Month: July 2013

FOMO -The Fear of Missing Out

Ten minutes into our requested breakfast meeting, I regretted having said yes. The young man who had asked for the get-together—he needed some pastoral coaching, evidently—was sitting across from me at the diner, and now, there at the restaurant, with my full attention pointed his way, he had the gall to check his smart phone what seemed like every sixteen seconds. He checked it while I was ordering my meal, he checked it just after he ordered his meal, he checked it while I answered his questions, and he even checked it while he asked them. Unless the guy was waiting on word of an organ transplant—which I quickly learned he wasn’t—his lack of focus was totally unacceptable.

The world of psychology has a term for this annoying phenomenon of neglecting to pay attention to the person or situation immediately in front of you, choosing instead to see who else is doing something interesting or what else is going on. “FOMO,” it is called, otherwise known as the fear of missing out. FOMO is what causes us to “text while driving … interrupt one call to take another … and check [our] Twitter stream while on a date [or at a breakfast meeting with our pastor].” In short, we do these infuriating things because “something more entertaining just might be happening.”

I’m convinced that some of us could experience a visit from Jesus himself—live and in the flesh—and yet still we’d brazenly stick an index finger in the air and say, “Hang on, Jesus. Let me just check my Facebook wall real quick.”

There is an underlying fear motivating all this craziness; we don’t just want to be “in” on other people’s excitement, but we want them to find us exciting too. We want to be seen and heard and recognized and admired; we so desperately want someone to care. But what’s interesting is that when we shout along with hundreds of millions of others who are shouting, still we cannot be heard; our voice is simply lost in the others’ me-focused cacophony of sound.

After having considered the pace Jesus lived by, I arrive at an early conclusion: Jesus didn’t know FOMO very well. Actually, I don’t think he knew it at all. What concerned him was not being included on all the right lists, being retweeted by all the right handles, being known by all the right names. What concerned him was being hidden away in the character of his Father, and from there living life at peace.

John 15 contains a fascinating metaphor along these lines. Jesus is talking here to his disciples and explains his relationship to them in agricultural terms. “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer,” he says. “He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken” (vv. 1-3).

He then goes on to say exactly how this fruit-bearing is going to occur: “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me” (v. 4).

So, it’s not that we are expected to live the Jesus Pace alone; he is the one who will get us there. He is the band leader in our quest for a rhythmic life.

“I am the Vine,” the passage continues, “you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples” (vv. 5-8).

As it relates to our present-day plague of FOMO, here is what I think Jesus is saying in these verses from John 15: “You’re only missing out if you’re missing out on me.”

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Leadership Under Pressure

“What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14 (A letter from his mentor Paul)

When a leader feels pressure and has to make a decision, there is little or no time to decide on core convictions in that moment. So, the leader makes the call based on the convictions he has already established. That can be good or bad, depending on who has primarily influenced them. If they have had healthy mentors, the chances of a healthy decision are greatly improved. If they have had flawed influence, the opposite can be true.

Peacetime is the best time to establish core values and convictions. The best sailors prepare their boats for storms while in the harbor, not in the gales of hurricanes. In fact, most boats sink because there was little preparation before the storm, even though the sailors knew full well that storms were coming.

Leaders know there are times of calm and times of chaos. I have experienced both while serving my congregation here at New Life Church. Just 100 days after I arrived as pastor, in December 2007, we were attacked by a young man with gun and two of our young girls were killed in the parking lot after our Sunday gatherings. That was no time to decide on my core values and convictions.

Instead, what I had been taught rose to the surface and shaped my decisions. Only later did I realize how much I appreciated the sound leadership wisdom I had received in the years before from men like Robert Morris, Jimmy Evans, and Tom Lane. I had no choice at that moment but to lean upon what I had already learned from them. I share a lot of these learned life lessons in my book Sons and Daughters if you want to read more.

Since that fateful Sunday, I have become a student of leaders under pressure. Almost always, they make decisions under pressure based upon the influencers who most defined them. Sometimes that is great and sometimes that is disaster.

The seas are calm at New Life today and I am grateful. This is the time for me to learn from healthy leaders, to grow, and to mature. I presume other storms will arrive, along with the pressure to make critical decisions. My prayer for all of us is that we make those decisions under the influence of the Holy Spirit and from the wisdom and health of the leaders God has sent us along the way.

Questions for us to consider:

Who are we learning from right now?

Are they healthy leaders? Is their home and marriage healthy? Is their walk with Christ healthy?

Have their leadership convictions stood the test of storms?

What are our core values? Will these values survive the inevitable trials of life?

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The Ministry of Generosity

“In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” 2 Corinthians 8:2-4

The local church is at its best when it is generous to others in tough times. Paul was bragging in the above text about the Macedonians, who even though poor, were excited about an opportunity to be generous to another congregation that was in peril.

Recently, the most destructive wildfire in the history of Colorado swept through the Black Forest area of our community, leveling over 500 homes and killing two people. Over 20 families in our congregation lost almost everything in the blazes, many left with only a few belongings and the clothes they were wearing.

Immediately our community rallied with food, shelter, and boarding for the displaced. This past week, our ministry team visited those affected in the congregation and hand delivered some monies that had been given. The stories that came from these meetings reminded me of this scripture. No one expected the gift that was given but they sure were thankful. For some, the money will help them get back home quicker and for others it will help ease the pain of recovery.

For centuries, Christ followers have been generous givers, both with their money and their time. This scripture also gives us a better definition of generosity. Often we think only large gifts are generous, when that is not the case. Generosity is the grace to give sacrificially no matter the amount. Generosity is an attitude that compels us to help, to bless others with whatever is in our hands at the moment.

Generous people are a reflection of our God, who is a generous giver, bountiful with all that He has. I am grateful to lead a generous congregation that has discovered once again the joy of giving as much as we are able in times of very real trials.

Because of the size and scope of the wildfires, the needs in our community will continue for some time. If you want to participate in giving to those in need, click on the “Black Forest” banner at the top of our our website.

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