7 Ways Fraternity Life Shaped Me For Ministry (Guest Post)

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with a group of my Sigma Chi fraternity brothers from college.  Some of them I have seen, but not really connected with in twenty years.  It was fun, good to remember old times, and reminded me that they had made positive impacts on my life.  I was a crazy college student sometimes, but the experience has since been used for good many times.

Right after that hang out time, I Tweeted that I should write a post about what I learned in my fraternity days that helped prepare me for ministry. I got lots of reaction, but one in particular appeared to be it’s own post. I decided to make it a guest post by the author.

Ky Bishop is currently Pastor Of Ministries at Woodlands Church in Houston Texas where Kerry Shook is Senior Pastor. He’s been married 25 years to Terri and they have 3 sons ranging from 16 to 20 years of age. Ky lists his fraternity experience as Delta Tau Delta – UTA – 81

Here are 7 ways Ky’s fraternity experience prepared him for ministry:

Don’t make a god out of the organization – It was easy to get caught up in the politics of Fraternity life; organizationally, administratively, etc., and forget that the most significant contribution to your experience were the people you met and built relationships with. The same can happen in church life.

Trust your first impressions and intuition – Listen to that “Still Small Voice” inside when it comes to making friendships and inviting them into your journey. There are a lot of  “Well Intentioned Dragons” out there.

Relational intimacy percolates slowly – Just like good coffee, the best relationships are brewed properly. Instant coffee and instant relationships might be satisfying for a moment, but the heart burn is sure to come.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable – The high level of testosterone in any Frat gathering can lead to disingenuous activity. However, Jesus’ greatest work was done when he humbled himself.

Engage your brain before you engage your tongue – It is easy to get in a spit fight over non-essential matters, however, the one who keeps his cool is the one who wins.

Maintain accountability – Many a lone wolf has gone out on his own only to find himself caught in the trap. The wise Pastor will always share his inner darkness with a trusted confidant.

Intoxication, immaturity and ignorance need to “be controlled” not “in control” – Those three speak for themselves in relationship to Fraternity ways. In relation to the ministry it is easy to become intoxicated with the latest fad, fancy or fetish and allow our immaturity and ignorance to rule. However, when we keep in mind that it is His Kingdom, not ours, that is being built, we will “wait upon Him”.

Thanks Ky.  I couldn’t have said it any better.

What about you?  What would you add to Ky’s list?  Were you in a fraternity or sorority in college? Give your fraternal organization a shout out and share one way it prepared (or didn’t prepare) you for life.

Just Be Glad It’s Not a Pumpkin

I don’t know where this story originated. If you are the author, let me know and I’ll give you proper credit. I heard it years ago and was reminded of it again today. It may seem a bit corny, but lately I’ve been in a corny mood.

Sometimes we are tempted to question God. I think that’s okay…I even did a whole sermon about that yesterday. I’ll post it later on this blog. In the end, however, we have to realize that God has answers we do not have.

This cute little story illustrates that principle well:

One time a farmer’s son came back from college…
He thought he was pretty smart…

He and his father went out in the yard…
The boy said, “Dad, I’ve learned a lot while I’ve been gone”
“God’s not as smart as you always told me He was”
“Did you know God made some mistakes?”

“Really”, his dad asked, “Like what?”

“Look at that oak tree….with those little tiny acorns…”, the boy confidently explained,
“And, look at those pumpkins over there, on that small vine”
“God made a mistake…”
“He should have put the pumpkin on that oak tree and the acorn on that vine”

About that time an acorn fell out of the oak tree on to the boy’s head.
“Ouch”, he said.

The wise farmer exclaimed, “Just thank God it wasn’t a pumpkin”

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)

What’s going on in your life these days that’s causing you to question God’s wisdom? Could it be He sees some things you cannot see?

Great Leaders Don’t Take Opportunities Just Because They Can

Part of being a good leader is not taking opportunities even though you can. Sometimes letting your staff do something you could do, maybe even would like to do, is a better for the entire team.

When we launched our church eleven couples took a risk on a dream we felt God was leading us to pursue.  We empowered this core team to do things the way they felt best doing them, as long as they were achieving the vision we knew God was calling us to achieve.  We encouraged them to explore new ideas, become experts in their field of interest, and then released them to dream and build.  It became part of our DNA and we are still allowing people to explore new opportunities.

For example, we had ideas of what we wanted our children’s ministry to look like.  We could have even scripted it for them, but we knew that the best energies would be invested when those doing the ministry actually created the ministry. Almost five years later, there are parts of our children’s ministry I am clueless to how they are done.  Today there are new creative leaders in children’s ministry and they have implemented even more changes, but God has blessed their efforts dramatically, far beyond what we could have commanded them to do.

One of the greatest things a leader can do sometimes is to let go of the right to control.  Good leaders are willing to take a risk on other peoples ideas, knowing that in doing so, others will be more likely to take a risk on their ideas and organizational strength will be enhanced.  If you want to encourage risk-taking, dreaming, creativity and innovation, then you must be willing to empower others with opportunities you can control.

Leader, what opportunity are you currently taking that you need to release the control of to others on your team?

Have you served under a leader who was always taking the best opportunities?

The Speed of Light

How great is God–beyond our understanding! The number of His years is past finding out. Job 36:26

I remember some time ago reading that a scientist believes they have actually sent light faster than the “speed of light”…or …at least what they thought to be the speed of light. I read the article and I have to admit, although I didn’t understand it completely, I was impressed with their research.

Do you know, however, what the story didn’t tell me? It didn’t tell me who made the light! It didn’t tell me who marks off the light in the sky or who separates light from darkness. There was no mention of containing light; holding it for another day.

You see, I know someone who manufactures light.  ‘m not talking about with flashlights or other instruments, I mean from scratch; the old fashioned way!

While I really am excited for the new potential discovery, although I haven’t figured out a practical application for it (and the article stated the scientists haven’t either). Perhaps it is simply good to know that something can travel faster than 186,000 miles per second.

What I know is that scientist will never understand the real basis of light; at least not in a laboratory. They will never fully understand the God who is not confined by time or space or distance or speed.

Real discovery; real truth, is found, not in the elements of this world, but in its Maker; our Lord and Savior…Have you discovered Him?

Does science help you or hinder you in your belief in God? I’d love to hear from you.

7 Funniest Verses in the Bible (Plus One)

I have often chuckled when I’ve read the following verses. I’m not trying to be irreverent and hope this is not offensive, but sometimes I read the stories in the Bible and I see the humanity of people. I can hear myself making some of these statements. It brings a smile to my face and I can’t help but laugh.

Here are 7 of the funniest verses I have read in Scripture:

Matthew 15:12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (They sounded like a group who didn’t know Jesus very well at this point.)

1 Samuel 1:8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (I can’t believe he was dumb enough to say it…actually yes I can…but he evidently said it multiple times.)

Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Imagine you get an audience with Jesus…you’ve got your one chance…He’s been teaching not to worry…what do you ask Him?)

Mark 9:28 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet and he stood up. (The disciples had tried everything they knew how to do…except prayer. Some things are just not possible apart from God’s hand upon the situation.)

Mark 9:34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. (The humanity…they knew Jesus wouldn’t be pleased, but they couldn’t help but compare.)

Esther 1:20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest. (How has that law worked so far?)

Exodus 16:14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.(And we are told elsewhere they were honey flavored. Frosted Flakes were the first cereal! They’rrre Greeaatt!)

And the bonus one:
Exodus 16:36 (An omer is one-tenth of an ephah.) (You’ve got to love a clear explanation!)

Which do you think is funny? Can you think of any you would you add to the list?

When I Say I and When I Say We

I was talking with someone the other day about my early experience with church planting before anyone was on our team.  As I told my personal story, I kept using words such as “our” and “we”.  Towards the middle of the conversation the person stopped me and asked, “Who’s ‘we’?”  I was talking about me the whole time, (although I usually just answer my wife and I) but I confused him with my verbiage.  I wasn’t trying to be confusing.  It’s just a habit I’ve formed.  I have come to realize over the years that a team vocabulary is a large part of encouraging healthy teams.  I love teams and team-building so much that I’ve disciplined myself to always talk in a collective sense.

I cringe when I hear leaders use the words “I”, “me, and “my” when referring to their team, their church or organization.  To me it always sounds so controlling, prideful, and even arrogant.  As an example, Ben Reed is our small groups pastor at Grace Community Church.  He’s an amazing leader.  I would give anything to have been where he is at his age when I was that same age.  When I refer to him, I don’t say “He’s my small groups guy”.  He’s not!  He’s our small groups guy.  I don’t want to portray to him or others that I control him. I want the perception to be that “we” together are part of a team effort.  I would be limiting his potential if I refer to him in a possessive sense.

I understand it may seem to just be semantics, but to me it’s an important issue for leaders to think through, perhaps bigger than to whom some give credence.  If we truly want to create a team environment, then we must develop team vocabularies.

There are a few times when I use the personal words, such as:

  • When offering a pointed direction… “I am asking you to do this for the team…”
  • When offering an opinion that may not be shared by others…  “I think we should…”
  • When asking a question or stirring discussion… “I wonder if we could…”

When I am speaking on behalf of the team or referring to team members, I try to use a collective term…My advice is to default to words like “we” and “our” whenever possible…even if people have to ask you who the “we” is to whom you are referring. The more we talk like a team the more our environments will feel like a team.

What do you think?  Have you had a leader who abused team vocabulary as described?  Do you need to change the way you say things?

Two Negative Extremes of Leadership

The two extremes of leadership I see that drive me crazy are the controlling leader and the hands off leader.

Have you noticed these extremes of leadership?

Most leaders tend to lean towards one or the other extreme. I’ve even seen some leaders who live in one of the two extremes, sometimes alternating between the two. They never learn the healthy balance between the two.

Effective leadership requires a little of each extreme.  It requires a careful selection of elements of control and elements of release.  Good leaders are willing to wrestle through the difficulties and continually practice to achieve the right amount of each.

Have you seen these two extremes in leaders?

Which of these extremes do you lean towards to the most?

How do you strike a healthy balance?

Every Organization Needs Some Good Bad Ideas

I love a good bad idea…don’t you?

The truth is…in a healthy organization…there really are no bad ideas…at least not in the organizational sense.

Here’s what I mean…

If you have someone on your team who is coming up with ideas…who is trying to do their best for the organization…who understands and buys into your vision…then every idea he or she has holds the potential to be a good idea.

Even the so-called bad idea usually triggers another better idea, which often leads to the best idea…

It launches discussion…it generates momentum…it spurs dialogue…

Sometimes the best ideas start because someone offered what others at first thought was a bad idea.

Effective brainstorming often involves a lot of bad ideas that help shape the best ideas.

Part of healthy team building is creating a culture where all ideas can come to the table, no idea is dismissed, and there is a freedom to critique, scrap and improve ideas.

If you start labeling bad ideas you shut down team member’s willingness to share more ideas…

Great leaders learn to welcome all ideas…bad ones and good ones…knowing that it encourages idea generation…and that ideas are a lifeline of a growing, healthy organization…

Perhaps the bad idea you’ve been tempted to dismiss is an open door to your next masterpiece idea.

What do you think? Does your organization welcome bad ideas?  Have you seen one bad idea stir a discussion that led to a good idea?

Three Steps to be an Expert Disciple of Jesus

Jesus was specific about what it takes to be a good disciple. If we want to mature in our walk with Christ, we should pay close attention.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 NIV

Here are three steps to be an expert disciple:

First, we must deny ourselves – Jesus is not saying here that we should not own anything. He is not telling us to skip your vacation this year. He is line our desires with His desires. He is asking us to prioritize our life!  In denying ourselves, we are to look to Jesus and not unto our own abilities.

Second, we must take up our cross - I don’t have a cross, at least not literally, but what Jesus is encouraging here is for us to carry forth His mission. We are to be the salt of the Earth. We are to spread the Good News. We are to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world, as others see Jesus in us. The message and wonder of the cross is to be evident in us!

Third, we must follow Him -That may seem like the easiest, but it is perhaps the most difficult. I remember when I was younger playing “follow the leader”. The guy in front made all the moves. The object was to follow the leader exactly.  It was usually easier in looks than in practice. Jesus is our leader and every day we need to mimic the Savior!  It won’t always be easy, but it will always be best.

Which of these three steps do you most need to apply to your life today?

Was I Thinking Of You This Morning?

I was thinking about you this morning. Maybe not you specifically, but I was thinking of someone like you…that is if you are someone who is sitting on the sidelines afraid to pursue your God-given dreams, watching the world pass you by.  Was I thinking of you?

Maybe it’s because I encounter many people at their point of desperation…when they are tempted to give up…

It could be because I’m wired to dream big dreams…or because I’ve been sidelined for a time…watching everyone else pursuing their dreams except me…

But, for whatever the reason, I continually sense the need to encourage people to move forward with their dreams and aspirations.

Have you thought lately about the legacy you are leaving? Will you leave a legacy of having followed the dreams you had for your life?

If that’s your desire for a legacy…you may have to:

  • Take a risk…
  • Face the fear of the unknown…
  • Resist the temptations to give up…
  • Ignore the negative voices in your life…
  • Say yes again to God’s call on your life…
  • Release the guilt of the past by receiving God’s forgiveness…

What is your dream?
What is holding you back?
What legacy are you aiming to leave behind?

What will you allow to be the greatest pull on your heart?

Go for your dream…get started today!