The Missing Ingredient (Leading Change)

The Missing Ingredient (Leading Change)

I’m a new part of a church organization that is in the midst of finding itself. It is what a mentor called an identity discovery phase.

Another way of describing this unique place and process is leading change. Though I have not read John Kotter’s preeminent 1995 book by the same name, I have read the executive summaries and I have participated in models that mirror his principles and prescriptions.

The ethos, and indeed mandate, of leading change is critical for all leaders and organizations (who are striving for any degree of health or impact in the world, that is.)

A strong leader once told me that great organizations should experience change every 8 months (just to keep up with culture, technology, economy, etc etc) and that made sense to me.

The problem, of course, is that many of us don’t like change and then for the rest of us who are open to change it’s a painfully slow and difficult process.


Let’s handle those 2 obstacles right off the bat:

1. For those who are change averse: you maintain an extreme sense of irony.

At a certain point you must admit that very world around you is constantly changing; and not just a macro level either.

So you can go on “not liking” change all day long and even keep screaming it from a mountain top if you like, but with that attitude and posture you will always being sitting in immediate juxtaposition with the natural world around you.

2. For those who believe it’s just too hard or too late to change: you have chosen the poorest excuse.

If people succumbed to “it’s too hard” mentality we would not have a single lick of innovation from the last century (let alone since the beginning of time). What if Lincoln would have said, ‘reconciliation is too hard’… if Ford had said, ‘building a “car” is just too complex’… if MLK had said, ‘this thing will never change.’ I think you get my point.

To cease tackling a thing because it is too hard is to cease doing the very central thing we are called to do: live well.


The fact of the matter is: all organizations and systems (even the family system!) are in need of change.

How do I know?

Because all organizations experience stuckness.

In their good intentioned pursuit to diversify, spread out the eggs, reach into new markets, industries or niches organizations get stuck for so many reasons-most of which we are not here to discuss today.

I think one of the most important reasons people and organizations get stuck is this:

a loss of focus.

On the why, the win, the action and execution.

You can imagine the snowball effect above, but lets take a closer look at the importance of each…

1. The why: the mission; the vision; the values…

If you don’t have them, if you don’t hold tightly to them, if you don’t have them at the top of your performance dashboard then what’s it really all for anyway-it’s anyone’s guess and it’s up for grabs and when its up for grabs people will create their own why.

2. The win: how we know what success looks like…

First of all have you defined it? Second of all, have you defined it BEFORE you execute (run the event, program, marketing campaign). Most people and organizations operate in the opposite order, ‘lets just do it and see what happens.’

3. The what: this constitutes the bulk of your working hours…

What kind of action are you taking? Is it the right action at the right time? And is it focused action? If you’ve set a target (the why and the win) then you should be able to filter every working hour through those first two things. When we fail to do this, we are now facing a stewardship (management) issue (i.e. How will we be judged by the way we invested every waking hour of our lives?)

4. The execution: the final delivery.

If you are a manager or leader of people and you can’t account for why your staff, team, people aren’t producing better results than you need to seriously evaluate the above three. Odds are: all this lack of focus in the why, the win and the what are leading to a high level of stuckness at the execution level.


Committing to Change…

We have only to first admit that we are stuck.

Therein lies the first principle from Kotter’s work: change will be most successful when the greater percentage of your leaders carry a mutual sense of urgency around change.

It was not an intentional plan of mine, I have to admins, coming into my new organization but I found myself saying the same thing over and over again to key staff and volunteers.

In my envisioning to people about this new season at the church, with just as many competing ideas, programs, initiatives as the marketplace, I found myself encouraging our team that it may be time to say a healthy “no” to the options and ideas out there.

…to forgo doing several things very half-heartedly and inefficiently and, in the end, poorly. And instead to focus on one thing, and here’s the mantra:

We are committing to do a very few things, very well…

As to what those things are-that’s our plan and our issues. You probably just need to work your plan. But make sure people understand the why, the win and the what. Whether its your family or your startup, hold fast to these things and you will not only bring about focus, you will have a great shot at bringing about change.

Book Review: Monday Morning Atheist

Book Review: Monday Morning Atheist

I’m going to try a little something new this time and cover the great learnings that someone else has thoughtfully and excellently elucidated.

In other words, I’m reading about 6 or 7 books simultaneously right now (I know just the nastiest habit… call it A.D.D.) and I’d like to share those outcomes with the world.

The first one is from Doug Spada and Dave Scott’s great little (just over 100 half pages) book called “Monday Morning Atheist.”

First of all, props for a great title; it definitely caught my eye and I’m a total victim for book marketing-in titles and in cover artwork (one reason why I’m messing around with more than 5 books at once right now).

But more than that, the book title caught my eye because I have been hounded by the challenge of what it takes to carry the Sunday morning church experience into the week beyond.

I feel the burden (and danger!) of church simply being relegated to 90 minutes of information transfer, lukewarm musical engagement and surface level community.

I want to be a part of a generational movement where Church is defined as so much more than that.

But the principle has to do with physically being the church and carrying our faith outward.

That’s the essence of Spada and Scott’s great work in this book.

I will briefly highlight their 3 challenges for us as people who leave the church Sunday and go into our workplace Monday (as always, whether that place takes you to corner offices or kitchens):

1. We tend to leave God back at church because we are still hung up on this sacred/secular spiritual divide

I love this reminder so much.

And there are scriptural references left and right but a few of my favorite are:

(God Speaking to Peter in a dream about Jewish/Gentile reconciliation) “The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”- Acts 10:15

(God Speaking to Moses giving him his mission to free a people from captivity) “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” – Exodus 3:5

All the ground on the earth is God’s ground; everything on heaven and earth belongs to God so how can you call it unclean, “secular,” or unholy…?

The major challenge put to the believer is to stop compartmentalizing our lives into sacred/secular, holy/unholy, spiritual/non-spiritual…

As believers we have the Spirit of God within us, that means that wherever we go we at least have the opportunity to make it sacred… to make it holy… to make it spiritual.

2. We tend to take matters into our own hands because we leave God out of our work lives, which results in us feeling alone, isolated and separated from God in our work.

This is your basic truth about how we always try to control things. Since birth we are bent toward this reality.

Because we feel like work is ours to produce and manufacture and manipulate, just like everything else in our lives, we end up refusing to let go and let God.

We don’t give to him what rightfully belongs to him in the first place (the plan, the circumstance… destiny!) and when we do that, the result is actually a greater sense of loneliness in the world.

3. We tend to buy the lie that because our work doesn’t have the coolest mission or vision, that it’s all a waste

This is one of the saddest and most grave of all and it hits my generation with unusual poignancy. 

The millennial generation is particularly plagued with finding meaningful work and purpose.

We have this desire to be change agents and cultural movers and shakers, yet when we feel like our minimum wage job doesn’t chalk up to that, we slack off in our pursuit of making a difference or we just up and change jobs altogether.

God wants us to delight in everything we put our hands to, because he delights in it and because when we do, ultimately, that’s an incredible example to the world around us.

The way that Spada ties all of this together is through this very consistent thread around light and darkness.

We have the greatest opportunity, and indeed call to action, to take our faith and our God into our work week and yet most days we walk around like the light of the Lord is virtually non-existent in our lives.

The idea comes most clearly from Matthew 5:

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

That’s the bottom line.

We have to enter into our work week with a newfound sense that we have a very bright light in our lives and others want and need to be a part of that too…

Go ahead and let them in by proving by the way you act, talk and live that its a worthy endeavour, that it’s a beautiful thing, that it’s a life changing force for the greatest good and transformation!

Doing What Matters Most (And the People Who Pull you Along)

Doing What Matters Most (And the People Who Pull you Along)

Ever feel scattered brain and divided in your work load? Lack of clarity in your job description? Or simply what you’re trying to accomplish in a given day?

Ever felt slow or stagnated in seeing movement toward your personal or corporate goals?

Today marks the end of my first month at our new church job.

Looking back I can see some instructive moments on these subjects already…

First, a few words on my job description and position. I’ve been hired on as an Associate Lead. At a smaller church with fewer resources and staff this means I wear many hats and fill a very generalist role.

Knowing this would be the case before I began work, I had a few hopeful goals: get clarity around the most important hats to wear the majority of the time, which would dictate my highest priorities thus leading to more focused action.

Let me break that down once more:

major hats > highest priorities (which dicatates hours in the day by the way) > focused action (which leads to better execution by the way).

Whether it was the role or the task, the principled expectation I had coming in was: you just focus on what’s important now (or W.I.N. for short).

As a generalist I knew that I could not focus on 15 different things at once. I wanted to pick 3-4 things and do those well.

Two of those W.I.N. projects have been within the realm of mission/vision clarity and leadership development.

But before (or simultaneously) chipping away at these two great and worthy endeavors I knew that I would have to just sit with people. Sit with the paid staff, sit with volunteer staff and then sit with pretty much anyone who has influence at this organization.

Sit, hear their story, listen to their heart for this place, receive feedback and build trust.

Then at the end, give just the tiniest insight into how I would love for them to consider participating in our upcoming leadership initiative.

These meetings have been amazing, encouraging, clarifying and uniting. What I’ve learned from sitting with 15 different people (in as many work days) is:

That they are all hungry for something new;
That they all have a heart language for the needs of our communities and;
That they are all ready to play a part.

It’s a pretty neat thing to witness because as the “new guy” you bring very particular culture and DNA all to yourself. And the 500 pound gorilla in the room is whether what you have, are and bring will sync up with what’s in the place you are entering. 

I’m hopeful that through these meetings with people they are encouraged and together are spirits are being knit together.

And that’s one of the key and timeless principles that you have to remember:

It’s all about people; people matter most; people build things-especially highly invested and highly influential people.

Meet People. See People. Hear People.

It all begins and ends with people; human to human sync up and send! 

Actually this is so paramount that I would be willing to make the following bold statement:

The what and how don’t even matter yet; even the big WHY doesn’t matter yet. It’s all about the WHO that matters most (right now).

I could have the most compelling mission & vision (the big why) you’ve ever heard, but if you don’t even know me, if you haven’t met me, if we haven’t heard each other just eyeball to eyeball, it’s not gonna mean much. AND we’re not gonna go very far…

Who is a person within your organization or circle of influence that you could really use a reconnection with? *Hint: you may have some unresolved stuff with this person OR you might just be vital for each other in the joint pursuit of some grand mission or vision!

If this is impacting your life or leadership, please feel free to repost and share!

So Embarrasing it Must Be True (1 Way to Test Your Calling)

So Embarrasing it Must Be True (1 Way to Test Your Calling)

Have you ever felt so isolated or rogue in a certain decision, direction, mission or calling in your life that it was almost embarrassing to speak it out loud…?

Out of the many proofs for Jesus’ resurrection there’s this 1 that is commonly referred to as “The Embarrassment Test.”

Basically it says that-at the expense of telling the story as truthful and precise as possible-an author of history will include even the most embarrassing details.

There are several facts surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection that would fall under this category including the following:

  • That a member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious Elite high council-the same one that carried out the very execution of Jesus) asked permission to give Jesus’ body a proper burial.
  • That, after Jesus was arrested in the garden, and again thereafter when Jesus is brought to the temple (Peter and his thrice denial of Jesus), all of his disciples turn tail and run.
  • Finally, the fact that the very first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb are recorded as having been women!

And it’s this last one that gets special attention…

They say the fact that Mary Magdalene and “the other” Mary were present there at the tomb to testify how Jesus was risen is such a ludicrous and embarrassing element to include in the story because of one key thing:

The testimony of a woman in 1st century Greco-Roman culture was considered WORTHLESS! In legal proceedings it was considered equal to that of a robber. 

Women (and their word) were considered morally and intellectually bankrupt in that time. So as it pertains to the proof: because this detail is a major part of the narrative, then it is unlikely that someone is simply making this up.

I’ll give a more personal illustration…

My wife and I love dreaming about having another child. We have 5 as it is and I don’t have to be sitting next to you as you read this to imagine what your face looks like right now…

I know what your face looks like because I’ve seen the looks and stares and comments every time my wife and I go out for a walk with the 5.

Some people literally stop and stare. Some people stop us and say something. Most people just ogle and whisper to themselves as we walk by.

It’s not mean or nasty, its by and large probably just awestruckness… people ain’t never seen a family of 4 or 5 before… apparently… these days.

And my mom reminds me: it’s not just that we have so many but how close in age they are (5 under age 6)… which I submit is true.

In our town, in our context, in our community and even in our family and friends my wife is straight up embarrassed to even utter a word about her dream for giving birth to one more baby.

The other day she was processing, as we have done a dozen times before, her hearts cry… ‘are we crazy… is this wrong… can I do this…?’

In this moment, driving on the 5 freeway in the carpool lane (obviously) I was reminded of the embarrassment test of history, and I told my wife:

You know how I know this is right? Because, unless God was calling us to this, unless god himself had planted this desire deep in your heart, you would have to be a mad, crazy, weirdo to propose carrying and then delivering another baby whilst caring for 5 others!

I went on to say that the voice that matters now (besides God’s) is mine. And that, as hard as I try, I cannot come up with a reason, a hesitation or even a strong doubt that we couldn’t or shouldn’t do this.

I went further still and I affirmed our calling as parents-that we are both gifted in our wiring as mother and father to these children… and so long as God is willing to grant another one to us, it will be for the purpose of growing them up in one stinking righteous household.

So if God’s voice is clear

And if my voice is clear

Then there is only one voice left… the collective voices of this world.

And friends, I’m here to tell you (like I told my wife that morning on the freeway) that this voice is the one that matters least of all.

(FYI: if you’re not married find that one trusted mentor, friend or family member who knows you, your strengths and at least some of your true identity.)

If you’re looking to test if a certain thing is true, right or believable just try and get a sense for how embarrassing it might be or rather how much easier it would be to just leave it out.

I like to think of it like this: it’s so wrong it must be right. (Otherwise the author or originator of the story would have left it out!)

Now change gears from my calling to yours…

You’re currently the author of your life’s story. Well God is more the author, writer and director of the grand story, but as an actor in that story you are given a choice for the roles you play and how you play them.

My challenge question to you is: do you feel like you are seizing the decisions, directions and overall grand mission that God is nudging along through his Spirit?

If God is calling you to something, you have an obligation to walk into it… even if it would be considered worthless or embarrassing through the eyes of this world.

The question that remains is: what is it… what is that God-sized, God-breathed, outside this world mission, vision or calling that is beckoning you?

If you’re enjoying this blog; please repost and share! Thanks!

 

My Last Day

My Last Day

Something happened on my last day at work that I think is rather incredible…

Early on when I started at the church (that I’ve now transitioned off staff) we had a service where we invited people to get baptized-just right then and there.

There must have been over a 100 people that weekend-not that the number is the point. The point was how many unchurched people that day said yes to Jesus and as a result decided to get baptized in that same moment.

The reason someone should get baptized is pretty clear in the Gospel of Luke…

Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.

That’s what these people were proclaiming and I was awed frankly to be a part of it. I had maybe only baptized a couple of people up to that point and on this Sunday morning I was in the water taking turns with 2 other pastors as we baptized over 100.

It was an incredible and humbling experience to be a part of and I was wide-eyed for every minute of it.


This one powerful weekend happened very shortly after I was initially hired… my feeling then was ‘holy crap, I’m the new guy… are you sure I should be in the water?!’

Well a couple of weeks ago on my very last Sunday at The Crossing Church, we held baptisms again and I had the honor of getting in the water and walking people through this amazing act of proclaiming new life.

The only difference was that this time instead of 100 people there were 3.

A teenage boy from my (adult!) volunteer team, the mom of one of my former youth ministry students and one more surprise guest-another teenager… a girl… actually the above listed boy’s twin sister, who we will call Gemma.

I didn’t know Gemma wanted to get baptized, in fact I had never even met Gemma before, and I also didn’t know that she was in a wheelchair (she has cerebral palsy); she was very nervous about getting wet and very nervous about the whole public ‘show’… understandably so.

So the first two I invited to meet me down in the baptismal while onlookers watched and supported from above and then I got out of the water to check on Gemma.

She was a few steps away under the shade of a nearby tree and it appeared that she was giving the ‘go ahead nod’ after the encouragement of her parents and no doubt the amazing courage within her own self.

I ran back to the baptismal and grabbed a handful of water. I stood in front of her, while the droplets of water slowing dissipated from my cupped palms, and spoke the same words of life that I proclaim over all people who make the decision…

I told her how the immersion into water represented Christ’s stay in the tomb.
I told her how emerging from the water represented Christ’s defeat of sin and death.

I told her she was dead to sin, alive in Christ.

And I said that it was in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that I baptize her.

I dropped the remaining cup full of water on Gemma’s head and she smiled while her family and I all cheered, gave hugs and exchanged many unspoken words about what had just occurred.


It was just a few short moments later that I realized that there was more going on here than meets the eye.

First, I took the experience to be a prophetic symbol for my conclusion of one chapter and my beginning of another.

In fact there is tremendous precedence for this. If you take one particular Biblical reference of baptism, the baptism of Jesus for example, you may see what I mean.

You see at least from what we know of, baptism marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Based off what was recorded in the Gospels, Jesus was about 30 years-old when his his “public” ministry began and before anything, he was baptized.

Before he multiplied one loaf of bread, before he cured one sick little girl, before he gathered the disciples and went viral, he was first baptized.

It’s recorded in many gospels but this one from Matthew is a little more descriptive:

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

In this way you could interpret (as I have many times as I dictate the many impacts of baptism to those who I have had the privilege of “dunking”) that baptism has a way of launching people into the new and next. 

Well this was and is true for me. It was true when I baptized that Sunday nearly 3 years ago at the new church, new position, new experience and new season.

And it’s true for me now as I end one chapter of an incredible season of ministry and begin another new one.

But that’s not all of what was revealed to me in that moment…

You see it was the juxtaposition of that young girl’s courage (to allow me to splash water all over her in front of her family and these strangers) sitting perfectly alongside the prophetic call of God in my life.

His call. Her courage.
His call. The courage required for me to leap well and dive deep for what’s next.

I’m thankful for a God who still speaks. If you have questions or comments about anything here or particularly about how to hear God, post below!

Don’t Ever Abdicate (3 Areas of Your Life That are Under Assault)

Don’t Ever Abdicate (3 Areas of Your Life That are Under Assault)

Recently I was reminded of one of my most profound learnings from 2016… the danger of abdicating. (And the power that exists on the other side of abdication… walking into the fullness of what you’re called to do.)

Now, I don’t know about you, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of abdicating is someone leaving a throne room in some far off distant land or time.

And in truth, that’s probably because we relegate the term to those sole sources of history or literature where, in fact, someone is giving up or renouncing their power.

Therein lies the gist of the dictionary definition, but honestly the more I look at this world the more enthralled I become with its meaning, significance and potential.

Ab*di*cate

To formally relinquish power, office or responsibility 

[Latin abdicāre, abdicāt-, to disclaim : ab-, away; see ab-1 + dicāre, to proclaim; see deik- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

ab′di·ca·ble (-kə-bəl) adj.
ab′di·ca′tion n.
ab′di·ca′tor n.

It’s like to ‘disclaim’ away your power, office or responsibility.

As people we love to bail on our jobs & responsibilities, in so doing we forfeit the very essence and power of leadership.

The reason that this word carries such weight with me is not its Latin linguistic origins, it’s because of the word’s origins in the Bible.

Like most good ideas, this concept of calling… of vocation… of purpose and meaning comes from the Bible. The concept of what we are called into, which is fundamentally about identity, has a rich and extensive biblical reference.

And I will be your Father and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty -2 Samuel 7

I mean seriously? At first glance, we kind of take all that for granted… ‘oh yeah sure we are his children… right he is our father… what a cute little so-called family…’

Like nearly so many references in scripture I fear that the terms are almost too familiar so they are in danger of becoming too garden variety, generic or watered down.

Quick identify recap according to this foundational biblical truth: if we are his sons and daughters and he is our Father and he is also Lord Almighty-that is to say: supreme king, ruler, the sole universal source of power and authority-this means that we are his heirs, we are his inheritors, we are his princes and princesses.

We are called to co-rule, co-create, co-reign…. great power and authority has been vested in us.

So you have an identity… you also have a power… that means you have options… leverage that power or abdicate that power.

I’ve already sought to establish from day 1 of this blog that all people are leaders… leaders of themselves, leaders of their children, leaders of their household, leaders of employees and organizations. If you are a leader of some thing then great power has been vested in you.

Will you leverage the power or abdicate the power?

I figure we abdicate in 3 major areas…

1, we abdicate in our marriages

Here’s what I know:
We abdicate in the way that we don’t pray for our spouses.
We abdicate in the way that we don’t make sex a priority.
We abdicate in the way that we put other things (kids, work, hobby) ahead of our spouse.

First, notice that I strategically use the word, “we” in each of these… I’m guilty in every one of these areas. And they are ordered pretty closely as well. Prayer is always the 1st and easiest hold out. Who has time to pray?

Or if we do it is “all day… as I’m driving and walking and cooking and working”-yes that is a good and wonderful thing in the life of a believer when we can be in some sort of constant prayer, but it’s also not the same as a devoted, concerted, set apart prayer discipline. And that’s what is needed in covering our spouses with prayer…

Prayer for protection against the enemy.
Prayer for what troubles or ails her.
Prayer for wisdom, guidance, purpose.
Prayer for grace and mercy. (Hello-Kids!)

Sex. Yep, sex… Some how, some way, God smiled upon my wife and I by sending a small handful of couples into our lives really over the last 4 years who have stressed the importance of intentional intimacy as the bedrock foundation for all else in the lifeblood of a marriage.

And that’s simply the truth of God’s gift of sex: it is the forging of all other securities. This physical intimacy breads all the other intimacies needed: emotional, spiritual… even financial!

I mean think about it, you can’t (not in good conscience) come together in this intimate fashion, with things drastically at odds in those areas, but even if you have felt recent tension in one of those areas, the coming together from 2 to 1 has an absolutely mysterious and powerful effect on bridging those gaps of where we were missing each other… emotionally, spiritually and yes, even financially.

2, we abdicate in our vocation

We abdicate in our calling.

This abdication has two levels: 1, when we carelessly throw aside key aspects of our job description-our actual functional calling-we abdicate. And 2, when we refuse to carry the Light of the World with us into our individual sectors and industries we abdicate spiritually.

But when you think about it: both are bad witnesses. 1, when we show a lack of care for our work product, what does that say about our character->our heart->our God?

And of course 2, when we don’t seek to emulate Jesus in the way we act, talk and treat others while at work, what does that say about our faith being a worthy endeavor for others to inquire about…?

3, we abdicate in our parenting

It’s sad you know because recently at a group book study, when I was reminded all over again-the power of this word, I realized that our abdication has a certain unwieldy multiplying effect.

Take for example refusing to have the tough conversations with your children… hearing them, understanding them, spending time with them when you walk in the door.

Well when they-only a few years down the road-begin acting up and lashing out, how long before we finally conclude (based on even the counsel of good people) that they just need professional counseling or therapy?

(*Disclaimer: I’m not saying that therapy is bad for kids, teens and adults… of course it has its place! I’m talking about here the concept of preventable bahvior and character lapses due to OUR abdication as the primary developmental leads in the home!)

That would be a primary abdication that breeds a secondary abdication. We dropped the ball on seeing them, listening to them, sharing in process with them and then to compound that abdication we shipped them off.

Therein lies the cyclical nature of our abdication in parenting.

Abdication breeds abdication. Abdication multiplies abdication. Abdication supports and confirms more abdication!

Anytime we do not invest the time, effort and energy on the front end of things, we succumb to the assault of abdication.


But there’s a flip side because just as our abdication has a multiplying effect for weakness and loss, when we seize our God-given identities and authorities the power that comes with THAT has a radically multiplying affect too!

Where have you recently abdicated and sense the need to lean back in?

Don’t Tear Down The Bride…

Don’t Tear Down The Bride…

Have you ever caught someone talking badly about you, your family or your employer?

When it happens around the church world, as pastors, we’ll say, “don’t tear down the bride with that kind of talk…” or “man, that makes the bride look bad”

This idea of the Church (i.e. The universal body of believers, Christians, Catholic, etc) as the “bride of Christ” has many scriptural reference points but here’s one of them:

2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. (2 Corinthians 11)

Recently I found myself getting all worked up, rehearsing all the comeback lines and talking points (all of this neurotically in my head-of course) over someone who had publicly made a whole group of people I represent look and sound bad.

My first thought was: flame war.
My second thought was: I should call someone first.
My third thought was: dangit now I can’t go pick a fight.
Finally, I thought: geeze, that really worked me up… what can I learn from all this?

And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who has every temporarily given into the adrenalizing nature of self-defense record straightening…

But the thing that bummed me out the most is that this individual was basically from the same team… you know like the same office, the same community or church, like someone who carries the same last name.

I’ll be more transparent: it was a comment from a local pastor about another pastor (and his church) and here I am a pastor. (Oh man this is starting to look like a horribly sad “3 pastors walk into a bar” joke…)

And that is what makes this scenario so pathetically painful… because you would expect better right?!

And in this case you expect better not just because you’re hoping that everyone thinks like you, operates like you and treats others like you. But because the team, the family, the household is all governed by the same exact commandments!

Here’s my favorite and most direct example of what I mean:

The Gospels record several instances of Jesus rescuing people from demon-possession; of all his acts and wonders it’s a very consistent thematic act of Jesus’ miraculous ministry.

So like many occasions before it, the people…  “they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.” (Matthew 12)

And of course the religious elite were envious and humbled by their inability to explain and believe Jesus for who he was.

They-the pious ones of the times-(who so often stood in opposition to Jesus’ way and words) then call Jesus out (even though-yes, they’re supposed to be on same team) and say something to this affect:

“Sure, he can ‘cast’ out demons because he gets his power from the prince of demons.”

So I guess the logic is: he must be on the devil’s side because he has the ability to manipulate and control them.

And Jesus does what Jesus does best which is to confound them with a totally logical and truth-filled thing to say:

23 Jesus called them over and responded with an illustration. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asked. 24 “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. 25 Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. (Mark 3; Matthew 12)

Well yeah, duh… I’m not trying to be magically original or profound here, I’m just trying to let the verse speak… It says very plainly: how can we be on the same team and yet tear each other apart-the sooner we do that the sooner we and all that we stand for falls to pieces.

A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. A family divided will collapse. An organization divided will collapse. A church divided will collapse.

Here are some learnings for me…

First, I got emotional. This was a great reminder of just how weak I am…

Now hear and understand me, I’m not suggesting that feelings are bad. I’m talking about a particular type of emotion that turns off the rational, higher functioning parts of your brain.

I was all alpha, all fight or flight, all incite a riot… and these, my friends, are a few of our favorite things, but not very helpful for a maturing leader.


Second, I was reminded of how I do NOT want to influence and lead people.

Here’s what I mean: do not mistake the catalyzing power of a message oriented around a common enemy. All good stories are born this way… hero, antagonist, plot (dramatic arch), conclusion. But I think it’s the lower and weaker road to mobilize people around an enemy rather than a common good.


Third, this affects all areas of our life. This is a motivation against common, everyday slander. Just don’t do it….

It does not serve anyone.
It doesn’t serve you or your reputation.
It doesn’t serve the listening audience and it obviously doesn’t serve the target of your verbal onslaught.

And when you at least say you believe in Jesus, and the way of Jesus was so clearly enemy love, you may have reason to pause and really begin to think about what serves your enemy. Weird, crazy, radical-I know… but that was the way of Jesus nonetheless.


Fourth, just take Jesus’ words… He says that when we do this, when we tear each other down from within the same team, we destroy ourselves. It’s self-destruction its cannibalism-it’s eating your own kind.

I think probably most Christians read the passage and think that Jesus was just talking about “them… out there”-the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of the devil.

But using his logic isn’t it so plain to see that the opposite is true within our kingdom-the kingdom of good and peace and righteousness? If we can even call it that with a historical legacy of in fighting such as ours.


Finally, my learning is that we have to build some consensus and some mandate around refusing to tear down our own team.

And in fact what I wanted to do to this guy who was putting my people on blast was not to meet him on that silly juvenile playing field that is the internet, but instead what I immediately sought to do was get his phone number…

No-not to call and berate him or crank call or threaten his children. But to set up a coffee date. Literally. And that’s something very recent that I’ve learned, but it’s as old as time… that when you have a problem with someone you go to the source.

You don’t go to their friends or their neighbors or their competitors, you go to the source and have words-eyeball to eyeball. If we could learn to do this more, if we could have the courage and resolve to meet “the enemy” direct and remember that we are in fact on the same team, oh Lord just imagine the possibilities.