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Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Believe These are Yours . . .

A couple of weeks ago, I sat with Pete Wilson and Anne Jackson in Nashville and enjoyed a wonderful lunch. There were so many things I enjoyed about our conversation—what attracts people to our churches, why our churches are growing, things we struggle with as leaders, creative communication . . . I was bummed our time ended when it did.

Towards the end of the conversation, Pete asked me what God was teaching me as a leader these days. David and I have been talking a bit about this same thing lately and seem to live in parallel universes when it comes to learning new things (go figure). So, the answer was easy for me.

God has given me my balls back.

I’m a fan of checking communication, getting feedback, safety in a multitude of counsel, and understanding perceptions count. I don’t desire to be a dictator, intemperate, callous, or insular. But, I also firmly believe there is a time to call BS—to stand up and say, “no, you’re wrong.” To stand up and say, “you will no longer be allowed to say those things.” To say, “you will not treat our people that way.” To say, “if you don’t like the way this is done, no love lost . . . there is a church down the road for you.”

The first year at Westwinds was about loving people, performing triage, and wiping bottoms. The second year we were trying to understand who we were and what we were becoming. The third year we began trying new things and feeling good about the responsibility we were entrusted with. Year four we finally came into our own, all the old ghosts were gone, we became confident and had our own personality. We feel like we are in such a great spot now—expectant, enthusiastic, and encouraged. God is speaking to the community of Jackson in and through Westwinds in tangible ways.

I’m not one to blame everything on a demon in the corner but I cannot dismiss the spiritual warfare that takes place when God’s people are unified and His church is flourishing. Many times this kind of warfare comes in the shape of those who wish to discourage, mock, slander, or air their discontent. These people come from the inside and also from outside the walls of the church—expressing their opinions and giving unwarranted and uninvited critique.

These people are often times leeches who when faced with the reality of no longer getting their way resort to name calling and finger pointing. These people are sometimes those who carry an air of entitlement. Sometimes, these people have sucked at the teat of a system that has never challenged them for so long they have forgotten what it is like to actually work in harmony but instead throw their weight around and make demands.

Not on our watch.

This week, without giving enough detail to pigeonhole the circumstances, I watched one of these folks prey on a staff member. I was angered and sickened.

At this time, I claim the words of Herb Kelleher—former CEO of Southwest—as my own. “Customers are not always right, and I think that is one of the biggest betrayals of your people you can possibly commit. The customer is frequently wrong. We don’t carry those sorts of customers. We write them and say, ‘Fly somebody else. Don’t abuse our people.’”

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