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You’re invited to pray every day at 8:46 am and 8:46 pm.

We’ll post prayers each evening at 8:46 pm on the Transforming Mission Facebook page. They’ll be simple sentence prayers with the hope that you’ll repeat the prayer into the evening and throughout the next day, pausing specifically at 8:46 am to pray. (Hint: Your cell phone alarm is a great alert system!)

Why 8:46?

The time represents how long now-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used a knee to pin George Floyd by the neck on the pavement. As you know, Mr. Floyd died soon afterward.

As we unite in prayer, may we have eyes to recognize the evils of racism, the heart to be open to the necessary changes, and the will to confront the injustices of this world. Join us on the Facebook page at 8:46 pm. May prayer change us so we can change systems that perpetuate racism.

Additional Resources

Here are a couple additional articles about addressing racism and becoming antiracist:

The prayers posted are written by Tim Bias, Sara Thomas, and/or adapted from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals and Sacredise.

Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” ends with Hamlet saying, “In this harsh world, draw thy breath in pain to tell my story.”

When this harsh world continues to give us tragic, racially charged, and unnecessary deaths of black sisters and brothers, it is way past time to speak up, regardless of how painful or uncomfortable it might be. The list of Black lives who have been needlessly killed grows each day. The killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, are more chapters of the pervasive culture of racism and white privilege in our country. 

We have been fighting the pandemic of racism and white supremacy my entire lifetime. Whether you and I understand it or not, we are complicit in the racism that is ravaging our communities, our public institutions, our churches, and our families. Racism is deeply embedded in our white identity. 

Draw Our Breath to Speak

Today, I draw my breath in pain to name and condemn white nationalism.

We have 400 years of history to face if we are going to change our future. 

As we draw our breath to speak, we have a Word upon which to stand. If we are to change our future, we must stand upon this Word.  

  • It is a Word that claims every human being, regardless of color, gender, nationality, is a child of God. This is not rhetoric. We are of one family and we are responsible for one another. 
  • It is a Word that claims the unconditional embrace of each and every family member in the face of discrimination and exclusion based upon color or gender.
  • It is a Word that declares God’s unapologetic advocacy of and standing with our sisters and brothers who are oppressed and marginalized.
  • It is a Word that cries for God’s inescapable justice against embedded hatred and habitual violence. Regardless of what we call it, hatred has no place in our human family. 

Draw Our Breath to Acknowledge Racism

Now, let us draw our breath and acknowledge that racism is sin and a direct assault on the Word upon which we stand. Let us confess and renounce our own complicity. Let us stand against all expressions of racism and white supremacy, beginning with the racial, cultural, and class disparities in our country, our state, and our church.  

If we are to face our history of racism and to shape our future without racism, let us draw our breath to examine our own attitudes and actions.  Let us draw our breath as we vote for governmental leaders. Let us draw our breath as we fight the disease that threatens our ideals and the lives, livelihoods, and dignity of too many of our family members. Let us draw our breath to love each other regardless of our differences.

Draw Our Breath as Jesus Followers

Let us draw our breath to be followers of Jesus, who taught us how to live in relationship with God and with one another. Let us draw our breath with transformed hearts as we yield to the righteousness and love of God.  

I have not given up hope, but I have decided writing words on a page or posting them on social media is not the answer.  So, I am asking you to join me in taking one step toward learning about and stopping racism in your community.

What is one thing you can and will do to learn about the racism in which you participate every day? If you say you are not participating in racism, I say you have some learning to do.  If you say you don’t know or have any ideas, email me. I can and will give you some things you can do. If you say you don’t want to and that you are fine the way you are, I will say I am praying for you and for your soul. 

In the meantime, let us draw our breath in prayer.  Let us pray for the Floyd family, for the Arbery family, and the Taylor family as well as the many families whose lives are tragically altered or whose fears have been heightened as a result of these inexcusable tragedies. 

Know that I draw my breath to pray for you, for our church, and for our future as followers of Jesus and as citizens of the United States of America.

How are you feeling this week? You have done well in adapting to the abrupt changes brought about by the pandemic. You have discovered new ways of communicating and connecting. Just with regular use, you are perfecting the use of technology as you step into what is being called “a new normal.” As you look at the calendar, it looks like there are just a few more days to go. 

You and I can adapt to just about any situation for a short period of time.  You “have to do what you have to do.”  But this virus does not pay attention to the calendar. Have you considered that this pandemic will have you living differently for an extended period of time? Do you have a backup plan? 

Always Have a Backup Plan

I have a friend who enjoys hiking and backpacking.  When he was younger, he hiked parts of the Appalachian trail, spending several days and nights at a time alone in, what I call, the wilderness. In a recent conversation, he told me some of the best advice he received regarding hiking and backpacking comes from an older hiker who said, “Always have a backup plan.” The older hiker talked about having a mindset that could get him through if things happened in the wilderness that was unexpected. The older hiker asked, “What if you had to be out there for an extended period of time?   

My friend took the hiker’s advice to heart. He formulated an outline, a backup plan, for such situations. In our conversation, he told me the outline had been helpful both practically and spiritually in the midst of our current situation.  

Wilderness Plans

This pandemic is our wilderness.  We are going to be in this wilderness period longer than what we have planned. What is your backup plan? Here is what my friend shared with me. 

Adapt

If unexpected circumstances come your way, you need to adapt quickly. It is not easy, but it is needed. Accept the reality of your situation and move from that point. Simply bemoaning the situation does nothing. Both trusting God to help you see things as they are and leaning on God for strength and direction are key.  

Again, you have done well in adapting to the changes. The situation has called for living and leading differently and you have risen to meet the challenges by adapting. 

Adopt

Knowing that the situation might continue longer than expected, you adopt a different way of living and approach each day for what it has to offer. Because your original situation has changed, different practices, perspectives, and principles will be called for. The sooner you adopt a new way of living, the sooner your mind, body, and spirit can move forward. Trusting God to show you the path and trusting what you are learning is essential in moving forward

Now is the time to adopt new procedures and to develop different systems to carry you through to the end of the pandemic.  What have you been doing that you need to continue?  Then consider, what have you put on hold that now needs to be implemented in a different way? What new practices, perspectives, and principles need to be communicated? The time has come to adopt new ways of living and leading. 

Adept

Then you work at becoming adept or skilled at living and leading in and through these changes. The new practices, perspectives, and principles are not temporary things to be tolerated. You must begin by developing abilities to function and live well under new conditions. Use the new situation and circumstance to grow in new ways. Again, you are trusting God to lead you as you are shaped and molded by God’s love in relationship to the people entrusted to your care.    

I know this pandemic is not a backpacking trip. Even as much as I wish it was, the reality is we are in this wilderness for an extended period of time. This perspective of adapt, adopt, and adept can assist you spiritually, physically, and mentally during these difficult days. 

Pause to Reflect

Take a moment now to reflect and then act on the following:

  1. Make a list of what you have adapted over the past two months.  Include how you have been living, working, leading, worshipping, etc. Once you have made your list, give God thanks for the ability to adapt during a difficult situation.
  2. Now make a list of the practices, procedures, and principles that you think, and feel are the things you need to adopt or incorporate into your living and leading for an extended period of time. Consider how you are connecting and communicating with family, friends, and the people entrusted to your care. What needs to be adopted for worship, bible study, and pastoral care? Once you have made your list, ask God to give you insight and wisdom to lead in through this crisis.
  3. Now make a list of what skills you need to learn and to sharpen to live and lead through this time of crisis. You know what you know and what you need to learn. Model for the people around you ways in which you are stepping into a new reality. Ask God to give your wisdom and strength for stepping out and learning new ways.
  4. What one behavior will you focus upon changing or sharpening this week? When you have decided, call a trusted friend or colleague to journey with you as you become more adept at leading during this time.  You were created to lead during this time.  You are not here by accident.  Now is the time to step up and be the leader God has created you to be.  What one behavior will you focus upon this week? 

You and I can adapt to just about any situation for a short period of time.  Knowing our current situation, the time has come to meet the challenges of living and leading differently for an extended period of time. Wherever this journey leads, trust God and lean into God’s new future. God has called and equipped you for this time. So, what is your backup plan? 

 

During the moments you find yourself in crisis and you are questioning your faith, in whom do you place your faith? As you explore your faith, see if one of the following scenarios feels familiar:

Scenario 1

You have a strong faith. It has been growing since you were a teenager and has served you well through your young adult years, marriage, and starting a family. Then, the unthinkable happens, you lose a child to sudden infant death, or a family member is killed in a form of violence, or there is a betrayal of a close and trusted relationship. Walking through the reality of the grief and pain of that experience does not allow you the option to pretend you are fine. In fact, you finally admit that you have not been fine for quite some time.

You have kept the questions, good Christians aren’t supposed to ask about their beliefs, below the surface, but now they are bubbling up out of your control. Up to this point, you have avoided facing them head-on. You feel fine until you experience grief on a deeply personal level. The devastation has you facing your doubts and you realize your system of beliefs is no longer adequate. 

Scenario 2

You have been a Christian for over 30 years. Your faith has formed every aspect of your life, your wedding vows, the raising of your children, your relationships at work, your participation in the church, and your leadership in the community. It has formed you as a coach in the youth basketball league, your position on the town council, and as a volunteer in a service club.

You have a conversation with your most trusted friend. You say out loud what has been churning in your mind and heart for years. “I don’t really believe there is a God. Whatever faith is it does not work for me.”

Until now, you have been able to control your thoughts and emotions, but you do not want to wrestle with them any longer. You don’t want to seem irresponsible but going through the motions of your faith has you questioning your integrity. There’s something inside you that says, “I just want to feel normal, to be known for who you really am, and to have some inner peace with myself.” 

Transitions of Faith

If any of what you just read feels familiar, you might be one of the many persons going through a faith transition. Mike McHargue, known as Science Mike, has gone through a faith transition from believer to atheist, and then back to a believer. He has wrestled, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally with his faith.

He writes, “Sociologists tell us that 43 to 44 percent of people will go through a major faith transition at some point in their lives.” He continues, “And that’s any faith transition. So that can be from one Christian denomination to another denomination; that can be from belief to atheism; that can also be from secularism to some form of religiosity.”

“The more rigid your faith structure, the more drastic the leap of faith required to start asking questions surrounding it.” He points out, “To ask one question will lead to a lot more.”

So, why would I want to bring up such a subject? As a pastor or a leader, you are surrounded by people who are wrestling with faith. Whether it is in the pew or in the community, people are looking for authentic experiences of care, compassion, and belonging.

You and I find such authentic experiences in Jesus. 

So, the question is, why would anyone want to transition from Jesus to someone other than Jesus? The answer is, they are not transitioning from Jesus but from the objects that keep them from Jesus. Below are several of those objects. I name the following challenges, recognizing some might elicit controversy. I also recognize until we name the challenges, I cannot lead people in addressing the challenges. 

Objects of Misplaced Faith

1.The Bible

The written word of God points us to the Word of God, Jesus. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus is the center of faith. The Bible points us to Jesus.

Today, many Christians overstate the importance of the Bible. For some, the Bible is the focus or object of their faith. 

But remember, our faith is in Jesus. When your faith is in Jesus, then you are able to have open and safe conversations about the truth of the Bible. There can be questions raised about inconsistencies and contradictions, discrepancies and mistranslations. 

Raising questions about scripture does not make the Bible less important. In fact, the questions lead to the truth the writers of the biblical texts give witness. In the end, the Bible, with all its debatable mistakes and misquotes, still points us to Jesus, God’s love and our hope made flesh. 

But when the Bible becomes the object you worship, when what you worship is the Bible, not Jesus, a conversation about scripture is a threat. Once you start questioning the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, the rest of your faith soon crumbles.

Faith is centered on who you trust, not centered in what you believe. Jesus never asked anyone to have a belief in God, but he did ask people to love God and to love their neighbors. Jesus called people to a way of life. He said, “Follow me, be my disciples.” Living life as a Jesus follower is different than saying I believe in God or I believe in Jesus. 

Belief is important, but what you believe is not the focus of your faith. Jesus is. So, I say again,

people are not transitioning from Jesus but from rigid beliefs that keep them from Jesus. 

2. The Pastor:

A good spiritual leader is essential. Having someone you trust to walk with you through periods of doubt, despair, and discouragement, who can help you keep your eyes upon Jesus, and who models God’s love feels unbelievably good. 

But your pastor is not the center of your faith. Your pastor points you to the person who is the center of your faith, Jesus. 

When your faith is in Jesus, you are able to listen to and follow the persons gifted and called by God to love and lead in and through the church. Regardless of gender, race, age, politics, or status, when a person is gifted and equipped by God to love who God loves, then Jesus is at the center of all relationships. 

But when your faith is centered in the pastor, you focus more upon what the pastor believes than upon Jesus to whom the pastor is pointing. Once the pastor does not believe what you believe or act the way you want him or her to act, then your faith begins to wander. 

When your faith is centered in the pastor, then only a certain kind of pastor will do. Or, even more misdirected, only a certain, handpicked, interviewed, and approved pastor will do. So, your allegiance is centered on the pastor and not in Jesus. 

Pastoral leadership is important, but your pastor is not the focus of your faith. Jesus is. So, I say again, people are not transitioning from Jesus but from our misplaced allegiance that keeps them from Jesus. 

3. The Church

It is the church, as an institution, that gets in the way. When the church as a system of hierarchical control with political entanglements, abuse of authority, lack of integrity, becomes the center of faith, pastors leave their pulpits and people leave the pews as well as the faith altogether. 

Jesus is the reason the church exists. So, when Jesus is not the focus of the church, what is the use of the church? 

When the church is an instrument of pointing people to Jesus, nurturing them in the faith, and sending them out to love and serve, then people are drawn to Jesus and to Jesus’ followers. People need such institutions as instruments or conduits of faith.

But when the church becomes nothing more than a club where membership has its privileges, where an open and safe conversation is discouraged, where people are received based upon their acceptability, and where the building has more value than the people to whom the church is called to love and serve, you have a problem. 

The community of faith, the church, is important, but the church as an institution, as a building, as a special club is not the focus of your faith. 

So, I say again, people are not transitioning from Jesus but from the lack of care, compassion, and belonging in a Christian community. 

Navigating the Objects of Misplaced Faith

So, what are you to do as people attempt to navigate the objects of misplaced faith? How will you respond as people search for authentic expressions of faith? In the midst of crisis, doubt, and transition, your leadership is needed. I challenge you to do the following: 

  • Be clear within yourself in whom you place your faith.

Is your faith in the person of Jesus? If not Jesus, in whom or what do you place your faith?

  • Provide space for persons to question, explore, and discover their faith.

People need non-judgmental space to ask their questions and to explore. Your church is a place where everyone is welcome. It is also a place where people, all people, can wrestle with doubt and find the faith for which they are desperately searching. 

  • Be a person of authentic care, compassion, and acceptance 

You don’t have to be an expert, but you do have to be authentic. Both humility and vulnerability are needed in assisting persons in exploring faith. Pay attention to what others are learning from their exploration. It will help you become more who God created you to be. 

  • Continue to point people to Jesus.

People are searching for deep and meaningful relationships. Be aware of appropriate moments when you can point people to Jesus, your deepest and most meaningful relationship. 

The people in our communities and in our churches are looking for authentic experiences of care, compassion, and belonging. I find such authentic experiences in Jesus. The Bible, the pastor, and the church are instruments through which people discover, experience, and follow Jesus. 

In the midst of such uncertain days of exploration and transition, in whom do you place your faith?

A person claimed to weave “biblical principles” into his business. When his business went bad and the stock market dropped, he left his investors to pay his debts and his customers to pick up the pieces. 

Another person talked about integrating biblical principles into her business. When her business fell on hard times and the stock market dropped, so did her livelihood. But she did not run away. She stayed and worked out a plan to pay back her investors and to care for her customers. 

No one respects a person who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. You will have a greater impact by what you do as opposed to what you say. Most people will forget 90 percent of what you say, but they will never forget how you live.

Dishonesty and Lack of Integrity

In a day when “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable mode of operation, do you justify acts of dishonesty for valid reasons? Consider these examples:

  • overpromise and under deliver
  • exaggerate in job interviews to secure a job
  • overstate budgets to get what you want
  • understate values to get a better deal
  • cover up mistakes so you don’t lose a customer
  • call in sick because you don’t have more paid time off

Each of the above examples is an act of dishonesty which in the end reveals a lack of integrity. 

Losing the Ability to be Trusted

It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of integrity. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification for a moment, but it never lasts. What have you gained if you lose your ability to be trusted? 

Maybe that is why Paul wrote to Timothy: 

Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.1 Timothy 4:15-16 

Paul tells Timothy to watch himself and his teaching. In other words, watch your life and your doctrine. Better yet, give careful attention to your behavior and belief. Make sure they match. Constantly examine yourself to see that your walk matches your talk and that your practice in life matches your profession of faith. 

Integrity is Forever

James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, write, “If you step out into the unknown, the place to begin is with the exploration of the inner territory…”

If people are going to follow you whether into ministry, business, or the ballfield, they want to know if they can trust you. Do you keep your promises and follow through with your commitments? 

Brene Brown in Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead writes, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” 

Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences. It takes years to build a reputation of integrity, but it takes a second to lose it. 

Integrity points to a consistency between what is inside and what is outside, between belief and behavior, your words and your ways, your attitudes and your actions, your values and your practice. 

Does Your Behavior Match Your Belief?

So, the question is, does your behavior match your belief? 

If the answer is “Yes”, every person who trusts you will spread the word that you are trustworthy, and the truth of your character will spread. The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured.

At work, you will be trusted by colleagues and customers with more responsibility. In the home, you will be trusted by a spouse to be faithful and by your children to be present. It means you will have people willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputations.

When your behavior matches your belief, you will experience limitless opportunities and endless possibilities.

Maintain Your Integrity

So, as a leader, what do you do to maintain your integrity? You choose to be vulnerable and you develop your character.

First, choose to be vulnerable.

  • Integrity is a choice. Choose courage over comfort. Choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. Choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.
  • Be accountable. If you slip up, apologize. Make amends and make it right. It might be uncomfortable but being accountable will build trust and credibility. Don’t let one integrity slip alienate everyone around you.
  • Be transparent. Say what you mean, mean what you say and, of course, don’t be mean when you say it. Trust develops when people feel like they don’t need to keep up their guard.

Second, develop your character. 

  • Be kind to yourself. Stop the inner voice that is verbally and emotionally beating you up. Speak to yourself as you would speak to someone you love: your spouse, your child, your friend.
  • Be the person you want others to be. Modeling integrity and good character are much more effective than telling your team what to do. Showing that you’re always willing to make the difficult, courageous decisions build connection and trust.
  • Character is built one choice at a time. Integrity is all about consistency. It’s doing the right thing, for the right reason, even when no one is watching, even when you don’t want to.
  • Integrity comes from the Latin word “integer,” meaning whole. In every moment, and at every decision, lead from a place of wholeness. 

Do what is right and let the consequences follow. No one respects a person who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. Remember, success will come and go, but integrity is forever.