HT: John Fea’s blog:
Many things could and should be said about Josh Harris’s announcement that he has left both his wife and Christian faith. I offer here a few things that strike me as underappreciated by many Christians. More seriously, I also think the case can be made that these areas completely pass under the spiritual radar for far too many of us.
Be Sad, but not Surprised
The Bible makes it clear that you can cast out demons and not be a Christian (Mt. 7:21-23). Since that is true, it means that you can be a pastor, missionary, memorize lots of Scripture, lead people to faith in Jesus, and a whole bunch more, yet not be a Christian.
We American Christians are impressed with behavior. Our models for Christian growth tend to focus on what people do, not who they are. Don’t misunderstand. I am a big believer in sharing my faith, memorizing Scripture, and reading the Bible. However, Scripture warns me that these important practices for Christian growth can also be done for less than honorable reasons. Though terribly misguided, it is impressive to see someone who pours gas on his own body and then lights himself ablaze as a human torch. We’ve seen this occur from time to time in various protest movements. Such a stunning sacrifice, yet the Bible makes clear that this incredible act can be done completely devoid of love (I Cor. 13:3, NASB).
I’ve done open-air preaching on the campuses of Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve also done open-air preaching on the streets of Boulder, Colorado and Dallas, Texas. Impressive, eh? I can tell you, however, that these were much easier to do than gladly serving my family when I am tired physically. People may be wowed by the public preaching, but I can attest that it was much easier to do than serving my family in obscurity.
Biblical Illiteracy is Causing Much Damage
I’m sixty-one years old. I’ve been in various ministries for over forty years. In many places where Christians congregate, I’ve seen a precipitous drop in biblical literacy. A few months ago, I asked a group of ten college students, all from evangelical backgrounds, whether they had heard at least one sermon on the book of Lamentations. Not one of them had. Here you have a book of the Bible that has much to say in our current cultural moment and yet many are unaware of its riches. I should add that the book of Lamentations is not difficult to understand. The message of Lamentations is certainly difficult to accept which maybe offers some reason why so many preachers steer clear from preaching through it. Sadly, many miss this life-giving book of the Bible that offers unvarnished language for grieving when the unthinkable happens in our life.
Taking Every Thought Captive
In II Corinthians 10, we read that we are to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The battle always begins with our thoughts. All of us marinate on things that are ungodly. More than a few of these would be embarrassing to admit to anyone, but a loyal friend. Even then, it is risky. But what happens when you don’t know anyone who will provide a godly and safe environment to give voice to your darker thoughts? Answer: you are left to your own devices, and Scripture makes clear that going it alone is deadly.
I’ve seen this scenario play out before. A person has certain gifts that many are unwisely enamored with. The gifts cause the person to be elevated far past their maturity in Christ. In too many cases, the “indispensable” person is promoted to a position of Christian leadership when their own faith in Christ is uncertain. This, in most cases, only becomes evident later on when the damage is done.
During my various interviews for pastoral positions at four evangelical churches I was never asked about my own walk with the Lord. Everyone seemed quite happy that my two seminary degrees came from the right schools. One evangelical pastor, also with the right pedigree, only asked me about my ministry strategies for motivating church-attending men who are apathetic. In all the interviews, only one asked me about my relationship with my wife, but rather predictably, he is a professional counselor!
Where to Go from Here?
Instead of offering a grocery list of suggestions, and there are several things to consider, allow me to give one. When you think of your own life and the lives of the Christians in your orbit, focus on one thing: Who/what is loved most and why? If our communities are getting healthier, we should be free to say, “I love ministry more than God. I get more excited about shopping or golf more than anything else. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. Please help me with this.” May this be the kind of Christian communities that we build to His glory and our good!
In his book, he relates an entertaining anecdote from the airline industry. A baggage handler broke a musician’s $3,000 guitar, and the musician spent nine months working through the airline’s labyrinthine phone system to no avail. Finally he wrote a song about it, put it on YouTube and got more than 1 million views. The airline’s stock price fell 10 percent, costing shareholders more than $180 million, roughly 60,000 times the value of the original guitar.
A: “Imagine Donald Trump’s library.”
B: “You’d have to.”
I find this sort of thing motivating. Shout outs to Bill and Helen Reeves and Joe and Jill Wolfskill:
From Peter Scazzero, “Lessons in Leadership and Differentiation” (Part 1); Feb. 20, 2013
Leaders have a number of key tasks if we are to operate out of high level of integrity. These include:
- Confronting myself. Am I calm and clear about what God has given me to do? Where am I doing the easy thing, not the best thing for those around me? Where am I abandoning my own values? How am I allowing fear to cause me to ignore problems?
- Mastering myself in the face of anxiety. When we don’t, we end up looking for validation from other people. We end up using the people we aim to serve.
- Tolerating discomfort. There is never a good time to change things. In fact, it is impossible to create change while maintaining stability. To kindly bring up hard things others want is one of our critical tasks.
- Getting clear on my goals and steps. This is hard work. The alternative, however, is much worse. Once I have my goal, the next great challenge is to think through the steps to get there – in the right order.
In what ways might you be doing an easy thing in your leadership today and not the best? Where are you not thinking things through but taking the easy way out by focusing on the short-term?
Our oldest works for Deloitte in Dallas. He recently asked for my recommendations on books that tell about leaders who led even though they had limited resources. Here are my recommendations:
Founding Father: Rediscovering Geo. Washington by Brookhiser
What do you do when your soldiers are hungry, don’t have proper clothing/shoes, and some have already deserted? Washington’s m.o. gives lots of practical help.
Five Days in London: May 1940 by Lukacs
Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Shenk
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Millard