The Bigger Deal About the Bill Hybels Accusations

Stunned. Saddened. Angered. Grieved. Determined. Questioning.

I have this jumbled mix of emotions upon reading the Chicago Tribune article. How can this be? Who is really telling the truth? I know there are no absolutely perfect professions that get a pass on scandal. No perfect families, no impeccable churches, no spotless tribes of churches, and there are certainly no perfect pastors. (I know that first-hand.) But I find myself scratching my head and proclaiming:

“Not Bill. O Lord, not Bill.”

I am very aware that Bill adamantly denies the accusations. (I so hope he’s telling the truth!) What should I think, since the likes of Ortberg, Jimmy, and Nancy have joined their voices purporting that the accusations may carry some validity. They have been trustworthy friends of Willow Creek (and it feels like friends to so many of us as readers and listeners over the years). Whom to believe?

In the wild wake of #MeToo, the raucous flood of high-profile Hollywood accusations, as well as the skeletons in the closets of a much-too-muddy White House, we have settled into a ridiculous new normal. What we might have known a year ago as a healthy sense of disgust when hearing blasts of smutty news now gives way to a cold case of calloused numbness, a grogginess that’s settled over our collective conscience.

The Hybels accusations serve as a fresh slap to my sleepy soul. I cannot help but wake up and ask: “How can so many mature people who claim to know better act this way? Really? No! Enough is enough!”

“Not Bill. O Lord, not Bill.”

Sadly, such sickening scenarios are lose-lose-lose. Someone is lying while someone is truth telling. In the process, they each lose big-time. But there is another bigger, even sadder set of losers. No matter which side is right, the “skeptics, moralists, and long-time seekers” just grew less trusting and took another step away from the kingdom. I grieve and say to my skeptical and seeking friends, “Please, O please, I beg you to believe that there are still some good and reliable Christians left in the world. I so hope and pray at the end of the day, you remember how much we all need God’s loving grace. That includes Bill—and you and me—and every person pulsing on the planet.”

For many of us, “Me too” is no longer something that remains in the safe distance of a far-off scandal traipsed as tabloid in the Tribune, splashed across Christianity Today’s weekend headline, or blasted across a CNN banner. It hits way too close to home for that friend or family member who suddenly has to leave their job due to a previous season of sinful indiscretion. Many of us know someone not in the presidential, Hollywood, or mega-pastor limelight experiencing something that feels like collateral damage during this dreadfully punitive season. The self-centered choices and slippery compromise finally came home to roost. The pain is real.

In actuality, accusations of infidelity and sexual misconduct are as old as some of humanity’s famous families. The stunning story of Joseph in Egypt features a season when he was rising in influence, second in charge to a powerful man’s household. Joseph was relentlessly tempted; he remarkably resisted but was framed by his seductress. (See the Hebrew Scripture’s account, Genesis, chapter 39 for more of the story.)

Sage workplace author Tom Nelson elaborates: “When it comes to sexual temptation in the workplace, we don’t have to go out of our way to look for it; it often finds us. Joseph’s wise response to sexual temptation in the workplace is a model for us to emulate. Joseph didn’t cozy up to sexual temptation, he fled from it.”[1]

What’s the big deal? Our core struggle with workplace temptation lies deep inside. Jesus’ wisdom shines his probing searchlight on our eyes and hearts (Matthew 5:27-30). Lust is sparked when we indulgently imagine how people can be used for our self-serving interests instead of genuinely loved. God’s style of selfless love aims at practically caring for others’ best interests, not using or abusing them from our own places of power and control.

How do we develop a strategy to stand strong against workplace temptation, or as in Joseph’s case, to decisively run away? In Taking Your Soul to Work, R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung urge these five strategy steps:

(1) Know that your heart’s desires are for God. Hunger and passion for God put all lesser desires into perspective. (2) Reduce exposure to erotic stimulation in your choice of movies, novels, and Internet sites. Put a plan in place that will help you avoid temptation on business trips. (3) Pray for a colleague, a customer, or a supervisor whom you find attractive. Choose God’s perspective on the person instead of treating her/him as “just a body” to be visually consumed. (4) Seek accountability partners; commit to transparently answering tough questions. (5) Identify the early beginnings of lustful thoughts. Heightened vigilance in advance allows you to be more responsive to the Spirit’s guidance.[2]

Instead of being trapped in daily rituals of workplace lust and other sexual sins, we can stand strong. We can run away, stay pure, and truly honor Christ. With such choices, we will honor others with more wholesome love at work.

What is the truly bigger deal about the Bill Hybels accusations? Upon deeper reflection, I am struck with this reality. Instead of saying: “Not Bill. O Lord, not Bill,” I need to be saying, “Not me. O Lord, not me!”

Rather than shaking our heads in dismay over such scandals, jumping on judgment bandwagons, or allowing ourselves to be further numbed by the relentless shock to any remaining thread of moral leadership compass, we must realize we are called to genuine love. After all, virtues like decency, purity, and loving respect for others are God’s high calling for all of us—not just the mega-leaders of today’s world.

New levels of loving respect must start with everyday leaders—like you and me—making those solid, everyday choices. I want to stand strong. I want to stay holy and true to my wife and children, committed through and through as a truly good leader.

Will you join me in making fresh commitments to wholesome and holy love, the kind of love that is relentlessly loyal to those with whom we live and work each day?

May we all join our determined voices: “Not me. O Lord, not me!”

[1]Tom Nelson. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 173.

[2]R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung. Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), 26-31.

 

Finding God’s Work in William Faris

faithworkpuzzle

I was stunned, quickly swept up in such brilliant insight. We were in staff prayer time; I was standing by the bulletin board. A section of this board holds William’s drawings of various Bible stories. Lifting my eyes while listening to others pray, this particular composition’s title grabbed my attention. Carefully scribed on the page is a combination of both thought-provoking words and detailed sketch. His picture’s simple, crisp lines drew me to further consider the implications—both deeply theological and practically down-to-earth.

Our church has been on a faith @ work adventure over the past two years, deliberately seeking to engage with God’s view of our daily work. We are aiming to see more clearly how we join his mission in our daily tasks. We’ve been learning to break up the sacred-secular divide, to view and do our ordinary tasks as kingdom initiatives, and to appreciate our everyday workplaces as our primary mission fields. By his grace, we are beginning to see God in all things, even in the dusty and seemingly mundane.

Just last Sunday, we enjoyed hearing Dr. William Peel, the Executive Director of the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University and co-author of Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work.[1] During an extended interview, Peel shared one of his favorite practices for faith integration. “Ask the WIGD question each morning and throughout your day. What Is God Doing? What is God doing in and through my business today? What is God doing in this client or coworker’s life? What is God doing through these opportunities, and how might I join him?”

WorkplaceGraceCover

It should not have surprised me that William Faris’ artwork expresses kindred theoretical sentiments. He listens carefully in church services and his weekly Life Group study. His hands then skillfully join his mind, both working together to express what he sees. This particular drawing is simple yet poignantly intriguing. A bearded stick figure is draped in a strange-shaped gown, with unique décor embellishing the garb. William supplies a top-of-page biblical passage as the source of his inspiration: Exodus 37:1—39:31.

William Faris sketch

My suddenly curious yet cursory review of this Scripture validated my dusty recollection. Here is a description of the work performed by the ancient artisans of Hebrew sacred relics. Bezalel, Oholiab, and a team of craftsmen created the Ark of the Covenant, tabernacle furniture, and the priestly garments. Chapter 36 sets the stage: “the LORD has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary . . . to do the work just as the LORD has commanded.” I am deeply moved by this realization: such scriptural setting supplied inspiration for William’s own artwork, now thousands of years later.

I must confess the reason I am so stunned. William Faris faces a great personal challenge; he lives with a profound cognitive disability. Now in his fifties, William lives in Faith Friendship Villa, a couple miles from Manor Church. He faithfully attends worship services each weekend along with other residents. Willam and friends are vibrantly involved in their Life Group, led by people who are lovingly committed to working with individuals and families affected by disabilities. With such passionate work, this group regularly chooses to see God in all things.

William Faris

So, I am personally stirred by William’s artistic expression. Not only does he reflect theological savvy in his sketch; his own work remarkably reflects the image of his creative God and the extraordinary capabilities God has granted.

Drawn in by his work—both the sketch and the link to the biblical account—I am stirred afresh by the fact that it is God who gives skills and abilities to workers. William captures with loving stroke of pen on paper the old, old story. And he embodies with vibrant Spirit the very essence of such gifting. As William Peel reminded our crowd, we can see God at work daily in all things. WIGD? We see God at work through William Faris and his art.

And I am further captivated, swept up in this oh-so personal, yes, even convicting question: Am I personally integrating each day with such skillful sophistication—daring to see God at work in the “all things” of my own life—both in the old, old story, and in the current story of our lives?

[1]Bill Peel and Walt Larimore. Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work. (Longview, TX: LeTourneau Press) 2014.

4 Reasons You Can Whistle @ Work

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I could not help but chuckle. My morning walk on the golf course cart path was proving to be gorgeous. Leaves revealed a hint of fallish tint. The mid-September sky was bright, and the air was crisp. Amid the rustling treetops, birds were chirping, but I was suddenly struck by another high tone, piercing the soundscape. Overtop the birdsong and gentle hum of a green machine at work, there danced a stunning, pronounced melody. The tune was distinct, recognizably classic in cadence, echoing off the arcade of trees and turf. I scanned in all directions, eventually to discover that the beautiful whistling was coming from the lips of the hard-working grounds keeper. It was a stunning, spot-on-pitch performance—and he was oblivious to having an audience. ‘Top of his lungs, he kept whistling, and I laughed aloud.

Immediately struck with amazement and query, I thought, “It’s very early morning; his work is tedious, mundane, for sure. It’s repetitive and ridiculously thankless for that matter.” Confession: I’ve never gone back to the clubhouse after a round of golf to deliberately compliment, tip, or otherwise praise the grounds crew. But here’s this early morning laborer, whistling as he works, with volume level at Max 10.

So what gives? ‘Something special in his 5 a.m. java? How can the rest of us find healthier joy in our daily work, whatever we do? Based on God’s view of work, I’ll suggest four reasons we can whistle in our work this week.

YOUR WORK TODAY MAKES GOD SMILE.

God originally made us in his image—his very likeness as creative coworkers—and he called us to work. In Genesis 2:15, we discover that a great big part of this imago Dei and our original call was for humans to work the garden. The Hebrew word for work carries the ideas of labor, service, and worship. Originally, this was all good, all positive. Yes, Genesis 3 records the curse in response to the Fall, but work was originally a part of God’s very good plans for humans. In response to the Curse’s ugly consequences, God’s story unfolds redemptive plans to renew all of creation, including work and its creative outcome (Rom. 8).[1] When we work, God smiles.

YOUR WORK TODAY IS THE OVERFLOW OF GRACE.

Our everyday work is part of our living out God’s saving grace. He planned for it! Ephesians 2:8-10 reminds us that we are saved by grace through faith; it’s not of our own good works. Yet, we discover with verse 10 that the overflow of God’s creativity, his remaking us, is that we now ACTIVELY live out creative good works. Faith is indeed about DOING something. He planned in advance for us to accomplish good works.

WHATEVER IT IS—YOUR WORK CAN SERVE CHRIST AND MAKE HIM FAMOUS!

For your own deeper inspiration and recalibration of perspective, explore these verses. Soak up fresh motivation for the soul of your work. See 1 Cor. 10:31 and Colossians 3:23-24.

YOUR WORK MATCHES JESUS’ HEART, ACTIONS, AND MISSION.

Jesus’ own example and his kingdom teachings are full of business and workplace implications. Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus was a tekton, one who works with his hands. We often forget that Jesus was a carpenter and/or sculptor many more years than he was the traveling rabbi and miracle-worker. As a result, Jesus knew business and marketplace workers. Perhaps this sheds some light on why the majority of his parables are infused with business context and kingdom principles related to everyday work scenarios. Tom Nelson reminds us:

“Working with his hands day in and day out in a carpentry shop was not below Jesus. Jesus did not see his carpentry work as mundane or meaningless, for it was the work his Father had called him to do. I have a good hunch that Jesus was a top-notch carpenter and did top-notch work . . . I am sure there were many things that made the Father well pleased, but one important aspect of Jesus’ well-pleasing life that we must not overlook was his well-pleasing work as a carpenter.”[2]

So, as the golf course greens keeper continued whistling, I found myself grinning and saying, “Sign me up! I want what he’s having!” God’s smile, great big grace, his glory, and Jesus’ own work—four reasons you can rejoice with God in your work today. Let’s get whistling!

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[1]Darrell Cosden, The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work. (United Kingdom: Paternoster Press, 2006), 86-91.

[2]Tom Nelson, Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 90.

Busyness and a Missio Christmas

Christmas Cards

It was in my mailbox again this year—a marvelously mysterious Christmas card from a remarkable businessperson. “But why?” I wonder every year.

Most of us feel the strenuous stress, the tug and the tension of these days. This year is no different. You have extra product to push out the door, additional tasks to conquer, reconnections to make with long-term clients, and hopefully a pleasant handful of new relationships to foster. You also have a wish list a mile long, still to conquer, plus the wrapping, maybe a batch of baking, school concerts, the extra-special church services (queue the child-shepherds, clad in bathrobes), as well as the parties to attend (and possibly one or two to host!), and—well, you know, on and on, ad infinitum. As of this morning, there are just nine days ‘til Christmas—so sorry to scare you.

I am still shaking my head over the card. “Where does she find the time to send it?”

We all have a lot to cram into the upcoming hours, and this thought arrests my psyche this morning. If I do not make the time, in all the busyness of my business, I might miss the fuller significance, the blessed connections, and the real joy. I’m struck again: What was the origin, the purpose—the deeper significance, the real business of Christmas?

A dusty Latin phrase sums it up. Missio dei. The mission of God.[1] The babe of Christmas came and lived in light of his Father’s busy business. Whereas God certainly knows how to pause, to rest and reflect, he also seems very at-home with busyness. We first meet God in his story as an uber-creative, hard-working character (AKA, Creator, see Genesis, chapters 1-2). Across God’s story, he is constantly, intentionally planning and tangibly working out his redemptive plans. He’s busy. When he was a middle school kid, Jesus’ parents lost him in Jerusalem. (Yes, I know, how do you lose Jesus? A deep question to ask Mary and Joe, someday.) They finally found him, several days later, talking it up with the leaders in the Temple. Jesus’ response at his parents’ what were you thinking? is profound with intentionality. He replied, “Didn’t you know I would be busy with my Father’s business?” (my paraphrase; but see Luke 2:49, NKJV) When confronted about his Sabbath work, Jesus said, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” (John 5:17 NLT) Years later, one of Jesus’ followers, an early leader in the movement, Saint John, penned these words. “The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14 NIV) These words capture the Father’s intentional planning, the busyness of his business, and the full push of the missio dei.

Our mystery card comes from Renae, a phenomenal realtor in Marion, Iowa. She sold our first house for us in 1999, when we were trying to move back to the east coast for a new endeavor. I chuckle now. Renae made a grand windfall of a few hundred dollars on the deal, and she treated us like we were million dollar clients. Every year, we receive the hand-written, personalized Christmas card, and I shake my head in amazement. Call it smart real estate business (you never know whom I might refer her way). Yes, AND we should call it smart mission. She has not forgotten that God’s business places precious, life-changing connections with people right at the forefront!

So, I am compelled to slow down, breathe deep, and remember the WHY behind all of the busyness. I am struck with fresh gratitude for people with whom I can connect, the energy for creativity to produce, and the joyous opportunities to join God in his mission this season and into the New Year.

I pray you make the time to pause and remember the why of this season—and have a very missio Christmas!

 

 


[1]C. Neal Johnson, Business As Mission: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 28 and 49.