Funerals Are Important!

Funerals are mandatory, weddings are optional.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Leadership, 2005

Jerry Evans, a man who was admired by so many for his love of life, his expertise in business and ministry, his passion for encouraging those in ministry and for sharing the Gospel, died a few days ago.

During some dark days in my ministry life, Jerry was a quiet source of encouragement. I was going through a time of challenging my call to ministry, which in my mind was if you were called to ministry, then you should be on a church staff. (by the way, this is a lie) Jerry, through his dry humor and his gentle, brotherly encouragement reminded me that a “calling” does not necessarily mean a professional paid church staff position. Jerry himself was a successful builder and smart business person.

As a result, I was able to recalibrate my thinking and realize that in my case, my ministry, for the most part, is self-funded.

Jerry also helped me in many other ways, during that tough season. I was fortunate to know Jerry, he was an encourager in my time of need, and for that, I am profoundly grateful.

After coming out of a dreary season, Jerry and I did stay connected.
I learned about his death through Facebook where Jerry regularly posted devotional thoughts. A pretty significant accomplishment for a gentleman who was 77.

When I learned of his passing, I mentioned to my wife that we’d be going to his celebration of life service. We both reminded each other of what a good and godly man he was, and we remembered his beautiful wife Becky in our thoughts and prayers.

In 2005, Mayor Rudy Giuliani penned the bestselling book, Leadership, and while the book gave some excellent insights to his leadership style, there was one poignant portion of the book that struck me in a profound way when I read it. Giuliani, reflecting on all of the funerals that he had attended as a result of the 911 attacks stated, “Funerals are mandatory weddings are optional.”

Giuliani, a Roman Catholic, grew up hearing the Scriptures and no doubt this, now famous phrase came from a recollection of Ecclesiastes Chapter 7 verses 2-4. NLT

Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.

    After all, everyone dies—

    so the living should take this to heart.

Sorrow is better than laughter,

    for sadness has a refining influence on us.

A wise person thinks a lot about death,

    while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

Until my dad died in early 2016, we would talk early every Thursday afternoon. Most of the time he would update me on the latest gossip in Fort Valley, talk about politics and who moved, whose kids or grandkids that I might know had married or divorced or had babies. One day, while he was musing about growing older, he made the following statement, “You know John as you get older, you go to a lot more funerals than weddings. People you know, people that you have shared life with, done business with people eventually die as we all do, and it is important to attend their funeral as both a way to honor their memory and support their family.”

Well, I am at that point in my life where I have embraced that am an older man, in February I hit the big 67, and I am beginning to be more aware of the importance of being present at people’s Celebration of Life services.
The other day, both before and after the service Angie and I caught up with friends we’d known over the past thirty-two years since moving to our adopted home state of New Mexico. Another beautiful part of this gathering is the fact that we were able to catch up with a few of the young folks that grew up with our children in Albuquerque.

Jerry’s Celebration of Life service as a time to laugh, cry, reflect, and reconnect. It was a time to review a man who honored Christ is all that he did.

A service like this should always cause us to stop and pause and ask the question, “How am I doing as far as living my life’s values, what will my legacy be?

There is an old but true saying. Two things are for sure, death and taxes. And the Scripture says;

If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8.

Jerry, thank you for living this verse and being a wonderful role model for so many of us.

And for you, May God bless you and give you helpful, hopeful insight as you continue your journey.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

7 Ways to Experience True Success, # 7 – Integrity

When I started this series, I intentionally limited myself to seven traits of true success, you and I both know there are so many more.

This trait will either cause a leader to rise or to fall.

I’ve invested thousands of hours of my life as a people helper as a minister, therapist, and consultant and one of the themes that I have noted over the years is that people who live out this particular trait experience true success in life. Those who don’t, well let’s just say, don’t do as well.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with one of my mentors and a godly man that I’ve had to pleasure to co-facilitate with, Dr. H. Norman Wright. Now 90, Norm is still actively engaged in teaching and sharing things that he has learned over the years. Even at this phase in his life he exudes the biblical model of true success.

Before our conversation, there had been a very public fall from grace of a prominent evangelical pastor who had to leave the ministry because of an affair.

I asked Norm, “What happened?” There was a sudden, somber shift in his tone. He said, “it was an integrity issue.” He went on to explain that for men and women who do lack integrity or compromise their integrity the test will show up through the abuse of money, sex, and power. I will come back to the story of this minister pater.

When Norm shared this, I know intuitively that he was spot on, absolutely correct. 

What is Integrity?

Take a moment and enjoy this little video.

One definition is integrity the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and being morally upright. True success, they type that endures is bathed in integrity.

Sounds honest yet lofty, doesn’t it?

Here is one of my favorite working definitions of integrity. Integrity is what you do when no one is looking. 

If I could teach people one thing, it would be this: Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. It is doing the correct thing at all times and in every circumstance regardless of who is watching. You see it takes years to build integrity and only one poor choice to destroy it.

Over the years our culture has moved away from the strong Christian cultural influence into a more morally relativist world view. We have moved into a time when integrity is not talked about nearly enough. The predominant view, unfortunately, is “the end justifies the means,” has become the norm of so many people. Salespeople make great promises but many times under deliver, people inflate their resume’s, and CEO’s inflate their reports.

Amy Reese Anderson in her article “Success Will Come and Go, But Integrity Is Forever, “shares these poignant insights.

“I think Warren Buffet said it best, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”  If a person is dishonest, it will eventually catch up with them. It may not be today, and it may not be for many years, but it will catch up.

Here is a word of advice for you, if you are wanting to maintain and expand your personal integrity. Avoid those who are not trustworthy. Do not do business with them. Do not associate with them. Do not make excuses for them.  Do not allow yourself to get enticed into believing that “while they may be dishonest with others, they would never be dishonest with me.” If someone is dishonest in any aspect of his life, you can be guaranteed that he will be dishonest in many aspects of his life. You cannot dismiss even those little acts of dishonesty, such as the person who takes two newspapers from the stand when they paid for only one. After all, if a person cannot be trusted in the most straightforward matters of honesty then how can they possibly be trusted to uphold lengthy and complex business contracts?”[i]

If you do what is right, the consequences will follow.

Now back to the pastor I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Gordon McDonald is the pastor. He is a pastor who did the right thing.

Once his integrity breach was known, he fully disclosed his sin and immediately stepped down from his pulpit and entered a season of recovery. He received counseling, spiritual direction and had a group of other men to challenge him, nurture him, and make sure that he, his wife and family were moving through a highly accountable, restoration process. Through this process along with a very public recalibration of his life, Gordon McDonald was reinstated to ministry and is currently serving as the Chancellor of Denver Seminar. In addition to his work at Denver Seminary, he was the Editor for Christianity Today’s Leadership Magazine. Macdonald is also a successful author with over 12 published works.

One of his most profound, Ordering Your Private World, came about as a result of his recovery. In this classic work he gives powerful, poignant principles for maintaining and re-establishing integrity.

How is your private world, that world that only you are aware of?  believe when we are working on guarding our private world be are experiencing real success.

Allow me to challenge you to take a look at this list, which comes off the pages of Ordering Your Private World, and do a little self-evaluation. 

  1. If my private world is in order, it will be because I am convinced that the inner realm of the spiritual must govern the outer world of activity.
  2. If my private world is in order, it will be because I make a daily choice to monitor its state of orderliness. 
  3. If my private world is in order, it will be because I have courageously confronted the messiness of my ways of living and chosen to bring them under rigorous discipline. 
  4. If my private world is in order, it will be because, having faced up to what drives me, I listen quietly for the call of Christ. 
  5. If my private world is in order, it will be because I respond to Christʼs call to be a servant and form my life-purposes, my community-roles and personal identity around His fondest wishes for me. 
  6.  If my private world is in order, it will be because I have made daily determination to see time as Godʼs gift and worthy of careful investment. 
  7. If my private world is in order, it will be because I have begun to seal the time leaks and allocate my productive hours in light of my capabilities, my limits and my priorities. 
  8. If my private world is in order, it will be because I have determined that every day will be for me a day of growth in knowledge and wisdom. 
  9. If my private world is in order, it will be because I seek to use all I learn in service to others, as Christ did. 
  10. If my private world is in order, it will be because I regularly choose to enlarge the spiritual center of my life.
  11. If my private world is in order, it will be because I am unafraid to be alone and quiet before Christ. 
  12. If my private world is in order, it will be because I absorb the words of Christ into my attitudes and actions. 
  13. If my private world is in order, it will be because I have begun to pursue the discipline of seeing events and people through the eyes of Christ so that my prayers reflect my desire to be in alignment with His purposes and promises for them. 
  14. If my private world is in order, it will be because I have chosen to press Sabbath peace into the rush and routine of my daily life to find the rest God prescribed for Himself and all of humanity.
  15. If my private world is in order, it will be because I have made a deliberate decision to begin the ordering process.

A couple of Scriptures to consider:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.Proverbs 3:3-6 NLT

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.James 3:17 NLT

Action Plan

What are three things you can begin doing to strengthen your own personal integrity today? What are the things you are doing to enhance your own true success?

What is one integrity area that you struggle with?  

What do you do on a day to day basis to maintain your personal integrity?

I’d love to hear from you.


(c) 2019 John Thurman