Saturday, May 27, 2017

Can a Christian Drink Alcohol

Can a Christian Drink Alcohol

Can A Christian Drink Alcohol
On Monday night, news broke that Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Shaun White had been charged with vandalism and public intoxication. On my Facebook wall, I posted the following comment: “This just in…and the gold medal for character enhancement, once again, goes to alcohol.”
For years, well-meaning, sincere Christians have debated the subject of drinking. Let me be clear by saying there isn’t a single verse in the Bible that says a Christian cannot have a drink; although the Bible clearly warns about the destructive and addictive nature of alcohol (Proverbs 20:1; 21:17; 23:29-35; Ephesians 5:18) and is very clear that drunkenness is always wrong (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3; Habakkuk 2:15; 1 Corinthians 5:11).
The Bible is also clear that mature Christians should avoid causing others to stumble by drinking (Romans 14:21), and that leaders ought to avoid drinking alcohol (Proverbs 31:4-7) and cannot be given to drunkenness (1 Timothy 3:3, 8Titus 1:7.)
I have yet to hear from anyone who drinks how alcohol enhances anything or blesses anyone. Max Lucado said, “One thing for sure, I have never heard anyone say, ‘A beer makes me feel more Christlike… Fact of the matter is this: People don’t associate beer with Christian behavior.”1 I’ve yet to see how it improves someone’s testimony or makes anyone a more effective witness for Christ. Quite the contrary, like Shaun White mentioned above, or Richard Roberts, Oral Roberts’ son, who was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma, driving under the influence, the result doesn’t enhance your testimony. Rather, it takes away from what testimony you had.
Recently, a friend of mine, former megachurch Pastor John Caldwell, wrote an article in Christian Standard magazine called To Drink or Not to Drink? Here’s the link to his article. John’s article explained why he has personally abstained from drinking alcohol and dealt with the bigger issue of the contemporary church becoming more and more like the world.
Not surprisingly, a number of people responded to John’s article and some called him to task for taking such a strong stand against drinking. In response to the responses, my good friend Ken Idleman, former President of Ozark Christian College and now Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church in Evansville, Ind., wrote these words, which are among the very best I’ve ever read on this issue. I asked Ken for his permission to share them here.
“OK, I am conscience bound to weigh in on this one… For a minute, forget about making a definitive case for or against ‘drinking’ from the Bible. Here’s the truth from logic and real life. No one starts out to be an alcoholic. Everyone begins with a defensive attitude saying, ‘I’m just a social drinker and there is nothing wrong with it!’ no one says, ‘It is my ambition that someday I want to lose my job, my health, my self-respect, my marriage and my family. Someday I want to be dependent on alcohol to get through my day.’ Yet, this is the destination at which several millions of people have arrived. Why do you suppose that is? It is because alcohol is promoted and elevated as a normal/sophisticated activity in life… It is also expensive, addictive and enslaving. People get hooked by America’s number one legal drug. And just like all illegal drugs, alcohol finds it way into the body, the bloodstream and the brain of the user/abuser.
I had two uncles whose lives were wrecked by alcohol. The exception you say? Hardly. It is not what they wanted when they dreamed of their futures when they were in their 20s. Praise God, they were wonderfully delivered in their 60s when the grace of God became real to them. And can you imagine it?… They got their lives back by becoming total abstainers by the power of the Holy Spirit!
One of my most memorable conversations in the state penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo., was with a young man facing a 28-year prison sentence for the brutal sexual assault of his own 8-year-old daughter. I will never forget the image. The tears literally ran off his chin and splashed on his shoes as he gushed, ‘I guess I did it. I don’t know. I was drunk at the time.’
Listen, some of those who are defensive in response to Dr. Caldwell’s thoughtful and courageous article will want to revise their text if, in a few years, they discover that they were able to handle their drinking just fine, but their son or daughter could not. Answer honestly. Could you live with the knowledge that your dangerous exercise of Christian liberty factored into your children’s ruin? Or, if your loved one is killed some day in a head on collision by a driver under the influence who crossed the center line, will you still be defensive of drinking?
A good friend during my growing up years was the only child of social drinking parents. When his folks were away, he would go to the rathskeller [German for tavern] in the basement where he developed a taste for alcohol. I won’t bore you with the details. He is 65 today. A broken life, broken health, broken marriages, a broken relationship with his only son, a broken relationship with his only grandchild, a broken career and a broken spirit that…tragically…he tries daily to medicate with the alcohol that led him to this tragic destination.
Hey, thanks for indulging my rant. Like my friend John Caldwell, I confess to setting the bar high for Christian leadership [especially] when it comes to aesthetic holiness. Call me a ‘right-wing fundamentalist.’ Call me a ‘throw back to the days of the tent evangelists.’ Call me a ‘simpleton.’ Call me a ‘minimalist.’ But, if you do, go ahead and also call me a ‘watchman on the wall’ where the welfare of my family [children, in-laws, grandchildren] and my church family is concerned.”2
Personally, I’ve yet to have my first beer and have no desire to start now or to drink alcohol of any kind. At the same time, I don’t judge those who believe they have freedom in Christ to drink. But when asked, I always tell people I don’t believe it’s the best choice.
The bottom line is this: The question really isn’t CAN A CHRISTIAN DRINK? Rather, it is: SHOULD A CHRISTIAN DRINK?
© 2012. Barry L. Cameron
1 David Faust, Voices From The Hill, (Cincinnati, OH: Cincinnati Bible College & Seminary, 2003) 252.
2 John Caldwell, “To Drink or Not to Drink,” Christian Standard 11 August 2012, 18 September 2012.

Overcoming Anxiety in Leadership

Overcoming Anxiety in Leadership

Overcoming Anxiety in Leadership
If you’re a leader, you understand the weight of responsibility you carry each day. Tough decisions, organizational direction, hiring and firing, developing leaders, and innovating the future are just a few examples of the pressures you wake up with each morning. While our culture glamorizes leaders, the truth is, leadership is hard work, and with it comes real anxiety.
So, how do you deal with the anxiety of leadership? What do you do when the pressures increase and the stakes grow higher? In Philippians 4:6-7, the apostle Paul gives us some helpful perspective. He writes:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
In these two verses, Paul outlines two keys to resist anxiety when it flares up in your life (or your leadership), and then he describes what happens when we follow his advice.

1. Don’t Worry

I know what you’re thinking…”easier said than done.” Paul’s words, “don’t worry about anything,” seem overly simplistic, especially for leaders dealing with the complexity of organizational leadership. So, what exactly does Paul mean by “worry”?
The word translated “worry” was often used to describe the anxiety people experienced with the everyday needs of life. In fact, it’s the same word Jesus used in Matthew 13 when he compared God’s Word to the seeds being sown by farmers. Jesus said, “The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced” (Matthew 13:22, NLT).
Jesus was saying, “Worry has the ability to choke, or suffocate, or smother, the influence of God’s Word in your life.” Haven’t you found that to be true? How often do you worry about the bottom line of your organization? We give fear and worry “forecasting” authority…and they forecast the worst outcomes.
When we give our fears forecasting authority, we adopt a low view of God. A.W. Tozer said, “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.” When we adopt a high view of our problems instead of a high view of our God, then our problems displace God. Simply put, worry is a form of worship.
When our leadership is distracted by the size of our worry, our heart diminishes the size of our God. We start to believe God can’t handle our problems, so we focus on our problems more. The only way to break the cycle is to ask God to enlarge our view of Him.

2. Do Pray

Paul continues his exhortation: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6, NLT). Notice two words: Anything and everything. Don’t worry about anything. Do pray about everything.
Then Paul shares three ways to practice anxiety-defeating prayer: Pray, Tell God and Thank Him.
  • Pray – The word “pray” actually carries with it the idea of “worship,” which makes complete sense. If worry causes us to have a low view of God and a high view of our problems, then wouldn’t it make sense that our first response to worry would be to worship God. Worry is a form of worship (worship of our problems); therefore, worry is displaced when we shift our worship to the Lord. It’s like Paul said, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, worship God in everything….every circumstance, every need, every problem.” In other words, when your mind is filled with worry, let your heart be filled with worship.
  • Tell God – “Tell God” means to present your specific needs to God. Whatever is causing you to worry, present that to God in prayer. He’s not too small to meet your need.
  • Thank Him – “Thank Him” is the attitude in which we pray. How are we able to thank God when worry and anxiety try to fill our minds? We thank as a posture of faith, believing He is able to meet our needs.
When you draw near to God, He draws near to you, and suddenly your problems don’t seem so big. “Pray,” “Tell God” and “Thank Him” are measures that will enlarge your view of God.
When your mind is filled with worry, let your heart be filled with worship. CLICK TO TWEET

The Outcome of “Don’t Worry” and “Do Pray”

Look again at Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
When Paul said that God’s peace “exceeds anything we can understand,” he wasn’t just implying His peace is incomprehensible. Paul was saying that God’s peace is so great that the mind of man—no matter how intellectual or skillful—could never produce such peace on its own. You might be smart, but you’re not smart enough to manufacture peace, because God’s peace is superior to human understanding.
Finally, Paul concludes by saying that God’s peace will “guard your hearts and minds.” The word “guard” is a military term. It’s a picture of a soldier standing guard. In the same way, God’s peace will stand guard in your heart and mind.

Jesus on Worry

Paul wasn’t the first one to teach these principles. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” Then Jesus goes on to say that God feeds the birds of the air and He clothes the lilies of the field, and if God is that intentional about taking care of birds and flowers, He’ll most certainly take care of you. Then Jesus said:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:31-33, NLT, emphasis added).
As a leader, you carry great responsibility. When you find anxiety increasing—and you will—embrace the words that Jesus and Paul prescribed as a beautiful, peace-filled remedy.
  • Don’t Worry
  • Do Pray
  • Enlarge your view of God
  • Worship God
  • Present your specific needs to the Lord
  • Thank God by faith
  • Seek the Kingdom of God above all else
  • Live righteously
In God you will find the strength and peace to continue moving forward. You can overcome anxiety when you shift your perspective to the One who is truly in control.
This article originally appeared here.

There Are Way Too Many Churches—Plus Two Other Hard but Necessary Truths

There Are Way Too Many Churches—Plus Two Other Hard but Necessary Truths

In the middle of an economic recovery, hundreds of shops and malls are shuttering their doors. There have already been as many retail bankruptcies in 2017 as in all of 2016. J.C. Penney, RadioShack, Macy’s and Sears have each announced more than 100 store closures. Just a few weeks ago, women’s apparel chain Bebe said it would close all of its remaining 170 shops and only sell online.
So what’s going on?
And what might churches learn from it?
There may be more of a direct parallel than you think. First, here are the three realities causing the retail slide:
1. People are buying more online than they used to.
OK, no surprise here. Amazon is killing retail. Amazon’s sales in North America quintupled from $16 billion to $80 billion. As an Atlantic Monthly article noted, “Sears’ revenue last year was about $22 billion, so you could say Amazon has grown by three Sears in six years.”
2. There are way too many malls.
Right now, there are about 1,200 malls. In a decade, you can expect that to drop to around 900. No, that’s not the death of malls, but it’s not exactly much of a “life.” The reason is that we are “over-stored” (too many stores). When you have store after store catering to the same kind of customer, there is little chance for all of them to prosper.
3. Americans are shifting their spending from materialism to meals out with friends.
This may be the biggest trend of all—or, at least, the most significant. Travel is booming. Hotel occupancy is way, way up. Last year U.S. airlines set a record with 8.23 million passengers. The rise of restaurants is even more telling. Since 2005, sales at “food services and drinking places” have grown twice as fast as all other retail. In 2016, for the first time ever, Americans spent more money in restaurants and bars than at grocery stores.
Some speculate that many young people are driven by the experiences that will make the best social media content. Laugh if you want, but “what experience will reliably deliver the most popular Instagram post” is not insignificant to many people.
What does this have to do with churches?
Let’s restate the three reasons for the retail slide in terms of how it parallels what the church is facing:
1. People are exploring churches online more than they used to.
People are not just buying online, they are exploring all future actions online. That means that your website is the portal, the first step that people take in regard to whether to attend. At Meck, we’ve now found that the most common first step before attending is visiting our website. The second step is watching a service online. Then, and only then, might they attend. When people at Meck invite their friends, they often intuitively begin by saying, “Check it out on the web.”
For this reason, our printed invite cards that we provide, and that many Meckers carry to give to friends and people they might meet, contain only our church name and website.
That’s it.
You won’t find addresses, phone numbers, service times…just
That’s the first step they are going to take anyway.
Yet just as retail stores failed to see the importance and power of online shopping, too many churches develop their website primarily for those who are already attending. Instead of realizing that’s where many people will “shop” for a church, they treat it as a destination for those who are already part of their community. To switch metaphors, instead of treating it like the front door or foyer into the home that it is, they develop it as if it’s the kitchen or living room for the family to hang out in.
2. There are way too many churches.
It would be glib to say that with “way too many malls” there are also way too many churches.
Well, call me glib.
But let me define “too many.”
I strongly believe in church planting as well as the more recent multi-site strategy that many churches are pursuing.
I strongly believe that it takes many different kinds of churches to reach many different kinds of people.
I strongly believe that if you are truly after the unchurched, there is no such thing as “too many churches.” If you are truly after the unchurched, there could be a dozen churches within blocks of your location and it wouldn’t matter. You’re not after someone looking for a church, so you’re not in competition with other churches. You’re after the vast pool of the unchurched.
But let’s be candid. I can count on one hand the number of churches I am familiar with that are truly oriented almost exclusively to the unchurched in terms of their outreach. Their rhetoric may say otherwise, but their actual outreach strategy, their marketing, the way they interact with other churches, reveals the truth.
Which means most churches are in competition with each other, whether they own it or not. They are largely growing through transfer growth, and if that’s how you’re growing, you’re in competition with other churches. And it’s in that sense that I say there are too many churches.
And church planting isn’t helping. There is too much indiscriminate, “don’t bother me with the facts about the area’s need” church starts that are designed/equipped to do little to penetrate the unchurched world.
A church planter will come into an area, find several large, established churches representing a wide array of denominations and styles. These churches are growing, effective, established. On top of this, they will find almost every school and every movie theater housing a new church start. So if there is a need for new churches, there is an ample crop being planted.
So what does that church planter do?
Come and plant there anyway, becoming the 15th McDonald’s in a row of 14. Why? On paper, the area is a hot demographic. Their rhetoric? The vast numbers of unchurched. Reality? They are not designed to reach the unchurched, and often not even desiring to be.
So let me touch the third rail and say what few will dare: Just as retail is over-stored, we are often over-churched. At least, in terms of the kind of church that we already have ample numbers of in existence. This is why so many church plants and smaller churches are closing their doors or failing to reach critical mass.
We must either plant where there is truly a need, or plant a church that is truly for the unchurched. Apart from this, we will continue to see failure. Yes, the church is a supernatural entity that the Holy Spirit can do with as He wishes, but we are also called to another Holy Spirit-blessed endeavor: to think and be strategic.
3. Americans are shifting their “spending” from spiritual truth to spiritual experience.
Though the aforementioned online buying is cutting deeply into traditional retail, it’s not cutting into retail just because it’s retail. People still crave experience. Malls are dying because we’re over-stored and we’re receiving too little experience when we go. In short, malls used to be entertainment destinations; now, as one Tampa, Florida, resident put it: “I don’t like going to malls anymore. They’re energy suckers.”
So people choose convenience shopping (translation: online).
But if experience can be re-melded to retail, then it becomes instantly attractive. Even more attractive than the convenience online shopping provides.
This is particularly true for Generation Z. “These connected souls value the experience of being connected… And when they shop, they are looking for an experience in-store that is like, or connected outright, to the world they know online.” In fact, 98 percent of Generation Z shop in physical stores searching “beyond the ‘buy button'” for an experience that takes places in three dimensions.
Which is why the latest entry into brick and mortar retail is, ironically, such companies as Amazon and Google. And Apple is hard at work with a new set of retail stores that are designed almost entirely for experience. Their goal? Instead of “Meet me at Starbucks,” to somehow make it “Meet me at Apple.”
So what experience are you offering as a church?
If people want to experience something before embracing it, belong before they believe, try out before they click “buy,” then how is your front-door, weekend service (which is still the front-door, after the website) doing at offering that experience?
It’s an important question to wrestle with. Because today, it’s not a seeker-service they need,
…but an experience-service.
An experience that will be so winsome and compelling that they will not only want to come back,
…but explore a Person they can come to.
Derek Thompson, “What in the World Is Causing the Retail Meltdown of 2017?” The Atlantic, April 10, 2017, read online.
Suzanne Kapner, “Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Shuttering at a Record Pace,” The Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2017, read online.
“Gen Z Goes Phys-igtal,”, April 25, 2017, read online.
Mike Murphy, “Apple Wants Kids to Hang Out at Apple Stores,” Quartz, April 25, 2017, read online.
This article originally appeared here.

Why You Are Allowed to Be Angry With God

Why You Are Allowed to Be Angry With God

Why You Are Allowed to Be Angry With God
You are allowed to hate God.
If you don’t believe me I encourage you to read the “Psalms of Lament.”
Biblical scholars use that term for those psalms prayed by those living in immense pain. Our English word lament comes from the Latin word for weeping. Psalms 6, 13, 22, 35, 42, 43, 88, 102, 109 and 137 are examples of this type of psalm.
You’ll know you’ve come across one when you feel like you’ve turned the corner in a hallway and bumped into someone kicking, punching and screaming at a locked door; the psalms of lament are that intense.

You Are Allowed to Hate God

For quite some time, when I was troubled or angry with God, I never told him about it—I didn’t think I was allowed. This resulted in an inconsistency between what was in my heart and what came out of my mouth. The psalms of lament gave me the courage to be real.
If the psalms of lament teach us anything, it is this: Christians can love God and feel immense hatred toward him at the same time. God doesn’t want tamed down, sanitized, forcibly dishonest prayers. He wants us to talk to him from our hearts, and sometimes that involves screaming and using words we wouldn’t repeat in public.
Sometimes anything less than this is dishonest.
As you read through the psalms of lament, you will notice that the people who wrote these prayers tended to focus on three basic themes:

1. Accusations Against God

Their accusations are, at times, brutal. In Psalm 44:24, God is asked,
“Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?”
When I first read that, as a new Christian, I couldn’t believe someone could be that brash with God and live to write it. Yet, Psalm 44:23 is even worse:
“Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.”
The author essentially tells God to wipe the sleep from his eyes and quit being lazy! How could these psalm writers talk this way?
I think the reason they were so bold is because they were willing to be honest. They wrote what they felt. If the psalms are the gymnasium of the soul, then I think the psalms of lament are the personal trainers—pushing us to shed our inhibitions and false humility and encouraging us to express what we genuinely feel in our hearts toward God.

2. Hatred Toward Enemies

This is what shocked me the most about these psalms when I first read them.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. How, then, do we reconcile this command with what we see in the psalms of lament? Look at what a few of the psalmists prayed:
“Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” Psalm 3:7
“In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.” Psalm 143:12
“O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us—he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” Psalm 137:8, 9
These are a far cry from Jesus’ words! I struggled with this for the longest time, trying to reconcile the two differing approaches, and then something occurred to me.
Maybe the reason the psalms of lament portray people praying for the destruction of their enemies is because we can’t love our enemies until God gives us the ability to love them.
And maybe God can’t give us the ability to love our enemies until we’ve expressed to him, in specific detail, the full brunt of our rage and hatred for our enemies.
Maybe it’s not until we’ve pulled every last ounce of hatred out of our hearts and flung it onto the lap of God that we can authentically love our enemies.

3. Vows of Praise

Interspersed among the kicking, screaming and pleading is something biblical scholars call “a vow of praise.” We see a perfect example of this in Psalm 43, which begins with a desperate petition:
“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.” Psalm 43:1
But then it ends like this:
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5
The contrast is so stark, you wonder if the same person is writing the first and the last verses. How can someone go from such desperate circumstances to a position of confidence in God’s goodness? A vow.
In just about every psalm of lament, you’ll find a statement that expresses, “No matter how dark my circumstances get, no matter how much rage I feel toward God or those around me, no matter how much everything I think and feel tells me to give up on God, I will not. I will not give up on God.” Have you ever made a vow like that?
Sister Basilea Schlink, the founder of a Protestant order of nuns in Germany, counsels Christians in the midst of immense pain to make a modern day version of a vow of praise:
When you are in suffering say, “Yes, Father,” and strength will flow into your heart.
This is a vow of praise. By making such a vow, we’re saying that no matter how alone, abandoned and betrayed we feel, we will not turn back. By making a vow of praise, we’re not forgetting what has happened to us or letting God off the hook. A vow of praise is a declaration in defiance of despair. It is a proclamation to ourselves and those around us.
One of the only ways the saints of old were able to live through unspeakable valleys of desperation was to make vows of praise to their heavenly Father. I want to encourage you to do the same.
Don’t know where to begin? How about:
  • Yes, Father, I still believe in your goodness, despite what I see with my eyes.
  • Yes, Father, I still believe you have a plan for my life, despite what I feel in my heart.
  • Yes, Father, I still believe my best days are ahead of me, despite what my enemies and friends and family and loved ones say to me.
  • Even if you ask me to live in mystery the rest of my life, I will wake up every day and say yes, Father, I still believe in you.
Your thoughts?
This article originally appeared here.

38 Sobering Facts For Leaders Who Have Squandered Great Opportunity

Few things are as disappointing as wasted potential.  Perhaps you understand this because you have squandered opportunity and are feeling the effects.  You may be dealing with a great amount of shame and regret.  And some reading this post are on the road to squandering a great opportunity but they do not recognize the warning signs.  Hopefully this post will help you.
ESPN recently profiled of Ryan Leaf on their E:60 program.  If you are unfamiliar with Leaf, he was a Washington State quarterback who had more upside talent and a higher ceiling than Peyton Manning coming out of college.  As the second pick in the 1998 NFL Draft (behind Manning), he signed with the Sand Diego Chargers for 5 years and $31 million, $11 million of which was guaranteed.
However, Ryan was out of the league in just four years and is considered the biggest bust in NFL history.  Over his four-year career, he threw only 14 touchdowns with 36 interceptions compiling a record of 4-17 as a starter.
The following are 38 Sobering Facts For Those Who Have Squandered Great Opportunity:  As I read this list it was striking how much this journey is similar to many pastors and business leaders who have become disqualified from their place of influence.
  1. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Become Cautionary Tales – The Pro Football Hall of Fame secures an artifact from every player who played in the NFL.  All Ryan Leaf left behind was a draft card from the day the Chargers drafted him on April 18, 1998.
  2. It Does Not Happen Overnight When Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity.  Often You Can See It Coming. – Leaf said, “I was an addict long before I picked up a drug.  I was defensive.  I was fearful.  I was egotistical.  I did everything that exhibited addict behavior before I took a drug.”
  3. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Are Prideful And Lack Humility – Leaf’s mom Marcia said, “He wasn’t humble (as a child).”  Leaf added, “There was a running joke (at Washington State), What’s the difference between God and Ryan Leaf?  God doesn’t think He’s Ryan Leaf.”
  4. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Are Often Obnoxious – When asked what he thought when people called him obnoxious, Leaf replied, “So what.”
  5. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Refuse To Be Under Authority – “He was at times difficult to coach.” – WSU head coach Mike Riley
  6. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Enjoy The Rewards Of Success More Than The Process Of Achieving Success – Leaf wanted to go to San Diego over Indianapolis because of “sunshine, babes, money.  That’s the world I need to live in.”
  7. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Have Often Previously Squandered Great Opportunity – Leaf did not show up for the pre-draft interviews with the Colts.  He wanted to make them angry so they would not draft him.
  8. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Are Often Entitled And Think Things Should Come Easy – “I was pretty arrogant in that preseason (rookie year).  I kind of thought it was going to come easy to me.” – Leaf
  9. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Lack Respect For Others – The veterans thought he was “a punk” in his rookie training camp.
  10. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Cannot Handle Adversity – “When things started to go downward, he didn’t know how to handle it.” – former teammate Rodney Harrison
  11. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Deal Poorly With Failure – Leaf said, “I looked at failure as the end.  If I failed at something it was over.”
  12. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Blame Others For Their Failures – Leaf develop a personal grudge with San Diego Tribune Jay Posner who wrote a disparaging article about him.
  13. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Struggle With Anger – The only difference between anger and danger is a “d”.  Leaf famously exploded with rage against Posner during a locker room interview.
  14. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Lead By Intimidation – Leaf’s goal was to deal with Posner through intimidation.
  15. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Are Forced To Constantly Apologize – After the Posner incident, Leaf read a prepared apology.  The key word here is “forced.”  There was a lack of sincerity.
  16. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Have Poor Performance – Leaf’s performance on the field immediately declined and spiraled out of control.
  17. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Squander Their Influence  – In his second season, Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard fined and suspended Leaf for conduct detrimental to the team.
  18. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Refuse To Accept Responsibility – Teammate Rodney Harrison said, “He wanted the money.  He wanted the fame but he didn’t want the responsibility of being a quarterback in the National Football League.”
  19. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Squander Mutually-Beneficial Relationships  – Rodney added, “Then he became a jerk.”
  20. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Lose Their Jobs – “Nobody felt sorry for Ryan Leaf.  Get rid of his #@*” – Harrison on his March 1st, 2001 release from the team.
  21. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Then Deal With Shame – Leaf acknowledged, “I am labeled ‘The biggest bust.’  The Shame.  Shame was a huge deal for me for the longest time.”
  22. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Can Become Increasingly Isolated – Leaf then went to Las Vegas to blend in and disappear.  What Leaf needed was a loving community with accountability.  He drifted towards isolation.
  23. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Look For Ways To Escape Their Pain – Leaf then turned to substance abuse to deal with the shame and failure of his career.
  24. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Squander Their Financial Resources As Well – Feeding his addiction to pills caused Leaf to ran out of money.
  25. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Resort To Taking Advantage Of Those Around Them – After taking a job as a quarterback coach of a small Texas college, Leaf took advantage of the team’s players to get their pain killers.
  26. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Face Great Consequences For Their Actions – Leaf was eventually arrested for felony drug charges.
  27. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Repeat The Same Mistakes Over And Over Again – After going through rehab, Leaf was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  During the post-surgery radiation, he became addicted again.
  28. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Hurt Those Closest To Them – “He called and said, ‘I’m going to jail mom.'” – Marcia Leaf
  29. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Eventually Run Out Of Answers – “I wanted to die.  There was no answer for me.” – Leaf
  30. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Must Hit Rock Bottom – ‘I woke up on April 1st, 2012.  My life started over that day.” – That was the day Leaf hit rock bottom in waking up on a prison floor.
  31. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Squander Their Most Valuable Commodity…Time –“It (prison) was an awful place because I lost so much important time of my life.” – Leaf
  32. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Have The Opportunity To Learn The Value Of Others – Leaf said, “Every human being is just as important as every other human being.  I couldn’t see that clearly because I thought I was more important than everyone else.” – Leaf
  33. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Are Eventually Humbled – “He was humbled beyond any of my expectations.” – Marcia
  34. After Being Humbled, Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Can Have A Second Chance – After prison, Leaf began helping people struggling with addictions for $15 an hour.  Leaf said, “I was making about $5 million a year and I was miserable.  I was making $15 an hour and never been happier.”  Leaf is turning his life around and is now making a positive impact into many hurting individuals.
  35. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Must Develop A Spirit Of Gratitude  – Leaf said, “I’m very grateful I spent 32 months in prison.  I don’t recommend it.  But I’m very, very grateful.”
  36. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Can Then Once Again Have Hope – Marcia said, “Our family is filled with so much hope.”
  37. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Can Rebuild Their Relationships – Leaf called Harrison and apologized.
  38. Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Can Still Recover From Anything – “We can recover from anything.” – Leaf.  Last month Leaf celebrated five months of sobriety.  You cannot watch this feature without absolutely rooting for Leaf and hoping continued success for him.
Hopefully Leaf’s story can become a cautionary tale or hope for redemption.  If you recognize yourself anywhere on this continuum, please make the necessary adjustments before you hit rock bottom.
Click HERE or on the image to the left and as a free gift for subscribing to this site, you can receive my new Ebook 1269 Leadership Quotes: Timeless Truths From 2016’s Top Christian Leadership Conferences.  Featured are the Johnny Hunt Mens Conference, ReThink Leadership, Orange and Leadercast Conferences among others.  If applied, these insights will make you an exponentially better leader.  Enjoy!!!

6 Soul Care Essentials for Pastors

6 Soul Care Essentials for Pastors

Some time back I attended a two-day retreat with Keith Meyer sponsored by the Cornerstone Pastor’s Network. Keith is a pastor and author of several books on soul care including one honored in 2010 as one of the five best books for the leader’s inner life, Whole Like Transformation: Becoming the Change Your Church Needs. Keith challenged us with several great practices to take care of our soul. Here are the top five that grabbed my attention the most.
  • Our longing for Him must supersede our love for His ministry. So often our passion for Christ gets buried in our passion for our church or ministry. When that happens we stifle that vital connection to the Vine, our true source of joy and strength.
  • We must slow down enough to go God’s speed. And what is God’s speed? The speed of love and relationships. This one really struck me. Too often in my drive to accomplish my daily goals, I move so fast that I breeze by the relational connections that Jesus most wants me make.
  • When we pay attention to God throughout the day, we’re most open to divinely arranged interruptions. One way we can become more sensitive to Him is to ‘pray our day’ and ‘pray our events.’ That is, use your calendar items and task list as cues to pray for your meeting, lunch appointment, study time, or whatever you have planned for the day. When we do this everything becomes a cue to go to Him.
  • Memorize long transformative passages like Colossians 3, John 15, and Romans 12. Sometimes we memorize single Scripture verses and use them simply as ‘pills’ to treat our daily problems. Longer passages, however, can best transform our thinking.
  • Grace is not opposed to effort but to earning. This one originally came form Dallas Willard, USC philosophy professor and writer of some of the best books on spiritual formation. One of my favorites he wrote is Renovation of the Heart,a must-read for every pastor.
  • The acronym VIM captures the non-negotiables for spiritual transformation. ‘V’ stands for vision. ‘I’ stands for intention. ‘M’ stands for means. Again, Dallas Willard was the first to suggest this process. Here’s a great article that unpacks VIM.
What practices have most helped you care for your soul?

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Friday, February 24, 2017

7 Things You Might Be Missing About Unconnected People

7 Things You Might Be Missing About Unconnected People

7 Things You Might Be Missing about Unconnected People
Ever wish you could suddenly unravel the mystery of how to connect the unconnected people in your church? You know—the ones that no matter what you try, no matter how hard you try—they really don’t seem to want to do anything more than sit in a row. Maybe you wish you’d just sit bolt upright in the middle of the night and yell out, “Eureka! I know how to connect unconnected people!”
Or maybe you’ve just given up and assumed if God really wanted everyone connected in a group He would have given everyone the same level of desire to be part of a group!
Although I’ve frequently written about unconnected people, I’m not sure I’ve framed their situation quite this way.

Seven things you might be missing about unconnected people:

  1. Unconnected people are almost never loners. They are connected already, just not to other people at your church. In fact, I’ve said for many years that the least connected people in your church are the most connected people outside of your church (and conversely, the most connected people inside your church are the least connected outside).
  2. With very few exceptions, all of us are pre-wired for community. While unconnected people seem to be wired differently, they often are already experiencing a version of community somewhere else.
  3. Their taste buds don’t find the same topics appealing. Topics that long-time participants find fascinating rarely do it for unconnected people. Just like the taste for coffee, beer or wine, and brussel sprouts is an acquired taste, the key is to find topics in which unconnected people are already interested.
  4. Since almost nothing new is ever purchased without first sampling, trying on for size or test-driving for feel, why would connecting to a small group be any different? The longer the initial commitment sounds (“sign up for the fall semester” or “sign a 12- to 18-month covenant”), the more cautiously an unconnected person will approach connecting. Conversely, the more the invitation sounds like a test-drive or a taste-test, the less concerned an unconnected person will be.
  5. Unconnected people are not all the same. Within the broad category of unconnected people there are extroverts and introverts. There are socially adept people and there are socially awkward people. There are unconnected people who make great first impressions and those who don’t. While one strategy may work for extroverted, socially adept unconnected people who make great first impressions, the same strategy may feel like a death sentence (or at least life in prison) to the introverted, socially awkward spouse who makes a terrible first impression.
  6. Unconnected people are rarely regular attenders. They may only attend your weekend service on the weekends they have their children, or have Sunday off, or their team plays on Monday night. There are many reasons they only infrequently attend your weekend service.
  7. Unconnected people are often most comfortable with the familiar. While there are unconnected people who seek out new experiences and are the first in line for the new ride at Disneyland or the new latte at Starbucks, there are also many who are drawn to the familiar. At the same time, there are some who will only try the new restaurant if it’s in a familiar part of town or if it serves a familiar dish.
The Key Takeaway: Like all good designers, if you want your product to be purchased and used, you must know your customer. Becoming a student of unconnected people will help you understand them and create better next steps for them (and even first steps for their friends).