Confidence and humility

Reading from Tim Keller’s book Reason for God I came across these words that quite adequately describe my experience (all bolding is my own).

When my own personal grasp of the gospel was very weak, my self-view swung wildly between two poles. When I was performing up to my standards – in academic work, professional achievement, or relationships – I felt confident but not humble. I was likely to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. When I was not living up to my standards, I felt humble but not confident, a failure.

I discovered, however, that the gospel contained the resources to build a unique identity. In Christ I could know I was accepted by grace, not despite my flaws, but because I was willing to admit them. The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself or less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less. I don’t need to notice myself – how I’m doing, how I’m being regarded – so often.

These days I am experiencing the paradox of profound humility and deep confidence… both at the same time! Why? I am experiencing a fresh understanding of who God is and who I am in relationship to Him.

How about you? What happens to your “self-image” when you are a huge success? Perhaps more importantly, what happens to your self-image when you fail?

If you choose to lead

Reading from The Leader’s Voice by Boyd Clarke and Ron Crossland, I encountered this quote… read it, embrace it, live it:

If you choose to lead, prepare to take a stand. It is not for the fainthearted. Some will judge you unfairly, blaming you for their lack of success. Others will expect resources you cannot give, answers that you do not have, and permission you cannot grant. You will be misquoted. Your judgement will be questioned.

You will certainly stumble. Failure will stalk you like a predator. […] The toughest problems will be yours alone. You must take responsibility for the failures and give credit for the successes. Lose the fantasy that you will be cherished, immortalized, and revered. Expect long hours and few moments of gratitude.

Expect also that some will soar beyond your expectations. They will create magic inspired by your dream. They will make you glad you chose to lead. They will hear what you say, understand it, care about it, and act. Together, you will engage in the best work of your lives.

To all of you who are leading in any capacity, I tip my hat to you and celebrate you! You, Leader, are a hero!

Is your religion real?

God has created a magnificent tag-team – A.W. Tozer and Craig Groeschel. These two guys (one dead and one living) are absolutely pounding my heart and changing the way I pray these days. By the way, in case you’re wondering… Tozer is the dead one.

Groeschel preached a series called Practical Atheist (watch it here) and Tozer wrote a book called, Divine Conquest (buy it here). Groeschel’s definition of a practical atheist is “Someone who believes in God but lives as if He doesn’t exist.”

Reading from Tozer this morning, I took these words like a Chuck Liddell shot to the jaw:

Is it not true that for most of us who call ourselves Christians there is no real experience? We have substituted theological ideas for an arresting encounter; we are full of religious notions, but our great weakness is that for our hearts there is no one there.

Whatever else it embraces, true Christian experience must always include a genuine encounter with God. Without this, religion is but a shadow, a reflection of reality, a cheap copy of an original once enjoyed by someone else of whom we have heard. It cannot but be a major tragedy in the life of any man to live in a church from childhood to old age and know nothing more real than some synthetic god compounded of theology and logic, but having no eyes to see, no ears to hear, and no heart to love.

The spiritual giants of old were men who at some time became acutely conscious of the real Presence of God and maintained that consciousness for the rest of their lives.

My prayer these days is that you and I will have a revolutionary, authentic encounter with God that will transform our attitudes, behaviors, perspectives, and values… an encounter that will move us from being practical atheists to passionate followers of a living God with whom we are in a relationship.

Re-engage old truths

A.W. Tozer, in his book The Divine Conquest, writes,

Neglected Christian truths can be revitalized only when by prayer and long meditation we isolate them from the mass of hazy ideas with which our minds are filled and hold them steadily and determinedly in the focus of the mind’s attention.

Tozer is right on particularly when it comes to what we know about God. For instance, we believe that He is omnipresent (i.e. He is completely present everywhere all the time); we believe that He is omniscient (i.e. He completely knows everything); and we believe that He is omnipotent (i.e. He has total power). We believe these truths about God, but how are they affecting our lives? My guess is that most of us, at least me, live our lives virtually unaffected by these three fundamental points of theology!

I guarantee you if my bride was always around, knew everything, and had all power that would have an impact on how I live! The reality is that someone even greater than Sherri IS always here and DOES know everything and CAN do anything! He is God!

Our lives will undergo an extreme makeover when we begin to latch on to these fundamental truths. How do we “latch on”? Tozer says it will happen through prayer and long meditation.

It’s time to do some mental/spiritual house cleaning! It’s time to take some crap to the dump and then pull out and dust off the old valuables we have sitting around on the shelves of our minds and hearts. It’s time to re-engage some old truths!

Fear of failing

One of the biggest fears of a church planter is that he/she will become a statistic. The odds of a new church succeeding are dismally low. Statistics say that anywhere from 60-80% of church plants will not make it for the long haul.

The tendency is to play it safe… to hedge your bets… to make logical decisions… to assure as much as possible that there will be money, people, resources, etc. left over for the rainy day.

I feel that pressure. I feel the pressure to make safe decisions. I feel the pressure to give in to fear and make decisions that make sense.

This morning while reading from Craig Groeschel’s book “it” I came across these words:

The it-ified ministries that I’ve observed fail often. They’re led by aggressive, do-what-it-takes, thick-skinned people who are willing to make mistakes. They’re not afraid to fail. In contrast, the ministries without it are usually the ones playing it safe, doing only what is sure to succeed. As counterintuitive as it sounds, failing often can help a ministry experience it. Being overly cautious can kill it.

On the surface, these ideas don’t seem to make sense. But they’re true. Aggressive leaders with it are often dreaming, experimenting, and testing the limits. They don’t know what can’t be done and are willing to try things others think aren’t possible.

Because of their conquering nature, these passionate spiritual entrepreneurs take risks and at first glance don’t appear to succeed. They fail often. But when they do fail, they tend to rebound quickly. Temporary failures are often followed by lasting success. They try, fail, learn, adjust, and try again. After a series of accidental learning experiences, these hard-hitting leaders often stumble onto innovative ministry ideas they never would have discovered without rolling the dice.

As we prepare to launch Walls Down Church there are many decisions that give me pause:

  • Asking people to move here to be a part of the ministry team. Asking people to come and work for nothing but the vision of what God wants to do beginning in Maineville, OH takes my breath away. What happens if high capacity people uproot their lives, move to Cincinnati to do ministry for no salary, and Walls Down crashes and burns? Scared? You bet… but not enough to not ask.
  • Making the decision to invest several thousand dollars into two free Re-Think Money seminars. We’re offering a seminar for pastors and church leaders on Saturday (Dec. 6) and one for the public on Sunday (Dec. 7), and we’re not charging anything! These seminars will cost us several thousand dollars. Are we scared? You bet… but we’re more confident that this is a God thing and so we press forward.
  • Making the decision to not supplement my income through other means (e.g. teaching, etc.). To give myself completely to the work of the church when there is no church yet is scary. We have raised funds, but what is going out is greater than what is coming in. It would be quite easy to attain secular employment and divide my time between the church and an outside employer. I’m not doing it. Scared? Sure, but not enough to divide my time between the church and another vocation.
  • Asking people to join our launch team which means they will have to leave their church, ministry position, etc. is a big deal. I’m asking them to consider radical life-change. I’m asking them to uproot their families, say “goodbye” to friends (at least for a season), give up their spot in the pew, and the list goes on. I’m asking them to leave the familiar and comfortable to come and work the hard, long hours required to start a new church. I’m asking because I believe that tearing down the walls that keep people from the life Jesus promised is a cause worth sacrificing everything for. Am I scared to do this? Sure. I’ve got the same lump in my throat that you do when I make the ask, but I’m not going to stop asking because I know that this is a cause worth giving your life for.

The list could go on, but you get the point.

Leading is scary. Planting a church is scarier. When you’re just leading, it’s only your reputation on the line. When you’re starting a new church, it’s God’s reputation on the line.

So the question is, will we play it safe or take the risk.

I say if we’re going to fail we may as well fail so badly that everyone will notice and when they notice we’ll ask them to help us start a new church!