Posted tagged ‘Right and Wrong’

Lessons from JoePa

January 25, 2012

I’m sure that all of you who are college football fans, and many of you who are not, have heard about the death this last weekend of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Joe Paterno, affectionately called JoePa, was truly a living legend. JoePa was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for 46 years, held the record for the most wins by any NCAA division one football coach, and is the only division one coach to have over 400 victories. JoePa lead the Nittany Lions in five undefeated seasons, and in 2007 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In addition to these accomplishments JoePa was well known for his emphasis on high moral conduct among his players, as well as encouraging their academic success. JoePa was also well loved off the football field and held in very high regard in his community.

There is no doubt in my mind that JoePa was one of the greatest football coaches that ever lived. Yet despite all of his success on and off the field, there will always be a shadow hanging over his name. In November of 2011, JoePa’s longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on allegations of child sex abuse. As the story unfolded, we discovered that JoePa was made aware of these allegations. According to reports, JoePa passed the information along to two university officials and then did nothing more concerning the situation. The report was apparently swept under the rug. After these details came to light, Penn State University fired JoePa for his inaction. No matter how many great things JoePa did, his name will forever be remembered as the man who only did the “minimum.” The allegations against Jerry Sandusky were not fully exposed and addressed as they should have been.

The point that I’m trying to make is that all the great things accomplished by JoePa were dwarfed by one poor decision.

This makes me think of a quote that I heard several years ago, “it can take years to build a good reputation, and only one poor decision to ruin it.” This principle is greatly magnified in the world of Rural Ministry. In urban areas, it’s much easier to remain anonymous, and poor decisions can often times be easily hidden. In contrast, when you live in the sticks everyone knows everybody. In addition to everyone knowing everybody, they also tend to know everybody’s business. As I said in my first Rural Ministry blog post, “You know you’re in a rural church if there is no such thing as a secret sin.” I meant it as a joke, but there is a lot of truth in the statement as well.

As rural ministers, we need to make sure that we do everything we can to maintain a good reputation. This doesn’t mean that we need to be perfect, but we do need to be cautious. We need to make sure that we do not allow ourselves to be put in potentially compromising situations. We need to conduct ourselves in ways that honor God and show His love to others. We need to be honest in our dealings, and transparent in our lives. We need to live our lives as if there was no such thing as a secret. And, if we ever find ourselves in a situation like JoePa, we need to make sure that we do everything within our power to protect the innocent.

What are some ways that we can make sure we maintain a good reputation? If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation like Joe Paterno, how did it make you feel? Leave a comment below.


Efficient vs. Effective

June 8, 2011

Prior to entering the ministry full time I worked in the computer industry.  I remember one meeting about 12 years ago in which my boss spent a significant amount of time explaining the difference between two words – efficient and effective.  I can honestly say that that meeting was a life changing moment for me.

Here’s the difference: Efficient means “doing things right” while effective means “doing the right things.”  Although initially that could sound like the same thing, it most certainly is not.  Here’s how it was explained to me – Imagine that you’re in a boat on a lake and the boat starts leaking.  If you’re efficient, you might grab a bucket and start bailing water.  In fact, you could get a whole team of people with special, ergonomically designed buckets that are all very efficiently bailing water on the boat.  With the right kind of training and leadership they could easily be the most efficient water bailers on the planet.  While all this efficiency is going on, an effective person would just plug the hole in the boat.  Bailing water is okay, but plugging the hole is smarter.

You can be very efficient without being effective.  I think that one of the reasons we are seeing so many rural churches in decline is because they are not being effective.  They can be very efficient at what they do without being effective at all.  How can we make sure that we are being effective?  Here are some suggestions:

1) Pray.  I know that this may seem trite, but the fact of the matter is that God still communicates to His people today.  He wants our churches to be very effective in reaching the lost.  We all know James 1:5, putting it into practice is the biggest step towards being an effective church

2) Never say “we’ve always done it this way.”  If you keep doing what you’ve always done you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.  The message of the Gospel never changes, but the methods we use to proclaim that message must change.

3) Be careful when reading books and attending seminars.  Don’t get me wrong, I love books and seminars, but the temptation for many is to think that if they just did everything the author or speaker did, then they will get the same results.  The bottom line is that what works in one community does not necessarily work in another.  We should glean the best ideas and adapt them to our community

4) Don’t be afraid of failure.  If you try something and it doesn’t work, then stop doing it and try something else.  If you don’t make the attempt, you’ll never know how effective it will be.

Can you think of anything else we can do to insure we are being as effective as possible?  What is currently working in your community? Leave a comment below

Wrong or different?

April 19, 2011

I must admit that rural ministry is pretty natural for me.  I think the main reason is that I was born and raised rural.  In fact, my hometown is 35 miles north of where I minister, so I’m almost considered a local.  I‘ve met many pastors, however, that grew up in urban/suburban areas and really struggle adjusting to rural life.  One of the major issues that causes this struggle is the fact that we tend to look at the way we think about life as the “right” way and therefore anyone who thinks differently than us is “wrong.”

Before I go any further let me state that I believe in absolute truth.  I believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and the final authority on all truth.  With that being said, however, the Bible doesn’t deal with every issue of life.  When it does, then anything that goes against Scripture is obviously wrong, but what about those things that the Bible doesn’t deal with?  In those areas “right” and “wrong” are a lot more ambiguous and depend largely on things like culture, tradition, and opinion.  The following video clip illustrates my point perfectly:


The bottom line is that quite often urban people and rural people think and act very differently.  The transition from urban to rural life would be much easier if we all realized the truths in this video.  All of us, whether we are from a rural or urban background, need to recognize the difference between “wrong” and “different.”

Have you encountered any situations in which what you thought was “right” or “wrong” turned out to be “different”?  Leave a comment below: