Author: Allan (Page 1 of 413)

Relational Leadership

You’ve got to look at this incredible pass from Luka to Hardy during last night’s Mavericks win over the Pacers. Put the video on full screen and let it roll for like three times. It’s just unfathomable what Luka does almost every single night. It’s not enough to keep them from completely blowing the end of the season – was there anybody who thought the Kyrie trade was going to work? But, man, Luka is a special dude. I pray they haven’t totally ruined him with that putrid trade and this monumental late season collapse. Watch this crazy pass.

This Sunday is our deadline at GCR Church for recommending new shepherds to join our existing eldership. And I want to remind us and anybody else who might be reading this in a different context that we are looking for relational leadership, not positional leadership. Too many churches are led by strangers who are not recognized by the sheep. A true shepherd is followed not because God has given him authority, but because the sheep recognize his voice. In the Bible, God doesn’t tell his people to respond to a leader because he has an office or a title. It has to do with relationship. Uphold these men, the Bible says. Recognize them. Follow them. Not because their names are in the bulletin or because they approve the budget. But because of their hard work. Because of their love for the Body. Because of relationships.

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” ~John 10:14

Shepherds in Bible times were not day laborers who show up for work in the morning, put in eight hours with a lunch and a couple of 15-minute breaks, and then call it a day and go home. They lived with their sheep. Day and night. Season after season. They fed them, protected them, loved them. The sheep knew their shepherd’s touch, they recognized his voice, and they followed no other shepherd. It’s about relationship.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” ~John 10:27

Picture Jesus with his disciples. Eating with them, walking and talking with them, working with them, teaching them, encouraging them; praying for them, correcting them, loving them; washing their feet and dying for them. Ordaining elders is about acknowledging relationships, not appointing positions. This doesn’t mean elders don’t have a title, but it means their authority comes from their lives and hearts and Jesus in them, not the title. They have the title because people follow them, not the other way around.

It’s one part of the church saying, “This man is a wonderful shepherd to us and we think he’d be a great shepherd for the whole church.” And the rest of the church saying, “Yeah, please shepherd us, too!”

When we’re looking for elders, WHO he is is a lot more important than WHAT he is. Relational, not positional.



A Night with the Greatest

I’ve got three or four pretty good Emmitt Smith stories from my mediocre sports radio career and I added to the list last night with our oldest daughter Whitney. The all-time greatest running back in NFL history was in town for the Davidson Distinguished Lecture Series at Midland College, and our favorite math professor, Lori Thomas, got us a pair of VIP passes for the event.

Emmitt stopped by the pre-event reception to take pictures with us and he was kind enough to pretend like he remembered me from my time at KRLD. Maybe. There were a lot of us in and out of Valley Ranch back in those days, but the longer we talked, the more he seemed to recognize me. He was mostly surprised to hear that I’m preaching. Most people are. And he was kind enough to autograph my press pass from the day he broke Walter Payton’s all-time rushing record against the Seahawks at Texas Stadium. It was the first and only time in my 16-years in sports radio that every person in the press box stood and applauded an athlete on the field. A special day.

Whitney doesn’t remember Emmitt Smith’s playing days. When he left the Cowboys the season before Bill Parcells took over for Dave Campo, she was nine. But she’s seen all the highlights and heard all the stories. She laughed out loud several times during Emmitt’s talk and her eyes lit up when he talked about Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, when he mentioned familiar names like Jerry Jones and Roger Staubach. She was especially locked in while listening to the story about the separated shoulder game against the Giants – an expertly delivered first hand account. I guess it was her first time to hear about that legendary performance and she was riveted. We debriefed it all the way home – she asking questions, me telling her my memories of that afternoon.

They don’t make ’em like Emmitt Smith anymore. Three Super Bowl victories, league and championship MVPs, Cowboys Ring of Honor, Pro Football Hall of Fame. His rushing records for most ever yards and most ever touchdowns in NFL history will never be threatened. He was durable, dependable, tenacious, and focused. Not the biggest, not the fastest, not the strongest. Just the undeniably best to ever do it. And still a really nice guy.



With Prayer and Fasting

“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord.” ~Acts 14:23

Today is a congregational day of prayer and fasting for our church at GCR as we focus our energies and attention on the solemn task of selecting additional shepherds. Instead of eating, we are using our mealtimes and snack times today to spend concentrated time in Word and Prayer, in communion with the Lord and one another, as it relates to choosing new elders. I invite you to join us today. If you belong to the GCR Church, use this guide in whatever way you’d like as you go through your day. If you’re not a member of our congregation, would you please pray for us at least once today? Lift up your brothers and sisters in Midland to our Father in the name of Jesus and ask him to bless us with wisdom and clarity and with good men with servant hearts. Then, if you’re in Midland, join us at 5:30 this evening as we break the fast together with a congregational supper. Then at 6:30, we’ll dismiss the kids to children’s worship and Bible class while we adults hang back for some conversation regarding “the lists” in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 25-31
Pray for our current shepherds and their wives by name

Psalm 23:1-6
Thank God for the elders who have faithfully gone before us at GCR

John 10:1-10, 11-18
Pray for the one(s) you are recommending as new shepherd(s)

1 Timothy 3:1-7
Pray for men of character who are beyond reproach in our city and church

Titus 1:6-9
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide our church during this process

1 Peter 5:1-11
Pray the new shepherds will fit in well with our current elders and the leadership transitions will be smooth for them and our church

Hebrews 13:7, 17, 20-21
Pray that our church will make the work of our shepherds a joy

Matthew 20:25-28
Ask God to raise up men with servant hearts to lead our church

Ephesians 4:11-16
Pray that the Lord will encourage us, unify us, and grow us through this shepherd selection time

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
Pray that our whole church will participate in the selection process

May our Lord bless us and guide us together with his grace and peace.

On Sabbaticals and Continuing Ed

Let me explain a bit about the mandatory one-year sabbaticals and the continuing education and elder training for our shepherds at GCR. As we are restructuring our eldership and selecting additional shepherds to serve, I’ve received a couple of questions about these two new pieces.

First, regarding the sabbaticals. Our shepherds are going to begin serving three-year commitments. We are no longer ordaining elders to lifelong appointments. (I’ve already detailed the reasons behind these three-year cycles in earlier posts.) An elder can serve two consecutive three-year cycles, but that seventh year is a mandatory one-year sabbatical. This 12-months is not just a break. It’s not a year in which the elder doesn’t have to attend meetings or read the minutes from those meetings. The sabbatical is an intentional time for development as a shepherd and spiritual renewal.

The way we’re structuring things, the elder about to take his sabbatical must present his sabbatical plan to the rest of the shepherds for their approval. I’m planning to attend this conference or this retreat; I’m going to read these two books on spiritual leadership; I’m going to re-engage this certain ministry; I’m going to attend a new weekly Bible study; I’m traveling to the mountains for a two-week spiritual retreat. Whatever the plan, it should be intentionally designed so that elder can be renewed spiritually and equipped to be a better leader of the flock.

One elder will be assigned to walk with that shepherd during his sabbatical, to pray for him regularly, to check in with him periodically, to meet with him quarterly to get updates. Then, when the sabbatical is over, that elder will give a report to the rest of the shepherds. This is what I did. This is what I heard from the Lord. This is what I’m thinking now. This is what I see more clearly now. This is what convicted me during my time away. If that elder wants to step down after his sabbatical, he’s good to go – he served two three-year cycles, he did what he said he would do, he did what the church asked him to do. He leaves with our gratitude and appreciation. If he wants to continue serving as a shepherd, he must be approved by the rest of the elders to come back.

Again, this mandatory sabbatical allows an elder to get away from the urgency of the position to evaluate their continued calling in a healthy way.

Second, we are placing an expectation on our shepherds that they will continually seek training in spiritual leadership. They will attend ElderLink conferences and seminars on church governance. They will go to ACU Summit and/or Pepperdine Harbor. They will participate in spiritual leadership training at GCR, the details of which are still being worked out, and work outside our GCR bubble to experience other settings and different churches to become better equipped to shepherd our flock.

We expect our ministers to be engaged in continuing education. We expect our ministers to stay professionally sharp, to get outside our box, to seek new and better ideas ways to proclaim the Gospel and minister to our people and serve the community. We expect our ministers to pay close attention to their own relationships with the Lord. Shouldn’t we have those same expectations of our elders?

Someone pushed back a bit on that with me Sunday: “Well, the ministers are full-time paid staff. That’s part of their paid job.” My response was, “In our system, the elders are the ones who make all the big decisions for the church. We should probably be more concerned about their continuing education and spiritual development than that of the ministers.”

Bear with me as I keep processing our restructuring and shepherd selection at GCR Church in this space. If this is helpful to you in your setting, praise God. If you come here looking for occasional updates on my family or daring sports opinions, you might be out of luck for a few days. My youngest daughter and my older son-in-law flew to Arizona last weekend to take in a Taylor Swift concert to which I cannot relate and about which I have nothing to say. And the whole left side of my brackets is demolished. Completely trashed. I’m in last place in our family contest and, if not for Kim O’Connor, would be in last place in our church contest. I’ll stick to writing about shepherd selection for a while.



Round Seven and Zach Williams

We bought the Zach Williams concert tickets before Carrie-Anne was diagnosed with cancer, before we knew that, when the date rolled around, we’d be in the middle of chemotherapy and cold cap treatments every Friday for twelve straight weeks. When I ran into a friend in the lobby of the Wagner-Noel last night he said, “Didn’t Carrie-Anne have her chemo today? She must be doing really well.” Truthfully, nothing was going to keep her from that show – Zach Williams is by far her favorite artist. And, by the way, she is doing really well.

Yesterday was Round Seven of the sixteen total infusions Carrie-Anne will receive as part of her treatment. And, so far, the side effects have been minimal, if at all. She is generally only having issues with the even-numbered infusions, and that is only some nausea and minor bone and muscle aches that usually begin overnight Friday and run through Sunday afternoon. We met with Dr. Manny on Thursday and all of C-A’s blood tests and lab numbers are perfect. As far as they can tell, everything is working exactly like it’s supposed to. In addition, the cold caps are doing their job, too – she hasn’t lost one strand of hair! The frozen gloves and slippers are also proving effective as her fingernails and toenails are not just holding their own, they’re growing! There is a cumulative effect on her energy we’re noticing. It is taking her a few hours more every week to feel back to normal. But Carrie-Anne is working four days a week and, overall, we both feel very confident and grateful for where we are and how things are going.

As for the concert, Zach Williams always puts on a good show. Four guitars, three horns, keys and drums, background singers, and steel guitar gives the whole thing a really full sound. It’s kind of a Southern Rock / Country sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Dierks Bentley. I like the lyrics to most of his songs – fear really is a liar and we really could use a little more up there down here – and he seems to be a sincerely humble guy who wants to help people connect to our Lord through music. Carrie-Anne and Whitney both know every word to every song and I had a blast just enjoying my wife and my first-born daughter having so much fun.

Near the end of the show, Williams led his band and the whole crowd in a sharing of the communion meal. We were forced to use those terrible little rip ‘n’ sip communion kits, but it was okay. It was really good, in fact. Zach spoke about how the Church has distorted the communion meal, how we’ve conditioned ourselves to be silent and somber during the bread and cup when it was always intended by God to be a time of fellowship and sharing, a time of celebration and praise. At that point, Carrie-Anne leaned over and said, “He’s preaching your sermon.” I know. I was all in. So, Zach encouraged us to consider the Body, to remember the unity we share in Jesus, and to be alright with smiling and celebrating during the meal. And we did. The Body of Christ broken for you. The Blood of Christ given for you.

The only thing missing is for Zach to write a song based on Isaiah 25:6-9 or Exodus 24:8-11. I think I’ll send him a letter.




Scary Things

A text exchange earlier today with my Aunt Louann who lives just east of Dallas.

Aunt Louann:
Hi Sweetie! Did y’all have any scary weather yesterday?

We’re in Midland. Lots of scary things, but the weather is never one of them. Sunny and 73 yesterday.

Aunt Louann:
Oh, that’s good!! There were tornadoes all around me, but didn’t touch down. WHEW!! What scary things??

Oil tycoons.
Dust storms.
Christian Nationalists.

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