Is the Best Term ‘Christian’ or ‘Follower of Christ?’

As a pastor I try to read broadly enough to understand the current Christian vernacular. One great read, Deep Church, unpacked the terminology of the emerging/emergent church and those that think more traditionally and suggests an in-between position. I recommend it. Through such reading I’ve noticed the past few years that the church’s vernacular seems to be in constant flux, depending on who you read or listen to. The church growth movement told me to avoid certain words or phrases for fear of turning off the listener. Other recent voices suggest new terminology as well, such as these.

Theology Word Cloud Concept with great terms such as study, religion, God and more.
  • Some replace such terms as justification, sanctification, and atonement with other words with less syllables.
  • The term seeker was/is used as a preferred word for  a lost person.
  • Salvation is now cross the line of faith.
  • The newest replacement phrase is follower of Christ in lieu of Christian or believer.

When I preach and teach, I try to use theological terms that make sense to the listener. If you listen to any of my messages, you’ll probably find that my word choices do change.

But the last one, follower of Christ, even though I sometimes use it, can sometimes feel a bit forced.

I’m not sure why I feel that way.

Is it because I’ve used believer and Christian for so long that subconsciously I don’t like change?

Is is it because I feel like I’m trying to be theologically hip by using the coolest new words or phrases?

Or, is it just too new for me to feel comfortable using it?

I’m still wrestling with this one.

What are your thoughts on updated theological vernacular?

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What I Learned from Kids who Survived Cancer

My youngest daughter, Tiffany, has survived a brain tumor and multiple brain surgeries. As a result, she has a heart for hurting people. A few times a month she takes her dog LuLu to hospice care to visit patients.  A few years ago for several summers she served as a counselor at a camp for kids who survived cancer. Each year that camp would invite the kids, counselors and family to a dinner/dance the day after U.S. Thanksgiving. That year I took Tiffany. After dinner, Tiffany, the other counselors, and the kids took to the dance floor. That’s when, as I fought back tears, I jotted down these insights that I learned from these kids who survived cancer.

Cancer Word Cloud Concept with great terms such as disease, chemo, survivor, patient, doctor and more.
  • We all yearn for a place where others accept us “as is.” All these kids had this in common, they battled cancer. Many that night carried the obvious evidences of that battle–bald heads and puffy faces due to chemo, wheelchair confinement, or visible scars from surgery. But these things didn’t matter to them. It was as if they were oblivious to each others’ physical limitations. They accepted each other “as is.” (Jer. 31.3, I have loved you with an everlasting love.)
  • We all need moments when something transports us away from thoughts about our problems. One rule the camp rigidly enforces is, “We will not talk about our illness.” That same spirit carried over into the comments by the director that night as she spoke of joy, hope, and future. That same spirit pulsated from the dance floor as these kids jumped, danced, and twirled to the beat of the music and the direction of the rotund DJ. (Phil. 4.8, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.)
  • God’s image that He implanted into every human heart shows itself when we sacrificially give ourselves away to others. Each camper is assigned an adult that spends 24/7 with that child during camp. At this dinner the adults sit next to their ‘companion,’ as they are called, and they joyfully dance with them on the dance floor. One counselor Tiffany introduced to me had served 15 years straight. Her effervescent personality oozed love for these kids. (Gal. 6.2, Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.)
  • God wants us to celebrate each other’s milestones with great joy. Each year at the dinner they play Pomp and Circumstances as the camp’s high school seniors march to the podium. This year only one made it. Two others couldn’t attend due to their illness. The high school senior whom the group celebrated that night had attended camp 13 years straight. Although surgery scars marred her face, she walked across the room and held her head high for she had not only survived, but thrived. After she received her ‘diploma’ the DJ began the dance music and this senior, dressed in her graduation robe, became the center of attention. The kids rushed into a circle as they danced and celebrated her milestone. My thoughts drifted back to when Tiffany graduated from high school. We weren’t sure that she would make it that night because the effects of her brain surgery often left her unable to stand on her own. The teachers had assigned a big football player to stand at her side and help her if needed. But, with a sense of great accomplishment, she walked across the platform on her own and received her diploma. I rejoiced. Then I cried. (Rom. 12.15, Rejoice with those who rejoice.)

I never expected to learn about acceptance, thinking about the good, sacrificial service, and celebration from kids who had cancer. Yet that night I committed, for Tiffany’s sake, to stay as long as she wanted so she could relish those magical moments with people who accepted her unconditionally.

Modifying the line from My Fair Lady, “I could have danced all night,” I could have stayed all night as Tiffany danced all night.

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Traits of Catalytic Leaders

In The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leadership Organizations authors Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom highlight the value of what they call ‘leaderless’ organizations. Although I don’t endorse leaderless organizations per se, one chapter describes tools that successful non-leader leaders use to catalyze their respective organizations. I’ve listed below some of their insights from this unusual perspective.

Catalyst - Shallow Depth Of Field Macro Close-Up Selective Focus Of Word Highlighted In Dictionary In Orange

Qualities they suggest would apply to any leader.

  • Genuine interest in others
  • Loose connections (they don’t limit themselves to a few close friends but have many connections)
  • Mapping (catalysts think of who they know, who those people know, how they all relate to one another, and how they fit into a huge mental map)
  • Desire to help others
  • Passion
  • Meet people where they are (there is a difference between passionate and pushy; catalysts rely less on persuasion and more on meeting people where they are )
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Trust
  • Inspiration (catalysts often inspire others to work toward a goal that often doesn’t involve their own personal gain)
  • Tolerance for ambiguity (they learn to be OK when they don’t have concrete answers to big questions)
  • Hands-Off approach (they are less apt to use command and control)
  • Receding (after they accomplish what they intended, they get out of the way)

The authors also contrast CEO’s to Catalysts.

CEO’s vs Catalysts:

  • the boss vs a peer
  • command-and-control vs trust
  • rational vs emotionally intelligent
  • powerful vs inspirational
  • directive vs collaborative
  • in the spotlight vs behind the scenes
  • order vs ambiguity
  • organizing vs connecting

What do you think about leader-less organizations? Do you think leadership is either one or the other?

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4 Warning Signs of a Marriage Headed in the Wrong Direction

I’m working on one of my 25 talks I will give when I train 100 Cuban pastors in October. I ran across this insight from John Gottman who wrote 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work. He has noted 4 warning signs to look for in a marriage headed in the wrong direction.

  1. How spouses talk to each other. He can watch and decide in a few minutes a marriage’s direction based on how spouses talk to and treat each other in a conversation.
  2. Spurned attempts to right a wrong, resolve a conflict, or fix relational breach.
  3. Emotional flooding. This is when a spouse’s negativtity is so strong (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, etc.) that it leaves the other shell-shocked. 
  4. Pervasive negative thoughts about the other partner. These thoughts can get entrenched in negativity so deeply that spouses can’t even recall the good times.

On the positive side, what has helped your marriage thrive?

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Top 10 Quotes from Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit

Last week I attended my tenth Willow Creek Leadership Summit. I had the privilege to attend with about 50 leaders from the church I pastor, West Park Church. This may have been one of the best summits for me. I’ve captured below the the top 10 quotes and insights from the speakers.

Top 10 phrase written on whiteboard isolated on white

1. Make sure you keep the takers from getting on the bus. Adam Grant (Wharton prof) played off of Jim Collins’ often quoted maxim, “Made sure you get the right people on the bus.” Adam said that it’s equally important to make sure we don’t put the wrong people into our leadership structure.

2. Live for your eulogy, not for your resume-Albert Tate, pastor Fellowship Monrovia.

3. Talent may get you to the top, but only character will keep you at the top-Craig Groeschel, pastor of Lifechurch.TV.

4. You are only as strong as you are honest-Craig Groeschel.

5. Art is about learning to see-Ed Catmull, Pixar CEO.

6. You will keep your customers by doing three things: welcome them well, meet their wishes, give them a good farewell-Horst Schulze, CEO Capella Hotel Group.

7. Research tells us that we each have an average of 3.4 blind spots-Bill Hybels.

8. Great leaders (level 5 leaders) inspire others not to follow them, but to follow a cause-Jim Collins, business thinker and author.

9. Will I settle to become a good leader or will I grow to become a great leader-Jim Collins.

10. Leaders need more than just a forward gear. We need to be able to stop and sometimes to in reverse-Liz Wiseman, author and consultant.

11. (bonus quote) There area three kinds of feedback: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. 93% of US workers feel unappreciated-Sheila Heen, author and consultant.

If you attended, what was your greatest insight?

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