Napoleon on Leadership

I was reading through The Minister’s MBA, a book by George Babbles and Michael Zigarelli.  They include a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte, and his words struck me as significant.

Let me write about the significance of his words before I share them with you.  I’ve had opportunity to observe the relationship between pastors and boards, and experienced it myself.  I encourage every pastor and every board member to read Napoleon’s words carefully and take them to heart: “Those who failed to oppose me, who readily agreed with me, accepted all my views, and yielded early to my opinions, were those who did me the most injury and were my worst enemies; because by surrendering to me so early, they encouraged me to go too far.”

Now, I’m not saying that board members should oppose the pastor by default, but neither should they be ‘yes men.’  I’ve seen church leaders go into too much debt, or misuse staff members, while the board numbly goes along.

May I encourage pastors to listen to and work with their boards, and insist that board members voice their opposition to an agenda they cannot fully support.  That’s what I want from my board.

I’d appreciate your comments on this.

God bless,

David

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Josiah’s Lunch

Here’s a story I wrote recently after I read a post by N. J. Lindquist, a great Canadian author.  The post can be found here: http://www.njlindquist.com/church-is-really-not-about-us/ .

Nine-year-old Josiah scuffed at the dusty ground in frustration.  Being nine in Bethsaida was difficult for a boy.  He wasn’t old enough to work with the men like his older brother Nathaniel, and he felt too old to be playing the childish games his younger brothers and sisters and cousins played.  He spent a lot of time sitting by the shore looking out over the water.  He was often there early in the morning to watch his father and uncles, along with other fishermen, come back with their catch.  Sometimes he was able to help straighten out the nets on the shore so they could dry in the sun.  It was at those times that he felt that he had something to contribute; something to do.

But often the days were long.  Outside of fishing and the market, there was little of interest that happened in their small village.  His mother found lots to gossip about with the other women over laundry and other chores.  But Josiah was not interested in which girl was marrying which man, or who was expecting a baby.  “Girl stuff,” he thought with disappointment as he kicked at the stones on the path on the way home.

Josiah’s ears did perk up at some gossip, though.  Some of the women were chattering about news of a new prophet who was teaching the people and healing many who were plagued with various diseases.  As he played around the neighbourhood, Josiah tried to listen in as the women discussed the latest gossip about this man, and where he was and where they thought he was going next.  It was a bright spot for him in an otherwise boring day-to-day routine.

“Nothing ever happens in Bethsaida,” Josiah thought to himself.  “It’s always fishing and farming.  I wish I was old enough to go to Jerusalem to see the temple!”  That would be interesting!  That would be an adventure!

One day, Josiah was playing by the shore of Galilee when he saw a boat approaching.  “That’s odd,” he remarked to himself.  “All the fishermen are at home sleeping after fishing on the lake all night.  Who is that in the boat?”  He watched as a large group of men got off the boat and walked to a large open space just outside of town.  As they went onto a hill overlooking Bethsaida, many other people followed them and began to gather around.  As he watched, this thought came to Josiah: “That’s the man who I heard everyone talking about!”  No longer scuffing the ground, his feet nearly flew as he ran all the way home.

“Mom! Mom!” Josiah shouted as he ran in the door.  “That man is here, talking to the people out on Sundown Hill!”  (It was called Sundown Hill because it was a great spot to watch the sun set over the Sea of Tiberias)

“What man?” asked Josiah’s mom.

“The teacher I heard all the women talking about with you!  Can I go see him?”

“No, there’s too many people.  I don’t want you getting lost,” his mom warned.  “Besides, what were you doing listening to our conversations?”

“Awww mom, what else is there to do?  Anyway, how could I ever get lost?” Josiah said.  “We’re related to practically everyone in Bethsaida!”

“Well-ll-ll-ll, okay, but only if Nathaniel will go with you,” his mom said.

Nathaniel will only go if there’s food to eat, thought Josiah.  “Is it okay if I take some lunch, mom?”

“That’s a good idea!” his mom answered.  “There’s some fresh bread I baked this morning, and some pickled fish you can take.”

Josiah woke up Nathaniel, who was a little grumpy after such a short sleep.  The promise of food and opportunity to see this new teacher was just the ticket to get him moving, however.  Josiah tugged on Nathaniel’s arm to try to get him moving faster, but moving a sleepy 12-year-old was not easy.  They finally made it to Sunset Hill, in spite of the delays.  Boy, was it crowded!  Josiah saw lots of people he knew from Bethsaida, but there were many people from other villages as well.  There were extra boats in the harbour, indicating that some people had followed the teacher across the lake.  Josiah was glad that Nathaniel was along, after all.  He stuck close to Nathaniel, but Nathaniel met up with some of his friends and didn’t really want a younger brother tagging along.  So Josiah found himself virtually alone in the large crowd of people.  He had never seen so many people together in one place before!

Josiah tried to listen to the teacher, but it was hard to hear everything that was said.  What he did hear he understood a little.  This teacher taught in a way that was different from the rabbis in synagogue.  When he explained something, you could almost see it in your mind.  There were lots of farmers in the crowd, so the teacher talked about farming and how seeds were planted.  Josiah wasn’t the only one to not quite understand; others murmured among themselves about the meaning of the teacher’s words.  But it made everyone think about what was being said.  And in this teaching, God sounded close and warm, not like the picture he saw in his mind when he listened in the synagogue.

As he looked around, Josiah suddenly saw Peter and Andrew, two fishermen he recognized from Bethsaida.  They caused quite a stir in the village when they left their profitable fishing business, hauled their boats out of the water, and began to follow the teacher.  He edged closer, trying to get as close as he could.  He began to get hungry, but thought he’d save his food for a while longer.  Besides, Nathaniel would be upset if Josiah didn’t share his food with him.

All at once, Josiah overheard the teacher talking with his followers about feeding everyone.  At that, Josiah looked around and saw that no one else seemed to have brought any food with them.  “They don’t have moms like mine who think ahead!” thought Josiah with a grin.  Then he noticed Andrew close by.  Andrew was quiet, not like his loud-mouthed brother Peter.  A little shy, Andrew liked talking with children, so Josiah felt safe approaching him.

“Hakham Andrew?” Josiah said hesitantly.  He used the title or respect taught to him by his parents.

“Who’s that?” Andrew replied.  After a moment to study the child’s face, a grin broke over him.  “Josiah!  You’re Judah’s boy, aren’t you?”

“Yes sir,” Josiah replied shyly.

“Are you out catching fish with your father and brother yet?” Andrew asked good-naturedly.

“No, father says I’m not old enough yet, and mother says it’s too dangerous.  But I help spread out the nets to dry,” Josiah said proudly.

“Good boy!” Andrew clapped him on the shoulder.  “You’ll make a good fisherman real soon!”

“Hakham Andrew, I heard the teacher asking for food.  I have a little lunch that I brought to share with Nathaniel, but if the teacher needs it, I’ll share with him too,” said Josiah quietly.

“That’s very thoughtful of you,” said Andrew.  “I don’t know if it will help, but I’ll take it to the Master.”

Josiah watched Andrew walk away with the only food he had brought with him.  He wondered if he had done the right thing.  Soon, he saw the teacher’s followers asking people to sit down in groups on the grass.   Wondering what was happening, Josiah stayed standing and craned his neck to watch.  The teacher took his lunch, prayed the meal blessing over it, and began to break up the bread and the fish.  Josiah looked around at all the people and wondered what the teacher was thinking, but as he continued to watch, the teacher kept breaking off pieces and handing them to his followers, who took them to groups of people sitting down.  Josiah’s eyes got bigger and bigger as he saw everyone get fed, even himself!  When everyone was finished eating, the followers went around and gathered up the leftovers and each follower had a basketful of bread.

Andrew brought his basketful to Josiah and said with a big smile, “Take this home to your mother, Josiah, and tell her she still makes the best bread in Bethsaida!”

Josiah nodded and grinned, then turned and skipped all the way home, forgetting that skipping was too babyish for an almost-grown-up nine-year-old boy.  “Mom!  Mom!” Josiah shouted as he ran in the door.  “You’ll never believe what happened today!”

 

Let me know if you enjoyed this story, or have any questions about it.  I wrote it for a message I preached at our church.

God bless,

David

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A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards: A Review

I’ve often heard reference made to Gene Edwards’ A Tale of Three Kings, but it wasn’t until I found it in a used bookstore recently that I took the opportunity to read it.  It is a classic book, and by my estimation a must read for every Christian who would seek to take a position of leadership, and even more importantly, who serve under someone else in leadership.

Edwards explores the kingships of Saul, David, and Absalom.  Saul is described as a mad king who throws spears in his madness.  The normal human reaction is to grasp the spear and throw it back at the mad thrower.  But David’s response, as outlined by Edwards, is to dodge the spear and leave it behind.

Edward warns us as leaders that there is King Saul in each one of us.  David’s inner Saul was annihilated by the outer Saul.  The thrown spear may pierce our hearts, but if we allow Him to, God can use it to kill our inner Saul.

I’ve had spears thrown at me, and I can identify with the David which Edwards describes.  I pray that my inner Saul has been destroyed in the process.

Edwards puts words into the mouths of one of David’s followers: “David taught me losing, not winning.  Giving, not taking.”  Later, the same follower remarks about authority, “Men who don’t have it talk about it all the time.”

If you haven’t read A Tale of Three Kings, go out immediately and buy a copy and read it!  It will become a valued part of your leadership library.

God bless,

David

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Calling All Chili Lovers!

I like chili!  I like cooking it, and I enjoy sitting down to a nice hot bowl of chili on a cold winter night, or a cool fall evening, or a nice spring day, or…. well, you get the idea.

So I’m happy to announce Community Pentecostal Church’s fourth annual Chili Cook-off!  It’s all happening this Saturday, February 9, 2013, at 5:30 PM.  There will be lots of different chilis to try (last year we had nine!), some great entertainment, and lots of awards and prizes.  We will be asking for donations towards our windows fund, but you can receive a charitable donation receipt for amounts over $10.  The Kennedy family (aka The Soggy Bottom Boys) will bring some great musical entertainment.

Prepare your best chili recipe, bring your pot of chili and your appetite, and join us for a fun evening.  Just so we can be prepared, please let us know you are coming.  Call the church at 705-426-5673, or email me: dporteroffice(at)gmail.com.

The church is at the corner of highway 12 & highway 48 just south of Beaverton.

God bless, and we hope to see you Saturday!

David

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Breakfast With Bonhoeffer by Jon Walker: A Review

I was intrigued with this book, yet unsure at the same time.  Over the past few years, I have grown to appreciate the depth of thought and character in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, yet reading Jon Walker’s writing has been a challenge for me.  I often found him to be difficult to follow when I read two of his previous books.  So when I was given the opportunity to read and review this book, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to take it on.

Breakfast With Bonhoeffer is Walker’s personal journey through wrestling with Bonhoeffer’s writings in the midst of dealing with some of life’s greatest challenges.  Part of the positive aspect of this book is Walker’s own story.  It helped me to understand a little better why I found his writing challenging to follow.  Jon Walker has had to deal with many challenges in life, one of them being bipolar disorder.

Walker lays his life and soul bare in this book, for which he is to be commended.  His personal reflections on wrestling with life’s challenges present the reader with some creative insights into the Christian life.  However, I find that his analysis of Bonhoeffer leaves the reader wanting more.  Now I’m walking a fine line here.  I reflected on an earlier book of Walker’s, critiquing his quotations from Bonhoeffer, noting that it seemed as is he was quoting the Bible itself.  But it seems here that he skims the surface of Bonhoeffer’s writings, leaving the reader wanting more depth.  Perhaps I’m being too picky here, but that’s my impression.

For those who enjoy Jon Walker’s writing, this book will be a treat.  It will be an eye-opener for those who have struggled with reading his books.  But if one is willing to get beyond these issues, insights on the Christian life can be found.

I received this book for free in order to write a review.  However, the thoughts expressed here are my own; I was not required to submit a positive review.

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Heaven Changes Everything by Todd & Sonja Burpo: A Review

This book is advertised as a “devotional reader.”  As such, it is designed to be read a little at a time, or a section each day or week.  It is a follow-up or companion to the Burpos’ other book Heaven is For Real.  The first book is about the Burpos’ four-year-old son’s visit to heaven.  Because Heaven Changes Everything relies so heavily on the first book, it can be a little frustrating to read without having first read Heaven is For Real.

That aside, there are lots of things in the book to challenge and encourage the reader.  As the title suggests, having confidence regarding heaven can change everything about life.  It is subtitled, “Living Every Day with Eternity in Mind.”  The devotional thoughts shared in the book can be encouraging for the reader, especially those already convinced of heaven.

The one concern I would express regarding this book is that the thoughts are based on one family’s personal experiences, rather than being drawn from Scripture.  At the end of each devotional reading, there is a Scripture verse quoted, but it seems to be an after-thought, tacked on to try to justify what was said.  Personal experience is wonderful, but it must take distant second place to Scripture.

That being said, this book can be an encouraging read for anyone.

I received this book for free from booksneeze.com for review purposes.  However, the thoughts shared here are my own.  I was not required to submit a positive review.

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Hurting With God by Glenn Pemberton: A Review

“Learning to Lament with the Psalms” clues in the reader that this book focuses on the Psalms.  Glenn Pemberton speaks to the issue of lament from his own personal experience.  He highlights lament by examining the lament psalms.  The Psalmists were not afraid to express their sorrow and grief and even anger at God, and neither should we.

He comments that lament has lost its place in the church, where we have placed undue emphasis on being happy.  Pemberton argues that we do a disservice to members and visitors by hiding the issue of lament.

Hurting With God is well-written and covers the lament psalms extensively.  As a result, the average reader may find it challenging to keep reading.  That said, I feel the best section of the book is the conclusion, where Pemberton shares some ideas for incorporating lament into the life of the church.  Because of Pemberton’s personal experiences and academic background, it is a valuable resource for church leaders and members alike.

I received this book for review purposes, but was not required to give a positive view as a result.  The views expressed here are my own.

God bless,

David

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