Should I take a stand on public matters that are political when I am a church? This is a question, in various forms, asked of me in the last month. Many pastors are challenged by the issues of our day. Should stances be made in … Continue reading Engage: Repent from apathy or neglect
Love wants work, we want flowers.
A phrase I use often in conversations is: That doesn’t pass the 1 Corinthians 13 test. Love wants, compels, and requires us to work. What we want with the concept of love is a Hallmark moment. Love does not work that way. If we want … Continue reading Love wants work, we want flowers.
Book Review: The Emotionally Secure Couple by Joe Martino
Change is possible. One of the biggest changes we need is the courage to engage in conflict rather than run from it, only to have an explosion. In the entirety of my ministry, conflict resolution, or peacemaking, is the most often used skill set used. I discovered the norm for most people is naivety on how to fight clean. If only there was a book that deals with this topic well, is positive, and gives hope. Joe does a masterful job laying out a philosophy and tools to help us engage in conflict.
“The Emotionally Secure Couple: The Key to Everything You Want in a Healthy Relationship” would be best read in order for the first reading. While one can go back and use the book as a reference guide later, each chapter does an excellent job of building to the next. The foundation is built well in the first 13 chapters. Chapters 14 through 22 give you the tools to live out a productive, healthy, and loving way to address inevitable conflicts. Make no mistake, even the foundational chapters are practical in nature. When we change how we think and process things, ultimately our actions will change.
A thing that is great about the book is exercises are given to help make the point of a chapter. Many books I’ve read have these (dreaded) discussion questions at the end of the chapter. Joe hits you with helpful questions or activities in the middle of the chapter. It is refreshing and honestly takes the sting out of books that give questions at the end. This also helps do something that is challenging for a book, it makes you feel like you’re getting a counseling session from the author.
Engagement is a word used often throughout the book. Don’t run. Don’t explode. (Joe uses different terms that challenge the way we view conflict.) Rather than becoming defensive or shutting down, the push in the book is how by engaging we not only resolve the issue, but we actually help the other person become better. Fighting does not have to be messy, it can actually be a time of growth and building a stronger safer marriage. This is different than thinking win-win. It is intentionally helping the other person know they are valued, heard, and secure.
“When we build relational equity, we create a space where bad things can happen but not define the relationship. We create space for a fight to occur and no one has to pay. We move back to a time where differences are celebrated.” Often people hear the term “emotional bank account” for this concept, but that is a little simplistic. It is more knowing the person you love to the extent that when there is an issue, it is safe to be dealt with by both. The book invests significant time explaining emotional equity, but also demonstrating how by fighting clean you actually build on this. This concept is the keystone to the book. The philosophy and the practical tools all hinge on building emotional equity in a marriage.
“It is my belief that any couple can come back from anything. They simply need to learn how to build the most important ingredient into their relationship and answer some basic questions every day.” The book doesn’t come from a perspective of fixing you, but rather equipping you. The power of choice is real and too often ignored. Choice is critical to the book. While there is trauma we may face and need help processing, it does not have to define the decisions we make moving forward. While Joe often challenges conventional wisdom, the challenge actually brings more hope to us rather than slavery to whatever.
“When you engage them by obviously seeking to better understand what exactly it is that they are saying and the emotions that are driving those words, you are telling them by your actions how much you actually love them.”
“Being intentional is the lynchpin that holds everything else together when you are working on building your relationship.“ While this is one of the rules of conflict resolution, it is truly the bottom line of the book. We get out of a relationship what we put into it. If we want our relationships to grow, we must choose to use skills that will build the other up while we are and or frustrated.
While many of my ministry minded people may not like the lack of Bible directly referenced in the book, it is there. The book is not a theology of conflict resolution or marriage. There are plenty of other sources out there. But when applying Peter’s instruction to “Love your wife in an understanding manner,” this book unpacks how to do that. I would highly suggest that while teaching on marriage to use this book to make the love aspect happen.
In pre-marriage counseling one of my key aims is to equip couples to fight clean. This book will be the cornerstone to making that happen. The other aims is to connect them to a counselor for key issues that need to be processed, financial planning, and planning the wedding. Wedding planning often allows couples to immediately practice the conflict resolution skills they’re learning.
Read for your own marriage. No marriage is perfect, and often those of us who help others can struggle to take care of our own family. Read the book. Do the exercises. Fight cleaner than you already are. The approach to the book is refreshing. Too often, especially in church contexts, we go to the honor, love, authority issues in marriage conflict. This neglects when the writer of the Song of Songs says: ‘This is my lover and my friend, in me he finds peace.’
The bottom line:
“The Emotionally Secure Couple: The Key to Everything You Want in a Healthy Relationship” is a must read because it changes the way we view conflict in relationships. It is more than conflict can be good. Joe gives a clear pathway to how you can make it good. This work seeks to change the perception of marriage. In doing so this book is not a shot across the bow, it’s a direct hit. We would be wise to engage and be intentional about changing the narrative around marriage. “The Emotionally Secure Couple: The Key to Everything You Want in a Healthy Relationship” shows us how.
The most hated concept in the Bible is love
Based on actions, I find that love is the most hated concept in Scripture. Love is the most wanted yet least acted on focal point in Christianity. Often the worst perpetrators are those who scold the church for being judgmental and unloving. If we are honest with ourselves, there really is very few people who have this concept nailed down. Ironically, they most likely don’t read blogs and do much social media. Likely that’s correlation not causation. We despise love and the church would be radically different if we acted on love. Here is what I mean…
Love fights for the relationship
A friend once stated that many Christians lack the relational maturity to fight for the relationship. Personal preferences, demands for perfect justice, hurt feelings, etc drown out what the Bible instructs is love. When these occurrences arise, we blame the church for being unloving/judgmental when the person standing in the mirror is guilty. A HUGE part of love is the concept of reconciliation. In North America we can walk across the street to the next church, but biblically we often shouldn’t. Biblical love fights for the relationship.
Love is servant minded
The first offerings of the church were 100%. The Biblical patter of church giving was sacrifice and not 10%. People cringe when a discussion of money comes up and pastors often have to couch carefully the discussions on money. This is a lack of love issue. The flip side of the coin is how we invest our time. We are a very impatient and demanding society. Church leaders have to be cautious when asking people to invest time into ministry given busy schedules. When people say they are burned out, it’s often things outside of church life that is the cause. Often people will give money so as to not have to sacrifice their time. (Ask most churches about volunteering to clean.)
Love assumes the best
A significant portion of christian misunderstandings happens from people assuming the worst. The “yeah, but…” crowd is the worst offender. Their hair-trigger on being easily offended and church-correct language demonstrate this in spades. So does the last election. (Oops, a card game reference.) The social justice crowd in the church is quite guilty of this as well. In some extreme instances, people often have to prove why something is not wrong before they can teach how it is right. Bringing up the needs to act on social justice issues brings this to light. I bet many reading this are thinking: Who is T. Woznek addressing? Is he guilt tripping someone?
We need repentance
Repentance is the key. Those not guilty are the exceptions. If you find an exception, spend time with them to learn what it means to be loving. I find every church has a least a couple. Christians as a whole need to repent and realize we are not loving, as defined by Scripture. Seeing as this is the greatest commandment, a new commandment, and the most excellent way, perhaps we should be much more focused on dealing with this area of repentance.
We need sanctuary
Church is to be a safe place where people can be wrong and broken so healing may result. Often we do not what to go through the pain of making that happen. This would mean fighting for relationships, being a servant, and assuming the best in people. It means choosing forgiveness over justice, submission over arrogance, being a listener over being right. On the other side of the pain is healing and worship, because there we so how profound the Gospel is. Jesus already modeled this for us.
We need a mirror
We hate love. Some reading this will think amen and be thinking of names. Others will say this is laying on the guilt trip. A group has a whole list of “yeah, but…” while another will try and read between the lines. Theologically right of center will say Im going liberal, left of center may ask the the same. The guilty will trying to reason their way out of guilt. The offended will scoff and roll their eyes. Love takes work, it takes choosing to value people first. It means there is a lot of bridges that need to be rebuilt. It is inconvenient.
The bottom line:
Look in the mirror and read what Paul wrote about love in First Corinthians Thirteen. Jesus and the Holy Spirit invested a ton of time teaching on love because we really don’t want to be loving. We need to be. We really do want to be loving. We really what our churches to be a place of sanctuary. If it really is about Jesus, we must master this area of repentance. Jesus already died for this, demonstrated it, and gave us a road map. So, look in the mirror, repent, and why not make love the most cherished concept instead of the most hated. That would be a radical.
P.S. Ok. Who or what am I thinking about? What is between the lines? You, because in biblical love there is no catch. I think our actions speak differently than our words in how we value this concept. So, let’s repent together and be better, because change is possible.
Think. Judge. Redeem.
Let us change the discussion from navel gazing at ‘the why’ of our problems and look to solutions. One sentence on the why of the “church” problems: Unbiblical thinking combined with lack of thought and theology leads to poor discernment and a mess. Now that the problem is out of the way, we can stop reading numerous church is blah blah blah articles. A wise professor drilled three concepts that will help us overcome: Think. Judge. Redeem.
Proverbs teaches us to be wise is to be godly. Ephesians 5&6 teaches us to be godly is to be wise. In Ephesians 4 as well as Romans 12 the Spirit points directly at the life of the mind. Christianity must work in the midst of suffering and chaos of our current world. And it does. Our fear stems from a lack of thought. Reason and faith are not opposed to one another. Our devotional life must ponder the deep questions of life as we study the Bible. Renewing our mind is a critical aspect to worship. Jesus did say we will not only worship in spirit but also in truth.
God is the source of all truth. In our current reality there is evil and suffering in the world. The question we then need to ask is how to we discern good form evil? Developing the mind is for the pragmatic result of discerning between good and evil, and between better and best. It is to, as Jesus stated, be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. This level of discernment is expected of us as Christians. (Read Hebrews 5:11-14)
Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. The world is not a mere reference to people, but all creation as well. As we discern truth from error we must answer the question of how to redeem it. As Paul states, redeeming the time for the days are evil. How can we take an object that is depraved, discern the truth of it, and then use such for God’s glory? We are not to live life as a great waiting room for heaven. We are to engage in life and assist in the process of making it new in anticipation of Jesus return. This takes courage.
Lights. Trees. Action.
Think. John talks about Jesus being the light of the world. Judge. Martin Luther, a pastor in Germany, is faced with the paganism of the people he is trying to reach. One pagan ritual was bringing in evergreen trees to celebrate the winter solstice. The people needed to move away from false religion and instead focus on Christ. Redeem. The solution was to add lights to the evergreen tree to represent Jesus as the light of the world. A tradition once tied to paganism is renewed to a symbol of an incredible truth.
Act, don’t react.
We react negatively when our mind and discernment lacks development. Worse, we act in fear. Developing the mind is a critical spiritual discipline. Discernment is essential if we are to not only speak the gospel but also live it. Redemption is a critical role we play as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Developing the mind does not take away from faith. Truly, developing the mind bolsters the reasonableness and truthfulness of the gospel.
The bottom line:
Developing the life of the mind is a solution to help the church radiate the truth of the gospel, bless our culture, and act with gracious courage.
Proverbial Thoughts: Pragmatism went down with the Titanic
As a first grader the Titanic captivated my attention. It was recently discovered by Dr. Robert Ballard and a classmate had a grandmother who was on the Carpathia during the rescue. At one point I had just about everything memorized about the ship that an elementary student could.
I discovered in college the reports on the Titanic investigation. The clever intro to the report was simple: Pragmatism went down with the Titanic. The Titanic set sail the way things were always done. Even with new technologies and size, no one challenged the status quo. New technologies gave a sense of false safety or their potential ignored. New size changed the way things operated. Sailing at full speed on a calm night was normal practice and no injuries happened as a result… until Titanic sunk.
The bottom line:
Change in life happens. Challenge the status quo went changes arrive. Because it always worked doesn’t mean it will work in the future. We cannot predict the future, but we can always revisit why we do what we do. Principles don’t change but methods and programs do and must. After all, pragmatism went down with the Titanic.
Book Review: reWritten by Bruce & Heather Moore
“With each life opportunity, God reveals to us more of His story for our lives and the potential for what we can become if we trust Him to author our future.” p. 35
Many of us have wondered, is this really how my life is supposed to be? Maybe your life’s story is marked by poor decisions or the hurtful actions of others. How can you turn things around? Is God still interested in using you? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Rewritten guides you through five life opportunities to exchange your story for God’s story. When you become the person He designed you to be and accomplish the tasks appointed to only you, you will experience the greatest fulfillment you could ever know and bring hope to a broken world.
Bruce & Heather Moore made the most extreme decision of their lives by leaving a large suburb church to rebirth a dying church with one year to live. They have seen the radical transformation of a church and the stories of countless lives rewritten. Bruce serves as Senior Pastor at Christ Fellowship Tampa and they have a very active preschooler.
reWritten is logical and flows together well as a book. The book is written in three sections: Your Story, God’s Story and The Exchange. The aim of the books is towards those whose lives are a wreck, though anyone will benefit from reading it. The first part had me skeptical at first of the book, until I remembered that ministry is really that messy. The second part is well written. The third part is pure gold. I appreciate discussion and thought questions, ‘story builders,’ were well placed throughout the chapters than merely as an after thought.
Story as metaphor
The Moore’s use the concept of story as a metaphor throughout the book. The over all concept of exchanging our story for God’s story. reWritten reflects this in the layout. The metaphor adds significance to how God uniquely designed each one of us for His good purpose. What stands out from this is how approachable the book is; gracious and dealing with truth.
He said what?!
My heart leaped when I read the table of contents. We too often get locked into the idea that if life is good, then God is blessing. The Moore’s deal with the topics of humility and suffering! Too often these areas are ignored. Of note, the section of forgiveness is well done. It’s important to read the book from beginning to end to get the full scope, but mark the last section up well. It’s an excellent resource for counseling. I appreciate in how the personal stories shared makes God the hero. Some stories end exceptionally, while other end with ‘because this is what God wants of us.’
“With each moment that we suffer, God brings us gifts that change our perspective and allow other people to see His grace in our lives.” p. 139 on suffering
reWritten is approachable without being inaccurate. It is definitely written from a pastoral heart that cares deeply for people. The book has one of the best rhythms I’ve seen in a long time. The first section had me on edge a little as almost being cliché. When starting to read remember that, yes, ministry is that messy. We forget that too often. The second part is a clear description of God’s image in our lives and the rhythm really picks up there. The pattern of the book is one we should model in ministering to people; moving from where they’re at to where God wants the to be.
The bottom line:
reWritten is an excellent resource to help people to take the mess of their story and to seeing what God wants to do in their life. This is a book that pushes us to live Godly, seeking what He is doing in our circumstances. It builds a big picture of the great God we serve. Well written, the book also addresses topics we often ignore, such as humility and suffering. For those who actively council and minister to people, reWritten is a helpful guide to keep on hand.
Book Review: Onward by Howard Schultz
“Starbucks never set out to be cool. We set out to be relevant!” p. 159
Starbucks always fascinated me. I picked up a book “The Starbucks Experience” and read about the amazing organization. Starbucks produces the perfect cup of what I call liquid love. I found Starbucks stores around the area did not follow what was written in the book. This took place at the start of Onward’s story. Onward is an excellent book on leadership. It offers a transformational plan of hope that doesn’t forget the human side of things.
The perfect cup
The book talks about the romance of coffee. While this may not seem to have anything to do with leadership, as you read you’ll see it has everything to do with it. For Starbucks coffee is the main thing. It is easy for organizations to get off the main thing. I picked the book up at Starbucks. As I read I found myself sipping my grande vanilla latte triple shot with whip cream, day dreaming about my first cup of Starbucks. In the business of life I forgot how much I enjoyed coffee. Organizations can forget the romance of what they’re about.
Growth can distract
One key thing I discovered is rapid growth can knock you off the main thing. Growth becomes the objective and not your core. Growth is a good thing. It’s key to many organizations. When growth dominates losing the main thing is very quick and subtle. I became stuck on good coffee after a month of drinking nothing but Starbucks. Coffee went from a drink to an experience. When I got back home, I put in the ‘current brand’ of I used at the time. I took a sip. I spat it out and visited my first Starbucks store. When an organization loses what’s core, it’s not palatable.
The right tools
A proverb my Grandpa often said: “If you want the job done right you need to give people the right tools.” Starbuck’s rapid growth masked a venti sized whole… infrastructure. The discussion on equipping people with the right tools and supporting the team was critical to Starbucks turn around. Infrastructure and the right tools places a foundation to sustain growth.
“The volume and duration of our partners’ jubilation exceeded anything we had heard or seen that day, providing proof of just how desperately our managers needed better resources and how hungry they were to do a better job.” p. 206
The most refreshing thing about Onward is something so vitally missing from our culture: humanity. Howard Schultz should be commended for running a business that does not forget humanity over profit, humanity over difficult decisions and humanity over what’s best for each store. This stood out most in the discussion on why Starbucks offers healthcare to even part time employees. Howard’s love for his dad was evident. Never forget where you came from. It would be a different world if organizations helped people didn’t just use them.
Abstract aspects that detail number cruncher types cannot wrap their minds around came up often. I’m not criticizing these types of people, they’re important. It is difficult to lead the ‘numbers types’ when you’re a dreamer. Onward will help you greatly in navigating this challenge in building your team and organization.
The bottom line:
Onward by Howard Schultz is a must read leadership book. It combines all the essential elements for leadership. It also offers hope. Even when an organization loses its way, it can turn around and get back on target. And, in that turn around it, organizations can embrace humanity in the process.
Why not Wednesday? Going retro
Let’s face it, tradition for a long time got a bad rap. Often hailed as the opposition to change, tradition has an aspect of humanity we cannot run from. It grounds us. Allusions to the past, or retro, shows up everywhere and for quite a while. Going retro demonstrates some cool things.
There is no school like old school. Often the old school has the art and delight for something we now take for granted.
Mimicking is the highest form of flattery. The quest to allude to things past celebrates the work and efforts of those in generations past.
Things of old contain value. Retro understands this but adds to it a flare of modernity. In a real sense, it is our contribution. Appreciation is the parent, depth is the new birth.
Tradition grounds us in a way that helps us navigate life and understand the world. It gives us perspective and stability in an (overly) fast paced world.
In a church context, the retro movement can be seen as a rediscovery of what church is. There is a sense that many churches have lost who they are in running from tradition. There is movement to have a more classic approach to church, but not stodgy. In large measure it comes from a realization that church is unique and it has a rich history. Tradition wasn’t the enemy, and each generation must add its nuance.
The bottom line:
Culture wide there is a reach for all things past. In one sense, perhaps this is a realization that we’re a unique culture. (America is still very young.) But, in another sense I think people are seeking stability. Connecting with the past gives a sense of calmness. After all, we’ve been here before.