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Recent Criticism and This Blog

There have been some interesting conversations on this blog lately about criticism of different people and organizations, and the actual purpose of the blog. I’ve written before about our purpose, and I have to admit, the posts dealing with scandal and problems among ministries and non-profits seem to be the most popular. People do respond to criticism, and for whatever reason, seem to gravitate to those posts. My blogs about Randy and Paula White’s divorce, Bishops that sell anointed soap, or Juanita Bynum getting in a fist fight with her husband in a hotel parking lot always seem to get people worked up.

My point is, I’m not writing about gossip. There’s plenty of scandal on the “E” Network, so we don’t need more. However, my interest is branding and perception – how we look to the world, and how it impacts our message. Any professional communicator knows that the reception of a message is filtered through the way it’s presented, and the people who present it. So our integrity, lifestyle, and perception matters.

It doesn’t matter how anointed you are, if people think your private jet, luxury car, or mansion is excess. They’ll turn off your message. As a pastor or ministry leader, you may feel justified in flying in a jet, or having a mansion, but if it damages your witness, then why would anyone who’s serious about presenting a Christian message to the world not take that into consideration?

I also note issues like the Richard Roberts / ORU controversy, because it impacts not only their perception, but the trust and relationship with donors, supporters, and future students. In Richard’s case, I like him, and have known him for many years, but right now he seems to be listening to the wrong people. This Tulsa World story shows just how much he continues to shoot himself in the foot. When supporters of ORU need to know the President has integrity, is a solid thinker, can embrace a wide swath of evangelical America, and has a bold vision for the future, the World reports that: “According to Richard Roberts, he received the prophecy six months ago. An out-of-state minister known for prophecy told Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts he would go through a "major storm" but would come through it. The minister also said, "When you enter your 60th year, you'll step to a new level of ministry you've never known," Roberts recalled in an interview with the Tulsa World.”

It’s not an indictment of prophecy to say this is a really bad time for Richard to be saying he received a prophecy about this six months ago. First, why didn’t he do something about it? Six months is plenty of time to ward off a disaster. And second, to the non-believing world, this just makes him sound weird – not the solid leader he needs to be in people’s minds.  Plus, the fact that his own people don't support him, says a lot about his inability to be a visionary leader.

So here’s my point – even when we mention personal issues on the blog, it’s not out of personal criticism, but an effort to make people aware of the image and perception we’re presenting to the world. Jesus was upset at the religious leaders of His day because they knew how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but they didn’t understand the signs of the times.

We need to understand the signs of the times, if we’re going to justify the attention of the culture. And without their attention, our message will fall on deaf ears…

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11 Comments

  1. I thought the same thing when I read that article re Richard and the prophecy he had been given.  The audience reading the daily newspapers have no concept of what that means –and less than zero respect for it.

    I am sure it was a comfort to him and his family, but it had no place being quoted in public during this firestorm.

    One more sign that these guys are too often too far removed from real life to "get it."

    And one more black eye for those of us trying to use media to impact the culture.

  2. Good comments.

    I don't know Richard personally so I can't speak to whether I would like him personally or not, and it really doesn't really matter.  I can imagine that the pressure of being the Son of Oral Roberts goes beyond what most people can understand.

    There comes a point however when you realize that you're in hole and the first thing to do is to stop digging.

    Once Pandora's box is open, there's something to be said for being quiet until the responses have been prayed through, thought through and followed through.

    I hope for his own benefit as well as the benefit of the ministry that counsellors rise up who will be listened to and the situation managed instead of simply reacted to in this manner.

    By the way, I'm glad I found this blog and have added my name to the e-mail list.  I'm not involved in formal ministry currently but have been in the past.  This is valuable information and perspective.

  3. The goal of Christian discipline is always restoration, not punishment.

    So yes, we stand with people.  Discipline means removal from positions often either temporarily or permanently depending on the particulars of the situation.

    Discipline also assumes cooperation and repentance on the part of the one being disciplined.  Without that, removal is necessary to protect the larger body from their actions and abuse of power.  Leadership is a privilege not a right.

  4. That would be ideal.  I understand that the professor sought mediation and Richard Roberts and the Universtity did not accept the offer.  Sometime too, when there is no willingness to repent or submit to discipline, public exposure is the only course left.

    I don't know the whole story yet, but as I stated I know enough to know that independent of the law suit, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned with the leadership environment and the financial surprises of the past few weeks and on that basis alone there are major problems.

  5. Brian,

    I am not going to pretend to have all the answers.  However, A direct answer to the question from 1:11pm (especially exactly how it is worded)would be yes.  But also, it can be quite a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no – you are obviously having to work through that complexity yourself right now – and you are in my prayers.

    I am certain that if I was in your position, I would be looking to God for guidance since it is not such a simple position to be in.  I think that Bart has really put some good points out there.  Certainly to his points, humility would be the NUMBER ONE thing that I would be looking for if I was as close to the situation as you are.  I would have to point out that many times in the Bible and in the current church restoration doesn't mean that someone is back into the same place they were in.  Sometimes they resume ministry – but always – not without serious humility first.  Sometimes they end up with a different organization, but often with some of the same people around them.

    The first step of restoration must be in the heart.  Humility will be the first sign of this.  As I already mentioned, trust takes time.  For instance if a man cheats on his wife, and as a couple they are working through that, would he be correct in expecting his wife to immediately hold him at the same trust level that she had in him before, just because he promised not to do it again, and she did forgive him?  Of course not.  It is humanly impossible for her to be able to fully trust him immediately based on words alone.  It takes the test of time.  For the husband to demand that the wife instantly return to the same level of trust and respect for him would not be a very humble move.

    Humility should not be judged by displayed emotion only.  It must be evident in the decisions being made.

    Also keep in mind that sometimes when we are dealing with someone we love and we want the best for them, we may have to practice some pretty "tough love" – this means an accountability level that may even be misinterpretted as disrespect.

    Brian, I don't like posting my email address all over the place for spam-engines to find, but if you go to my business website, you can find my email address on the "contact us" page.  This is not a plug for my business, just a means to share my email address with you in case you felt like taking some of this off-line.  http://www.inventorypeople.com

    Regarding

  6. … Regarding

    "Discipline should also attempt a level of privacy and not give a play-by-play to the local/national paper"

    Well, this is something that personally I think has gone both ways.  I actually believe that Richard should be a little more judicious in sharing prophetic words that God has given for himself – for instance.  Oral also suffered in my opinion from improper PR with this regard as well. There are many reasons that I hold this opinion.

    1) We are human, and sometimes we do miss it.  Sometimes we mis-apply, sometimes we actually miss what God has said, or think that God has said something He hasn't.  Don't agree with that?  The Bible tells us to weigh a prophet's words for a reason.

    2) Sometimes (Biblical evidence exists) God with-holds judgement and even reward based on our change of heart. 

    3) There are words that are meant for our own edification.  Using those words in public helps to cultivate a perception that everything that we are doing is led by direct words from God.

    4) as in 3 – We can easily turn off people that do not understand that God does in fact speak to his servants.  If we are trying to reach the lost, why would we say things in public that would turn them away?  We know they can't understand it.  The Bible tells us that only the believers can understand many of the truths in the word.

    – So I guess I am saying that I think there is a lot of play – by – play occurring on both sides.  I know you are likely referring to the "leaks" of information like the vote of no confidence, etc.  But you also need to accept that a ministry that has made itself a common household name, is not going to enjoy the same privacy that the local church will have.  It is just a fact of life.

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