Success at the Expense of Integrity

Warning: This will most likely be an incoherent rant…

Is one truly a success when he has compromised his integrity?

Some would say, “Of course not! A persons integrity is what truly matters.”

Others would argue, “Of course! A success is a person who wins, no matter the cost. Life is all about the survival of the fittest. You do whatever it takes.”

Over the last 24-hours, in light of the whole scandal surrounding the Baylor basketball program, I have been doing a lot of thinking on success and integrity.

It seems that in our world, especially in the arenas of athletics and business, we have become so captivated with winning…with success, that we have become desensitized to the idea of integrity.

We learn of NFL teams placing “hits” on their opponents (let’s be honest, we all know the Saints aren’t the only ones out there doing this…they were simply the ones who were caught). We learn of business people who fudge numbers, steal formulas, and even create false accusations against competing businesses in order to succeed. We learn of basketball programs who knowingly violate rules.

Some may say, “Come on, we’re talking about phone calls.”

Yes, we are talking about phone calls…1200 calls and text messages that were in violation of the NCAA rules. These are rules the coaches and staff would have been well aware of. Win at all cost, right?

But, in the end, those calls and text messages helped land some big-time recruits that have turned the men’s and women’s basketball programs around…leading to an undefeated season and national championship for the women. Win at all cost, right?

For me, the issue is amplified when we remember that Baylor University is a “private Baptist University.” This is a university where, according to their website, “students are part of a Christian community of faith.”  Shouldn’t this university be operating above reproach? Win at all cost, right?

1200 phone calls and text messages over a 29-month period? Certainly members of the administration were aware of this activity. I mean, this isn’t one of those instances where it happened a few times and a coach could say, “I guess I just forgot what day it was.” This was an intentional action of violating a rule. Win at all cost, right?

Unfortunately, the achievement of success at the expense of integrity is not limited to the world of sports and business. A lack of integrity can be found in the world of higher education, in churches, in non-profit organizations, etc. And, this lack of integrity is often justified when the results are positive. Win at all cost, right?

So, a university boosts their test scores in order to receive a higher ranking. It results in more students attending at a higher tuition. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

A church covers up a scandal involving a pastor because he is really good at preaching, has a “likable” personality, and really gets people excited about coming to church. News of the scandal would almost “ruin” the church. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

A church pays for helicopters to drop candy, flies a plane over in order to feature a skydiving Easter bunny, and across the street a family is struggling to figure out where their next meal will come from. But, that stuff really brings in families and just might expose them to the Gospel. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

The CEO of a non-profit takes a little “extra” and uses the company accounts to pay for lavish vacations, private jets, and a $60,000 SUV. But, the organization did some great work. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

And, then, I look at myself. Have there been times when I’ve chosen success over integrity? Certainly. I’m not innocent in all of this. And, let’s be honest, my beloved Ball State University has had its fair share of scandals and violations.

Looking at the Baylor case simply reminds me that the best success is when ones integrity is still intact.

The truth of the matter is that it’s NOT okay. We don’t have to give up our integrity to succeed. A person can be successful and full of integrity. It might be more difficult to be successful when we are unwilling to compromise…when we refuse to take the easy road, to lie, steal, cheat, and destroy. But, it can be done. Win at all cost? I’m not so sure about that…

“Observe those who have integrity and watch those whose heart is right because the future belongs to persons of peace.” Psalm 37:37

“Integrity guides the virtuous, but dishonesty ruins the treacherous.” Proverbs 11:3

“Offer yourself as a role model of good actions. Show integrity, seriousness, and a sound message that is above criticism when you teach, so that any opponent will be ashamed because they won’t find anything bad to say about us.” Titus 2:7-8

St. Patrick’s Day Archive

The following is my 2009 St. Patrick’s Day entry. I thought I’d share it again…

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. For those of you who know me well, you are fully aware that this is my favorite holiday. Of course, I prefer the secular-style celebrations that focus on great food (Irish stew, bangers and mash, etc) and wonderful beverages (a pint of Guinness). However, the true celebration is to honor St. Patrick (a former slave in Ireland, turned missionary in Ireland…taking the message of the Cross to the very people who had enslaved him…pretty incredible stuff). I do believe we can honor St. Patrick while enjoying our food and drink! So, today let us honor St. Patrick and celebrate with great joy with friends and family!

I thought it would be fitting to end this post with a prayer that has been credited to St. Patrick:

May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
– Against the snares of the evil one.

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!

May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.

Are You an Encourager?

Just a few days ago, one of my ministry mentors passed away after having a heart attack. As I reflect back on my experiences with the Rev. Dr. Donald C. Lacy, I am reminded most of how he continually encouraged me throughout my ministry.

We worked together for only a short period of time at Yorktown United Methodist Church. But, in that short time, we developed a lasting friendship and relationship as mentor/mentee.

Dr. Lacy found ways to speak words of wisdom and encouragement throughout my ministry. When I left Yorktown to take a full-time position at Elkhart Trinity UMC, he was one of the voices that helped me discern that call. While in Elkhart, he would call, write letters, and even visited and took me out to lunch at some top-secret restaurant/club on the Notre Dame campus (I swear…there was security…and you had to have a special password to get in the front door…seriously!). When I moved from Elkhart back to Muncie to take a position at Center Chapel UMC, he was one of the first to make a phone call. That phone call was quickly followed by a lunch here (he always invited me to “the OG…I know you like that place” he would say), a breakfast there, letters of encouragement, etc.

When we moved from Muncie to Lafayette Christ UMC, again, he was one of the first to call, to send letters of encouragement, and the like.

Heck, he even gave me a couple of “shout outs” in one of his books!

One of the practices/disciplines that Dr. Lacy practiced was a daily service of communion and intercession. Throughout my ministry, about once every three months, I would receive a letter from Dr. Lacy, with an order of worship from one of these services, where he would have written out a prayer for me, my family, my ministry, and my church.

I couldn’t help but feel honored and encouraged after receiving one of Dr. Lacy’s letters.

Probably the biggest lesson I learned from Dr. Lacy was the importance of encouraging others. So, this morning, as I reflect on my friendship with Dr. Lacy, I find myself asking…”Who am I intentionally encouraging?”, and “Who are my encouragers?”

Rev. Dr. Donald Charles Lacy

Angry Pastors

During the week, I usually take time to listen to sermons from various pastors around the world. I have a few “go to” pastors that I listen to on a regular basis. Others I stumble upon…others I check out because of a friends suggestion or an article I’ve read.

This week, I listened to two sermons that used the same passage of Scripture as their foundation. The two sermons were extremely different.

The first one I listened to was from a pastor down in Texas…a former youth ministry student…a young man who I have had the honor and privilege of knowing and watching grow, mature, and develop into an outstanding pastor and an extremely effective communicator. I tend to check out his sermons as soon as they are posted. He is passionate…he is energetic…he is entertaining (not that it’s important, but it does impact how the message is received)…he is knowledgeable…he makes clear points…he encourages and challenges his listeners. At the end of his message, one is renewed, restored, and transformed. It was an excellent sermon.

The next sermon I listened to simply because I saw a facebook post that mentioned the sermon. So, I found the church website and took a listen. As I listened to the sermon, all I could think was, “Why is this guy so angry?” The overall tone of the message was…well…kind of negative, angry, and confusing. As I listened, I noticed that the content of the sermon was less than theologically and doctrinally sound. It was all over the place. I was trying to figure out exactly how the points the pastor was attempting to make fit in with the passage of Scripture…wondering how, exactly, had this pastor come to this particular interpretation of the passage. The pastor may have been attempting to be passionate and energetic…but it really came off as angry and judgmental. Honestly, in light of the first sermon, it seemed bizarre.

That got me thinking…

1. I’ve never understood the whole angry pastor thing. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Are there things to get angry about? Sure. And I believe angry pastors would qualify as something to get angry about. It’s like they have totally forgotten the fruit of the Spirit:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other.” ~Galatians 5:22-26

2. I’m convinced that angry pastors are generally arrogant pastors (see the verse above). Maybe the reason they are so upset and angry is because people disagree with them? They feel they have it all figured out, there is no possible way they could be wrong, and therefore we would be silly not to take them seriously. And, when people challenge them, they get angry. Therefore, they really have to “give it to them” when they preach.

3. Angry pastors are generally angry about the wrong things. Well, this could go on for pages and pages.  Let’s just make a general statement that angry pastors are usually not upset about the injustices faced by “the least of these” on a daily basis. Instead, they are generally angry about various political/moral issues (homosexuality, abortion, which political party is in power, etc.). As one of my very wise, former high school principal’s once told me, “You have every right to get angry. Just make sure you are getting angry about the right things.”

4. Angry pastors always make me think about Alley Oops, the 50’s-style diner in Elkhart. I used to meet up with a group of youth pastors at Alley Oops on a regular basis. We all came from different backgrounds…so when it came to theology and doctrine, things could get pretty heated. One day, a guy brought in a video to promote an event his church would be hosting. At the end of the video, one of my good friends said, “That scared the hell out of me.” The response, “Good. That’s the idea. We’ve got to scare the hell out of people.” Maybe that’s the deal with angry pastors…they are attempting to scare the hell out of their congregations. To be honest, I’ve never found scare tactics to be an effective evangelism tool.

5. Angry pastors generally give the church a bad rap. Sometimes they do more damage than good…

6. Pastors sometimes don’t realize that they come off as angry, arrogant, and judgmental. Often, angry pastors (and pastors in general) are not fully aware of their tone…of how they come across to their listeners. They may just really be excited…they may have just had too much coffee…and what they are convinced is passion is heard as anger. I’m sure there have been times that I’ve come off as angry, arrogant, and judgmental (like right now as I am judging angry pastors).

So, maybe I was meant to listen to the angry pastors sermon…simply for the reminder to be fully aware of my tone and style of delivery so that I don’t slip into the category of an angry pastor.


Jesus Ain’t No Wimp?

Warning…this will be somewhat rantish. And, it might offend some of you. So, you’ve been warned. Oh, and this should be read in your best “Blue Collar Comedy” accent.

Have you heard the news? Jesus ain’t no wimp! Jesus was a tough Son of a God. That Dude overturned tables, cracked whips, took some fierce beatings, and had no problem telling people that they were damned to an eternity in hell. Jesus had some really strong and harsh words for the lukewarm religious types…pretty sure he told them they were destined for an eternity in hell too. Jesus had no problem telling people that they were horrible, awful, wretched, and sin-filled. “Meek? Mild? As if!” Yep, Jesus was pretty much the original Macho Man. I know this because I just saw a special on the Christian TV network that told me so.

Did I get your attention? (oh, at this point you can drop the “Blue Collar” accent…unless you are truly enjoying it!)

Well, lately (in addition to what I just viewed on one of the religious TV stations), I’ve noticed this interesting trend within some more conservative/fundamental Christian movements to no longer focus on Jesus’ love, compassion, patience, kindness, grace, mercy, and love in order to focus on the few passages in which Jesus really “kicks ass” (pardon my french, but if these sorts of words offend you, you probably wouldn’t read my blog…unless you are my mother…so, sorry mom).

You see, we don’t have to embrace the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) because Jesus was a man’s man.

The accusation is that the Church has, for too long, focused on Jesus’ love and compassion. And, therefore, the Church has produced a bunch of namby-pamby, wimpy, girlie men who wouldn’t know the difference between a Hemi and a regular V8 engine…or the difference between Bobby and Terry LaBonte…or the difference between a Purdey, a Remington, or a Winchester.

Therefore, movements have been launched within certain churches to make Church men = real men. (start the “Blue Collar” accent again) And, the definition of a real man isn’t necessarily one who loves, honors, cares for, provides for, and protects his wife and family. Nope, a real man seems to be one who participates in MMA, hunts stuff, loves war, loves America (God Bless America!), loves NASCAR (but not IRL), chews tobacco but doesn’t smoke, dresses swear words up in Sunday clothes, doesn’t dance, doesn’t drink adult beverages (but guzzles down Mt. Dew and Red Bull), hates “the gays”, oh, and of course…hates musicals, and definitely doesn’t cry when watching movies like “Courageous“!  (stop accent)

So, because Jesus wasn’t a wimp…it is somehow un-Christian to be a less-than-manly-man. A man is weak if he makes himself vulnerable. A man is weak if he shows any emotion other than rage and anger (but only directed at the TV when sports calls are blown…and by sports…of course I mean football). A man is weak if his wife isn’t silent and submissive. A man is weak if he isn’t the sole provider for his family. A man is weak if he doesn’t make all of the important decisions for his family.  A man is weak if _______.

And, to be honest, it all kind of makes me sick. I mean, I’m all for “doing whatever it takes” to get “men” into the church. I’m all about getting men to take their faith seriously. I’m all for “Wild at Heart” men’s retreats where guys go play paintball, whitewater rafting, skiing, hiking, fishing, etc and enjoy the fellowship of other men who are trying to figure out this whole faith thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to picture my Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt as much as the next guy. And, I’m not one to say that Jesus was a wimp…the whole journey to the Cross…yeah, that’s not wimpy stuff.

But, to basically dismiss the love, compassion, mercy, and tenderness of Jesus in order to focus on a few passages in which Jesus “kicks some serious backside” (I cleaned it up, just for you, mom) really overlooks what seems to be so central to the message of Jesus. I’m pretty sure Jesus said the greatest commandment was to “love God”. And, he followed that by saying something along the lines that the next most important thing was to “love one another.”

I guess I just find myself sitting here thinking, “Self, I don’t get it.”

Why do some want to focus on the “hardcore” attributes of Jesus and overlook His great love, mercy, peace, and compassion? I mean, think about the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery…Jesus wasn’t harsh…Jesus wasn’t tough…Jesus was kind, compassionate, caring, and loving.

I guess the bottom line is this…I’m a wimpy man…and I’m okay with that.

Maybe what men…and people in general…need is a more balanced approach to Jesus. Did Jesus say some tough and harsh things? Sure. Was Jesus filled with love, grace, mercy, patience, kindness, etc? Of course. Can we find a way to paint a more holistic picture of Jesus? I sure hope so.