In 2009, Kathryn and I had the privilege to spend a week with Dave Ramsey and his team in Cancun Mexico.
We joined about a couple dozen business leaders and their spouses. All of us were striving to grow and/or improve our organizations by developing our personal leadership. Today this program is called “EntreLeadership” (Master Series) and thousands attend every year. Dave’s book by the same name has sold millions of copies and the podcast has gained a massive following (shout out to my pal Dan Tardy).
It is cool to look back and see that we got to participate in a small but powerful begining. Today EntreLeadership has grown as a brand in its own right and continues to have an impact on businesses, nonprofits and churches.
It’s been over 10 years since we were in Cancun with Dave and team. I think it’s time to revisit lessons learned, how I applied them and test their relevance today.
Unity is always on the forefront of good leadership.
Let’s talk about what Dave Ramsey refers to as the “Five Enemies of Unity”. Every organization has a culture. The culture can be healthy and life-giving or toxic and deadly. A good leader will strive to create and cultivate the former and defend against the latter.
Anyone who has a lawn or a garden knows that it requires watering, weeding and maintenance. Left unattended, a beautiful lawn or garden will become overgrown with weeds and overrun with pests in no time. The same goes for the culture in an organization; be it a company, church, nonprofit or your family. A leader must be vigilant in building and maintaining unity. A leader must wake up and fight the enemies of unity like a gardener fights weeds and pests – all the while cultivating unity. It’s a big job! I’d argue that its the most important job of the leader.
Unity is powerful. Unity is biblical.
Christian unity is good, beautiful and true as it demonstrates the fullness of the body working together.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” – Ephesians 4:1-6
A football team does not win the Super Bowl by accident. Individuals may stand out, but ultimately unity is behind the victory.
You may know there are some things you can do to create unity. There are thousands of ‘team building’ programs that can help establish unity. But, what are you doing to protect your organization’s unity?
Over the last twelve months, I have undergone the rigors of the Colson Fellows Program Residency. The mission of this master’s level course equips Christians with a robust Christian worldview so they can thoughtfully engage with post-Christian culture, inspire reflection in others, and work effectively toward re-shaping the world in the light of God’s kingdom.
I have been developing a bigger vision for my life’s work and calling.
I’m bringing this vision to bear in my role as a Local Missions pastor at Christ Chapel Bible Church. My role is to help our church engage in service in our communities. My broader mission is to help my brothers and sisters develop a “distinctly Christian vision for life, culture, relationships and service.” In today’s post, I’m going to focus on service and what that means.
As I have reimagined and prayed about a ‘bigger vision’, I have realized my goal is not just to get people to serve but to understand the “Gospel of the Kingdom” – a truly Kingdom vision. Serving is just one expression of this comprehensive view of reality. Jesus spoke of the “Gospel of the Kingdom.” We need to ask, ‘What does He mean by ‘Kingdom?’ (Luke 4:43, Luke 8:1, Luke 10:9, John 18:36). I’ve found that the Kingdom sometimes gets lost in the noise of everyday life and even ministry.
When Jesus redeems and saves, He invites us to join him in Kingdom work of redeeming and restoring the world and culture (all things). My good friend and pastor Dr. Doug Cecil likes to say, “The Gospel is enshrined in our hearts and proclaimed with our lips.” I would also add that “the Gospel is also seen in our lives and felt through our hands and feet.”
Our witness is often seen before our words are heard. The Christian witness is often the window through which the unbelieving world sees the light of Christ. As Pastor Alistair Begg likes to say, “People often learn the melody of the Gospel before they learn the words.”
The church evangelizes the lost and calls redeemed people to play their role on the grand stage of God’s redemptive story (Acts 17:26, Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 4:12). In doing so, we demonstrate that the Gospel not only saves but infuses and empowers every aspect of the follower’s life. Through the power of the Holy Spirt, we bring forth elements of Christ’s Kingdom into this broken world. Therefore, we should call our brothers and sisters from their inner-self focus to live the same way they were saved – by grace through faith. In reality, we are calling to that which God has already placed in the heart of the Christ-follower.
We have a purpose in this life.
We are saved “for” something.
We must answer the question, “How then shall we live?”
We’re not calling our people to “do” something, we are calling them to “be” something. Their “doing” (actions) will flow from a distinct vision of who they are and their identity in Christ.
Are you a ‘Check the box’ Christian?
In other words, do you fall into the habit of ‘checking boxes’ for going to church, attending a bible study and serving occasionally? Would you say your Christian life is vibrant and joy-filled? If not, why?
This call to develop a distinct Christian vision for service completely removes “check box” from the available options. It challenges the believer to step through the beautiful threshold of Salvation into the Kingdom – where Jesus beckons, “follow me.” In following, we are abiding. And in abiding, we are bearing much fruit – proving that we are His disciples. In this, there is fulness of joy.
The life of the follower of Christ teaches and sanctifies the world around them by how they reflect the One whom they follow (Matthew 5:16). Developing a distinct Christian vision for service enables the us to use our gifts, talents, passions and abilities to bring God’s redemptive and restorative power into a dark and broken world.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16)
Whatever I do, I should do all to the glory of God.(1 Corinthians 10:31)
Whatever I do, whether in word or in deed, I will do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.(Colossians 3:17)
Prayer: Father, I want to dedicate all that I do this very day to Your glory and honor. There is no component of life that cannot be lived for You, no task so small and mundane that it is unworthy of being offered to Your service. Whether in my speech or in my actions, I will do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to You. Amen.
The word and concept of ‘Reconciliation’ is getting thrown around quite a bit right now. One must understand that ‘reconciliation’ means different things to different people. That is why it is important to define terms up front in a conversation. The best way to get people to define their terms is to ask the question; “What do you mean by that?”
John Stonestreet likes to say, “People are using the same words but different dictionaries.” In other words, the same word may mean different things to different people. If you are using the same words but different dictionaries, you and the other person are having two completely parallel conversations. You are basically talking about two completely different things. You will reach two completely different conclusions. This is frustrating and a waste of time. Not to mention, it can create conflict or exacerbate tensions.
I’m not going to provide multiple nuanced definitions of ‘reconciliation’ floating around the culture. I intend to focus on the Biblical definition of ‘reconciliation’. By focusing on the real thing, it makes it easier to identify the fakes.
What is Reconciliation?
Reconciliation is defined: katallagē (Gk) – an exchange; restoration to favor (between God and man) – adjustment of a difference, restoration to favor. It is the restored relationship / favor between God and a repentant sinner who places his/her trust in Jesus Christ’s atoning death on the cross and His resurrection.
In terms of western culture, reconciliation is a cultural artifact from a Judeo-Christian heritage. No other worldview offers the concept of reconciliation in the way in which we know it today. Even as we sometimes misunderstand or misapply it, reconciliation is a distinctly biblical concept found in the New Testament in particular.
Many (not all) well-meaning Christ-followers who love the Lord have a disordered concept of ‘reconciliation.’ I confess, I have adopted a disordered view in the past. As Christians, we know that “iron sharpens iron”. Therefore, we must be personally vigilant and point each other back to scripture frequently. Words (and their definitions) matter because they shape reality and give meaning to the world around us.
What is Reconciliation for?
(what is the purpose of reconciliation?)
Lets’ begin at the beginning!
1. In the beginning God created all things including human beings (who were made in His image). God said it was “very good.” Humans lived in perfect harmony with God.
2. The Bible states that because of sin our relationship with God is broken (referred to as ‘The Fall’ in Genesis 3). We are born into sin, under God’s judgement and wrath.
3. Because God is Holy and perfectly good, we cannot restore that relationship on our own. There is nothing we can do – no number of good deeds can save us. We need an outside agent to reconcile us with our Creator. We need a Savior.
4. Jesus Christ took our sin upon himself and died on a Roman cross innocent. When he rose from the grave, Jesus reconciled sinful man to a holy and perfect God. He essentially made a path where one did not exist.
5. When a man or woman believes and trusts in the finished work of Christ, he or she is the reconciled with God – the formerly broken relationship is restored. The Bible refers to this as the ‘new of life’ and the condemnation of sin is removed forever.
Therefore, Biblical Reconciliation is primarily a vertical process and relationship between an individual and God mediated through Jesus Christ. All authentic and redeeming qualities of reconciliation flow from this vertical relationship with God as the source. There is NO other source of reconciliation. God is it.
For instance, if I am not reconciled with God first, there is no way I can be reconciled with anyone else. This is a spiritual reality. Furthermore, the other person must be reconciled with God before he/she can be reconciled with me. Nowhere in the Bible will you find a doctrine that teaches that horizontal reconciliation (man to man) is a viable primary option. It is always vertical (man to God – through Christ).
In the absence or rejection of reconciliation with God, all you have is manmade acquiescence or genuflection to another’s power, coercion or emotion. From a Biblical perspective, I argue this is a counterfeit ‘reconciliation’. Why?
Without Christ, we are totally incapable of Christ-exalting good (John Piper). As Paul says in Romans 7:18, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” In John 15:4 Jesus states, “apart from me you can do nothing.”
Every individual Christ-follower is challenged personally with two questions;
1. Do I believe what the Bible says?
2. Am I willing to live as the Bible instructs and commands?
Disclosure: I am guilty of everything I’m about to say because I’m a sinner too. So, the following is a message for me to hear as well.
Well-meaning Christians who love the Lord seem to turn to manmade / man-centered secular concepts of ‘reconciliation’. Why?
First, while the Bible remains the best-selling book in history, the bible is the least read, studied or understood. Basically, well-meaning Christians don’t know their Bibles. Therefore, they misunderstand and misapply the Gospel of the Kingdom to life and culture.
Second, because the Bible is not viewed as sacred scripture and authoritative but more of a “moral manual.” So, people pick and choose what verses they like in order to validate or support their position or sin patterns. When we treat the bible as a cafeteria-style moral manual, we conveniently sidestep hard truths, conviction, repentance and healthy realignment with God’s Word**
Third, while many well-meaning Christians will claim to believe the bible, their worldview betrays their claims. In other words, how we live our lives reveals what we believe. Many Christians today live as secular humanists or functional atheists without realizing it.
Finally, making manmade or man-centered (horizontal) ‘reconciliation’ primary feeds man’s pride and ego. In addition it gives him a psychological escape hatch from sin. This stems from the sinful trait of self-determinism. In my estimation, man-centered reconciliation reveals our idolatry and fear of man rather than a fear of God.
Biblical Reconciliation begins with our realizing and admitting our sin against God
Psalm 51:4 states the following from an individual perspective, Speaking to God the Psalmist cries, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” We sin against God first.
Romans 3:23 encompasses ALL humans who ever lived, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Basically, God has put ALL human beings on notice regarding sin. We are all born in the same sinking ship. Thank God, he sent Jesus to save us.
Does the bible say, “Be reconciled to the world?” Nope, the Bible says the following;
“God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God.…”
The Great Commission of Christ’s church is to call the world to be reconciled with God, not to call the world to be reconciled with the world. There will be no reconciling the world to the world without God. That is a biblical impossibility and antithetical to the Gospel.
Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments and 613 Jewish laws in two commands.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39
Relationship with God is primary and is the post on which the second hangs. Our message to the world is ‘be reconciled with God!”
In conclusion, it is vitally important to define our terms up front in a conversation. A good way to do that is to ask a question like, what do you mean by that (reconciliation)? As I have pointed out, the Christian must be focused on the primary work of reconciling the lost with God through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We also love our neighbors and even enemies as ourselves (our witness). Biblical reconciliation is quite different from worldly reconciliation… The results are quite different as well.
Live your life the way in which you were saved – by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
** [Section Note] When a Christ-follower is out of line with God’s Word, it grieves the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the believer feels conviction and frustration. The Holy Spirit ceases working through the believer and begins to bring conviction in order to bring about repentance and realignment with God’s Word. This is why I believe that Christians who dabble in non-biblical versions of reconciliation end up feeling frustrated and confused when the world’s version just simply does not work (ever). Keep at it long enough and it will have a callousing effect on the heart and you risk losing the sensitivity to sin – that can lead to backsliding. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by following worldly philosophies or patterns of living (see Eph. 4:17-32)
Seeing people’s faces raises moral and lowers stress.
As Local Outreach Pastor during the COVID19 pandemic, the church is faced with new challenges when it comes to connecting and serving people. While most folks know how to use social media and communications platforms like its second nature, we must consider those who may not know how to use technology to connect.
Think about the elderly widow who is isolated but she has a smart phone. She may not be aware of the capabilities at her fingertips. The objective is to help you help others connect face to face using technology.
Below are some simple videos and instructions you can share with others. Help those feeling isolated and lonely connect. Be their buddy and the face that brings them hope and comfort.
Let’s help our neighbors connect during quarantine during this COVID19 situation. Let’s keep relationships and loving our neighbors at the forefront of our minds while we exercise proper precautions like social-distancing and self-quarantining.
“Alone Together.” Is there any better way to describe this moment in history?
As the wave of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic spreads across the globe, we are seeing whole societies and nations shut down and shut off human face-to-face interaction. In America, the jokes and funny memes have given way to a seriousness. Every hour more people are coming to the realization that everything has changed.
Three months ago, the conversations were completely different than they are today. I look back and recall having discussions about the pervasiveness of screen addiction and the challenge of too much social media and technology in our lives. I admit, I had a problem with screens, scrolling and such.
Today, my paradigm has shifted. My perspective has been stood on its head. Because of a tiny virus, we are experiencing what it means to be ‘Alone Together’.
Rather than focusing on fear and chaos, I’m looking for lessons and opportunities. I’m looking for new ways to ‘do life’ together in forced isolation.
How can we engage with this new reality without losing our minds? Or worse … How do we keep from losing our humanity?
“Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. And as it turns out, we are very vulnerable indeed. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.”
– Sherry Turkle
I’d add that for millions of people, the spurious glitter of our technological goddess has answered our collective prayer. She says, “You want real isolation with your screens and social media? Your wish is my command!” And here we are, alone together with the goddess of our own making. But, we’re left wanting and empty.
The New Reality
Due to the current state of the world, the illusions and fog blocking our view of reality is quickly evaporating. More and more people are realizing that human contact is more important than we thought. The status quo has been upended in a matter of weeks. As a good friend of mine said yesterday, “The gods of western culture like sports, media, corporate greed and entertainment have all bowed to the spirit of fear.” Entire nations are being brought to their knees. People are around the world are coming to grips with a new reality. Many are fearful of what it all means.
In this very moment, we all have a choice to make. We are alone together on this island, the boats have been burned. There is no way off. What shall we make of this? We cannot build boats out of ashes or memories. We must build here and now. What you do right now will shape the culture in the age to come. We can be selfish and ‘me-centered’ or we can engage in sometimes messy relationships with others.
When you strip all of the stuff away, what do you have left? A better questions is, WHO do you have left?
The Bible says, that we are individually significant and we have intrinsic value. In spite of what modern social constructionists and social engineers tell us how different we are, we are of one race – the human race. We must see what is good, true and beautiful held in both our unity and diversity as human beings. We were not created to be isolated. We were created for community. We are hardwired for relationship … as hard and painful as relationships can be at times. A life pursuing pleasures is empty and meaningless. Think about it. The good stuff is found in knowing and being known by others. Loving people over stuff that can’t love you back.
You have a choice today. How are you living? Take an entire day to consider what your life will look like a year from now or 5 years from now. Try to see yourself from a future perspective. Who do you want to be? Who do you want to invite into your life? Who needs you to step into their life today? Are you lonely? Isolated? I’m here. There are a bunch of us here. We have been waiting for you. We could use your help, your talents and gifts.
Action Steps … you don’t have anything better to do
Take the coming days and weeks to consider who is most important in your life… I promise, its not you! Reach out to that old friend you haven’t seen or spoken to since college or high school. I guarantee they will be overjoyed to hear from you. If they don’t answer the phone, leave them a voicemail letting them know you were thinking of them. And, God forbid we tell our friends and family we love them! Write a letter to someone you love or a ‘thank you’ note to someone who impacted your life.
We were never meant to be ‘alone together’.
“The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.””(Genesis 2:18)
If you need prayer or have a comment, please reach out to me.
Remember, God loves you in spite of yourself (John 3:16).
The band, Pink Floyd made this question famous on their 1979 album, “The Wall”. Under the haunting drones of synth chords and samples from the TV series, Gunsmoke, the listener is confronted with the question, “Is there anybody out there?” The question is repeated as the melancholy of the soundscape rises and finally breaks into a ethereal acoustic guitar melody accompanied by lonely violin. It provides some relief but not quite enough. The question still lingers about the mind, “Is there anybody out there?” It’s truly a genius two and a half minutes of music.
In the Pink Floyd movie “The Wall” this song plays at the point where the bitter and alienated Pink (the main character) is attempting to reach anybody outside of his self-built wall. The repeated question “Is there anybody out there?” suggests that no response is heard (1).
I remember back to my music and DJ days when I would be in the DJ booth playing records to a packed club of hundreds of people, yet there was an underlying sense of alienation. I could see people around me – but why does the question still gnaw at my soul? “Is there anybody out there?” Does anyone even care?
There have been seasons in my life when I’ve felt alone. Even when I had family and friends around, I suffered from disconnectedness. At points, this lead to depression and anxiety. Its hard recognize from the outside. By God’s grace and the love of family and friends, I don’t suffer like I did so many years ago. However, there are shadows of how I felt in those seasons that remain as a remembrance. I think it is important that I remember rather than forget what it’s like to feel alone. There can be no deep ministry to others without memories of our own misery.
Today, many people feel alienated and lonely in our technology-driven, pseudo-connected, over-stimulated, hyper-autonomous and instant gratification-focused cultural moment. We’ve relegated our relationships and existence to online platforms, how can we not be driven to alienation?
I think a dangerous new religion is emerging in the West. It’s called Alienation.
It has its own doctrines of disconnect and loneliness. We carry our slick, shiny, flat-screened idols in our hands all day. It’s sacraments are dopamine drips through a communion of ‘likes’ and screen scrolling. It’s worship is seen on the altar where authentic human relationships go to be sacrificed. Alienation has its own cathedrals built for one. It has its own hymns and liturgy and even ideology and emerging politics. The enlightened state of the religion of alienation is loneliness and ultimately, despair. This despair brings some to their own end at their own hands – the ultimate sacrifice.
“Contemporary man is alienated. He is alienated from the past because he has no cultural roots anymore. He’s been taught to despise the past. He is alienated from a real vibrant society – his social ties are thin and few. That shows up in his sexual habits which seem to have no meaning beyond that of the pleasure or the despair of the moment. He has very little connection with the natural world – the outside world.
If I could jump into Pink Floyd’s 1979 masterpiece, I would add one three letter word at the end… “Yes!”
Yes, there is someone out there, just like you. In fact millions, just like you. Human beings all over our world just wanting to connect in an authentic and meaningful way. But how do we overcome alienation that has become so pervasive?
It starts with a light switch. We begin by turning on the lights in the dark room for those who are lonely so they can see that there are others in the room.
We must recognize alienation and loneliness and label them as enemies of what is good, true and beautiful about the human experience. Humans are hardwired to connect with others. When humans don’t have connections, they can’t live meaningful lives of vibrance. We need relationships – we need each other. Our creator designed us to be in relationship.
We must restore what has been lost in this current lonely age.
If we do nothing, I fear that history will see this chapter as the loneliest in western culture. It doesn’t have to be this way. But it starts with you and me. Whether its the kitchen, the campfire or the nursing home on the holidays, we must be intentional about bringing life back to life. We bring hope and connection to the lonely lives of others and ourselves.
Restoration overcomes alienation. We must work to rescue one another from the cold grip of loneliness and despair. We restore lives through relationships.
To the haunting voice that asks, “Is there anybody out there?” We must break through self-built walls and shout, “Yes, we are here!” and “You are not alone!” and “God loves you and so do we!”
Now, go and do. The cure for alienation is real-life personal connection. That connection needs to be restored.
“And he (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’…” (Acts 17:26-28a)
The Bible says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” “It is the law of the cross, it is a sacrificial law. Christ gives rest to the heart by giving burdens to the shoulders. And, as a matter of fact, it is in being burdened that we usually find rest… Heavy luggage is a cure for weary hearts.” So, we must bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
– F.W. Boreham
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.