Leaders and the Unknown

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Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown. They rush toward the danger. They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future. Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours. And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs. This is what it means to be a leader. It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers. -Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

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Make a Decision (Leadership Reflections on World Vision)

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Last week, the Christian blog world exploded with the news that World Vision would change their hiring policy and hire Christians in same sex relationships. The reaction was swift and expected. Then, a day later they changed their policy back to what it was and announced they had made a mistake. Right wing Christians everywhere rejoiced and said that World Vision had gotten it right.

Church planters are faced with vision and financial decisions all the time. This situation is ripe with leadership wisdom for us as pastors and leaders. This blog is not about the decision or what the decision was about, only what leaders can learn about decisions.

In all this, I want to bring out a leadership principles.

One: When you make a decision, make sure it is the right one and stick to it. 

Did World Vision make the right decision changing their policy or changing it back? That’s not my decision or concern of this blog. I think if they are going to be a Christian organization, they should stick to what the Bible teaches on issues.

The leadership move in this was very weak. To announce a decision, one that apparently had been in the making for months and then go back on it the next day showed little backbone.

Two: Know that some decisions you make as a leader will go unnoticed and others will cause a storm. 

Leaders guess wrong on this all the time. We think we are making some monumental decision that will cause people to picket, we are going to say some controversial thing in a sermon that will make people flood our email inbox and nothing happens. Then, we say something off hand, make a small change and we are in meetings for a week. At a moments notice, a decision can create a storm. Be ready.

Three: When you make a decision, finances will be the thing that will make you want to turn back. 

Church planters know this to be true. 3 weeks after we started Revolution Church, I had a meeting with our top 4 givers and they gave me a list of things they would like to see happen at Revolution or else they were leaving and taking their tithe with them. Their giving made up almost 50% of our budget. They knew this and I knew this. I looked at the list and knew I couldn’t do what they were asking and keep the vision God had called us to. So, I handed them the list and thanked them for being a part of our church and left. They never came back.

At some point, you will have the financial test as a leader. You will make a decision that will cause you to lose donors, customers, or church members. A decision will cause tithes to go down. This is why you must make sure you are making the right choice and be willing to lose that for the greater goal.

Four: Choose wisely the hills you will die on because you will die on those hills. 

Every leader has things they will die for as a leader: it might be theology, a leadership principle, philosophy of ministry, a style of preaching or music. Everyone has them. Choose the hills you will die on carefully because you will spill blood on those hills. I’m not sure if this was a hill for World Vision. If it wasn’t, they wasted a lot of blood. The fact that they went back on their decision seems to tell me that it isn’t a hill they want to die on.

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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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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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Kevin DeYoung on Why Is This Issue Different?

Why do Christians feel the need to divide over the issue of homosexuality or gay marriage? What makes this issue different from, say, differences in church polity or views on baptism? I think that the question is even asked is a strong indicator of the pervasive spirit of the age in the church, but Kevin’s answers are detailed, thorough, and strong, particularly point #4: “[C]ommending homosexuality involves the core of the gospel because it urges us to celebrate a behavior of which the Bible calls us to repent.” This is exactly the point many of us were trying to make about the initial World Vision decision; calling fair what God has called foul directly compromises the integrity of one’s claim to provide distinctly Christian ministry.

Greg Thornbury on Noah.

Our small group spent a considerable amount of time both before and after film hearing from Aronofsky himself and co-writer Ari Handel. Both were interested in listening to and responding to our theological and critical reactions. My immediate response was that this was a film with profound moral and theological imagination. My thoughts below are my conclusions after several weeks of reflection.

Paul Rezkalla on If all religions are true, then God is cruel.

“All roads lead to the same destination.” While I can understand the sentiment of inclusivity, this idea pictures an evil God. Religious pluralists often reject exclusivist positions for positing a cruel God who only made one way to reach him. But if all religions are true, then God is cruel. And not just cruel—God is an incompetent, cosmic child-abuser. If religious pluralism is true, then God is the father in the second scenario. He saw the train coming, yet he decided to pull the first lever and kill his son, rather than pull the second lever.

2 year old and basketball trick shots

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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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