March 21, 2011
Dear Marketplace Friend,
Blame the Boomers. Count me in, I suppose. My – our – generation has insisted that we examine the whole sociological/cultural thing… and renegotiate everything. “Start with a clean page” is the First Commandment in the Boomer Top Ten. We don’t accept anything as a “given;” except, of course, that there are no givens.
Our most-typical venues for The Master’s Program are private clubs – some are city clubs, some country clubs. Their standard: at the front entrance is a brass plaque that reads, simply: “Dress Code.” For the pre-Boomer contingent, those two words are sufficient; they get the message. For my age peers – and the next generation – that statement requires line-item definition, every single time they come in the door.
The fact that “jeans of any color” are not allowed doesn’t stop modern folks. “Cell Phones Not Allowed” – the plaque on the other door – doesn’t make anyone hit the kill switch, either. I play the embarrassed host as I watch successful, accomplished, 97th Percentile marketplace leaders clad in designer jeans talking excitedly on their Android or iPhone… just inside the doors with “The Rules” etched in bronze. Didn’t these guys’ mothers teach them anything?
We seem to have a problem these days with the very notion of exclusivity. To propose that there is anything – anywhere – that can be confined to convening or serving a specific group with self-limiting criteria seems to have become morally indefensible.
I was conducting an Executive Briefing for The Master’s Program recently; I made the point that we are a mentoring program for proven Christian marketplace and ministry leaders. A man in the room raised a question. “It seems like you are trying to be exclusive. Isn’t this a Christian program? Why aren’t you willing to offer it to the masses?”
It didn’t set well when I told him about one of my inspirations for TMP; it traced back to Jesus (pretty good source for a What Would Jesus Do? perspective, I thought!): “… He called his disciples (the whole group of Jesus’ followers) to him and chose twelve of them, whom he designated apostles …” (Luke 6:13). From the bigger group – maybe dozens, maybe hundreds? – Jesus hand-picked just 12, and dealt with them exclusively. He didn’t apologize for being exclusive.
When God does things by exclusion, he has every right to do so. He sets standards, and he doesn’t apologize about enforcing them. When Jesus described heaven, he likened it to a wedding banquet hosted by a king: “… when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘… throw him outside … For many are invited, but few are chosen.’ ” (Matthew 22:11-14). Harsh? Not really; the sign says, “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”
Some things in life are inclusive, and then become exclusive. That’s the way God tends to operate. Everyone is invited – that’s inclusive – but, if you accept the invitation, you do so on God’s terms. That’s exclusive, and there is no getting around it. Whether it’s no jeans, or black berets, or appropriate wedding attire, there are times when you either play by the rules, or you just don’t play …