Why are endings and transitions so poorly handled in our ministries, organizations, and teams? Why do we often miss God’s new beginnings, the new work he is doing? In part because we fail to apply a central theological truth—that death is a necessary prelude to resurrection. To bear long-term fruit for Christ, we need to recognize that some things must die so something new can grow. If we do not embrace this reality, we will tend to dread endings in the same way our wider culture does, as signs of failure rather than opportunities for something new. You Know You’re Not Doing Endings and New Beginnings Well When . . . • You can’t stop ruminating about something from the past. • You use busyness as an excuse to avoid taking time to grieve endings and losses. • You have a hard time identifying your difficult feelings (sadness, fear, anger). • You often find. Read more.
T.S. Eliot noted in Four Quartets: “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” Reading broadly helps us as lead from a a broader place of life, from a place of reality. The following are two short books that I read recently that helped place my life more accurately within “reality.” The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death is about about a French, 44-year old father and husband who was editor-in-chief of Elle magazine. He writes by blinking with his left eye as he lay dying in a hospital as a quadriplegic. Having suddenly lost everything through a rare disease, he finds himself trapped in a body that will not work. His final reflections on life are captured here in painful clarity as he finds himself utterly alone before he dies. The Wave is written by a wife who loses her husband, two children, and parents in the cataclysmic tsunami of December 26th, 2004. Read more.
A co-laborer at New Life recently encouraged me to watch The Central Park Five. It is the story of five teenagers – four blacks and one Hispanic, ages 14 to 16, who were arrested and charged with raping and beating, nearly to death, a 28 year old, white woman after dark in Central Park. The boys were portrayed as “beasts,” and “wild animals” with no remorse for their actions. Donald Trump placed full-page ads calling for the return of the death penalty. They spent the next 7-13 years of their lives in prison. Their lives and families were ruined. The problem: They were innocent. The murderer who committed the crime finally admitted it in 2002. This documentary is important to watch for many reasons. Here are my top three: 1. Social class and racial divisions remain a deep reality. The Central Park Five gives us an amazing portrayal of the injustice that befalls so. Read more.
Like most leaders I tend to work too much. My family didn’t do play. We worked hard. I naturally bought this into my leadership for Christ over the last 25 years at New Life. Jurgen Moltmann’s, A Theology of Play (out of print of course), has the best theology I have read on this topic. The following are his few nuggets of gold from his book as described in Ben Witherton III ‘s, The Rest of Life: 1. Play foreshadows the joy of the eschaton where all manner of drudgery and disease and decay and death will be left behind. It is not useless activity. 2. Play is a celebration of life lived to its fullest. 3. In play we emulate God’s actions who did not create the universe because it was a necessity. God is playful. He enjoys creating and playing. 4. “Play relativizes our ‘over-seriousness’ toward life, filling us with a spirit of joy. Read more.
Examples of dirty pain are found throughout Scripture. The Israelites wander for forty years in the desert due to their unbelief. Jonah finds himself in a stormy sea as he runs from God’s will. Abraham experiences years of pain after birthing Ishmael rather than wait on God. Much of our dirty pain in leadership comes from a failure to wait and listen to wise counsel. Hasty staff hires, half-formed plans, sloppy meetings, a turbulent spirit due to a failure to set boundaries, rushed sermons – are a few examples. We don’t learn in dirty pain because we are defending, denying, and avoiding. It is the pain of repeating the same mistakes. I know it well. Examples of clean pain are also found throughout Scripture. Jesus struggles with the Father’s will in Gethsemane. Paul’s pleads to remove a thorn in the flesh. Abraham climbs a mountain to obey God and sacrifice his son. Clean pain. Read more.
Malcolm Muggeridge argued that, if Jesus was alive today, there may have been a fourth temptation. It is the temptation to a fast faith and a fast leadership. He describes it like this: One day a Roman tycoon named Lucius hears Jesus preaching in Galilee and is very impressed. “This Jesus has star potential. He could be a superstar!” He tells his representatives to “puff Jesus,” then bring him to Rome – along with the John the Baptist guy. Lucius promises: “I’ll put him on the map, launch him off to a tremendous career as a worldwide evangelist. I’ll spread his teaching throughout the civilized world and beyond. He’d be crazy to turn it down! Instead of a ragtag lot following him from Galilee, everyone will know him.” Jesus, of course, says no and is dismissed as irrelevant. “Away from me, Satan! For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only’”. Read more.