Saturday, November 4, 2006

kill the bear

Warning: the following contains an impassioned plea. Continue reading at your own...Well, you've been warned.

I can’t help but sound off on this. My heart feels like its ready to burst.

It’s not so much the Ted Haggard thing, really. I mean, we don’t even know yet if the allegations are

A. all true
B. partly true or
C. completely false.

Either way, it got me to thinking. And, I’ve had a number of conversations recently that have caused me to think about this more.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’ve become increasingly concerned about the state of discipleship within evangelical Christian circles. But now my concern has penetrated to deeper levels, because of the moral failings of those whom we regard as leaders within evangelical Christian circles. And, since I’ve always been passionate about leadership development (seeing it as absolutely crucial for Christ’s church to make an impact in a world that needs change, desperately) I’ve become more and more concerned.

I’ve become convinced that what I want to say now is the ONLY leadership development piece that really matters, when all is “said and done.”

It’s character.

I was talking with a young emerging leader the other day. In fact, this is true of many male leaders. It’s the lust thing, you know. The constant struggle to remain sexually pure in thought and deed.

And then, there are other leaders I know who wrestle with pride. This, in my opinion, is even more dangerous than lust, but we let leaders get away with it as long as they are really “productive” in ministry. You know the type: as long as they’re getting the job done, as long as the church is growing, we’re willing to overlook the cancerous moral defect. And the numbers (concerning "productivity") are all relative, believe me: it varies from tens to hundreds to thousands, depending on the context, but we all have our arbitrary standards of “success” now don’t we? And never mind the fact that every single piece of “fruit” they bear will be shot through with worms, at the end of the day. But, as long as it looks good on the outside, why go around inspecting the core, eh? Sounds like a lot of hassle for nothing, eh?

And then, there are other leaders I know who wrestle with anger. Maybe they feel that life or God or the world owes them something. You know who you are. If you’re reading this, just be man enough to admit it. And then be man enough to feel genuine, life-changing sorrow over it.

And then, there are those who are driven by greed. This takes on different forms. There’s money greed, people greed, stuff greed, and honor greed. It’s a desire to consume resources and occupy “land” physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I could go on and on about the heart defect that needs desperate attention right now, but I’d like to tell a story at this juncture.

There’s a movie that came out some time ago called “The Edge”. Anthony Hopkins plays a billionaire on a sort of “working vacation” in Alaska (I think). Alec Baldwin is his employee and he’s in charge of a photo shoot they’re doing there. Hopkins and Baldwin fly off in search of a “mountain man” they want to use for the photo shoot. And the plane crashes, leaving only Baldwin, Hopkins and another sorry soul to survive. They are now officially lost in the woods and they need to find their way back home.

There’s just one problem: a ferocious, man-eating bear.

On their first encounter with the bear they manage to get away. But then, later that night, the bear shows up in their camp and mauls “the third wheel” in their party.

What are they to do now? Baldwin and Hopkins run for their dear lives.

And they keep running.

The only problem is: that stupid bear keeps showing up again and again and again.

They try various things like putting a river gorge between them and the bear. Or resting on rocky mountain peaks where they’re sure the bear will be unable to gain access.

But no matter what they do, no matter how hard they try or how clever they think they are, the bear just keeps showing up again and again and again.

It drives you mad, really. And that’s just what happens to Hopkins’ character in the film. It drives him to desperation.

In a decisive scene, Baldwin asks Hopkins what he intends to do. Hopkins responds: “We’re going to kill the bear.”

Baldwin says, “We can’t do that.”

At this point, Hopkins thinks back to a book that he had been given as a gift before their fateful plane crash. It was a book called “Lost in the Woods” and it gave survival tips for lonesome wanderers. On the cover of the book was a picture of a man killing a bear with a spear, so you are lead to believe that the book even contained hints for doing as such. You also know that the book contains stories of folks who had actually done this: killed a bear without the benefit of a gun or even arrows. So, as Hopkins hears Baldwin’s objection that “we can’t do that”, he recalls that book and responds by saying, “Nonsense. What one man can do, another can do.” In other words, if one man can kill a bear (as the book pointed out), then they can do it, because “what one man can do, another can do.”

I don’t recall exactly how the rest of the conversation goes, but it goes something like this:

Hopkins: “Nonsense. What one man can do, another can do.”

Baldwin: “And what’s that supposed to mean, Charles?”

Hopkins: “Just what it sounds like: what one man can do, another can do. We’re gonna kill the bear. It’s been done by others, we can do it again.”

Baldwin: “We’re not gonna kill the bear, Charles! We’re not bear killers, Charles! We’re businessmen.

Hopkins: Nonsense. What one man can do, another can do. We’re gonna kill the bear.

Baldwin: We can’t!


Baldwin: what one man can do, another can do.


Baldwin: What One Man Can Do, Another Can Do.



Hopkins: THAT’S RIGHT! Now: we’re gonna kill the mother*******.

And, they do.

The bear is a metaphor. Lust and Pride and Anger and Greed will hunt you down until they kill you, if you don’t do something about it!

Now, you can try “tactics of avoidance” (for example: “Let’s put a password protect on my computer so I won’t be tempted to look at that stuff. That should take care of the problem.”), but in the end the bear is still out there and he wants to kill you!

And he will keep coming back again and again and again. He will not leave you alone until you are dead.

You have only one choice: kill the bear or be killed.

And guess what? The bear could not care less whether you are a billionaire or a poor mountain man. I’m sorry to say the bear will hunt you down, regardless. He cares not if you are a pastor of a megachurch or author of a bestselling book or popular speaker or lead singer of a popular band. He will still kill you.

And pride can still get you, even in a congregation of 75. And greed can still eat out your innards even if you are into charity work. The bear doesn’t care who you are or what you do for a living. He just wants to kill you.

Can you get it through your thick skull?! YOU HAVE ONLY ONE CHOICE! KILL THE BEAR OR BE KILLED!

We’re talking about a matter of life and death here, folks! Kill the bear or be killed! Stop trying to ignore it or avoid it. Kill it. Because, if you don’t, he’ll just keep coming back over and over and over again.

Kill it.

Now: here’s the good news:

What one man can do, another can do.

Others have done this, and so can you, thanks to the new capacity we all possess because of the Holy Spirit.

What one man can do, another can do.

Jesus wouldn’t have said this, if he didn’t mean for it to actually happen: “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)

Remember: kill the bear or be killed.

And remember: what one man can do, another can do.

Now do it.

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