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FROM THE DESK OF STEVE HICKEY
Yep, I do miss serving in Pierre– the people, the issues and the process. I’m still following the issues in our state closely and trying to stay as connected as I can. I offer the following to the new legislators who were elected in November. I’d welcome additions to my list. (My list has grown from a list former legislator and present lobbyist Matt McCaulley gave me a few weeks before my first term) ….
ON BECOMING A GOOD LEGISLATOR
- Morning prayer is more important than any other meeting of the day. Every day you’ll need a chill pill and morning prayer is just that. A few early, quiet moments with a passage of Scripture and a prayer will centre and focus you for the day, fill you for the day with the graces you’ll need that day, and keep you mindful of, humble before, and dependant on the One who entrusted you to govern in His stead. Remember, Solomon’s prayer his first day in office was for wisdom, not power or wealth.
- “Out do one another in showing honour” (Romans 12:10). When Rep. David Lust was Republican House Majority Leader he set this passage before the Caucus as the Scripture to guide our entire Session. Memorise it.
- Remember the block of wood. Your first day in office it is like you’ve been handed a block of wood. Each time you go back on your word, take the low road or a cheap shot, bend rules, treat people poorly… a shaving or chunk is cut away from your block. Some have left Pierre with only a toothpick remaining. Try to end your term with your block of wood in original condition.
- Have principles and try to vote consistently on those principles.
- Try not to take anything personally and don’t get personal in opposing others. Never question the motives of others and be careful making any assumptions about people.
- If you are a jerk on their bill, they won’t be friendly later with yours. It’s human nature. You will need everyone else there at some point or another. Remember this.
- Try to listen, understand and appreciate – the other view, the other person and other factors and dynamics at play.
- Stopping a bad bill or repealing a bad law is as important as passing a good one. Our law books are fat enough.
- Be careful co-sponsoring. Don’t be quick to sign on to a bill as for various reasons you may regret it later.
- Colleagues and lobbyists will try to nail down their vote count. Be careful in promising to vote a certain way unless there is no doubt your mind won’t change. Lobbyists talk among themselves about the legislators who are flippers and who can only be counted on to vote the way of the last lobbyist who spoke to them.
- Avoid signing pledges in the off season for how you will or won’t vote on issues. In doing so, you are in effect committing yourself to vote for or against bills you haven’t read yet or that haven’t even been written yet. For example; every “repeal Obamacare bill” isn’t strategically the best way forward or carefully drafted. You don’t want to be in a position to vote for a bad bill or the wrong bill to accomplish something.
- Avoid bills that seek to solve problems we don’t really have. Avoid reactive legislation– i.e. when something happens nationally and a flurry of bills are drafted in the states.
- Blogs and media- yes participate, but have a blind eye and deaf ear to what is said about you.
- Cracker Barrel’s – attend and engage.
- Alcohol and food in moderation. Course joking, flirting and gossip are beneath you.
- Interest group receptions – go to as many as possible and get to know the issues and the people.
- In your first year find, or ask for, one relatively easy bill to prime sponsor to help you learn the process.
- Remember you don’t report to the Second Floor.
- Make sure the juice is worth the squeeze.
- Be aware of being overheard or leaving things visibly on your desk.
- Don’t speak on every bill or people will soon roll their eyes each time you stand up to speak. As they say, keep your powder dry. Pick your battles. Be like E.F. Hutton, the one who brings the hush over the room when you stand to speak because you’ve earned respect for what you say and how you say it.
- Personally answer every email that comes from your legislative district. It’s okay to read and not reply to the others; though having a prepared short paragraph on heavy public feedback bill/vote to cut and paste as a reply for the rest is worth the effort.
- Publish your vote rationales.
- Return media calls.
- Breath mints. Hand sanitiser. The “Capital Crud” hits every year as people from every corner of the state bring their head colds with them as they come to champion their cause and shake your hand.
- Baby steps. Be strategic with legislation. Ten pro-life bills in a session may work against the pro-life cause.
- Reject poorly drafted bills even if you agree with what they are trying to accomplish. (Not every gun bill is a good gun bill.)
- Spend the off season studying issues and winning support for a bill among the stakeholders. Don’t surprise stakeholders with your dropped bill.
- Education by legislation is generally not a good thing. However, changing minds and turning the tide sometimes take multiple tries and multiple years and all is not lost in the years your bills die an early death.
- Smile and laugh, greet and be friendly even toward the lowliest people walking around or working around the Capital. Think of ways to remember and serve them.
- Reach across the aisle, especially if you are a member of the supermajority. Remember that the public is turned off by hyper-partisanship.
- Distance yourself from those who conspire.
- Distance yourself from those who are indifferent and hostile toward natives in our state.
Once I was told that we voted about 2000 times each legislative session. There were many instances where we’d vote ten times on the same bill and on various versions of it. Each year I lost count of how many times I voted while holding my nose.
People in South Dakota will remember the Governor’s controversial 2011 education reform bill, HB1234. Wow, did I wish voting for it was as easy as one, two, three, four.
For six weeks I went back and forth on how to vote, was lobbied hard by schools and teachers and was taken by the Governor behind the mansion for a “chat” in his woodshed. Ultimately I voted for it, and nearly cost myself re-election. In my public statements on the bill I said it was “my least favourite bill of the session.” My angry critics marvelled and scoffed at how I could vote for a bill I disliked so much.
Welcome to the world of important and hard decisions.
Sometimes a vote either way has huge negatives and fall out. And, unlike former Illinois State Senator Obama, we couldn’t just vote “present” on everything and magically –poof– two years later sit in the Oval Office. A legislator has to decide which negatives they’d rather live with, and hope some of the promised positives will realise. With every vote I made and lost both friends and support, and with every vote I both created and solved problems.
So, now we come to Trump or Hillary. Here’s how I have come to view it.
Jesus is not running this year.
Hillary is corrupt and apparently above the law and all of us little people. She does the bidding of the worst people in the world. People who oppose her, die. She viciously attacks women her lurid husband sexually exploits. Aborting children is to her, a sacrament. The enemies of the American people are not her enemies. I have nothing positive to say about her and can’t name any accomplishments. She assumes the Presidency is her next entitlement. The large sums of strings-attached money that went to the Clinton Foundation from foreign interests while she was Secretary of State is a story that is yet to be fully told.
No secret, Trump is addicted to his own greatness, has failed marriages, adulteries, a track record of womanising, has bought politicians on both sides of the aisle including the Clintons, has a few bankruptcies, and like Obama, he’s not a man of peace. He’s a bully with an unbridled tongue. My son can’t stand him and asked me to name something good about him. In Trump’s case I do note some positives…
Trump leans toward sound money policy, wants to audit the Fed, and Wall Street hates him. These are very good signs. He has given signals that he’s an anti-corporatist though people dispute it. He says he will quit paying the bills of foreign and enemy armies or make them pay for US support. He supports the Second Amendment, and unlike Obama/Hillary and others clamouring out one side of their mouth for gun control, Trump say he won’t secretly give our enemies weapons as the Clintons, Bushes and Obamas all did. Trump has given assurances he will choose pro-life judges, and picked a VP who has long advocated for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Maybe Pence will soften him into a more compassionate position on immigration. He has a track record of working easily with all races, including Jews. He supported Brexit which speaks volumes for him not being a globalist. He was born in America. hahaha .
So, what. to. do? Not voting is to vote for the worst one.
If you lived centuries back, and had a vote, would you vote for the ruler who might bring less suffering for the little people even if they went through various wives, owned the clergy, and lived high on the hog with ornate feasts? I’m not saying the Trumpster is a people’s king but he does seem to be an enemy of the real bad people in the world who have zero regard for the little people on the planet. There is something in Trump that the working class sees. It’s quite the irony that a billionaire is somehow a friend of cabbies….
“The people that I do best with are the people that drive the taxis – you know, wealthy people don’t like me because I’m competing against them all the time, and I like to win. The fact is, I go down the streets of New York, and the people that really like me are the taxi drivers and the workers…” – Trump being interviewed by Larry King at the 1988 GOP convention
We learn in the New Yorker that Donald Trump ends every phone call with “You’re the Greatest!” If I had time and inclination to write a biography of Trump perhaps a good title can be adapted from an old Charlie Brown book;
You’re the Greatest, Donald Trump.
Greatness, it seems, is his highest ambition.
Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for one of Trump’s best-selling books, The Art of the Deal, has just given the New Yorker a tell-all:
Trump only takes two positions. “Either you’re a scummy loser, liar, whatever, or you’re the greatest…. There is no private Trump…. All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’—recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular… .”
Writing in Trump’s voice, he explained to the reader [in The Art of the Deal], “I play to people’s fantasies. . . . People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”
Schwartz now disavows the passage.
“I don’t do it for the money,” Trump declares. “I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it…. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
…Of course he’s in it for the money,” Schwartz said. “One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that ‘I’m richer than you.’ Schwartz saw Trump as driven not by a pure love of dealmaking but by an insatiable hunger for “money, praise, and celebrity.” Often, after spending the day with Trump, and watching him pile one hugely expensive project atop the next, like a circus performer spinning plates, Schwartz would go home and tell his wife, “He’s a living black hole!”
And now Donald wants to take us all into that black hole with him and Make America Great Again. [And, yes I still think Hillary is a far worse choice. Both have deep character issues, but as I’ve written elsewhere…. Hillary has become a stunningly corrupt, bought and arrogant tool of those who give the world’s bad guys free weapons and the rest of us bloody war– the elites, Wall Streeters, globalists and central banksters who for centuries have made war to make more money.]
Friends on this side of the pond gristle ungratefully at any notion of America’s greatness (or goodness), or any country’s greatness for that matter. Paul gave good advice in Romans 12:3… “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…”
Yet, national greatness was a promise God himself made to godly nations. It’s in Genesis 12:2… “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” And it wasn’t just a promise to Abraham on into Israel then and now. In Genesis 35:11 that promise was extended greatly: “A nation and a community of nations will come from you... .” It is the promise of God that Judeo-Christian nations will be a blessing to the rest of the world and great in God’s eyes.
But what makes us great is where Mr. Trump has it all wrong.
Jesus said those who practice the Sermon on the Mount will be called greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:19). The Sermon on the Mount is the standard of greatness by which God will measure kings and nations, and you and I. In the halls of academia we speak of a coming eschatological reversal where the first will find out they are indeed, last. Trump still has time to figure this out and that is my prayer.
The West doesn’t want to admit it but we find ourselves in the midst of a brutal holy war. As the sun comes up in Paris this morning the world is reeling from last night’s attack on Paris by the Islamic State. Media outlets are still unsure the exact body count. Muslim radicals are engaged in a full-on holy war against the West. The leaders of this holy war aren’t military generals, they are imams. What if the religious leaders of the West took the lead in responding?
The President of France immediately announced France will respond mercilessly. Haven’t we learned since 9/11 this (a merciless response) isn’t working? We’ve mortgaged our future spending trillions on the sword. Selectively fiscal conservatives still think additional trillions in defence spending and ongoing war will make us safer and depopulate the world of bad guys. It has done the opposite. Maybe it’s time we push the leaders espousing those failed solutions aside. Where is the radical leadership of those who hold to the values of Jesus? Is it really nutso to say if they bomb our children we will only work harder to feed their refugees until they can be screened and relocated? There is a demonic spirit in radical Islam. You don’t disarm a demonic spirit with more bloodshed. That feeds it. You dislodge a demonic spirit by moving in the opposite spirit. My pushback here is fuelled by my concern that in Christian circles in America the same spirit of violence in radical Islam is also operating increasingly in us.
My weariness is in all the creative rationales Christians concoct to avoid the mandates of the Sermon on the Mount. For example, turn the other cheek only applies here or there but not every where?!? What is left is that we live none of it because we’ve wiggled out from under all of it. These are questions I raise in my Sermon on the Mount book: What does turn the other cheek mean to a Christian leader the morning after a 9/11? I’m not suggestion police officers or soldiers turn the other cheek. I’m saying what if our Presidents, Prime Ministers and Generals effectually and strategically did? If something is God’s strategy on a small scale, why will it not work on a larger scale? Where has it be tried? Is a bomb really the only thing in our arsenal? The more we kill them, the more they kill us. And who wins? They kill our children and we kill theirs. And Christian leaders essentially baptise all this with their silence and lack of leadership. Baloney that our role is to only comfort the grieving and pray blessing on our soldiers.
Time for some radical alternatives. We need some holy leaders for this holy war. Wouldn’t it be something if 100 Paris imams held a press conference with 100 Paris rabbis and Christian ministers and said – Stop, both sides, this isn’t the way forward and call for a total renouncement of violence from all sides? I’d like to see religious leaders take the helm from the national leaders and navigate our way out of these times. The time for peacemakers is now. A peacemaker is one who stands in the middle of conflict and sets both sides back. National leaders don’t have the tools or the anointing for peacemaking. That’s our job.
Every bomb we drop has proven to be a seed that produces ten more people who hate us. Closing borders is step one. Slowing down the welcome of refugees is step two to vet them properly so radicals aren’t waltzing right in among them. A military response here is more of the same and produces more of the same. We need to use our values not our bombs. Certainly there is a Sermon on the Mount response that will effectually heap burning coals on the heads of our enemies
If you’ve never read Mark Twain’s short War Prayer I commend it to you today. If you think these ideas are worth considering, please forward the link to this post on to others. Maybe it’ll resonate and gain some traction.
My sense is the story of Shaun King is just in it’s earliest chapters but already it’s worth telling. I first met him four years ago when he came to us to be assessed for church planting. His dream was to plant in inner city Atlanta where he grew up. The first thing that set him apart was that he had a powerful death to life testimony. Our assessment team unanimously recommended him but I think it’s fair to say we wondered if he was a right fit for our system. No doubt in our minds that he’d succeed but perhaps there was the thought that our system would stifle him. Months later, via his magic with social media and the grace of God, he became our largest launch to date, over 600 on his first Sunday at Courageous Church.
Those of us who played even a small part in that beemed with pride. His success gave him leaway to buck the system a bit… I remember he riled our feathers when he noted publicly our meetings were too white and the speakers on our platforms were all white. A few years after that smoke cleared I can report our meetings are less white.
Shaun is a social media specialist and he raised massive amount of money for Haiti and got thousands of tents sent there. In the earliest days he somehow directed search and rescue efforts via Twitter from his home in Atlanta – no kidding, U.S. relief ships were following his leads to hurting people, doctors in the US were being directed to specific people in specific places. Shaun appeared on many national news and morning shows. There is a similar story to tell about his work helping the Atlanta Flood Victims. Those of us who’ve been following him on Facebook and Twitter grew to look forward to his updates loving how he just said what needed to be said. Things like; “Note to Donors: Please do not donate your dirty draws & bras. I will have a scientist from GA Tech run a DNA scan & twitter your name.”
In March of this year he felt led to make a radical shift in his church. He announced in a few weeks he’d preach his last sermon at the church. It wasn’t because he was leaving the church. It was because he was changing his church and focusing on three causes instead of church just being about pulling off Sunday morning services. I’ll repost his comments here because they are worth reading.
Currently, the overwhelming percentage of our time, energy, skills, budget, and creativity are spent preparing for Sunday morning services, getting people to our Sunday services, and getting them to volunteer for our Sunday morning services. I love what we do on Sunday morning. I love preaching and it is one of my primary gifts. I love our worship team, our breakfast, our volunteers. Our church is growing.
However, 5 things have convinced me that this extreme emphasis on Sunday morning is not the will of God for our church.
1. Our city is falling apart in painful ways that break God’s heart. Atlanta is now the nation’s hub for child sex trafficking. We have one of the highest teen incarceration rates in the nation. Our education system in Atlanta is beyond broken. In the face of these things, the church continues to preach and sing, but kids keep getting sold to perverts for sex.
If James 1:27 is true and “Authentic faith in the eyes of God is caring for widows and orphans” then I declare that our church will have authentic faith and have hands and feet that address these issues. Right now, our church, like most American churches, as Rick Warren said “Is one big mouth”.
2. As I read the Gospels and see Jesus, I am increasingly stumped how we determined sermons and songs are what makes us most like Him. I am not saying we do away with them, but we preach and sing too much and serve and love in radical ways far too little. The answer is not to add love on top of the sermons and songs, but to decrease the sermons and songs and increase the service and love to create a balance that looks like the life of Jesus.
3. This week I was able to meet with a personal hero of mine and he said something to me that was shocking. One of the best preachers in the world, he leads one of the largest churches in the country. He told me, “At this point in my life I have preached thousands of sermons and I am not even sure what they mean to God, but nothing makes me feel more alive and like I am nailing God’s will like caring for foster children. I can point my finger in the Bible and say yes – this is what God wants.”
For me, I do not want to wait another twenty years to come to this conclusion. I do not want to wait until our entire church is built around my sermons (as it is becoming) and then conclude that it may or may not be what most honors God. I’d rather go for it now.
4. Anybody that ever heard the vision of Courageous Church before we launched in January of 2009, knows that our vision was to never become a Sunday morning machine, but this is what we have become and we do it well. A real temptation exists to keep chugging along, do it like other churches do it, and try to forget the original vision of Courageous Church to take bold leaps of faith to bring about real change in peoples lives, in our city and in the world.
Most of our time is now spent thinking about the arrangement of chairs, the execution of payroll, the brightness of the lights, the printing of the announcements, the lyrics on the screens, the pitch from the mics, and in the midst of all of this – I confess that people have been hurt in the process. We created a church to love God and love people and in the busy-ness of it all – people that we cared about were neglected and forgotten. I won’t do it this way another day.
5. I feel like this is what God wants for Courageous Church.
Rather than meet weekly on Sunday mornings, Shaun broke things down into three discipleship groups that met around three causes; child trafficking, education and caring for widows. The Cause Groups would meet twice a month, the entire church would re-gather once a month for a Festival.
In all my years of church planting and training church planters I have said a thousand times, we don’t build churches on or around a cause – we build a church on Jesus. For sure this is what Shaun was seeking to do. Even so, Shaun is spot on when it comes to pointing out (what I’ve been calling) the theotainment model of the mega-church today is probably not what Jesus wanted us to build. I’ve long maintained that the church is a community and that causes are the domain of the parachurch. Shaun makes me rethink that.
In case you are wondering, Shaun’s experiment didn’t work. He faced perhaps the roughest summer of his life as his church sought to transition into these uncharted waters. Last month Shaun announced that since the bulk of the families in the church wanted to return to the traditional model, he would transition himself out of leadership. Here’s part of what he had to say in his announcement:
I thank God that I am not stepping down in shame or scandal, but it is clear that God is calling Rai and I to take our family in a direction that is just significantly different than what most in the church are asking for. Over the past 6 months I have taken Courageous Church down a difficult, counter-cultural road in an earnest attempt at building true disciples. It’s been rough. All but a few families are now yearning to go back to a traditional Sunday focused system and I am sure that I am not the person to lead you there.
Those of us who assess church planters know it’s often more insightful to talk to the guys wife if you want the real scoop. Here’s what Shaun’s wife Rai had to say about leaving Courageous Church. You’ll have a hard time finding anything more honest about being a pastors/church planters wife. My o my o my o my, it’s the perfect thing to read here on this last day of “Pastor Appreciation Month.” Made me wonder what my wife would write if someone asked her honest feelings about the state of the church.
The last couple months Shaun’s been writing about giving away everything he owns, 1000 books, his new ipad, his bed…. everything. This is the first time I’ve ever voiced this but I’ll say it here, every serious follower of Jesus would do well to walk away from everything they own at least once to follow Jesus. I’ve given away my retirement three times and gobs of other things and dollars and certainly there was a time when I had nothing that wouldn’t fit in my car, but never have I walked away from everything. I do believe these are days to live a wartime lifestyle – living only on what we need and giving the rest where it’s most needed.
Shaun wrote a fascinating article on when a leader loses his mojo. He likens himself to Obama in that regard – at the top of his game just a couple years ago, now a fog has set in and it’s better to pull over if you can’t see where you are going.
Don’t think for a moment Shaun now lacks vision. After living his entire life in inner city Atlanta, this week he drove his family to California where they will live for an undetermined period of time before he and a team move to Africa – the suffering in Somalia has gripped his heart. And he’s climbing the worlds seven great mountains of need. Check that out here TellTheMountainToMove. You can read his next steps here.
John Stott’s repeated exhortation when preaching was “Don’t look at me, look at Christ.” Every preacher, song leader and musician needs to write that phrase in the margin of their message notes and chord sheets every weekend. People ought to walk away with His name on their lips, not yours.
In his new little book “It’s not business, it’s personal” Bob Sorge writes about how ministers and musicians get in between Jesus and his Bride the Church. In a chapter called “Scoring with the Bride” he addresses ministers and musicians who feed off her praise and seek out her affections. Imagine if you were asked to serve my bride and you were teasing her affections off of ME and on to YOU. No doubt, Jesus our Bridegroom God has an issue with those who steal away the affections of his Bride.
Bob Sorge says many times he walks away from speaking and prays: “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, and deliver me from this tendency to present myself in such a way that the Bride takes notice of me and my service to her. After I’ve spent an evening with your Bride, I don’t want my name to be on her lips. I want her talking about You.”
Can we get away from these platform-driven performances and smoke shows where the clamor in the hallways is “wow, that guy always hits a homerun.” Same with music ministry as people leave going… “wow, what a voice, I hope she puts that on CD.”
I think way too early to put this declaration up there on par with Luther’s 95 Theses (as Huckabee states). But then again, Luther had no thought whatsoever that his stance would be so important. And, the Barmen Declaration was signed in 1934 and at that time many pastors didn’t sign on because things weren’t bad enough yet. I’ve always been an early adopter.
Thirty minutes from now, at noon at the National Press Club in Washington DC, one-hundred and twenty-five Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical leaders will be holding a press conference on their signing of what is being called “The Manhattan Declaration.” (I see it as today equivalent of the Barmen Declaration which was penned by Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the early days of Hitler’s Germany as a statement of the Confessing Church’s opposition to the regime.)
The Manhattan Declaration, which will be online at noon today at this link, was penned by Chuck Colson and others. The 4,700-word declaration issues a clarion call to Christians to adhere to their convictions and informs civil authorities that the signers will not – under any circumstance – abandon their Christian consciences.
Among the signers of the Manhattan Declaration scheduled to appear at the press conference are:
- Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
- Donald William Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, Diocese of Washington, D.C.
- Harry Jackson Jr., Bishop, Hope Christian Church
- Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, Diocese of Philadelphia
- Timothy George, Professor, Beeson Divinity School at Samford University
- Chuck Colson, Founder, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview
- Ron Sider, Professor, Palmer Theological Seminary and Director of the Seminary’s Sider Center on Ministry & Public Policy
- George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center and Founding President of the James Madison Foundation
- Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
- Jim Daly, President and CEO, Focus on the Family
Excerpts from the declaration include:
- “We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right – and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation – to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.”
- “We recognize the duty to comply with laws whether we happen to like them or not, unless the laws are gravely unjust or require those subject to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral.”
- “. . . We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriage or the equivalent or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.”
Here’s a clip from Chuck Colson’s Two Minute warning program where he talks about the Manhattan Declaration.
The names on Barth/Bonhoeffer’s Barmen Declaration became an early enemy hit list for the Nazis. Barth had to leave Germany immediately.
Two questions for discussion here: 1) Do you see us heading in the direction of benevolent despotism as Tocqueville prophesied for America? 2) Are we in “the days of a prelude to a totalitarian government” with religious liberty being the first freedom to be taken away?
At lunch today I dove into my latest issue of Mission Frontiers – Mission Frontiers comes every other month from the US Center for World Mission. I’ve read it cover to cover since the 80’s. Today my attention was drawn to an article called “His Kingdom Come: An Integrated Approach to Discipling the Nations and Fulfilling the Great Commission.”
The article reviews a book by the same title – the book is a collection of 30 articles written by YWAM’s senior leadership team. I LOVE reading how the 30 senior leaders of YWAM are saying the great commission is bigger than individual conversions. After all, Jesus said “GO and make disciples of nations…” Sadly we have conveniently read that to only mean we are to disciple individuals in all the nations. The late Dr. Ralph Winter was “ecstatic” about this current thinking at YWAM and he commented:
I am very excited about this book. It is important evidence of a major organization turning very gradually and definitely into a nation-building kingdom type of mission, in addition, of course to the ongoing stress on personal conversion.
No one is advocating downplaying personal conversion, only that we return to the mandate to disciple nations. Discipling nations is the mission of the church. It’s what the Founders of our nation did – 27 of the 56 signers of the Declaration had seminary degrees, many were ordained ministers. These men laid a righteous foundation under our nation that we have since shifted away from. Today the nation is being discipled by (called to follow) those who don’t know God and in fact, are hostile to him.
How do you disciple a nation with a nation of churches convinced they should stay separate from state? The leaders of YWAM are spot on – being salt isn’t about just about getting someone to say a sinner’s prayer, it’s about influencing culture and coming alongside those who shape society, including those who make laws.
I contend it’s impossible to disciple a nation and not be political. The leaven of the Kingdom must permeate every sphere of society (the loaf); media and entertainment, education, medicine, law, government, family, charity, agriculture, environment, and business.
On Sunday I shared out loud some of my latest thoughts on this… Would I rather have 700 people sitting there staring at me each weekend taking in my latest inspirational idea that will help their private faith in Christ? Or, would I rather have seven people from our church occupying seats at our state legislature or school board or city council? I know it doesn’t have to be either/or, but right now it is one and not the other – the church is disengaged. So, how about you— in terms of discipling nations– those seven seats in the state legislature just may bring more kingdom transformation in a region than all the seats in our largest church auditoriums.
2010 will be a good year for the righteous to win elections – pastors should encourage key people in their congregations to run for office. “When the righteous rule, the people rejoice.” (Prov. 29:2) I’m sharing this not out of anger or frustration but rather out of vision. My sense is what lies ahead will require Kingdom-minded people at the table where decisions are made. We can continue to curse the darkness or we can embody the light in our nation.
The Muslims have the momentum on the dominion of the earth right now and we don’t want that for our kids future. Some say its too late because Christianity for most amounts to not much more than sitting in church each weekend looking at the back of the head of the guy in front of you. The salt has lost it’s saltiness and we wonder why we are getting trampled.
Today I was hanging out with my good friend Pastor Gabriel Medicine Eagle – planning a major November outreach on the rez, etc – and talking with him about the fact that he is running for tribal council in the August 27 election there.
We chatted about Indian Health Care and how that version of government-run health care is working (not). And, as you’ll see, I am still having fun with my new Flip Video Camera and I got him to tell an important story that happened to a family member of his two weeks ago.
I know we need health care reform, but folks the details are important (such as not funding elective abortions (retroactive birth control) all the while letting the old and disabled die.) Watch this video clip and think about it… if the govt. can’t provide good health care for 4.5 million natives, how are they going to be able to cover 300 million more people?
Pastor Gabe laughs at the thought of more government promises to take care of us – 150 years of his family tree is a testimony to the fact that that ain’t gonna happen. I titled the video – a Sponge Bob band aid for a rattlesnake bite. Unreal.
At least once a month I consider giving up blogging all together. Every time I hit “publish” I realize I’m drawing a great big target on my back. The reason I keep doing it is because I try to focus on the 300-500 people a day who read this and the many who write me or comment to me saying what I’m writing is helpful to them in terms of thinking through what they believe. I’ve discovered it’s really a form of discipleship that didn’t exist ten years ago. For that reason I think pastors need to be blogging, and especially on controversial and relevant current event topics.
Twenty-years ago I read a book by professor and sociologist Tony Campolo called “Twenty Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid to Touch!” It had chapters on whether or not a Christian should own a BMW, or whether it’s okay for a Christian to put their aging mother in the county home, etc, etc. But whether or not I agreed with his conclusions (a few I don’t) what I most remember from this book is that he had the guts to write it and I resolved at that point to be a pastor who isn’t swayed by the fear of man. So pastors… blog boldly!!
In my view, blogging time for pastors is no different than Bible study leading time or visitation time. Ten years ago I’d think I only touched a couple hundred people a week. However with this venue, that number increases at least tenfold. A man in our church told me that even though I was gone this summer, he stayed “well-fed” just by digesting what I put here. Another Christian in town here recently commented how thankful they were for this blog because their church didn’t feed them on Sunday. I wish I could say to their pastor…. Pastor, your sheep are starving and you are only bringing more straw for them to lay on. Lead them into a greener pasture and deeper waters. Shepherd’s, take up the rod and staff and give the wolf a good whack!
For a couple days now I’ve been sitting on a post on the topic of “Christians and social drinking” (I’ve decided I’ll publish that shortly). I’ve been hesitant because I don’t need any more headaches. If I say I’m okay with social drinking for example, those who aren’t let me know why (and some express their disagreement by disfellowshipping! No pastor wants that!). If I say it’s wrong, another whole group is frustrated because there is freedom in the Scriptures on this matter. So most pastors say nothing. I think what conclusions pastors draw on a particular topic aren’t nearly as important as modeling the process of Biblical thinking.
I’m speaking this fall on James and I’m already thinking about how I’ll tackle the taming the tongue texts in chapter 3. I do know I’ll share my own journey these past two years in taming my keyboard – I’ve tackled the most controverisal subjects in America on my blogs and have come a long way in discerning the difference between taking cheap shots and writing with prophetic boldness.
Yesterday on my pro-life blog I made the comment, “Am I the only one who actually contemplated reporting oneself to firstname.lastname@example.org? I’m happy to be on their enemies list and go on record as a lead opposer of such systemic evil.” Pastors, God calls you to be a watchman and sound the alarm if one bearing a sword comes in to slaughter. Pastors should be key to alerting the elderly in their congregations of the impending danger. Pastors ought to be the loudest opposers of such evil (opposing medical murder – letting the elderly and the disabled die, and killing the unborn). This health care bill is really cash for clunkers in that the old and infirmed (useless eaters) are taken off the streets! And the church is quiet?? Pastors, God is looking for your name on the white house enemies list. I couldn’t agree more with my friend Randy Bohlender on this topic today – Randy, thanks for blogging boldly and taking Jim Wallis & Co. to task!
A number of times as I’ve traveled our state talking with pastors one will make a comment that they don’t talk about subjects like abortion because there are folks in the church who’ve had them and they don’t want to make them uncomfortable. I’ve started to reply to that comment by asking what other parts of the Bible they avoid because people might get uncomfortable. I talk about this stuff boldly and have women I’ve never met come up to me months later to thank me “for saving them from their own private hell.” When I ask what they are talking about they say most pastors only talk about love and God and “I didn’t want God to love me or forgive me because I thought what I did was unforgivable.” They go on to say that me addressing this and taking them to the mercy seat of God brought them into a place of healing and peace with God that sitting in the controversy-free church never did. That’s the story I’m telling these days when people want me to just stick to “preaching the gospel.” The gospel has great application to the post-abortive and the unborn! Pastor, who aren’t you reaching because you are afraid to lay the gospel over-a-top the darkest places?
Those of you following this blog this summer know I spent the bulk of the summer in Europe (among other things) visting the Reformation sites and reading a sizable stack of books about the key players in the 16th century struggle to change Christianity in one generation. I read about (and could relate to) the bloody controversies and found myself asking God: why can’t it be easier? What I’m learning is that controversy is one of the ways God gets us 1) to dig deeper into what the Scriptures really say while at the same time giving us an opportunity 2) to walk in love with those who see it differently. In my view, believers in the 16th century were successful with the former and failed miserably at the latter. I’d like to see the 21st century church succeed at both.
Damn it’s early! Really, a little jet lag right now – clock says 5 AM, my body clock says it’s high noon and time for lunch. Went to bed at 9:30 PM (or 4:30 AM). You get the idea. I fell asleep last night reading the latest issue of Christianity Today. The cover story is interesting and hits a matter that I’ve been a big fan of for years – “The Case for Early Marriage: Settling down sooner than later has never made more sense. Here’s why.” You can find that online if you are interested. (Oops. I just typed “if you are interesting” instead of “interested”. Funny.) However, the story most in my head from this latest issue has to do with cussing pastors.
For those who are not aware, for a few months pastors have been talking about the subject of cussing in the pulpit. As I’ll detail below, Pastor Mark Driscoll, a popular Seattle mega-church pastor, has a famously foul mouth. In response to Driscoll and his large following of Church of Potty Mouth wannabees, Pastor Ed Young threw this clip up on youtube…
Recently I asked another pastor if he’d seen Ed’s clip on the Cussing Pastor and he said yes and I figured we’d talk for a few moments about how right on it was – instead, I got a whole deal on how it’s okay to use the words of the culture to communicate the gospel. A bit untypically of me, I just listened and nodded – he probably thinks I was in agreement with him and my nods may have even encouraged him to say more.
I don’t know why I didn’t say more, I guess I was shocked. I just can’t believe we’ve reached the point where we think we have to swear to reach people. Jesus certainly didn’t need to stoop to swearing to reach people. Maybe we ought to emulate him and not the longshoreman out on the dock or the attention-addicted sarcasts on the comedy channel. And what about this verse in James 3:10… Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Case closed, right? Hello??
In the Christianity Today issue I was reading last night is a report on how Pastor Mark Driscoll divided the South Baptist Convention in two at their annual meeting. Mark isn’t a Southern Baptist, but they invited him to speak because, according to the math, the SBC will lose half it’s present members by 2050. Some in leadership see the decline trend and want the SBC pastors to move beyond choirs, robes, Sunday School, Sunday night services, VBS and other things like suit-wearing, tea-totaling and gospel quartets. They notice the world has changed and the SBC hasn’t kept up in a relevant way.
So, at their annual meeting, the Southern Baptists invited Mark Driscoll to address the constituency. (Many of their younger ministers and church planters follow him closely despite the fact that Mark has a history of using risqué language, drinking alcohol and talking about sex.) After he spoke there were five motions made including one that SBC pastors cannot have any contact with Mark Driscoll or his Acts 29 Church Planting Network. Another motion was made to ban any future speaker at an SBC meeting who drinks and swears.
In January the NY Times reported that even GodTube.com can’t carry Driscoll’s sermon video clips… “with titles like “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse,” his clips do not stand a chance against the site’s content filters.” The NY Times says; “he has the coolest style and foulest mouth of any preacher you’ve ever seen” and that his “Mars Hill Church is the furthest thing from a Puritan meetinghouse.” Driscoll thinks it’s funny and says he even kicks himself when he realizes at the end of a sermon that he didn’t swear and that people come to his church because they want to hear him swear. He remarks that some have left disappointed wondering if he got saved since last Sunday.
In May, my father’s former boss, Dick Bott of the Bott Radio Network (40 million listeners) pulled the plug of a broadcast in mid-air because Pastor Mark Driscoll was using explicit language to talk about the Song of Solomon. Bott followed up with a notice to his stations that Driscoll was not allowed on his stations anymore.
I don’t swear in the pulpit or in public (though, honestly, I do swear in my head on occasion). If this is confession time, I’ll admit I have to fight swearing in private – I’ve learned it’s, for me, the first first symptom that surfaces revealing I’ve been neglecting to be with Jesus. The Bible says, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” My lame excuse is that I grew up around it. My drill sergeant dad spoke fluent profanity. He could call into question your gender identity, your IQ, your mother’s fidelity, your purpose on planet earth, your value as a person and your potential-in-life all in a rapid-fire ten second seamless string of obscenities. Growing up around that, even today, I’m sorry to say I often don’t even notice swearing in a movie. (Parents have asked me if a movie is okay, I say “it was great” and they come back later mad because I didn’t warn them about the profanity. Me saying, “oops, I didn’t notice” doesn’t cut it, though it’s true.
A cussing pastor is not the same as the guy, brand new to the faith, who rattles his small group because he prays out loud… “God, I’ve really –eff’d up– my life…”. Leaders are those who’ve gone out ahead of the rest and who influence others to come to where they are. In my Momentum book I list carnality, worldliness and character flaws in the leader all in the momentum stopper category. Before you point out the obvious that none of this seems to have cost Driscoll anything in the ministry momentum area (his church has 7,500 attending), just know that drawing a crowd doesn’t equal Kingdom Momentum. As I say in the book, “without holiness, no one will see God rise in their midst in any lasting way.” Craig Groeshel at Life Church says he could draw an unprecedented crowd for next weekend just by advertising free beer but that is not the growth God is looking for, nor is it what we are called to give away.
Perhaps one of the reasons pastors stoop to swearing is because most HATE IT when they are around the unchurched and the unchurched guy suddenly cleans up his speech – “oh, sorry pastor.” So they are the first to swear to sort of break the ice hoping the guy will be taken aback and view him as cool and different than most holy men. (In other words, they cease to be holy so as to not be numbered among the holy men. Holy means set apart, or pure, as in not diluted or tainted by mixture with something foreign.) God help us. Often I don’t mention to the person cutting my hair that I’m a pastor because a noticeable wave of guilt or embarrassment washes over those who are sitting in the seats on each side of me because they suddenly realize they just expounded on the raunchy stuff they did last weekend.
I write in my Sermon on the Mount book that being salt and light means your presence ought to change the environment around you. The trick however is to emulate God in such a way that you emanate God and not some air of self-righteous piety. The key verse in the entire Sermon on the Mount is in Matthew 6:8. Jesus says “do not be like them.” That means we ought not even talk like those who don’t know God.
Here’s a few verses related to this— if you struggle with swearing, write these on a card, memorize them and let the Holy Spirit do his work on your tongue. Enlist others to hold you accountable. (My cousin’s husband recently told me he has a deal worked out with his son… every time he curses, his son gets ten more Wii minutes a day. Whatever works!)
Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
For a couple weeks I’ve been doing the background work for a series in James I’m starting next month. I’ve thought to do a mini-series in the middle on chapter 3 – taming the tongue – because I’m convinced life or death is in the power of the tongue. Comments, please!!