Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). You may have experienced this power before in your own life. When someone says something negative to you, you can feel yourself wilt inside, as your spirit starts to die. On the other, when someone shares beautiful, encouraging words to you your spirit blossoms like a flower. Words are vehicles that take people places; toward life, or toward death.

A friend was telling me about how when he was a kid, his mom said in his presence, “I wish I had had an abortion.” That is a destructive statement that rings in his ears to this day. On the other hand, one person’s proclamation, positively, can have great influence too. This is where Jesus comes in. In John 1, when Jesus was calling out his disciples he found Simon. Simon was a "ready, fire, aim" sort of guy. But when Jesus called him out, He changed his name to Peter, which mean "rock." I wonder if anyone had ever believed in Peter like that, and said something that life-giving.

There are five ways we can take people toward life with our words:

1. Words of affirmation…about who they are (Antidote to: Insecurity). Insecurity is a big issue. There are a lot of negative messages out there, but none louder than the voices in our head. We need to find our identity in who we are in Christ. We also need to have that identity reinforced through the affirmations of others. When Kristyn and I were newly married and living in Tacoma. I was managing an apartment complex, working at a sporting goods store, going to seminary and serving in the church. Kristyn was in her first teaching assignment, fresh out of college. We were "out on our own" feeling very insecure, and a bit scared at times. But there was an older lady, Marie Robinson, who took a special interest in us. She always built us up, "You guys are doing so great! You are going to be just fine." She gave us a "warm fuzzy" every time we saw her. Years later, when our second daughter was born, we named her Jenna Marie.

2. Words of hope…about where they are going (Antidote to: Despair). On the fourth of July, 1952, Florence Chadwick, who was 34, set out to be the first woman to swim from Catalina Island to the mainland of California. She was the first woman to swim the English Channel. She set out with support boats on either side of her, with guns to protect her from sharks. She swam for nearly sixteen hours against rough water. About a half mile from shore she hit a solid wall of fog. Suddenly she wanted to stop. Her mother and trainer urged her not to quit, telling her how close she was. But she asked to be taken out of the water. Still thawing her chilled body several hours later, she told a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself, but if I could have seen land I might have made it." It was not fatigue or cold or sharks that defeated her. It was the fog. She was unable to see her goal. One of the ways we can use our tongues in a life-giving way it to point out the end in mind.

3. Words of encouragement…that they can get there (Antidote to: Disappointment). People can know that God loves them and that he has a plan for them, and yet they can become disappointed in their progress. One day our son Daron came home from preschool with a handout, “Ways to make sure your child hates reading.” It was tongue in cheek, but it described how we as parents could point out his every mistake, become frustrated when he isn't "getting it," etc. On the other hand, we could celebrate every time he got a word right, and our child might like that better. In other words we have a part to play in how well they make it. One of the best lines from the cowboy song "Home on the Range" is "where seldom is heard a discouraging word." Don't you want your home to be like that? For Christians, and particularly for Christian leaders, there should seldom be a discouraging word (Ephesians 4:29).

4. Words of edification…that they will get there (Antidote to: Fear). People need built up. One of the reasons we don’t build up others as we should is that we don’t think about it. Our mouths are running, but our minds are disengaged. This section from an Al-Anon devotional is particularly salient: "There was a time when if a thought entered my mind, it would automatically come out of my mouth. Even if I wasn’t sure that what I was saying was true, the words poured out of me. I have learned to “Think” before I speak. When I’m tempted to respond to angry accusations with accusations of my own, I stop and “Think.” When I have an urge to betray a confidence, to gossip, or to tell something extremely personal to a total stranger, I stop and “Think.” And when my opinion about another person’s business has not been requested, I take the time to “Think” before I get involved. That way I make a conscious choice about how I will respond. Perhaps I will decide to say nothing, or choose a more tactful way to proceed, or question whether I really mean what I have been thinking. I may decide that this is not an appropriate place to discuss what is on my mind. Or I may choose to go right ahead and speak up in a very direct manner. Regardless of which option I select, today I am willing to accept the consequences of my actions because I have taken the time to make a choice."

5. Words of trust…that God wlll get them there (Antidote to: Doubt). God has called us to a life of faith. But sometimes we get shaky. So we need each other (Hebrews 10:25). Sometimes people need to borrow your faith. Sometimes you may need to borrow theirs. We need to band together so that we can be strong with each other, strong for others, and strong against our enemy….Satan.

I've been thinking about Satan lately, especially since the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And it occurred to me that Satan is always a hijacker. He cannot create anything on his own. He can only take the beautiful things that have been created and try to use them for a destructive purpose. He wants to hijack sexuality. He wants to hijack your appetites. And he wants to hijack your life...your mind, your tongue. You have life-giving power, but only if you will keep your tongue under the command of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Some churches are more like schools, than churches. They have teachers, classes, and textbooks. The people come "to learn." The pastor is hired "to teach the Word." It's all very academic. It's not education, a good thing. It's educationalism, a bad thing. It's the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Heads are full of info, but hearts are cold.

In my humble opinion, the gravitation for the church toward "educationalism" has come from two places:

1. The American School System. The Sunday School movement (which was a huge movement in the church a hundred years ago) patterned after the American school system. To a great extent, "discipleship" to this day is often thought to require a text book and a classroom. The American school system is very linear and departmentalized/compartmentalized (age graded, 101, 201, etc.). It is classic modernism from a decidedly Western viewpoint. Jesus' instruction was quite non-linear and holistic. It is from an Eastern, circular, viewpoint. The Hebrew model of education is a more "as you walk along the way" model. However, Jesus also modeled extended teaching times (Matthew 5-7) and Rabbis would often teach for long periods in the synagogue. We have an instance in Acts where a guy fell out the window because the teaching session got so long; obviously we don't want to kill people!

2. The Denominational Seminary. Seminaries are mostly lead by scholars, and what scholars can best model to their students is how to study in depth and teach in depth, not how to lead, evangelize, mentor, pastor or disciple. Greek professors will pound the lectern about how important it is to know Greek, but at times, I've gotten the sense that this point of view is also about their job security. As long as everyone is convinced they need to know the original languages to be a pastor, then students will pay the big bucks for a "seminary education." Lately, however, the secret is starting to get out that this whole business is oversold, and that while the pastor needs to be a student of the Word, he does not need to be a scholar of the Word. In fact, some of the most ineffective pastors are seminary trained, and there may be a bit of cause and effect there. So I like Donald Miller's statement: "The first disciples were not teachers, they were fishermen, tax collectors and at least one was a Zealot. We don't know the occupation of the others, but Jesus did not charge educators with the great commission, he chose laborers. And those laborers took the gospel and created Christian communities that worked, that did things and met in homes and were active."

For myself, I have done the schooling. I've earned the degrees. I have a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Divinity and have completed coursework for a Doctor of Ministries. I'm not anti-education. But I am anti-educationalism. What we need is knowledge on fire. What we need is knowledge on purpose. We need heads and hearts that are in service to Christ and His kingdom. We need to remember that "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" is in service to "go and make disciples."

Thursday, September 08, 2011


On September 11, 2001, Jimmy Dunne was on the golf course when a tournament official rolled up and suggested he call the office. He tried. There was no answer. When he finally reached a friend, he was told, "You have to come to terms with the fact that most of the people in your firm are dead."

Dunne was a senior executive at Wall Street firm Sandler O'Neill, the "little big firm" that had its headquarters on the 104th floor of Tower 2. On that day 83 people came to work at Sandler, and 66 never went home. Dunne found he was the only surviving executive. Leading this shattered company through its overwhelming losses would prove to be the greatest leadership challenge of his relatively young (44 year old) life. Between that Tuesday and the following Monday (when the stock market opened for business again), Dunne attended countless funerals. He cried his tears and steeled his nerve. The company set up temporary headquarters on West 57th Street.

When he gathered with the survivors the next week he gave them this challenge: "Look, we've been involved in an international incident. It's not something we wanted, it's not something we were prepared for, but the reality is, we're right in the middle of it." He acknowledge that some in the company might want to leave the firm. As for himself, he was going to stay and rebuild. He continued, "Come on in! There's room in the boat. Everybody can get an oar. Now, there are some of you that are doubting. We cannot have you in the boat! We wish you well. But you can't come in the boat. Because if you're in the boat you have to have an oar."

The team signed on. Everybody grabbed an oar and started rowing.

The results have been astonishing.

The firm has grown exponentially in the past ten years to over 340 employees. Spurring their growth: the legacy of those they lost. They decided to take the proceeds of the firm and provide health care for the victims' dependents for the next ten years. As a group they committed to pay 100% of tuition, regardless of merit or need, for all the children of the deceased. Their work matters. The story of Sandler O'Neill is a great illustration of what can be accomplished when a group of people are called to active engagement in pursuit of a greater purpose.

At CTK we say, "Always a Place for You." But when we say this, we don't mean that there's room in the boat. We mean that everybody can get an oar.