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Posts Tagged ‘insecurity’


These days it is pretty difficult to avoid conversations about homosexuality for very long. The question is more about what will be the tenor of those conversations. When we agree, we can unfortunately deride and denigrate people who are different (no matter what the difference is) since, by nature in Adam, we suffer many a prejudice. When we disagree, the tone can quickly become shrill and ugly, particularly in this day when people can’t seem to disagree agreeably. We can succumb to the need to be right (I must win this debate), or if we feel like we are losing or unable to respond our insecurity tempts us to attack the person.

This is why Joe Dallas wrote Speaking of Homosexuality: Discussing the Issues with Kindness & Clarity. Joe used to be “a staff member with a pro-gay church, an openly gay man, and an activist identifying as a gay Christian, arguing for the acceptance of homosexuality.” In the mid-80’s that all changed. Since then he has been defending a biblical perspective on sexuality. He understands the history of the revisionist arguments for homosexuality as well as the best way to address them.

“I’ve written this book with a twofold goal: to help the reader better understand arguments in favor of homosexuality, and to equip him or her to meet those arguments with responses that are accurate, biblical, and compassionate.”

Before he gets to the heart of the book, he talks about the context of these conversations. He talks about why they are hard for everyone involved. So much seems on the line- the personal happiness & existential worth of the homosexual, the perceived safety and happiness of a loved one, eternal life etc. We all bring baggage to the conversation which can blind us, and we’ll accept anything that may confirm our bias, however inaccurate it may be. There is also the political and social climate which makes these conversations difficult. It is a shibboleth creating a dividing line between “us and them”.

He moves into the various groups we can interact with: activists who take no quarter, millennials who grew up in a time when it was acceptable, friends and family. He then moves to the “rules of engagement” for this discussions.

  1. Speak clearly
  2. Speak appropriately
  3. Speak empathically
  4. Concede what is true
  5. Consider what is possible
  6. Watch the apologies
  7. Recognize and point out diversions

The heart of the book addresses a series of issues (born gay?, change, same sex marriage, homophobia, gay Christians, Sodom, Leviticus, what Jesus said, & Romans 1) following a similar pattern. He lays out the general dynamics of the issue, why it is important and summarizes the traditional position. Then Dallas works through a series of revisionist arguments and responses to those arguments from a traditional perspective. He seeks to prepare you for the arguments they are most likely to present to you, and some responses that address those arguments. Those responses come for the Bible, but also address medical and psychological studies, assumptions that may be incorrect etc.

Overall, Dallas does a good job. I think he models his approach by being clear and kind. There is lots of information here, more than most people can remember. But it can be a good resource, particularly in on-going discussions with people you know. If you are a person who ends up in these conversations frequently, you will become more familiar with use.

Dallas, like all authors, writes from a theological tradition or perspective. I also read from one. I am a confessional, Reformed Christian (conservative Presbyterian to be precise). He writes from an Arminian and non-covenantal perspective. If I may be so bold, this weakens his responses in a few key areas.

For instance, in the question of the “gay Christian” he talks about whether a Christian can lose their salvation or if “once saved always saved”. I found that argument rather weak, unconvincing and lacking any nuance. From the perspective of the preservation/perseverance of the saints, I find it more helpful and we can be more patient with people as this works out. We’re also more honest about the collateral damage in that person’s life even if they are a Christian living in disobedience for a time.

Another place this weakness appears is in discussing Leviticus. Tim Keller’s defense of the Christian view from a Reformed & covenantal perspective utilizing the 3 types of law is far more helpful (in my opinion) than the dispensational approach that Dallas takes. The issue is not whether a law is repeated, but what kind of law (and there are textual indications): moral, ceremonial & case law.

These particular responses, in my opinion, could be much stronger. But this is a very helpful book that I hope does find an audience among pastors, chaplains, and laypeople. Unless we live in a “Christian ghetto,” we all know and interact with homosexuals. We should do so with love, which includes speaking the truth with clarity and compassion.

[I received a free copy of this book for the purposes of review.]

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I’m slowly working my way through The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders.  It is a book I wish was written years ago, I could have benefited from it.  I have been busy, and actually read the chapter Applause Lasts for a Moment, but Leadership is for a Lifetime last week.

The chapter carries over some ideas from the previous chapter on ego.  One aspect of that is hogging all the credit.  Some leaders, or people in leadership positions, are driven by ego and want all the credit for success.  They want the applause.  But this ultimately undermines a leader’s ability to lead.

“giving away the credit never hurts a leader in the long run, but hoarding credit always does.  Good leaders share or better yet totally give away credit for the positive things that happen, knowing it will circle back around to strengthen their own worth to the organization.”

What often gets in the way is our insecurity and need for recognition.  This drives away others, particularly those who helped make us successful.  This insecurity also refuses to accept any blame for failure.  Insecurity dumps blame on those it refused to honor for success.

“Your coworkers will become more committed and more mission focused when their leader values them as God values them and doesn’t weigh them down with the burden of blame for their mistakes.  … The motivation, creativity, and commitment of workers increase dramatically when they feel they are valued.”

My mind went to a work situation I endured.  The organization was shifting directions and models every few years.  There was not a stable, consistent vision or process.  At one point they brought in a new CEO who looked good on the outside (he talked a good game) but was what I called “a small man”.  He was insecure.

During a called organizational meeting he yelled at 2 departments for what certainly sounded like uncharacteristic mistakes.  Those departments had been very busy lately, but there had been no word of thanks for handling the extra workload.  I made the mistake of going to his office to encourage him to encourage them for the hard work they have been doing since they were all discouraged after his tongue-lashing.  He wasn’t there but the message was passed on.

Soon there was another meeting in which any unhappy employees were invited to place their resignation letters on his desk by 5 pm.  The organization was walking on eggshells for quite some time.  People were demotivated.  I couldn’t wait to get out.

This person was driven by his insecurity: he was not able to share credit or blame.  He took all of the first, and none of the second.  He was a poor leader.

“It is remarkable to me how many ministry employees say about their supervisor, ‘If you’re waiting to be thanked, you’ll wait a long time.'”

I’ve also been in organizations where some departments were seemingly invisible.  The leaders spent all their time with other departments, neglecting others.  It created a great sense of disconnect, envy and discouragement.

But another person came to my mind.  That person was Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady has always shared his success with his teammates.  Not just privately, but publicly.  This past weekend was no exception, he talked about how the offensive line worked hard to give him the time to find the receivers who worked hard to get open.  The team worked for that win.

This is also evident in the nationally run commercials he has done.  Unlike other star QBs, he includes the members of the offensive line.  He honored them with some of the spotlight (and some extra cash).  Don’t you think they are extra-motivated to protect him?

Earlier in the year the Patriots were struggling, particularly on offense.  Tom Brady took the blame.  He didn’t throw anyone else under the bus.  He said he needed to work harder and make adjustments.

Tom Brady is a secure leader who remains successful because he takes the long view.  He needs everyone else to succeed.  So he consistently shares the credit and accepts the blame.

Roger Parrott lays out 6 principles to help guide leaders in this:

  • Be Purposeful– if you don’t periodically set time aside to do this, it will get lost in the busyness of leading.  Check yourself by spending a day thinking of each act of appreciation you offered.  You’ll find you miss many opportunities in any given day.
  • Be Poignant– it must be from the heart and be credible.  Hollow credit undermines your leadership.
  • Be Personal– regular awards are rather impersonal.  Instead personalize it, and offer it when it is not expected (before the project is done, perhaps).
  • Be Pure– don’t do it for publicity, or a photo op.  People will see through that, and it undermines your leadership.  Join in the tough jobs, not just the visible ones.
  • Be Prerequisite-Free–  Yes, no strings attached.  You aren’t trying to obligate people to you.  Give of yourself, not just things.  Gifts can often “accentuate(s) the power differential between the leader and others.”
  • Be Prayerful–  This will help you see them, and their needs, more clearly.  Respect their boundaries, neither purposely making a show of it in the hall or by summoning them to your office for a private word of prayer.  Offer to pray with and for them where & when they are comfortable.

He also gives some direction for delivering bad news- direct, disclosing & discreet.  How we share credit and address failure will greatly impact our ability to influence others as leaders.  Too often we are driven by our insecurities or the tyranny of the urgent.  Both of those problems can be addressed, and solid leadership can develop.

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In the past few years I’ve had far too many interviews.  Sadly, I’m not alone.  One of the things that I heard on the radio some time ago has stuck with me.  The talk radio host (sports radio no less) was talking about the book From Good to Great.  He mentioned that there is the guy who is good at getting the job, and the guy who is great at the job.  Often they are not the same guy.  Some people are really good at interviewing, but not very good at doing the job.  Some are not so good at interviewing, but quite good at the job.  I can identify with that thought.

I’ve often thought that looking for a new pastoral position was a lot like dating.  Some guys are good at getting girls, but not so good at being a husband.  Many guys are not good at getting girls, but good at keeping them and are good husbands.  This much is clear from the movie Swingers.  Mikey was not so good at getting the girls.  But he was much better at relationships than his friend who only knew how to pick them up.

I’ve come to believe there are a number of guys who are good at getting pastoral positions.  They are witty, charming and creating the illusion of intimacy.  But they are not wired for the long haul, of building true intimacy and pastoring a church.  I fear that too many search committees are not good at telling the difference.  This would explain, in part, why so many pastors don’t stay long at their positions.

Churches can often act like insecure women, wanting the guy who will gush over them rather than making an honest, balanced assessment.  It is as if they expect every applicant to “feel called” to be their pastor.  That expectation sets men up for emotional devastation each time they are rejected.  It is hard enough to deal with the rejection, but to build such an emotional attachment is unhealthy in the long run.

When I write my book to assist search committees, I’m going to mention this as an important factor to finding a new pastor.  References from people whom they have pastored and with whom they are served are possibly more important than the interview.  They will let you know if the applicant can build meaningful relationships, the relationships necessary to being a good pastor in most churches.

I was the guy who wasn’t good at getting the girl.  CavWife will probably tell you that I’m much better at being a husband than I was wooing her.  I often feel the same way with churches.  To spend 9 years someplace you have to have made relationships for the long haul.  I wonder if some of the churches I’ve applied to have passed on guys good at the job to call a guy who is merely good at getting the job.

Am I wrong about this (big picture, not Cavman-specific)?  What have you observed in pastoral searches?  I’d like to know, and you might even end up in my book.

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Monday Morning Insight has a thread about “church pirates”.  At a video taped staff meeting, Ed Young Jr. talked about those who leave a church staff to plant a new church, “stealing” members from the first church.

There are tons of comments, with some interesting thoughts.  People taking different sides.  One of the issues is the “50 Mile Rule”.  Sometimes it is argued that you shouldn’t pastor a new church within 50 miles of the original church.  There are too many generalizations in Ed’s comments, and the feedback.

Since I “haven’t lived it out” Ed doesn’t want to hear from me.  But, here are some thoughts as I’ve observed things:

1. Healthy churches, and healthy church leaders, raise up younger men to plant new churches in their own cities or surrounding cities.  This is a strategic move.  It can be intentional, and should be in my opinion.  This permits people to stay in their communities for the benefit of their families (yes, they matter too).

2. Some churches need to consider doing that very thing.  They often have a “rigid” philosophy of ministry and there are a group of people who would like to see changes.  A wise, secure Senior Pastor and lay leaders could say “we want to remain as we are, but recognize you have some legitimate desires”.  They would then work together to plant a daughter church that has a different ministry style.  The core group would go with their blessing.  But, instead of that people slowly bleed out to attend another church in town that may be more in tune with them.

3. The “50 Mile Rule” is usually (not exclusively) used by either insecure pastors, or when an adversarial relationship has developed.  In the first case, the Senior Pastor or lay leaders are so afraid of losing members they fail to love their members well by seeking what may be best for Christ, the kingdom and the people.  In this case the “rule” is petty and should not be invoked.  In the second case, it may be the pride of the younger man that drives the animosity.  Either way, tensions are heightened to the point that they can not work together, nor support one another.  The desire is to not plant a toxic church.  In this case the “rule” is good.  What often results is a “splant” or a plant resulting from a split.  The community I live in is filled with splants.  There have been very few real church plants here.  As a result the churches tend not to work together, and the reputation of the Body of Christ has taken some serious hits.

4. Then there are the guys who remind me of Absalom.  David’s son stole the hearts of Israel in his attempt to overthrow the King.  Some staff members may do this, purposely undermining the Senior Pastor.  These men are dangerous and shouldn’t be planting a church.  These are the “pirates” but they are not very common in my experience. 

But Ed sounds burned and bitter.  He seems to discount all church plants within the community as a result of these “troublers of Israel”. 

Jared at Gospel Driven Church has some good thoughts.  Ed’s repeated references to corporate America may reveal more than he wishes, and color how he views these things.

 

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