Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Virtues Make the Best Valentines

Valentine’s Day is near and the scramble is on for flowers, gifts, cards, and of course, chocolates. Charles Shultz once said, “All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then never hurts.” Can I get an Amen?

When it comes to love, courtship and romance, everyone searches for the right assortment of ways to express value and affection. Yet I would propose that the best assortment is not found in a box of chocolates (Forest Gump: “You never know what you’re gonna get”), but in an array of “fruit” that adds value and beauty to all who share. 

The fruit to which I am referring is a fresh and familiar assortment of virtues produced by the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

These virtues offer enduring beauty in a world where vices have marred trust, and fueled injury and fear in relationships. 

In recent days, social networks and mainstream news have featured scandalous accusations and sensational revelations concerning a growing list of popular, powerful and prosperous men who are now identified by their vices and abuses toward women. Many of these men have suddenly and catastrophically lost their livelihoods, their families, and will forever bear a brand they had not previously displayed or owned. 

With this in mind, I have been reflecting on my own attitudes and praying for ways to challenge the men in my church to raise a new standard of virtue in their hearts and homes with regard to all women, but especially their wives. The word I put before them and want to share with you is a word, a virtue, now lost in a culture consumed with rights and void of responsibility. It is the word, respect. I believe most of out mates would affirm and agree respect is better than roses.

Respect is choosing to take responsibility for the attitudes and actions toward others. Respect is foundational in our relationship with God—“The fear of the LORD” (Proverbs 1:7)—and our relationships with others. Respect is at the core of what makes society, community, and family work.

How do we choose respect and express respect in our homes? May I offer an assortment of applications for you to read and share?

Live with her according to knowledge. In 1 Peter, husbands are instructed to show great honor and care for their wives based on what they know about them, not what they know about themselves. I am amazed how many men know more about cars, guns, games and teams than they do about their wives. When you value something (respect someone), you know what to do to promote and protect them.

Look at her. Eye contact is a means of showing honor and respect. You know this with your kids, but what about showing this to your wife? She needs to be reminded you only have eyes for her!

Listen to her. If you are like me, I am prone to jump to conclusions in finishing her sentences, to offer an opinion before I have heard her line of thought or offer a solution. What your wife really needs is an open heart and a listening ear.

Lift her up in prayer and before others. Thank God for your wife and pray for her needs. Thank your wife in front of others and let them hear you echo her value to you and your home. Public cynicism and criticism are detrimental to any relationship. What you appreciate, appreciates.

Learn to love what she loves. Guys, we fake it when we are dating and prove it when we are married, don’t we? Don’t bait and switch. Find ways to do what she likes and learn to love what she loves. This will radiate respect.

Limit your schedule to include her. Nothing says, “I value and respect you,” more than making appointments to spend time together. Time is love and love takes time. 

Lean on her counsel. This is often difficult for men, yet it is the primary way to express respect through trust. If you are a pastor like me, you feel respected when people heed your counsel, and feel disrespected when they ignore you. The same is true at home.

Lend a hand to help her. When you help your wife with tasks, chores and responsibilities, you are saying, “Who you are and what you do matters to me!” 

Respect. Aretha Franklin sang about it (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) and we need a new generation of men to hear it, honor it and heed it.

Respect is better than roses, but don’t forget the roses.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Post-Season Play in a Post-Modern Era

At the risk of adding to the paralysis of analysis (ad infinitum, ad nauseam) following big games, I have found myself captured by a powerful parable I need to examine and express before time passes and the imagery of the Alabama victory fades. 

Monday night’s CFP National Championship game between Alabama and Georgia displayed all the expected traits of the strong, calculated and daring leadership that Nick Saban brought and continues to bring to college football in this era.

Saban is now creating his own new era—having tied Paul “Bear” Bryant’s legendary six championships—and by all evidence, is not ready to throw in the towel. In the heat of post-season play, Saban was willing to do what may be the most unconventional thing—risk the future of his career and the game on a young man who was talented and eager, but had little game time or experience with the team. Rather than following the protocol of loyalty by staying with quarterback Jalen Hurt, Saban chose to throw the second half into the hands of freshman Tau Tagovailoa. 

Saban didn’t take the risk because he was retiring; he took the risk because he cared passionately about winning. He was not resigning to a better game plan demonstrated by Georgia in the first half; he was leading. And in the risk to lead, Saban proved he had overwhelming and amazing potential to win. 

The result is now in the record books. Alabama’s Crimson Tide overcame Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship, 23-20. Saban led Alabama to a 17th national championship (their fifth title in nine seasons) and tied Bryant’s record with six national championships, the most in history.

Why am I repeating and rehearsing Monday night’s game? I believe there are parallels from which we can learn and apply to a winning ministry.


Post-season play requires risks and actions
that don’t fit the regular season plan.
Whenever big wins occur, big risks are often the key.

In football, I’ve often heard, “Do what we’ve done all year. Stay with the plan and those who got us here.” In baseball, “Don’t change the line-up or take out the pitcher.” When the predictable happens, we often lose. Post-season play requires risks and actions that don’t fit the regular season plan.
Whenever big wins occur, big risks are often the key. 
I believe the easiest way to lose in ministry is to quit leading your ministry: rest on your laurels, do what you’ve always done, hope for the best.

For us as pastors and leaders, it’s time to take a risk on a generation who have little game time, but who are willing and able to be “all in”. This means taking a risk on players whose backgrounds are diverse, whose names you can’t pronounce (Tounge-oho-vie-loa), but players who can get a job done that benefits the team, not just the record book. 

As a pastor, I’m certainly not saying this because I’m ready to retire or throw in the towel (though I’m beyond the second half and clearly in the fourth quarter of my game). I’m saying this because I believe the post-Christian era is going to require impact through some talented—though inexperienced—game changers who need someone to say, “Take the ball. Go make the play.” 

I recently read an article in Christian Post and found myself concerned about the trend of churches toward an aging ministry in an emerging generation. I’m not saying that maturity doesn’t matter. It does. But like Paul and Timothy, the intentionality of engagement and development may be our most strategic path forward in order to see our churches strengthened and increased in numbers daily (Acts 16:5).

On Monday night, the instruction to take-the-ball-and-go-make-the-play was not limited to the Saban playbook, but the Smart playbook as well. 

Jake Fromm, quarterback for Georgia, is an incredible young athlete with a bright future (just needs his pastor to get behind him!)—see article from Baptist Press. Fromm, like Tau Tagovailoa, is a believer. He is a Christ-follower and both of these young men have been willing to stand on the biggest platform of college sports to give glory and honor to the name of Jesus Christ.

In an arena where the name of Christ is disrespected and disregarded (universities, sports’ franchises, public displays), these men are bold and courageous to declare and affirm their allegiance and service to the name of Jesus. When I witness this, I understand and believe this post-Christian era needs seasoned leaders who are willing to take great risks on an emerging generation.

If you are young and eager, get ready! What happened on Monday night wasn’t a fluke of fate; it was the result of young men’s spiritual and physical preparation for a big game.

Tua—not knowing he would take a snap, experience a sack or save the game—was reliable, responsible and ready. Like young Timothy, he let no one “despise [his] youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

In the end, the aim of our effort is that the name of Jesus be glorified, His kingdom be extended, and His will be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven. For me, it is not about records; it is about wins for the kingdom. I want to keep leading, risking and winning until the clock runs out.

David H. McKinley, Pastor-Teacher
Warren Baptist Church, Augusta, GA