david herndon

a brush with greatness

The other night several of my students were being awarded Eagle Scout and I had the privilege of speaking in their Eagle Scout Ceremony.  I was cub scout myself for about two months, but once I lost at the pinewood derby I gave up altogether.  Not these guys.  These guys are amazing young men.  I was overwhelmed during the service as the workload to become an Eagle was described.  These young men have spent over a decade working towards this accomplishment, growing in Honor, Loyalty, Courage, and Service.

As I observed the award ceremony I couldn’t help but think, “These guys are better than me.”

That’s a good thing!  Its what every youth minister wants – for those you lead to become greater than you.  Its not that I had anything to do with them becoming Eagle Scouts.  They did that all on their own through hard work and dedication.  It is just so encouraging to see what great men they have become, because there have been times in our past when I wanted to strangle these kids!  I couldn’t help but take a brief walk down memory lane and think about other kids I wanted to strangle, kids that are now great men.

Daniel used to interrupt me every Sunday night during my teaching.  He would ask hard questions I wasn’t smart enough to answer.  I’m not sure he really wanted an answer.  I think he just liked showing that he was smarter than me.  Sometimes I wanted to strangle Daniel.

Daniel just patented a screw that is going to change the face of medicine and biomechanics and he’s still in medical school.  His intelligence is making the world a better place.

When Jacob came to church all he wanted to do was play Halo on Xbox (which at the time was all brand new to us).  He was so good at this game and he was sure to let you know.  I hated playing with him.  It was no fun.  Really.  And when the church programs were over and I was ready to go home I practically had to drag Jacob and his friends off of the Xbox and out of the door.  Sometimes I wanted to strangle Jacob.

Jacob became a member of the team that developed and wrote the Halo game series.  He now works for Bungie and continues to use his passion to inspire others and make the world a more fun place to live in.

Zach was a great kid with a dangerous sense of adventure.  He literally had no fear.  If a frisbee ended up on the roof, Zach would be 100 feet up a tree in minutes.  If someone thought of something ridiculous to do Zach would be the first to volunteer (and most of the time succeed).  Zach’s flirtations with danger scared me to death.  No matter how many times I asked him to stop, he never did.  Most of the time he even talked me into trying.  Sometimes I wanted to strangle Zach.

Zach is now the VP of a successful clothing line.  He and his wife just became foster parents to a young boy who needs a family.  They will forever change this boy’s life with their faith and love.  He continues to inspire me and those around him with his no-reservations sense of adventure and his fearless faith.

Daniel is better than me.  Jacob is better than me.  Zach is better than me.

I could go on and on about past students who now are amazing and are doing amazing things.  I take no credit for it (how could I?) because they have reached their accomplishments all on their own.  The lesson is that “greatness” is in everyone.

Genesis 1:27 says, “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”  Following a long list of things God created, he made mankind last.  Mankind is the only creation that bears God’s image.

We bare God’s image.  We bare God’s likeness.  We bare God’s greatness.  Whether you see it or not, its deep down in there somewhere waiting to come out.  You have greatness in you because you were made in the image of God.

The person who cut you off in traffic this morning has greatness in him because he is made in the image of God.  The waitress that messed up your latte yesterday has greatness in her because she is made in the image of God.  The kids who drive you crazy and make you want to strangle them have greatness in them because they are made in the image of God.

Perhaps this is why Paul is so clear in Philippians 2 that if we want to be like Christ we must never “do anything out of vain conceit,” but we must “consider others as more important than yourself.”  We can’t just consider others more important – we must know that they really are.

There is no time that we are a more accurate reflection of Jesus than when we consider others greater than ourselves and then treat them likewise.

Its true.

They are greater than you…

Because they have God’s image in them.

You may be having the most frustrating experience possible with another human being, but you could be having a brush with greatness!  You could be part of the development of a real world-changer! I just thought I was working with some over-confident, smart-ass, senseless, smelly teenagers.  I had no idea I was working with world-changing doctors, technological masterminds, future world leaders, and Christ-like humanitarians.  I failed to see God’s image in them when I needed to.  I’m trying to change that.

I’m trying to view people – not for who they are – but for who they can be.

I hope you will too.

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the engineer and the obelisk
January 17, 2011, 10:59 am
Filed under: leadership | Tags: , , , , ,

During the Roman Empire, the Emporers would often order obelisks, very tall stone towers, to be erected in their honor.  It was a tedious process, taking over 20 years to carve and erect an obelisk.  The most difficult and most critical part of the process was the raising of the obelisk.  The Romans built a special hoisting device to set the obelisk that required over 20,000 men to pull.  At the center of all of these men was the engineer.  This is the man who would call all of the shots – who would give out very specific instructions to over 20,000 others.  One wrong move, one bad call, and the entire obelisk would come crashing down along with 2 decades worth of work and endangering 20,000 lives.  So the emporer passed a ruling that the engineer’s first born son would be tied to the apex of the obelisk!  This was the emporer’s insurance that the engineer would stay completely focused in his work and would not waver.  The job became less about erecting an obelisk and more about saving his own son.  In short, the Roman Emporers understood how critical leadership is to an organization, and how important it is to have a leader in place who will not waver in his responsibilities nor be distracted.

With that said, I’ve seen all kinds of leaders in the church today.  I have no doubt that every person in church leadership starts out with the right motives and a clear call/mission.  However, I have noticed a few areas in which church leaders/pastors often get distracted and waver in responsibility:

1. Career vs. Calling:  As I said, I believe most Christian leaders start with a clear calling, vision, and mission.  However, after experiencing varying levels of “success,” some leaders abandon the calling for a career.  “If I do well at this church, then perhaps I can one day work at that church.”  Instead of being focused on the church they currently serve and investing fully in the lives of the people they serve, these leaders have their eye on the “next big move.”  Their ministry becomes less about ministry, and more about personal momentum.  I of all people understand that God calls us to serve in different places during different seasons, but there is a clear difference between following God’s call and climbing the ladder.  And anytime you’re climbing the ladder, you’re bound to step on a few people on the way up.

2. The Fame Gospel:  In today’s culture full of blogs, facebook, twitter, podcasts, and simulcasts (oh my), I have a hard time believing some Christian leaders are in ministry for any other reason than becoming famous.  With “exposure” being so easily available to all of us, its no wonder the fame monster is such a threat to leadership.  In the past, it was a select few leaders that could reach people outside of their local community.  But now we can share our thoughts with people around the world at the click of a button.  There is great potential for good in this, but there is also great potential for distraction in leadership.  I fear (and I know) many leaders are seeking to build a following, rather than building the kingdom of God.  If you are drawing people to anything other than Jesus Christ, you are doing them a disservice, and that is no leadership at all. 

 3. Idol-Pastoring:  I recently heard of a pastor who started working at a new church.  The pastor had driven his old Chevy truck for years, and he drove it to his new church.  He had not been there long when a member of the church approached him and explained that it was not acceptable for Pastor to drive an old beat up truck.  And in spite of the monster mortgage that threatened this church’s very well being, they scraped together the funds to make a down payment on a brand new Mercedes Benz for Pastor.  Now, before you think to harshly about the church members, what about the Pastor?  Why would he allow the church to make such a foolish decision and allow materialism to influence Church decisions?  Many churches hold their pastors in higher regard than other people and create a whole book of exceptions for the pastors.  If buying a Mercedes Benz and a Golf Membership isn’t enough, the churches get to a point where no decision is made without the pastor (one man) having the final say.  The church becomes less about Jesus Christ and His teachings, and more about Pastor and his teachings.  This is a fatal line to cross, and more and more churches are crossing it everyday.  God has gifted us all and asks us all to serve in some capacity, but He never intended for one human to have the final say.  That is the core of idolatry.  The Church is meant to be founded on the perfect person of Jesus Christ, not the imperfect person of your pastor. 

Leadership is so critical, and it is so easy to get distracted.  If you are a church leader, give yourself a test right now.  Are you still following that  original call and vision God shared with you long ago?  Or is your ministry just a platform to be served, to be known, or to be successful?  There is a big difference between “successful ministry” and effective leadership.

Jesus often referred to himself as a Shepherd or a Mother Hen – a character that sacrifices his own well being for the growth and protection of others. 

I’m afraid Christian leadership in America looks a little more like this:

“1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

   5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

   8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:1-12).”

May our leadership never be about us, but always about Jesus!  May our leadership never be about being served, but always about serving others!

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good endings bring great beginnings
December 10, 2010, 11:08 am
Filed under: bible study, leadership | Tags: , , , , ,

Remember that song “Closing Time” by that band that had that one song a few years ago… you know their name… okay, neither do I.  But I do remember the song.  There is one line I really love from that song: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  That’s good stuff.

Lately I have found myself reading through the Psalms.  As a musician the book of Psalms is one of my favorites, and I am amazed that no matter how many times I read through this book I always learn something new.  Yesterday I was reading Psalm 72, a beautiful passage in itself, but the ending is what really intrigues me.

Psalm 72 is a Psalm of Solomon, King David’s son, who followed David to the throne.  This particular Psalm seems to be a prayer over Solomon’s kingship.  The very last line, verse 20 reads, “This concludes the prayers of David, son of Jesse.”  What an interesting way to end this prayer.

So what are the prayers of David and just how does this one Psalm end them?  Just read through the first 71 Psalms and you’ll get an idea of David’s prayers…

“Lord, how long will you hide from me?”

“Protect me from my enemies…”

“Deliver me from the evil around me…”

You get the point.  David was anointed by God to be the King of Israel and then spent decades in exile before he could ever sit on the throne.  David was the King that brought the ark of the covenant, the very presence of God, back to Israel… after many battles and bloodshed.  David was the man who worked tirelessly to have God’s temple built in Israel.  David’s life was anything but peaceful, and that is reflected in his prayers.  God asked a lot of David, and David never backed down – even in the greatest of difficulty.

So now Solomon is king and he asks for God’s help as he surveys is inheritance.  Israel is at peace.  The ark of the covenant is home.  The temple is built.  All that David worked and fought for has happened.  So Solomon very poetically says, “This concludes the prayers of David, son of Jesse.” 

Jesus said something similar on the cross – “It is finished.”

It did not escape Solomon what he was inheriting.  He was fully aware of how much was required of his father to bring the kingdom of Israel to where it was.  He was wise to ask for God’s help in following David’s footsteps.   “This concludes the prayers of David.  Help me to preserve everything God has done through him.”  Solomon went on to become one of the greatest kings the world has ever known.  Perhaps he was able to do so because he was so aware of all that came before him, and therefore he moved forward with mindful honor of the past.

So for the leader:  Make sure you end well – work hard, fight harder, and pray, pray, pray.  Someone will come after you and you have a chance to put them in a very good situation.  A leader can never be deemed “good” until they’re gone.  David was a great king because his kingdom grew after his presence was gone.  If your “kingdom” only grows because you are there it says more about you than it does your “kingdom.”  Good leaders leave a legacy.  Your end is someone else’s beginning.  Make it a good one.

For the follower: Wherever you are, whatever you do, someone came before you.  Do not forget the sacrifice, the hardship, and the prayers that came before to put you where you are.  They might not have done it like you, and that’s okay.  The important thing is that they did it.  Your beginning is someone else’s end.  Proceed with mindful honor. 

All that from one tiny verse…

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