideology – will you join me in praying for our nation? Will you join me in praying for our president-elect and other public servants? Above all else, let’s pray for the church . . . that she would be blessed to be a blessing. That we would be incredible lovers of God and lovers of people. That we would be committed to connecting our world to the love of Christ. That the Kingdom of God, in all his truth, love, grace, mercy, and justice, would transform the world that we live in . . . and that we can be a part of it!
When was a time that you refused to be teachable? That you falsely believed that you had all of the answers? There was a period during my high school years where I was not giving my best. I loved to read and to write – but only in my interests and only in my time. That just did not cut it with my teachers and I quickly found myself facing my father and forced to answer for my poor performance. He approached the challenge with a question, “Jud, don’t you want to be a pastor someday?” Without a hint of hesitation (and maybe a tinge of arrogance) I answered, “Absolutely.” He continued, “Don’t you have to go to college for that sort of thing?” I responded, “Usually.” He closed with, “Well, last time I checked you need to graduate from high school in order to get into a college.” Ouch. Talk about a reality check. I am forever indebted to my father for having the courage to have that conversation with me. For that very reason I gave him my tassel from my high school graduations (as well my college ceremonies).
What keeps us from growing? What happens if we do not take inventory on a regular basis? One of my favorite books of all-time is Reggie McNeal’s Practicing Greatness. He warns that the stagnant leader is in grave danger of losing three very crucial characteristics. First, they become prideful (forgetting the true Source of their strength). Second, they become ineffective (accomplishing the mission takes new methods as the times and teams change). Third, they become self-centered (forgetting that their responsibility is to leave people better off than before). Elton Trueblood says that “Deliberate mediocrity is a sin.” Grow daily or die gradually. Influencers take inventory.
God needs great leaders within the church. Just take Jesus’ conversations with his first followers. One of the most troubling conversations in the midst of the team took place when “. . . James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’ ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?’ ‘We can,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.’ When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'” (Mark 10:35-45).
The disciples did not understand what it meant to be truly great. They did not have the right direction . . . many of them were striving for political position and liberty. They had spent all of that time with the Master but still did not share his attitudes or actions. They lacked the righteous motivation . . . still all about themselves rather than about those around them. The disciples did not have what it took to be great. The followers needed to step back and become self-aware (assessing their tenderness and talents), self-managed (spending time listening and learning from their Teacher), self-developed (utilizing the right resources and depending upon the Holy Spirit), missional (living out the message with their words and actions), decision-makers (becoming wise and courageous), cooperative (complimenting instead of competing), and sanctified (being strategic in their spiritual formation).
Influencers take inventory. How can you develop as a leader (being one of integrity and influence)? How about taking a spiritual gift test or Gallup’s Strength Finder assessment? What about attending a workshop on time management or a health seminar? Read a few books on areas in which you can grow. Do you have enough friendships and accountability in place? Could you imagine how much more effective our churches would be in connecting people to Christ if only they were made up of healthy and growing leaders? First, we would be able to release implementers by the droves . . . seeing more creativity and courage in our people (teammates who understand the vision and are able to bring about the unthinkable). Finally, we would be able to mobilize the masses – placing each individual in their “sweet spot” to shine for Christ’s kingdom. Ask the tough questions and begin the process of becoming all that you were designed to become!