The Benefit of Authority

You know what we all need? A boss. We need somebody to be the authority in our lives. We don’t always want one, but we always need one. I’ve consistently seen the value to oversight and the danger in being left exposed without a covering. Left unchecked, practically all of us will start to divert off course sooner or later.

The value of a boss is that legitimate authority makes a way for us. Submission provides a benefit to the one that is submitted. Where we will come under authority, we have the opportunity to be elevated beyond where we could go without that covering.

The framework of order ordained by God is authority, submission and honor. Without all three, the other two don’t get a chance. In other words, without authority, there is no framework for honor. The framework accommodates purpose that extends beyond our limitations. The framework provides a multiplier to our gifts and abilities that can propel us beyond our ourselves.

Most of us have some bad boss experiences so we wince at the idea that a boss is a good idea. We think we would rather go it alone. If we could just do what we know is right without the hassle of the reports, reprimands, disagreements or other opinions that differ from ours, then we could really get it done. The problem is that left completely without authority, the things that we began with good intentions become distorted by our lack of perspective.

In a corporate setting, authority takes care of itself. In an entrepreneurial or volunteer situation, you may have to be intentional about submitting yourself. Submission doesn’t have to be formal, but it does have to be weight-bearing. To get beyond yourself, you have to welcome the oversight, correction and influence of another. It can be a mentor, assuming you are truly submitted, but that mentor or other influence must be dedicated to your good to the extent that they are not afraid to call out your bad.

Submission is a benefit where there is righteous rule and it is even beneficial where there is unrighteous rule. Where there is righteous rule, authority makes a way for the one that is submitted. Where there is unrighteous rule, authority shapes the character of the one that is submitted. While either can be for just a season, both can propel us on to bigger and better things than we could or would accomplish on our own without the benefit of the framework.



Not para, but Part Of

You’ve got to know who you are. When you know who you are, everything flows from that as you do the thing(s) you are designed to do. It’s the first step towards understanding your context and understanding your context is the first step towards fulfilling your purpose.

I recently took the responsibility of becoming the Executive Director of Fellowship of the Sword. For the first time in the 15 year history of the organization, the ministry is Board-led where it had been founder-led. The fact that the Founders, Richard and Paige Henderson, had the courage and humility to facilitate the transfer is remarkable. For many organizations, the founder’s unwillingness to hand off operations cripples the capacity and potential of incredible vision.

Some would call FTS a “para-church” organization. One of the most important and enlightening things I have heard from Richard over the past several weeks is his clarification of that tag. “We are not a para-church, because ‘para-church’ means to come beside the church. We are not coming beside the church, but we are part of the church,” Richard said.

There is only one church. It’s not different churches determined by different buildings. There is one Bride of Christ. We are here to serve His Bride as part of His Body. We are in, not beside.

This is a big deal for many reasons, one of which was that the only grant of authority that Jesus gave was to make disciples (Matthew 28). He didn’t commission us to start a ministry or facilitate a Quest or anything else unless it is to contribute to the disciple making process. He gives us that authority and the mechanism through which that occurs is the local church.

This opportunity comes several years after answering a call into ministry which moved me away from a fulfilling practice of law. The only way that Julie and I want to do things is on a call from the Lord. His call includes this recent invitation to serve the local church through this ministry called Fellowship of the Sword.

The primary mechanism by which the Lord has equipped FTS for this purpose is the facilitation of Quest and HeartQuest events, which serve as catalysts in the disciple making process. That process, first and foremost, is accomplished through the local church. It’s our pleasure to serve the local church in this way as hearts get awakened and set in healthy rhythms, to be alive in their purpose and passions which are to be carried out in their eternal context. That context is as part of a local church.


Walking Out Is Permissible, but Not Beneficial

Some students at Notre Dame exercised their First Amendment rights and walked out of their commencement ceremony a few days ago when the Vice President of the United States began his speech. While I certainly would (and have) defend their Constitutional right to leave in protest, I challenge their judgement in choosing to do so. For any courage they may have displayed, their lack of honor and maturity was that much more glaring.

These young people, while accomplished in the sense that they have earned degrees from such a fine institution as Notre Dame, haven’t really done much of anything yet. Their lives are just getting started and they have much to learn as they endeavor to accomplish things they have only dreamed of. By contrast, Vice President Pence has graduated from undergrad and law school in addition to serving as a U.S. Congressman and the Governor of Indiana prior to his election as Vice President.

They presumably walked out over disagreements with his policies. He is a staunch conservative who undoubtedly offends their beliefs. Now that they are out of school, they can do something about it. They can organize, write, volunteer or run for office, among other things. They can enter the conversation with greater focus and commitment now that they aren’t distracted by their studies. They can get in the game, but the game requires that you stay in the room. Not walk out.

The idea of ideas requires dialogue. Those young people don’t have things figured out solely from their own perspective any more than Mike Pence does. To sharpen, refine, develop and deploy their fledgling beliefs, they have to stay in the room. They have to hear the other guy(s) out if they want to actually be heard. It goes both ways. There may even be things that he, or others that they disagree with, say that they learn and/or grow from. If they stay in the room for long enough, they may get to share something that challenges or develops the belief of their antagonists, whoever they turn out to be.

Honor is not solely a reflection of the other person; it’s a reflection of the character of the one that is offering it. You give honor because your have honor to give, not just because they earned it. Honor given where there is disagreement isn’t agreement, it’s a reflection of the maturity of your character. It’s evidence of the humility required to serve and credibility required to be heard. Honor stays in the room.

There is One Church in the City; Not a Bunch of Clubs

img_1502I had an opportunity to visit with a church down the road from us this weekend and was impressed with the hospitality and relationship which was extended. Their pastor and I have been developing a friendship over the past couple of years; he has spoken at Heritage, where I pastor, a couple of times and I have spoken to their men previously. This weekend was fresh vision for what the church of the city could possibly be.

When Paul wrote his letters that we find in the New Testament, he was writing to the church of the city (Rome, Ephesus, etc.); not a church on the corner. He was addressing a movement of the Kingdom in a region; not the club of a celebrity in a building. The Kingdom is designed to be advanced across gatherings that have a common interest in an area.

The gatherings of separate congregations are separate by logistics, but not purpose. They are not isolated to their own “brand” and what they might be able to build for their own expansion. They are together for the purpose of building up the house of God, which is people together with Christ as the Cornerstone, not brick and mortar with an attractive sermon series as the foundation.

Julie and I were received incredibly well by this church in our city. We were loved and honored because their pastor, Gabriel Andrade, loves and honors them. He makes it safe for them to receive from others without the dance because he has built trust with them that can only come from caring about their hearts. He ministers to them, which makes it possible for them to receive ministry from others. The word “ministry” comes from the word “serves,” by the way. Ministry is service.

Going forward, it will be imperative for the consumerism and attraction to be secondary to the sacrifice and service. The collaboration between congregations to take advantage of diverse demographics and gifts is what will change the city; not a better worship service in one corner of the city pulling people from one gathering to the other.

In the current culture of the United States, the consumeristic, attractional model of church for the sake of the provider of the attraction that appeases the consumer has not worked. There has been a shift where certain churches grow large but they do so by transfers from other churches in the same city more so than new disciples of Jesus Christ. Among us, there is a slide from building to building based on latte’s, lights and services more than an advance where light overcomes the darkness.

It’s time for the slide to stop and the advance to begin. With congregations locking arms to agree to not only receive but also to serve others. Individually, we can be transformed; together we can be transformational.



Getting Them In vs. Getting Them to Him

ringling-barnum-poster-railcars-v420The way that we do things can be indicators of the reason we are doing them. The reasons we do things matter and sometimes the reasons are more important than the outcome. More than the result, I’m pleased with the way and the reasons for the way we are engaging in the coffee shop that I wrote about here.

I am a pastor at a local church and that church is supportive of the effort at the coffee shop conceptually and also financially. They are willing to invest in the expansion of the Kingdom of God. The best part, however, is that they are willing to do so without being the marquee player. They are willing to share the stage without competition, insecurity or posturing for gain.

I need to be out-of-town this weekend and a pastor from a different church will be leading the coffee shop. That other church is the church that provided the worship leader last week. The other pastor and I won’t be the only two people speaking over the life of this ministry nor will these be the only churches. We are looking to engage the city as the church of the city for the sake of the Kingdom of God and not the benefit of a club.

When Paul wrote his letters to the church, he wrote them to the city, not a particular denomination or trending mega church congregation. The church was a region, not an isolated institution. They weren’t competing for growth, they had the common goal of the Kingdom of God.

Unfortunately, we have been in an era where the church has been competitive even if that competition has been covert or unintentional. Where large buildings get built, large mortgages are attached. Where large mortgages have to be paid, there is large pressure to get people in the door to pay them. Attracting people who may be looking for a church means you have to present them a better option than a church down the street. That’s competition.

There are many problems with that, but one of the biggest is that it is worldly. There is no difference between that and business or even entertainment. People looking for a place to understand how to live in this world are seeking a God that supersedes this world and all too often they are engaged on the same level they seek to move beyond.

While this is often unnoticed, it is not as unknown as we might imagine. Church growth across the board is down. Could it be that there is no attraction to more of the same only re-packaged? Could it be that people are looking for the one true God and when we present them with Barnum and Bailey’s tactics instead of Jesus they intuitively reject the premise?

Grace on Display Puts Identity in Focus

romoThis post isn’t really about Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys so don’t let that prompt a premature judgment. I have to say that because I am acutely aware of both the pride that can be taken in following that franchise as well as the disdain others have for everything associated with it. This, however, isn’t really about that.

Tony Romo is a quarterback in the latter part of his career who has battled injuries for the past few years. He has, at times, had tremendous success and led the team exceptionally well. He has also occasionally been involved with failures or mistakes that have come at critical times late in the season.

He was injured early this preseason and unable to play. The team’s backup quarterback also got hurt and the net result was that a mid-round draft pick who was passed over by every other team became the starter. That unexpected starter is Dak Prescott. Dak has performed incredibly well, for a rookie or otherwise, and the team is winning.

He’s ready to come back but this kid and the team are on a roll. Do you give the job back to the loyal and talented veteran or stick with the hot hand? Tony ended the debate this week with an unprecedented press conference. He stood in front of microphones and shared that Dak has earned the right to keep the job. As he read his statement, you could feel his emotion. This wasn’t easy for a man who likely still believes he is the best quarterback on the team.

Tony’s grace, honor and security were what caught my attention. Cowboys fan or not, Tony Romo fan or not, take note of what honor looks like. Take note of what security in your identity sounds like. Take note of how grace interacts with others.

I don’t know Tony’s spiritual condition, although I hear through the grapevine that he has an active faith and attends an excellent church in the area. What I do know, however, is that he looked like a son of God this week. He looked like a man who knew who he was and, despite difficult human emotions, rested in the provision and promotion of a Father who has plans for his future. He looked like a man who knew what it was to rest in the Father’s promises and not scramble and strive to make a way for himself.

Sometimes we need to see what it looks like to be reminded of who we are. I was reminded of who I am this week by a man that I’ve never met. He showed me the strength of deference and the power of humility. It’s good to see and be reminded.