Receiving Criticism! Really?

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      One of the downfalls of my early pastoral ministry in the 1970s-1990s was the flawed teaching of Pastoral dominance. Many of those who I had great respect for during those days taught me that the pastor had inside direction from God and should never be questioned in any situation. I don’t discount the important fact that God DOES lead His men in leadership abilities and often lays upon the heart of pastors the right direction for a local church, family situations and even denominations of churches. However, pastors need the help of good men, even controversial men to help him in situations of difficulty and directions of life.

     I often grieve the fact that as I reflect on the past God allowed certain individuals to come along side of me to help me, however, due to the fact it threatened my pastoral dominance I treated them as disloyal subjects.  Don’t misunderstand me, I know that Satan sends his emissaries too to do us wrong through prideful, power hungry, vain persons who vie for dominance and personal glory. But that’s not always the case.

      Proverbs 11:14(MSG)14 Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances. Proverbs 15:22 (MSG)22 Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed. Proverbs 24:6 (MSG). Strategic planning is the key to warfare; to win, you need a lot of good counsel.

      I was reminded this morning of how Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. and Dr. Johnny Hunt surrounded themselves with good men, excellent counsellors and people of selflessness to grow God’s Kingdom. Currently, I observe that Andy Stanley invites the same environment.

     Today, my entire attitude has changed from those strong legalistic days of the 70s-90s. I understand the grace of God and how God closely watches over us to assist us to live out our identity and destination through safe and secure relationships of family, friends and ministry associates. I have never enjoyed the Christian life as much as I do today. I still struggle along on my journey, however, my outlook toward God and people has dramatically changed.

     The words from, Trust for Today, “One of the surpassing gifts of grace is the confidence to be less afraid of critique. Grace says you won’t be ruined even if everyone’s negative critique is accurate. Grace says you have endless value to God before you try anything.”

     The next time you face criticism follow the old expression, “eat the meat and spit out the bones.” In other words, accept what is valid and forget what does not apply.

Trueface Team coming to Lynchburg…

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For the first time ever the Trueface team from Phoenix Arizona and now Atlanta, Ga. will be visiting Lynchburg.  Coach Richie McKay, Head basketball coach for Liberty University invited them to Liberty for a private Leadership Cohort that will be held 2 days September 17 and 18th, however, on Monday night September 16 we will be able to host them for an open round table discussion on the subject “Grace Changes Everything”.

It will be held at Mosaic Church, 2323 Memorial Ave, Lynchburg, 7 PM, on Monday night September 16. It is open to all.

The Trueface team consists of John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, Bill Thrall and the newly appointed CEO of Trueface, Robby Angle. Angle recently served for over 7 years at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia founded by Andy Stanley.

The Trueface life changing publications include…

“The Cure “of which Bart Millard, lead singer of MercyMe states… “The Cure changed my life, my marriage and the way I write music” 

The Cure & Parents

Behind the Mask

The Ascent of a Leader

On My Worst Day

Bo’s Café

Trust for Today”. Newly published daily devotional.

The Trueface team has had a profound impact on Betty and me as well as our entire family. We were introduced to Trueface in September 2006 by Dr. Johnny Hunt’s City of Refuge counselling team. The Trueface emphasis on the Biblical principles of freedom in Christ, living out our identity in Christ has literally changed our journey from a performance prone, pleasing God emphasis to one of trust, transparency and authenticity.

Check out the entire Trueface story at trueface.org…

How Do you Look for a Church?

Praise & Worship pic.pngFor the first time in forty-five plus years I am not serving as a Senior Pastor, so a result, Betty and I have had the opportunity to visit around to different churches to evaluate and discover where the Lord would have us serve. It has been an interesting journey. We are looking for a place that is alive and gives life not only with the message of the Cross to an unbelieving generation but one that also assists Christ followers to recognize their identity and lead them to maturity to the destiny that God has also prepared for them. We love the preaching of the Word, but also good praise and worship music. Some of our worship experiences have included….

……feeling like a spectator while most of the worshiping was done by the worship team.

……worship room was so dark that an usher had to use a flash light to seat us and when the lights finally came on at the end of the service, we realized we were the oldest people present. 😊

…   great music but preaching was with very little application to what we were daily experiencing.

……as we entered, we felt very unsettled as if everyone there probably fails less than we do.

……overstructured control of the leaders as they sought to control an environment of well-behaved and “we got it all together people.”

We recently visited a church community whose message was right on target, regular baptismal services that impacted you dramatically and as best we can tell so far, helps you wherever you are in your journey to maturity. It’s not a perfect place but I believe one that has the right motives as a life-giving community. We felt very welcomed. We have observed some real miraculous life transforming stories within this church. As we look around, we see the very youngest to the oldest who attend.  We detected young adults by the scores which indicates something good is happening.

In most cases a life-giving church is messy, and you see all kinds of unedited life situations. Regardless of social or financial status, or ethnic background they feel that there is an opportunity for them……there is love, forgiveness, repentance, inclusiveness and grace.

Isn’t this to whom Jesus would have spent most of His time ministering?

I look at a church like raising a family…….at birth the little ones know nothing……you must lead them, love them unconditionally, forgive them when they fail, encourage them when they encounter difficulty……. stick with them through thick and thin in a connected relationship.

Oh God, give us life-giving communities through our churches

 

 

 

 

My friend Chuck…

Chuck and Jo (2)It was in 2006 at an early Tuesday morning Men’s Bible study when I crossed paths with a man named Chuck. After our initial introduction, I learned that he and his wife Jo were marriage counselors.  I immediately noticed that lots of his answers to life’s situations were filled with wisdom and discernment as we studied the Word of God together. This Bible Study, composed of 10-12 men was different than most….it was authentic, transparent and we all carried our share of vulnerability. This means that we allowed each other access to each other’s lives. We were all encouraged and learned much about each other and life as we met together for years.

Chuck and I became close friends. Week by week I saw his heart, his tears of burden for broken lives and most of all a commitment to helping marriages out of the sludge of possible divorce, pain, rejection and failure. He and Jo had committed their lives to helping people, particularly marriages from ruin through their ministry of His Touch Ministries. They have been at it now for twenty-five years. The testimonies of those who have been helped in restoration have blanketed the Central Virginia area. Chuck and Jo are so authentic and transparent because both have endured previous broken life experiences and very painful situations. They understand life.

I have often said that His Touch Ministries might be the best kept secret in Lynchburg. It is a non-profit counselling ministry that does nor charge fees for counselling. Their thoughts are that many who need counselling are experiencing financial difficulty also and they would never allow that to keep someone from getting the help they so desperately needed. The downside of that is that Chuck & Jo live on very minimal income by today’s standards.

Betty and I have monthly supported Chuck & Jo’s His Touch Ministries for years now. We were later invited to sit on the Board of Directors and we have seen, first hand, the lives that have been transformed through this ministry. They are dear friends and a great encouragement to us.

I would describe Chuck & Jo as self-less, sacrificial and serving. They are a team of love givers who have set their standards high in achieving successful marriages.  They are the type of friends that you could call at 2 AM and they would be there for you immediately.

I would like to ask you to pray for them, check out their ministry online at histouchministries.com and to consider financially supporting them. You will be glad that you did.

My Dream for the Graduate…

 

 

Graduation Hat.jpgWe are experiencing the time of year where graduations are occurring practically every week. There are three graduates in our own family and we are so proud of their accomplishments. We graduated twenty thousand at Liberty University and I have also just completed teaching an online Senior Seminar Class at Regent University which is the very last class before graduation. All 28 of the students in my class were excited and very much concentrated on making a good final grade. Graduations are joyous times of defining moments.

As I reflect on these times I want to wish my graduate family and friends’ success for the next step in their lives. My dream for them is………

To trust God by knowing Christ, accepting and receiving what he has done for you on the Cross. He paid our sin debt and no amount of good works on our part can gain what only the Cross can do.

  Reflect on the following negatives….

Do not allow the secrets of the past and present to control your heart. Don’t live in a prison of past sins, failures, anger, disappointments, betrayals. It will negatively affect every area of your life

 

Don’t rely on false assumptions. Don’t pretend that everything is all right when it is not. Adversities, unforgiveness of sins done to you and sins you have done to others need to be brought into the light for healing. Unresolved issues build up like plaque on teeth.

 

Do not run from an authentic community. Most of us have friends but do you have someone you can share all? We desperately need a person with whom we can share our struggles, pain, failures and mistakes. Check out James 5:16. Living in a safe environment of authentic community will help us.  Dependence on God and others will result in maturity and freedom.

 

Don’t let the world determine your identity. Let Jesus Christ determine who you are. If you are a Christ follower your identity is in Him meaning that you are blessed, accepted, forgiven, redeemed, cherished, chosen, holy, members of His family, loved and honored. Wow, what more could you ask for? John 10:10 says…the thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Let me suggest that you check out the below resources. These publications have influenced me into living a life of grace, love, forgiveness, freedom, identity and authenticity.  

The Cure (Lynch, McNicol & Thrall) published by Trueface.

Behind the Mask (e-book)

Lay it Down by Bill Tell

Trust for Today (The Trueface Team) Daily Devotionals.

New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. (Daily Devotionals)

Replenish and High Impact Teams (Both books are by Lance Witt)

The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero

Transforming Prayer by Daniel Henderson

Any title written by Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle

Any title written by Andy Stanley, pastor of Northpoint Church

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I Know I Have Struggled with Who I Am…

Struggling with who I am 3.jpg     Having been a pastor for almost fifty years and a University Professor for fourteen years the number one question that surfaces continually is one that a student shared with me today……. he said, I know I have struggled with who I am and who I am supposed to be. It is a constant tug of war with what I know and what I feel. It’s a wilderness of pain for me and others.” That same statement has been asked in a myriad of ways, thousands of times to me and certainly deserves some attention and discussion.

Every life is different and cookie cutter answers are not always enough. I certainly don’t have all the answers to every life situation, but, I would like to offer some starting points for your reflection based on my personal journey.

     There are three words I would like for you to remember…inability, vulnerability and dependability.

     There were times in my life when I felt I could handle any situation I faced. I pretty much controlled my life with a performance attitude of I can get it done without any help from anyone. The older I became the more I realized that I was unable to handle my life alone. I needed help. My inability to change left me hanging in life without answers, making me feel unworthy and insecurity. It caused me to hide my weaknesses and sinful tendencies.  It left me in a state of repentance, realizing that I was not able to bring any authentic change to my life.

My inability led me to becoming transparent, but more importantly, vulnerable. Transparency is when you open yourself to share your struggles, failures, difficulties and unanswered questions with trusted friends. However, vulnerability is when you allow others to speak into your life. This was a life changer for me. I cannot even emphasize enough the importance of being vulnerable. I have friends with whom I have allowed to view my life and observe areas that have transformed my thinking and direction. Do you have a trusted friend(s) with whom you allow to help you and are you willing to be vulnerable?

This brought me to the realization that I needed to ultimately trust God and others with my life and all my secret stuff.  My dependence on God and others brought real meaning to my life. Naturally, there is some risk in trusting others, however, take it from someone who knows…….it works and is well worth it. It was a great day when I realized that I needed God and others to help me through life. It brought me freedom that I had never experienced.

     The above will not be an overnight change, however, heading in that direction will transform your life. What will you do with this?

How Am I Affecting You?

Question Mark 1.png In the last few days I published the words of Jimmy Evans that said, “Functional Families talk…Dysfunctional families do not talk.” It received quite a few comments from my friends. One said, “I think that in order to help dysfunctional families heal we have to find ways to create an environment where they can feel safe to express their thoughts.” Another said, “Dysfunctional families also don’t talk because most times the responses are negative, disruptive and hurtful so why set yourself up for that?

     Have you ever considered asking your family, friends and work associates, “How am I affecting You?

I personally dealt with this very question almost 15 years ago. As a young married family man, as well as a senior Pastor I possessed the character trait of being a controller. It never occurred to me that I was. Among other things it had travelled upline from my family of origin. Everybody in my environment realized I was, except me.  For years I possessed this way of life until, as Peter Scazzero says, my life hit a wall. It was then, after months of counselling, life evaluation and introspection that this destructive behavior was realized.

I was broken. After this realization I have continuously worked on it, making myself vulnerable by allowing my family and several very close friends to speak into my life as they observe my day to day journey. It has helped me to be a winner in life. As a family we are closer and more respectful of each other than we have ever been.  As Ephesians 6:15 says, we speak the truth in love.

I believe that asking this question could change the course of your life. Your family, friends and work environment might be a little suspicious at first but if you keep on asking they might just be honest. You may be affecting your family and friends in good ways but also some damaging ways too.

     If you are successful in getting valid responses, then let me encourage you to be non-defensive and respond with a thank you.

We all need to own our weaknesses and be aware of our influence. My friend, Bill Thrall says, “it’s my maturity that releases me into my influence.”  Yes, we need to hear the affirmations of our influence but also the negatives of our influence. He reminds us we are to face those who we are affecting. That’s owning our influence.

I am reminded by what one of the Trueface authors, Bruce McNicol says repeatedly, “God intends for our healing and maturity to flow right through us to others.”

     This takes courage…. Do you have that courage to change and make your life better?