Investing in the Next Generation of Leaders

This last week was somewhat of a milestone in our ministry.

The Senior Leadership Initiative (SLI) Cohort, to which Jen helps to give oversight, met in person for the first time since October of 2019.

This group of nearly 30 leaders represents the breadth of Cru ministries, from Campus to Family Life, Jesus Film to Athletes in Action. City, Josh McDowell and Global Headquarters are also represented as well as participants from Cru ministries serving in a number of overseas locations.

Participants of the Senior Leadership Initiative Cohort 8 graduate from their 2 year development program.

Potential leaders are nominated by their division leadership and encouraged to apply to participate in this unique 2 year development program.

The cohort is divided into 4 modules, lasting 6 months each. Each module has a live one-week conference that delivers content relevant to the theme of that particular module. These in-person conferences are critical to providing a relational component that encourages connection and collaboration among these rising leaders who serve in different Cru divisions.

The cohort was scheduled to meet in person in April 2020 in San Antonio to kick off the 2nd module, but as you know, all in person meetings and gatherings were suspended due to Covid.

The SLI Design team is responsible for developing the next generation of rising leaders who are serving across the multiple divisions and many ministries of Cru world-wide.

The design team on which Jen serves had to pivot and re-imagine how to deliver content and a leadership development experience in a strictly virtual environment.

We are fortunate to have technology platforms like Zoom for connecting virtually, but duplicating a week-long in-person conference into an online platform is particularly challenging.

For starters, nobody really wants to be in a Zoom meeting for 8 straight hours, much less for a full week!

Secondly, if you’ve ever been to a live conference or retreat, you know that there is so much that happens in the margins that just can’t be duplicated virtually. Side conversations happen at your table during the breaks and over meals that magnify the conference experience.

If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that there is no replacement for live, physical interactions with other humans.

Jen and SLI Director Alan Tung recognize cohort participants at the closing “graduation” ceremony.

This last week gave the participants an opportunity to experience those interactions first-hand, as their SLI experience came to a conclusion in San Diego. Because of the proximity of this module to our home, I was able to join Jen for the week and work remotely.

The SLI Design team did an amazing job keeping things together during this challenging season and helping this cohort to finish strong!

In addition, because of how Covid impacted large gatherings and conferences, we were blessed to be able to experience this module in a prime location that normally would be out of reach to us financially. It was certainly nice to be able to experience the week in such an amazing location.

View of North San Diego Bay and Coronado Island from our hotel.

Please pray for these leaders as they seek to implement what they’ve learned into their own leadership situation. Many of these leaders are moving into significant positions of responsibility within the organization. Pray that the leadership lessons they’ve learned will multiply their impact and influence, resulting in many more changed lives.

Thank you for your partnership with us that enables us to influence the next generation of leaders amongst Cru staff as well as Young Professionals in our community and around the world!

Who Was at Fault for the First Recorded Church Split?

Acts 15

36After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return to each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are getting along.” 37Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work. 39Their disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40Paul chose Silas, and the believers sent them off, entrusting them to the Lord’s grace. 41So they traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia to strengthen the churches there. (Acts 15:36-41, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

If you’ve had many conversations with non-believers about Christianity and the gospel message, you no doubt have encountered questions about “all the different denominations” of Christianity.

To many non-Christians the existence of so many different groups and denominations is a kind of proof of the invalidity of the message. After all, if Christians can’t get along and they disagree enough to split over, how can we believe the message they are promoting is true?

This line of reasoning argues that if Christianity were really true, there wouldn’t be so many “versions” of it.

If you happen to agree with this, you might be surprised to know that Acts 15 records the first known church “split”.

Paul and Barnabas were the first missionary super-team, having been commissioned and sent out in Acts 11 by the church at Antioch. Along for the ride was John Mark, who was the cousin of Barnabas.

In Acts 13, when they arrived at Pamphylia, the text says that John Mark left to return to Jerusalem:

Now Paul and those with him left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. 14But Barnabas and Paul traveled inland to Antioch of Pisidia.

The mention of John Mark leaving almost seems like an after-thought. There certainly isn’t any indication that his return to Jerusalem was anything more than an expected part of the plan.

But in chapter 15 we find out that John Mark’s return to Jerusalem was NOT a part of the plan – that he had left the team unexpectedly. In his first experience as a missionary apprentice, he washed out.

Now Paul and Barnabas are planning their return trip and Barnabas wants to take John Mark along. Paul wants nothing to do with John Mark, seeing as how he had deserted them on the previous journey.

Their opinion on this issue is so strong that they split. Barnabas takes John Mark with him while Paul selects Silas as his new sidekick.

When evaluating this situation, it’s natural for us to want to assign blame – to ask, “who was in the wrong?”

Let’s look at Barnabas for a moment. We first see Barnabas at the end of Acts 4 when he sells some property and gives the proceeds to the church. We learn that his name means “Son of encouragement”.

Barnabas was an encourager. He believed the best in people. It was Barnabas who first found Paul after he had converted and brought him to the apostles. Barnabas vouched for Paul when others thought his conversion story was just a ruse to worm his way into the church for the purpose of arresting and persecuting its followers.

And now Barnabas is wanting to give John Mark, his cousin, a second chance. It’s who Barnabas is.

But Paul is different. He’s a hard charger – a leader who is singularly focused. Because of Paul’s vision and determination, not only are numerous churches planted throughout the known world, but he writes half of the New Testament as well.

Being a missionary is serious business and Paul doesn’t have time for those who aren’t going to last.

So who was at fault? Who was wrong?

If you are an encourager like Barnabas, you’re likely to take his side and say that Paul was in the wrong.

However, if you’re a leader with a pioneering spirit like Paul, you’re likely to take his side and think that Barnabas was in the wrong.

In my opinion, neither was at fault or in the wrong. This is simply an example where two people with different personalities and different values could not agree. As a result, they decided to go their separate ways.

While some might bemoan the fact that they split as an example of “disunity” or even selfishness, consider the fact that by going their separate ways, their missionary labor force was essentially doubled.

In addition, God honored both groups. We see how Paul’s ministry continued to expand even without Barnabas by Paul’s side. Also, we know that John Mark did indeed learn from his previous mistakes, thanks to Barnabas believing in him. Even Paul, later in 2 Timothy 4:11, recognizes John Mark’s contribution when he states:

Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me.

So who was at fault for the first recorded church split? Neither party. Instead, both parties stood firm to their principles and personalities and as a result agreed to dissolve their partnerships and form new ones. God uses each new missionary unit to further his kingdom purposes.

So while it’s true that there are many denominations and many different groups within Christianity, it’s an overstatement to assume that the reason so many groups exist is because of some sinful or immoral separation. Though it’s possible and even likely that some splits occurred because of sinful and selfish reasons, it’s also true that the existence of different groups is not because of sin or immorality but simply different preferences and choices that in no way negate the validity or truthfulness of the Christian message.

In other words, just as God honored and blessed the two different groups that emerged from the Paul and Barnabas split, the existence of many different groups within Christianity today should not be seen as evidence against Christianity but as proof that God is able to accomplish His purposes and expand His reach despite the conflicting preferences and personalities of those who claim to be His ambassadors.

Reflection

In this scenario pitting Paul vs Barnabas, are you on team Paul or team Barnabas? Why did you pick the side you picked?

What has been your response to someone who argues that all the different denominations must somehow be a proof against the validity or truthfulness of the Christian message?

What insights have you gained from this passage that might help you to address those who seem overly concerned about the number of churches and denominations within Christianity?

What do you see as the primary values each person (Barnabas & Paul) were holding onto in their disagreement? When do you think a person should hold fast to their principles and when do you think a compromise is warranted?

 

Photo by Matt Moloney on Unsplash

A Psalm for the Those Who Aspire to Lead

Psalm 101

1I will sing of your love and justice. I will praise you, LORD, with songs.

2I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to my aid? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home.

3I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all crooked dealings; I will have nothing to do with them.

4I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.

5I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.

6I will keep a protective eye on the godly, so they may dwell with me in safety. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.

7I will not allow deceivers to serve me, and liars will not be allowed to enter my presence.

8My daily task will be to ferret out criminals and free the city of the LORD from their grip.

(Psalm 101: 1-8, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Billy Graham lived to be 100 years old and he was never a part of any kind of moral scandal. His son, Franklin Graham, explained here that Billy Graham lived by a principle that has come to be known by many as “The Billy Graham Rule” which, simply put, was a principle of never being alone with a woman other than his wife.

So Billy would never take a car ride alone with another woman or meet another woman for lunch, even if it was business or ministry related. He always met in a public place and required one of his assistants to be there with him.

If these “rules” sound extreme, it’s because they are. But they are effective as well. Billy knew that if he had a failure, and Lord knows that there are many godly men who have, it wouldn’t just be a stain on his own reputation, but it would affect the image of Jesus himself.

This Psalm reflects the spirit of a leader who is deeply committed to living a life of integrity and lifting up the name of the Lord.

The psalmist begins with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving before making a number of character-based commitments. Among them are:

    • a commitment to living a blameless life
    • a commitment to integrity
    • a refusal to look at anything vile and vulgar
    • a hatred for and rejection of all crooked dealings
    • a rejection of perverse ideas – avoiding evil at all costs
    • an intolerance for people who slander others
    • keeping a protective eye on the godly
    • only allowing those who are above reproach the opportunity to serve them
    • not allowing deceivers to be personal servants
    • avoiding those who are liars altogether
    • pursuing the daily task of ferreting out criminals
    • performing the daily task of seeking to free the city of the Lord (Jerusalem) from the grip of criminals

We live in a culture where temptations abound. The opportunity to slip up morally is more prevalent now than ever.

In addition, due to technological advances, scrutiny from those who might seek to capitalize on our mis-steps is also higher than ever.

In other words, there are more temptations than ever and more watchful eyes than ever. Therefore, the chances that our secret sins will eventually come to light are also greater than ever.

Leaders who want to live with integrity would do well to have a plan and to be intentional about placing safeguards within their lives to protect them from making the kinds of catastrophic mistakes that have drastic and long-term effects.

This Psalm is a great example of intentionality to a life of integrity, purpose and honor.

Reflection

What are some examples of Christians you know or know of who have experienced a moral failure?

What personal steps have you taken to live with integrity and honor? What kinds of principles or guidelines have you put in place in order to reduce the risk of a moral failure?

What are some situations or circumstances where you would be most likely to compromise?

Which of the items in the above list would be most challenging to you?

 

Photo by Hiroshi Kimura on Unsplash

What Can We Learn from the Temptations of Jesus?

Luke 4

1Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness, 2where the Devil tempted him for forty days. He ate nothing all that time and was very hungry.

3Then the Devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.”

4But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life.’ ”

5Then the Devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6The Devil told him, “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them—because they are mine to give to anyone I please. 7I will give it all to you if you will bow down and worship me.”

8Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God; serve only him.’ ”

9Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! 10For the Scriptures say,

‘He orders his angels to protect and guard you.

11And they will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone.’ ”

12Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’ ”

13When the Devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came. (Luke 4:1-14, NLT)

Hebrews 4

14That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. 15This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. 16So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few days ago, in my daily bible reading, I came across both Luke 4 and Hebrews 4. Both of these chapters have portions related to the temptations Jesus experienced from Satan in the wilderness.

What exactly was the purpose of the temptations Jesus experienced in the desert and how can we learn from His example?


NOTE: Many of my thoughts concerning the temptations Jesus faced come from a talk that Dr. Bill Lawrence, a former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, gave to a group of Cru staff at a conference in March, 2011.


Sin has been described as our attempt to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. In other words, we all have basic human needs that need to be met but we sin when we attempt to meet those needs in ways that are outside of the boundaries that God has set for us to meet those needs.

Dr. Lawrence, in his talk on the temptations Jesus faced, described the 3 temptations this way:

Every one of the temptations is related to what God wants you to do but not the way God wants you to do it. We are tempted to do God’s will but man’s way.

So how exactly are these three temptations an attempt to do God’s will but in man’s way?

In the first temptation, Jesus experiences the temptation to meet His own needs – to rely on himself instead of on God.

Clearly Jesus needed to eat. We all need food and sustenance to survive. But Satan was inviting Jesus to rely on His own resources instead of relying on the Father. Jesus recognized Satan’s tactic and quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, which states that people need more than bread for life, we need the Lord Himself in order to really live.

The second temptation, according to Lawrence, is the temptation to Self-Advancement. Jesus knew that it was the Father’s will that He would rule over the nations. Satan offered Jesus a shortcut to that outcome. But at what cost?

Jesus would have had to bow to Satan, who is NOT God.

Sometimes, because of our impatience, we can seek to get to a godly outcome via an ungodly process. In our haste to get what we want, we can cut corners and do things our way instead of God’s way.

In the third temptation, Jesus faces the temptation to make an impact. Remember that this desert encounter with Satan occurs at the very beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He’s a relative unknown. By throwing Himself down from the highest point and saving Himself, He would have instantly been seen as a divine being by the crowds.

Lawrence says that this is the temptation to self-assertion – to be successful.

There’s no doubt that had Jesus followed Satan’s plan, He would have gained an instant following. People would have recognized His power and divinity. But humility is more messianic than self-assertion and so Jesus rejects Satan’s offer for immediate fame and popularity.

These temptations are illustrative of the kinds of temptations we all face as human beings. We too face the temptation to meet our own needs instead of trusting God. We too face the temptation to do things our own way in order to get an outcome that we justify as “godly”. We too can act without humility, seeking to advance our own name instead of advancing God’s name.

In the Hebrews passage, we’re told the reason why Jesus experienced these temptations. Jesus experienced the temptations He did so that He could identify with our weaknesses and offer help to us in our time of need.

Jesus is our High Priest, which means He works as a mediator between us and the Father. Jesus is the perfect mediator because He knows from first-hand experience what it is like to be tempted with the kinds of things we are all tempted with.

The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus experienced, “all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.”

Jesus knows what we’re going through. He doesn’t just know on a cognitive level. He knows on an emotional level because He has endured the kinds of temptations we’ve endured, and yet, He did not sin.

This last part, He did not sin, is important because it means that Jesus is divine and therefore can relate to the Father, who shares in His divinity, while at the same time, He can relate to us because He lived a life where He experienced all of the same struggles, hardships, and yes, TEMPTATIONS, that we have experienced.

As a result of these two truths, the author of Hebrews tells us that we can have confidence to come boldly before God’s throne. Because of Jesus, God will extend mercy to us and offer grace to us when we need it most!

Reflection

Which of the three temptations outlined in Luke 4 do you struggle with the most and why?

In what ways have you seen the statement “sin is meeting legitimate needs in illegitimate ways” to be true in your own life?

What do you learn from Jesus’ encounter that you can apply to your own life in terms of resisting temptation?

The author of Hebrews states that Jesus is our High Priest and that He’s experienced temptation just as we have, and yet did not sin! This gives us confidence to boldly approach God’s throne. What does it look like for you to boldly approach God’s throne? What are some practical ways you have done that in your own devotional life with God?

NOTE: For more on this topic, check out this online article from Dr. Lawrence regarding Ten Temptations of a Leader”  

 

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Two Opposite Pictures of Leadership

Mark 10

35Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.”

36“What is it?” he asked.

37“In your glorious Kingdom, we want to sit in places of honor next to you,” they said, “one at your right and the other at your left.”

38But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?”

39“Oh yes,” they said, “we are able!”

And Jesus said, “You will indeed drink from my cup and be baptized with my baptism, 40but I have no right to say who will sit on the thrones next to mine. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

41When the ten other disciples discovered what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. 43But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. 45For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:35-45, NLT)

2 Samuel 11

1The following spring, the time of year when kings go to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to destroy the Ammonites. In the process they laid siege to the city of Rabbah. But David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

2Late one afternoon David got out of bed after taking a nap and went for a stroll on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. 3He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4Then David sent for her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. (She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period.) Then she returned home. 5Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent a message to inform David.

6So David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” 7When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing. 8Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax.” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace. 9But Uriah wouldn’t go home. He stayed that night at the palace entrance with some of the king’s other servants.

10When David heard what Uriah had done, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter with you? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?”

11Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and his officers are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I will never be guilty of acting like that.”

12“Well, stay here tonight,” David told him, “and tomorrow you may return to the army.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13Then David invited him to dinner and got him drunk. But even then he couldn’t get Uriah to go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance.

14So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. 15The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” 16So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. 17And Uriah was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers. (2 Samuel 11:1-17, NLT)

Philippians 2

5Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. 6Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. 7He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. 8And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. 9Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Today’s installment of the Daily DAVEotional includes 3 related passages that all appeared in the same daily reading based on the Grant Horner Reading Plan, which I’ve mentioned a number of times, including here, here and here.

Amazingly, these 3 different passages from different parts of the Bible provide an interesting commentary on one another, starting with the passage in Mark.

In this passage, Jesus is teaching His disciples a lesson about leadership. It actually starts in the verses prior to what I’ve listed here, when Jesus is talking again to His disciples about His death.

Immediately after this, James and John approach Jesus and instead of asking follow-up questions regarding what Jesus has just said, that He’ll be betrayed and killed before rising again three days later, these brothers begin jockeying for key positions of power in Jesus’ kingdom.

The other disciples catch wind of what James and John are talking to Jesus about and while they are indignant externally, internally they are probably kicking themselves for being beaten to the punch.

Jesus sees what’s going on and, of course He knows what’s going on in their hearts and minds, so He takes the opportunity to share a lesson on leadership in God’s kingdom.

The headline is this: Leadership in God’s kingdom is completely opposite of what you’d expect based on leadership in the world.

In the world’s system, kings (and officials) act like tyrants, using their power to get whatever they want in whatever way they deem necessary.

The passage in 2 Samuel 11, which happened to be part of the same daily reading, provided the perfect biblical example to illustrate what Jesus is saying. King David is known as a good king and was even said by God to be “a man after my own heart.”  But even though David is a good king overall, he has some major flaws, and in this situation, he uses his power to get something he wants regardless of whether it’s wrong or who it hurts.

David sees a beautiful woman bathing and he desires her, so he has her brought to him and despite knowing that she is the wife of one of his elite fighting men, he sleeps with her anyway.

His indiscretion backfires when Bathsheba reveals that she is pregnant. In an effort to cover up his sin, David has Uriah recalled from the battle field, hoping that he will sleep with his wife and thus think that the child is his.

But Uriah doesn’t comply with David’s scheme so David sends him back to the battle field carrying a message with the very command that gets him killed. What is often overlooked in this passage is that by having the front line attackers pull back so that Uriah would be killed, the text says that others were killed as well. So David, by his tyrannical actions, ends up taking another man’s wife, and murdering several people in order to cover it up.

This is the kind of leadership we see in the world even today. Though we have few monarchies, there can be no doubt that even in our current system, elected officials often take special privileges and enact rules on others that don’t apply to themselves. We shouldn’t be surprised, however, because Jesus tells us that “kings are tyrants and officials lord it over the people beneath them.”

This is how most leaders think and act – the people under them are there to serve them and their needs.

But leadership in God’s kingdom is 180 degrees different than what we see in the world. In God’s kingdom, leaders are servants whose purpose is actually to serve those under them. It’s completely flipped!

The Philippians passage, also appearing on the same day, provides a biblical example of servant leadership that is perfectly illustrated by the life of Jesus.

Jesus’ leadership was characterized first and foremost by humility. As God, one might expect that Jesus would come and demand worship and the kind of allegiance and attention that royals traditionally receive.

But Jesus didn’t come and start exerting His power and authority in order to serve Himself. The text says He gave up His rights in order to serve others. Jesus didn’t demand the worship and the kind of attention and fanfare that He deserves but instead, He fulfilled a mission of service, namely, going to the cross to die for the sins of humanity so that we might escape eternal judgment and be reconciled to God.

This is the kind of leadership Jesus tells us that we, as His followers, should exhibit. It’s a selfless leadership. It’s not self-serving or self-promoting. It seeks the needs of others and puts their needs and welfare above our own. As I look around the current cultural landscape, it seems to me that we could use more of this kind of leadership and a lot less of the worldly kind of leadership.

Reflection

What are some examples you’ve seen of the kind of worldly leadership Jesus describes, where kings (and officials) seek to serve themselves instead of their subjects?

What are some examples you’ve seen of leaders who exhibit the kind of godly, kingdom-oriented leadership that Jesus says His followers should exhibit?

What do you think are some reasons that make this selfless, servant leadership that Jesus promoted so difficult for people, even those within the church?

What are some steps or actions that would make servant leadership more likely for those who are in positions of leadership?

If you are in a position of leadership, are you using your power and authority to serve yourself or others?

What do you personally need to address in your own life in order to become the kind of servant leader who emulates Jesus’ example instead of David’s example?

 

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Fake News and Cancel Culture in the New Testament

Luke 23

1Then the entire council took Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman governor. 2They began at once to state their case: “This man has been leading our people to ruin by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king.”

3So Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say.”

4Pilate turned to the leading priests and to the crowd and said, “I find nothing wrong with this man!”

5Then they became desperate. “But he is causing riots everywhere he goes, all over Judea, from Galilee to Jerusalem!”

. . . . .

13Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, 14and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. 15Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. 16So I will have him flogged, but then I will release him.”

18Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” 19(Barabbas was in prison for murder and for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government.) 20Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. 21But they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:1-5; 13-21, NLT)

Acts 24

1Five days later Ananias, the high priest, arrived with some of the Jewish leaders and the lawyer Tertullus, to press charges against Paul.  2When Paul was called in, Tertullus laid charges against Paul in the following address to the governor:

“Your Excellency, you have given peace to us Jews and have enacted reforms for us. 3And for all of this we are very grateful to you. 4But lest I bore you, kindly give me your attention for only a moment as I briefly outline our case against this man. 5For we have found him to be a troublemaker, a man who is constantly inciting the Jews throughout the world to riots and rebellions against the Roman government. He is a ringleader of the sect known as the Nazarenes. 6Moreover he was trying to defile the Temple when we arrested him. 7but Lysias, the commander of the garrison, came and took him violently away from us, commanding his accusers to come before you.8You can find out the truth of our accusations by examining him yourself.”  9Then the other Jews chimed in, declaring that everything Tertullus said was true. (Acts 24:1-9, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

One of the advantages of the Grant Horner Bible reading system is that you begin to see how biblical events relate to each other. This is because each day, the reader reads one chapter from 10 different sections of Scripture. Since each section has a unique number of chapters, the number of days it will take the reader to read through each section is different, creating a unique “playlist” of chapters to read each day.

A few days ago, in consecutive days, I read Luke 23 and then Acts 24. I was amazed to see two different scenarios that played out in almost identical fashion.

In the Luke chapter, Jesus is arrested and appears before the Jewish Council, who then take Him before the Roman authorities to plead their case and seek punishment.

The Council leaders create a false narrative in order to see Jesus prosecuted to the fullest. What was Jesus’s crime? Jesus was accused of telling people not to pay their taxes. However, we know this is false. It’s a New Testament version of “fake news.”

In Luke 20:20, the Jewish leaders had sent “secret agents”, who pretended to be honest men, but were really trying to entrap Jesus. They had asked Jesus specifically if it was right to pay taxes to the Roman government. Jesus sees through their deception and tells them to grab a Roman coin.

“Who’s image is on the coin”, Jesus asked.

They replied, “Caesar’s”.

Jesus responds by telling them, “give to Caesar what is belongs to him and everything that belongs to God should be given to God.”

Now here we are, four chapters later and the story is that Jesus tells people not to pay their taxes. In verse 5, the Council’s desperation unfolds as they claim, without evidence, that Jesus is causing riots everywhere he goes.

Later, Pilate declares Jesus innocent of the charge of revolt, mostly because there’s no evidence whatsoever to support the charge. But that no longer matters because by this time, a mob of people have joined in to promote the false accusations, insisting that Jesus be crucified. Pilate, in an act of cowardice and weak leadership, gives in to the mob and allows Jesus, a man he knows to be innocent, to be crucified.

In the Acts story, the names are changed but the scenario unfolds in almost exactly the same way.

Paul is the accused now instead of Jesus. What is Paul accused of? Inciting riots wherever he goes. 

Do you see a pattern here?

After Paul is accused of being a troublemaker and inciting riots, other people chimed in, agreeing that it was true (verse 9).

So, the formula for using a fake narrative to get your enemy canceled seems to be:

    1. Find some powerful or influential people to accuse your enemy of something egregious, even if it’s not true.
    2. Get other people to repeat and vocalize the false narrative, creating a viral effect.
    3. Take the charge to someone who has the power to exact punishment.
    4. Use the power of the mob’s outrage to have your enemy canceled.

A few things I noticed in these two passages:

First, the people leading the charge against the accused are the same, the Jewish leaders. Though they may not be the exact same leaders in both cases, it’s interesting to note that this group of people, who should be the harbingers of truth and justice, ultimately wield their power for their own political purposes.

Secondly, while Jesus doesn’t answer His accusers, Paul speaks out and defends himself (we see this more clearly in the later verses of Acts 24, which were not included in this post for the sake of brevity).

Third, the outcome was slightly different in each case. In the case of Jesus, He is condemned to death mostly because of Pilate’s unwillingness to stand up to the people and do what he knows is right.

Paul’s situation dragged on, not because Felix was standing up to the mob, but because he was greedy and was hoping Paul would pay his way out of his predicament. He also wanted to gain favor with the Jews so he kept Paul’s case open for two years.

The last thing I notice, is that despite the injustice of it all, God uses both situations to fulfill His purposes.  Jesus’s injustice sends Him to the cross where He secures the salvation of the entire human race, while Paul, because of his situation, is able to take the gospel to Rome. Hundreds, if not thousands came to Christ even while Paul was in chains.

Reflection

When have you experienced an injustice that you didn’t understand? How did God use that situation to accomplish greater purposes in you and around you?

What do you think is the appropriate response if you’re being falsely accused? Should you keep quiet, much like Jesus did, or do you think it’s ok to defend yourself as Paul did?

What safety measures can you take to ensure that you don’t unwittingly become part of a mob that unjustly seeks to cancel others?

 

Photo by Joshua Miranda from Pexels

Dealing With Disappointment

Life isn’t fair.

Things don’t always go the way you want.

You can’t control everything.

In the grand scheme of life, this is just a momentary setback.

We’ve all heard statements like these. But try helping a disappointed 16 year old to understand and embrace these truths.

Life can be a cruel teacher at times.

In the last 3 months, we’ve experienced a number of unexpected life events.

In July, while our family was in Colorado, I received a call to tell me that my grandmother had passed away. She was 96 so it was not completely surprising. Still, you’re never quite prepared for the news that your last living grandparent has passed away.

In August, I received the news that my aunt, the last living sibling of my grandfather, had passed away.

And just two weeks ago, I received the news that my uncle, who was in his early 70’s had died unexpectedly.

Jacob (left) and Joshua (middle) running with their team in Mammoth. Joshua’s injury occurred some time during this training run to Rainbow Falls. Check out the video of this trail below, or at: https://youtu.be/T1czVLdEyKA

The hardest issue though that we’ve been dealing with these last two months centers around our son Joshua, who has been dealing with a foot injury.

As a parent, it’s so hard to see your kids struggle and deal with setbacks and disappointment. Our tendency is to want to fix things and make things better and to shield them from hurt. But that’s not always possible and it’s not always advisable either.

In early August, Jacob and Joshua headed up to Mammoth with the rest of the varsity Cross Country team for a week of training at altitude. I (Dave) tagged along as a parent volunteer.

It was a great week of bonding and conditioning. Their team is really strong this year and is highly ranked, both in the county and even in the state. Expectations are high and the anticipation for this season has been palpable.

Towards the end of the week, Joshua started experiencing pain on the top his right foot. He was immediately shut down from running until we could get it checked out.

An MRI revealed a stress reaction in the 2nd long bone of his right foot.

A stress reaction is basically a pre-cursor to a stress fracture, and though it sounds less severe, the recovery time is the same.

For the last 7 weeks Joshua has been doing nothing but pool workouts, by himself, isolated from the rest of the team.

Twice, he’s tried to start running again, only to experience a setback with new pain in his foot.

There have been lots of tears and the frustration has come out in a variety of ways. Every night we pray. Joshua’s constant request has been, “Pray that my foot heals quickly.”

After spending many conversations trying to dispense my sage advice (see statements above), with varying degrees of receptivity, I decided that maybe I needed another approach.

After much reflection, I’ve learned that I need to be slower to react and give advice and I need to listen more.

Joshua’s (far right) season so far has been relegated to trying to be a good team-mate and cheer his team-mates when they race.

I realize that I need to be more patient and not get so easily worked up when the response and heart attitude isn’t what I want.

I need to let Joshua process his own disappointment and loss while communicating that I’m for him and that we grieve with him.

Lastly, I want to help Joshua process his circumstances and learn what he can from this situation.

I’ve found that some of the coaching training we’ve been going through has been helpful to just ask questions. Questions such as:

What is the Lord teaching you? What are you learning about your identity and yourself through this? How can this situation help shape you as a person and leader? What can you learn about being a good team-mate through this?

Sixteen year olds are not always ready to learn these life lessons. But then again, us old guys aren’t always ready either!

Thanks for your ministry in our lives as we navigate the ups and downs of life and seek to learn our own life lessons.

Please pray for wisdom for us as we parent our twins and seek to guide them toward Jesus!

If you think about it, please pray for Joshua and his injury. Pray that his foot would heal and that he wouldn’t have any recurrence of the foot issue. Lastly, pray that he would consider the lessons the Lord is wanting to teach him through the situation he’s been in.

Growing our Leadership Capacity

Dave addressing 400+ students at the 2017 West Coast Epic Conference.

In January, I had the opportunity to share with students at our Epic Student Winter Conference about our ministry to Young Professionals in Orange County. While I was there, I connected with several of our former UC Davis students who are serving Christ in various capacities, some as full-time vocational missionaries and some as lay leaders. It was so fun to see how they are all still engaged in ministry in some way and how God is using them.

One of the things we’re passionate about is developing leaders who can significantly impact others for Christ.

When we were serving as campus leaders, our hope was to help each student become a life-long follower of Jesus. We wanted to develop leaders who were equipped with the tools and training necessary to make an impact for Christ wherever life might take them.

Former UC Davis Epic students connecting together at the Epic Winter Conference

We’ve been privileged to follow the journey of many of our former students who continue to walk with Christ and serve Him while making an impact for Him all over the world.

Some of our former students are serving as missionaries overseas in the Middle East, Europe and various parts of Asia while many are serving as missionaries with Cru on various campuses all over the country.

Some of our former students are serving as pastors in churches around the United States, while others are serving as lay leaders in their church and other non-profit ministries.

Still others are using their unique technical and administrative skills to serve the body of Christ on a global scale.

Cru’s Senior Leadership Initiative was started to fill the need to develop high level leaders to meet the global needs of the organization. Click the image to read the article from Outcomes Magazine.

What has drawn us to work with Millennials is the opportunity to have direct influence in the lives of Young Professionals, helping them to become unleashed to make the greatest impact they can make for Christ in their community and the world.

We’ve realized though that the job of developing leaders first starts with developing ourselves. Bill Hybels has said that “when a leader gets better, everyone wins.” When we grow as leaders, we grow in our ability to affect and impact others.

Jen and I are committed to developing as leaders so that we might develop other leaders who in turn impact others.

Jen poses for a picture with some of the women who help give leadership to the SLI leadership program

A few years ago, Jen was invited to participate in a two year Leadership Development program with Cru that we refer to as Senior Leadership Initiative (SLI). The program had a profound impact on Jen’s development as a person and as a leader and for the past four years Jen has been a part of the Leadership team that is implementing and executing this program for other participants (Click here to see our August 2013 Lowedown newsletter to read more about Jen’s experience as a participant of SLI).

Jim Williamson (left) is a former Cru staff member with the Impact ministry, Cru’s student ministry to students of African descent. Jim now works in the corporate world in Nashville and will be coaching me for the next 2 years.
Jim and Dave’s initial meeting over lunch at Cru’s Orlando Headquarters.

In February, I was invited to be a part of a leadership program Cru has just established called the Executive Coaching Cohort.

For the next 2 years, I’ll have access to a personal coach who is committed to helping me take the steps necessary to grow as a person and a leader.

In March, Jen spent a week in Dallas getting trained in Core Clarity, a program that utilizes the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment tool to help leaders understand how to maximize their talents and develop them into strengths for the greatest possible personal impact.

Jen attended the week-long Core Clarity Training which helps leaders unpack the Strengths Finder Assessment tool to learn more about their talents and understand their unique giftings.

We recognize there is more growth and development that is needed if we’re going to be truly effective in helping Young Professionals experience their full potential.

We hope to get more training in Coaching and other assessment tools that will enable us to minister to Young Professionals at a high level.

Thanks so much for the investment you’re making in our lives. The impact you’ve made is enabling us to impact the next generation of spiritual leaders!

5 Ingredients Necessary for Growth

When it comes to the spiritual dimension of life, why is it that some people thrive while others dive?

As we meet with Young Professionals, particularly those who identify as followers of Christ, almost without exception we hear them say, “I can’t find community.”

Robert is a Young Professional who, like many recent college grads, was looking for a spiritual community that matched the passion and commitment he experienced while being involved with Cru at Cal Poly, Pomona.

It’s a curious statement to make if you think about it because there are no shortage of good churches and small groups to connect with. How hard can it be to find community?

As we probe further, however, they often explain that they can’t find community like they had when they were involved with Cru in college. Or they can’t find community like they had in high school, or in a particular youth group.

Somehow, the opportunities for connection, growth and development after college aren’t exactly what they expected because they don’t mirror the environment and community that they had previously experienced.

For many Young Professionals, getting connected to a deep and meaningful spiritual community has been a frustrating and disappointing endeavor.

As we’ve thought about this issue of growth and development, we’ve concluded that there are 5 ingredients necessary to a person’s environment that make it substantially more likely they will thrive spiritually and live with purpose and meaning.

These 5 ingredients are:

  • Kingdom Vision – in order for a person to thrive spiritually over the long-term AND make an impact for Christ, they have to have a vision for God’s kingdom and be motivated to be a part of it.
  • Team – Most of us tend to take on the level of commitment and passion that exists in the people around us. So by surrounding ourselves with other like-minded people who really want to make a difference for God, we’re more likely to step up our level of passion and commitment.
  • Plan – if we have no plan for what we’re going to do to serve the Lord and make an impact, then nothing will happen.
  • Coach – numerous studies have shown the value of a coach in helping a person realize a goal or fulfill a vision.
  • Ongoing equipping and Development – people who are growing in character and personal development often have more to give.

For those who’ve been a part of a campus ministry like Cru or InterVarsity, these 5 ingredients were probably embedded within their community without them even being aware of it. The environment was tailor made for spiritual growth and development.

But after college, a community where these ingredients are readily present may be harder to find.

We want to help provide these key ingredients for Young Professionals so that they might get connected to a vibrant community and begin to thrive spiritually and live missionally.

We’ve recently launched something we’re calling Leadership Development Groups. These groups are not a Bible study but more like a professional cohort environment where Young Professionals meet monthly to process key biblical and life concepts together in a small group context.

Currently, Jen and I are each leading a group and we’re in our second month. So far, the response has been extremely positive as most of the Young Professionals we’re connecting with seem to agree that this is addressing a need that they’ve been seeking to meet for some time.

We’re pretty excited about the potential and we’re hoping to get new groups started in the coming months.

Would you pray for us and the current groups we’re leading as well as for the formation of new groups in the months to come?

Also, please pray for us to continue to think creatively about how we can provide these 5 key ingredients for Young Professionals in Orange County so that they might thrive spiritually and live missionally.

We are grateful for your prayers and your partnership with us!

The Impact of Passion in a Leader

How does a leader maintain his passion?

This was just one of the questions that was presented at the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), an annual 2 day leadership forum sponsored by Willow Creek Church in Chicago, where some of the greatest leadership minds in the world present their thoughts and experiences on what makes an effective leader.

This year, Jen and I attended a satellite location in Costa Mesa to listen to speakers such as John Maxwell, Alan Mulally (former CEO of Boeing and Ford), Patrick Lencioni, Chris McChesney, Bishop TD Jakes, Henry Cloud, Melinda Gates and others.

Bill Hybels is the pastor of Willow Creek Church and the founder of the Global Leadership Summit
Bill Hybels is the pastor of Willow Creek Church and the founder of the Global Leadership Summit

My favorite talk was the opening talk by Bill Hybels, in which he talked about the Lenses of Leadership.

Hybels’ opening line is that when a leader gets better, everyone wins. A leader moves people from here to there (a preferred future). But how does he do that?

Studies have shown that a motivated worker will outperform an unmotivated worker by as much as 40%. So clearly, motivation is a factor. But how do we motivate people. Hybels said that the highest factor in motivation is to work in and around a passion-filled leader.

So the question remains, how does a leader get and maintain their passion?

Pastor Hybels said that passion is usually derived from the mountain top of a beautiful dream or from the valley of frustration with something that completely outrages you.

Dr. Henry Cloud demonstrates the importance for a leader to have real connections with others.
Dr. Henry Cloud demonstrates the importance for a leader to have real connections with others.

Hybels said that there are three ways a leader gains and maintains passion: First, read passionate authors. Second, be around passionate people. And third, go to places that fill your soul.

Over the course of the two days, I found that my own soul was getting filled as we heard from passionate leaders who shared wisdom from their years of experience.

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the author of the best selling book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”

Jen and I hope to continue to fill our passion bucket through some of the books we picked up from Global Leadership Summit keynote speakers. Jen will be reading a book by Erin Meyer entitled the “Culture Map” while I picked up “Emotional Intelligence” by Travis Bradberry.

Please pray that we would be leaders who are passionate and able to motivate those around us to move toward our preferred future – one where Millennials throughout Orange County are connected to and experiencing Jesus fully and who are mobilized to make a difference for Him at work, at home and throughout their community!