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Monday, September 14, 2020

Equality... Over the Top

Since childhood, I’ve heard the line that “too much of anything is not good.” But there is a parallel version of this idea that hits a bit harder. It goes, “too much of anything is good for nothing.”

I feel we could well be reaching that point with sports and the racial equality and social justice movements. Of course, I would not be allowed to say this if I worked for any major media—be it radio, newspapers, or television. I could not likely say it if I had major sponsors for any of my writings. The pressure companies face is too great.

All sporting events seem to have taken the pledge to make some form of a diversity statement show up in a myriad of ways. It’s more pronounced, of course, in sports where black athletes are highly visible. Hockey and golf pay homage to the issue, but it has not become the dominant conversation point.

In baseball, the NBA, and now football, we find ourselves in their version of re-education camps. In watching a recent Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins contest, a huge banner now sits at the right field wall at Target Stadium. It is there to “honor” George Floyd. Even the Minnesota music legend Prince did not receive such a tribute!

Thursday Night Football on NBC was a steady stream of discussion and commentary from the announcers and in features both in pre-game shows and the actual game itself. (It’s always helpful to hear two white guys paid to make their pitch on the importance of social justice. Yawn.)

The game itself took on a bizarre moment related to pre-game song performances. The Kansas City Chiefs had all their players lined up and locking arms to the tune of “Lift Every Voice.” This was followed several minutes later by a performance of our national anthem in front of the same display of “unity” from Chiefs players and coaches. Minority artists performed both songs. A must.

But what made the showing a bit bizarre (as I noted) was the absence of the Houston Texas team for either song! They chose not to make a “statement,” which they felt would be distracting to the game. And as a result, their team was booed by KC fans in the stadium. Something that apparently bewildered Houston player J.C. Watts!

Saturday now has some college football being played. I switched on Fox for their pre-game show on Saturday. Lo and behold…what should I see? Lots more chatter on the same topic. And watching a few players warm up, t-shirts with messaging related to the issue as well. In other words, it’s everywhere!

Like many of my caucasian brothers and sisters, I support the idea that black lives matter—but not the organization by that name. Two inspirational black leaders of our day— Tony Dungy and Ryan Bomberger—dare speak up on issues like abortion and homosexuality in ways that put them in media peril. Ryan goes further.

Bomberger, whom I’ve interviewed, wrote a superb article earlier this year titled, “Top Ten Reasons I’ll Never Support the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.” Read it…and weep. Weep, because of all those souls who cannot separate the movement from the evil backside it reveals. (story link below)

If the souls of all these Americans who are suddenly socially conscious were bared for all to see, shame would be on many faces. Racism is a sin of the heart. Preaching to darkened souls the “radical” idea that every person created by God is of great worth is lost on most people. Just look at the way the false gods of Hollywood and sports are idolized for their “worth” compared to you and I.

Jesus followers KNOW the following statement to be true (if they are genuine): “Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman.” Galatians 3:28 (CEV) We are to believe it and live it.

Attempting to press the message of equality and value of our fellow human beings is a lost cause on lost souls. And in the massive attempt to do this, I fear it’s going over the top. Instead, it’s creating tune-out.

Just don’t tell anyone I said that. Well, except Dungy and Bomberger.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

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Monday, September 7, 2020

Witness the End

One of my favorite movies is The Three Amigos. In one particular scene, the Amigos are in a Mexican bar when a wild shooting spree takes place. The bartender responds, “This town is getting too rough for me.”

America is turning into such a vitriolic, hateful, and sometimes violent place that I’m now thinking, “This country is getting too rough for me!”

There are many contributing factors and I suppose plenty of blame to be shared. But it’s bigger than that. The very soul of our nation has become sick. We can’t even treat our neighbors well—much less the “enemy.”

Witness the recent story from Park Ridge, Illinois, where a business owner had to close up shop so his workers could have a “mental health day.” What?? This was due to their having to deal with “confrontational customers.” Some didn’t like the mask policy of the restaurant. Another became threatening when the business tried to enforce the “no dogs eat here” health regulation at a restaurant. These are customers in an upscale neighborhood.

Then there were the multiple reports of the highly offensive “protestors” who showed up at the White House on the last night of the Republican National Convention. Having been to Washington a number of times, I’ve witnessed constant protests of one kind or another outside the White House gates. This was different.

The President had a number of guests invited to the event—several giving inspiring and spiritually uplifting messages. Forget about Trump here. These speakers were Americans who love their country and the cause of freedom. Outside the gates, within earshot, protestors organized live bands to disrupt the proceedings.

But it got worse. Guests were harassed as they were leaving the event. One of them, Jim Daly, is president of Focus on the Family. In his words, “Stepping off the White House grounds, I was immediately confronted by angry individuals who hurled profane insults at me. They let loose with a verbal barrage I’ve never personally encountered–which is saying something given my upbringing in a rough section of Southern California.”

Senator Rand Paul encountered the same abuse. He tweeted, “Just got attacked by an angry mob of over 100, one block away from the White House. Thank you to @DCPoliceDept for literally saving our lives from a crazed mob.” A DC police officer was holding a police line around the senator and his wife when a protestor reportedly punched the officer in the face, causing a cut requiring stitches.

What fuels this kind of angry and bitter reaction to those with whom one disagrees? Hard to know for sure. But here’s one idea.

Recently arriving in whatever bookstores remain open (and online) is this gem: In Defense of Looting: A Riotous History of Uncivil Action. Written by Vicky Osterweil, the publisher offers us “strategies of wealth redistribution and improving life for the working class.” What strategies? How about “a fresh argument for rioting and looting as our most powerful tools for dismantling white supremacy.”

One of the arguments raised claims, “Looting represents a material way that riots and protests help the community: by providing a way for people to solve some of the immediate problems of poverty and by creating a space for people to freely reproduce their lives rather than doing so through wage labor.” Add this truly special insight, “Looting is an act of communal cohesion.”

Aside from the content of the book, it is interesting to note that Vicky Osterweil, the author is a self-described agitator” and is transgender-identified. A rebel.

People of faith should—must—stand in sharp contrast to this nonsense. Even in the midst of turbulent times for many who lived under Roman rule in the first century AD, the apostle Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 (NIV)

The breakdown of a civilization is a bitter thing to watch. To see a free country, raised in principles found in the Bible, so rapidly giving in to robbers and anarchists is beyond shocking. It is horrifying.

Certainly…the end is near.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information:

Monday, August 31, 2020

Not Canceled

I’ve recently determined that it’s time I got more serious about joining the cancel culture. In fact, I likely have been moving that direction for a while now. Before I explain that, a review of the term is in order.

“Cancel culture” has only come to light in recent years. Some attribute its arrival into the collective consciousness around 2017. That’s when it became “hip” to "cancel" celebrities for things they said or did that the highly-culturally-sensitive crowd didn’t approve of.

A few can trace the now common activity of public shaming to earlier in the previous decade. Myles McNutt, a TV critic and assistant professor at Old Dominion University, tweeted in February, 2014, regarding the cancellations of TV series. He wrote: "It's unfortunate how renew/cancel culture has made 'not renewed early' read as canceled—'wait and see until pilots come in' is normal.”

Merriam-Webster, one of the authorities on all things word related, connects the term “cancel culture” to the #MeToo movement. Professor Lisa Nakamura from the University of Michigan explained via the New York Times in 2018 that what cancellation amounts to is a "cultural boycott" of a certain celebrity, brand, company, or concept.

Google Trends data revealed almost no search interest of the phrase "cancel culture" until late 2018 and early 2019. The most search interest came in July of this year (2020).

Former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian “Hairman” Urlacher just found out the hard truth of cancel culture. The Bears organization dissed Brian after his criticism of the NBA protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The boys in the Bears front office responded, "The social media posts in no way reflect the values or opinions of the Chicago Bears organization.” Thank you, Brian, for all your great tackles, but you are not “us.” Canceled.

The retired Urlacher is displeased with the protests against racial injustice. He supports President Trump, even visiting him in the White House. Of course, the cancel culture would like to fully cancel The Donald—who, along with his family members, spoke out about “cancel culture” at his convention last week.

So how am I joining the cancel culture parade? Let’s start with the electronic news. They feed me things in the order they find important—and from their very slanted perspective. I’ve canceled watching that, unless it’s the weather.

I still glance at the New York Times and the Washington Post for headlines and rare stories of a non-political nature. Otherwise, I’ve canceled reading anything they write. The same goes for almost all opinion pieces in the Chicago Tribune. And frankly, a lot of what Christianity Today has published more recently I’ve canceled.

I’ve canceled watching any television shows revealing the true beliefs of Hollywood. And we’re moving that direction with movies, as the moguls introduce, by “force,” characters of an alternative lifestyle. 


And among my very favorites—televised sports—I’m fast forwarding past ANY of their patronizing promos to cultural resistance and protests. This includes a full pass on any national anthem protests or on field antics by players. And to go one step further, for those teams that “canceled” their recent games out of “protest,” I’ve canceled watching ANY of their games. Just don’t need the nonsense.

Here’s what I haven’t canceled. Truth. I know, from the Bible, that man is created in God’s image. All of us have worth in His eyes and therefore should have value in mine. No race is “superior.” I know that Jesus' message to “love one another” is all the call to action we need to do that in word and deed. Truth is found in Jesus.

And while I’m on my soapbox this week, I’m also not cancelling going to church in favor of sports or other activities shoved onto our Sunday schedules in more recent years.

But that’s me.

The apostle John closed his writings in the book of Revelation with these words about the return of Christ: “Come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20 (NIV)


That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information:

Monday, August 24, 2020

Never Trust Anyone

One of the most memorable seminars I attended in my business life was led by a successful radio programmer. His aim was to help the many naive station programmers who actually believed that they could negotiate with managers—some who were also owners. He pointed to oft-made promises of “future raises” based on performance that never materialized without being in writing.

He then challenged all to remember the words “Your father told you. 'Never trust ANYONE!!’" Actually, my father never gave me that message. Perhaps his own father should have given it to him. My dad’s blind trust hurt him on multiple occasions.

I didn’t like that advice then. And I still don’t. However…I have come to appreciate the reasons for it being said.

Several current examples abound. Fake news being one. How do we know what is fake and what isn’t?

Apparently, there is a self appointed arbiter of truth and reality. It comes via QAnon. I confess to being clueless on this source of reality up until recently.

Oh, I was aware of it, but could not give you two sentences about what’s behind it. When I saw a recent article explaining how this “voice of reason” in the minds of many was now impacting churches, I paid closer attention. For your edification on this connection, read QAnon: The Alternative Religion that's Coming to Your Church. (link below)

What I discovered you may already know. QAnon is named after “Q,” who posts anonymously on the online bulletin board 4chan (another mystery to me.) “Q” has a knack for finding evidence of so-called “deep state” abuses—and exposing them. One source found a 71% increase in QAnon content on Twitter and a 651% increase on Facebook since March. You read that right.

Where this gets dicey is when church people move from Gospel-centeredness to viral rumor spreading. An example from the Religion News Service article describes a pastor in Missouri who sat down to count the conspiracy theories that people in his church have been sharing on Facebook.

The list was long and included “claims that 5G radio waves are used for mind control; that George Floyd’s murder is a hoax; that Bill Gates is related to the devil; that masks can kill you; that the germ theory isn’t real; and that there might be something to Pizzagate after all.”

Since 2017, “QAnon, has coalesced in online forums and created millions of believers.” The concern is not just that these are among the many conspiracy theories that abound on the Internet, but that the audience among faithful Christians abounds as well. Adrienne LaFrance wrote in The Atlantic in June, “To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion.”

That view in and of itself may be overstated. To be fair, proven accounts of misleading or outright purposely slanted news leaves the door open for conspiracy theories. Within the Religion News Service QAnon story, they share that a 2018 poll “found that 46% of self-identified evangelicals and 52% of those whose beliefs tagged them as evangelical ‘strongly agreed that the mainstream media produced fake news.’”

The apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Thessalonica, penned these words: “But test everything. Keep what is good, and stay away from everything that is evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NCV)

I tend not to write off all that is termed a “conspiracy theory.” If you read the Bible book of Revelation, you find startling predictions about world events in what are called, “the last days.” Some of those signs seem to be with us right now. So let’s keep “testing” for truth while avoiding “false religions.”

Meanwhile, I’m going to check out that Pizzagate. I wonder if they serve anchovies on a “deep state pizza?”

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information: 

Monday, August 17, 2020

App-ropiate Parenting

Ever heard of Lipsi? How about Tellonym? Okay…let’s try Houseparty? Holla??? If you haven’t, don’t be surprised. Especially if you’re an adult—and more importantly, a parent!

Each of the names above are apps that your teenagers may well be aware of—and you should be. The website offers up a list of some of the hottest apps that teens use these days. Several offer convenient ways to avoid parental oversight. (The link to the complete article is found at the end of the blog.)

Lipsi users, for example, “can easily erase chat history, which means they (users) can be tempted to engage in risky behaviors.” Houseparty is a group video chat service and is reportedly the fourth most downloaded app. It’s estimated 60 percent of its users are under 24. The app doesn’t monitor chats, upping the risk of kids being exposed to inappropriate content.

In terms of messaging apps that are very popular, Kik is reportedly used by one-third of American teens 13-17. The app has been shown to involve cases of online predators. WhatsApp (13 and over) is on Apple’s list of the most popular apps for teen use. With it users can send unlimited messages and photos. Then there’s Discord…a voice and text chatting tool for gamers. They report over 100 million users who can send direct messages to other gamers—including complete strangers.

I’m following up on my recent blog that discussed the amazingly popular app, TikTok…another teen favorite. Before we go there, let’s give sort of honorable mention to the other hip-hot-app-spots that are in the photo-sharing category. This would include Snapchat (69 percent of teens 13-17 use Snapchat, and it ranks first in terms of how often it is used), Instagram, and Pinterest, among others.

Of course, this is just a sampling of what’s out there. The federal government rarely gets involved in restricting apps. But concerns over “national security” prompted action to considering limits on access to TikTok.

That aside, the larger question might well be, where are the parents in this discussion of scrutiny? Useful reading is an article titled, “Do Parents Know How Much Time Their Young Kids are Spending on Devices?” from the website As the writer points out, “During the coronavirus pandemic, many parents have allowed their children to spend more time on tablets and other screens than they typically would.”

Cited is a study from Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. For in-depth reading, check out, “Young Children’s Use of Smartphones and Tablets.” Eleven authors contributed. While the results are based on pre-pandemic research, it revealed that “Many parents misreport what their children are doing on their devices, and that some very young kids are using apps meant for teenagers or even adults.”

How about this? Some 72% of teens check their smartphone first thing in the morning. About 56% associate the absence of their cellphone with either loneliness, being upset, or feeling anxious. And the average teen sends about 60 texts each day.

The statistics I shared above, and a host of resources to help parents monitor and put appropriate content controls on phones, can be found at

One of my ministry friends recently wrote in a devotional, “Parenthood isn’t about ownership, it’s about stewardship. Your first assignment is to provide love to make them secure, laws to make them wise, light to walk in, and a lifestyle to follow.”

And the Bible says, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17 (CSB).

Without parents being parents, kids may grow up to be…? Try filling in the blank.

You may not like the answer.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information:

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Clock is TikTokking

I have been rolling merrily along without even an ounce of concern about TikTok. That could be because sometimes ignorance is bliss. Other times, a lack of awareness lets a problem fester until it becomes cancerous.

It’s hard to say where TikTok fits into the puzzles of life. It’s become a hip and very popular app for the younger crowd in this country. Its source country is China, where they maintain a separate app for their market known as Duyin, which has over 300 million active monthly users.

The website reports, “Since its launch, the TikTok app’s popularity has been growing tremendously. In October, 2018…The app reportedly amassed over 500 million monthly active users, the US being the most popular country where it has been downloaded over 80 million times.” (Currently more than 100 million.)

The company mission seems noble enough: “TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.” The videos are distinctive in that they are described as “tall, not square, like on Snapchat or Instagram's stories, but you navigate through videos by scrolling up and down, like a feed, not by tapping or swiping side to side.”

How does such popularity suddenly spring up? Celebrity endorsement helps! Jimmy Fallon is a clear example. Jimmy, of course, is a popular television personality. In November, 2018, he started a new “challenges” section on his Tonight show. TikTok was a platform for this challenge.

Jimmy urged viewers to take on the #TumbleweedChallenge. Participants would “post videos on TikTok of themselves rolling like a tumbleweed.” Fallon himself took the challenge to start things off. As reported, “The challenge went viral and gathered over 8,000 entries and 10.4 million engagements, within a week.” Celebrities in other parts of the world have generated similar promotional results.

You’ve heard the phrase, “All politics is local”? So is the rising popularity of TikTok. It’s common for the app to run local contests and challenges. TikTok picks up on the current buzz through the use of localized hashtags.

An example would be the “1 million audition” contest that TikTok runs across several countries, separately. As explains, “For each contest, participants are given themes to create videos and then the top video creators are awarded. This contest not only leads to the creation of thousands of local videos for each country where it is held, but also helps TikTok creators gain recognition and followers.”

By now you should get the picture. (Pun intended.) The lives of American youth, in particular, have been invaded by TikTok. And once all their friends and social influencers are using the app, so must they.

Assuming it’s all innocent fun, there’s no need to worry, right? Not exactly. Because innocence can be lost without even knowing it.

On August 6th, President Trump signed an executive order effectively banning the use of TikTok in the United States. The White House claim is that TikTok captures vast swaths of information from its users including location data and Internet search history.

TikTok defends itself by saying that the company is open regarding the data it collects. It’s estimated that the amount of data collected is about the same as what you’d find in apps owned by our American tech companies (Google, Facebook, and Apple). Perhaps it’s true. But gathering info on American citizens by China certainly raises security concerns. 

TikTok’s data collection agreement on mobile devices states: We collect information when you create an account and use the Platform. We also collect information you share with us from third-party social network providers, and technical and behavioral information about your use of the Platform. We also collect information contained in the messages you send through our Platform and information from your phone book, if you grant us access to your phone book on your mobile device. More information about the categories and sources of information is provided below.

NPR reported that “A federal class-action lawsuit involving dozens of American families claims an independent security review of TikTok revealed that the app is siphoning data, including the facial profiles of American children, and sending it to Chinese servers, though the suit does not provide evidence any information has ever been transferred to the Chinese Communist Party.”

The solution may be for an American firm to acquire TikTok. Microsoft is one of several companies in talks to acquire the app.

But there may be another issue here revealing a bigger problem. I'll look at that next week. The clock…is ticking.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Enjoy the new Moving People Forward YouTube program and podcast at 

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Followership - Part 2

Rick Ezell is a chaplain serving with Employee Care of America. This group partners with businesses to improve productivity and profitability by providing care, coaching, and crisis management for employees. Rick previously served as a pastor in Naperville. Contact information is found below. He has allowed me to share from his recent web posting a two-part series on “Followership” as I enjoy a brief summer break. Today, Rick asks, “So what makes a good follower?”

1. They complement the leader. 
Followers don’t compete with the leader but complete the leader. It’s like a marriage. The husband and wife experience mutual submission; they don’t compete, but rather complement one another. Leadership is participatory. Leaders and followers exist in a mutually beneficial relationship where each adds to the effectiveness of the other. Good followers complement their leaders by using their gifts, speaking affirmation, displaying loyalty, and extending support. Without the help of followers, leaders are doomed to failure.

2. Good followers stand in the gap. 
Often leaders have the vision, but lack the management and execution tools to see the idea become a reality. Leaders have needs, weaknesses, shortcomings, imperfections, that are often glaring. So, leaders need loyal and dedicated followers to fill the gaps in their efforts.

3. Good followers take the initiative. 
Being a follower doesn’t mean that you just stand around and do nothing until the leader tells you what to do. Leaders provide the overall plan—the vision—but followers execute. Good followers know what to do without being told. Good followers don’t just do something; they do the right things.

4. Good followers make great leaders.
A study of 218 male Australian Royal Marines was conducted. The Marines differentiated themselves as natural leaders (with the skills and abilities to lead) or followers (who were more concerned with getting things done than getting their way). The researchers tracked the recruits’ self-identification as leaders and followers across the course of a physically arduous 32-week infantry training that prepared them for warfare in a range of extreme environments. The study culminated in the recruits and commanders who oversaw their training casting votes for the Commando Medal award to the recruit who showed most leadership ability. Who got the votes? Researchers discovered that those recruits who saw themselves (and were seen by commanders) as followers ultimately emerged as leaders. It seems that those who want to lead are well served by first endeavoring to follow.

5. Being a good follower teaches one how to value someone else’s opinion, consider others’ inputs, and develop emotional intelligence. 
They care about their followers and will demonstrate it. They understand and appreciate the limits of their leadership and how their followers make or break them. No matter the number of subordinates, they see themselves as still human and share the same vulnerabilities, shortcomings, and struggles. They view the people they lead as their equals. They don’t punish employees who question and challenge them—knowing that being held accountable is an essential part of becoming a better leader.

6. The mission takes precedence.
Donald Phillips’ insightful book,
Lincoln on Leadership, examines the character, behavior, attributes, and attitudes that made Abraham Lincoln our most honored and revered president. When Lincoln took office in 1861, he found that the United States was unprepared for war. The union had an insufficient, poorly trained, and poorly equipped army under the command of General Winfield Scott. As the war waged on, Lincoln went through general after general for three years before he finally found a responsible risk-taker man, and, most importantly, one who made things happen—Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln could not have won the war without Grant. Lincoln was the leader; Grant, the chief subordinate.

It wasn’t until Grant was added to the mix that Lincoln and the Union Army found victory. In Grant, Lincoln found a strategic, aggressive, creative follower who took the initiative to accomplish the mission.

Donald Phillips comments: “All leaders should realize that they can’t do everything on their own. They simply must have people below them who will do what is necessary to ensure success. Subordinates who will take risks, act without waiting for direction, and ask for responsibility rather than reject it, should be treated as your most prized possessions. Such individuals are exceedingly rare and worth their weight in gold.”

Businesses, teams, governments, and churches can have leaders who possess exceptional vision and provide direction, just as Lincoln did. Still, they can’t succeed without people like U. S. Grant to carry out the mission.

Leaders need followers to execute the mission.

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Enjoy the new Moving People Forward YouTube program and podcast at 

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Monday, July 27, 2020


Rick Ezell is a chaplain serving with Employee Care of America. This group partners with businesses to improve productivity and profitability by providing care, coaching, and crisis management for employees. Rick previously served as a pastor in Naperville. Contact information is found below. He has agreed to allow me to share from his recent web posting a two-part series on “Followership” as I enjoy a brief summer break.

Rick: Curious. Did you take a college course on how to be a good follower? Ever been to a seminar on how to follow well? What about reading a book on followership? If I’d asked if you had read a book or attended a workshop on leadership, more than likely, you have.

Leadership without followers, well, is nothing but empty and fruitless. Leadership requires followers who will execute the mission, strategy, and plans of the organization. And followers need leaders who will provide the mission, strategy, and plans for the organization.

A Ted Talk entitled “The First Follower” pictures a lone guy dancing at a festival. Soon another guy joins the first guy in the crazy dance. Soon others join until there is a crowd all dancing together. It provides an example of a movement that began with a leader, but would not have happened without the first follower and the subsequent others who join in. The video states: “Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.”

The video concludes with this lesson: “Leadership is over-glorified. Yes, it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened: It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader. There is no movement without the first follower. We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective. The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow. When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.”

Leaders need followers, and followers need leaders. Working together, they can accomplish many worthwhile projects and plans. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way about followers and leaders.

1. Leaders need to be easy to follow.

Leaders need the big three: Character, Competence, and a Cause. They need to have the message, integrity, and focus that others are willing to follow. When they do, people follow. I read of a woman who said to her pastor, “Pastor, I would follow you on an assault on hell with water pistols.” That woman found a leader easy to follow. Army Colonel Tom Cordingly explained it this way: “When I served at Fort Knox, the executive officer I worked under would plan the strategy and then turn to me and say, ‘Make it so, Tom.’ I was his right-hand man, the ‘make-it-so’ guy. I found more satisfaction in the right-hand-man role than in leading. I’ve come to the conclusion: Give me a good man to work for, a man I love and respect, and I’ll be happy.'” It begins with the kind of leader that others want to follow. Interestingly, most great leaders are not charismatic. They simply have the qualities that make it easy for others to want to follow.

2. Leaders need followers.

Warren Bennis observed that leaders are only ever as effective as their ability to engage followers. Without followership, leadership is nothing. The key to success in leadership lies in the collective “we,” not the individual “I.”

In other words, leadership is a process that emerges from a relationship between leaders and followers who are bound together by their understanding that they are members of the same social group. Leaders are more effective when their behaviors indicate that they are “one of us,” because they share our values, concerns, and experiences, and are “doing it for us” by looking to advance the interests of the group rather than own personal interests.

3. Good followers have character, too.

Our culture places limited value on following. We celebrate the great leaders but dismiss the many loyal followers. But, to succeed, leaders must teach their followers not only how to lead, but more importantly, how to be a good follower. That requires integrity.

So…What makes for good followers? Rick Ezell answers that next week!

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You can email Rick st: Or call 864-770-3560. The website is The article can be found at:

Monday, July 20, 2020

“Yes, but…"

Several readings have crossed my path in recent days from voices trying to help sort out whether the many social issues upon which we disagree are founded on Scripture, or on our own political leanings.

One in particular is actually titled, “3 Thoughts on the Differences Between ‘Being Biblical’ and ‘Being Political’” (link below) Its author is Eric Geiger, a pastor in Southern California and former senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. He has authored or co-authored several books. One, a bestseller, is titled Simple Church.

Geiger’s three main points are…
  1. There is a difference between being biblically passionate and politically passionate.
  2. If passions fall squarely into partisan lines, passion is rooted in a political viewpoint more than a Christ-centered one.
  3. Our Christian unity must be built around King Jesus.

I do not take issue with any of those points. But on the second one, I would change the language to say “passion may be rooted in a political viewpoint more than a Christ-centered one.” Motives are almost impossible to know.

Here are some of Geiger’s thoughts I would prefer to see Christ-followers discuss in more depth.

“Jesus does not fit neatly into the political parties of our day. If we are biblically passionate, we will care about what Jesus cares about. If we are merely politically passionate, we will let 'our political side' determine what we care about.”

As one who desires to know Jesus the Messiah and follow Him, my lens for political alignment seeks to see a platform of convictions that has biblical alignment. Jesus was on mission to show us what the Kingdom of God looks like. His hard-nosed challenges in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, would leave no one comfortable.

Jesus doesn’t tell us the best economic system. He certainly wants us to ward off greed. He advocates for us to choose our financial decisions wisely as a steward and not an owner. There is no indication He would push for “equal distribution” of resources.

It was clear He changed nothing in supporting the teaching that marriage was between a man and a woman. We find no Scriptural words of Jesus that would embrace a transgender position. Jesus stood against divorce. And lust.

Jesus loved children and showed his personal care—along with a condemning message for those who would lead children astray. Jesus was neither a sexist nor a racist. He did not choose His disciples based on class status. He ate and gave counsel to “sinners” and refused to cast out those whose lives were not perfect.

A second point that needs more discussion from the article is…
“If we are following Jesus, we will likely be considered too conservative for our progressive friends and too progressive for our conservative friends.”

I assure you that a strong sampling of people both inside and outside the church could not clearly define what is truly “conservative” or “progressive.” But I’ve seen what the term progressive usually means. And it isn’t progress. It’s often casting the idea of a moral authority aside. And questioning the basis for truth.

Are there individuals holding government positions at all levels who hold deep, spiritual, and moral convictions? Of course. That does not make the political landscape balanced in terms of its alignment with the values of the Kingdom of God. And this usually gets fleshed out in what the party platform is all about.

So when I hear the casually clever and well-intended statement that “Jesus is neither a Republican nor a Democrat,” I’m often tempted to continue the discussion by saying, "Yes, BUT….”

Check out the earlier referenced Sermon on the Mount. Several times Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said….BUT—I say…”

Put the words that Jesus DOES say into practice. Back that platform.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

For more information: being-political.html

Monday, July 13, 2020

When It All Came Crashing Down

My wife and I watched the Disney “hit” of the summer a week ago: Hamilton. It’s seems like the only thing that company has to cheer about these days. The theme parks have had a disastrous spring. The movie roll outs—aren’t rolling. Theaters are fading to black.

It’s amazing how fast the world can change. The Washington Post highlighted the miseries of the Mouse in their recent article, “How Disney could be facing a lot more than a lost summer.” It may be one of the biggest understatements of the year.

WaPo bases their headline on the stunning reversal of Disney revenue in a single quarter of 2020. A year ago, the magic was still happening at the Kingdom to the tune of $20.3 billion. Not this year. Numbers are not even in the same theme park!

What makes the analysts particularly uneasy is the future. As WaPo states it, “…a growing number of voices are starting to ask whether a more fundamental change is brewing, a change that will affect them beyond one bad quarter. They’re wondering whether a company built heavily on a foundation of in-person gatherings, and on the peddling of an inoffensive utopia that largely exists outside racial identity, can be effective in a prolonged period of isolation and fulmination.”

The words Disney and imagination go hand-in-hand. The new Disney is now heading toward re-imagination. And that vision will likely lack the big dollars they are used to hauling in at the “happiest place on earth.”

Speaking of imagination, a good friend and fellow Christ follower and I enjoyed lunch together recently. Our conversation included this question: Where is the heart and mind of Jesus in all of this—the pandemic, the protests, the economic turmoil?

We both tried to imagine Jesus visiting an American church on a Sunday morning. At the end of the service, we imagined Jesus taking questions. Here was the big one: "When will we get back to normal, Jesus?” (*I shared this example with our church recently.)

As was often the case when people asked the Lord difficult questions, His answer was surprising. Challenging. Even painful.

The imagined reply went something like, "Returning your lives to 'normal' is not my plan. The crises you've been experiencing I've allowed to help you sort out your idols and put your relationship with Me in perspective. Some of you are getting it."

He could have continued, "Sports and entertainment have become your money-draining loves. You've idolized the people in both of these fields. You've become addicted to wealth. Your work and your play are major distractions to your willingness to follow Me. Often with your children, you choose Sunday sports games over worship. Your schedules are demanding and full, with no time for rest and quiet study of the Scriptures."

He wasn't finished.

"No, returning to normal is not the plan. Reviving your spirit and your heart is the plan. Changing your priorities is the plan. Calling the church to love and serve one another is the plan. Let Me know if and when you are ready to 'drop your nets' and follow My plan."

Does that scenario make you feel uncomfortable? It did me. For many, I think God has our attention.

Whether the wealthiest to the weakest among us are getting the message that normal may not ever return remains to be seen. Empty sports arenas and entertainment complexes are forcing us to choose other options. Likely, better ones.

Will all that we think mattered before the virus struck get a complete facelift? Will America post-protests and revolution be better? Or will it drive people deeper into hopelessness?

When it all comes crashing down, it’s time for some re-imagination. Not the Disney kind. The confidence that Disney’s earthly kingdom known as the “happiest place on earth” was misplaced.

Time for the Kingdom of Heaven to take over.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Robinhood and a Not-So-Merry Man

It was somewhere around noon when my wife and daughter recalled hearing the train whistle blow about a mile from our home. That’s unusual since restrictions are in place to keep noise down as the trains pass through heavily populated neighborhoods. A short while later, my daughter was en route home but had to alter her course because a stopped train blocked the crossing.

Our local police department let us know it was another train/pedestrian “incident.” This was the second within the last eight months on tracks within two miles of each other. One last November was a 17-year old who died. Apparently he was quite bright and well liked. I never did see a final report on what really happened.

The more recent death was a 20-year-old. It was definitely a suicide. The young man was Alexander E. Kearns. He lived in the area nearby but was home from the University of Nebraska. Again, another bright young mind.

Before explaining his seemingly dire situation, I must confess that I am always intrigued by suicides. Particularly among the young. That’s because throughout my years as a boy and as a teen, I cannot recall ever hearing of a suicide among classmates or friends. At least one or two happened a bit later in the lives of former classmates.

But the world is different today. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds.

Accidents and homicide take first and second place. Chicago ranks high in youth dying well before their time.

While girls are more likely to try to commit suicide than boys, the boys succeed more often. They are 4 times more likely to die from suicide than girls. Guns are used in more than half of all youth suicides.

The experts at Stanford Children’s Health attribute a number of factors that push some kids over the edge. They list body changes, struggles with thoughts and feelings including stress, confusion, fear, and doubt. A pressure to succeed is listed. And other changes such as divorce, friendships, moving, or problems in school.

Alexander Kearns' story was quite different. This young man took up stock investing during the pandemic. He signed up with a millennial-focused brokerage firm known as Robinhood. In the first quarter of this year, the firm increased by 3 million new accounts—a record!

Mr. Kearns began experimenting in trading options. Several firms have begun offering commission-free trading and zero-minimum balances to attract the younger set. The opportunity was too good to pass up for Alexander.

Apparently, the bookkeeping practices of this kind of trading is more complex than it should be. As Forbes Magazine explained, Mr. Kearns fell into despair after checking his account with $16,000—BUT—also showing a cash balance of negative $730,165!! Kearns was shocked, as he never authorized the kind of trading that would yield those kinds of losses.

Alexander Kearns felt he had ruined his life—and others. But his losses were not real. His negative cash balance was only temporary and would soon be corrected—but not soon enough. Kearns prepared a suicide note. And then acted on it.

I’ve included a link below so that you can read the complete story. It’s more than sad. It’s tragic.

As King Solomon advised, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” Proverbs 13:11 (ESV)

Robinhood, based in Silicon Valley, has pledged major changes to their platform of options trading. They feel terrible about this young man losing his life. As they should.

My soul grieves when our youngest citizens lose their lives—be it by car mishaps, medical issues, or freak accidents of any kind. Suicide, however, is in a another category. It is so preventable.

The blast of a train horn was the last warning to Alexander Kearns to change his mind. Nearly three quarters of a million reasons told him otherwise.

I wish this Robinhood tale was another work of fiction.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Time to Take a Knee

We’re almost half way through 2020. The suspense might already be building for who Time Magazine will select as the “Person of the Year.” Will it be Dr. Anthony Fauci—the now legendary face of government on COVID-19? Will it be Joe Biden—if he upsets the Trumpster, much to the delight of all media who hates him with a passion? Or will it be…George Floyd?

It’s inescapable to not think that had it not been for the tragic way by which he lost his life, the world at large would never have known or thought of this man. His death at the hands of four police officers has solidified his place in history. His persona has risen to hero status.

Unless a miracle cure shows up, or a vaccine to fight off the coronavirus, my money is on George Floyd. But I’m not a betting man. The cause of civil rights and the evils of racism are themes that win the day for journalists.

Some might even suggest that Colin Kaepernick be nominated. After all, the former NFL quarterback was the victim célèbre of kneeling during our national anthem. Now he has a host of voices apologizing for not recognizing his contribution to our public awareness. Even the commissioner of the NFL has re-thought kneeling.

Hopefully, we’re now all on board with the idea that black lives matter. Or we should be. That message, in some form, has been around a long time.

But who determines it is true? Without a source of moral truth—an idea mocked in the very minds of many who advocate social justice and racial fairness—we are left to the poor secular mind to create our values. That is, for the most part, worthless. 

It is many of these social issue righteous ones who yield up their souls for the right to kill babies by abortion. Black babies, too. Millions of them. What happened to black lives matter here?

It is the same secular minds within Hollywood that value talent only as far as it makes them rich or gives them pleasure. How about all the actors and actresses pitching us on their ideas of how to get along while dumping spouse after spouse? Do those broken lives left behind matter?

Then there are the famously rich. Some are seemingly quite generous and now are offering large sums to be seen as caring about the disadvantaged black or brown population in our nation. For some reason, do these groups matter more now?

The church cannot escape this either. Millions who participate in weekly worship services being told to “love your neighbor as yourself” somehow have a new idea of what “neighbor” means. Really?? You’re just learning this?

Many of the protestors believe that a big step forward is to tear down statues of historic American leaders who failed the test of being shining cultural examples. But this is hypocrisy as well. What god-like idols are being held onto by these protestors—some who loot and destroy property?

To answer the question as to who decides whether black lives matter, or whether any lives matter, requires an ultimate judge of righteousness and justice. And there is only One. He is the immortal, invisible, God only wise!

It is He who has determined that all human life is made in His image. It was His Divine Son who on His cross of crucifixion would say, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24 (NASB) And then He died. To forgive all of us who will accept His gift for our foolish and sinful lives.

Put in the most glorious way, your life matters. Red, yellow, black, brown…even white. All are precious…in His sight.

Let’s not kid ourselves. None of our “Person of the Year” candidates hold a candle to the Righteous One.

And one day…to Him…we shall all take a knee. (Romans 14:11)

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Monday, June 22, 2020

A Crying Shame

And another one’s gone. At least for now. Another faith dropout who leaves most in the faith community of Christ followers shaking their heads.

Like me, they’re not dissing the soul of the doubter. It’s more the deep wondering of how the richness of an abundant life and an eternity with a loving God loses its appeal after one spends years in the trenches of faith. And when the doubter has served as a frontman for a Gospel preaching popular Christian music group, it punches the gut a bit harder.

Jon Steingard has been the lead vocalist for a Christian rock band known as Hawk Nelson. I saw them perform in my area a few years ago. They’ve had their share of popularity.

Jon “came clean” recently in saying, “After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor’s kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word ‘Christian’ in front of most of the things in my life—I am now finding that I no longer believe in God.”

Adding to his public confessional, he wrote that his “belief in God truly began to unravel” when viewing various versions of Bible stories. Said Jon, “Once I found that I didn’t believe the Bible was the Perfect Word of God—it didn’t take long to realize that I was no longer sure he was there at all.”

Steingard is not a single strand in the doubter category. Adam Tucker from Southern Evangelical Seminary listed several notable faith departures in recent years, including Rhett and Link (popular YouTube comedians and former Cru staffers), Marty Sampson (Hillsong worship artist), Michael Gungor (lead singer for the Christian duo Gungor), and Joshua Harris (a man in his former life an extremely popular Christian author and pastor.)

Some have renounced Christianity outright. Others are the doubters. Add to that list several well known Christian leaders, authors, and musical artists “who are drifting, or have drifted, from biblical Christianity to a more liberal/progressive version of ‘Christianity.’”

It would be no surprise to any who know me to hear that I have a generalized disgust for the liberalization of the Christian church. I’ve interviewed many hundred faith leaders over the years. Quite a few have compelling stories of coming from “lives of quiet desperation,” as Thoreau put it, and then discovering beauty in the redemptive life of Jesus.

The public doubters do a disservice to the works of great men like Chuck Colson and Ravi Zacharias and former atheists Lee Stroebel and Josh McDowell—all of whom invested their lives to clearly show that faith is a thinking man’s (and woman’s) endeavor. There are countless others in their camp.

And let’s not forget the martyrs. I’m not talking about the kind that blow up other people because of some bizarre religious belief. I’m speaking of those who are so convinced (as were Jesus’ disciples) of the reality of their faith that they yielded up their lives at the hands of murderous haters. As many of them still do today.

How should we who hold to the faith respond to these departures? Fellow Hawk Nelson band members told People magazine that, “God is still for Jon and he still matters,” and “that truth doesn’t change just because we question it.”

And they haven’t given up on their friend. The three men who remain in the group said in a statement, “We are called to love one another unconditionally, as God loves us…Ever thankful and grateful for how God has used this band, the music and the relationships, and how he continues to do so.”

I put forth two takeaways from the faith departures. First, Jesus' early disciples followed Him at His request. Did they choose Him? In John 15:16 we read these words of Jesus, “You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last.” It is God who initiates the call to us.

Second. “saving faith” is one that endures. Hebrews 1:23 states, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

God has given us all we need to truly believe. To walk away from His great salvation is a crying shame.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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Monday, June 15, 2020

A Man of Honor

I miss the television dads of a bygone era. My favorite western TV dad was Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors). He proved to be a very solid single father. As did Fred McMurray in playing the role of a widower and aeronautical engineer, Steven Douglas. He was raising three sons.

Family men who stood out as model dads were Hugh Beaumont—Ward Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver. He was an ordained Methodist minister. Let’s not forget some other dads like Andy Taylor! (Andy Griffith). And Howard Cunningham (Tim Bosley) on Happy Days. Or Mike Brady on the Brady Bunch (Robert Reed).

The Family Matters patriarch Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson) had his hands full! And Bill Cosby (all things considered) was a superb model father on The Cosby Show for several years.

To our own misfortune as a nation, many families are dad-less. Statisticians tell us that nearly 20 million children in America live without a father in the home. That equates to almost 1 in 4!

Much data has been gathered over the years to warn us what can go wrong when a father is missing. Children are more likely to grow up with financial challenges. School dropouts increase. The number of violent crimes of teens stems from boys growing up in fatherless homes. And teenage pregnancies increase among the girls.

Focus on the Family also reports:
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children come from fatherless environments.
  • 70% of teen suicides occur in homes where there isn’t a dad.
The website has a good article titled, “10 Traits that Separate a Great Dad from Just a Good One.” Here are some pointers from their list:
  1. He Teaches His Children to Appreciate Things: A good father never lets his children take what they have for granted. From the food on the table to the good education he's paying for, a good father will make his children see the value in everything they have.
  2. He Accepts that His Kids aren't Exactly Like Him: He won't expect his kids to live the same kind of life he does. He respects their values and opinions.
  3. He Spends Quality Time with His Children: A dad knows how to have fun with his kids too. He takes the time to listen to his kids and have a good, easy chat with them.
  4. He Leads by Example: A good father is above the old "do as I say, not as I do" credo. (He) illustrates the importance of affection by professing his love for their mother in front of them. And he won't fight with her in their presence.
  5. He's Supportive and Loyal: A safety net, a good father is also the person his kids turn to when things go wrong.
  6. He Challenges His Kids: A father wants his children to be the best they can be, and gives them challenges that help them grow as human beings.
  7. He Teaches His Kids Lessons: A father figure is the prime source of knowledge in the ways of men, and teaches his kids accordingly. (He helps them become) well-rounded members of society. He especially instructs them in proper etiquette, on being honest and keeping their word, and on being thankful.
  8. He Shows Unconditional Love: This is the greatest quality of a good father. Even though he gets upset at his children's faults and may lament that they did not attain what he hoped for them, a father loves his children no less for it.
As for our Heavenly Father, the apostle Paul explained to the Romans, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32 (ESV)

Never underestimate the value of a dad and the influence he has on lives. The man of honor will stay true to his wife and build character into his children. When he does, Father’s Day is even more special.

Appreciate your dad? Home Depot is waiting.