Its been a few days since I last posted… The last couple of weeks have been a blur for me and there is a lot of ideas swirling in my brain, a really cool Sunday to ReCap and some thoughts from an amazingly timed leadership conference, Catalyst 2009, to share.Until then, its nice to be back on the keyboard, and thinking out loud…

This verse has been spinning in my head for the last couple of days as I (slowly) move through 1 Corinthians…

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Cor. 8:9

Here is an initial thought that come to mind…

Our generation of church leader and pastor makes a big deal out of living in the freedom of Christ, which seems to spring from the legalistic, rules-over-relationship generation that led the church previously. But at what point does the  engaging in those freedoms around other staff and those who “get it” or are “one of us” break down and translate, even indirectly, to those we lead who may not get it or be as “cool”?

We know that it’s not the actual freedoms that are the stumbling block… I mean, really, the cussing in staff meetings or having a glass of wine with dinner or having a beer while grilling at home probably will not cause those weaker folks around us whom we lead to stumble- because they wouldn’t be around to see or hear any of that- I guess there is still the shopping cart dilemma… However, could it be that as Paul says, it is how we as leaders “exercise” those freedoms that really causes others to stumble: how we learn to compartmentalize our actions… how we learn to use certain words around certain people… how we learn to be comfortable contextualizing our lifestyle… That to me seems to be the larger danger for church leaders today.

Just thinking out loud a little…

Disclaimer: the situations and actions described herein are not necessarily implicative of any particular church leaders or pastors, myself included, but representative of actions and attitudes among a larger whole that I got to hang out with last week.

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  1. I’ve thought a lot about this topic as my children have become teenagers. As an adult, I am free to do certain things that my children are not free to do. But what does that freedom really buy me?

    I sometimes use certain adult words to emphasize a point or an emotion, but when I hear those same words coming out of my teenagers’ mouths when they think I’m not listening (or when they are trying it out to see what I’ll say) I admit it makes me cringe. As teens are famous for doing, they point out that I use those words occasionally, why shouldn’t they. So I have to think, should I quit using those words where my teens can hear them, or should I quit altogether.

    I always come back to the question, “What benefit do I really get from using those words?” The way I feel is the same regardless of how I choose to express it. Different words can be used to convey the same meaning and intensity – words I would comfortable, or even proud to hear my kids use.

    I worked for a Big 8 accounting firm when I first graduated from Baylor. The language there was very different from what I was used to hearing around campus. Not that Baylor was lily pure, but the language there was certainly more restrained than the language at “the firm.” I fell into a habit of using the same language I heard around me. I thought I was pretty cool. I fit in really well. I was one of the guys. But there was ONE of the guys who was different. His name was Mike and he NEVER used a cuss word or even a word that bordered on questionable. Sure, some people treated him differently because he didn’t throw those words around, but in the end he was respected for his ideas and abilities and eventually, others stopped cussing around him (mostly). I realized, by watching him, that I did not need to use those words to express myself and that I would be more true to myself and my witness without that language. I realized that as a woman in a big company, I wanted to be respected for my ideas and my abilities, not for my adoption of the language. So I quit.

    What happened to allow some of those words to creep back into my vocabulary? Not sure. Certainly not all the words are back, just the more tame ones. (There are some new words now that didn’t exist in the late 80’s and I’ve had to wrestle with those words and figure out if they were allowed in or not.) I do work in a church so I pretty much never use even the tame words at work. Which brings us back to Bryan’s original question, and my conviction as a mom. As a mom I’ve decided that I need to quit altogether again. There’s just no benefit in using those words. I’m not comfortable hearing those I’m leading (my children) using those words. The words that I should be using, and that I want my followers to use, should be “whatever is pure, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is true, whatever is worthy, whatever is admirable.” Ironically, that may not include the word “whatever” in some instances. I want my children to be respected for their ideas and their abilities and their commitment to their values. The thing is, I’m pretty sure they will have to come to that conclusion on their own. I’m gonna lead the way, though. James says that praise and cursing should not come from the same mouth (James 3:10). I choose praise.

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