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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!

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

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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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