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Time For Honor

(Navy Medal of Honor)

After the wedding I performed for my friends a few weeks ago I experienced a ceremony that I had never taken part of before. The groom is a member of the U.S. Navy. At the reception stood a lone table with a place setting for one. The goblet was turned upside down and meticulous care had been taken to arrange the setting just right. A friend of the groom who is also in the Navy came up and read a powerful charge to those in attendance to remember the men and women who would not celebrate with us for they have not returned home from war. This was a ceremony to remember the POW/MIA. This was a ceremony of HONOR.

I got chills participating in this ceremony. Apart from the powerful emotion and sense of gratitude I felt for our armed forces I thought quickly of two applications for church leadership. The first was that you are out to lunch to think that people in their 20's don't like or want ceremony. That's garbage. They just want the ceremony to mean something. Secondly what I saw was something lacking in our churches... a sense of honor.

This past week Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church spoke from his childhood church about the topic of honor. His message is great and you should check it out.

The message resonated for me in several ways and I thought it may ring a bell for you.

In my first 'full-time' church staff position out of college I served under a Pastor who frankly was extremely insecure and in many ways revealed himself to be immature. During my tenure I experienced terrible leadership with little guidance and a ton of rebuke which in retrospect was partially deserved and partially borderline abusive. This man felt the way to lead was by making sure he was the biggest fish in a small pond. Like I said, insecurity.

There came a point in my ministry there where I sincerely felt that this experience had wiped me out. I was a shadow of myself and I felt extremely unhealthy. I sat down with a friend at McDonald's one day and asked this question: "What do you do when you work for a man that you can't respect as your Pastor?"

This particular question was asked because I was finished with the verbal abuse, finished with unrealistic expectations, finished with the lack of training and finished with hearing how he talked about church members outside of their presence. I lost respect for this man.

Pastor Steven Furtick's message resonated with me because it appears we had similar experiences and we chose similar paths. Instead of causing a problem or telling others what I thought I chose to honor him as the Pastor. At that moment I didn't know of direct moral failure and the feelings I had did not warrant division within the church. As God led me to a new position I did my best to exit with grace.

I remember the weeks in between knowing I was leaving and actually saying my final goodbye. We moved into a new church building so I was helping design a room I'd hardly use. Just about everything I touched in the last month was something I would share no part in but I felt it was vital to honor the church and the Pastor by giving my best until my final second.

I recall reading a letter to the church thanking them for being the great people they are and encouraging them to continue to honor their Pastor. I thanked the Pastor for allowing me the privilege to serve as a co-laborer with him. Some of my students were very angry and understandably upset. They felt that I was abandoning them and walking out of their lives. I had a few refuse to say goodbye and a few walk out of our youth room during the announcement. It hurt.

Inside I thought "If they only knew why I feel forced to leave." But there was a principle at play for me. I have always seen in scripture the principle of honor. God had not instructed me to be the instrument to tear down another leader's ministry so I remained under God's instruction to honor him and the ministry until my last day.

In our newer churches today I am concerned that we as leaders aren't doing a great job at teaching this principle. I know for me it was one thing I didn't emphasize because I frankly felt uncomfortable trying to teach something that could appear to be self-serving. Looking back I was absolutely wrong. Teaching people the value in honoring and serving and protecting those in leadership are vital spiritual lessons. The reality is that at the end of the day many of those we teach will be leaders themselves.

In college I learned a saying at Thomas Road and Liberty University that has always remained with me: "To be a great leader you must first be a great follower."

Everyone wants a title and everyone wants to lead but very few leaders truly can speak from first being GREAT FOLLOWERS.

Scripture is full of God's anointed positional leadership. God is a God of order and roles. For things to flow smoothly we must have honor for all of those around us and if we are being led by someone we must honor them and have their back. Too often today it is the people who know the leader most who view themselves as God's only method to bring 'accountability'.

While there are certainly times when a person has completely disqualified themselves, I truly believe there are more times when those who know the leader are to be a part of his protection and support. I think back to David dealing with Saul in 1 Samuel. David had the anointing of the LORD but it wasn't yet his time. Instead of attacking he chose not to do so. He honored Saul by holding back.

If you are a leader I encourage you to be a person of honor. Live a life that others believe in. Live a life where you can say as the Apostle Paul said "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." Live a life that can preach "Thus sayeth the LORD." As you do, also teach your church to honor 360 degrees around themselves. Honor God, leaders, family and those who may be in a position that others view as a lower than yourself.

We should all learn and live lives of honor.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2 Comments:

At 5:11 PM, Blogger JC said...

Maybe we worked for the same person...

I have an almost identical experience, and it was so hard to maintain some level of integrity to just rise above the anger felt about my leaving. I've been gone a year now, and I still have to watch what I say and how I say it about my former pastor/boss/whatever. I can't see what gain would come by my being 'honest' about my bad experience. I have to think that experiences like this will only make me a better leader in the future.

 
At 7:30 PM, Blogger Happy Mommy said...

What great words of wisdom!

 

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