Saturday, October 6, 2018

Men and Birds

Men can be compared to a variety of birds. First, there is the canary. The canary can usually be found singing up a storm in a cage. They just sing all day. Other folks feed them and they are pretty much powerless birds. Too many men are satisfied with the status quo. They are happy just to get their house, their beans, their potatoes, and their TV remote and they are fine.

And then you’ve got the buzzard. The buzzard sits on poles all day and just squawks, making this irritating sound. Far too many men want to sit on the sidelines and complain. “Well, my wife is not this, and my wife’s not that; I wish she were this, I wish she were that.” A buzzard is a guy who just sits around all day, complaining.

Then you’ve got the peacock. The peacock just wants to sit up and look good all the time. You know why? Because the peacock’s interest is only itself.

Many men are eagles. Eagles just don’t sit around all day. They soar. They take over. They are in complete control. Which bird are you?”

by Dr. Tony Evans

Monday, September 24, 2018

We Don't Leave Men Behind: Moving Into the Valley of the Shadow of Death

The year is 1965 and America is at war with North Vietnam. Commanding the 7th Air Cavalry is Lt. Col. Hal Moore. His military target: the la Drang Valley, called "The Valley of Death." It the first major engagement between U.S. forces and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and it would be one of the most violent battles in U.S. history.

I recently re-watched “We Were Soldiers” – a marvelous movie based on the true story of the three-day battle, directed by Randall Wallace, a famed film maker who’s also a Christian and starring Mel Gibson, Oscar winning actor and director. In this video clip, as the 7th Cav prepares to deploy, Col, Moore addresses the men is about to lead in battle and makes them a solemn promise. Check it out HERE

As Jesus’ earthly life and ministry was ending, he prayed to the Father for those who had been entrusted to him, “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost…” They could have wandered but he cared for and protected them to the end.

We as Christ followers are charged with caring for one another and we are not to leave even one person behind. We will guard them, guide them, carry them, love them, pray for them and pursue them to the very end. No man will be left behind.

"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2, NIV)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

On Mission: The Church Isn’t A Cruise Liner or Battleship But An Aircraft Carrier

Many people are bored in church. They are afflicted with a nagging sense that they ought to be doing something—that there is some meaningful mission they are supposed to be a part of. But they can’t quite get their mind around what that is, and so, in the meantime, they sit in church, try to pay attention, give their tithes, behave as best they can, and wonder if when they get to heaven they are going to be rebuked for failing to do whatever it was God wanted them to do.

Perhaps these people go to churches where they hear that Jesus is building his church and that the gates of hell will not prevail against them. But they don’t see themselves, or their church, prevailing against the gates of hell. They seem to be just getting by. Many can’t remember when a single adult convert—one truly brought out of darkness into light—came to Jesus in their church. And they certainly can’t remember one whose story they were personally a part of.

Study after study shows that most Christians have never even shared their faith—most indicating that somewhere 90 percent of evangelicals have never shared their faith with anyone outside of their family. (Kind of makes you wonder how we get away with using the name “evangelical”!)

Most churches have a difficult time maintaining their ground, much less storming anything that belongs to Satan. Gates, after all, are defensive ramparts, not offensive weapons. “Prevailing against the gates of hell” does not mean keeping Satan out of our backyards, but plundering his kingdom. According to a recent Lifeway Research study, in the next seven years 55,000 churches in the United States will close their doors, and the number of those who attend a church on the weekend in the United States will drop from 17 percent to 14 percent. Only 20 percent of churches in the US are growing, and only 1 percent are growing by reaching lost people.[1]So 95 percent of the church growth we celebrate merely shuffles existing Christians around.

Don’t you think these two problems—believers who don’t know how effectively to disciple others, and a gradually shrinking church in the West—have to be related in some way? Yet very few pastors and church leaders see raising up disciple-making leaders as their primary objective. We measure success by size. In so doing, however, we neglect the one thing that can propel the church forward into the next generation … and to the ends of the earth: Spirit-filled, disciple-making disciples.

I believe we need a fundamental shift in how we think about the mission of the church. Let me illustrate, using three types of ships.

Cruise Liner
Some Christians see church as a cruise liner, offering Christian luxuries for the whole family—sports, entertainment, childcare services, and business networking. They show up at church asking only, “Can this church improve my religious quality of life? Does it have good family ministry facilities? Does the pastor preach funny, time-conscious messages that meet my felt needs? Do I like the music?”

If their church ever ceases to cater to their preferences … well, there are plenty of other cruise ships in the harbor. In fact, often they get involved with three or four of them at once. After all, the music is great on Cruise Liner A, and the kids enjoy the youth program at Cruise Liner B, and we do most of our fellowship and Bible study with friends at Cruise Liner C, and we occasionally podcast the angry young pastor down the road who tells the funny stories.

Other Christians believe their church is more like a battleship. The church is made for mission, and its success should be seen in how loudly and dramatically it fights the mission. This is certainly better than “cruise liner”; however, it implies that it is the church institution that does most of the fighting. The role of church members is to pay the pastors to find the targets and fire the guns each week as they gather to watch. They see the programs, services, and ministries of the church as the primary instruments of mission.

I would like to suggest a third metaphor for the church: aircraft carrier. Like battleships, aircraft carriers engage in battle, but not in the same way. Aircraft carriers equip planes to carry the battle elsewhere. My grandfather served on the USS Yorktown during World War II, and he explained to me that the last place an aircraft carrier ever wanted to find itself engaged in battle was on its own deck. In fact, anywhere near it. We used to watch old World War II movies together—the kind where they intersperse actual battle video clips—and my grandpa once paused a John Wayne movie to show me where he was standing on the deck when a plane crashed on deck and broke in half. When you are on an aircraft carrier, he said, the goal is to keep the battle as far away from you as possible. You load up the planes to carry the battle to the enemy.

Churches that want to “prevail against the gates of hell” must learn to see themselves like aircraft carriers, not like battleships and certainly not like cruise liners. Members need to learn to share the gospel, without the help of the pastor, in the community, and start ministries and Bible studies—even churches—in places without them. Churches must become discipleship factories, “sending” agencies that equip their members to take the battle to the enemy.

But to do this, we’re going to need a new metric for success beyond size. We need to start celebrating not just how many people are coming in, but how many people are going out. It’s time that we get excited about how many people we are losing.

By James David (J.D.) Greear (born May 1, 1973) is the Pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina (a position he has held since January 2002) and the 62nd President of the Southern Baptist Convention.[1] Before coming to work at The Summit he worked with the International Mission Board.[2] He entered the Ph.D. program at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1999, graduating in 2003 with a doctorate in Philosophy, concentrating primarily on Christian and Islamic theology.[1] He is also a graduate of the Word of Life Bible Institute and received his Bachelor of Arts from Campbell University. Greear comes from Winston-Salem, North Carolina

[1]See David Olson, The American Church in Crisis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 176–80, and Pat Hood, The Sending Church: The Church Must Leave the Building (Nashville: B&H Publishers, 2013), 19.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Celebrity Pastors and Power

Many churches unfortunately have not relied on the power of God to advance the Gospel. In ages past, the “power” of the sword was a favorite tool. Today, many "celebrity or aspiring-to-be-celebrity" pastors borrow secular power models, tips and techniques of motivational gurus or popular fads of performance and entertainment to try to grow a church and make a name for themselves. No one today would invite the apostle Paul to speak at a leadership summit. Our culture celebrates the strong,the dynamic, the persuasive, and the successful, so we’d struggle to listen to an unimpressive, weak, suffering man. The Lord delights to work in our weakness and to make pastors shepherds who unconditionally, sacrificially love their flocks, deny themselves,and reject pride, fame and applause. Living in light of the good of the gospel is about "basin and towel" ministry. We'll either live in and love the City of Man or the City of God, as Augustine put it. We'll either seek power from above or from below:

“Two loves have made two cities. Love of self, even to the point of contempt for God, made the earthly city, and love of God, even to the point of contempt for self, made the heavenly city. Thus the former glories in itself, and the latter glories in the Lord. The former seeks its glory from men, but the latter finds its highest glory in God. . . . In the former the lust for domination dominates both its princes and the nations that it subjugates; in the latter both leaders and followers serve one another in love. . . . The former loves its own strength, displayed in its men of power; the latter says to its God, I love you, O LORD, my strength [Psalm 18:1].” — Saint Augustine

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

3 Marks of Humility in Leadership

We tend to despise pride in others and we recognize its destructive power. The Scripture teaches us that pride goes before destruction and haughty eyes before a fall. We long to serve with leaders who are humble, and we are wise to walk in humility ourselves. But what does humility in leadership look like? Here are three marks:

1. Attitude of gratitude, not entitlement

Leaders can move from gratitude to entitlement by believing their position or their performance entitles them to certain things. It is impossible to be filled with humility and a sense of entitlement at the same time. Whenever we feel we are owed something it is because we have forgotten that God is the One who gives all good things. Humble leaders believe all they have received is from the Lord, including the team they lead and their work ethic and intensity. All is from Him. When we walk in humility, we are grateful for all He provides.

2. Posture of stewardship, not ownership

Though some don’t recognize it, all leaders are temporary. Because leadership is a temporary assignment, humble leaders treat their roles and their organizations or ministries as something they steward not something they own. They know the Lord ultimately owns it all and they make decisions from the posture of a faithful steward not the posture of an owner who will always sit in the chair of leadership. Humble leaders desire to steward the season well and humbly recognize the season won’t last forever.

3. Trust in the Lord, not in oneself

Humble leaders trust the Lord and not themselves. Humble leaders seek His wisdom, not their own. They lead in His energy, not their own. They trust His leading, not their own. Their confidence resides ultimately in the Lord and not in themselves.

by Eric Geiger, Senior Vice President at  LifeWay Christian Resources , leading the Resources Division.  Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from  Southern Seminary . Eric has authored or co-authored several books including Creature of the Word and the bestselling church leadership book, Simple Church. His latest releases are Designed to Lead and How to Ruin Your Life.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What is a Man? The Question That Reveals the Heart of the Culture Wars

The wars over “toxic masculinity,” assertions that people are “gendered” more than born with dramatic and distinct sex differences, the elimination of distinctly male spaces (including the transformation of the infantry), and the contention that there are no distinctly male or female ways of being — gender is fluid and non-binary — mean that some people will hear Brown [NBA Sixer coach Brett Brown] and ask, “But what does that even mean?”

In fact, as we ponder our enduring culture wars and the growing cultural and religious gap between Left and Right, we’re all understanding that our American divide increasingly isn’t over mere public-policy issues, it’s over the deepest and most profound questions in life. To take one example, thought leaders on the cultural left and cultural right now can’t even agree on the answer to one, simple question:  What is a man? A cultural conservative would respond with simple biology and build from there.

A man is a person with a distinct chromosomal and physical makeup who — from birth — is typically distinctly different from women. Men are typically physically stronger than women. They’re typically more aggressive than women. They typically have a different emotional response to events. Thus, the raising and training of a boy is typically a different task from the raising and training of a girl.

The cultural conservative looks at the male child and says, I want to train him to take care of a family, to be a provider and a protector. I want to channel his strength and aggression into duty, courage, and honor. I want to channel his drive and energy into a lifelong quest for self-improvement and service. In other words, I don’t want him to see his masculinity as a problem to be controlled but rather a gift to be properly enjoyed.

A cultural liberal — especially a secular cultural liberal — increasingly responds with a fundamentally different answer. A man is a person who believes that he’s a man. His masculinity is unrelated to his biology and instead inextricably linked to his self-conception. Since both men and women can possess stereotypically “masculine” or “feminine” traits, the terms themselves have little meaning — except as a means of understanding outdated and damaging gender stereotypes.

To the extent that a man has any special responsibility, it is to combat toxic masculinity and to undermine male privilege. Masculinity, as traditionally understood, isn’t a gift to be properly enjoyed but rather a problem to be controlled.

Now, take those two different definitions, take the different parenting styles that flow from them, and then multiply by the several millions of families that live, believe, and act accordingly. Would you not create two separate worlds? Would you not start to see very different masculine ideals emerge? Would you not see different tastes, styles, and beliefs? Would you not start to lose a common language, culture, and morality?

On the right, there is a renewed emphasis on cultivating traditional manliness. Jordan Peterson’s popularity is a sign of the longing for understanding a distinctive male purpose and male way of living that is true to biology and psychology. Books and movies such as American Sniper connect at a fundamental level with men young and old who seek heroes — the men who want to be the “sheepdogs” of their families and their communities.

On the left, the war isn’t just waged against so-called toxic masculinity; increasingly it’s waged against the very concept of manhood itself. Writing in New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan lamented the increasingly radicalization of the gay-rights movement, and he singled out its view of gender as a prime culprit:

“Above all, they have advocated transgenderism, an ideology that goes far beyond recognizing the dignity and humanity and civil equality of trans people into a critique of gender, masculinity, femininity, and heterosexuality. “Live and let live” became: “If you don’t believe gender is nonbinary, you’re a bigot.”

Sullivan makes the key point. The transgender moment isn’t about tolerance. Even those — like me — who understand that a man can’t become a woman do not wish any transgender person ill and are happy to live and work alongside of our transgender neighbors in a community that protects each person’s civil liberties, equally. The transgender moment is about redefinition. It’s about re-imagining. And it’s a small part of a much larger project purports to redefine and re-imagine virtually every aspect of human existence.

Last week in The Intercept, writer Peter Mass took direct aim at the “outdated model of masculinity” in the movie 12 Strong. The movie tells the story of one of the first special-forces teams inserted into Afghanistan after 9/11. It’s a team that helped win a key battle and liberated a community from the ultimate form of “toxic masculinity” — Taliban tyranny. And yet it’s still problematic. The time has come for Hollywood to turn away from war movies that, while satisfying to both a studio’s bottom line and a flag-waving concept of patriotism, perpetuate a model of masculinity that does violence to us all. . . . What matters is that well into the second decade of our forever war, the combat movies that populate our multiplexes and our minds are devoted to a martial narrative of men-as-terminators that should have been strangled at its birth a long time ago.

No, it’s not about “men as terminators.” It’s about “men as protectors,” and if we don’t cultivate that virtue and advance that narrative then who, pray tell, will protect our nation, our culture, and our civilization

Our American differences are growing so very profound. Yes, we battle over tax rates and policing tactics. But we also battle over the deepest questions in life. We battle over reality itself, and we do so as enclaves on the cultural left increasingly brook no dissent. The cultural indoctrination begins early, and it’s intense. To fully understand, talk to conservative parents and kids in our most progressive public and private schools.

What is a man? It’s a question they dare not ask. If asked, there is an answer they dare not give. That’s how wide our divide has become.

by David French a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.