‘Four Faces of a Leader’ by Bob Rhoden and Dean Merrill


201304_062_Four_artThe fall 2013 issue of Enrichment, the quarterly journal I edit, has an excerpt from Bob Rhoden and Dean Merrill’s new book, Four Faces of  Leader. Here are the opening paragraphs:

How do you know if you are an effective Christian leader? If you are like most in ministry, you first check attendance. “How many are coming on Sunday morning?” “What’s my percentage of increase compared to last year?”

Next, you look at your church’s financial record. “Are all the bills paid? Have we stayed on budget? Will the fiscal year end in the black?”

What if I measured myself by standards that told the real truth? Am I passionate about holding true to my original calling? Am I regularly doing acts of practical service? How good am I at casting vision and bringing about necessary change? These tell much more than a weekly head count or dollar total.

The Library of Congress has some 32 million books. Which world leader commands the most shelf space? George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? This may surprise you, but this auspicious place holds more books about Jesus Christ than any other person.

This confirms my inclination to use Jesus as a benchmark for effective leadership. In just 33 years, He accomplished more that has lasted longer with greater impact and wider reach than any leader in history. How did He do it?

In this article, I explore the four leadership faces of Jesus — the shepherd, the servant, the steward, and the seer. I summon you to a leadership journey that can potentially move you from simple survival … to success … and on to significance.

Read the whole thing.

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Jimmy Carter Calls Christians to Return to Jesus’ Moral Agenda on Prisoners


In general, I’m not a fan of Jimmy Carter. He was a mediocre president and a meddlesome ex-president. However, over the last two weeks, I spent time in Ph.D. classes with a correctional chaplain from South Carolina. She informed the class of the dehumanizing effects of incarceration and encouraged us with examples of how Christian ministry can rehumanize inmates. What she said helped me cut Jimmy Carter a little slack and pay attention to his remarks.

Jesus’ moral agenda is summarized in Luke 4:18-19.

Unfortunately, U.S. Christians in general and Baptists in particular have neglected it, especially the part about prisoners.

That was the observation of former President Jimmy Carter in a video interview with EthicsDaily.com last week at the Carter Center.

“I don’t think there is any doubt but that Luke 4:18-19 describes Jesus’ moral agenda,” said Carter. “That part of Luke best encapsulates in a very brief way the entire thrust of Jesus’ ministry.”

“I think of all the several facets describing Jesus in Luke 4 about his own moral agenda, the one we have neglected most, and violated most, is the release of the captives, that is prisoners,” he said. “We’re going backward, not forward” in terms of the prison issue in the United States.

He lamented the nation’s “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” approach to punishment.

“Unfortunately, led by some Christian leaders, our country has gone from a basic philosophy of rehabilitation of a prisoner to a punishment only – and the more severe and extended the punishment,” the better it is, he said.

“And this has resulted in the massive increase in America exclusively of the number of people serving prison sentences,” said Carter.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, June 15, 2011


This summer, the General Council of the Assemblies of God will vote on a proposal to consolidate the three nationally owned schools in Springfield, Missouri: AG Theological Seminary, Central Bible College, and Evangel University. Dr. George O. Wood, who serves as AG general superintendent (and is my dad) outlines the proposal in the video below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Consolidation Proposal for Springfield Resident…, posted with vodpod

More information on the proposed consolidation is available here.

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In “Anthony Weiner and the National Adultery Ritual,” Kay Hymowitz writes: “Far from a vestige of American prudery, then, the National Adultery Ritual is best understood as a modern protest in behalf of women against the persistence of male infidelity in an age of equality.” Read the whole thing.

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“Nigeria’s violence political, not religious, says Muslim leader.” If you’re on the wrong end of the stick, does it matter what the stick-wielder’s motivation is?

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Make sure to read Scott Yenor on “The Family’s End” and “The Family: What Is To Be Done?” in which he battles against the notion that marriage is merely a contract between two individuals.

Marriage has contractual moments, but it ultimately, as Hegel writes, supersedes the point of view of contract as the individuals lose their identity by becoming members of the family. A healthy culture recognizes this and laws create a fertile space for such mutual self-giving. It is difficult to see how a healthy marriage culture can exist until we recover the language of self-giving to reflect its continuing reality in our lives. The language of contract is not sufficient to that experience.

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“Demonize the opposition, chapter 666”: about how the media portrays opponents of same-sex marriage, of course.

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“Can Government Get Out of the Marriage Business?” Contra Ron Paul, evidently not.

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“I Am Second.” Inspiring videos from people who have decided to live for God and others rather than for themselves.

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“The Perennial Brain-Mind Gap.” In which Raymond Tallis argues that “neuroscience cannot–not just has not yet, but cannot–explain consciousness itself.”

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“Jesus for Jews”: on the resurgence of Jewish interest in Jesus.

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“Too Late for Apologies: Three Steps the U.S. Bishops Should Take to Prevent Another Sexual Abuse Scandal.” Good advice!

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Don Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper on pastoral succession plans.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, June 8, 2011


 

“Are You Smarter Than Anthony Weiner?” I certainly hope so. But Russell D. Moore provides a timely reminder about temptation and self-deception:

Almost every adultery situation I’ve ever seen includes a cheating spouse who honestly believes that he or she is not going to get caught. The cheater often doesn’t want the marriage to end in divorce. Instead, like the characters in today’s headlines, he or she instead wants to keep everything the same: spouse, kids, and lover too. That’s irrational and completely contrary to the way the world works. Anyone can see that.

But you can convince yourself…or be convinced…that it will work for you. You’re special, after all. That’s the way temptation functions. We put consequences out of our minds, both temporal and eternal consequences. We start to believe that we are gods, with power over good and evil and life and death. And then we do crazy things.

This doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence. Satan is hyper-intelligent. And yet, even knowing that he will ultimately have his skull crushed, he rages all the more against Christ and his people, “because he knows his time is short” (Rev. 12:12). In terms of the most basic principles of military strategy, that’s crazy. What we need is not intelligence, but wisdom. Wisdom includes seeing where the way I want to go will lead (Prov. 14:12).

I don’t know who you are, reader, but I know you are probably not smarter than Anthony Weiner or Arnold Schwarzenegger or John Edwards. And neither am I. Both of us, you and I, are on the verge of wrecking our lives. We’re probably not on the verge of a situation quite like any of those men, but the gospel tells us we have vulnerabilities just the same, and they all can lead to destruction.

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“What Sarah Palin Got Wrong—And We Did, Too.” If we’re going to criticize politicians, might as well be bipartisan about it.

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“Christian Conservatives flock to Michelle Bachmann.” You have to love this line from Haley Barbour: ““There’s only been one perfect person that ever walked on this earth. And there ain’t gonna be another one in this election.”

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“Perry’s Planned Prayer Event Riles Critics.” Though, truth be told, it doesn’t take much to rile them.

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Is a vote for Romney a vote for “a false and dangerous religion”? Hard to argue with the “false” part, though dangerous seems a bit of a stretch.

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“Must Christian Voters Choose Between Ayn Rand and Jesus?” Let’s see: an avowed egotist who created a cult of personality around herself or the Savior of the world… So (a) yes and (b) the choice is obvious.

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“1919 signed letter contains Hitler’s first known stance on Jewish ‘removal.’”

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“Religious art: fig leaf or full frontal?” How about a suit and a tie?

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“Americans Still Believe in God.” In other news, the pope is still Catholic.

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 “World soccer officials defend hijab ban after Iranian team forfeits match.” My guess is that most of the women don’t want to wear hijabs either, but they have to in order to play for the national team. Solution: Let them play!

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Best. Conspiracy. Ever.

Make sure to watch it all the way through. And read the credits; they’re hilarious.

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“Egypt in crisis talks after Muslim mobs attack Christian churches” or “12 dead in Egypt as Christians and Muslims clash”? GetReligion.org tries to sort out the facts.

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Is a bad marriage better than a good divorce? “Social scientists are concealing the harm that divorce, single parenting and stepfamilies do to children. Not only that, they are also hiding the benefits which even unhappy marriages bestow, not just on children, but on the couples involved.”

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Is a national curriculum a good idea? “National control over curriculum creates a single lever you can pull to move every school in America. Would conservatives trust progressives, and would progressives trust conservatives, not to try to seize control of that lever to inculcate their religious and moral views among the nation’s youth? And if you don’t trust the other side not to try to seize the lever, is there any reasonable alternative to trying to seize it first?”

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In “Europe’s Concerned, Worried, and Doubting,” David Mills reflects on the differences between European and American reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden.

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California college adds major in secularism. Of course, on many college campuses today, students get a minor in it already, though without knowing it.

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“How Christianity and capitalism can ‘heal’ the world.” An interesting article about “social investing.” Theologically, however, I’d prefer to delete –ity and capitalism from the title.

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“LGBT ‘Welcome’ Ad Rejected by Sojourners, Nation’s Premier Progressive Christian Org.” I’m on the opposite side of the issues from Rev. Robert Chase, but I too wonder how a Christian magazine can avoid taking sides on this issue.

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In “Judas,” Lady Gaga goes clubbing with Jesus, who’s a Latin biker, and… Oh, who cares! There’s no “shock value” in this video, only “shlock value.”

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In closing, and a bit more reverentially, Carrie Underwood and Vince Gil shine on this country rendition of “How Great Thou Art”:

I totally want to go to whatever church these two provide “special music” for.

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 P.S. Shameless self-promotion: Check out my article in Enrichment: “Up There, Down Here, Among Us, In Me.” It’s about praying for God’s kingdom.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Friday, May 6, 2011


CNN Poll: Majority in U.S. say bin Laden in hell. The rest have read Love Wins.

Jackson Lears critiques atheism, specifically Sam Harris, from the port-side of the political spectrum.

On Harris’s view of science:

To define science as the source of absolute truth, Harris must first ignore the messy realities of power in the world of Big Science. In his books there is no discussion of the involvement of scientists in the military-industrial complex or in the pharmacological pursuit of profit. Nor is any attention paid to the ways that chance, careerism and intellectual fashion can shape research: how they can skew data, promote the publication of some results and consign others to obscurity, channel financial support or choke it off. Rather than provide a thorough evaluation of evidence, Harris is given to sweeping, unsupported generalizations. His idea of an argument about religious fanaticism is to string together random citations from the Koran or the Bible. His books display a stunning ignorance of history, including the history of science. For a man supposedly committed to the rational defense of science, Harris is remarkably casual about putting a thumb on the scale in his arguments.

On Harris’s view of religion:

But Harris is not interested in religious experience. He displays an astonishing lack of knowledge or even curiosity about the actual content of religious belief or practice, announcing that “most religions have merely canonized a few products of ancient ignorance and derangement and passed them down to us as though they were primordial truths.” Unlike medicine, engineering or even politics, religion is “the mere maintenance of dogma, is one area of discourse that does not admit of progress.” Religion keeps us anchored in “a dark and barbarous past,” and what is generally called sacred “is not sacred for any reason other than that it was thought sacred yesterday.” Harris espouses the Enlightenment master narrative of progress, celebrating humans’ steady ascent from superstition to science; no other sort of knowledge, still less wisdom, will do.

On Harris’s confusions about ethics:

Harris’s version of scientific ethics does not allow for complexity. In The Moral Landscape, he describes his philosophical position as a blend of moral realism (“moral claims can really be true or false”) and consequentialism (“the rightness of an act depends on how it impacts the well-being of conscious creatures”). He does not explain why he has abandoned the intentionalism he espoused in The End of Faith. Nor does he spell out how his newfound consequentialism can allow him to maintain his justification of collateral damage (which surely “impacts the well-being of conscious creatures”), or how his new view differs from the pragmatism he had previously condemned. Pragmatism, the argument that ideas become true or false as their impact on the world unfolds, is nothing if not consequentialist.

And on Harris’s fundamental reductionism:

There is a fundamental reductionist confusion here: the same biological origin does not constitute the same cultural or moral significance. In fact, one could argue, Harris shows that the brain cannot distinguish between facts and values, and that the elusive process of moral reasoning is not reducible to the results of neuroimaging. All we are seeing, here and elsewhere, is that “brain activity” increases or decreases in certain regions of the brain during certain kinds of experiences—a finding so vague as to be meaningless. Yet Harris presses forward to a grandiose and unwarranted conclusion: if the fact-value distinction “does not exist as a matter of human cognition”—that is, measurable brain activity—then science can one day answer the “most pressing questions of human existence”: Why do we suffer? How can we be happy? And is it possible to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Interesting.

Stoicism: The Army’s newly invented faith?

Why the National Day of Prayer endures. Because we need economic miracles to cover the distance between what government spends and what it makes? That’s my answer.

Random thoughts on theodicy and psychics. My favorite line about psychics: “Only in America, I guess, do fake practitioners of false phenomena worry about the authenticity of their professional work.”

Howard Kainz offers a Catholic explanation of how Jesus had brothers if his mother was a perpetual virgin. Color me unconvinced.

Christ wasn’t a communist. No duh! But he wasn’t a capitalist either.

Hebrew baby names still tops in 2010, but Jews constitute only 1–2% of the American population. Two explanations: (1) The biblical tradition continues to influence American culture. (2) Hebrews have cool baby names.

Using History to Mold Ideas on the Right: An article about David Barton, WallBuilders, and the quest of the historical Christian nation. UPDATE: Over at GetReligion.org–an indispensable blog about religion stories in the news–Sarah Pulliam Bailey has some questions about this article.

A two-part series on the Christian redemption of the “dismal science”: Part 1 and Part 2.

Why Be a Christian?


This past weekend, I spoke at SeaCoast Grace Church in Cypress, California. I kicked off a three-week series, Why Be a Christian?, based on John 14:6. Doyle Surratt will complete the series over the next two weeks. Anyway, here’s my message:

President Obama’s Remarks at the 2nd Annual Easter Prayer Breakfast


This morning, President Obama delivered the following remarks at the 2nd Annual Easter Prayer Breakfast. I’ve bolded my favorites.

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The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

April 19, 2011

Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast

East Room

8:39 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Please, please have a seat.

Well, it is absolutely wonderful to be here with all of you today.  I see so many good friends all around the room.

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge one particular member of my administration who I’m extraordinarily proud of and does not get much credit, and that is USAID Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, who is doing great work with faith leaders.  (Applause.)  Where’s Raj?  Where is he?  There he is right there.  Raj is doing great work with faith leaders on our Feed the Future global hunger program, as well as on a host of other issues.  We could not be prouder of the work that he’s doing.  I also want to acknowledge Congressman Mike McIntyre and his wife, Dee.  (Applause.)  Mike — as some of you know, obviously, North Carolina was ravaged by storms this past weekend, and our thoughts and prayers are with all the families who have been affected down there.  I know that Mike will be helping those communities rebuild after the devastation.

To all the faith leaders and the distinguished guests that are here today, welcome to our second annual — I’m going to make it annual, why not?  (Laughter and applause.)  Our second Easter Prayer Breakfast.  The Easter Egg Roll, that’s well established.  (Laughter.)  The Prayer Breakfast we started last year, in part because it gave me a good excuse to bring together people who have been such extraordinary influences in my life and such great friends.  And it gives me a chance to meet and make some new friends here in the White House.

I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -– because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection — something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective. 

We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work.  And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways.  And I admit that my plate has been full as well.  (Laughter.)  The inbox keeps on accumulating.  (Laughter.)

But then comes Holy Week.  The triumph of Palm Sunday.  The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.

And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

In the words of the book Isaiah:  “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this “Amazing Grace” calls me to reflect.  And it calls me to pray.  It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short.  It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son — his Son and our Savior.

And that’s why we have this breakfast.  Because in the middle of critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective.  Children help do that.  (Laughter.)  A strong spouse helps do that.  But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal.

So I’m honored that all of you have come here this Holy Week to join me in a spirit of prayer, and I pray that our time here this morning will strengthen us, both individually as believers and as Americans.  And with that, let me introduce my good friend, Bishop Vashti McKenzie, for our opening prayer.  (Applause.)

END
8:45 A.M. EDT

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