Leadership Lessons: World Vision & Same Sex Marriage

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Yesterday, my twitter feed consisted of people reacting to the news that World Vision changed its policy and World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.

The reaction, as you would expect, was swift, vicious and all over the map.

Some tweeted about how World Vision has gone off the deep end, how they were ruining their Christian witness and going against the Bible. Others applauded the move and bashed Christians who would stop supporting children with World Vision, because “it’s wrong to say you’re okay with a child going hungry instead of a gay person having a job. That’s hate.”

The whole time I just sat there shaking my head.

In watching this unfold in the last 24 hours, reading several blogs on both sides (that were sometimes helpful and sometimes hurtful), I wanted to share some thoughts for leaders:

  1. Same sex marriage is the issue. Same sex marriage is not going away, no matter what any conservatives hope. It is here to stay. We need to learn how we will live in a culture that is okay with it and encourages it. We need to speak the gospel truth to it, love those struggling with same sex attraction, walk with those who are in relationships, be their friends (as we would a heterosexual couple living together before marriage) and share the truth and beauty of Jesus with them. Almost every person I meet who finds out I’m a Christian or a pastor asks me what I think about same sex marriage. This is the issue. A follower of Jesus needs to learn how to talk about it in a loving, gospel centered way and point to the truth so that the person listening will want to continue talking about it.
  2. Taking a stand, is a stand. I’m surprised by the number of people who seem surprised by the outrage. World Vision said “they are making a narrow policy change.” And that it “is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more. . . . This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. . . . We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. . . . This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues.” I understand it. The reality is, any stand is a stand. Any decision, even a non-decision of silence, is a decision. By allowing this and not allowing employees to commit adultery, theft, fornication outside of marriage and other things labeled as sins in the Bible, you are saying one is okay and one is not.
  3. Christians need to stand up for other issues as well. I believe the Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman. I’ve also done a lot of reading recently on this issue because in the fall we’re doing a series at Revolution called Why I’m Not a Christian on some of the main things people have against Christianity and one of the weeks will be on “Christians are homophobic.” When homosexuality is talked about in the New Testament, it is often listed with other sins such as sexual immortality, idolaters, adulterers, stealing, and swindlers (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Let’s be against those things as well. It makes no sense how Christians seem to not bat an eye at a heterosexual couple living together before marriage or having sex, or a man cheating his employer by watching March Madness at work instead of working (that’s stealing). Let’s be careful and not just be one issue. Let’s talk about them all.

Should a Christian support world vision? That’s up to you. Christians buy and support organizations all the time that hold to different values and beliefs than they do. They buy food from people in same sex relationships. I realize that Christians say it is different when it is a faith-based organization like World Vision and I understand that and can agree with that. At the end of the day, World Vision is not the only organization that does what it does, so if this is a make or break it issue for you, then support children through another organization. If you stop working with World Vision, tell them in a kind, loving way. Don’t send a mean spirited email with a long list of Bible verses. If you disagree with their decision but choose to continue working with World Vision, tell them that as well.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Charles Stone on 8 ways pastors can refresh their tired souls.

The degree to which you love yourself corresponds to the degree to which you love others. Caring for ourselves was difficult for us to do without feeling guilty. We unwittingly thought that dying to ourselves for the sake of the gospel meant dying to marital intimacy and joy in life. We had died to something God had never intended we die to.

J.D. Greear on 4 things you should pray for your pastor.

One of the greatest joys in my life is serving as pastor. But ministry can be both messy and exhausting. That’s why I am so thankful for the prayer warriors in our congregation. I truly believe that one of the main reasons the Summit has grown is simply that God has answered the bold prayers of those in our congregation. The most important ministry anyone in our church can be involved in is that of prayer.

Why most churches are not reaching unchurched 20-something’s.

We want to ask questions.
Voice our doubts.
Explain our struggles.
Confess our sins.
Confide our fears.

And we want the church to do it with us.

Ryan Huguley on Sweat your sermon intro.

The first pastor who really taught me about preaching once told me, “If you open strong, close strong, and hit your transitions, your sermon will take care of itself.” While it’s a bit more complicated than that, he was largely correct. Many sermons fall apart before they even start, crash and burn because of an inability to “land the plane”, or lack clarity due to confusion in transition.

David Murray on The 10 types of church leaders.

The case for fewer friends.

When it comes to friendship, quality matters more than quantity.

Peter Leithart on Are Christians obsessed with Sex?

Are Christians obsessed with sex? I would ask, “Compared to whom?” Peter Leithart argues, “Faced with these charges, we get defensive and protest that we are equally concerned with other things – with economic evils, with militaristic violence, with the degradation of the environment. We shouldn’t be defensive. We should say that we’re concerned about sexual behavior and norms precisely because of the effect they have on the poor, the way sexual immorality is linked with violence. We should say that we guard God’s commandments regarding sex because violation of those commandments will produce social chaos. Sexual behavior and sexual norms are a key barometer of social health. If things are disordered in our bedrooms, they will be disordered in boardrooms and cabinet offices.”

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Frank on “It’s okay, it’s not your fault” and other lies our culture tells us.

There doesn’t seem to be an end to the list of things that our culture says are “okay” and that the person in question is not responsible for, such as:

  • being really out of shape
  • getting lousy grades
  • being addicted to drugs, alcohol, or porn
  • not being able to find a job
  • living with your Mom until you’re 50 years old

Tim Chester on How the growth of a church changes the church.

  • We have to accept that the preacher may not be our pastor.
  • We have to work harder at welcoming new people.
  • We have to embrace the face that there’s a greater diversity among us.
  • We have to accept things won’t ‘just happen’ with organization.
  • We have to be more willing to volunteer because initially we may not be working with people we know.
  • We have to communicate better because we can’t rely on word of mouth.

Burk Parsons on Real love wins.

“One of the more loving and merciful things Jesus did was preach on hell. He preached on hell more than He preached on heaven, and He did so in order to point the lost to Himself as the way, the truth, and the life apart from condemnation and eternal punishment in hell—which He created. Although most preachers have not denied the doctrine of hell outright, they might as well have, since it is entirely absent from their sermons . . .”

Scott Williams on Pastors need to keep calm and practice what they preach.

Pastors often preach about rest, worship and time off, while their team members can’t remember the last time they had a day off, attended a worship service or had a couple free weekends with family. Pastors often preach about not comparing ourselves to one another, while obsessing, comparing and ranking themselves to pastors down the street, around the corner and from around the country.

Thom Rainer on 11 of the most common mistakes churches make.

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Top Posts of January

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It was a great first month of 2014 on my blog. Tons of traffic and interactions. If you missed anything, not to worry, here are the top 10 posts for the month:

  1. When a Staff Member or Volunteer says, “I’m Done”
  2. The 3 Most Destructive Words a Man Hears Growing up Are: “Be a Man”
  3. Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace
  4. What I Eat
  5. 10 Gospel Truths about Homosexuality
  6. Photoshop, Beauty & Women
  7. 6 Ways to Stay Motivated to be Healthy
  8. Leading Up
  9. The Weight of Pastoring
  10. Why do a Series on Men & Women?
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Top Posts for the Month of November

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If you missed them, here are the top posts for the month of November:

  1. What do Stay-at-Home Mom’s Do All Day?
  2. Accountability
  3. What do you do With Kids in a Missional Community?
  4. Why Doesn’t Revolution Have a Women’s Ministry
  5. Martyrs Read Joel Osteen Tweets!
  6. How to do Crossfit on Your Own
  7. Make Church Memorable
  8. Planning a Preaching Calendar
  9. Interacting with the Opposite Sex as a Pastor
  10. How the Church Should Respond to Homosexuality (and other Sins)

Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Tim Kimberley on Should a Christian couple live together before getting married.

You are counseling a couple, who claim to be Christian, that are sleeping together and believe they are “married in their hearts”. They would like to become members of your church. Describe how would you handle this couple, including how you would address the issue of being “married in their hearts?”

Brian Dodd on 8 practices of great churches.

Are you looking to build an enduring church?  Are you looking for a level of ministry  success which can be sustained for a decade?  Are you looking to build something of lasting value?  Of course you do.

7 signs your church is making inroads with unchurched people.

Just because a church is growing doesn’t mean it’s filling up with unchurched people. How do you know you’re really making inroads with the unchurched?

Jon Acuff on Dear Church, 11 signs your burning out your staff.

I love the church and for the part I’ve played in these problems, I apologize. If you work at a church thanks for doing what you do. My kids, my marriage and my town need you.

Marci Preheim on Gospel centered sex.

If a couple consistently applies the implications of the gospel to the marriage bed, they will inevitably have a healthier marriage.

What does it mean to be gospel centered?

Shouting So They’ll Listen

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In his new book, A Call to ResurgenceMark Driscoll shares some eye opening stats about our culture:

  • 88% believe Jesus existed.
  • 78% believe God exists.
  • 73% believe in evolution.
  • 71% believe in karma.
  • 68% believe in heaven and hell.
  • 67% believe spirituality exists in nature.
  • 65% believe in angels and demons.
  • 59% believe Jesus rose from the dead.
  • 53% believe in the devil.
  • 46% believe in extraterrestrials, aliens, or UFO’s.

This is the culture we live in, work in, play in, and pastors, this is the culture you preach to each week.

So how do Christians tend to communicate to this culture? By shouting.

We don’t necessarily walk up to people and start screaming, although, I’ve seen people with signs stand on a corner and shout at people.

Have you ever seen someone try to communicate to someone with a language barrier? Americans when they encounter someone who doesn’t speak English, they talk louder. As we’ve brought Judah into our home from Ethiopia, we have a language barrier to overcome as he speaks little English and we speak very little of his language. Our boys, in an effort to get him to play with them or do something, simply talk louder if he doesn’t respond.

That’s what Christians do.

We don’t change what we are saying, we simply say the same things only louder and with more force.

Yes, but the message doesn’t change.

That is true. The gospel is the same. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. We never stop talking about the glorious news of Jesus’ sinless life, our brokenness and need for a Savior and how Jesus met that need by dying in our place and rising from the dead and sending us the Holy Spirit. We never stop talking about that.

But, we can change how we talk about that.

Instead of shouting, find common ground, a common language. Answer questions and needs that people have.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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  1. Rebecca Watson on 6 ways to get more done. These are helpful ideas to be more productive.
  2. What churches can learn from Chick Fil-A.
  3. Thom Rainer on Millenials reject Christians fighting. I’m a pastor and I’m tired of Christians fighting, which makes me wonder how sick our culture is of it.
  4. 5 ways a pastor can handle people leaving their church.
  5. Will Mancini on How to reach 20-something’s. Great profile of what makes Austin Stone so strong.
  6. How Andy Stanley and Tim Keller preach to Non-Believers. Great profile of two great communicators.
  7. Brian Howard on How to find a great youth pastor. This is so true.
  8. An open letter to Mark Driscoll. This whole thing is sad that he would lie on social media to push his book forward.
  9. How to be leaders of meaning in an age of information overload.

Look Before You Lead: How to Discern & Shape Your Church Culture

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Look Before You Lead: How to Discern & Shape Your Church Culture (kindle version) by Aubrey Malphurs.

I can’t even begin to describe how good and helpful this book is. The appendixes alone are worth the price of the book as they essentially give you Malphurs consulting toolbox.

The struggle many pastors have when it comes to leadership, making changes, preaching, leading their staff, working with volunteers is that they don’t understand the culture they work in. They are simply trying to put ideas into place, move things forward or make a difference. Until you understand the culture you have as a leader, those you lead, the world around your church and the world inside your church, you won’t be able to move anything. This book is particularly helpful for pastors about to move to a new church as Malphurs has an entire checklist of questions to ask a church board who is interviewing you. I found that extremely helpful from the other angle as it gave me questions I need to know for Revolution and questions I would ask a leader to determine if they fit our culture.

The reality is that every church is different. Every church has a different history, different set of leaders. So what works in California doesn’t work the same way in New York. In the same way that what works in one part of a city doesn’t work in another part of a city.

But what is culture? According to Malphurs, “The church’s congregational culture as the unique expression of the interaction of the church’s shared beliefs and its values, which explain its behavior in general and display its unique identity in particular.” And, “a primary responsibility of today’s strategic church leaders is to create, implement, and re-implement an organizational culture that rewards and encourages movement toward the church’s mission and vision. Every pastor must understand that to a great degree his job is to lead and manage the congregational culture, but if he doesn’t understand that culture as well as his own, he won’t be able to do the job.”

Here are a few other things that jumped out:

  • The organization’s beliefs and values intermingle and are seen in the church’s behavior or outward expression of itself. This is the first layer that is represented by the apple’s skin. Churches express themselves through their behaviors and outward appearance.
  • The behaviors and outward expressions are what an observer, such as a visitor, would see, sense, and hear as he or she encounters a church’s culture. Some examples are the church’s physical presence (facilities), language (multi- or monolingual), clothing, symbols, rituals, ceremonies, ordinances, technology, and so forth.
  • Churches are behavior-expressed but values-driven. The inward values drive and explain the church’s outward behavior. These values explain why the church does what it does at the first behavioral level and why it doesn’t do what it should do. When a church culture acts on its beliefs, they become its actual values. Until then they are aspirational in nature and inconsistent with the church’s actual observed presence and expressed behavior.
  • Churches are behavior-expressed, values-driven, and beliefs-based.
  • These three elements of organizational culture—beliefs, values, and their expression—work together to display the church’s unique identity.
  • Congregational culture as a church’s unique expression of its shared beliefs and values.
  • “The most important single element of any corporate, congregational, or denominational culture . . . is the value system.”
  • A ministry based on clearly articulated core values drives a fixed stake in the ground that says to all, “This is what we stand for; this is what we are all about; this is who we are; this is what we can do for you.”
  • An organization’s core values signal its bottom line. They dictate what it stands for, what truly matters, what is worthwhile and desirous. They determine what is inviolate for it; they define what it believes is God’s heart for its ministry.
  • Core values are the constant, passionate shared core beliefs that drive and guide the culture.
  • The key to understanding what drives you or your ministry culture is not what you would like to value as much as what you do value.
  • To attempt change at the surface level is problematic and disruptive. People persist in their beliefs and resent the change because leaders haven’t addressed it at the beliefs level. Thus the leader or change agent must discover the basic beliefs and address them as the church works through the change process.
  • Every thriving, spiritually directed church is well fed and well led.
  • We cannot do anything we want, because God has designed us in a wonderful way to accomplish his ministry or what he wants. Only as we discover how he has wired us will we be able to understand what specifically he wants us to accomplish for him in this life, whether it’s through pastoring a church or some other important ministry.

As I said, if you are a pastor, this is an incredibly helpful book to work through.

6 Questions Parents can Ask to Be Discerning about Media for their Kids

bookI get asked by parents a lot how to make media choices with and for their kids. What shows should they watch, what music should they listen to. Here are some helpful questions for parents to ask taken from Give them Grace

  1. Does this media outlet have any redeeming value to it? In other words, is there any way that we can use it to illustrate the one good story? Are the great themes of the gospel apparent (even though it may not be a “Christian” production)?
  2. Are our children unduly influenced by this movie or program? Do they mimic inappropriate words or phrases after spending time interacting with it?
  3. Are our children able to articulate what is lacking in this video or song? Do they see how it is contrary to the gospel? Are they able to tell you where they see the one good story in it?
  4. What is your child’s attitude when he’s denied access to this program? Has it become an idol in his heart, a god that promises him happiness?
  5. Is there any way that you can demonstrate a willingness to compromise with your child over this song? For instance, instead of saying no to an entire album, perhaps you could find a couple of songs on it that would be acceptable.
  6. Are you being ruled by fear of what might happen if your child watches or listens to this program or album? Or, are you able to think clearly about the influence the entertainment may or may not have over your child?

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