A Zero-Sum Game

As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly… (1 Samuel 18:7–8a, NIV)

Ah, pride. King Saul had it in spades. As the first king of Israel, he pretty much had unlimited power; and we’ve all heard the saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s precisely what happened to Saul. And when a new leader began to rise and gain influence with the people, Saul felt his power threatened; his pride was poked in the eye, and he became outraged.

Saul was looking at things from a zero-sum perspective. In other words, if power is a zero-sum game, David’s rise in power and influence is only possible if Saul’s power and influence decrease. As David gains it, Saul loses it. And Saul didn’t like losing it.

As I reflected on this story, it occurred to me that this issue is very prevalent in our families, our workplaces, our schools, our nation, and (if we’re honest) our churches. It’s the mindset behind the posturing and politicking, the manipulating and popularity contests, the territorialism and insecurity. We are in a position of influence, God calls up another leader, and we immediately feel threatened. Often we react the same way Saul did. We get angry. We get scared. We draw battle lines. We try to discredit the other person. We turn passive-aggressive. We try to limit their sphere of influence. Saul tried to kill David. We may not go that far, but we just might attack their character through gossip and slander.

The truth is, power is a zero-sum game, and God has all of it. The moment we think that we have any of it is the moment we put our foot in Saul’s snare. All the power belongs to God, and He raises up leaders to serve His purposes according to His will and sovereign plan. God raised up Saul for a time, but power and position don’t last forever. When we find ourselves in Saul’s shoes, watching a David rise through the ranks, let’s not make Saul’s mistake. The power and the position were never ours; they are God’s and always will be. God has a plan for that person, and we have an opportunity to use our experience, training, and wisdom to help rather than hinder.

My prayer for the week is that God will bring to us someone we can pour into and be part of God’s plan for their life and ministry.

A Shepherd

“[F]rom tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people… And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Psalm 78:71a, 72, NIV).

Psalm 78 is a great overview of Israel’s history and how God led them, protected them, provided for them, and disciplined them when they sinned. It reveals God as the Shepherd of His people, and we shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus is also revealed as a shepherd in the New Testament, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). In Psalm 78 God raised up another shepherd to lead His people–David. And I love what the Bible says about David’s leadership as king of Israel: he shepherded them with integrity of heart and led them with skillful hands.

As someone God has called to be a pastor (or shepherd, for that is what the word pastor literally means) of His people I pray these words would be true of me as well. I confess my sin to God and ask for integrity of heart through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. And I constantly pray for wisdom, that I may lead with skillful hands. I pray this as well for the elders and all those in leadership at LakeView.

Hebrews 13:7 says to “remember your leaders” and a few verses later in 17 it says that the leaders of the church “keep watch over you as those who must give an account.” The elders, who are also shepherds of God’s people, have a heavy responsibility. They will stand before God one day and give an account for every decision they made, every word they said, every policy they wrote as an elder and shepherd of LakeView. They need our prayers and encouragement to shepherd with integrity of heart and lead with skillful hands.

Will you join me this week in praying for each of the elders by name?

  • Mike Moll
  • Ryan Horrisberger
  • Wayne Hansen
  • Tom Roe
  • Kevin Louis
  • Gary Cook

Going To Work With Dad

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

Yesterday was my last day at Pontiac Bible Church.  Many people shared encouraging words of affirmation with us, and we walked away with a new appreciation for how God works.  God chose to include us in his plan to minister to people at PBC—what a privilege!  Yes, we endeavored to serve faithfully where he called us for the past six years, but God did all the heavy lifting.  It was good timing as I read these words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel this morning.  Almost as if God was reminding me, “Don’t start thinking you’re a hot shot because of all that’s happened in recent months.  Remember the path to greatness.”

My prayer this week is that we will remember in our leadership roles that we are accompanying God on his ministry.  We should be faithful in our service, but it is God who will accomplish the task.  It’s kind of like going-to-work-with-Dad-day every day!

Greater Than John

“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11, NIV).

If belonging to the Kingdom puts us in spiritual leadership positions on par (or even greater, as Jesus says) with men like John the Baptist, then I’d say we’re in good company!  But let’s be humble (like John was) and remember that we still have much work to do, and that we need the Spirit of God to empower and enable us to do it.  That brings to mind Hebrews 12:1-2a:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Prayer for this week: that we follow in the footsteps of great spiritual leaders in the Church while keeping our eyes on Christ, so that we may be filled with the Spirit to accomplish our calling.

Post-Easter Blues

Most pastors and church leaders will tell you that Easter is one of their favorite Sundays of the year.  I often refer to Easter as the “Super Bowl” of Christian worship.  Most churches pull out all stops with their Easter services–special music, a special message, special programming, maybe even a different venue.  Many churches add an additional service, and Easter is usually one of the highest-attended worship services in a year.  The atmosphere is one of excitement and anticipation, and for good reason.  What could be a greater cause for celebration than the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

You might think that a large attendance, a big production, a chance to passionately share the gospel, and an opportunity to rejoice because Jesus is alive would mean that pastors go home from Easter Sunday on cloud nine.  It may come as a surprise to learn that many, many pastors contemplate quitting the ministry the day after Easter.  The “post-Easter blues” aren’t logical, but they are real.  We lie awake Easter night wondering if all the work, the expense, and the production was worth it.  We are keenly aware of every little misspoken word, missed cue or other minor mistake.  We will have a list a mile long of ways it could’ve been better before the Easter ham has been eaten off our dinner plate.  While our kids are hunting for Easter eggs on Sunday afternoon, our minds are divided–still half-focused on the service, and wondering if any of the decisions to follow Jesus that were made were genuine.  We may be irritable and snap at friends and family members–only a few hours after exalting the risen Christ in worship!  And on Monday, the day after Easter, many pastors will seriously consider resigning from their pastorate to pursue a career in the “real world.”

I’m not writing this so you’ll feel sorry for pastors.  My purpose is to ask you to encourage your pastor this week.  He/she could use a kind word and a compliment.  Trust me, your pastor will hear plenty of criticism about the service–the music was too loud, we didn’t sing my favorite hymn, the sermon was too long, the coffee was too weak, we didn’t advertise enough, we shouldn’t embarrass people by asking them to raise their hands to accept Jesus… you name it, people will criticize it.  That’s why it’s important for you to break the mold and say an encouraging word to your pastor this week.  Here are just a few suggestions:

Write a thank you card.  You’d be surprised at how effective a simple handwritten note can be.  Knowing that you took the time to grab a card, physically write a message, and drop it off at the church office is like a ray of sunshine in the dark night of the soul.  A hand-written note is not an afterthought, and that makes it meaningful.

Send a text, email or Facebook message.  A lot of what we get via email and Facebook is negative.  A positive message will stand out like the first blossom of Spring after a long Winter.

Post on Facebook or Twitter about how much you enjoyed the service–and give the credit to God. Pastors are encouraged when we hear how God moved someone in a service, and especially when we see our members glorifying God in it.  Plus, your post is also an encouragement to all the volunteers who worked to create the service. And, it advertises to your non-church-going friends that you had a great experience in worship today, and they may be inclined to ask you about it.

Make a brief phone call. Be specific about what you thought went well in the service.  It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t need to be over the top or flowery.  It can be short and simple and, most importantly, genuine.

Some of you may know how many hours your pastor put into planning and studying and organizing the Easter service.  It’s likely that he/she worked many late nights meeting with volunteer leaders and making sure the details were taken care of…  and then woke up before the sun to pray and study Scripture.  Your pastor’s family also felt the strain of Easter Sunday with a spouse/parent who was suddenly a lot busier and didn’t have as much time to help around the house.

In love, your pastor sacrificed a lot to bring about a great Easter Sunday worship service.  And, for whatever silly reason, your pastor may be struggling with the post-Easter blues, and may even be considering resigning.  So, I am asking you to throw a little love your pastor’s way this week, and let God use to you encourage one of His weary servants.  Thanks!

Photo courtesy of www.freejazzlessons.com.


The more I read and learn and experience, the more I’m convinced that we have a leadership crisis. No, I’m not trashing the President, or Congress for that matter. I’m talking about people in general. Very few people want to lead, and even fewer are learning how to lead. This lack of leadership is killing families, churches and schools. It seems the best leaders go into business. The worst into politics (haha – jk, I won’t make this a political blog!).

Men in general are casting off their leadership responsibilities. They don’t want to grow up. They’d rather play video games all day, leading imaginary teams of soldiers into imaginary battles than step into reality and lead their wives and families. Not surprisingly, many women are picking up the slack and showing themselves to be gifted leaders, not just in the home but in the workplace as well. Unfortunately for the family, these women often end up being “mom” to an extra child who happens to wear their wedding ring. But wives don’t need an extra child who drinks beer and plays video games, they could really use a man, a husband, to step up and pull his weight around the home.

Pastors often avoid leading because they’ve been ill-equipped to lead, and quite frankly many don’t care to lead. They’d rather study for a sermon or pray for a sick person than take a bold step of faith and chart a course for the future of their church. While these things are important, what pastors need to remember is that our job is as much about leading the saints to do the work of the ministry as it is about us doing the work of the ministry. If all we do is visit sick people, and we never train, equip or lead the Christians in our churches to visit the sick, then we’ve missed a big part of our job.

Pastors are often referred to as shepherds, and the church is a flock. Sure, a shepherd cares for the hurting in his flock, but he also leads the flock from one place to the next. Churches need pastors to lead and guide and focus our energy, time, resources and manpower so that not only do we grow spiritually, but we also make an impact on society around us. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually change something for the better in your community?

It’s no different in schools, businesses, even social circles where leadership is informal. Every sphere of society is hurting for leadership, and that means every sphere of society is struggling, not achieving what it should be, maybe even crumbling around us. In the absence of leadership, someone will take the reigns. That person may be a lousy leader or even a sinister one.

What I’m challenging you to do, as a Christian, is pray about where God wants you to lead. We’ve all been tasked with leading others to Christ. That’s a start. Some of us have families. There’s our first leadership zone. Go home and lead your family closer to Jesus.

Think Ahead

When I was interviewing for jobs I hated the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”  I squirmed because I didn’t see myself anywhere in five years!  I didn’t have a five-year plan, or even a two-year plan!  In my defense, I was fresh out of college and didn’t really know what “real life” was even like.

Now that I’m a little more experienced (stress the word little), I see the value of the question.  Do you have a vision for your life?  If you’re married, do you have a vision for your marriage?  If you have kids, do you have a vision for your kids?  If you’re a leader, do you have a vision for your organization/job/church?  If the answer is no, why not?

How can you move forward if you don’t know what forward is?  How can you make progress toward a goal if you don’t know what that goal is?  I speak from experience when I say that living without a vision is exhausting.  Every problem seems like a major problem.  Life throws you curveballs, but you have no direction.  You don’t know if you can slow your pace or if you need to pick it up, because you can’t tell how close you are to achieving whatever it is you’re striving for.  In a sense, life without vision is like a rat on a wheel.  You can run, but you never really know where you’re going.

In my world, vision is critical.  Working for a church, the temptation is to focus seven days at a time.  It’s so easy to get so focused on this Sunday and this week’s emergencies that you don’t even think about next week, next month, or next year, much less a five-year plan.

Vision is key to success.  If you have vision, you know that in five years you’d like to finish your Master’s degree.  That means you need to pick up your course load now.  In five years, you’d like to be the head of your department.  That means you need to work hard and maybe go back to school now.  You know that in five years your kids will be old enough to understand the gospel.  That means you need to model Christ and talk to them about Jesus now.

So where do you see yourself in five years?