`When Weakness Becomes Sinfulness’ by Michael Goldsmith


I’m at a conference for Assemblies of God district leaders. I just heard Michael Goldsmith talk about how God deals with our weakness and sinfulness. He had a lot of good things to say, especially to ministers, so I thought I’d share what he said. Here are my notes:

**********

Proverbs 4:23, 1 Timothy 4:16, 1 Corinthians 10:12

Pastors often operate on the principle of never let them see you sweat, but everybody sees you when you fall.

8 OBSERVATIONS:

1. We all have weaknesses that can become sinful.

Matthew 26:41, Acts 10:26, Genesis 4:7, Luke 4:13

See Jack Hayford, The Anatomy of Seduction: Defending Your Heart for God

Areas to Guard with the Opposite Sex

a. Attractiveness
b. Familiarity
c. Ego strokes
d. Emotional attachment
e. Personality congruence

2. Our weaknesses are controlled by our best self, but our sinfulness is vulnerable to our worst self.

James 1:14, Daniel 7:25, Revelation 12:12, Romans 13:14

3. God will strengthen weaknesses, but He will expose sinfulness.

Romans 8:26, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Numbers 32:33, Psalm 90:8

Accountability works if it is asked for and offered.

Secrecy is a warning sign that weakness is on the verge of sinfulness.

4. Our strengthened weaknesses become useful ministry while our ignored weaknesses will become our downfall.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Relationally, when we share our ministry weaknesses, competition with other ministers decreases and cooperation with them increases.

Nobody can help somebody like somebody who’s been there.

5. God will send warnings when weakness is on the verge of sinfulness.

6. In our weaknesses God works for us; in sinfulness God works against us.

This does not mean that God is out to get us. It means that God is “against you” to the degree that he must oppose your sin to get you back into fellowship with him. His judgment is rehabilitative.

Difference between Relationship and Fellowship

a. Relationship = defines your connection to another person
b. Fellowship = defines the quality of the relationship

Fellowship always falls apart before relationship does. That’s true whether we’re talking about our relationship with God or other people.

7. The cost of unconfessed sinfulness is enormous.

Consider the costs in your relationship with God, your spouse, your children, your friends, your congregation.

It costs in terms of self-respect, an accusing conscience, etc.

It costs money as your are moved out of ministry in the disciplinary process.

The costs of sinfulness and its effects on your life and ministry are too high.

When you know a minister who has failed morally, don’t withdraw from them. People who have caught in sin need encouragement. They need to know they’re valued as a human being, not merely as a producer of ministry.

8. The grace of confessed and forgiven sinfulness is greater still.

Job 8:6

‘I wish every church said what this church says in their bulletin …’ Jon Acuff


He’s talking about the bulletin of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community in Dunedin, Florida. Here’s what the bulletin says:

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!

What do you think?

Knowledge Problems and Necessary Virtues


(Here’s my editorial from the spring 2012 issue of Enrichment, which is available online.)

In a February 12, 2002, press conference, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made the following statement: “[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — there are things we do not know we don’t know.”[1]

Rumsfeld was answering a question about the apparent lack of evidence connecting Saddam Hussein’s government and terrorist organizations seeking weapons of mass destruction. But his remark applies to the knowledge problems leaders face in any organization, including the church. And they suggest certain virtues that all leaders, including ministers, need to develop.

Start with Rumsfeld’s first two categories: known knowns and known unknowns. The older I get, the more I realize how ignorant I am in most areas but how knowledgeable I am in a few. Career specialization is the reason for this lopsided ratio of ignorance and knowledge. I have been a vocational minister for half of my life and all but 2 years of my professional career. Consequently, I have the knowledge base and skill set necessary for vocational ministry. Had I chosen or been called to a different profession when I was 21, no doubt I would have a very different knowledge base and skill set.

When you know what you know and do not know, it helps you develop appropriate virtues. In the case of known knowns, confidence, and in the case of known unknowns, teachability. In 2007, I transitioned from associate pastor at a megachurch to senior pastor of a turnaround church. I was not afraid of the new task of preaching weekly because my previous ministry experience had prepared me for it. I approached the pulpit with confidence. But I had never led a board meeting or annual business meeting, never been responsible for formulating the entire budget for the church (as opposed to my department’s budget), and never done a thousand other things that senior pastors routinely do. I was unconfident, but I was teachable. And I benefited from mentors both inside and outside the church who were willing to share their knowledge and skills with me. Had I approached my known unknowns with confidence, rather than teachability, the growth of the church would have been stifled by my ignorance (and pride).

The real problem in ministry — or leadership generally — is how we respond to unknown unknowns. Consider the Early Church. It was entirely Jewish. Then Jesus Christ poured out the Holy Spirit on Gentile God-fearers without their being circumcised, keeping kosher, or observing Sabbath. The Early Church did not know how to respond to this novel situation, which they had not even imagined would happen.

When you experience unknown unknowns, two extreme responses are common: resistance and ditching. In the Early Church, Judaizers resisted the law-free gospel and clung to the necessity of the ceremonial law, while antinomians went to the opposite extreme and ditched the moral law along with the ceremonial one. The proper response, as articulated by Paul? Flexibility. Paul flexed with the new wind of the Spirit blowing among the Gentiles without being uprooted from Scripture’s foundational “law of love.” In the crazy, rapidly changing times in which we live, ministers similarly need to know what can change and what must remain the same.

To Rumsfeld’s three knowledge problems, philosopher Slavoj Žižek adds a fourth — unknown knowns,[2] “the disavowed beliefs, suppositions and obscene practices we pretend not to know about, even though they form the background of our public values.” Žižek was writing about what happened at Abu Ghraib.

Sometimes we ministers overlook and even justify sin in our churches. We do not confront the abusive dad because he is chairman of the board. We give the gossipy woman a pass because she does so much for missions. We take out loans for building campaigns but do not have money in our benevolence accounts. Repentance is the only appropriate response, and we ministers should lead the way.

Confidence when we know what we know. Teachability when we know what we do not know. Flexibility when we experience unknown unknowns. And repentance in the face of unknown knowns. These are the knowledge problems we ministers face, and the virtues we need to develop.

Notes

1. http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=2636. Accessed 18 January 2012.

2. http://www.lacan.com/zizekrumsfeld.htm. Accessed 18 January 2012.