Ministry

Let's Play Pretend - Part II

A little while back, I wrote the first part to this article of Let’s Play Pretend. In this particular article, I want to take a closer look at how we prevent living divided lives as leaders. Revisit Let’s Play Pretend - Part I.

It’s never our desire to harm others. Rarely does a leader intentionally hurt or offend. It can often be attributed to any of the following:

  1. Overworked schedules, and striving for success.

  2. Unending conflict within the church.

  3. Over-identifying with the needs of those they lead.

  4. Lack of accountability or unwillingness to admit failure.

  5. Pride and an unwillingness to submit to regular self-examination led by the Spirit.

  6. Unawareness of the impact of family of origin.

  7. Lack of boundaries and healthy stewardship of power.

  8. Doing more for God than being with God.

  9. Self-protection in the form of severely private lives and lack of close community.

  10. Need to please others, unwilling to deal with conflict, etc.

  11. Misunderstanding of temperament and self-care accordingly.

This list is truly not exhaustive. It’s symptoms I have seen in my own life, in others, and in research as I have studied what it means to lead wholeheartedly.

Whatever the cause, the result remains in a harm that is extended to self and others.

Behavior modification would never be enough - simply because we are powerless to lead with integrity and wholeness on our own. We must have the Spirit of God within that leads us to inward transformation - the overflow of life that truly bears lasting fruit. The fullness of the Spirit in the life of a believer calls for regular self-examination as the Psalmist cried - Search me Oh God, and see if there be any anxious way in me. It calls for transformation from the inside out, a willingness to consistently allow Christ all the way in and invite the Spirit of God into the deepest recesses of our soul.

For example, take the spiritual and religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Divided lives were the way of the Pharisee’s, the religious leaders in Christ’s day. And the harm they did to those around them in their communities was devastating. Christ never held back from calling them out. In one common occurrence when Jesus is teaching to the crowds, - Jesus states directly to the religious leaders and those speaking out against him:

“Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”” John 7:21-24 NLT

In essence, Jesus is saying “check your own actions, motives, and heart”. You look good on the outside but it’s not lining up with what’s beneath the surface on the inside”. 

As leaders, we often spend more time dealing with the external rather than the internal. We deal with others behavior, we call out others motives, and we fix systems and activities. Rarely taking the extended time to examine, call out and hear from God for ourselves.

“Do right” all you want, but if your motives and heart is not pure or in alignment-it falls flat and harms.

We see this again in Matthew 23:25-27 - Jesus is rebuking the spiritual leaders for the divided lives the lead. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.”

Dr. Alicia Britt Chole posted this thought just a few days ago, and it speaks so much to the harm of a divided leader.

“Positional authority without personal integrity will inevitably become abusive.”

In Part I of this post, we used Peter Scazzero’s definition of integrity…“Integrity is when who I am on-stage is the same as who I am backstage. It is when there is no separation between what is going on inside of me and what I am expressing outside of me. There is no separation of my inner and outer life.”

This includes hidden and secret sin, but it goes much deeper than that. It’s becoming aware of who we are in Christ, and allowing ourselves to express that fully. It’s realizing that it’s okay not to be okay, and we surround ourselves with a community that we can be vulnerable and transparent with in the ups and downs of this life. We reach beyond ourselves to counselors, coaches, mentors, and pastors. We allow those that we lead to see that we are not perfect, and that we are just as human and in need of grace as they are.
We seek to discover the impact of our family origin, and the ways we self-protect to keep people out.

There is no true perfect solution to this - but there is grace-filled surrender. As we surrender wholeheartedly to Christ, we invite Him all the way in to full transform us from the inside out.

Here are a few simple steps to begin giving space to this transformation: 

1. Lead self-aware. You gain self awareness by hearing the voice of the Spirit through intentional times of self examination and repentance. Here are just a few ways to practice this regularly: receive insight from assessments, invite in a counselor to help you unpack your past and family of origin, learn from skilled authors and teachers that can guide you, find a coach or spiritual director, etc.

2. Establishing regular spiritual practices of silence, solitude, and slowing down to be with Jesus so that you can discern His voice in the midst of daily life. 

3. Invite accountability and a close community that you will allow to know you inside and out-failures, temptations, and all. Make an intentional choice to be vulnerable.  

4. Invite Jesus beyond the surface and into the depths. Challenge your own perceptions of Scripture and the world around you - and then invite the Spirit to speak.  

5. Journal the process.

These are just a few steps! I am learning regularly that this process is an ongoing journey of transformation that we must acknowledge and intentionally invite into our lives as people, but especially as leaders. If we want to love and live wholeheartedly - loving God and others with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind - we must make intentional effort to seek after integrity and wholeness. The Spirit of God will empower the transformation if we give the invitation!

 …written by Christan Causey

…written by Christan Causey

Grin and Bear it Kind of Love

A "grinning and bearing it kind of love". You know what I mean, right? The kind where you with fists clenched and gritted teeth, recite over and over - "I think I can, I think I can" as you will yourself to love those that have offended you. Ever ask yourself, "how do I find love for this person"? Have you ever known a person that was a thorn in the flesh, grated on your nerves, or someone who hurt you deeply?

When I was regularly seeing my counselor, I had some specific occasions where I had experienced what I felt was a major offense by someone in my life. I would be all worked up, but excited about my counseling appointment. She was the one person that I could "righteously" vent to about any one person in my world. The first few times it occurred, I was just sure she was going to help me feel better. I could vent, and she could be shocked with all that they had done. I knew she would be the one to assuage my feelings of hurt and offense, because she would tell me how right I was to feel the way I did and how best to confront them. Well, those first few times were met with a slap in the face. She did nothing that I expected. She put it back on me. Every. Single. Time.

I learned about expectations, needs, and longings and asked who is filling them. She asked hard questions, she pointed me to His Word. Slowly but surely after many, many times of complaining about offense from others, I began to see things differently.

What is one thing that is at the root of many conflicts? If we were to dig deep, which is always necessary when feeling offense or facing conflict, we would find that one consistent issue is that the person on the other end of the offense failed to meet our expectations. We often have unrealistic, unspoken, and unfair expectations for those around us. And, many times, we can have appropriate expectations of a person and they still fail them simply because...they are human. Either way failed expectations hurt. Always.

If we are following Christ, most of us long to know Christ more. We desire to walk with Him. We long to live in the Spirit, to set our minds on the Spirit. (Read Galatians 5)

Here is what I have learned. When I take my mind off my Savior, I begin to gratify the desires of the flesh. My own needs and longings separate from the Father seek to be met and filled. If I don't look to my Father to meet those longings, I will look to the flesh-to those around me-to the things of this world. And when I find that they cannot meet them, I will become disheartened, angry, frustrated, offended, and more. The object or person that failed to meet what I desired or needed becomes the target for my offense.

This can be a spouse, children, friends, family, co-workers, those whom we serve in ministry or rather than people, it can be money, organizations, etc. This happens when we walk according to the flesh rather than the Spirit. When we set our minds on what we think we need or want versus what God says is all we need, we become distracted and discontent.

We look for people or objects to fulfill desires only our Heavenly Father can fill. Unfortunately, because Our Father was meant to meet our deepest longings, people and objects will fail miserably. We are regularly implored by His Word to set our mind and heart on things above, to set our mind on the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, and to live in the Spirit. We are exhorted to not think how to gratify the desires of the flesh. When our minds become set on the flesh the result is death rather than the life and peace that is offered through a mind and heart set on the Spirit. (Read Romans 8)

No wonder we are angry people. It's no wonder that our relationships are broken and frayed. We have desires to please our Father, yet we yell, demand, and resent. We claim justified offense, and we speak ill words of our families and neighbors.

God forgive us because we have so much desired that they please us and fulfill us in a such a way, that when they don't meet those expectations, it causes deep offense. It becomes such an offense that we struggle to love and show mercy and forgiveness.

Yet, loving kindness and compassion and mercy comes more effortlessly when we put people and objects in their rightful place which is under submission to the Father.

When we surrender these desires and longings to the Father, and we look to Him to meet those-we stop placing unrealistic and unfair expectations on those around us. We realize that they can never meet what we are truly desiring or truly needing. Forgiveness and mercy comes when we realize that their place in our life is under the authority of the Father. God is greater or more able to satisfy us than any living thing or material possession. When He fills every part of our desires and longings, people no longer are objects of need-they are precious gifts from our Father to love as He loves us.

We can say, "Yes, you failed my expectations but because I know you could never meet my deepest needs - I am not looking to you to fulfill those. My Father meets those, and it leaves me satisfied to where I can show mercy and love. You see, you and I are no different. Imperfect and broken, but made whole by a Savior who loves us. If not for the grace of God, I would or have done the same things you have done to hurt me".

This is Christ in us. It's not just a "choosing to think positive thoughts" about someone. We are talking about a deep genuine Christ-like love for each person. When we find contentment in Christ and we regularly invite Him to fill every part of us - we decrease and He increases. It changes the way we see people. God created each of us beautifully and wonderfully and His image - therefore I can love the person God has created even when it hurts. This comes when we move in the Spirit, and are being guided by the Spirit rather than our flesh.

For me, it's a daily and sometimes moment by moment surrender. Father, help me walk in your Spirit - in life and peace. Help me look to you to fulfill those desires and longings that no one else can. When others fail me in their imperfect nature, help me in my own imperfect nature to show love and kindness. Help me to "By the Spirit who dwells within me, guard the good deposit entrusted to me". (2 Tim 1:14). Help me to flee my "less than desires" and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. (2 Tim 2:18)

We need to stop the "grinning and bearing" kind of love where we show others love and compassion through forced and obligated wills. Our love can come from a genuine heart of compassion and sacrificial grace because it comes from Christ within. With the help of Christ, let us then truly love one another.

 Written by: Christan Causey

Written by: Christan Causey