Month: July 2012

The Evil of Drama

dramathe creating and need of attention by a person through the use of personal or interpersonal conflict

Satan loves drama. In fact he is the one who invented it.  There is nothing more drama filled than His rebellion in Heaven and His stunts in the Garden of Eden. Drama, drama, and more drama.

In fact, have you noticed that sin is at the heart of all drama, because sin is at the heart of all conflict. Take personal or interpersonal conflict out of conversations, and some people won’t have anything to talk about.  In fact, for some, drama has become their emotional caffeine as they can’t seem to get through the day without several cups of it. And for some, it’s become their security blanket as they just can’t feel good about themselves without hearing or delivering something negative (true, false, or somewhere in between) about their life, someone, or something else.

It’s drama, and Satan loves every minute and morsel of it. More than that, he loves to see us joining in with it in our lives. Why? Because it’s evil and destructive. It gets us focusing on everything that isn’t important and missing what is. It steals, kills, and destroys integrity, holiness, relational health, self-esteem, and the list goes on and on. Drama adds nothing, but costs just about everything.

Here’s some key destructive things drama does…

Drama minimizes truth and maximizes personal opinion-  People who crave attention rarely value truth. Why? Because truth isn’t often that dramatic. However, personal opinions can create realities for conversation that are more appetizing, self-serving, and attention getting.

Yet, personal opinion can be easily misguided and filled with much speculation. But who cares, right? We’re not trying to be truthful or get to the truth, we are just trying to get attention or relieve our insecurities by lowering the lives of others down so we don’t look as bad as we really are. It’s that why we love a good scandal or to see a public figure fail, whether its true or not?

Drama loves the misguided idea that “everybody is entitled to their own opinion.”  In our culture, we overvalue personal opinion and undervalue truth and the counsel of God’s Word. Everyone maybe entitled to have a personal opinion, but we aren’t always entitled to give it, nor should we always listen to everybody’s opinion. What people are really often saying who use the phrase, “Well, I’m entitled to my own opinion” is “You are entitled to my opinion.”

Drama loves to try to drag people around through personal opinion and drag them into their world of personal opinion.

Drama minimizes direct communication and maximizes gossip-  Drama hates resolution and accountability. What fun would that be, right? It’s a lot more dramatic to talk about people than to people.

Furthermore, drama finds it fuel in the darkness of people talking behind other people’s backs and not being held accountable for their words. Additionally, drama finds its energy in people who are willing to listen to it, and even give it safe harbor. Being a gossip isn’t just about what you say, it’s also about what you listen to. If you find that you are on the receiving end of a lot of drama, it may be because you have become or are perceived as a willing host.

When people who need to be talking directly (instead of through others or to others) are actually talking directly to each other, drama dissolves. That’s why drama loves to play the mediator or the divider. Drama loves to pit people against each other and play both ends of stick. Drama is often two faced and indulges in playing the middle ground.

Drama minimizes self control and maximizes impulsiveness- When our tongues are out of control and undisciplined, it’s because our hearts our first out of control and undisciplined.  People who have little control over their emotions tend to have little control over their mouths. Rather, they feel and say whatever comes to their flesh. And when an opportunity comes to take a hit off  a drama dubby or caffeine up on some negative attention, they just can’t resist.

Drama is impulsive. It’s easily stirred up and excited. It goes from one drama to the next, often without any sense of thought, reserve, or hesitancy. Drama is undisciplined and never does it’s homework. Drama is the emotional drunk who has to have some kind of negative cocktail upon which to sip, heaven for bid, lest they sober up and have to grow up.

Drama minimizes self-worth and maximizes insecurity- People who are into drama tend to be insecure about themselves. Thus, they use drama for at least one of three reasons. 1) To lift themselves up in their own mind by bringing a person(s) down in the mind of others. 2) They need attention and affirmation, so they use drama to draw attention to themselves. They are insecure to the point that negative attention seems better than no attention. They freely open the window for all to look into their daily struggles and that of others solely because deep down, they need the attention. 3) They listen to and host the drama in other people’s lives because it makes them feel needed and they are too insecure to redirect or stop the unhealthy dialogue, walk away, or confront it.

Drama minimizes responsibility and maximizes blame- Have you noticed that when people share their drama, it’s typically always everybody else’s fault but their own. They are the victim to a deep injustice or tragedy for which they bare no responsibility. The government is to blame, their boss is to blame, their friend is to blame, their pastor is to blame, their spouse is to blame. Everybody is to blame but them. And then the person who loves to listen and give safe harbor to drama affirms their delusional conclusions and the two (or more) of them revel together in the drama of victimization. It’s this drama ladened victimization that has led to statements like, “All men are scum.” and other like phrases.

When drama takes responsibility for it’s own existence, it quickly loses its appeal. When the mirror of drama is turned from looking at everyone else to reflecting itself, drama no longer is the great rationalizer and excuse creator.

Drama minimizes holiness and maximizes negative attention- People who are drawn to drama easily become the emotional and verbal garbage cans in which drama junkies place their trash. They are partners in the crime through their open ears and open doors, not because they pulled the trigger necessarily, but because they drove the car.  Unfortunately, the following formula will eventually take hold in their life, “Junk in, junk out”  It’s impossible to feed off of negative attention without it polluting our emotional and spiritual system.  W can love and listen to people without giving support to everything they say nor permission to say whatever they want. This is the key to defusing drama before it darkens you.

Drama minimizes reality and maximizes exaggeration and distortion- When the truth of history (what has really happened) doesn’t present a person in a positive light or get them enough attention, there is a great temptation to exaggerate reality or even completely distort it.

I had a friend in high school completely make up a story that she had been assaulted in a hotel elevator in order to gain the attention of our entire youth group during a summer trip.  Furthermore, we have all experienced those who like to spread lies and half-truths about ourselves or others because the reality of history (what really happened) doesn’t cast a positive light on them. Drama hates reality, because reality isn’t often that attention getting nor titillating, and sometimes it’s outright convicting.

Drama minimizes trust and maximizes distance-  Where some people are attracted to drama for negative reasons, others are repelled by it for healthy reasons. Why? Because drama minimizes the ability for trust to develop in a healthy relationship.  It’s hard to develop trust when drama abounds in a relationship or a person shows they are prone to drama. Drama lives in unhealth. Trusting a person who lives in the world of drama to be healthy with what you share of yourself with them can become difficult. If we want to attract healthy relationships and people we must be willing to leave the world of drama. Healthy relationships and drama cannot exist together.

Drama minimizes clarity and maximizes deception-  The incubator for drama is darkness, where things can’t be seen for what they really are. When drama is exposed to the light of truth and health, it evaporates unless it is kept in the shadows of deception where things are misrepresented and disguised.

Drama loves to talk in generalities with broad sweeping statements that sow seeds of doubt while keeping things inconclusive, undetermined, and unsure. Drama loves to take that which is plain and make it complicated, that which is known and make it unsure, that which is trustable and make it doubted, that which is likely, and make it unlikely, and that which is black or white, and make it grey.  Drama lives and breathes on the complicated, unsure, doubted, unlikely, and grey. Drama sows these seeds of doubt, uncertainty, and mystery in order to perpetuate its existence. For without them, drama dissolves. Just ask the conspiracy buffs. Just ask Hollywood. Just ask religious-spirited people. Just ask Satan.

In our world and culture, where drama is so common place, it’s easy to become numb to its evil. Satan would love nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy the life out of our living through drama. May God wake us all up to this scheme.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

Servant Leadership Misunderstood

Matthew 20:28  20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down,asked a favor of him. 21 “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” 22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”“We can,” they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” 24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I want to start  this post with a statement… If we serve people, we may never serve our gift. If we serve our gift, we will serve both our gift and people.

Sound confusing? That’s o.k. Hopefully by the time you are finished with this post it will not only make sense, but revolutionize your life and leadership. I know this understanding has profoundly impacted me.

To understand what I am getting at, we need to start with understanding our “gift.”  Before we can truly serve people as God purposed us, we must understand what God has put in our hands to give. Otherwise, we end up trying to give people what we don’t have and meeting desires in people instead of needs.

Serving happens when we give something of ourselves so that a person(s) may move further into God and His agenda for their life.

I believe this was a dimension of Martha’s problem when she and Mary encountered Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).  Mary had a sense of what would honor  and serve Jesus because she knew her “gift.”  Her “gift” was, in part, to bless the Lord with her attention and devotion. She knew what Jesus, in a sense, “needed” and what  she could best contribute to Him. Martha was distracted because she was making sandwiches Jesus never ordered. She wasn’t serving her gift, but serving the anxiousness of the moment and what she thought was needed.  If being hospitable and having things domestically prepared was part of her “gift” she wouldn’t have been complaining about doing it herself nor would it have been left to the last minute.

Still a bit confused? That’s o.k., I think it will become clear.

So let’s talk about your “gift.”

In simple terms, our “gift” is the combination of our 1) salvation 2) calling 3) spiritual gifting 4) platform and 5) resources.

Salvation- As Christians, the greatest aspect of our “gift” is our salvation. It is the gift that ushers in all the others. God has given it to us freely, and by faith we have received it. We serve our gift by working “out” our salvation. This means two things. 1) That we share the Gospel with people with care and effectiveness. Everyone Christian has a ministry of salvation to people because we have been given and received the “gift” of salvation. We serve our gift by growing in our willingness and capacity to share the Gospel.  We best serve people when we can share with them clearly and articulately the reason for the hope we have. 2) We grow in living the Gospel through our actions and attitudes. We serve our gift of salvation when we strive to give people an inspirational example that makes them hungry for what we have in Christ because of how they see us live. Everyone needs salvation, but we cannot serve that need if we are not first serving our gift. This is the essence of servant leadership. We should all be leading the way in the salvation business because we are first serving our gift, and then our gift to people.

Calling-  We serve our gift by establishing and living our calling. Your calling is the specific, unique purpose God has placed in your life.  Obviously, there are general callings upon our life. For example, if you are a mom, you are obviously called to be a great mom. If you are a husband, than you are called to be a faithful husband.

Yet, there is a unique, specific calling that God has placed over your life.  This calling is related to the unique person God wants you to become and the specific thing He wants you to accomplish with your life. Moses was called by God to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt into the promised land. Nehemiah was called by God to lead the rebuilding of the temple walls of Jerusalem and the restoration of the people. Jesus was called to be and provide the Way by which all people can be saved. Ever person in and outside the Bible has a specific calling upon their life, including you.

We serve our “gift” by fervently discovering our God given calling and living it passionately and tenaciously.

Unfortunately, many people either don’t know what their calling is or they are’t following it.  Some are told early on that the burdens, passions, and dreams placed within us from God’s heart are unpractical, unattainable, or unrealistic. Others get lazy or content with simply making ends meet throughout life.  So, what happens? Many surrender to living ordinary, safe, and significance lacking lives.

This is a deep tragedy as so many people could be profoundly served through our calling, but if we don’t serve our calling, people will never be served to the fullest nor will we know best how to serve them.

This is why if we truly want to serve God and people we must first serve our “gift” through continually discerning precisely and living passionately our calling from God upon our lives.  When we know what are calling is, the needs are calling meets in others begin to appear in the lives of people we encounter.  It’s then that we gain a sense of our divine purpose and all the sudden we see all the divine appointments God sets up on a daily basis to live our calling into people’s lives. However without first serving our calling we would not fully see the opportunities God desires us to take hold to serve people. Instead, like Martha, we end up making sandwiches Jesus never ordered.

Spiritual Gifts-  We serve our “gift” by discerning and developing our spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are given by enabling us to accomplish our calling. Our gifts from God are always connected to our calling. They give us the spiritual power to accomplish our spiritual calling. Our calling from God will lead us to pursue things that we cannot accomplish apart from God. Along with a healthy dose of faith, spiritual gifts are purposed on enabling our spiritual calling to be realized.

Spiritual gifts and talents are different.  Spiritual gifts come to believers supernaturally through the Holy Spirit, talents come to us naturally.  If you only follow and develop what comes naturally to you ( your talents), you can miss your supernatural calling and the gifts that come with it.

Where your calling gives you direction on what you are to accomplish with your life with the specific things you are to become and do, spiritual gifts show you how you should be doing that. For example, God’s calling upon your life might be to bring healing to sick people. So, your spiritual gifts would determine how you are to do that. Perhaps your gifts are centered around teaching, so instead of being a hands-on medical doctor, you should perhaps be an educator of doctors.

When you are getting clearer on your calling and developing your spiritual gifts to accomplish that calling, you begin to get into what I call “the zone.” The zone is where we are most exercising true servant leadership in that we are effectively moving people onto God’s agenda for their life. But none of that can happen until we first serve our “gift” by discerning and developing our spiritual gifts.  Great people in the Kingdom of God work very hard at developing their spiritual gifts for maximum impact. People who are passionate about serving people are first passionate about serving their spiritual gifts by developing them t their fullest potential.

Platform-  We serve our gift by understanding, stewarding and maximizing our platform. Our platform is the specific role God gives us from which we are able to live out our calling.  For example, God has given me the role or platform of being a pastor in His church, and more specifically certain churches at certain times and locations. Serving people means I need to understand, steward, and maximum that role or platform.

God has a place (or platform) for everyone from which to be a servant leader.  Everyone has a God given, unique platform.  Our overall calling in life rarely changes, but our platforms can and will.  Yet, while we are in that role or platform, we need to understand that role, steward it, and maximize it.

Your platform comes with God’s favor and authority. With your platform comes God given power and the authority to accomplish your calling. God is not opposed to us having the authority that comes with our platform/role. In fact, He gave it to us. He is, however, concerned with how we steward that authority.  There is a difference between Lordship and Leadership.  Lordship uses authority as a first option and leadership as a last choice when it comes to influencing people. Leadership uses leadership as a first option and authority as a last option when it comes to influencing people. Notice that Leadership isn’t absent of the use of authority, the difference is in how it is stewarded.

There are plenty of people who want to minimize or completely remove the authority God has given you through your calling and the specific platform or role He has given you. Think about fathers and how are modern culture has tried to minimize, mock, and even remove their God given authority in the home. When we serve our gift we are careful to steward the authority of our platform that has been granted by God by both safeguarding it and using it wisely.

Stewarding your platform/role may also mean sharing it and delegate certain aspects of it.  Not every platform God gives you is necessarily an exclusive role but  may be a shared one.  Yet, how you fill that role or platform will be unique in a way(s) only you can accomplish.

In simple terms, part of your “gift” is the reality that God has a place for you, and a specific role to play. That role comes with power and authority. Serve your “gift” means understanding what that role is, to what extent God has given you power and authority within it, and stewarding and maximizing your use of that role for God’s glory.

Unfortunately, we end up wanting everybody else’s platform but our own. We want other people’s jobs, success, geographical locations, positions, and circumstances in life.  In short, we get platform envy. Therefore, we try to be who were not meant to be, have what we were not meant to have, and do what we were not meant to do. Meanwhile all the good things and potential greatness that God graced us with within the platform of our calling goes wasted and unrealized.

Additionally, some allow people and circumstances to minimize or steal from their platform/role of their calling through intimidation, insecurity, and a misunderstanding of leadership. If we want to truly serve people, we cannot let that happen. Leaders develop people into leaders, this is true. However, there is a common statement in leadership that I believe is a bit misguided.  The statement is… “the goal of leadership is to work yourself out of job.” I understand the idea behind this, but I don’t believe God wants us giving up the very platform He gave us. Rather, our job is to help people discover their gift and the platform that comes with it. Jesus didn’t try to work Himself out of His job/role/platform.  No one can do what He did and does, nor has God given anyone else that exact platform. Jesus rather delegates His authority and power and develops people to lead His cause.  Jesus serves people while first serving His “gift” which includes His platform.

Insecurity in leadership is put to death when we take care of our “gift.” Because, when we do, we realize our platform/role is ours and ours alone, given to us by God. With this awareness, we are free to develop others and rejoice in their greatness. Within a church ministry context, understanding your role and platform should be done through the discernment and counsel of the pastor and ministry leaders of the church.

Resources- We serve our gift by stewarding and investing our resources.  In the Kingdom of God you only get to keep what you are willing to give away. God has given you many resources that God desires to be leveraged for the purpose of moving people onto God’s agenda for their life. Serving our gift means valuing what we have been given, and understanding the greater purpose for our “stuff.”

Summary

I believe servant leadership is not about serving people first, but serving our “gift” first so that we can best serve people. Servant leadership isn’t about giving up who you are and the unique calling and role God has for you, but rather serving it in such a way so that you can freely and effectively help and develop others to serve their “gift” into people’s lives for the glory of God.

Jesus is not opposed  to greatness. In fact, He is even willing to teach us how to become great. Serving our “gift” so that we might best serve people enables great Kingdom work to be done through us.

When I read the Gospels it’s clear that Jesus indicates that He came to serve rather than be served and as Christians we are to have a servant’s heart as we live and fulfill God’s purposes for our lives.  Yet, it some circles this mindset has been translated into a brand of “serving” that means we are to serve people by making them happy as we fulfill their desires and impact their needs.

This all sounds well and good until the moment a person’s loving leadership of people requires influencing them to a place that may temporarily reduce their happiness and even contradict their desires, even asking them to sacrifice their needs instead of meeting them. Furthermore, I am hard pressed to find examples of Jesus serving religious-spirited people.  Again, by “serving” I mean a kind of goal that is to make people happy as we fulfill their desires and impacts their needs.

Rather, I believe what Jesus displays is that we are to serve our “gift” to people as we live to glorify God and build His Kingdom.

The important distinction is that we are to serve our gift first and foremost, and then we serve our gift to people. There is a vital difference between the idea of “serving people” and “serving our gift to people.”  If we serve people, we may miss meeting true needs by being enticed by a person’s desires and emotions. If we serve people, we may miss utilizing our gifts and realizing our calling. If we serve people, we may lose ourselves instead of giving ourselves. If we serve people, we may miss God and His purposes. If we serve people, we may mislead them.

However, when we serve our “gift” to people, we end up serving from God, through us, into people’s lives. When we serve people, we serve from people, into us, to God. The result is the difference between doing what God is blessing and asking God to bless what we are doing.  When we serve people, God may or may not be involved. When we serve our gift to people, God, we, and people are always involved and in the right order.

Many times, we simply serve people without much thought to what we are to give nor what God is up to in that person’s life. When we see our “gift,” we see why God has uniquely positioned us and put us into people’s lives. Our gift gives us an important glimpse into how, when, and why we are to serve people.  Our gift gives a sense of purpose for what should be the desired result in the person’s life that we are to serve.

That, to me, is true servant leadership.

Looking forward to your thoughts…

Recovering From A Disappointing Dad

As a father, I know over the course of my parenting I will have many areas where I don’t measure up and will have times where I disappoint my children and God who entrusts them to me.  No father is perfect, and being a faithful father is tougher now than perhaps ever before.  Every dad, to at least some degree is a “disappointing dad.” Only our heavenly Father is perfect and leaves nothing lacking.

Yet, there are those fathers whose disappointment factor rises to a level of leaving severe scars and deep unmet needs in their children’s lives.  They are the abusing, absent, or abdicating dad.  Some fathers abuse their children, emotionally and physically. Other fathers are absent from their children’s lives as they bury themselves in work, hobbies, distractions, or keep an emotional distance from their child’s life, sometimes to the point of abandoning their children all together. Other fathers abdicate their role to the mom, coaches, schools, churches, and culture as a whole as they refuse to lead, set the example, take responsibilities, and become an active, beneficial part of their child’s life. This is what I am referring to when I speak of “Disappointing Dads.” Fathers are to be the lead example setters, coaches, spiritual directors, protectors, correctors, monitors, providers, and time involved persons in their child’s life.

The role of father in our culture needs to be reclaimed and restored in our culture. Our society has portrayed fatherhood as one big joke, and fathers like Bart Simpson and Ozzy Osbourne are leading the way. Unfortunately, many men have gladly kicked backed in their recliners and adopted the mindset they see on television.

Sadly, just ask any school teacher, the carnage from “Disappointing Dads” is everywhere. Kids, mothers, families and society as a whole are paying the price big time. Furthermore, though this reality is probably worse now than ever before, there are previous generations now in their adult years who are trying to recover from “Disappointing Dads.” In fact, gen-“x”ers (now in their late 30’s to late 40’s) were the first to be named “Latch Key Kids” as their pre-boomer parents were off chasing the American Dream and living their own post-version of the 60’s.  The fathering trends haven’t gotten any better since then, but only worse.  I suspect the counseling, psychiatric side of the economy will be doing well for many years to come as these generations age.

Obviously, when it comes to recovering from a “Disappointing Dad” finding a good, Christian counselor is likely going to be a must. There are so many layers and connections that only a trained counselor can help you integrate into your life and faith in a way that is going to bless you and glorify God.  Yet, here are few steps you can take that will surely help you recover.

0.01  Grieve the Loss

Life is full of loss and pain. The hurts these cause in our life become most harmful when we don’t properly grieve.  So much of the dysfunction in our life is a result of a loss that has not been grieved completely.  Grief is God’s way of healing us from pain and loss in our lives.  Grieving is not an easy process, but it is a necessary process for finding healing and purpose within our pain and loss.

“Disappointing Dads” leave our lives with loss and pain. This pain and loss often centers around areas where they fell short as fathers and/or took something from us. That is why there is disappointment. God knows we can’t go back and remove the pain or undo the loss. This is where God’s gift of grief comes in. Grief enables us, through the power of Jesus, to integrate the pain and losses of life into our present and future in ways that ultimately bless us and glorify God.

The basic stages of grief are as follows… 1) Shock 2) Painful Feelings 3) Acceptance 4) Meaning 5) Empowerment

This process requires us to go through all 5 steps in order. And even though we may get through all five steps, it doesn’t mean we  still won’t have moments where we revisit one of the other steps. However, as you go through these steps, God is able to transform you and your circumstances to the place where you discover the tremendous purpose in pain and a ministry from within your misery.

I strongly encourage you to listen to the message series, “Rise Above: Defying the Gravity of Adversity” located on this website. This message series will guide you step by step through discovering the purpose within your pain and how to get to a place in your life where you actually have overcome the pain and loss you have experienced.

God fully understands and cares about your experience with a “Disappointing Dad” and desires to come along side of you as your Heavenly Father and heal those wounds. Walking with Him through the steps of grief will be a significant part of your healing and transformation.

o.o2  Renew and Release

One of the most powerful verses in the Bible that applies to an issues like this is…  Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. 

There are two critical ideas presented in this passage. 1) When we hope or long for something to come into our lives that for whatever reason is very likely not going to occur, it creates pain and suffering. 2) When our God given hopes and longings are fulfilled, it brings growth and life to our being.

One of the most destructive things “Disappointing Dads” leave in our lives are unfulfilled hopes and longings.  God created us needing and deserving of fathers that meet critical needs in our lives. Furthermore, God designed our fathers to shape and mold our futures in ways that honor and foster God’s plan for your life. Unfortunately, when those needs, longings, and positive influences that only fathers can give do not occur, it leaves our lives filled with longings and hopes that are unfulfilled. In a very real sense, your “Disappointing Dad” owes you big time.  Maybe they owe you your innocence back, the childhood you deserve, the attention you should have been given, the father you should have had, etc.  Unfortunately, with many “Disappointing Dads” they either can’t repay what is owed you, or they refuse to do so. Either way, you have a “hope that is deferred” or said another way “a debt that isn’t being paid”  What happens? We live our lives hoping that somehow or someway these needs will be met by the person that should have met them in the first place, our father.  We look for the apology that is likely never to come, the change of heart or behavior that is likely never to change, and the list can go on and on. What’s the result? Our hearts grow sick with bitterness, disappointment, anger, frustration, guilt, and alike. We want to love our father and for our fathers to love us the way it was supposed to be, but that reality very likely just isn’t going to ever happen. That reality makes us sick in more ways than one.

So, what are we do to? Be heart sick the rest of our lives holding onto the past and feeling emotionally incomplete and cheated, many of us having the scars to show for it?  No.

God came up with the most brilliant solution to the pain and loss people create in our lives, especially “Disappointing Dads.” The solution is… forgiveness. Now before you wig out and click off this post thinking there is no way you are going to forgive the dad that screwed up your life, please hear me out.

Forgiveness does NOT mean that what your dad did or didn’t do is somehow now “o.k.” Forgiveness does NOT mean that the relationship is automatically reconciled or restored. Forgiveness does NOT mean you have to remove healthy boundaries and feel good about being around that person, what happened in the past, and what the relationship is like now.

Rather, forgiveness means you are canceling the debt. You are emotionally releasing your father of the debt they owe you that they cannot or will not repay.  Through forgiveness you are fulfilling the longing and hope you have for the father and childhood you did not receive by canceling the debt. In so doing, you are moving from bondage to the past into life for the present and future. You or no longing looking to your father to be or become someone to you that they cannot or refuse to be or become. The hole that your father left in your life is now able to be filled by the presence and provisions of God. Unforgiveness keeps this from happening and prolongs the pain and suffering that was caused years ago. Forgiveness stops the negative pattern, and our emotional enslavement  to it.

Forgiveness is very likely going to be the only thing that satisfies the longing and hopes left in our lives from the blood sucking of “Disappointing Dads”  Forgiveness removes the leach of their behaviors from continuing to suck the life out of us long after our childhoods are over.

Forgiveness is not easy and takes the power of God working in our lives, but it is perhaps the most critical step in recovering from “Disappointing Dads”

I strongly suggest reading my post “What’s Up With Forgiveness” for more details on what forgiveness is and isn’t and how to apply it to your life.

0.03  Take up Your Cross

I believe the purpose of your life can be found very close to the pain in your life. Taking up your cross, at least in part, means being willing to use your experiences of pain for the glory of God. Additionally, it carries with it the reality that we will all have crosses to bear as we do our best to live our lives and make the most of them for God’s purposes.

Recovering from a “Disappointing Dad” is a life long  journey.  Sometimes, you will make great strides forward and other times you will have to “fight the good fight of faith” as you battle to create a better future.  God knows you and your needs better than anyone. Jesus’ invitation to “take up you cross and follow me” is a sure indicator that 1) Jesus wants you, baggage and all 2) Following Jesus is the best way to live (though it may not be the easiest)  3) The best chance and only chance you have to take your disappointments and turn them into destiny is by placing them at the feet of Jesus.

You won’t ever be able to truly leave the pain and loss all behind while on this side of heaven, but you can take it up and follow Jesus. As you do, your pain and loss will be transformed into peace and gain. It really is true. That’s the miracle of following the Master!


When Church Hurts

I believe God’s church is the hope of the world through Jesus Christ. When a church is healthy and vibrant it is the best thing going on the planet. As a pastor of 17 years, I have experienced the best and worst of what a church can become and do.  There is no greater thrill than to find your place in God’s church and accomplish with others what you could never achieve on your own for the glory of God and the building of His Kingdom. Through God’s church, vital needs in life our met that can’t be met anywhere else.  Indeed, church is a beautiful thing, praise be to God!

However, there are many who have not had the best experiences with “church.”  Some would even say that they have been badly hurt by their church experiences. At the extreme level, there are those who have encountered spiritual, emotional, and physical abuse within their church life. The documentary, “Deliver us from Evil” is a sobering, disgusting example.

In a recent report from Focus on the Family, “Approximately 22 million Americans say they are Christians and made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, and say that commitment is still important to them, but they have struggled with faith or relational issues and therefore quit going to church.”

I am sure that what constitutes as a bad church experience is a highly subjective matter of personal opinion. Furthermore, I have often seen where a bad church experience has become a convenient excuse for people to entirely disconnect from church and adopt a spiritually lazy life. The “church” has often become an easy blame and a perfect scapegoat from what are really problems with the person themselves and not the church as a whole.  Churches are never perfect, but they aren’t always the problem.

Yet, there are many who have had legitimately hurtful church experiences that have had much more to do with the unhealth of a church than anything about them personally.  These instances are disappointing and discouraging to say the least. It’s unfortunate when people who are trying to be good, go to a church gone bad. From my experience, I could even go so far as to say that in America we suffer from a church health crisis. This reality is truly the elephant sitting in the Christian culture room.  In the name of christian, political correctness, not many want to really say it or even see it, but the truth is, in America, we have more clubs with crosses on top of them than mission centers focused on spreading the Gospel and creating worshipers of Jesus.

Dave Olson, the director of church planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church, has made some interesting projections regarding what is going to happen to church attendance in America if current trends continue. According to Olson, only 18.7 percent of all Americans regularly attend church.  If this number continues to decline at the current pace, Olson says that the percentage of Americans attending church in 2050 will be about half of what it is today.  Other research has concluded similar findings. According to a study accomplished  by LifeWay Research, membership in Southern Baptist churches will fall nearly 50 percent by the year 2050 if current trends persist.

Is church health entirely to blame for the decline of people going to church? No. Is it a big factor? I would say, yes.  If the saying, “As the family goes, so does the community and the culture” applies, than the saying, “As the church goes, so does Christianity” must also have some relevance.

Does the American christian church have a lot of work to do? Yes. Do people who attend churches additionally bare a lot of  responsibility for their own church experiences? Yes, absolutely.

So, what do you do when Church hurts?

o.o1 Examine yourself- The last question that people typically ask after having a bad church experience is, “Was any of this my own fault?”  Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Taking time for some soul-searching discernment will partner with God to help you move forward and grow through your experience.  Bad church experiences can get very emotional and personal.  Seeking the counsel of objective people who can speak the truth in love into your life would be a great step.  As my mother would say to my sisters and I, “It takes two to tango.”  Don’t be surprised if you find that part of the bad experience you had with church is at least in part your responsibility. It may or may not be your fault, but it may be some of your responsibility. Are there occasions when people are burnt by church entirely separate from any wrong doing or responsibility on their part? Yes, absolutely.  Yet examining yourself will help to know what role if any you played in the negative experience.

o.o2 Gain perspective- As you take a hard look in the mirror, it will be important to really get a clear perspective on what actually happened. So often, in the midst of a bad church experiences, the truth and the facts can get highly distorted and emotionally charged. There typically are many issues at play behind the scenes… power, vision, structure, authority, heart, faith etc.  Obviously, you may never be able to piece together everything, but doing your best to step outside of the experience and see thing clearly will be helpful. Conflict in churches is usually about issues of vision. Two or more people simply have different visions for things. Unfortunately, these issues of division get spiritualized and emotionalized. This is when things get ugly and hurtful. Most churches don’t have a shared vision to begin with nor a clear definition of what are essential issues of unity and what are not. Many churches are set up (likely unintentionally) in ways that breed conflict and harbor it.

Therefore, most bad church experiences are really symptomatic of underlying problems within the church’s DNA. Again, you may never be able to connect all the dots, but realizing there are probably a lot pieces to the puzzle that led to your negative church experience helps you to own what is your part and disown what is not.

o.o3 Curb expectations- Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations of church life. First, they think that people who go to church should be perfect. I firmly agree that church life should manifest a higher relational and moral standard than that of the world, but churches aren’t perfect.  Not unlike the world, there are moments of conflict in church. How churches handle conflict and prevent it in the first place is what’s critical.  Expecting church life to be conflict free and even hurt free is unrealistic. Second, many people expect church to be primarily about them. From the style of worship to what is offered for their children, many christians are spiritual consumers with a mindset that church should be about meeting their personal spiritual needs. They approach church like a spiritual vending machine.  Thus, when some aspect of church becomes a little challenging, uncomfortable, or disheartening, they are quick to cry foul and label church as “not for me.” Well, in some ways they are correct, church isn’t just “for you.”  Rather, church is primarily to be about people who are far from God. Therefore, when we expect church to be about aligning our hearts, lives, and resources towards a common vision and mission to reach people far from God and grow in Christ-likeness it is then that we are much better positioned to field the moments when church hurts.  When we expect church to be a place where we connect with a spiritual family as we come under the authority and care of the shepherd of the church, we adopt a mindset of much better expectations. In fact, the expectations shift from “what’s in it for me?” to “what can I contribute?”

o.o4 Choose carefully- If you ask most people why they go to the church they attend it’s typically primarily for emotional reasons… their friends or family go there, it’s convenient, it’s politically beneficial, it benefits their work, they have always gone there, they were married there, they like some ministry that is offered etc.  Though many churches have developed membership classes where people are instructed on the vision, design, and beliefs of the church, most people don’t look into these aspects of a church. So many bad church experiences could have been prevented with a well developed and required membership class that the entire church must attend and buy into. Secondly, when a church is structured properly and the right people are serving in the right roles, bad church experiences are greatly reduced.

Before you consistently attend a church you should know…

1- What the vision of the church is.  

If a church can’t tell you specifically what they are about, what their values are, and where they are going, you probably don’t want to get on board. Furthermore, if you sense there is division in the church, you will probably want to avoid it.  Churches that are family run or without demographic diversity should be entered with caution. A church should be able to tell you specifically what God’s vision is for them, what they are focused on, what their values are, and what their goals are for the future. Ask the leadership these type of question and then also ask attenders of the church. If you consistently get conflicting answers, you may want to keep church shopping. Furthermore, if the church can’t give you clear answers, that may be a symptom of deeper problems.

A great follow up question is, “What have you done in the last six months towards the vision and future you just spoke of?” A church is becoming tomorrow what they are doing today. If they talk a big talk, but can’t show you how their current ministry is leading towards the future, you may want to proceed with caution.  Unfortunately, some churches can be like a used car lot, they will tell you all kinds of things to close the deal.

A church should have a vision that 1) reaches people far from God and connects them to His Church 2) grows believers into spiritual maturity as they learn to follow Christ and reach nonbelievers 3) minsters to the poor and needy 4) builds healthy, spiritual community 5) equips people for spiritual service and leadership 6) and worships God with passion and Truth.

A church should be a mission center, not a maintenance ministry.

2- Where authority and power are placed.

Churches can become very political. Unfortunately, many churches are structured democratically in ways that attract political, power hungry people. If you detect that the pastor/and or staff are seen and handled as merely the hired hands, you probably want to take note. Pastors are leaving churches and even the ministry at staggering rates. Most of the time it’s because of an issue of power where a group of people or families want to run the church. On the other side of the coin, if you see a pastor/and or staff that has no accountability set up with other pastors/elders, you should also take note. Pastors need to have the freedom to lead and shepherd a church, but when you see them dictating people’s personal lives and taking the lone-ranger approach to ministry, this could be problematic.  The best system I have seen of accountability is where a pastor/and or staff  have a group of outside pastors that serve as an accountability team for their leadership and the overall ministry. This can also be formed with elders within the church as long as those elders are appointed (verses elected), approved by the congregation, and have been trained and tested. Healthy accountability never seeks to manage leadership, but rather to protect it.

3- How people are equipped and placed to serve.

Bad church experiences can be created by having the wrong people serving in the wrong places. In many churches, people are serving in ways that are based on merely what they want to do or feel obligated to do. This can be a prescription for negative experiences.  When people serve merely from the motivation of self-satisfaction or desire, people can tend to get “sticky fingers” and personal agendas.  They get territorial and see their role or area of ministry as “theirs.”  We want people to serve in their area of passion, but not selfishly. Secondly, when people get roped or guilted into serving, they end up serving in areas outside of their passion and giftedness. This ends up being a loss for them and a loss for the ministry. On top of all this, when no discernment is given to spiritual maturity, people end up serving in areas beyond their ability to do so and a negative situation is almost certain to arise.

Finding a church where people are placed and equipped to serve by the staff based on their passion, spiritual gifting, and maturity apart from guilt, obligation, or personal desire alone is critical.        

4- What the beliefs of the church are.  

Most churches have a statement of their beliefs, make sure you have familiarized yourself with them before getting deeply connected. Furthermore, make sure that you are familiar with all their doctrinal beliefs. Not all critical doctrinal beliefs are necessarily articulated in a church’s beliefs statement.

5- What the church’s stance on critical issues are.

What does the church believe about politics, abortion, homosexuality, Calvinism, divorce, Masonic Lodge, racism, Bible translations, tithing etc.?  Sometimes we get so inspired by our first experiences in a church that we don’t look under the hood before we get involved or join.  Yet, these are the kind of issues that come up down the road that can lead to negative experiences.  Make sure you go into a church “eyes wide opened” and thoroughly look behind the scenes to find out what that church is all about. First impressions are great, but can also be deceiving.  A ounce of upfront discernment and information seeking can pay off tremendously later on in preventing negative church experiences.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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