Archives For leadership

Mentoring in the Church

Erik Cooper —  November 4, 2010 — Leave a comment

My wife was honored to attend the Women of Influence breakfast here in downtown Indy.  One of the major buzzwords that kept coming to the forefront was mentoring.

Each of the powerful and influential women honored this morning referred over and over again to mentors who had personally and intimately invested in their lives.

Coincidence?

If mentoring is such a powerful force, why does it seem to have become a lost art in the church (at least those I’ve been a part of).

I love the energy, encouragement, and challenge of a weekend service and the “step into intimacy” of a small group.  But the most lasting change I’ve seen in spiritual development has come through mentoring.  One person taking responsibility for another. Sharing life. Wisdom. Insights. One on one.

Has a mentor directly impacted your relationship with God? Has the church really lost the art of one on one mentoring?

The Problem with the Church

Erik Cooper —  September 8, 2010 — 1 Comment

The problem with the church isn’t poor leadership.

It’s not large, debt drowned buildings.

Or runaway wall-street-like organizational models.

The problem isn’t ignorance of injustice.

Old-fashioned stodgy tradition.

Conflicting expressions of “worship.”

Or a lack of authentic community.

The problem isn’t passionless pastors.

Anemic teaching.

The wrong model of discipleship.

Misaligned partnerships.

Or climbing in bed with politics.

It’s not myopic strategy.

Apathetic fat-cat church boards.

Lack of creativity.

Or cultural irrelevance.

All these things may describe churches with problems. But not one of them is The Problem with the church.

That’s because the unequivocal, undeniable, unmistakable problem with the church is…

No, not me the guy writing this post (although I surely play my part). Me the concept. Me the pursuit. Me the idol.

There is an insatiable human desire to recreate a gospel that serves this Me. To build a Me-kingdom (perhaps on a mass of underpriced swampland in Central Florida). Formulating, casting, and then bowing down to a god that serves my projection of the way the world should be. A god that will go along on my ride. To my chosen destination.

This Me-god is made in my image. Made for my purpose.

That, my friends, is the problem with the church.

It’s full of Me.

Everything else is just a symptom.

But it’s easier to blame the system. The organization.  The money.  The style.  The committees.  It’s safer that way.  To point at a lifeless structure.  At them.  Because Me doesn’t like to deal with Me. It’s more cost-effective to blame everything else.

The cure to this illness doesn’t lie in the newest trends. The latest books. Or a throwback to good ol’ George Bush strategery. It’s more radical than that.

Me has to surrender.  To come out from hiding.  To give it up.  Me has to embrace it’s cross.  Me has to die (no, not literally for  you Jim Jones fanatics out there). Then Christ can truly live.

So the problem with the Church isn’t really a problem with the Church.  It’s a problem with Me.

Thankfully, a problem Jesus came to solve. If Me will just let Him.

Deal With Your Crap

Erik Cooper —  June 2, 2010 — 6 Comments

You can get away with a lot in the minor leagues. A little slow off the line? No problem. So is everyone else. Can’t dribble with your left hand? No worries. Neither can your defender. Occasionally caught napping in the dugout? So what? There aren’t any TV cameras at a minor league ballgame.

But in the pros? Yeah. The bar? Higher. The pressure? Immeasurable. The competition? Scary. Your weaknesses?

Obvious.

Visible.

Exposed.

(like one of those dreams where you’re out in public in your undies…yeah, you have them, too).

One of the best pieces of advice I got before my buddy Nathan and I launched City Community Church was “deal with your crap.” All the issues and brokenness you were able to keep hidden from others (and even yourself) will come screaming to the surface when you jump to the big leagues. Boy was that good advice.

Saul, the first king of Israel, had some crap he never dealt with. Some see these verses as a sign of humility. To me, they scream of unfaced insecurity. An early sign of the disastrous future that was in store.

“But I’m ONLY a Benjamite, from the SMALLEST of Israel’s tribes, and from the MOST INSIGNIFICANT clan in the tribe at that. WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME like this? (1 Samuel 9:21 MSG)

Classic self-protection. A sign of rot at the core. And this crap that was never dealt with would torment King Saul, ravage his closest relationships, destroy his kingdom, and ultimately end his life.

Tragic.

Avoidable.

Courage. Honesty. Vulnerability. Relationship. True community. All these things could have helped King Saul expose his raging insecurities. And repentance and accountability could have healed them.

Yet many seem to think they can just jump to the next level, head to the pros, and skip over shoveling the crap. The next level doesn’t fix you, it exposes you.

Marriages, business partnerships, even church pulpits (honestly, especially church pulpits) are full of people hiding from their stuff. Ignoring their brokenness. Running from their pain. And leaving a holocaust in their wake.

The next level will always expose. It’s inevitable.

But dealing with your crap is hard. It costs. Sometimes more than we think we can pay. But the bill for hiding our junk will come due. And it may have eternal consequences (and not just for you).

Repentance is liberating. Grace is free. Admitting we’re broken is the expensive part.

Is it time to deal with your crap?

The Problem with Dreaming

Erik Cooper —  February 17, 2010 — 10 Comments

I love to see people dream.  To use their imagination.  To create things that don’t yet exist.  To watch someone rise to their passion and purpose is exhilarating, and to play even a small role in releasing that potential is intoxicating.

But what if I’m drawing that stream out of a polluted well?

One of the dangers I personally face as a spiritual leader is creating and communicating via isogesis. Now there’s a fun theological word.  Isogesis refers to starting with a specific belief, and then searching (typically Scripture) for evidence to support my already pre-determined supposition.

This can be a dangerous way to approach God because it starts with me and then makes a vain attempt to bring Him into the equation.

A lot of us dream that way, too.  And as you can see from this passage of Scripture, I can be a dangerous origin.

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.  And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” (James 4:1-3 NLT)

I’m messed up. And while the things that naturally reside inside of me are undoubtedly part of my God-design, they’re also polluted with misguided motivation and selfish agendas.  With sin.  My dreams need redemption right along with the rest of me.

Jesus calls us to repentance, to realignment with Him. And not just as a one-time event, but a daily surrender.  Then my imagination begins to emerge from a healthy well.  My dreams naturally become sourced by God and I stop desperately seeking a “blessing” for things that originated with me.

So what about you?  Do you dreams emerge from The Source, or are you “isogeting?” Starting with you and desperately hoping God will come along for the ride?

Tough one for me.  But that’s the problem with dreaming.

Rock Stars

Erik Cooper —  October 7, 2009 — 5 Comments

Most of us are oblivious to what lives inside of us.  We live in slow motion, in monotonous routine, because somewhere deep in our souls we don’t believe we have influence, that we matter, that the world has any need for the things that we allow to lay dormant inside of us.

We’re in a culture inundated with inspiration, self-help books, mind-stimulating podcasts and messages, more self-esteem builders and delivery methods than any time in all of history.  Yet I’m convinced that most of us fight feelings of worthlessness and mediocrity more than we realize or are willing to admit.  We’re blind to our own potential.

We’ve ingested, perhaps even subliminally, our personality-driven culture (definitely prevalent here in America, but becoming a reality in all areas of the developed world).  We all want to be rock stars (yeah, I see you playing air guitar in your office to those old Journey tracks you just downloaded from iTunes).

Our approach to life proves our underlying belief that if we’re not gifted in something that gets noticed by the masses, then we’re really not gifted at all.  And in this new age of technology and a flattening globe, our self-defined value is becoming tied to things like blog subscriptions and Twitter followers.

And because we can’t determine how to influence thousands, we choose to influence…no one.

In risk of turning this into just another self-help post, you really do have something of value to add to the world. You were created to make a difference in someone else’s life.  You just may not believe it.  You may have to dig a little deeper to find it.

Don’t confuse creative capacity with artistry. Just because you’re not a singer, a painter, a writer, a front-of-the-room communicator doesn’t mean you don’t have amazing creative potential to offer to the world.  In fact, just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean you’re creative.  I know plenty of artists who are just cheap copies and phony imitations of others.

So what has God placed inside of you that needs to come out? To be expressed?  To find life and breathe life?  You may never be globally known, play a stadium gig, or write a best-seller.  But will you cheat the world of the innovative capacity you were created to bring forth? What if the very thing you have to offer could drastically change one person’s life, but you never pursue it?  What if you choose to give in to your own insecurities?  To believe that only mass influence is real influence?

What do you need to risk?  To release?  To create?  To invest?  Will you live the adventure or just play it safe?  Don’t be blind to your own potential.  The possibilities are endless, but you have to realize what’s inside of you that just might need to come out.