February 7, 2004
Monday night my nine-year-old daughter, Landra, and I went to a Thai restaurant to pick up some food. As we walked into the establishment, the owner said, “Hi! How are you doing, Ed?”
I said, “Fine.”
She said, “Man, your daughter has grown so much.”
I said, “Yes.”
She said, “How is everything at the church going?”
I said, “Great.”
She said, “I want to show you a picture of a young couple that attends your church. They love Fellowship Church, and they love coming to eat Thai food.” And she said, “Here they are. See?”
I said, “Yeah!”
She goes, “They know you, and I’m sure you know them.”
I said, “Yeah, yeah!”
So I paid for the Thai food. Landra and I walked out of the restaurant, jumped in my car, started the car, began to back out and Landra said, “Dad…”
I asked, “Yes, honey?”
She said, “You just lied.”
I said, “What!?”
She said, “You didn’t really know those people in that picture, did you?”
I said, “No, Landra, I really didn’t know them.”
She said, “Well, you stop this car and walk in there and apologize to that woman.”
So I did. I apologized to her. I said, “You know, they look familiar, but I really don’t know the people in the picture.”
That’s receiving wise counsel, isn’t it? That’s accountability. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. One of the most interesting and in depth topics we can tackle when we think about it is decision making. Because all of us are negotiating different mazes aren’t we? We’re negotiating relational mazes, emotional mazes, spiritual mazes, marital mazes and friendship mazes. We have to make the right move in the mazes. And to make the right move in the maze we need wise counsel.
Talk to a CEO, as I did recently, about the genius of shared decision making and he or she will tell you how important it is to surround yourself with a board, with a group of people who can help you make good choices. In the corporate domain any wise leader is going to bring wise people around them. And this board does not act like they know everything. A wise board of directors doesn’t tell the leader how to do his or her job. They don’t rip the leader apart. They simply evaluate the leader’s thinking and they help them make the best move in the maze. This is true in the corporate arena.
It’s also true in the church arena. I can safely say that I have never made a solo decision at Fellowship Church in its fourteen year history. I never have. And I cannot thank the leadership teams enough here for their incredible insight and influence as we’ve made so many decisions together over the years. It’s just been an amazing and incredible thing to behold.
There was, though, one time when I wanted to do a certain thing, and they didn’t want to do it. I really felt strongly about this one ministry opportunity. Specifically, it was about starting a Saturday night service. Nine years ago, I said, “We need to start a Saturday night service.” The management team shot it down and I went with them. And we didn’t start a Saturday night service. A year later we did start one, and we grew the service from 400 to about 170 people in twelve months. [Ed speaks sarcastically] Incredible growth! We almost canceled it. But I received some wise counsel from the management team and I called some pastor friends around the country.
They said, “Ed, stay with the Saturday night service. It’ll work. It’ll work. It’ll work. It’ll work.” And now we have what? Eight, sometimes nine thousand people showing up on Saturday night. The brilliance, the genius of shared decision making.
When a person makes a solo decision, it’s scary. When you make a team decision your decision making batting average goes way, way up. It’s true in the corporate world. It’s true in the church world.
It’s also true in the personal world. Here’s the question I want to pose to you. Do you have a personal board of directors in your life? Do you have some people who love you for who you are and not what you have or have not done. Do you have some people that you have a natural affinity with who will hold you accountable? Who evaluate your thinking? Who come along side you and help you?
Accountability is the most misconstrued and misunderstood term around. Accountability, I’ll say it again, does not mean that you rip someone apart. It does not mean criticism. Accountability flows out of a relationship. It flows out of love. It flows out of a few loyal confidantes who can help you and assist you in making wonderful decisions. That’s what it means to become a great decision maker. A great decision maker has the ability to ask the right people the right stuff, and then they make the right decision. Conversely, bad decision makers ask the wrong people the wrong stuff, and they do the wrong thing.
Which one are you? Because what I’m going to talk about takes a lot of guts. What I’m going to talk about takes a lot of stuff to step out there and make the call. Why do we bring people in on the tough side of decision making (the back end) instead of the easy side of decision making (the front end)? Why? As decision makers we should bring people in on the front end not the back end. Do you follow me?
Most of us say, “Well, man I’m in the deep weeds, so now I’ll bring some people in to help me with this decision and the results and consequences of it.”
No, no, no, no, no. It’s important to do that on the front end, to bring people in as you’re making the decision. We have the uncanny ability, don’t we, before making a bad decision to surround ourselves with people who’ve just made the same bad decision that we’re thinking about making. And these sinful sympathizers say, “Hey, come on baby, step over the edge and the ledge. It’s okay. The water feels really good.”
And most of us mess up when we do that. If, though, we ask the right people the right questions, we’ll make the right move on the front end of the decision. Wise people know that they don’t know, and they go to people who do know. As a leader, as a difference maker, we have to go to people who are smarter than we are. I don’t know everything. You don’t know everything. I’ve got blind spots. You’ve got blind spots. If we’re going to make the right move in the maze, we’ve got to talk to the right people. God has the people in our lives. God has the people he wants us to connect with. We have to have the ability to connect with them.
Well, how do you that? You pray a high risk prayer. Pray, “God, bring people into my life who will hold me accountable.” Also, you’ve got to put yourself in a position to receive wise counsel. Where do you find great people? You find great people in great churches.
That’s one of the wonderful things about Fellowship Church. I hear about so many people meeting others. I hear about so many people who have a personal board of directors that they’ve established right here in this church. We need to do that. We must work on that. We must step up and step out and take the initiative to start the process. It’s kind of wild.
We grow up in a family and we’ve got accountability going and flowing. When we’re a kid, a junior high student, or a high school student, we’re accountable. We receive wise counsel from our parents. The moment that we move out of the house and into an apartment or a condominium or a dorm or whatever, what happens? We become independent. And then we equate independence with maturity. And from that moment on we don’t ask anybody’s advice because we think, “If I ask someone’s advice well, I’m not really being mature.”
Well, from that time on, we’ve got to step out and take the initiative and ask for accountability. Those of us who are over 18, we’ve got to go for the ask. We’ve got to be intentional about it. We’ve got to put ourselves in the right position to have the right people around us. It never ceases to amaze me, though, how people talk to the wrong people and make the wrong calls.
This whole subject matter I’m talking about has deep and profound Biblical roots. A Harvard MBA guy didn’t figure this whole accountability thing out. This is straight from Scripture. Proverbs 15:22 (NASB) says, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated.”
Do you want to live a frustrating life? I don’t. The Bible says that if I don’t have any consultation, any counselors, then I’m going to live a very frustrating life.
But look at the last part of Proverbs 15:22, “…But with many counselors they succeed.” I want to be successful. And here’s the beautiful thing about the Bible. God wants every single person here to be successful. He does.
And what is success? It’s living and walking in the will of God. What is success? It’s making the kind of calls and the kind of decisions that God wants you to make. I don’t care what your background is, how far away you think you might be from God … if you’ll call out to him, if you’ll pray the high risk prayer, if you’ll do what it takes to surround yourself with great counsel, then God will help you. Your decision making batting average will way, way up.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people make some dumb decisions. I’ve also seen a lot of people make some good decisions. And those people who make good decisions are usually people who have a personal board of directors around them.
How do you know if you’re ready to have a personal board of directors around your life? Well, you’ve got to be “FAT.” “F” stands for faithfulness. You’ve gotta have loyalty and faithfulness going on. “A” stands for accessibility. You, you’ve got to be accessible to the people you’re accountable to. They have to know they can interrupt you or talk to you anytime day or night. “T” – you’ve got to be teachable. Great leaders are great learners and the moment you stop learning is the moment you stop leading.
Do you have those qualities in your life? Are those qualities operative? Are they really a part of you?
We’ve seen a lot of bad decisions lately, especially during the Super Bowl. Did you check that out? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Man, Janet Jackson! Was that wheels off or should I say tops off? Amazing. You know, she had her personal board of directors there on the field to assist her in making the decision. [Ed speaks sarcastically of her “wise counsel”] I mean she had, she had great advice. Think about it. She could ask P. Diddy his advice. Wow! Justin Timberlake, Kid Rock, Nelly. Man, they’re gonna help you out! You want to do the right thing? Talk to those guys. Yeah!!
One-sixth of the world watched the Super Bowl. Amazing! As a parent I made a bad decision because I watched the half time performance with my kids in our family room. I shouldn’t have done that because when I saw that MTV had sponsored it, I should have turned the television off. But I didn’t. I watched that crotch-grabbing, breast-showing, flag-desecrating title wave of trash hammered into our homes by NFL spokespersons, CBS executives, and wheels-off people at MTV. I watched it and so did you. It was a series of bad decisions.
And when the bad decision came down the pipe, they were all blaming each other. “Oh, it’s the NFL. Oh, it’s CBS. It’s MTV. It’s Janet Jackson. It’s Justin Timberlake. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.” Playing the blame game.
People have asked me this week, “Were you surprised at what happened in the Super Bowl, Ed?” No, I wasn’t. Surprised? I’m not surprised at all about that. If you’re surprised, I have to ask, “What have you been smoking?!” You need to wake up. I wasn’t surprised. Not at all.
Frances Schaeffer said years ago, “The moment a culture stops having absolutes, they base everything on particulars. And when they start basing everything on particulars, the result is chaos.” We have moral chaos, ethical chaos, relational chaos in our world today. Why? Because there are no standards. There are no absolutes. There’s no right. There’s no wrong.
Instead, we say this, “What’s right to you is right for you. What’s true for you is true for you.” Well, that sounds so cool and so PC – politically correct – but it’s wacky. It’s chaotic. We have to have a standard. We’re built for a standard. We’re built to have an anchor as we negotiate the maze of life.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS:
What happens, what are the results in your life and mine when we decide God’s way? What happens in our lives when we assemble around ourselves a personal board of directors? Well, several things happen.
KEEPS US FROM STUMBLING IN THE MAZE
Number one, having a personal board of directors keeps us from stumbling in the maze. It keeps us from hitting pot holes. It keeps us from running into walls. Isn’t that good?
Let’s go back to the book of Proverbs, this treatise on decision making. Proverbs 13:20a reads, “He who walks with the wise grows wise…” It is saying, “He who walks with the discerning grows in discernment. He who walks with the people who are intelligent is intelligent.” Look at the last second of the verse, “…a companion of fools suffers harm.” We know fools do foolish things. They suffer harm. But also, a companion of fools suffers harm. You might be hanging out with a fool, associating with a fool and you’re going to suffer harm because of your relationship with them.
Proverbs 15:31-33 says, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke
will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”
I don’t want to stumble in the maze. I want to walk cleanly in the maze. I want to run sometimes. To do that, I’ve got to have a personal board of directors speaking the truth in love to me.
HELPS US SEE THE ENTIRE MAZE
Here’s the second thing that occurs when I have the board of directors in our lives. It gives me a proper perspective of the maze. I can see the entire maze. I can see the entire thing. My vision is not skewed. The Bible says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Awhile back I was driving on I-635 with Lisa. She was in the co-pilot seat. I was behind the wheel. I said, “Lisa, I’m going to change lanes. Is it clear?” And then she looked over her shoulder and said, “Yeah, its clear.”
What was going on there? I was saying, “Honey I’ve got a blind spot. Check it out for me.”
We all have blind spots. And if we’re wise, we’re going to have people in our lives who watch out for those blind spots. We’ve got to watch out for them. But how do we watch out for them? We’ve got to have people in our lives who will speak the truth to us in love.
Awhile back I had lunch with a guy at the zenith of his life, our culture would say. If I called his name everybody here would know him. This guy had made a series of wheels-off, “what was I thinking?”, dumb decisions. Over lunch, I began to feel a leading from the Holy Spirit to talk to him in a just a direct way, a loving way but a direct way.
I said, “Listen, you have surrounded yourself with losers. And because you’re listening to these losers, you’re making decisions that only losers would make.” I said, “Here’s the cool thing about your life. You’ve got in your life some great Christian people, but they’re on the peripheral. They’re on the edge and the ledge. You need to bring them in to your life. You need to bring them in so they can influence you. You need to ask them these questions, because then you can make great decisions.”
This guy didn’t understand what I was saying. He was successful, wealthy, smart, handsome, and articulate. But he didn’t get it. Why? Because he was surrounded by bad counsel. I wish I could tell you that he’s made some great decisions over the last several years, but he has not. He’s still in the deep weeds, and he has paid the piper.
[Proverbs 27:17] “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” As iron sharpens iron, so one athlete sharpens another; so one homemaker sharpens another; so one pastor sharpens another; so one student sharpens another.
HELPS US MAKE THE RIGHT MOVE IN THE MAZE
Here’s a third thing that happens in your life and mine when we have a personal board of directors. It helps us make the right move in the maze. Decision making is a process. It’s difficult. It’s not easy. We’ve got to make the right move, the right choice, the right call because these decisions come at us in rapid fire succession.
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” This limits accountability to your friends, your true friends, a few trusted, loyal confidantes who have the opportunity and the freedom to walk into the depths and the recesses of your life.
I want to ask you several questions right up front. You might want to jot these down. In fact, they’re so important I’ve put them on the side screens.
Here’s the first one: Can you name a person outside your family to whom you give and receive wise counsel? Can you? Think about it for a second. If you can, good for you. If you can’t, pray the high risk prayer, and put yourself in a position to meet people like that.
Here are the qualifications someone on your board of directors should have. This is straight from the Bible. Number one – they should be a Christ follower. If they just say it, does that mean they are a Christ follower? No. Don’t say, “Well, man, he goes to Fellowship Church or she goes to Fellowship. That must mean she’s a great Christian.” No, it doesn’t. If I walk into What-A-Burger, am I a hamburger? No. They must have a story. You must see their decision making track record. Number two – they must be an encourager. They must have your best interest in mind. Number three – they must be able to keep a secret. They’ve got to be confidential. Number four – they need to be the same sex as you. Those are four qualities of someone on your personal board of directors.
Here’s a second question: Are you aware of the dangers of no accountability? Are you aware of the dangers of solo decision making? Are you aware of the blind spots? Are you aware of the deep weeds? Are you aware? Are you aware of hearing the wrong thing from the wrong people? Are you aware about that?
Here’s the third question: When was the last time you talked to someone about the private areas of your life? When was the last time you ran a sizeable purchase by a group of people who would speak the truth to you in love before you bought the car, before you bought the house, before you did the deal? I’m talking about accountability. This is not for light weights, here. This is for people who are ready to take it to the next level.
How about your giving patterns? The Bible says we’re to give 10% of everything we make, right off the top, to our local house of worship. Have you ever put your giving cards on the table and told a couple of friends, “Okay, evaluate my giving. How am I doing? Here’s what I’m making, and here’s what I’m giving.”
Do people in your life know what you struggle with? The greed, the anger, the control issues? Do they know that you deal with lust? Do they know that you are tempted to linger on certain channels or certain websites? Do they know that? When was the last time you’ve talked to some people about that?
Accountability will take us deeper. This will take us into the maze with great trajectory. This will help us become the kind of decision makers that God wants us to become. That’s what’s hanging in the balance. Christianity is not an individual sport. It’s a team sport. God wants us to make team decisions. He wants us to seek wise counsel. Corporately? That’s fine. But personally, God wants us to go for the ask. Have you done that? If not, you’re going to live your life on pause. If not, you’re going to walk on the edge and the ledge of compromise and you’ll never discover the success that God wants for your life. I’m telling you, it’s the only way to live.
I have the opportunity often to talk to a lot of students, and I always talk to them about the importance of choosing the right friends. Whenever I talk to a student who’s in the deep weeds, they always start their story this way, “You know I started hanging out with the wrong people and….”
But you know what I’ve noticed when I talk to people in their 40’s and 50’s and 60’s who are in the deep weeds? They say the same thing, “It started out when I started running around with ________________, you know.” We need, we desperately need a personal board of directors. We need personal, wise counsel.
We also need something else. This is just the one little sidebar before I conclude. We also need, a lot of us, professional counseling. Profession counseling. I have challenged many people here at Fellowship Church to walk into the office of a professional counselor, a Christian counselor.
You would think they would say, “Yeah, I’ll do it! Thanks for the advice.” Most put on the brakes. “No!” they say. And I know why.
You’re scared. You’ve got junk from your past. You’ve got junk that you’re carrying around. Junk from your family – maybe you grew up with an alcoholic father or mother; maybe you grew up in some sort of abuse situation and you don’t want to deal with the junk. You don’t want to hear the truth. You don’t want to process the stuff.
I’m telling you. It is worth it. I’m not talking about going to someone who spends every single session talking about the fact that your diapers were put on too tight or your nursery was painted the wrong color. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about someone who is solution driven. Someone who is coming from a Biblical base, Christian counseling. I have benefited greatly over the years from Christian counseling. I’ll tell you. I see a Christian counselor regularly. And it is awesome. And I challenge you to do the same thing.
But a lot of us, I’m talking to the guys now, want to do our own deal, you know? We think we’re independent and we think we’re mature. We say, “I’m bad and I know the score and all that stuff. You know, I’m not paying somebody some money to talk about my life.” Yet, we’ll drop a hundred dollars to play golf or a hundred dollars to take this fishing trip or whatever. When we have a financial problem we talk to an accountant. If we have a legal problem we’ll talk to a junkyard dog attorney. If we have some kind of problem with our golf swing, hey, we’ll bring in a golf coach. But then, when it comes to Christian counseling, when we’re talking about relationships, we won’t even go into a counselor’s office. We need to do that.
And just because someone’s a psychiatrist or a psychologist does not mean they’re a believer in Christ. A lot of psychiatrists and psychologists are psycho. They’re wack-a-doodle-doodle-doo. They’re wackier than those of us who go to see them. I hope you know that. We’ve got to make sure they’re Christians. There are some wonderful Christian psychiatrists and psychologists here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. And we’ve made it very, very easy for you. All you have to do is go home and log on to www.FellowshipChurch.com, keyword “counselor” or “counseling,” and we have a list of people we’ve gone through who are wonderful Christian counselors.
SEEK A PROFESSIONAL COUNSELOR AND ASK:
I talked to my own Christian counselor a couple of days ago and I said, “You know, I’m talking about counseling. What advice would you give me to tell the church about finding a Christian counselor?”
Here’s what he told me. “Number one,” he said, “Interview the counselor and ask the counselor these questions. First: How do you define Christian counseling?”
If they say something like, “Well, you know I come from the authority of the Bible. The Bible’s my anchor. The Bible’s my absolute.” That’s good.
“Number two,” he said, “Are you and your family involved in a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church? Because if you’re not, you’re living a contrary to Scripture.”
If a counselor goes, “Yeah, I’m a Christian, but I’m not involved in a church.” Whoa! That’s an oxymoron. That’s a contradiction in terms.
What if I told you this? What I said, “I play in the NBA.”
You would go, “Well, Ed, what team do you play for?”
“I don’t play for a team, man. I’m just in the NBA.”
You would say, “Ed, boy, he’s had too many espressos today. That’s doesn’t make sense! That’s wrong.”
If I’m in the NBA, then I play for a team. And the Bible says, and the Bible assumes, that if you are a Christ follower, then you’re going to be hooked into the bride of Christ, the local church. That is a very important question.
Here’s the third question he told me to ask the potential counselor, “Are you goal oriented in counseling? Am I going to go from point A to point B to point C? Am I going to see application, relevancy, and stuff for me to work on during the week? Is that the goal, or are you just going to drag me on and lead me on?”
Those are big questions, important questions. Many of you, though, have lived your life on pause so long and you’ve got so much junk that you’re scared to walk in. Please, do it. Use me as an example. Say, “Ed does it, so I’ll do it. After all, he’s the pastor and he does it!” I mean just do it.
It will help you, because the mazes are confusing. Decision making is often times tough. It’s a process. Yet, we can become dynamic decision makers when we do it God’s way, because God is the master of the Multiple Choice.
Father, this word to all of us is strong and clean and pure. We must, Father, take your words and apply them. I pray for a personal board of directors in all of our lives, God, that we can be your people for this generation. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.