Christian Living

Ruin Your Reputation

Photo by Dioboss via Flickr (Creative Commons)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Ephesians 5:8-13

There’s a lot of reputation management going on in the church today. Scornful lips espouse warnings about “the appearance of evil” and it’s kissing cousin, “be careful who you associate with.

When I was in Bible college I remember some of this being taught in our Student Life Guide. These community preferences defined social life at Moody Bible Institute… and for many, set the course of their social life going forward.

  • You aren’t allowed in bars, because people drink alcohol there.
  • A male student can’t go to the home of a female adult alone. (And visa versa)
  • You can’t go see movies, because how will people know you are going to the PG movie when Rated-R movies are being shown?
  • You can’t work somewhere in which alcohol is sold.

[In fairness, these were community rules. Students willfully chose the school in full knowledge of the rules. No one at MBI said they were Biblical rules– but the message was clear. This is how Christians behave.]

Two problems with reputation management:

  1. Our Lord had a horrible reputation. He hung out with low-life’s like tax collectors and prostitutes.
  2. Jesus didn’t respond too kindly to religious people and their reputation rules.

Ruin your reputation

I love this passage from Paul’s letter to Ephesus. Ephesus was the Las Vegas of its day. A tourist town. It’s a city with a big harbor and lots of sailors. Consequently, it was a city with a whole slew of brothels and a temple to the fertility goddess Diana.

Ephesians knew dark places. And for the most part, the church in Ephesus was filled with people who knew the dark places all too well.

If the church were to re-write verses 8-13 it would go something like this:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, so don’t go to those places. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed to darkness is overcome by darkness—and everything that is illuminated by darkness dies.

Striking difference, eh?

That’s the difference between having a religious reputation and having a Christ-like reputation!

Paul’s command was simple: Go to dark places. Seek them out. Even the ones from your past. And bring light.

See, going to dark places and seeing “bad things” doesn’t mean that you have to be a part of it. To the contrary, you can find those in darkness and bring the light of new life!

As believers, it’s our job to go to dark places and bring light. A life pleasing to Jesus isn’t concerned about reputation. Often times, it’s ruthlessly ruining your reputation for the purpose of introducing grace, forgiveness, and hope to the darkest places you know.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Short Story

First Day

5:17 AM.

Dread soaked excitement woke him up way too early. Still dark and too restless to fall back asleep he quietly rolls out of bed. He’s tossed and turned all night long. “I might as well take a shower and get ready,” he thought to himself. Having stared at his alarm clock for the past hour hoping the monotony would quiet his million-mile-per-hour brain he knew sleep would not return. Resolved, he carefully pulled off the covers and slid to the right so as to not shake the bed too much and wake his baby brother.

Last night, he’d rolled his eyes at his grandmothers warnings as he went to bed. “Butterflies in my stomach? Really? I’m 15… not 4. What does she know?” Butterflies were too dainty for what he felt all night. More like a hornets nest in his chest from the moment he slithered between the mishmash of sheets and scratchy wool blankets.


He clenched his jaw so tightly at the pain of kicking the end of his bed that stars flashed before his eyes in the brilliant darkness. The little toe. Why is it always the little toe? He slowly exhales– releasing the pain silently under his breath. A few seconds of stretching out his foot and he’s ready to move forward, again. As he fumbled around the strange room he wonders if this is what it is like to be blind. The wandering continues as he tries to imagine where the door handle is while trying to remain silent enough to hear the deep breathing of the toddler in his still-warm bed.

Finally his hand bumps the doorknob and he is free. More confident, and with a little light sneaking into the hallway from the street light outside, he feels along the wall until he finds the bathroom.

As he closes and locks the door behind him he lets out the first noise of his day. “Crap.” Turning on the light he sees himself in the mirror and instantly realizes he’s forgotten everything he needs for a shower.

The light goes off and the process reverses. Down the narrow hallway to the bedroom door. Slowly opening the squeaky door, ever so softly, so the steady breathing brother doesn’t change. Waking him up right now would be a whole new level of problem he wants to avoid at all cost. Even at the cost of his still throbbing little toe.

Leaving the door open for a little light and good luck he reaches into a laundry basket and searches for something to wear. It’s almost pointless trying to think if things match as its so dark he couldn’t tell a yellow shirt from a black one. “Just get the parts and fix it later,” he thinks to himself as he looks for a pair of shorts, a shirt, and underwear.

5:28 AM. “How is that even possible? 11 minutes to walk to the bathroom and back? What is wrong with me?

Back in the hallway he sees the shadow of his grandmother. “Honey, I’ve put out a towel. I’ll start some hot water for you so you can have breakfast. OK?

Sure.” He says as he quickly closes the door and locks it. He can’t decide which is more embarrassing, that he somehow woke her up or that she just saw him in his underwear. “Thanks grandma.” She’s probably in the kitchen and never heard it. But he said it anyway.

The hot water made his body feel as awake as his mind had been all night. Present in the moment but trying to hide from his reality at the same time. On the one hand it was too early to think too much, which, in his circumstances was all he wanted to do… to stop thinking.

Thinking too much wasn’t helping. Time to turn it off and just be for a while.

Yeah, right. Focus on today.

He had laid in bed all night running through the day to come. It was horrible and fantastic. He missed home. He missed his mom. He missed his friends. But he was ready for a new start. At least that is what he tried to convince himself all night. Over and over again he rehearsed his schedule in his mind. He knew the room numbers for each hour and had memorized the school map the counselor put in his folder when he registered.

A month ago he’d give his right arm for the anonymity he’ll have today.

But getting lost was still a big worry. “I’d better write everything down when no one is looking, just to be sure.

Drying off he ran through the checklist one more time.

Fresh start. New day. Start over. New everything.”

These were the words he’d heard from all of his relatives over Christmas. He couldn’t come up with the word for it, but in his mind he didn’t like the way they were saying it. Later he’d learn the word– patronizing. That would sum up the anger he felt towards their coy and meaningless words of encouragement. What did they know? It wasn’t them.

Get a bowl. There’s hot water on the stove. There’s some oatmeal packets in the drawer. What were you doing up so early, anyway? The bus doesn’t come for an hour.”

An hour? What time is it?

It’s 6:20. You were in the bathroom forever. What were you doing in there? It’s not like you shave or anything.

6:21 AM. That’s what the microwave said, anyway.

I don’t know. I guess I just lost track of time or something.”

He sat down at the little metal table in the corner of the kitchen, mixing his oatmeal. That’s when the quietness ended and his new daily chaos resumed.

I hungry. Cheerios.” He looked down as his little brother was standing there, holding his blanket and rubbing his eyes. “Go ask grandma. I’m eating.

It was mean. But he was busy. His tone was a little off, quite a bit more harsh than he wanted because as the little guy wandered away and started to cry.

Then the front door slammed closed. The apartment shook, not at just at the kerthunk of the door but also at the volume it brought to their relative peace.

Jesus– I can’t stand my job anymore. I’m up all night and the first thing the supervisor says to me when he gets in is, ‘That’s all you did?’ He’s an idiot. I swear to God, I hate that place.

Grandma met uncle Pete at the door.

Watch your mouth. Everyone in the world doesn’t need to hear you. I’ve got problems of my own. Why do you have to… never mind. Just keep your voice down. We’re just waking up.”

Have you been crying, mom? Your eyes are all puffy.

Why don’t you mind your own business.” Grandma said, cutting him off. “Can you make the baby some cereal. He wants Cheerios.

She bent down and picked up the crying boy and stuffed him into his uncles arms before walking back into her bedroom and slamming the door.

His grandma was incredible at changing the subject. When he first saw her, as she left the bathroom as he made his way down the hall this morning, she was sniffling. But he thought she just had a cold or something. Maybe she’d been crying? But when you are in your underwear and your grandma is telling you meaningless information about hot water you don’t stick around too much to wonder if she’d been crying or not. You just shut the door and handle your business.

She was good at changing the subject. It’s how she handled everything complicated. He remembered how quickly she’d changed the subject at the school with the counselor. Any time they had questions she just changed the subject.

Maybe that’ll help me today?” He said out loud into his oatmeal.

The next 45 minutes were a blur of chaos-filled activity. First his uncle yelled at his grandma. Then his brother started crying because his uncle’s loud mouth scared him. Then he’d helped his brother get dressed. Then his brother pooped his pants because he didn’t listen when he told him to go to the bathroom and he didn’t make it there on time. Then he’d gone through the nastiness of cleaning that up and resisting the need to take another shower by bathing himself in another layer of Axe.

Then he looked up at the clock in the bedroom and it was 7:18.

Hurry up! I told you the bus will be outside at 7:20. You can’t miss it on the first day.

Adrenaline took over. He grabbed his bag and a hoodie, closing the door behind him… wait, could he have a bag at school? He couldn’t remember. Down the stairs he went and out the front door. As he glided down three flights of steps he somehow managed to slip on the hoodie and keep track of his back back while not breaking his neck.

The crispness of the January air brought him back to reality. Looking down the block to see the silhouettes of others waiting for the bus, his feet froze to the sidewalk. His legs locked up and he felt a little woozy. He pulled his hood up, fished in his backpack for his MP3 player, put his earphones in, and turned the volume up as loud as it would  go.

A pile of high school students waited at the end of the block. He kept his head down as he approached the crowd. He didn’t want to say a word. He was going to pretend he didn’t hear anything. “Just get through the first day. Don’t get lost. Don’t talk to nobody.

No matter what. He wasn’t going to talk to a soul on the bus. It was just transportation and not some sort of invitation to friendship and all the questions that would follow.

The bus pulled up and he pushed his way into the pack. He sat down in the middle of the bus next to some kid. The kid looked a little younger than him. Maybe he was a freshmen? He smelled. Swinging his bag off his back and onto his lap he collapsed into the seat. Staring straight ahead. With a prophet blaring words he wanted to hear into his brain, he was in his own world. Starting fresh. Trying to not think about anything.

The new day starts now.

Fresh start. New beginning. New everything.” He thought to himself as he closed his eyes in protest to the headlights of oncoming cars shining through the school bus window and into his eyes.

Hey, what’s your name? Who are you?” That’s what he assumed the smelly kid said to him as he poked his shoulder.

7:22 AM.

maturity Social Action

Fearing the right things

Franklin D. RooseveltContrary to popular belief– I do have fears.

Every day I ride my bike to work, I’m fearful of getting hit by a car.

When I’m out bodyboarding, I’m fearful of getting killed by a shark.

When my kids are late coming out of school, I’m fearful that something happened to them.

I have the same fears as everyone else. I recognize that there are things with which it is healthy to have fear.

But I refuse to be defined by my fears

Fears are often irrational. I’ve got a pretty slim chance of getting hit by a car, or killed by a shark, or that my kids will be kidnapped from their school.

That’s the rational reality.

So, I chose to not have my life defined by paralyzing fear of those things.

I have no fear of opportunity

The lens of fear is the wrong lens to judge an opportunity. You can’t worry about failure. You can’t worry about getting emotionally hurt. You can’t worry if people will like you. And you can’t worry about what people will think if you say yes or say no.

You need a better lens than that. You need a level head to determine whether an opportunity is good for you or not.

I often say no to ideas presented to me. But I never allow fear to be a part of the equation.


Deep down I know that I shouldn’t fear what could happen if something goes wrong. Instead, I fear what could happen if I don’t try.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, standing before the world on his inauguration day. With everything to fear– from wars on two continents looming, a depression lasting nearly a decade, and even his private battle with paralysis:

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. listen

Church Leadership

Christian Wimps

Not my life story, hopefully.Photo by ttarasiuk via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Note: This post is a note written to myself. If you want to write yourself in on it, that’s cool. But this post is for me more than it is you.

Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Joshua 24:14

And he said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.Job 28:28

The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. Psalm 25:14

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

I’ve had enough of the fear talk.

If I listen to one more youth worker talk about feeling lead to do something but he isn’t sure the parents will go for it… I’ll scream.

Let me get this story correct.

Called by God to lead these kids, stirred by the Holy Spirit to go do something, and what stops you is fear of parents? A board? Dudes in suits? Getting fired?  Sure seems like you have some horrible, crappy, weak theology.

I can imagine Abraham having this argument with God. “Oh, you want me to leave everything and move my family… cool. Let me check with my wife first before I commit. And then I’ll need a realtor. And lemme check with my insurance guy to make sure it’s safe. Do I have to take my kids? If so, wow I don’t know. Are there good schools over there?”

Know what God would have done? He would have found someone else. And Abraham wouldn’t have been the father of a great nation.

Reckless vs. Fearless

I actually think a lot of people confuse these terms. They are not synonyms. You can lead a ministry and a life that is fearless without being reckless. That doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get in trouble… in fact, I can guarantee you that a fearless life will be dangerous. But being fearless doesn’t make you reckless. One lifestyle takes risks for the sake of taking risks while the other takes risks because they are convinced it is the right thing to do.

Fear this

SPOILER ALERT: Reading the New Testament all of the characters die in the end. OK, so there are two who aren’t really dead by the end of Revelation. Jesus gets killed (for you) and then comes to life again and is seen by a bunch of people before ascending into heaven. And John, who writes Revelation, isn’t quite dead yet when he writes the letter documenting the end of the world. But most people think he died in exile because he pissed off the Emperor of Rome.

So, if I have this right, [yup , checked my sources one more time] if you live a life like Jesus did or his disciples did… there’s a pretty good chance you should be on a trajectory where someone wants to take you out. And you probably won’t be very popular with the religious establishment. And that retirement party? Yeah, don’t plan that.

Where are all the men in the church?

I sit in church wondering the same thing.

Maybe they know deep down inside that they don’t want to hang out with a bunch of wimps? Maybe, JUST MAYBE, more men are looking at the God of the Bible and comparing it to the faith of the churches leaders and thinking: Nope. Not the right guys.

youth ministry

Mexico + Fear = Stupid

Hanging with Phil in Baja

As I mentioned last week, I spent Friday in Mexico with Phil Cunningham of YWAM. We had a fun time meeting some people for coffee and talking about life, touring the YWAM Baja base, grabbing an amazing taco in Rosarito, and getting a glimpse of the vision they have for reaching Baja for Christ.

I live about 30 minutes from the Tijuana border. And I’m ashamed to admit that the last time I crossed the border into Mexico was 2003. Kristen and the kids have never been. (In fairness, the five years that we lived in Romeo, a mere 45 minutes from Canada, we crossed the border three times.)

The Tijuana/San Diego border sees an average of 300,000 people moving between countries daily. Considering San Diego has 1.2 million residents and Tijuana has 1.5 million… you’re talking a lot of people who cross one way or the other each day.

Two Types of San Diego Residents

There are really two types of San Diego residents when it comes to TJ. There are those who go often and those who never go. The average San Diego resident who doesn’t go has a visceral reaction when you mention going to Tijuana. Almost universally you’ll hear people say “Don’t go to TJ. It’s dangerous.” It’s a mantra I’ve had drilled into me since moving here and its had the intended result– I’d never gone to TJ since moving here!

Likewise the news media on the U.S. side does its best to reinforce this concept that TJ is super dangerous. Drugs, human trafficking, gang violence, murders. While it’s true that those are serious issues the end result is that there is an increasing fear of our neighbors to the south building up.

As if any city of 1.5 million in the United States didn’t have drugs, human trafficking, gang violence, or murders?

Fear vs. Reality

YWAM guest housing near Rosarito.

Now that I’ve been there I can affirm that not much has changed in Tijuana since my last visit in 2003. If anything, crossing the border both ways is a little simpler. Just like any border crossing around the globe there are procedures. You pull up, show some ID, answer some questions, and hope you don’t get waved in to an inspection lane.

If you’ve never been to a developing nation– or only been to a resort city in a developing nation– than Tijuana will come across as dirty and disorganized. In truth, TJ isn’t unlike many major metropolitans in the United States. There are nice areas and there are nasty areas. There are places where you are likely to get robbed and there are places you can relax. Being that Mexico is a developing nation and Tijuana is a fast-growing city it is no surprise that there are many parts of TJ which are slummy and could use some help. I’m not going to say that Tijuana is an awesome place to visit but I do want to point out that its a typical big city in a developing nation.

But if you watch the news, particularly conservative news, all of the Mexican border areas are filled with people who want to brutally murder Americans on site. Burned in our consciousness are all the Dateline NBC shows, Geraldo standing at the border and saying beheading as many times between commercials as possible, and documentaries showing us how people are being brutally murdered. Let’s remind ourselves of a simple fact… if you aren’t in a gang or not buying drugs or not soliciting a prostitute, you are unlikely to get caught up in anything having to do with drugs, gangs, or prostitution.

The news media, particularly the conservative news media, is well-aware that scaring people leads to good ratings. (Which translates to ad revenue) So it pays well to scare you away from Mexico. And it is working. Big time.

Here’s a little fact for you to think about. Killing innocent Americans is bad business for a drug cartel. With a little street smarts and a good dose of common sense I don’t think there is any reason to avoid going to Mexico altogether. (Obviously, there are plenty of places to avoid after dark! But you’d avoid those same types of places in any city in America.)

Mission trips to Mexico

I think the thing that shocked me the most during my day in TJ was to learn how Christians have stopped coming to Mexico to do missions. Participation is down 50%-75% in recent years.

And why? All of the agencies will tell you the same thing: People are afraid of traveling to Mexico.

I saw this same phenomenon on my Facebook status the other day. Had I posted that I was going out for a taco with my friend Phil, no one would have thought much of it. But because I said I was going to TJ… lots of people were praying for my safety. Now, I appreciate the prayers. But this reveals the fear factor.

What’s changing?

I couldn’t help but go down there, see the ministry locations, and hear the news that people aren’t helping as much anymore without being touched.

What’s changing first is my behavior. I know I can’t do a lot but I know that I can both raise awareness of ministry opportunities in TJ as well as make time to go and participate in small ways. Maybe that will mean finding a place to plug in as a family? Or a community group? Or inviting friends to go down to check out ministry stuff? I’m not sure on the exact details yet… but I do know that I can’t serve in Jerusalem and Judea without thinking about the Samaria next door.

hmm... thoughts

Putting Failure in Perspective

When I meet someone who is stuck in life I often discern that they are really stuck because they are afraid to fail.

Some ways that exhibits:

  • They hate their current lot in life (job, relationship status, living situation) but are afraid that if they make a move that may regret it and long for their current comfort.
  • They feel called to trust God in an area of their life but they want to wait for x, y, or z conditions to be right before they do anything.
  • They want to try something (new career, new relationship, new life) but think they aren’t qualified.

Here’s a secret. I’ve got all of the same insecurities. I’ve got all the same worries. I don’t want to look stupid or act any more foolish than anyone else.

But I’ve also learned this:

  • I’m not getting any closer to my dreams by sitting on my hands.
  • I’m not getting any more qualified by sitting on my hands.
  • I’ll never have a relationship with _____ if I don’t say hello.
  • If I don’t go for a chance to live somewhere else than it’ll never happen.
  • If I know God called me to do something, I don’t want to be like Jonah.
  • If I have friends who try to hold me back, I know they aren’t the type of friends I want to have.
  • I don’t want to sit on my porch swing in my 60s and tell my grandkids “coulda, woulda, shoulda” stories. I’d much rather tell them, “I tried it and sucked at it.

Here are some things I’ve learned about failure.

  • Failure is part of the process.
  • Failure can actually be fun.
  • Failure doesn’t make you a bad person.
  • Being a failure doesn’t make you a fool.
  • Failure is key to discovery.
  • Failure is a learning device.
  • Failure doesn’t limit your opportunities, it explodes them.

Fear is none of those things. Fear inhibits the process. It prevents fun. It makes you no fun to be around. It makes you feel foolish. It prevents discovery. It prevents learning. It limits your opportunities.

“The only thing worth fearing is fear itself” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

haiti news item

Fear Makes You Stupid

Yesterday morning I woke up to the news of a massive earthquake in Chile. The world seemed to hold its breath and wonder how bad the damage would be. “If a 7.0 earthquake killed 200,000+ people and flattened Port-au-Prince, Haiti– what would an earthquake 500 times stronger do?

Those fears and concerns were legitimate.

Fortunately, as news reports flooded in, we later learned that while there is widespread damage and hundreds of thousands displaced– Chile was well prepared for such an emergency. In fact, it appears that Chile may be able to handle the relief efforts largely on their own. The New York Times is reporting, “Although the United States had offered aid, Chile’s government had not yet requested assistance. All international relief groups were on standby, and the International Federation of Red Crosses and Red Crescents said the Chilean Red Cross indicated that it did not need external assistance at this point.

Chile’s disaster was not equal to Haiti’s disaster– and as those fears began to ease and you could see the media looking for a story to scare people.

Later in the morning, the media attention shifted from the earthquake in Chile to a tsunami the earthquake spawned. This is when the full on fear mongering went nuts.

  • Fact: 750,000 people in greater Port-au-Prince are starving and homeless while billions of dollars of aid sits on tarmacs because NGOs and governments are paralyzed.
  • Fact: The president of Haiti has said it will take 1,000 trucks 1,000 days to clear the rubble from Port-au-Prince. The muscle part of recovery hasn’t even begun.
  • Fact: 46 days after the earthquake in Haiti, starvation and disease are happening just 2 hours south of Miami by plane. Thousands of orphans are undocumented and at risk of being trafficked. Widows and elderly have no protection.
  • Fact: 2 million people in Chile were displaced as their homes were destroyed.

And twelve hours after the Chile quake all of the news media’s attention shifted from actual news stories to a potential tsunami in Hawaii.

Fact: Tsunami warnings had gone out for more than 4 hours all over Hawaii. There was no danger to life.

Fact: A potential tsunami is not equal to an actual tsunami. A potential tsunami was used to cover up the real story in Haiti. (The real story is that the church is meeting people’s needs while the NGOs and governments have meetings at the airport.)

Fact: The news was reporting on lines at Costco/Wal*Mart/Safeway, showing live video of a camera pointed at a computer screen of a feed, and anchors desperately trying to convince experts that although scientific instruments were saying the tsunami was only creating a 2-3 foot wave– the wave must really be 30-50 feet.

Fact: This was worse than Geraldo opening Al Capone’s secret vault.

And yet every news agency was showing live video from all over the state, showing sunshine and waves, interviewing tourists on vacation– all for a natural disaster that had not even happened yet! One reporter asked a tourist, “What is the situation like up at Diamond Head?” The tourist, confused, looked at the reporter and told the truth. “It’s a party up there.They couldn’t go to commercial fast enough.

Something is wrong with us. The fear of a natural disaster outweighs an actual natural disaster? The fear of damaged vacation property outweighs the reality of millions of people’s homes in Chile and Haiti? The fear that a tsunami might hit outweighs the reality that a significant disaster has actually happened.

Fear makes us stupid.

When will we recognize that fear is our god? When will we stop living in fear? When will we be motivated by compassion that overcomes fear?

haiti hmm... thoughts

Faith & Fear

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. Genesis 12:1

Can you imagine? 75 years old you hear from God loud and clear– leave, start a new life, leave everything behind.

Abram’s entire life was judged based on this one decision! Would his life be defined by faith or by fear?

The first thing that comes to my mind as I try to put myself in Abram’s shoes is fear:

  • How will I make the trip?
  • How will I start over?
  • My wife will kill me.
  • I’m 75 years old, the only move I’m making is to Florida

Yesterday, I was doing a little check-in on Tash’s morning radio show in Auckland. (You know, I’m huge there! Well… er, probably not.) And she asked me the one question I don’t have an answer for right now, “So Adam, what is going to change as a result of your trip to do relief work in Haiti?

It is the question I’m afraid of. I don’t really have an answer for that yet.

If I tally the faith I exhibit in my life I see a difference in the reconciliation. Fear is winning over faith.

As I talked to the Lord about it I kept coming back to that central question… right back to the defining moment in Tin CupWill your life be a life defined by radical faith, or will it be defined by an avoidance of fear?

What about you? What are ways you a living a life driven by faith and not fear? Teach me!

hmm... thoughts

Excuses and Fear

When you look past the excuses and manage to control your fear… you can do amazing things. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of those two things stopping me from what I want to do.

3-2-1…. What are you going to do?

Church Leadership Harbor Mid-City hmm... thoughts

Fears of a new venture

What does youth ministry in this neighborhood look like?

That’s the big open question in my mind this week. A week ago I met with a couple of leaders of Harbor and let them know… I think I’m at a place where giving my energy to lead something makes sense. I’ve completely enjoyed stepping back– forcefully– and spending time in the pews. And yet it’s clear within my soul that I need to help Harbor figure out what is next with student ministry.

Replication is my fear. Honestly, that’s it. I am fearful that I’ll help lead them a direction towards “adamisms” and things that I’m comfortable with. I’m fearful that I lead them to replicating stuff that other practitioners are already doing without being sensitive to the needs of our church and community. I’m fearful that we’ll be too ambitious or not ambitious enough. I’m fearful that in our zeal to meet the tangible needs of students we won’t be Gospel-driven enough. I’ve lived in cities for half of my adult life, but all of my ministry experience is with suburban kids. I’m not fearful of the kids. But I am in full knowledge that I don’t know how to identify with their struggles. So that’s an over-arching fear mixed in there, as well.

Fear. It’s where I’m at. Not the trembling kind of fear before embarking on an unknown ministry for the first time. Thankfully, I’m not that 21 year old kid grabbing the mic for the first time. On the one hand this is a more carnal fear. Some fear is based in the success of my past and present ministry. What if I screw it up and everyone looks at me and says, “Doesn’t he work for Youth Specialties? Isn’t he supposed to be an expert? How come he sucks so bad?” On the other hand, this is fear based in saying to Jesus… “OK, I’ll try something completely out of my experience and culture. I’ll go where you want and do what you need done. I’ll swallow pride and embrace not getting it right and risk the humiliation of starting over.” It’s a fear based in a life dedicated to saying to the Lord, “I want to change this world, help me be that leader that changes things in my world.

I’ve learned a thing or two. I’ve lead enough stuff to know that fear can be useful. Fear ultimately forces you to the core of what you’re trying to do. Fear forces you to look at the proposition of failure with a knowing grin. I may be afraid of failure but I’ve got enough experience to know what makes a success too.

3 life lessons I’m applying— If you are in the same boat– I’d suggest these things.

1- This is no one man show. Not that I’ve ever really run a one man show, per se. But from the onset of this I want to be clear that I’m no more than 1/4th the leader. I wish I had set this rule up 10 years ago!

2. This is about developing leaders for influence. If I’m going to invest my time in developing leaders, it’s not going to be so that they can be the shift supervisor at Starbucks. This is going to be about something much more important than this.

3. No more babysitting complacent teens. Since I’m not drawing a paycheck on this thing, I feel less-than-zero pressure to entertain. I want to invest in students, I want to invest in developing leaders. I want to teach God’s Word. And I have the ability to say no to the rest. Fun is always part of the equation. But watching kids be bored with the most exciting stuff on the planet… not my cup of tea.

More coming on this, I’m sure.