Leading Through Conflict of Culture

My head is often racing in the realm of ministry because that is where my vocation and calling intersect.  Ministry has its perks, while balancing its fair share of problems.  As pastors we often think we are the only ones who bear burdens of this particular nature,  but as I examine the business world,  I find similar successes and failure when the proper leadership principles are weighed.  One area we probably all dread is dealing with conflict within the culture of our organization.  Here are some of the principles that should help alleviate some of the stress:

1.  Live Above Reproach
This is the umbrella principle that qualifies or disqualifies a pastor.  I heard one man accuse another not too long ago of living a life that was above reproach.  In the back of my mind I thought, "what a great victory!  The fact that his words and actions would solicit this description!"  Leader, study the word,  follow the Lord, and have an answer ready for when you are questioned so that you might be described as "above reproach!" 

2.  Refuse to Mount the Offensive
OK,  I'm not suggesting that you never pursue wrong.  This principle swings into the accusation realm.  When you find yourself backed into a corner,  instinct is to take up arms and fight back.  DONT!  (Jesus didn't...)  When the dust settles,  your testimony will reflect someone who allowed the darts of accusation to be thrown with grace and mercy.  Hurts in the moment,  but lends toward a big win in the end.  You may never get an apology,  but you will be able to sleep at night.

3.  All that is said must be true,  but not all that is true must be said.
The Great Gatsby quoted,  "Apologies aren't always because you're wrong, but often because you value a relationship more than your ego."  This statement will always ring true.  True courage is eating crow for the sake of a soul.  The taste of crow is bitter to the extreme,  but the aftertaste is eternally sweet.  Speak truth,  but speak slowly.  Refuse to share what God has not given you liberty to reveal.

4.  Miles and mistakes do not a relationship break;  people do.
You've heard it said, " I can't be your friend anymore because ____________."  Great leaders often struggle with owning every mistake as their own,  and deeply yearn to DO SOMETHING or SAY SOMETHING to "fix" the problem.  But it was not the mistake the broke the relationship;  that was a choice by a person. You say, "but I feel bad!"  Here is what you should examine:  The accuser of the brethren only recalls past mistakes you have already settled with the Lord.  The Holy Spirit convicts of present sin.  Is it right with you and the Lord?  If yes,  then stop letting the devil throw false guilt into your mind.

5.  God cultivates the ground, and waters the seed; Your job is only to plant.
The ground of confrontational hearts is often cold and hard.  Any farmer knows this type of soil must be tilled and cultivated in order for seed to take root.  The seed is good, but the environment is not prepared.  Leaders love to play "Holy Spirit" in an attempt to achieve faster results.  Dear minister/leader,  you are not responsible for how the truth is received, you are only accountable for the sowing process.  The more a heart rejects truth, the harder it gets. 

6.  Attack on practice is not attack of person. 
As leaders,  when someone questions our process of progress, because that is "our baby"  we often assume the attack as a personal blight on our character.  I have heard leaders suggest "If you attack that,  you're attacking him,  and therefore you attack me."  Though our systems are built on our personalities,  we must separate our processes from our personality so that when improvements must be made, we do not make them personal.  When addressing a practice,  it is always good to keep in mind that at one time,  this was a revolutionary idea!  ...just not anymore.

7.  Off limits for conversation, off limits for improvement.
For a pastor,  the sermons is "the main event"  of a church worship experience.  Our staff often feel awkward making suggestions for improvement because they did not deliver here.  But criticism most often is constructive when passed from the foundation to the head.  If your foundation cannot discuss,  it will crumble, and the head will fall.  Create a culture where everything is open for conversation...of  course principle #6 will have to be in effect for this to be successful.

8.  Marry You Mission,  Date Your Model.
YES!  I get to date a model!!!  OK...maybe not quite.  The mission of your organization or "DNA"  should not change if it is solid.  This one thing is off limits for discussion.  The mission is the lens through which we view and make all other decisions.  If your mission is clear,  there will be no need to micromanage as your staff will align everything with the mission.  The model is ever changing!  Thank God for the absence of flannel graph and pipe organs in today's model. 

9.  Everything Rises and Falls On Leadership
I grew up hearing this, and how true?!  If you want to see more rising than falling, check your pride at the door.  Guess what?  We all make mistakes!  No one is immune.  Sometimes the immortality mindset kicks in,  and we over compensate for our insecurities with pride.  This poison water will flow directly into the culture of your organization, crippling it from the bottom, up. 

10.  Call For Constant Course Correction.
Jump in your car,  aim it one direction,  take your hands off the wheel, and just gas it.  Nah,  that won't work....try this:  Get in your sail boat,  aim it North,  hands off the wheel,  and just go.  Well,  that's a bad idea too.  Maybe one more?  See if you can get that kite to fly high without guiding the string....  Notice something?  A good steward of a vehicle must constantly evaluate the direction.  Wind of society, doctrine, and culture has a tendency to shift and move us week to week,  day to day,  mood to mood.  If you notice a recurring problem in your organization,  evaluate the source.  The list of issues are endless, especially in the church world....poor spirit,  disengaged people, revolving door of staff, poor facilities, no growth.... you see in church,  we don't always see the problems until the money runs out.  As long as we can finance what we're doing, we will continue to do it.  Then, when money runs low,  red lights go off.  As a leader in any capacity,  examine what is working and what is wasted energy.  Constantly correct to stay on course. 

Logline Day 6: Molded Again

Transformation is a philosophy that is found countless times from Genesis clear to Revelation.  God always takes something that is useless and completely transforms it into something he can use.  In Jeremiah, the potter broke a vessel that was useless and remade it into something new.  The EXACT SAME pieces that made up the old and broken vessel now make up the new vessel that serves its master’s purpose.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. [fn] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  We are just like that vessel in Jeremiah.  Our lives have been chipped, broken, and scarred.  EVERYONE SINS!  So, are we useless now?  NO!  God still has a plan for our lives.  When we surrender our vessel to the hand of the potter he will remake us into something new and great!

Take a look at your logline right now.  To some, it may look useless and broken, but here is the good news.  God will take our broken life filled with sin and break it.  He will put us on the wheel AGAIN and shape us.  He will put us through the fire to strengthen us.  It doesn’t matter to him how many times we get broken or chipped.  When he creates a new vessel, the old one doesn’t exist anymore.  Want a new logline?  Let yourself be broken and molded.  God can take a plain old everyday person and use them in a fantastic way!  The only way to find a new logline is to let go and let God.  He will tear the old one up and rewrite something amazing.

Logline Day 5: The Gift of Change

George Mueller, the director of an orphanage awoke to realize that there was no bread or milk available for food that day.  He instructed his wife to set the table for all the children just like always.  He began to pray and beg God to provide for these needy children.  Not long after, a knock at the door came.  A woman said, “Mr. Mueller, I don’t know why but God woke me up at 3 A.M. this morning and told me to bake all this bread for you.”  George began once again to pray for God’s providence.  In less than an hour, the milk-man knocked on the door and said, “Sir,  my truck is broke down and if I don’t unload all this milk it will go to waste.  Could you use it?”  God knew in advance EXACTLY what George Mueller needed.  All he had to do was accept the gift.

In Luke chapter nineteen we find a despicable man by the name of Zacchaeus.  The public logline of his story was one of theft and dishonesty.  Though he was high ranking in status, he was found short in not only stature and character.  Because of his height he would be unable to see Jesus pass through the city.  So he climbed up in a Sycamore tree.  The city that Zacchaeus lived in was called “Jericho” which in Hebrew means “city of palms.”  But, as we examine scripture we find a SYCAMORE tree!  WHY a sycamore tree in the city of palms?  The answer:  One day God planted that tree KNOWING that a man would need it to find Jesus.  Sycamore trees have heart shaped leaves showing the love of God.  They have low, accessible branches demonstrating the accessibility of God’s grace.  They are known for continual budding revealing God’s abundant grace.  The species of the tree was made specifically to suit the seeker of the tree.  God knows exactly what it will take to help you rewrite your logline!

Do you find yourself, like Zacchaeus, in need of a change?  You know in your heart something needs to be different, but you just don’t know what it is.  GOD KNOWS.  In the tree of your hidden despair, HE SEES YOU and HE KNOWS YOU! The only way you will find an answer to life’s questions is to look for one!  Maybe it seems you can’t see God where you are at in your life right now.  Well, God has provided a tree that you can climb to find him no matter where you are.  This tree, is his Word.  Because Zacchaeus looked for Jesus, the entire course of his life was changed.  His logline went from one of greed to one of restitution and generosity.  God ONLY has the best for you.  Today, Jesus wants to help you change.  Will you let him?

Logline Day 4: Forgiveness

            One day Brian’s mom said, “Brian, go clean your room.”  Being just like every normal guy, he “cleaned” by throwing stuff in his closet, under his bed, and behind his door.  This version of “cleaning” was not exactly what his mom had in mind, but at least you could see the floor!  Not too much time passes, and Brian’s mom decides to check up on the work her son has done.  Like every good mom, she checked all the normal places, and upon finding the clothes she wanted put AWAY, she calls out to Brian. . . This time Brian doesn’t hear the sweet and gentle voice of his mother saying, “Brian, please go clean your room.”  Instead, he hears something that sends chills up his spine. He knows something is wrong when he hears “BRIAN THOMAS JONES…..”  The same goes for every kid!  When we hear our first, middle, AND last name, we KNOW something is wrong.

            Jesus’ earthly ministry is now coming to a close.  He is not going to be present to micromanage the ministries of his disciples like he has for the past three years.  He has given his disciples a simple assignment: be fishers of MEN, but now that Jesus is gone we hear Peter say, “I’m going fishing.”  He is going right back the life that Jesus called him out of.  It could be he was feeling sorry for himself for denying Jesus those three times.  He was allowing guilt and sin to control his life.  In verse seven, Jesus calls out and they recognize his voice.  Peter puts on his fisher’s coat. He is putting on his old logline, identifying himself as just a regular fisherman and without the faith to walk on water again, he swims to the Lord.  As Jesus begins to address Peter, he doesn’t use his new name.  He says, SIMON SON OF JONAS, do you love me?  Peter, had to give his guilt over to the Lord and allow him to rewrite his logline once again.

            We have an awesome God who gives us chance after chance after chance.  We have undoubtedly majorly messed up at some point in our lives, or even today, but God will rewrite that logline for you again if you will let him.  Don’t let the guilt of past mistakes dictate every decision you make.  God has given you a calling; so don’t go back to that old lifestyle just because you mess up.  Let God take your guilt and give you grace to go on!  The Bible says, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Life comes at you fast, and you WILL mess up.  That doesn’t mean you need to quit.  Will you let God rewrite your logline again today?


           Standing in the courtroom was a young boy.  His life had been torn apart by death and disease, leaving him to fend for himself.  The judge looked down at the boy who was most certainly guilty of the theft he was being accused of.  “Guilty or not guilty?” asked the judge.  The boy replied, “guilty, sir.”  The judge then declared his sentence of $50, knowing the boy did not have a dime to his name.  The judge then stood, took off his robe, stepped down off the bench, and paid the fine of the boy.  He then turned to the boy and said, “I’ve always wanted a son.  Would you mind staying at my house?” With tearful eyes and the biggest smile you can imagine, he said yes!

            As we look to the Word of God, in John chapter 8 we find a woman.  Just like the boy, her logline consisted of one word…GUILTY.  Every accusation was true.  Every punishment that could have come her way, even death, would have been deserved.  Yet, we find the righteous judge giving mercy.  The Bible does not say what Jesus wrote in the sand that day, but I can only imagine that he began to write out the loglines of each accusing individual.  As they read and listened to the judge, one by one they began to turn away.  Jesus turned to the woman and said, “…neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.”  That day, Jesus rewrote her logline that read “guilty” to one that said, “forgiven.” 

            The Bible says, “there is NONE that doeth good,”  “There is NONE righteous,” and “For ALL have sinned.”  The Bible also says in Romans, “For the wages of sin is DEATH, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” As sinful individuals, we owe a debt we cannot pay.  There is not one person who can say they have never sinned, but Christ took of his robe, stepped down from heaven, PAID our debt, and invited us into his family! So, why is it that the forgiven Christians are so quick to judge others?  Is it that we have forgotten what Christ has done for us?  YOU are deserving of punishment just as much as anyone else, but Christ has forgiven you!  Don’t be so quick to condemn others.  Instead help REWRITE their loglines!  You have a great opportunity to be a witness.  Leave the judging to God!  Who’s logline will you help rewrite today?

Logline Day 2: Rewrite Their Story

       There was once a worker on board a ship who became very seasick.  Because of his condition he was asked to retire to his bedroom quarters where he could wrest and recuperate.  During the night, word came to him that a man had fallen overboard.  Wondering if he could do anything to help he lifted up his bedroom lamp into the porthole of his room...The drowning man was saved. Several days later, once the sick man had fully recouped from his illness he happened upon the drowning man on the deck.  The saved man gave this testimony. He said he had gone down the second time, and was just going down again for the last time, out of air and strength, when he put out his hand. Just then, he said, some one held a light at the porthole, and the light fell on his hand. A man caught him by the hand and pulled him into the lifeboat.
        The scene opens as a man gazes from the tomb out upon the stormy sea.  Imagine with me as he begins to tell his story.  “From the tomb I could see amid all the lightning and thunder, a tiny ship about to sink.  I laughed as they struggled in vain to forge the rough waters.  I had seen many a ship go down in storms much easier than this one.  But, then something happened that I will never forget. . .I still don’t quite understand it.  There was a man in that boat who kept it floating with the simple wave of his hand.  He calmed the storm!  I knew then in my heart that this man who had the power to calm the storm on the water could calm the storm that was raging in my heart.”  Now we find ourselves in Mark 5.  We find a demon-filled man.  One who could not be tamed or contained by any amount of strength or manpower.  Yet, read on in three to four verses you find a picture of peace where once read a perfectly scripted horror story.
         In the moments it took to rewrite this man’s logline,  his eternity was impacted.  The course of the rest of his life radically transformed.  He who once lurked in the tombs and howled at the moon now sits at Jesus’ feet.  One who cut himself with rocks, and possessed a demonic strength is now clothed and at peace.  The man who pleaded that Jesus’ leave him alone,  and not send his demons away,  now beseeches the Master that he might not leave his side.  No one could have predicted this surprise turn of events.  By all measure of foreshadowing, his logline would forever be one of misery, torment, and destined for hell.  But Jesus…well, he has a knack for stepping in the worst kind of testing and turning them into the best kind of testimonies.  Logline: Rewritten.

         Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior?  If so, Christ has rewritten your logline! You ARE a new creature! So, what are you doing to show it? Often as we face the storms of life, our excitement wanes for the things of Christ.  But have we stopped to consider the purpose of our storm?  Had it not been for the tempestuous waves the disciples faced, that demoniac could have never seen a man calm a storm.  Had it not been for the illness of that seaman, the light of a porthole could have never illuminated a drowning man.  Rather than pursue immediate escape,  pray to be an instrumental example.  Someone is watching.  Who’s logline will you help rewrite?