Malcolm Tyree

A collection of thoughts on things that matter

I Love a Good Fight!

I thought I’d repost this. Some of the material is dated, but the sentiment is the same.

Malcolm Tyree

I’ll admit it, I love a good fight!

Sometimes my wife doesn’t appreciate my passion for this. Sometimes my kids find this exasperating. I’ve been known to wear out my colleagues in a meeting because of this. What can I say, I’m a passionate guy. 

Sometimes, I get carried away. I remember chaperoning a trip to Six Flags with some teenagers. The boys wanted to ride the “Tea Cups” and see how fast we could go. It’s hard for me to back down. I made sure we went as fast as I could get us. I was on the brink of throwing up, but I wasn’t going to quit. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was feeling queazy. On the next ride, one of the boys tossed his cookies because of the fight at the Tea Cups.

sf_goodFight_03

Simon Sinek recently tweeted:

Fight against…

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Pastor Appreciation Month: Brad Kendall

My time was nearly complete. I had reached that place that many 20-somethings dream of: I was in my final semester of college. In looking over my graduation requirements, it turned out that I needed to complete not only the courses I had signed up for, but I also needed one more community service project. Yes, the private Christian college I attended had each of us serve somewhere around 15 hours a semester for six semesters of our enrollment as a graduation requirement. In looking over my records, it turned out that I had satisfactorially completed the requirments of level II and level III service projects, but I was only half way there on a level I project. For those of you who were there during that time or who have known me, I know you are struggling to imagine that I had only partially fulfilled the level I type project. After all, level I is the observation level. I am quick to move from observation to action and this proved true during my years at Mid-America Bible College (now Mid-America Christian Universtiy).I was a senior, what was there left for me to observe? Hadn’t I seen it all already? After 21 hours of college credit under Cliff Sanders; multiple hours with professors Greg Robertson and Marvin Middlebrooks; countless hours volunteering on campus; working with a small congregation 20 miles from the college; hadn’t I served and learned enough? What more was there for me to see? Yes, I can be a bit over-confident in my abilities and knowledge.

Fortunately, my good friend, Shannon Smith, was short on the same type of service that I was. We both needed a level I observation style community service project. Shannon was older and smart enough to know when to sit back and take an easier path. He was married and had three kids. The last thing Shannon was looking for was a service project that would eat up too much of his time. So, I signed on board with Shannon and the two of us began our semester of community service level I: observation.

The question remained, what would we observe? We both knew we would be graduating soon and that meant we would be potentially entering into ministry employment, church work. What would it look like to start a new role at a church? What would it be like to be a new pastor? What would some of the transition issues be like? How would a pastor shape his staff? How would the congregation respond? These questions led us to the newest Church of God pastor in Oklahoma City: Brad Kendall.

 

Brad and Kristel Kendall

Brad and Kristel Kendall (picture from Facebook)

Brad was in his first months of serving as the new senior pastor for Shartel Church of God. He had come from Indiana after serving as senior pastor there. Brad was well connected in the Church of God. His father, Paul, had been a Church of God pastor. His brother, Gary, and his brother-in-law, Rolland Daniels, were each well respected pastors in the movement. Brad and his wife Kristel had the right pedigree of Church of God heritage and connections.

Shannon and I chose to observe Brad.

We met multiple time throughout that semester trying to get a behind the scenes look at what the transition looked like. We heard about the meetings with the board memebers. We witnessed the hiring of staff and the stuggle of what to do with exisiting staff who were well loved but not fully in alignement with Brad’s style of leadership. We began to grasp how a family would be welcomed into a congregation as its leader.

Brad had a unique style of humor and was big on smiling. He was not quick to dismiss others and really wrestled through the struggle of trying to bring people together. Brad worked long and hard to please others while being faithful to his calling as a minister.

After my semester of community service, my wife and I stayed a part of Shartel and Brad was our pastor. As I wrestled through my search for a place of ministry, Brad was there. He prayed and encouraged us in the process. He knew how hard it was to find a congregation. He knew the challenges before us. As we announced our impending move to Odessa, Texas, Brad celebrated with us. As we packed up, Brad and the Shartel Church, blessed us with a baby shower for our first born who wouldn’t arrive for another 6 months.

Brad was the last pastor I sat under week to week, voluntarily, for 12 years. Since then I have only chosen to sit week to week under two other pastors. Both of those proved to be temporary in arrangement as I would soon be employed in church ministry after listening to each of those men for a short season of six months or less.

Brad is now a chaplian in Texas. I am looking forward to the days where our paths cross in this great state.

One of the things I learned from observing Brad was that there is still more to learn, even when you think you’ve reached the end.

Pastor Appreciation Month: Cliff Sanders

College can be an intimidating place. You walk into a lecture hall, the podium up front has a microphone and there’s a large screen on the wall for a series of points to a lecture. The professor starts up, “Ahem!”
Profs with a hoary head of gray hair, goatees, and spectacles tend to capture the imagination of their students. When the prof has a commanding presence and leads you to see a subject or an idea in a different way, it’s really easy for the student to fall into awe of the prof. You can almost see the prof as beyond human. That is until you have lunch with them.

When I went to Mid-America Bible College (now Mid-America Christian University) in the fall of 1997, I enrolled in a required course for all traditional students at MBC; Biblical Life & Witness. The professor was in his mid 40’s and loved tweaking with the minds of the incoming Freshmen. Unbeknownst to me or my classmates, we were about to embark on an upheaval of the way we perceived God and ourselves.

 

picture of Cliff Sanders

Cliff Sanders, D. Min. (photo from Facebook)

 Cliff Sanders was my professor at MBC. In my time as a student, I had seven course with Cliff; 21 undergraduate hours. From Introduction to Old and New Testament and Biblical Life & Witness to the three inductive Bible study method classes and How to Teach the Bible, Cliff shaped (warped) my mind into a new way of viewing the sitz im laben of the scripture stories and how to draw out practical applications for today.

I admired Cliff and thought one day I might be like him; a college professor shaping young minds. Cliff had served as a pastor prior to coming to MBC and carried with him real world thinking as well as what I perceived to be a solid rational thinking about how to interpret the Bible. With his Masters of Divinity and efforts at earning his Doctorate in Ministry, I found myself looking at Cliff and wondering what it would be like to be him.

Part of what drew me to Cliff was his willingness to go beyond the classroom and lecture hall. Cliff would eat lunch with the common folk. Nearly everyday, Cliff would hold court at a table in the cafeteria. Carefully wrapping his salt and pepper shakers with a napkin as he seasoned the “delicacy” of the day, Cliff would joke, laugh, talk smack, and engage students, staff, and faculty around the table. It was at those many roundtable lunches with Cliff that I first experience the power of eating together to form community.

Even though Cliff was working on his doctorate, he was more than willing to have lunch with 18-22 year old punk, know it alls, like me. He welcomed us to the table and treated us as equals. He did not come across as “better than us.” Sure, Cliff would brag a bit too much about the Texas Longhorns in the room filled with fans of SEC teams or that University just south of the campus; mocking the fight song “Boomer Sooner” in a horrid cry. I am sure the cafeteria staff was glad to see the table empty of Cliff and his fans because it meant the room would quiet down and they could finally close up for the day. But as a member of the table, I miss those lunches.

Cliff carried such influence for me, that I went a step further in my gluttonous learning from him. I asked Cliff to provide pre-marital counseling for me and Christy. He was quick to sit us down and tell Christy how difficult it was going to be for her. He recounted stories of how he could see similarities between me and him, and therefore knew some of the challenges we might have. Cliff shared how he had to learn to love his wife, Becky. He was straightforward with me about how I would have to be intentional not to “forget” Christy in my daily life.

Though Cliff was not formally my pastor, he was one of my pastors during my years at MBC. 

I was honored to serve at MBC alongside Cliff when I graduated and worked in the Campus Ministries office. I remember being a part of the faculty and staff prayer time each week as we would pray with one another. I watched Cliff wrestle with Becky’s cancer battle. I was allowed to see my professor as vulnerable and transparent. We had grown beyond the loud antics of lunch and the debates in the classroom to the place of colleagues, friends, sharing life together. 

In many ways, my relationship with Cliff has helped me move from being intimidated by God to seeing that I am welcomed at his table, for lunch, prayer, and friendship.

Pastor Appreciation Month: Steve Williams

“Do you wear blue jeans?”

That was it. That was my brilliant question to ask in the candidate forum for the new pastor for the First Church of God in Clarksville, Tennessee.At the time I asked the question of the candidate, I was one of the youth leaders, the guy who mowed the church lawn, and who changed the sign. I had become in the mind of some “the church mouse” as I had worked and found my way around everything at the church’s building. It seemed like I was there nearly all the time. This was an awkward season for First Church. The long time, well-loved pastor Gene Lanham was retiring (or so he thought) and the congregation was looking to find a new pastor. The transition schedule was like you might expect for the President of the United States. We, as a congregation, were filtering through candidates, and then voting accordingly, while expecting that Bro. Lanham’s last Sunday would be followed by the next pastor’s first Monday.

The candidate was like most pastoral candidates, different than the previous guy. Bro. Lanham was like a grandfather; the candidate was a young 30-something father of two. Bro. Lahham was comfortable and easy going; the candidate quick and intense. Bro. Lanham was walking on the journey; the candidate was a crusader.

If you know much about me, you can likely see why I would have been drawn to the candidate. 

So, as the congregation assembled to ask questions in the open forum for the candidate, I couldn’t think of anything particularly deep or theological. My question was practical. Looking back on it, the question was theological. At the heart, I was asking the candidate “are you like me?”

A few days later, we voted yes, and that fall, Steven Williams became my new pastor.

 

picture of Steve Williams

Steve Williams in 2014 picture from Facebook

 
Steve was my first glimpse of what it looked like to be a pastor and a dad at the same time. Stephanie and Luke were young kids. I don’t think Luke had quite started school. Luke was a bit of a challenge at times. I remember him going pee outside the church’s office one day because he was too impatient to wait for the restroom to become available. I also remember Steve having to step down in the middle of a sermon, escort Luke to the lobby, and then return a few awkward moments later to finish the sermon. The tears in Luke’s eyes indicated that Steve had quickly switched from pastor to dad back to pastor.

Steve was a crusader. He was passionate about the Church of God Reformation Movement. He ran a publishing company out of the church’s attic where we would reprint and ship classic Church of God writings by the likes of FG Smith, Lily McCutchen, Arlo Newell, and others. He was also heavily involved in the conservative association of ministers known as Pastors’ Fellowship. Steve’s publishing company worked closely with Pastors’ Fellowship to distribute the early teachings of the movement.

Steve was a fiery preacher. His passion for truth and commitment to the teachings of the church came through again and again. Steve also loved Bus Ministry. He introduced that chaos to our congregation and I gladly jumped in. Steve wanted to see a men’s ministry happening to compliment the Women of the Church of God (WCG) that met regularly. I was glad to see this take off. We needed a college-age Sunday School class, after all we had an emerging group of 20-somethings; so I stepped in to offer to lead it. An opening came in the Children’s Church; Steve tagged me to lead it. Needless to say, if there was an opportunity, Steve knew he could ask and I would likely say “yes.”

Steve saw a willingness to serve in me. He challenged me to consider going to Bible College to get a degree so that I could professionally serve in the church. He encouraged me to head off to Mid-America Bible College (now Mid-America Christian University) instead of floundering around at the state university in town. 

I knew Steve to be hard charging, passionate, and motivating. He pushed me out of the comfort of Clarksville, Tennessee, and into the adventures that I would experience because I went to Oklahoma City and Mid-America Bible College.

After I left in the summer of 1997, things with First Church and Steve began to change. The passionate charging ahead began to wear folks down. Steve’s marriage was hurting too. Near the end of my first year at Mid-America, Steve discovered his wife had been having an affair. It was heart breaking for everyone. Steve resigned and moved.

Steve has since remarried, become a grandad, and is still a crusader. Steve was my pastor who challenged me to go.

Oh, yes, Steve did wear blue jeans.

Steve sliding

Steve having fun in recent days, much like we did in Clarksville together. (picture from Facebook)

Pastor Appreciation Month: Gene Lanham

I grew up in a typical American family. My parents divorced when I was five. My dad remarried when I was 10. I have two younger siblings, a brother nearly 3 years younger and a sister just over 14 years younger. My Dad served in the Army, was a part of Operation Desert Shield/Storm. My moms worked. My parents had grown up with a bit of church in their lives, but as a family we didn’t go to church, pray, or even really talk much about God and faith. We went about our business of work, school, and living life.

As a high schooler in the early 90’s I was introduced to the theology of Garth Brooks. His music had a way of capturing my imagination and my thoughts of the time. I won’t forget how true I believed the song “Unanswered Prayers” to be. Probably more than any other thing I had heard up to to that point, Garth Brooks was shaping my theology.In my Junior year, my best friend got a bug to try out a church in town. I tagged along, because that’s what friends do. I was probably a bit too pious in my Brooks theology and nearly created a fight in Sunday School when I asserted the wisdom of “Unanswered Prayers” to a class of seasoned church goers. Needless to say, we didn’t go back.

Nearly a year later, I went with the same friend to a different church. He had been attending there for a few months without me. The church’s building was located close to a mile from my house. One day my friend invited me to join him for a Friday night movie at the church. I went; mostly because I didn’t have anything else going on. 

After that night, I found myself returning to the church Wednesdays and Sundays. The 200 or so member church was led by Bro. Lanham. He was a distinguished looking guy with his finely trimmed mustache and silver hair. He would wear short sleeve button up shirts with a tie and a jacket on Sundays. I can’t recall ever seeing him wear a pair of blue jeans. He would preach every Sunday and often sing. He liked a country and western styled Gospel music. His wife, Sister Lanham, was the church secretary and leader of the women’s ministry. She was often found wearing a dress and a big welcoming smile.

On Easter Sunday, 1993, I went forward in the church and prayed. It is that day that I accepted Jesus’ work on my behalf and asked him to change my life.

In June of ’93, Bro. Lanham baptized me, my best friend, and our classmate who had led my best friend to attending that church.

 

picture of the Lanhams

Bro. and Sis. Lanham


Bro. Lanham was my first pastor. 

I can’t recall anything special about what he preached. Nor is there anything special about the way he preached. He made it all seem pretty simple. He would remind us to love and serve God and be holy. Looking back, I think he extended a simple plea for us to be saved and sanctified, week after week. Bro. Lanham was never overly stern. He was gracious and humble. 

Bro. Lanham was brave enough to let me cut my teeth in ministry. It started with mowing the church lawn. I’m sure it was really hard for him to give up that responsibility. Then I asked if I could change the marquee sign. When our youth leader left, I volunteered to teach the lessons on Wednesday. All the time, Bro. Lanham said “yes.” I am sure there is more to these simple memories on his side, but for me that is how it seemed. He even let me “sing” solos and gave me my first opportunity to preach. 

Bro. Lanham had a first name. It was a long time before I knew it. Turns out, he didn’t even go by his first name. My guess is I learned his first name, not long after I learned the name he went by. But for me, his first name was “Brother.”

I am honored to have had Leslie Eugene “Gene” Lanham as my first pastor. His ministry at the First Church of God in Clarksville, Tennessee, shaped me in my earliest days. Like a baby learning to roll over, crawl, walk, talk, and run, Bro. Lanham was like a parent in my faith.

Today, as I sit here typing this out, I am still impacted by his life. You see, what I didn’t mention is that Bro. Lanham began praying for me before we even met.

One Christmas season, Bro. Lanham was working at the mall as Santa Claus. One of the ladies working as Santa’s Helper was a mom to two teen aged boys and a toddler girl. He prayed for that family and the oldest son wandered into the Church of God and moved out of the Brooks school of theology because God answers prayer.

A Taste of Things to Come: a Wedding

(John 2:11)

When you’ve gone to church for a long time, or you’ve read through the Bible repeatedly, it is easy to miss “the first time” something happens. We miss it because we are really familiar with the story. It seems we are so familiar with the story that we focus on the end and not the beginning. 



picture of actors

Members of New Life Bile Fellowship reenacting what the wedding crlebration could have looked like



As Jesus turns some 120 gallons of water into wine, we marvel at the fact that he did the miracle, but we can lose perspective easily, after all what is water into wine compared to the cross?

Did you catch it? 120 gallons! I’m not a wine drinker, I’m pretty much a tee-totaler in my lifestyle, but 120 gallons seems like a lot of wine to me. How many people were at this party? How much longer would it be lasting? Did Jesus really need to make that much more wine or was he just showing off for his mom and these first disciples?

I realize that it sounds heretical to say Jesus may have been “showing off.” The whole testimony of Jesus is that he was “sinless” and showing off seems a bit like pride and that is one of those “seven deadly sins,” right?

It is quite possible that Jesus was showing off, in a good way. After all, looking at his miracles, they’re supernatural. Isn’t that in and of itself showing off?

What if Jesus was showing off so that his disciples and family members, and even those low servants, who knew what had happened, could get a taste of things to come?

Imagine if Jesus is showing off because he gets excited about weddings? He is a single guy, betrothed (we know this because we know the full story) and preparing for his wedding day. Imagine if his participation in the celebration is his way of saying, “just wait, there’s more to come!”

We tend to see Jesus as uptight and unemotional. Allow your imagination to fill out the picture of who Jesus really was/is. Imagine Jesus excited about weddings, grieving at funerals, and enjoying parades. Could it be in each of these, he is helping us get a taste of things to come?

On an application side, if Jesus gets invested in these things, shouldn’t we? Maybe that is what he meant when he later tells the crowd that he has come to give life to the fullest (John 10:10). Let your marriage show off God’s power. May your funeral be a testimony of your commitment to Jesus. Throw a parade celebrating a better day to come! If we live this way, we live as appetizers, giving others a taste of things to come. And maybe, we will be reminded of what it was like to experience Jesus for the first time.

Conflict – Trust Building: why tension can improve trust

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick Lencioni identifies conflict as being essential to great team work.  The problem is many of us see conflict as a bad thing, but when we’ve proven we can trust each other, conflict is something that helps us build each other up.

Instead of conflict being about tearing each other down, we need to see how conflict sharpens us.  When someone disagrees with one of your ideas or plans, remember they are not saying they don’t like you.  Instead they see a short coming in your plan or a flaw in your idea.  More often than not, they’re wanting what’s best, just like you are.

If you are slow to engage in conflict, choose to trust.  Trust that the person will receive the critique with a teachable spirit.

If you are on the receiving end of conflict, choose to trust.  Trust that the person you are in relationship with is working for your good.

The Hebrew Proverb captures this best:

As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.
(Proverbs 27:17)

Conflict – Overcoming the Appeaser: why conflict is good

Winston Churchill was one of the more amazing personalities during the 20th Century.  His leadership for Great Britain and the world still inspires many today.  Before Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940, England along with most of Europe failed to deal with Nazi Germany properly.  For many in leadership, the Great War, World War I, was still fresh on their minds, concluding just short 21 years before the invasion of Poland.  Seeking to avoid the war, world leaders sought to appease Adolf Hitler.  As a result the world was drug into a second world war.

Out of that experience and many others, Churchill’s words ring true:

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

In too many instances, we allow the crocodiles of life to stay too close, instead of eliminating them.  To deal with a croc requires conflict.

What keeps you from dealing with the crocodiles of your life? 

Remember, crocodiles left around have a tendency to come back and eat you.

Conflict – Seeking Revenge or Forgiveness: An attempt to make things right

N.T. Wright has said: “If confrontation has to happen, as it often does, it must always be with forgiveness in mind, never revenge.”

Why do you think it is so difficult to seek forgiveness in a confrontation?

Why is it so easy to seek revenge?

What rules can you apply to relational conflict that will make forgiveness more likely than revenge, when all is said and done?

Here are 6 rules I’ve suggested when it comes to conflict:

 1. Respect your the other

2. Practice the proper time & place concept of a fight

3. Use a time-out to cool down so you don’t cross the line

4. Don’t get caught up in the past or use names

5. Stick to the real issue

6. Be willing to lose

Few of us actually enjoy conflict, even fewer of us work to resolve issues and find forgiveness for the wrongs in our life. More often than not, when we engage in conflict, we are hoping to be proved right. After all vengeance is our attempt to make things right by our own power.

We see time and time again that vengeance might feel good in the moment but it often destroys not only the most immediate relationship, but many others along the way. Forgiveness on the other hand restores relationships.

Saying, “I’m sorry,” has a way of making things right that vengeance can’t even fathom.

Conflict – It’s Inevitable: Choose Your Sides Carefully

It happens in every household: “Mom! Dad! He won’t stop!”  Something has happened with the kids, a conflict has emerged, and now one or the other is calling in support for their side.  It drives parents crazy but it happens again and again.

The scary thing is it doesn’t stop with kids!  As adults it is less likely someone is going to call for mom or dad (less likely doesn’t mean never), but it doesn’t stop someone from bringing a “friend” into a conflict to support their side.  Sometimes a person can even be drawn in to the conflict unwittingly.

Here a quick word of advice about conflict – choose your sides carefully.

Odds are, after the conflict is over, you will find yourself in relationship with both sides.  Try to avoid making that an awkward place to be.

How do you avoid being drawn into a conflict?

What secrets do you have to keeping a relationship with both sides of a conflict?

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