The Penn State scandal is a vivid lesson to all of us who are leaders.
Even if you are not a college football fan, you have recently heard a lot about Penn State and Joe Paterno. Coach Paterno and several of the top administrators at Penn State have been accused of covering up (and thus enabling) the terrible child sexual abuse committed by former coach Jerry Sandusky.
As a result, the NCAA levied very stiff penalties on the football program and the university: $60 million fine, loss of bowl appearances, and football scholarships. Some have said the penalty is unjust because it punishes the wrong people; the current players, coaches and students did not commit these acts, but they are suffering consequences because of them.
I don’t wish to argue to whether the penalties were appropriate or not, I want to point out the leadership principle involved: namely, that the actions of leaders have consequences for others.
Leadership is influence. That means that what leaders do impacts others, whether positively or negatively. This should give all of us who are leaders a reason to pause.
The Old Testament describes some kings of Israel as good and others as evil. When the king was faithful to God, the nation prospered. When the king did evil, the nation suffered. The average citizen of Israel was impacted by what the leader did (or didn’t) do. It is the nature of leadership.
The students and players are protesting that they didn’t do anything to deserve the loss of a chance to go to a bowl game this year, and they are correct. It was the poor decisions of leaders that caused that. But then again, they didn’t do anything to build Penn State’s facilities, endowment, or anything else that makes Penn State the great school they attend today. The decisions of past leaders resulted in those good benefits, as well.
The point is that leaders impact others in positive and negative ways. So, if you are a leader of a Little League team, small group, or a parent, your actions will impact others. But don’t fear, because the Lord will guide us as leaders as we look to Him. He alone is the perfect leader and King of Kings.
Habits are hard to break! That’s not a news flash, but it’s a reality I recently confronted again.
People who know me well tell me I have a type A personality. I guess it is true that I am very goal-oriented and often try to pack more into a day than 24 hours will allow.
But last year’s cardiac arrest taught me how to slow down and de-stress. I learned how to breathe more deeply, move more slowly, and to let go of stress more intentionally.
And yet, last week the tension-pain in my back told me I had slipped into old routines of hurry and stress. So, I have once again started the practices of “no hurry, no worry” – and leaning on the peace of the Holy Spirit! (And my back feels a lot better now!)
How could I have fallen back into old patterns after a wake-up call like a cardiaac arrest? Here’s my best understanding:
1. A little at a time — it didn’t happen all at once, so I didn’t notice it for a while.
2. Habits are strong because they are based on our assumptions and beliefs. When I am moving too fast to be healthy, it is because I believe I must do this or that or else… (what??) I assume it is the way things get accomplished…vor that it’s all up to me… etc.
So to break habits like rush and/or stress I need to pay attention to the little routines and not let myself drift, and especially to confront my thinking. Asking myself “why are you pressing?” can lead me to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit through His Word and not to the assumptions I’ve carried inside.
You may have different habits which creep up on you, but I wonder if they are rooted in the same places?
I see an old but nonetheless troubling trend in the American Church today: some mistake their zeal for a theological “truth” as zeal for God.
I guess that was on my mind as I emailed a friend who is a man of God and growing greatly in his faith. Here is what I wrote to him (who I will call “Theophilus”)
I’m not saying that doctrine is irrelevant, I’m just pointing out that making a long narrow list will not match God’s reality nor help us grow. Knowledge – using our minds – is part of following Christ, but we need to be humble on our opinions. We can’t love our doctrinal positions more than people nor more than God.
1 Corinthians 8:1 – Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.
Again, what really matters? Knowledge plays a part, but not the biggest part.
2 Peter 1:5-8 – For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6) and to knowledge, self-control: and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 ) and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8) For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In His love,
Most Christ followers in the Western world work on this equation: lead many to Christ = Success. Pastors who lead churches to grow large get invited to speak at conferences and seminars. Believers who win a lot of people to Christ are held up as models for others. The idea, I think, is to encourage others to do share the gospel and promote the goal of winning the world to Christ. Makes sense.
But, what if being really effective at sharing the gospel wouldn’t get you on a magazine cover but a prison sentence? What if starting a movement of Jesus would get you killed instead of promoted? Would you still do it?
That was the reality for the apostles. They brought multitudes to Christ, wrote the New Testament, saw miracles and got statues made of themselves by later generations. But before you apply for the job, let’s not forget that one of the marks of an apostle was to suffer for the Gospel. Jesus told Paul from the beginning that he would suffer for Him. And Paul went without food, was chased from town to town, imprisoned, ridiculed and eventually killed for his faith. I don’t think he even had a 401k or dental plan.
In some parts of the word, suffering is a reality for many who are leading movements of Jesus. There are believers in China who lead networks over literally millions. That’s a big church! But they also spend much of their time in jail or under government surveillance. Some workers I have heard and read about cannot be identified by name or place because of security concerns. They may lead movements of millions, but very few know about them. I am not only humbled by their commitment and obedience, but personally challenged.
Threats do not deter a true Spirit-led follower. Not even death threats. Why? Because he/she has already died. Jesus said “Anyone who would come after me must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” That is, we must die to ourselves – our plans, privileges, self-direction, etc. If someone is already dead, you can’t change their minds by threatening to take their life away – they already gave it away to Another!
Last year I had a cardiac arrest and was without a pulse on the floor of a gym. Only 7% of people who have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital live to tell about it. Not only did I live, but I have no heart damage and full energy once again (I ran 3 miles on Sunday). But I am aware that any life I have has been granted by God — so how can I do anything but say “yes” to whatever he wants of me?
The same is true for everyone, though. We were all dead in our trespasses and sins, but God made us alive again through Christ. So, let’s live today not for ourselves, but for Jesus. Let’s not evaluate His commands against our comfort and preferences, let’s remember we are already dead and thus have no preferences or claim to comfort. That is true living!
I am very aware that as an American pastor I don’t get penalized for sharing the faith or obeying Jesus (at least not much). BUt I don’t want to assume that will always be true.
What would you do for God if it really didn’t matter what your salary was, what people said, or where you lived?
And now for a little particle physics.
This week scientists excitedly announced they had found evidence of the Higgs boson, a long-sought particle which they believed would explain some of the universe’s secrets.
Since I’m not up on my sub-atomic physics, I’ll let Professor Stefan Soldner-Rembold, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester, England, explain.
“Scientists believe that in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang, particles zipped around the universe at the speed of light with no mass, and no inertia. It was only through their interaction with the “Higgs field” that they acquired mass and were capable of forming the universe.”(http://bostinno.com/2012/07/06/what-is-god-particle-higgs-boson-definition)
In other words, it is the Higgs field which explains why things have mass — how matter comes to be. It is why your light bulb has mass and light doesn’t. It is a huge step in understanding the universe.
So why is it called the “God particle”? That’s actually a bit of an accident, but ultimately this discovery does not “replace” God. It doesn’t disprove that God created the universe. If the Higgs boson causes matter to form, where did the Higgs boson come from?
It makes me think of Colossians 1:17, which says of Jesus, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Steve Cordle is the founding and lead pastor of Crossroads Church, a small group-based congregation with five locations in the Pittsburgh metro area. He also leads a18movement, a non-profit dedicated catalyzing church plants globally. Steve is the author of two books: Hear it, See it, Risk it and The Church in Many Houses. He coaches pastors and church planters in the United States and Western Europe. He enjoys running, playing classical piano, and all Pittsburgh sports. Steve is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary (M. Div) and United Theological Seminary (D. Min). Steve and his wife, Linda, have three grown sons, three daughters-in-love, and three grandchildren.
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