IVP - Online Pulpit - February 2014 Archives

February 24, 2014

More Than An Act

An excerpt from Things Your Mother Never Told You by Kim Gaines Eckert

After getting my kids to bed and collapsing onto the couch last week, I grabbed the remote to wind down after a long day of managing sibling tiffs and power struggles. A familiar sitcom with sexually charged banter and dialogue flashed onto the screen. A man in his 20s, speaking to a buddy about a mutual female friend, stated confidently, "I'd do her!" This phrase gave me pause. How many times have I heard folks, men and women alike, reduce God's gift of sexual union to a mere behavioral release: "doing it," or the even more dehumanizing, "doing her" or "doing him?"

Lately, I have been struck by how folks are tossing around the word, "sexy." Instead of this word being relegated to descriptions of men and women who are dressed or behaving in particularly erotic ways, it is being applied to a wide range of activities or objects. Ariel Levy notes this pattern in her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, in which she challenges ways that women have internalized the culture's hypersexualization: "For something to be noteworthy it must be 'sexy,'" Levy writes. "Sexiness is no longer just about being arousing or alluring, it's about being worthwhile."1

I have heard church pastors apologize that their church activities are "not very sexy." I have listened to academics discuss certain research topics as more "sexy" than others. I have overheard techies talking about how one computer operating system is "sexier" than another operating system.

When did the word "sexy" get co-opted by the general public to mean something that has seemingly little to do with sex? It appears that in our current day and age, the word "sexy" is synonymous with cool, interesting and worthwhile.

This has broad implications for how we think and feel about sex. If sexy = something that is valuable or worthwhile, then sex = value or worth. What does it mean for us if we equate the value and worth of objects, people and activities with their "sex appeal"?

Too often in our culture sex is depicted through language and imagery that has little to do with beauty, love and intimacy; rather, sex is presented as a depersonalized and even desexualized act of self-pleasuring involving some other person or even thing. Sexuality becomes simply appetite, friction, desire, or even demand. Hypersexualized advertisements and pornography depict women not as human persons, but as long legs or large breasts - objects of fantasy or pleasure.

But this is not the way it's supposed to be! This is a counterfeit of sexuality as God designed it. We live in a broken world, which has far-reaching effects on our physical bodies, as well as our ideas about sex and gender. We can, however, live out our sexuality in redemptive ways.

In God's economy, sexuality should always make us more human - not less so. When our sexually motivated actions or language lead us to detach from ourselves, others or God, we know we have separated the gift of sex from the giver. When men joke about "doing her," this debases both the gift of sexual union and the wholeness and integrity of females. How we talk about and understand sexuality matters. Instead of listening to or using words that degrade and dehumanize, let us use language about sexuality that whispers of its God-created goodness, mystery and grace.

1 (2005). Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. New York: Free Press, p.31.

eckartOP.jpgDr. Kim Gaines Eckert is a licensed psychologist in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she maintains a private counseling practice at the Relationship Therapy Center. Dr. Eckert came to Tennessee in 2002 to join the faculty of Lee University. She now teaches at Lee on an adjunct basis and is the clinical director of the Lee University Play Therapy Center.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 4:27 PM

February 10, 2014

Confessions of a People-Pleaser

Skinny, nerdy, and lacking much athletic ability, I grew up trying to get people to like me. Although I didn’t compromise my Christian values to gain popularity, I used other techniques to gain approval. Those techniques included profusely offering compliments to others, smiling a lot, and avoiding ruffled feathers. Slowly I developed people-pleaser tendencies that followed me into ministry. Several years ago after I realized that I was becoming a people-pleasing pastor, I began to change how I relate to my board that I’ve described below. Although I’ve made progress, I’m still in recovery.

For my upcoming book, People-Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership, I researched over 2,000 pastors and saw myself reflected in many of their stories. In one phase of on-line research pastors could anonymously record their pleaser stories. I gathered over 100 single spaced pages of stories, many of them heartbreakers. Here’s one pastor’s story that struck a chord in me:

“For the first three years after coming to First Church, in the fall I would bring a list of recommended goals for the coming year for the church board to consider adopting for the church. The third year I did it, the board asked me to discontinue this practice, as they did not want the church to be a “pastor-driven” church. They stated that someone other than the pastor should drive the goal-setting process. This was a hard blow for me as I saw it as a rejection of me as their leader. They wanted me to be their chaplain, but not their leader. I honored their request and stopped bringing recommended goals to the church board. However, I never really got over that experience and I have remained fearful about trying to take an active leadership role with the board ever since. Perhaps this is part of the reason why I feel bored here and want to move on, but have no idea where to go next.”

I felt the pain of this pastor because I’ve been tempted at times to replace my leadership role as a pastor with people-pleasing. However, at my new church in London, Ontario, I have an excellent relationship with the board that I attribute to these new behaviors. I feel like I am fully free to lead yet not people please.

I listen a lot. I don’t assume I know it all. Having moved from the U.S. to Canada, I am not only having to adjust to a new church, but to a new culture as well. I’ve adopted a posture of listening and learning and in the first 60 days I’ve met with over 100 people in various venues simple to listen. The word has gotten out that I really want to listen. It has given me solid credibility with the church.

I over-communicate. Each week I send our board a quick summary of my week’s activities and learnings. I’ve also added a new feature in our weekly Sunday bulletin called, “Where’s Waldo (a.k.a. Charles).” In a paragraph I share a synopsis of what I did the week prior. An 80 year-old church member told me that she enjoys reading what I’ve been doing. She said she never knew what a pastor did during the week.

I’ve become intensively collaborative. Many U.S. pastors have come to Canada and have failed because they’ve assumed a very dominant top down leadership style. It does not work in Canada (and probably not as well in the U.S. as it once did). I’ve enjoyed listening to other’s ideas and incorporating their suggestions into my leadership. I’m not people pleasing in doing so. Rather, I’m honoring how the body of Christ should work together.

I still have a ways to go in my people pleaser recovery. But I’m making good progress and enjoying the journey.

StoneOP.jpgCharles Stone is founder and CEO of StoneWell Ministries, where he coaches pastors and church leaders, applying neuroscience insight to spiritual leadership. He is pastor of West Park Church in London, ON and a frequent conference speaker and consultant. He has over three decades of experience in pastoral ministry as senior pastor, teaching pastor and church planter. He is the author of 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them, and he can be found online at charlesstone.com.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 10:20 AM