Getting Our Arms Around Rick Warren’s Story

April 11, 2013

I am daily amazed and inspired at how Rick Warren is being real and yet still faith-full amidst his grief over the suicide of his 27 year old son, Matthew Warren. He could run and hide, but that’s not Rick. He could shut the world off and remain private. Nobody would blame him.

Instead, he’s chosen to remain vulnerable and honest about the back story of Matthew’s lifelong struggle with mental illness. I can appreciate his recent tweet and Facebook post that said:

Pastor Rick Warren FB comment

It was Matthew’s story to tell. For me, as my own son has battled mental illness, I’ve been public about it. Many have questioned and criticized. I’ve never published anything without my son’s permission. I would never criticize anyone who has taken the direction the Warren’s took with Matthew’s story.

I’ve gone public because I believe that of all places that should be safe for us to talk about anything, it should be the Church. The unfortunate truth is that we are NOT a safe place to talk about anything, mental illness being one of them.

For some reason, we shun them. We call them crazy, wacko, nuts, weak, off their rocker, _____________, …..

Because we don’t know what to do with them. We don’t take the time to understand. We’ve been taught to believe that it’s all a spiritual issue, not a physical one. Maybe all of the above.

There are a few things any Pastor or church leader can do to help the cause:

1. Be open to learn.

If you’re unfamiliar with the reality of mental illness, admit it. Then educate yourself. More and more, there are some excellent ways to easily learn some basic issues that surround those who struggle with mental illness.

One of the best that I’ve found is a 12 hour class that certifies people who take it in Mental Health First Aid. You can peruse the website for more information and find out about classes in your area.

2. Be open to share.

Many of us actually struggle with mental illness ourselves, but the vast majority of us haven’t told anyone. We’re afraid of the very stigma that we contribute too. We don’t want to be seen as weak or vulnerable or less than.

What would happen if we as leaders began to actually be real about our struggle? You don’t have to broadcast it to the world. Maybe you can start slow. Find a safe place outside the church, maybe with some others pastors you trust, or a counselor you have confidence in. Maybe there’s a support group nearby you.

If you feel that it’s possible for you to do so, share your struggle with your leaders, maybe even your congregation. I know from experience that it’s a huge step. Over time, I’ve found more understanding and appreciation for sharing my struggle. To be clear, there has been some condemnation, rejection and loss of some relationships, but the healing I’ve found, been able to lead in and lead others to, has far outweighed the negative that I’ve waded through.

3. Be open to stand.

Join the conversation. Too many have been critical of the Warren’s for too many reasons. One person and one reason are one too many. People in the Warren’s shoes don’t need pointy fingers. They need loving arms, support, people who will stand with them.

Those who are suffering with mental illness themselves or in their families need people to stand WITH them instead of against them. One way you can stand up is to speak out. I addressed a piece of that in the above Point 2. However, another way you can stand with them is to be a proponent of those who struggle.

The Washington Post published an article highlighting how Matthew’s suicide is raising awareness of the need of the mentally ill in the Church. The Newtown shootings and other mass shootings have raised awareness, but not in the Church. Matthew’s story will bring further redemption to this cause in the Church. But how many people have to die in order for issues like these to get the attention they need?

Ultimately, the Church is the hope of the world. But this can only be true as we minister in wholeness, integrity, honesty, compassion and mission. May we be found embracing the Warren’s and all who represent them in greater ways than we ever have.

A Prayer For Leaders in light of MLK Day

January 22, 2013

In an email from Ruth Haley Barton‘s Transforming Center, this piece resonated deeply with me.

As yesterday’s US Presidential Inauguration fell on the observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, I thought I would share it here:

This journey to the mountaintop is the ultimate antidote to our grandiosity, if we will let be. It helps us find our place in the scheme of things lest we become overly inflated in our view of ourselves and our role in kingdom work. It puts everything in perspective and it is a perspective we need. A prayer written in memory of Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred for his outspoken advocacy for the poor, articulates the power of this perspective:

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom [of God] is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace
to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”

For a leader, the promised land is something you see and know that can’t be beaten out of you even when other people don’t see it yet—even when they say it is impossible, unrealistic, idealistic. It is the phoenix that keeps rising out of the ashes of every failure. It can never fully die.

But paradoxically, by the time a leader gets to this promised land, it has usually been stripped down to its barest essence. By the time you get there, maybe you can still see it—as Moses did and as Martin Luther King, Jr. did—but it doesn’t matter nearly as much. What matters is the presence of God right there with you on the mountainside and being able to say yes to God in the deepest way because you are not clinging to or grasping at anything.

Read full article here…

What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There, Part 4

February 16, 2012

In an occasional series, we’ve been addressing the issue of insecurity in leadership. Perry Noble came out today with a great list of ways you can determine whether or not you are a leader who struggles with insecurity.

Quick disclaimers: We ALL struggle with insecurity when it comes right down to it. There is only ONE perfect person. His name was Jesus. “I know Jesus. And you are not Jesus.” Don’t mean to put you off with that, just speaking to myself and anyone else who wants to be honest. Check your Superman cape at the door please!

Perry’s GREAT list is here.

What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There, Part 3

July 11, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this issue of insecurity in pastor and leaders. Recently, I read something that Mark Batterson (pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC) wrote about the topic:

He wrote:

I think influence and insecurity are opposites.  Insecure leaders don’t hire high competence people thereby limiting their influence.  Their insecurity manifests itself by surrounding themselves with people that will prop up their ego instead of taking things to the next level. It’s the Saul complex. David was his greatest asset, but Saul perceived him as his greatest threat.  If you’re insecure, assets are perceived as threats.

I think this is so true, or at least it’s been my experience. Sometimes the largest barriers to moving to further levels in your leadership have to do with how much you’re willing to release others to THEIR fullest potential, even if it outmeasures YOURS.


Francis Chan Next Steps

September 3, 2010

Over on the Mars Hill Church blog, an interview with Francis Chan by Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris was posted. It’s one of the most candid interviews I think I’ve seen.

Many people have wondered, “What’s Francis doing now that he’s not at Cornerstone?”

This video interview answers some of that and more of “Why did he leave there anyway?”

Watch it and leave your thoughts here when you get a chance.

What Does Tiger Woods’ Apology Say To Pastors?

February 19, 2010


You’ve probably heard enough about Tiger Woods’ sordid lifestyle. I have too. And I have no interest in exploiting any of it.

However, I have a lot of interest, for myself and any other Pastor, in learning from it. I have no interest in analyzing Tiger’s actions or apology to the nth degree.

Regardless of what any of us think about Tiger’s words or motives, there remain a number of analogous issues between the persona of a famous person and the persona of a Pastor. As Pastors, we are tempted to live two lives, one in public and another in private.

It’s interesting that Tiger mentioned in his statement that he felt “entitled” to “enjoy the temptations around” him because he had worked so hard all his life.

Often, Pastors struggle with that same temptation. We work so hard and for so long that we can be tempted to feel that we are entitled to stretch the boundaries of our behavior, be it in the area of sexuality, financial indiscretions, or anything else.

What did you hear Tiger say that could be helpful for Pastors as well?

Click here for video.

Click hear for transcript.

Creating a Culture of Balance

July 5, 2009

I recently read a great paper available from Leadership Network on how Pastors in their 20’s and 30’s are dealing with the stress and strain of ministry life. It was an excellent read and encouraging to hear that these guys are thinking much differently than I was trained. It gives me hope for the future of the Pastor and the future of the Church.

If you’d like your own copy to enjoy, click here.

I’d be very interested in your thoughts and comments if you end up reading it. Post them here below.

A Pastor or A Politician? The Unfolding of Governor Mark Sanford?

June 25, 2009

What’s the difference between a Pastor and a Politician? Both are highly public figures. Both represent something larger than themselves. There are similarities that are eerie and sometimes dangerous, and we could go on and on about them. But there are some important distinctions to make too.

When a Pastor fails morally, he or she most often loses everything, their job, their church, often their support system, kids often lose their friends from church or their school if a move is necessary; sometimes they even lose their marriage and family.

When a Politician fails morally, he or she may take a hit in their approval ratings, but rarely do they lose everything around them. Sometimes they do, but not often.

With this week’s news about the bizarre story of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford being on a secret trip to Argentina having been about an adulterous affair he was having with a woman who lives there, he joins the ranks of a few politicians who have failed morally.

  • Just last week, Nevada Senator John Ensign admitted to an affair with a campaign staffer.
  • This generation’s most visible political figure to fail morally is President Bill Clinton, who denied having an affair with a White House staffer for seven months before he finally admitted it, all while he was President
  • Presidential hopeful John Edwards admitted to an affair a few months ago and it’s still making news.
  • New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was tough on prostitution in his state, and then lost his job when it was discovered he had been hiring them personally.

There are more examples, but that’s enough for now. Please note that this is NOT a post about whether or not Pastors or even Politicians should resign or lose their jobs as a result of adultery. I am not saying here that they should or shouldn’t.

We don’t yet know what will happen with the situation for Mark Sanford. His wife’s statement clearly says she is ready for reconciliation should Mark want it. That’s a good thing, and I hope it happens for the sake of their entire family.

But back to the question … what’s the difference between a Pastor and a Politician? We can mark several differences:

  • Pastors “work” for God; Politicians “work” for the constituents who voted for them.
  • Pastors represent something sacred; most seem to believe Politicians represent something pretty secular.
  • For the sake of “political correctness”, Pastors stand for the Church, while Politicians stand for the State, two institutions in America that have a weird relationship.

Let me boil this down. The point of this post has been primarily about the differences between Pastors and Politicians. But the real answer to the question, “What’s the difference between a Pastor and a Politician?” is, bottom line, NOTHING.

Part of our problem is that we make them out to be MORE THAN HUMAN. Certainly, there is a greater standard for spiritual leaders biblically, but we still make them out to be something more than flawed humans.

The more we can see that we are ALL flawed, imperfect human beings, the greater our ability to actually HELP each other when we fall, and help each other to stand again.

Your thoughts?

Churched … Matthew Paul Turner

November 28, 2008

I just finished reading Churched by Matthew Paul Turner. The cover was what initially intrigued me. A close-up shot of a kid putting a tie on. The subtitle grabbed me next: “one kid’s journey toward God despite a holy mess”. THAT resonated with me.

Having grown up in a mix of Assembly of God and Baptist churches (don’t ask, I have no idea), thriving in my relationship with God through High School in a Foursquare Youth Group, and attending Bible College right out of High School, I’ve served on staff at a church in one role or another ever since. The last 11 years, I’ve been the Senior Pastor (after serving 8 years as Youth Pastor and 4 as Associate Pastor) of a Foursquare Church that is pushing 60 years old and doing my best to revive it, only to find myself exhausted and literally burned out on 2001.

My journey out of burnout is being chronicled at here. In the meantime, I am always looking for resources to help those like me who have found themselves drowning in the mire of this thing called ministry.

I am finding that way too many of us got into ministry with a good heart, but not necessarily a healthy one. Us Pastors are a funny sort that way.

I found Turner’s story quirky at first, in the sense that he seemed a bit cynical. I’m a little quicker (not much, but some) these days at figuring out that most things I read or hear that seem cynical are because of my own defensiveness, rather than what’s really true about the author or speaker’s point of view.

It actually didn’t take long at all to equate the resonating sound of Turner’s experience of having been “raised in the church” with my own. I try to stay positive about it all, but truth be told, a lot of my own experience as a kid in church seems now to be just plain weird. And that, my friends, is what resonated so deeply within me as I kept reading.

If you can get past what sounds cynical and relegate yourself to identifying with Turner more than defending your own history, this entire book is actually a riot, in hilarious kind of terms. This guy is funny! It kept me going, wondering what was going to crack me up next as I could feel the creaky wooden steps and smell the musty old pews of my childhood Baptist Church.

I could go on, but one of the funniest parts is his story about hearing Phil Donahue host his talk show one day on the topic of narcolepsy. Turner becomes almost convinced that he has narcolepsy, and the only time it shows up for him is when he’s in church. He tries oh-so-hard to stay awake by drawing in the air with his finger until the air is so discombobulated by his writing that he has to stop. It took me back to the night time meetings of my Vacation Bible Schools at the Baptist Church, doing the exact same thing!

Then, I have to share what I think is the most poignant part of his whole story. He freaked out after seeing A Thief In The Night, and wrote about some of the storyline that scared him most. Well, I got saved watching that movie at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting sometime in 1978! The way I tell my story is that the movie “scared the hell out of me”!

The one thing I loved about Churched most was how freeing it can be to actually live in the grace of God. It’s one thing to know that God’s grace is sufficient for you. It is something altogether different to actually believe it and live it.

When you start to actually believe it and live it, you realize how far behind yourself you actually are. When you recognize that, it’s the very grace God gives us all that allows you to accept where you are and grow from there, even when you feel like it’s a rhythm of two steps forward and one step back.

This is a great book! Go get it here.

Pastor Wayne Cordeiro Returns To New Hope

October 29, 2008

This past weekend, Pastor Wayne Cordeiro returned to the pulpit for the first time since his recent heart surgery. You can read about that here.

This is a great opportunity to observe how a leader returns to ministry after a life-threatening crisis at the same time as determining how he will (or for some, IF he will) do life and ministry differently. For starters in this particular situation, it seems that at the very least, Wayne is coming back slowly.

You can watch the message he preached here called “Things We Must Do For Ourselves” in a very innovative manner. In the beginning, he mentions that the church will hear the message in this way over the next 4 weeks.

While New Hope has many campuses and they do much by satellite and live video feeds, whoever brings the message (primarily Wayne) almost always does so live at their main campus with FIVE services every weekend.

Wayne has already mentioned that his heart condition was somewhat the result of pushing too hard by preaching five services every weekend for many years. So …. what’s a mega-church (giga-church is a growing new term for churches of New Hope’s size) Pastor to do?

Well, Wayne’s first message back was a mixture of video and live speaking. The bulk of the message he actually preached on video, which was done very creatively.

It was well-mixed with Wayne speaking the message and some illustrative dramatic and musical elements. Wayne introduced the video live, segued with some live comments in the middle, went back to the video, finished the teaching with a live special song with the New Hope Worship Team and then Wayne brought the conclusion of the service live.

This, in my opinion, is a great example of what I call “Finding Your Personal Pace“. It will be interesting to see how Wayne and New Hope will progress from here. I have a hunch we will see some incredibly innovative and well-led ways for a Pastor to recover from a crisis in his life such as this.

Folks, you can be the most positive minded person in the world, but you can’t escape the reality of personal crisis happening even in the Pastor’s life. How we handle that crisis can mean everything for ourselves and our leadership.

Do you know of another Pastor who has had to handle personal crisis from the pulpit? If it’s OK to share it publically, feel free to do so in the comments. Let’s learn how to do this together, so we can do it better in the future!

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Help When You Hurt

Who ministers to the Minister when you're hurting? Many do, and they can be found on this listing. Please find a friend in your area and seek the help you need today.
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A Place For You

Many Pastors are not aware that all over the country are a number of places you can retreat to for a number of given reasons or purposes. Find some of them here, get there, and find your pace!
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