Yes, it does matter who gets the credit!

Sitting in front of the television as Hollywood was handing out its annual Oscars, I wondered something.

Who decides who steps to the microphone to acknowledge and receive these coveted awards?

When a movie’s name is called as the winner of “best picture” or some other category in which a number of people have collaborated, who decides which member of that crowd stands, walks to the front, accepts the kiss from Penelope Cruz, and addresses the billion people who are tuned in?

Do they work this out in advance? Is it spontaneous? Do people get their feelings hurt when the wrong person steps up and takes credit?

Michael Curtiz directed “Casablanca,” the incredible movie which took home several Oscars from the 1944 prom. He was named best director and the movie best picture of the year.  The film was done by Warner Brothers.

There were three Warner Brothers–Albert, Harry, and Jack. It seems to be the universal assessment that  Jack was the rascal in the bunch. Once Jack talked his brothers into selling the studio to a Boston firm, then the next day repurchased it so it would belong exclusively to himself. The rest of the family never forgave and never forgot.

An executive who worked on “Casablanca”–I’ve forgotten his name–tells  what happened at the awards ceremony when “Casablanca” was announced as best picture of the year.   “I was rising to my feet when I noticed Jack Warner already on his way to the front. He accepted the Oscar like he had had anything to do with this movie. It was my movie. I’m the one who made ‘Casablanca’ happen!”

A generation later, the man still had not forgotten the offense or forgiven Jack Warner.

A line attributed to Ronald Reagan says, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit.” (Other people, including Walt Disney, also get credit for saying that.)

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10 lessons on church leadership, all learned the hard way

This is not the final list. I’m still learning.

Most of what follows about leading God’s church is counter-intuitive. Which is to say, not what I might have expected.

In no particular order….

One. Bigness is overrated.

“It doesn’t matter to the Lord whether He saves by the few or the many” (I Samuel 14:6).

Most pastors, it would appear, have wanted to lead big churches, wanted to grow their church to be huge, or wanted to move to a large church.  Their motives may be pure; judging motives is outside my skill set. But pastoring a big church can be the hardest thing you will ever try, and far less satisfying than you would ever think.

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To a friend going into denominational work

In a sense, I could be writing this to myself some 15 years ago as I transitioned from pastoring (for 42 years!) into the office of the Director of Missions for the SBC churches of Metro New Orleans.  These days, it applies to friends such as Louisiana’s Dr. Steve Horn, who left the pastorate of FBC Lafayette to become Executive of that state’s SBC churches or Dr. Shawn Parker, who left FBC Columbus MS for the Executive office in Mississippi. 

You’ve been pastoring churches all your adult life.  And now the Lord–with the assistance of an executive search committee–is moving you out of the pastorate into a denominational office where your constituency will be churches and pastors instead of deacons and Sunday School teachers and the WMU.

I have been there, done that, and have the t-shirt.  And maybe a scar or two.

Eighteen months into my five-year tenure with the New Orleans Baptist Association, Hurricane Katrina flooded our city, ruining  vast neighborhoods and displacing hundreds of thousands of residents while destroying many of our churches.  Every day was a challenge. The blessings came in waves, the frustrations never left.

I came by these grey hairs honestly.

Ideally, in your new position you will have just enough difficulties to challenge your strengths without crushing you, and enough encouragement and prayer support to compensate for your weaknesses without making you self-satisfied or complacent.

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Servanthood: A different kind of leadership

“…your servant, for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). 

God wants you to be a leader, Christian.  But not your garden variety kind of leader, where you have lots of followers who obey your commands, groupies surrounding you to anticipate your whims.

God calls you and me to be servant-leaders.  A servant leader is the kind the world knows little of, the type that is counter-intuitive, we might say.  That is, it doesn’t look or feel like a leader but it is.

Once again, the way of the Lord is upside down compared to the world’s way.  (You’ve noticed that, have you?)

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If you would serve the Lord, expect obstacles.

“A great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (I Corinthians 16:9). 

“Is this vile world a friend to grace to help me on to God?”   (Isaac Watts, “Am I A Soldier of the Cross?”)

This is a quiz.  Name the enemies George Washington faced in the Revolutionary War.

If you answered, “The British,” you’d be only partly right.

Washington did fight the British, as the thirteen colonies asserted their independence from the Mother Nation.  But Generals Howe, Cornwallis, and Clinton and their armies were only the most visible of the forces Washington had to contend with.

He had to fight the weather.  Think of Valley Forge and even without knowing the full story, your mind immediately conjures up images of a harsh winter with all the snow, ice, sleet, and freezing temperatures that includes.

Washington had to deal with starvation and deprivation.  No one knows how many thousands of his soldiers perished from the cold and starvation at Valley Forge and how many deserted in order to save their lives.  Many surrendered to the British at Philadelphia in the vain hope that the conquerors would feed and clothe them.

Washington had to deal with a Congress that was either ignorant, misinformed, or outright hostile to his situation. He wrote letter after letter detailing the misery of his army and pleading for help.  Finally, a delegation came from the national capital, temporarily at York, PA, to see for themselves, after which congress began to act.

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When all else fails, go to Plan B. If you have one.

You do have a Plan B, don’t you?

You always have to have a backup plan.

–What if the guest speaker does not show up?  Who speaks? Should we line up the alternate speaker just in case?

–What if the power goes out in the middle of the party?

–What if it rains out the church picnic? Do we cancel or go inside? If we cancel, is there another day on the calendar that would work?  If we go inside, how can we create the fun atmosphere of the outside picnic?  Do we even want to have a church picnic?

–What if the school board does not approve our request to have the crusade at the football stadium? What then? Is there another place to meet that will hold a crowd?  Will people drive to that location?  Is it equipped to deal with our needs?  What other possibilities are there?

–What if we schedule that meeting and line up the singers and guest speakers but no one shows up, how do we cover expenses? Is there a way to know in time either to do some last-minute heroics to get people there or to cancel the meeting?  Are we showing lack of faith by even considering these things?

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Why you would not want to have been Mister (Fred) Rogers

“Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).

They were always watching him to catch him in a hypocrisy.  An inconsistency.  A dual standard.

Mister Rogers–i.e., Fred McFeely Rogers of TV fame–personified the command of Scripture to love thy neighbor and to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10).  An ordained minister, this creator of the television program “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” never preached his beliefs that I know of. But he certainly appears to have lived them.

I didn’t know him personally, other than through television, what I have read about him, and the recent movie about his life.

People who went to work for him on the show watched to see if he really lived in private the virtues of love and acceptance he taught.  Reporters interviewed him relentlessly and constantly besieged staff workers looking for a chink in the armor, a crack in the façade.  An evidence that he was less than he seemed to be.

The formula says: The more visible you are and the higher virtues you preach, the more you will be examined, questioned, pursued, and investigated.  So, if you become well known to the public–whether as a political figure, a government appointee, a celebrity of any kind, or a minister in a church–you should expect it and prepare for it.

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21 ministry lessons learned the hard way (with scars to prove it!)

I began serving the Lord when I was 11 years old, began preaching the Word when I was 21, and began pastoring a year later. At the moment, I’m 78-and-a-half years old.  These are a few lessons this life of ministry has taught me….

One. Never tell anyone anything you don’t want repeated.  The single exceptions are the Lord in prayer or your wife in the bedroom.

Two. Never put anything negative in a letter.  It will still be circulating and driving the case against you long after you’re in the grave.

Three.  Never fail to check all the references of a prospective staff member.  And then check a few more.

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Followership: How to be a great team member

“That the leaders led in Israel, and that the people volunteered, O bless the Lord!” (Judges 5:2)

“For the body is not one member, but many….  If they were all one member, where would the body be?” (I Corinthians 14:14,19)

A man wrote to Reader’s Digest telling how his daughter had gone off to a woman’s university and he had received a letter from the dean. “We’re surveying the freshman class,” he said.  “Please tell us about your daughter by completing the enclosed questionnaire.”

One question read: “Would you call your daughter  a leader?”  The dad wrote, “I’m not sure I’d call her a leader.  But she’s a great player, someone you really want on your team.”

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10 of the best leadership principles I know

Our website (www.joemckeever.com) has two categories of articles on the subject of “Leadership”–listed as “Church leadership” and simply “Leadership.”  To find them, scroll down the home page to a list of Categories, then click on these.  The latter has nearly a hundred articles on the subject.  Feel free to use these with your staff or congregation, as God leads.   (I’ve met at least two pastors who had his assistant print out every one of these articles and bind them in a notebook. In their weekly staff meetings, they used them as topics of study and discussion for a solid year.)

Whether you’re talking about your business or a church or the Beta club in your high school, the principles for making it successful and effective are similar.  Here is my short list, based on nearly 60 years in serving the Lord’s churches.

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