Top Posts of March

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In case you missed them, here are the top 10 posts of the last month:

  1. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  2. Dear Worship Leader
  3. When You Manipulate Your Husband, You Lose Him
  4. When a Staff Member or Volunteer says, “I’m Done”
  5. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  6. Leadership Lessons: World Vision & Same Sex Marriage
  7. Leadership Lessons: Mark Driscoll, Repentance, Choices and the Effects of it All
  8. Women, It Matters Who You Marry
  9. My Journey of Losing Weight
  10. 10 Lies Leaders Love
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Leadership Lessons: Mark Driscoll, Repentance, Choices and the Effects of it All

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If you haven’t been following the Mark Driscoll saga, this post might not make a ton of sense.

Here’s a good synopsis from Owen Strachan:

Some of you have been following the events related to Mark Driscoll’s publishing plan. It’s been a winding affair, but long story short, according to Warren Cole Smith of World Mars Hill Church essentially bought a best-seller spot for a recent Driscoll book. It was found out, controversy ensued (on the blogosphere, of all places), and Driscoll publicly issued a statement of repentance related not only to book-writing but his general demeanor and leadership. Ray Ortlund just wrote up a short blog post on Driscoll’s repentance that you should read.

I don’t know all that happened, but as this was unfolding, I was preaching a series on the life of Samson, leadership and manhood. I gave a sermon on how we are all one choice away from wrecking our lives the week that this blew up. As a pastor, leader, husband, father and man, it was sobering. As a pastor in Acts 29, I’ve always appreciated Mark Driscoll. This blog isn’t about what happened, if it’s true or what Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll should do moving forward. They will figure it out.

What I do want to point out is what a situation like this has taught me and what it can teach other leaders:

  1. Every choice matters. And every choice affects the next one. This is easy to forget when you live life, especially at the pace we live at. Something that you say in a meeting, counseling session, or sermon can ripple into something that happens 3 years from now. There really is no situation that is off on its own.
  2. Repentance and humility are always good. When you wrong someone, apologize. Humble yourself to say you are wrong. Church planters are not good at this because by nature, many of us are type A, driven, entrepreneurial leaders. This is good, but also leads many of us to step on people and hurt the ones we are called to shepherd and lead. When that happens, make amends. I’m thankful for the repentance Mark Driscoll has shown as a leader and pastor in this letter to his church.
  3. Every leader needs to answer to someone. Pastor, elder, deacon, missional community leader, whoever. Everyone needs to answer to someone. Everyone needs someone who can call them on the carpet in their life. Too many pastors do not have this. Too many pastors are not in a small group or missional community (and don’t tell me your elder team is your small group), they answer to no one.
  4. Everything is public now. In the age of social media, youtube, and everything else, all your reactions, comments, thoughts, body language can be made public and last forever. The moment you forget this, disaster easily strikes. This also pertains to the bloggers throwing lots and lots of mud as if it is your job to police Mars Hill and its elders. It is sad to watch how unhelpful many people are online talking about how great it would be if this is the end of Mark Driscoll as a pastor, that doesn’t move the gospel forward or is it helpful to anyone. And sadly, those opinions are public and will last forever.
  5. Be a pastor first. Mark Driscoll talked about how he is canceling speaking engagements, pulling back on social media (although his team will tweet for him) and writing books to focus on being a pastor, husband and father. This is a healthy example for younger pastors. Many of pastors dream of speaking at conferences, writing books, being known outside of their church. Many are gifted and God has called them to this, but if God has called you to be a pastor first, give your best to that. Don’t mix it up.
  6. Watch your heart first. Many people question the validity of Driscoll’s heart, motives and if he is sincere. I don’t know and neither do they. Too many get caught up in playing the Holy Spirit and saying what someone means, if they are sincere or right. Too many bloggers are the theology police and it creates too many divisions in Christianity. Stop calling people heretics and making lists of people to avoid and work on your heart first. Yes, warn people you shepherd about heretics, but build up the church in the process of doing that, don’t tear it down.
  7. You are always one choice away from losing it all. As I said in my sermon on Samson and in this post on leadership and moral failure, you are only one choice away from losing it all. People who wreck their lives do not do it in one choice, they do it in several choices over a period of time. Samson took 52,000 steps from his house to wreck his life. 52,000 chances to change his direction and his mind, yet he didn’t. He kept walking.

For me, moments like these are incredibly helpful to check my heart, my motives and my leadership. They serve as a great reminder of how fragile what I do is.

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

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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How can a kid see God?

Have you ever considered that you may be the best chance your son or daughter has to see God?

Brian Dodd on 10 practices of maturing leaders.

We want leaders to grow up too fast.  We want them ready-made at an early age.  The reality is the best leaders are those who are seasoned.  They have battle scars and callouses on their souls.  The best leaders have made mistakes, fallen down but got back up to make a difference in the lives of people.  They have persevered.  The best leaders are developed in a crock pot, not a microwave.

Sam Storms on Should women serve as elders in a church.

I believe the NT portrays for us a consistent pattern of governance by a plurality of Elders. However, it is important to realize that even if this is not the case we can still determine whether or not women should be appointed to positions of senior governmental authority.

Matt Smethurst on Should pastors get a sabbatical?

“The stresses and strains of dealing with people—with souls—wears you down in a unique way,” he observes. Besides, he notes, even some companies in the secular world are starting to use sabbaticals. “They realize that refreshment makes a better employee.”

Mark Driscoll buys his way onto the NY Times Bestseller list. Kind of sad to read this (especially since the money came from the offerings of his church).

Seattle’s Mars Hill Church paid a California-based marketing company at least $210,000 in 2011 and 2012 to ensure that Real Marriage, a book written by Mark Driscoll, the church’s founding pastor, and his wife Grace, made the New York Times best-seller list.

Jared Wilson has a helpful post on What’s wrong with buying your way onto the NY Times Bestseller list.

1. It’s dishonest.
2. It’s egocentric and lazy.
3. It may eventually harm your reputation and will bug you in the long run.
4. It’s poor stewardship and bad strategy.
5. It disadvantages those actually gifted.

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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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Philip Nation on How we do email completely wrong.

Email is a normal part of my everyday life. It is for many of us. It is a tool that can be a huge help. But, if executed poorly, email is a great weight dragging you to the depths of productivity oblivion. The reason is summarized by a great observation that my friend and LifeWay colleague Brian Daniels has made, “Anyone with an email account is your boss.” It would be funny if it were not true.

10 things you could’ve done this morning if you had gotten up early.

You were going to get up early today. Instead, you stayed up late last night. Now, after resetting your alarm twice, you are rushing to get out the door. What could you have done if you had gotten up early today?

Ryan Kearns on 4 ways small groups can work with the sermon (this is why our MC’s study the sermon).

Ministry is really hard. But sometimes we make it harder on ourselves by not having our core ministries working together. A preaching pastor can find himself wishing for a deeper impact and application of his sermon than just what happens on Sunday morning. On the other side, a community group leader can suffer from a lack of focus and direction and bear the constant weight of preparing multiple curriculums.

Carlos Whittaker on How to avoid the monday morning hangover for church staff.

5 ways to stay productive if you work from home.

The work from home lifestyle is certainly not for everyone (especially those that thrive on day to day interactions with coworkers), but if you have a job where working remotely is an option, here are some tips for keeping you productive and happy.

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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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Al Mohler on Must Christians believe in the virgin birth?

For some, the belief that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin is nothing less than evidence of intellectual dimness. One writer for the New York Times put the lament plainly: “The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time.” Does belief in the virgin birth make Christians “less intellectual?” Are we saddled with an untenable doctrine? Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth, or is the doctrine an essential component of the Gospel revealed to us in Scripture?

The playoff scenario for my Pittsburgh Steelers.

So, you’re saying there’s a chance.

Aaron Earls on Make sure what you share on social media is true.

It can happen to any of us. It does happen to almost all of us. We see a story online that shocks us and seems just true enough. Normally, we check things out before we share them, but this is so unbelievable we need to get the news out as soon as possible. We post it on Facebook or retweet it. Before we know it, others have shared the story. Only then do we find out the truth – it was fake.

Mark Steyn on The age of intolerance.

Joseph Parker on An essential manly movie.

In creating the “essential manly movie” category, it is impossible to exclude Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. It stands as the quintessential Roman tale, its epic scale towering above that of other stories within the genre, namely The Eagle, King Arthur, and The Last Legion. All these were good (sort of), but Gladiator hit all major points of Roman culture while providing a story which highlighted the character of man torn apart by the politics of the age. So, this movie came out over eight years ago. What else can be said? Plenty and you can quote me on that.

Mike Myatt on 15 traits of great leaders.

While much has been written about the traits and characteristics that form great leaders, the truth is that leaders come in many different varieties…there is no one-size-fits-all formula for leadership. That said, all good leaders possess certain core qualities, and great leaders simply develop said core qualities to a higher level than their peers. Put simply, a leader’s shelf life will be equal to their ability to leverage their leadership traits through solid execution, and influencing their constituencies in alignment with the corporate vision with values.

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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Should atheists get Christmas presents?

Atheists don’t believe in GOD, that’s pretty simple to figure out. Take it a step further and you’ll see many have done everything possible through the courts and legislative action to “free” themselves of any mention of GOD in public places.That comes at the expense of those who do believe at the loss of their right to freedom of religion.

5 trends you won’t be able to dismiss in 2014.

As in every era, some of today’s trends will become tomorrow’s reality. Innovative leaders aren’t afraid to embrace change and to be some of the first in on the shifts they see around them.  In that spirit, here are 5 trends you’ll no longer be able to dismiss in 2014.

Geoff Surratt on The truth about video preaching.

People don’t know what will or won’t be effective until they experience it.

The 8 archetypes of leaders.

Jared Wilson on A heartfelt plea to Mark Driscoll.

I do not want Pastor Mark to fail and fall.I just want him to walk in step with the truth of the gospel.

Thom Rainer on 7 traits of joyful pastors.

Why do I think each of these pastors is joyful? More specifically, what traits do I see in them that illustrate the joy that they have? I noted seven such traits.

Matt Walsh on Politician: Let’s treat all homeschool parents like felony child abusers.

If you do not have the right to teach and raise your own children on your own terms, then you don’t have the right to free speech, religion, association, or privacy, and you are not protected from unreasonable government intrusion into your personal life.

Tweeting himself to death: The rise and fall of @prodigalsam.

Cheap [Leadership] Kindle Books 11.11.13

Here are some great books for cheap on kindle today (All books are $2.99):

All of these are solid leadership books.

How the Church Should Respond to Homosexuality (and other Sins)

The church needs to lovingly welcome in attendance but not leadership anyone and everyone, because the same Bible that talks about sin is equally clear about love. The church I serve as pastor includes people who are practicing homosexuals, as well as others who are struggling with same-sex attraction to varying degrees. They sit in service next to single people cohabiting, people who watch porn, adulterers, and religious people who look down on all of them. The church was custom built by Jesus, and we are all works in progress. We do not expect people to get their sin in order before attending church any more than a hospital expects people to get healed before they show up.

Temptation and sin are quite different. The Bible is clear that Jesus was tempted and did not sin. Just because someone is tempted does not mean that person is in sin. Temptation is an opportunity for sin or for victory. We must not shame or condemn people who experience various kinds of temptation – including sexual temptations such as same-sex attraction or heterosexual fornication or even pornography – if they desire repentance. We must not endorse or encourage caving in to sinful desires either. Instead, we need to walk lovingly with people, telling them that part of the Spirit’s work in their lives is self-control, and that so long as they want to fight for holiness, we want to fight not agains them but for them. And as they gain victory, we ought to celebrate and encourage them all the more.

Christians who practice repentance should be the only ones allowed into church membership and leadership. This does not mean in any way that they are perfect, but that they agree with the Bible and that when they are in sin, they are willing to fight to overcome sin by God’s grace. We’re not asking for perfection but rather for a desire for progress in victory over sin.

The best defense is a good offense. The best thing the church can do for marriage is encourage and assist good marriages. This includes lots of teaching on sex and marriage, great premarital counseling, a supportive community for married couples, and efforts to nurture marriages that are enduring and endearing so that God’s people are getting divorced only on rare occasion because of extreme circumstances.

-Mark Driscoll, Call to Resurgence

A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?

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Normally, I post my book reviews on Saturday’s but with The Resurgence conference starting today and Mark Driscoll’s book A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity have a Funeral or a Future? (kindle version) releasing today, I thought I’d post my review of it today.

The question that needs to be answered before diving into this book is, “Does the church really need a resurgence?” According to Driscoll, and I’d agree, the answer is “Yes.”

He writes,

What percentage of Americans could be classified as evangelical Christian? The answer is around 8%. There are more left handed people, more Texans, and more pet cats than evangelicals in America. Common statistics estimate that evangelicals represent anywhere between 40 to 70% of the country’s total population, or approximately 130 million people. However, more extensive research cited by John Dickerson in his book The Great Evangelical Recession indicates that the actual range is 7 and 8.9%, somewhere between 22 and 28 million people. All studies indicate that younger people are less likely to be evangelical. A gallup poll found that 6.4% of the US population between 18 and 29 identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, which means in all likelihood there are as many young people with alternative sexual lifestyles as there are active young evangelicals in the US.

I think Driscoll is positioned well to write this book. What is true for the rest of the nation as far as religion, issues, beliefs and world views has been true of the city he has ministered in for decades. So, the stats, ideas on handling what those stats mean for church leaders, Driscoll has a ton of fresh ideas and great insights.

Here are some of the things Driscoll said that I found helpful:

  • Without inward conversion there’s no reason to expect outward devotion.
  • The gospel cannot be shown; it must be spoken. Love, grace, mercy, justice and the like can be shown with works. The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, must be spoken with words, because the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about our deeds but rather Jesus’ deeds: his sinless life, substitutionary death, burial and bodily resurrection for the salvation of sinners.
  • The gospel – the Good News – is about what Jesus has done, and it must be spoken. Good deeds are about what Jesus wants us to do, and they must be shown. Good deeds can serve people, but only the Good News can save them. When good deeds are confused with the Good News, bad things happen.
  • When a man stops believing in God, he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.
  • Today there are not sins. There is only one sin, and that is calling anything a sin.
  • I believe there is a correlation between the rising tide of bad dads and the rise in moralistic therapeutic deism among younger generations. This view of God is much like their experience of their earthly father – distant, uninvolved, and essentially having abandoned them to figure out life on their own.
  • Men are supposed to be producers, not just consumers. We’re defined by the legacy, the life, and the fruit that come out of us, not by what we take in.
  • The Bible recognizes those who only and always preach peace, tolerance, love and acceptance toward sin as false prophets and prophets for hire.
  • False prophets love to tell us that God is only and forever tolerant. But the Bible teaches that God is not tolerant of sin but rather patient with sinners.
  • All of a Christians life is repentance.
  • Any theology that does not call people to repent is heresy.
  • The way we naturally are is not wonderful but sinful.
  • Both homosexual and Christians are, curiously enough, organized minority groups. If Christians war with homosexuals, what we’re ignoring is the majority – all the people between the two groups at some point on the continuum. And as a general rule, those people in the middle are the very people we’ve been called to evangelize. If they see us as being mean spirited, they will be less likely to want to hear about Jesus from us.
  • Temptation is an opportunity for sin or for victory.

However, where Driscoll falls short is this,

For Christianity to have a future instead of a funeral, various tribes must strive to obey Ephesians 4:3 where Paul commands us to be “eager to maintain unity of the Spirit.”

Sadly, the week leading up to the launch of this book he pulled a terrible publicity stunt by showing up to John MacArthur’s conference, uninvited, to hand out books and talk about the Holy Spirit and how he differs from MacArthur’s belief on the Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t know what happened as I wasn’t there and there are enough opinions and open letters for everyone to read. To put a good spin on it, Driscoll then tried to put out an olive branch to MacArthur and invite him to his conference. Which came across to me as a passive aggressive way to cover things up and move on.

Here’s the point of that paragraph, as a leader, pastor, author, what you do outside and off the stage impacts your message. If you aren’t putting forth unity in how you live and lead, you can’t write a book on it and then expect unity to happen when you aren’t leading in that way.

So how does a church have a resurgence and move the gospel forward? 7 ways:

  1. Preach the word.
  2. Love the church.
  3. Contend and contextualize.
  4. Be attractional and missional.
  5. Receive, reject, redeem.
  6. Consider the common good.
  7. Evangelize through suffering.

Overall, this book is one every church leader should read. The insights, stats, where the culture is at is something you should know and be aware of and think through how to lead in that culture.