Can a Super-Hero Have an Identity Crisis?

will-smith-as-hancockI love movies, all kinds of movies – good, bad, or indifferent. So for me, this summer has been a great time to watch big-time movies.

One of my favorites, even though I do have mixed emotions, is the movie called Hancock. It’s about a super-hero who has an identity crisis.

Jason Bateman who is the PR man for Hancock, charged with the job of trying to improve his image, confronts Hancock with this simple truth, “You’re called to be a super-hero and until you accept that, you’re going to be miserable.” In another place Bateman challenges Hancock with this statement, “Your problem is not that you don’t care, but that you do.”

These are powerful ideas and images confronting us each and every day. What’s your identity? And even if you know it, do you care?

All of us were created with a certain set of talents, abilities, and capacities. We all have a calling. Maybe it’s not to be a super-hero, but I know it is something significant, and important, and needed in the world or you wouldn’t be here. The question is, do you care enough to find out what that is and to pay the courageous price to engage it? It may mean going back to school. It may mean selling your house and moving into an apartment and downsizing so you can begin again smarter and more hopeful.

Here is my warning: You have a calling in your life. You have an identity given to you by your Creator. And until you pursue it, identify it, and engage it with all your heart, you’re never going to be happy. Nothing will take its place.

Why Gateway Computers Never Worked on Purpose

Have you ever thought something was just you? This is such a pervasive feeling. I think the whole economy is built on the idea.

helpOver the years I’ve owned 4 Gateway computers. All of them were the latest and greatest when I bought them. And all of them had great features on them that didn’t work; that I couldn’t figure out. I had too much pride to really do much about it because I thought it was just me. Now I look back and realize those features didn’t work for anyone. So I wonder if Gateway or some other merchants don’t just simply say, “You know what, let’s put this stuff on there, advertise it, it won’t work, their pride will keep them from asking for help. And they’ll just figure it’s them.”

So here’s my point. If your pride is keeping you from asking for help and you assume it’s just you and you’re going to live with it, wake up. Ask for help. It isn’t just you. We’re all broken. We’re all messed up. We’re all lonely. We don’t know how to work the machine. Things don’t work all the time. God never intended for you to just say, “You know what, it’s just me. Everyone has it together except me.” If you continue that attitude, you will be broken. You will be dis-eased the rest of your life.

We’re all broken. We all need each other. Ask for help. Pick up the phone. Dial the number. Not an email, not a text, a face-to-face, swallow your pride and humble yourself. Reach out and accept the help that you so desperately need.

When Do You Know It’s Time to Leave Your Church?

Since we’re still in the first few days of 2008, it’s always a good thing to assess where you are and what you’re doing. I was amazed to hear Mike Holmgren, coach of the Seattle Seahawks in an interview say that each and every year, no matter how well his team plays (and they’re still in the playoffs, by the way) he assesses whether or not he’s going to re-up for another year. This is not a bad thing for any of us to do, particularly if you’re a pastor of a church.

Just because you’ve been the pastor in 2007 doesn’t mean you need to stay there. Trust me, you don’t need the work. The same God that employed and brought you there can take care of you at the next assignment.

The question is, how do you know when it’s time to leave the church you’re serving, whether you’re a pastor, or leader, either paid or volunteer? Here are some suggestions.

It’s time to leave the church…

1. When you no longer love the people.
When you find yourself complaining about them more than praising them, it’s time to get out.

2. When you no longer love the city or the location you’re serving. The most sustaining factor any pastor has going for himself or herself is that they love where they’re serving – the town, the people. If you don’t love where you are serving, it’s time to find a place that you can.

3. If you find your speaking stale.
You’re finding it hard to be inspired about what to speak on. You have a great big Bible filled with 66 books and thousands of stories and illustrations, principles and applications that can be made. And yet with all that material, you feel dry and stuck.

4. When you find yourself wandering in your heart and mind about what might be out there for you.
We all do that some, but if you’re doing it almost exclusively, it’s time to launch out into the brave new world and see exactly what might be next.

5. If you stop believing in the people you’re serving alongside in leadership.
If you don’t believe in the people you’re serving alongside, they know it. You know it. And it’s time to make a change.

6. If the church you’re serving won’t take care of you financially
and your family is suffering over financial issues, it’s time to get out, even if you have to get a “real job.”

7. If you’re finding that you and your spouse are arguing more and more over the problems at the church
, rather than the joy of being a family, it’s time to get out of the boat.

Vision is probably not what you think

Every great company, great church, great endeavor has an engine at its core; something that drives it, sustains it, pushes it forward and then upward. It’s called a vision. It’s like an engine that sets the thermostat around which all the other systems and processes of an organization revolve.

A vision for a company is what gathers the workers, the capital, and calls for innovative ideas to create something that’s never been before.

The vision of the church of Jesus Christ is somewhat different. It’s not just a vision for building a great church, vision for taking a city, vision for building a facility or buying land, or vision of collecting a great staff, or vision for writing a book or having a conference. If that’s what you think vision is, you’re going to fail miserably, or probably be out of the race very soon.

Here’s what we mean when we talk about vision and the revolution of the gospel, and the advancing of the church in the world.

1. Our vision starts with God. It’s a vision not only of the holiness of God, His distance, His magnificence, His immensity, but also a vision for the imminence of God, the closeness of God, the compassion of God, and the grace of God. It’s an overwhelming, mind-blowing experience. And it’s always the engine that drives every expression of the church of Jesus Christ. What’s your vision of God? What is God like? What does He want? How does He operate? What does He bless? How does He want to be served and represented?

2. Second is the vision of who we are and what God wants us to be. While every church has as its primary mission, the gospel, each and every church no matter how large or small, has its own particular DNA. If you don’t have a vision of who you are and what God wants you to be, it’s going to be very difficult to face the hardships ahead. What I am really talking about here is your particular teachable point of view, as it were, your elevator speech. What is it that makes your gathering, your movement, your ministry different from all the others to choose from.

To be sure it starts with your vision for Who God is and how He wants to be expressed in the world. It will be completed in the second stage of who you are, what your gifts and strengths are, what your interests and abilities are. I’m amazed at the number of churches that try to pursue a mission for which they have no affection or vision. Because that vision is detached from who they are and how they’re gifted.

3. The third part f our vision is the vision of where we are and whom we’re to reach. Again we’re all in very different places. I live in a community called Franklin, Tennessee. It’s a part of the metro area of Nashville, Tennessee. Above us is Brentwood, above that is Nashville proper, to the east of us is Murfreesboro, to the west is Spring Hill and a burgeoning population all around. My ministry field – white suburbia; a growing number of people moving from all parts of the world, right in the heart of where Nissan North America is moving and many other companies are relocating their headquarters. So the vision I have for Franklin, Brentwood, Nashville, Murfreesboro, Spring Hill is going to be very different. So in this third part of your vision, what is your vision for where you are? Do you know who you are to reach? Do you have a love and affection for them? Are you connected to them with your heart? You cannot effectively reach people you don’t love!!!!!

So a vision is not what you think. It’s more than you think; a vision of Who God is, a vision of who you are, and vision of where you are and how you’re going to reach those people. That’s your mission. Think about it long and hard.

10 Freedoms of Getting Fired

It’s hard to believe, but one year ago this week Paula and I were fired from the church we planted in 1989. What a painful ending to such an awesome life changing experience.

I am glad to say that the firing did nothing to diminish our dream of creating a gathering space for people who had given up on church, but hadn’t given up on God. After the trauma of our firing wore off, we began a brand new journey 30 miles down the road in Franklin, called I have to tell you, the past year has been better than I could have imagined.

I’ve also learned, during this past year that an awful lot of other people have been fired or forced out of their careers. I’ve heard words of encouragement from literally hundreds of pastors. And what I’ve found is the reason most pastors don’t get fired is because they simply walk away from the fight before it ever gets to that point.

Getting fired is nothing to brag about or look for, but sometimes events happen that are beyond your control. If you are being forced out, or you’ve been fired, or you’ve been let go or downsized, and something really good has ended in a way that is incredibly painful, there’s a way to face your firing that leads to freedom.

Here are the 10 Freedoms I’ve discovered:

1. The freedom of knowing that at the end of every good thing is a greater thing waiting to be born. I loved the last 16 years. I loved seeing God show up. I loved seeing thousands and thousands of people find hope and life in Jesus Christ. It was a really good thing. But now I’ve been set free to do it all over again; hopefully smarter. And I love this new thing that’s being birthed; a lot of freedom and joy and fun involved in being back out there again. I love seeing a sea of people gathering, hungry for the hope that only exists in Jesus Christ. The past was a very good thing, but today is an even greater thing. Who knew? Yea God!

2. The freedom that comes from knowing that the love of those who love you will always be stronger than the hate of those who hate you. So if you’re going to obsess on one or the other, make sure it’s the former. My great joy today is because so many people stepped up around me and Paula, loved us, took care of us, and wouldn’t let us quit. There has not been one day in this last year that I haven’t had an email, a phone call, someone take me out to dinner, or let me know they are praying for me. The generosity of those around me is so great that I don’t have time to obsess on those who I felt betrayed me.

3. The freedom of knowing that if you take the high road in every controversy, you’ll never regret it.
I look back at some of the things I did in the week or two after the firing, some of the letters I wrote, some of the interviews I gave, and I’m glad that I took the high road.

Here’s what I mean by taking the high road. In the grand scheme of life, personalities come and go, jobs come and go, but the mission of the gospel, the mission to love people is more important than any personality, title, or job. So always take the high road. Don’t try to defend yourself. Don’t try to protect your rights. Let God do all that for you. Take the high road and you give God a free hand.

4. The freedom of knowing that in every humiliation there is a truth to be learned and a lie to be rejected: Wisdom is in knowing which is which. When you’ve gone through a bad situation most of what people say is grossly overstated, but there’s a truth to be learned about yourself. Learn it, and you’ll be free.

5. The freedom of knowing that when you anchor yourself to the place God has placed you, you don’t have to let anyone intimidate you or threaten you to move. In the days after the firing I asked Coach Fisher what I should do and he said keep on doing what God sent you here to do and what all of us want and need you to do – be our pastor.

I know God placed me in Nashville. I loved serving in Bellevue. But I am thrilled to now be in Franklin; a whole new world, a whole new set of challenges, a lot of people to love, a lot of people to extend real hope to.

6. The freedom of being fully present where you are, experiencing what you’re going through is the only way to be transformed by the pain. There’s an old French proverb that says that we only really know the worth of a thing after we’ve lost it. For me that means being fully present and embracing what happened to me. It gave me back my love for being a pastor. I love it with all my heart. And everyday is a great day.

I have a renewed passion for something I’ve been doing since I was 18 and it took getting fired to make me realize how precious it is to do what you know you’re called to do.

7. The freedom of knowing what you give people when you’re up and they’re down is what they’ll give you when you’re down and they’re up. I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and generosity of so many people. I had someone say to me, “You’ve loved us and accepted us and refused to judge us, now it’s our turn to return the favor.” Remember that applies to us all.

8. The freedom of knowing that though God may be silent, He is never still. You question when you are going through something hard, “Why God, are you allowing this to happen?” By faith I trust that He has a purpose and a plan. He certainly has for me and I love the new doors that are opening.

9. The Freedom of knowing that no one can take from you or keep from you what God wants for you. The threat of getting fired is not the end of the world. It’s not the end of your career and is certainly not the end of your calling. Whatever God’s called you to do, do it! When one good thing ends, a greater thing begins. God will continue to bless you. Don’t worry about getting back or hurting other people. Let God be your defender. Focus on the next right thing to do and then God can bless you.

10. The greatest freedom of all is the freedom of knowing that the mission of being a part of this worldwide revolution of the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ can never be muted or held hostage. Christians may disagree. We may have to separate. New churches need to be planted. But the mission is paramount. It’s always about Jesus. It’s always about hurting people and getting them and Jesus together.

The new mission God has placed me on, helping non-religious people connect to God and each other, is a passion burning in my bones every single day.

The mission is always the most important thing. And when you are on a mission from God, you’re free; free from the bondage of institutions, free from the confusion and division of religion, and free from intimidation because you know that this is the greatest mission in the world.

Hey, getting fired is not all that bad if you can learn something from it. These are the 10 things I’ve learned. What are you learning?

It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and

Rocky Balboa is the final film in the “Rocky” series. An aging Rocky is inspired to fight his last match against the undefeated heavyweight champion. Many people, including his son, believe Rocky will be humiliated.

In this scene, Rocky and his adult son are standing outside Rocky’s restaurant. His son is upset because Rocky has decided to fight again. He tells Rocky, “Now, I’m asking you, as a favor, not to go through with this. This is gonna end up bad for you, and it’s gonna end up bad for me.”

“You think I’m hurting you?”

“Yeah. In a way, you are.”

“That’s the last thing I ever wanted to do.”

“I know that’s not what you wanna do, but that’s just the way it is. Don’t you care what people think? Doesn’t it botherrocky-balboa you that people are making you out to be a joke, and that I’ll be included in that? Do you think that’s right?”

Rocky thinks for a moment, then points to the palm of his hand and says, “You ain’t gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here. I’d hold you up and say to your mother, ‘This kid is gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid is gonna be somebody better than anybody ever knew.’ And you grew up good and wonderful.

“Then the time came for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for someone to blame. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.

“But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward—how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! You gotta be willing to take the hits and not point fingers, saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody! Cowards do that, and that’s not you!”