“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.” Matthew 7:24
This verse could be and probably is the cornerstone verse of many a great leader. If it is not I believe it should strongly be considered. A founder of an organization; an architect; or a political leader has to make some strong choices on what he or she builds their words and actions on and there are enough examples of people who have built their organizations on sandy land. Even well meaning human services organizations, Pastors of blessed mega-churches; or ministries are in danger of being washed out to sea all depending on their choices on where to build their, firm or church, city, state, or ministry. Is it on solid ground with the cornerstone being the Word? Or is it on our own island built on human decision which can easily be carried out with the strong pull of the undertow?
From a pure business stand point it is easy to see where some of the mightiest corporations lost their bearings. In the history of corporate America you need only to look at the business page headlines to see what companies were built on a solid rock and which were not. The majority of corporate America is built on something other than Biblical principles and when you look at the shipwrecks of careers, lives, and entire corporations that were not able to withstand the wind and the rain because they were built on the flimsy material of the dreamer’s mission rather than that of the creators design. Enron comes to mind as a current example.
Founded on bottom line principles without understanding that risk, ambition and personal gain became justification in “playing with other people’s money” blinded the corporation’s executive staff and Enron was battered by the storm. This led to falsifying records, distorting actual numbers, and eroding all of the company’s credibility. Foolish men will build their houses on a sand bar.
The erosion of building our lives and careers on something other than solid biblical principles hits home in the documentary, My Architect , a documentary of heart breaking consequences. Nathanial Kahn is the illegitimate son of a famed architect who knew very little about his father. Kahn interviewed his father’s clients, colleagues, lovers; and other children and visited the buildings of his father’s designs. Louis Kahn the brilliant architect led at least triple life of deceit that trashed the lives of everyone in his path. The climax is that this very public architect died an ironic death in a public rest room in the very public Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. This famous man died without any identification for days known only as John Doe in the city morgue. He built his life on something made of sand for others to pick up the pieces and hopefully to build their lives on a solid rock.
During hurricane season in 2004, I was trying to get a flight out of LaGuardia Airport in New York. Many of the planes could not reach New York since they were grounded in Florida so many flights were cancelled from LaGuardia that day. The hustle and bustle looked like a run on Wall Street where passengers were vying for seats on whatever flights were left. Suddenly all the noise diminished and people started gathering around a television set. The throngs of people stopped thinking of themselves to watch a political figure’s press conference. “The Democratic governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey, resigned after declaring his homosexuality and confessing to having an adulterous affair with another man. With his wife Dina standing by his side, McGreevey, 47, told a packed press conference: “My truth is that I am a gay American.” The newscast alluded to McGreevey’s record of managing the state in a fiscally responsible manner. When your life is built on sandy land, your leadership skills will also be built there as well. Jesus reminds us of this through this key verse for leadership and if we “hear and put into practice” the solid words of the master we can be like the “wise man who built his house on the rock.” I want that to be my foundational verse as a leader, a father, a husband, and a man.
Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.” Matthew 4 18-20
The e-mail message was sent over and over again from different names and addresses but nevertheless, the message was the same. “Work from home and make $20,000 a month.” We all get these messages and they find a place in our cyber-trash-bin. In decades past the Amway salesman would offer a “marketing opportunity” and wind up in your living room selling cleaning supplies. This offer is different though. It is a hand-picked recruitment that was a “calling” rather than a job offer, or a pyramid scheme. In fact the word scheme doesn’t show up in this text, nor is it even implied. What was different about this offer than any other vocational change? Since this is what Jesus is telling them. We don’t know how good Simon and Andrew were at their jobs as fisherman. The only thing that is obvious is that Jesus acknowledges their current work and possibly their gift set. He understand their passion of casting nets out and their patience to wait in the boat for the nets to be filled. When he tells them: “I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” These are relational statements, “I know who you are and what you do and it is a perfect match.” The other part of that is His authority. Most likely his reputation had preceded him. The fisherman seemed to have a sense that this recruitment was not optional but it was God’s will for their lives.
From a business standpoint Jesus had something not too many recruiters have and that is authenticity. There was something authentic that the typical recruiter doesn’t have. When the Amway salesman requests you to join up he also is trying to sell you something in desperation. Jesus isn’t drawing circles and lines on a paper to show you how much money you will make. Simon and Andrew shared values with Jesus. Jesus is not promising anything except for teaching them how to “fish for men and women.” In his book about Starbucks and his role in it current CEO Howard Schultz was asked how he built the brand and what role mass advertising had in it. “Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last,” he said. “If people believed they share values with a company they will stay loyal to a brand.” There was something about his humility, his demeanor, and his lack of desperation in the way he made his request.
Think of the times when you have received a hyper or bogus job offer. It was based on quota or odds and the recruiter was building a numbers game. That is painfully obvious when someone is making a bold request for you to give up your livelihood to pursue something else. Later when the rich man asks Jesus what he must do to follow him, Jesus tells him to sell everything. The man goes away sad. He can’t do it. The same men whom Jesus recruited witness this very transaction, are befuddled. Peter asks, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Then Jesus tells His disciples what the payoff was for that day when they dropped their nets. He says, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who were last will be first.”
In reading these passages I come to the conclusion that there are three things that recruitment must have to be effective:
1. Authenticity: shared values and mission.
2. Eternal perspective: a spiritual tie in lifelong perspective.
3. Consistent appeal and concern for the prospect.
Even though Simon and Andrew didn’t sign an “offer sheet” and they didn’t have full knowledge of what the pay would be they took a risk because the offer Jesus gave them was a new way of life which was eternal thinking.
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your uselessness and will end up in the garbage.” Matthew 5:13
Eugene Peterson wrote a poetic version of the Bible called The Message. The words here are very symbolic and frank. I find great encouragement as a leader from these words as it relates to purpose. What are we here for? To be salt is it possible to lose saltiness? Yes and also our effectiveness. In the way we act, in the way we speak, and treat others we can show by the way we reach out to people the “God-flavors of the earth.” Who is listening to us and why should they? We read newspapers, visit websites, buy Mp3 songs, tune in to radio, and television shows, and plunk money down to see a movie. What is it that makes us crave the message the world is giving out? Do we get lured in to media that has lost its saltiness or is the saltiness more like another enticing spice that tastes less like godliness and more like titillation? As leaders we must be discerning and give the right message of the Gospel.
In Colorado recently I heard an National Public Radio program that was “made possible by the Gay and Lesbian Fund.” Now that is not shocking or even strange anymore. What made me listen to the message a little closer is what they are highlighting with their benevolence. They are “supporting” homeless teens. They have a message to lead homeless teens, to give them jobs and to give them shelter. I, being suspicious of ulterior motives did research. On the face of it the Gay and Lesbian Fund is doing the work of the church. We dropped the ball. We aren’t reaching or helping homeless teens. We lost our saltiness and the Gospel message is being trumped by an alternate life style. The message of these leaders is “we care.” The motive is what we don’t know. The only thing that is troublesome about it is how many of these kids will make a decision about sexual preference as opposed to a decision for Christ.
Christian Leaders have an obligation not only to deliver the message but also to live it. Authenticity, relevance, and motive, play a large part to those we are leading or wish to lead. In servant leadership it is important to be intentional and to serve those so they will not fall victim to the enemy.
The Danger of Dual Purpose
“You can’t serve two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.”
In a recent contract negotiation I had to be willing to admit that my purpose was double-minded. I also had to tell the other party that it was being the same way. I do a radio program that is on a mix of radio stations and one is owned by a Christian company. When it suits its purpose the company acts like a ministry. When it doesn’t it acts like a heavy-handed company. So my proposal letter was based on Matthew 6:24. I wrote “I feel like am serving two masters. I love one and despise the other. I love the show and the spirit in which it is presented in. I love our partners and clients. I love the ministry of it all. I hate the Management model. It is antiquated, and will not last the way it is now. It takes talent and creative people and makes them into obsessive sales machines, which skimp on quality to fill sixty seconds of air, charges the client, and then throws up a spot that is insipidly bad. At the same time you have two guys who come in and add value to your reputation and you refuse to partner with them in taking care of your clients in an extraordinary way because the “billing is the thing.” That’s a drain and only goes so far and it affects repeat business. I know because we talk to former advertisers who have been sold the product, been abused and won’t come back.
The work order that is being waved around as our contract does not spell anything out. It is the same paper that is used on red flags, from past management that we are suppose to forget and move on from. I would love to get past that time in our history but it is ever present. Can we turn the red flag into a flagship? The following is my proposal on ways that we can forge ahead, where I would not be serving two masters but one. If we aren’t serving people lets unplug the microphones and go home, and if we aren’t reaching them with the power and love of the Gospel, then let’s rewrite or reair a show that is. This is a master plan, to serve the Master. It is one that we can acknowledge the past, mutually take responsibility, and forge a new merger between the business and ministry model that we are all called to.
I realize that what I have to say in this letter is tough and possibly offensive. I see great potential for our relationship and hopefully partnership. The willingness that the network is taking to be a voice on News Talk stations and blending business and ministry is one that is easily understood. It is a common thread that has potential of serving one Master in a powerful way. I do not want the past or present relationship to end up as a bitter regret. It is what it is though, and I need this time to sort out the differences that we have and what Radio Envoy is trying to communicate. Are we Christians in Media or just another organization slapping a Christian label on a worldly model of ego, fame, and manna? I am guilty of the latter-too many times. I want to forge ahead, but the reality is what follows me from a checkered past. Are we going to be courageous risk-takers? Or mediocre energy sappers who have a room full of potential, but no vision to carry it up another notch? I don’t think any of us strives to be the latter. I want a network of “on fire” partners. Without that we have very little to talk about in terms of the future. Please read this proposal draft. If these are places we can re-start from and negotiate, then I will continue Radio Envoy on KZNT. If it is too difficult, let’s negotiate the past due and part ways.
“Yes, the roughness of inner-city life has pressed us to pray. But, is the rest of the country coasting along in fine shape? I think not.” Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, p. 49
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
In the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” the townspeople are forced to leave their homes during a pogrom. Everything they ever knew was in their hometown of Anatevca. On Broadway the stage revolved as the villagers migrated to a new home, in a new land, singing of their memories. It is the final scene of a play about people who were seeing their traditions slip through their fingers. It is poignant, sweet and sad.
For football fans another moving day may come to your mind. Buses and U-Haul trucks loaded in the middle of the night. A greedy owner in the cover of darkness moved the team out of Baltimore for new digs in Indianapolis. Robert Irsay, the hard-nosed businessman, did things the way he wanted to, so he moved his Colts in the middle of the night to escape criticism. There are times when moving on does not make sense.
Almost a decade ago, I moved my family from the mountains. I was ready to let go of everything to follow God. The leap of faith had me “bringing the knife down on my dreams” to rely totally on Him, not on our income or our talents.
When God says move, do you listen? Is God your moving man? Or are you concerned more about your bottom line income potential.
We have our own pogroms in a sense. There are times when we are forced to make a move, helpless, like leaving the comforts of home. People whom we trust suddenly become adversaries. Where is there place to take refuge? As we are led by Him we are also led to make moves that may not be popular. While communication is vital in our relationships obedience to God’s Will trumps it all.
“God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
I began this article with what we build our house on: the foundation, the rock. I end it at the end of the book of Matthew Christ has gone to the mat and gave his life in the ultimate sacrificial leadership. It was in order for us to live for Him and that we would be able to live. And all he wants us to do in return is to believe in who he is and that he is your Savior. As the commercial says-“Now it’s personal!” The risen Christ gave his disciples a list of instructions “until he came back.” It’s kind of like when a boss or a parent goes “out of town” there are things to do. And so his final instructions are “not to picket, boycott and protestÃ¢Â?Â¦” But to tell everyone who HE is and what HE did for you and that he also did it for them.
I wrote about the “recruitment methods” of Christ telling the disciples to “drop their nets and follow.” This is graduation for the disciples. He fully commissions them to be leaders. They are now “certified” to go into the world and recruit others. Give the world the good news that they can also receive the gift of eternal life and also be leaders. In fact I would say that any organization that follows these guidelines in the Gospel of Matthew would be successful. If we are working for the Lord, and doing His work on earth, then we leading in the ways that is pleasing to the Lord.
Dr. Larry Poland told me recently that in Hollywood he often sees Christians protesting and he laughs and says, “Jesus didn’t tell us to go out into the world and protest, picket, and boycott!” The reference is that as Christians who are leaders we need to be careful in what we say to those we are leading. As leaders we have responsibility to practice “The Great Commission” so that none may perish.”