Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving in the New Testament

Giving thanks is a Biblical concept. But what does the Bible tell us about giving thanks? How should we give thanks? Why should we give thanks? To whom should we give thanks? For what reason should we give thanks? What benefit do we receive for giving thanks? What circumstances surround giving thanks?

I wondered precisely what the Bible teaches about giving thanks. It was a bit to look back at the Old Testament for a single blog article, but I looked at all the references in the New Testament. Most of them are here, and most of them are found in Paul’s writings. There are several references to people giving thanks to Jesus or Jesus giving thanks for meals. But one meal in particular was interesting: the Last Supper:

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:27-28 ESV)

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19 ESV)

The ordinances (sacraments, to non-Baptists) are the ordained practices that symbolically bridge soteriology and ecclesiology. Paul seems to agree with this as he links thanksgiving with salvation. It’s not that thanksgiving produces salvation but salvation produces thanksgiving.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV)

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11-12 ESV)

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15 ESV)

Paul often gives thanks for people, usually because of What God is doing for them and in them, particularly with regard to the gospel:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18 ESV)

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4-8 ESV)

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. (2 Corinthians 8:16 ESV)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 ESV)

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10 ESV)

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. (2 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV)

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV)

Paul even once gives thanks publicly to a couple instead of to God, although I imagine that he also gave thanks to God for them.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. (Romans 16:3-4 ESV)

Paul also commands Christians to give thanks typically combining the command with prayer and corporate worship:

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:11 ESV)

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV)

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17 ESV)

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2 ESV)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)

And Paul says this is the will of God:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

What happens when people don’t give thanks? Paul contrasts giving thanksgiving with several things:

If you know who God is and do not give thanks to Him, your thinking becomes futile:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 ESV)

The answer for an evil tongue is to give thanks to God. The two are not compatible:

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4 ESV)

Anxiety should be answered with prayer and thanksgiving, requesting help to assuage your anxieties from God.

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

There are many instructive passages that don’t fit in these categories:

Thanksgiving to God for our salvation is part of our identification as His children. Although we sin, we can give thanks to God for His grace:

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:24-25 ESV)

The following passages seem to say that as long as we give thanks to God for something He will bless our use of it. While they certainly speak of Christian freedom, the passages in the previous section should be enough to indicate that simply giving thanks for sin does not justify sin.

The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:6 ESV)

If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? (1 Corinthians 10:30 ESV)

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4-5 ESV)

Some of the passages that make reference to thanksgiving don’t entirely fit into the categories I’ve mentioned so far. These require some special comment, for each has some special information to add to thanksgiving:

At least in some contexts, giving thanks is encouraged to be public. The reason is that giving thanks to God builds others up.

Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. (1 Corinthians 14:16-17 ESV)

This passage is interesting in that in our salvation, God has not removed us from this world but leaves us here to fulfill the Great Commission. While this is a world of pain, the task of proclaiming God is a matter for thanksgiving.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians contains a promise that God will supply His people what they need in order to accomplish His purposes in them. First, the provision of the gift of proclaiming God will produce thanksgiving in us. Second, others will glorify God on account of us. Third, others will pray for us. Fourth, this gift results in many thanks because it is so great that it is inexpressible.

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:10-15 ESV)

While most of the thanksgiving passages are in Paul’s writings, John offers some thanksgiving in Revelation. This is one of two passages I found and contains an expression of praise that calls for thanksgiving to God.

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7:12 ESV)

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Are You Overextended in Ministry? Then Train Your Replacement

It's too common for ministers to become overextended. Too many horror stories of pastor's families going without their father have been repeated over the years by countless family members. There's a reason that the term "Preacher's Kid" has a stigma to it.

Additionally, there's a reason that there is abundant council to ministers who "burn out". Some even suffer various emotional a physical breakdowns. How often do you see your pastor obligatorily attending every event in the church or even feeling the need to lead every event in the church? Do you have events so large at your church that some staff members or other ministers stay up to all hours at the church, even for weeks before the event, in preparation?

This pattern doesn't just go for pastors or other staff members. Most churches can identify perhaps 20% of their congregation who do perhaps 80% of the volunteer work in the church. When someone is identified as an achiever of sorts, they are asked to do the work. It's easy to seek out those who are known to accomplish a lot of work in order to enlist their efforts in the newest endeavors. These people too often burn out as well. The all-too-common counsel for them is that they need to learn to say "no".

Some people have trouble saying "no" because they believe that the work won't get done if they don't do it themselves. The problem with this is that it indicates a deep-seated distrust of other people. Often this trust is not unfounded. That is, there have been times when they enlisted the help of someone else who failed them. So they gave up trusting other people. These super-ministers have all the experience to best accomplish the task because they have learned from their failures and know how it's supposed to be done so that there is no failure. The problem is that they don't see any success beyond anyone else's failure.

If you do the ministry of ten people, then you have taken the responsibility to minister away from nine other Christians. Is it not a better ministry to disciple others to do the excess minstry you have on your plate?

And in order to do this, you have to allow others the opportunity to fail so that they learn the same way you did.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Art and the Revelation of God

To commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of the King James Bible next year, Crossway has commissioned artist Makoto Fujimura to illustrate The Four Holy Gospels, what they call an “illuminated book of the four Gospels.” The video below is a good introduction to this.

Fujimura - 4 Holy Gospels from Crossway on Vimeo.

I’m an artist. I’m not a prolific painter although I can do that, but my medium is music. I love to paint the air with textures of tones and colors of harmony and rhythm. This is beyond the pale of simple melody and orchestration, but a bit on the abstract: imagine the sort of improvisation you might find in jazz applied to the Romantic music of Mussorgsky or Dvorak with some Vangelis thrown in.

Everyone loves to express themselves. Most people express themselves best verbally. Some people express themselves best in nonverbal ways. I can speak well if I’m somewhat scripted, but go off-script and I have trouble saying what needs to be said. Many artists are like this.

Traditional art uses images and symbols that exist already in social discourse in order to convey meaning. It’s not unlike verbal idioms. More contemporary art uses common images to establish new symbols. A view from the inside of a crashing wave can be like a tunnel that gives a sense of confinement and anticipation. An overgrown flower in a pot conveys the absurdity of pretense.

Modern art that has no sociological foundation is almost pointless except that it might convey some raw emotion. Reds might indicate fiery things. Greens might indicate serene things. Generally, modern art combines raw aesthetics with communication on this level. The interesting thing about Makoto Fujimura’s art is that it is rooted in a traditional Japanese style. If you aren’t familiar with Japanese art, then you might miss the traditional aspects of his symbolism that lend greater meaning to the blobs and lines of various colors that seem to comprise his art.

I had a discussion with a man last week, I’ll call him Ned, who was upset with a knowledgeable Bible teacher, who I’ll call Jonas. There was some aspect of theology that Ned didn’t get and asked Jonas about it. He said that the Jonas, as good a Bible teacher as he was, danced around the issue claiming to understand it. I asked what the answer was precisely that the Bible teacher gave. Ned obviously couldn’t repeat word for word what was said, but he was able to convey the general gist of Jonas’ comments. Then he asked me why Jonas just couldn’t admit that he didn’t understand.

From what Ned told me I was able to deduce that Jonas actually gave a good answer and truly understood the issue. What Jonas didn’t understand is that Ned was unable to understand the theological concept at all. And what Ned didn’t understand is that Jonas actually understood and knew what he was talking about.

Human beings in general have a problem with thinking that other people should be able to understand what we understand. Many of us even think that others should know what we know even though they haven’t particularly been exposed to the information. My fellow students at the Bible College I attended were aghast that I had never heard of Steve Green, the well-known contemporary Christian musician before.

Different people understand different things better than other people. One person may understand how to manages workers better than someone who understands resource management better than the first person. So they might function well as a team where the second person plans the work and the first person motivates everyone to do the work. They have a problem, however, if one of them thinks that their area of expertise gives them the edge in dismissing the work of the other. Someone who is good at motivating people to do things, for example, might think that they don’t need to heed the warnings of the other who might suggest applying the workload in a more efficient manner. Or the one who is good at planning resources might balk when the other guy tries to tell him that the people just can’t work a certain way.

But for some reason most people too often get upset when others apprehend the world differently than they do. People get angry when others don’t have the wherewithal to accommodate their sensibilities. I pulled up to a stop sign at an intersection in town once where I needed to turn left. The view to observe oncoming traffic from both directions was obscured by the landscape so I inched forward until I could see. Another man turning left onto the road I was coming from was upset at my position because he had to turn more sharply than he otherwise would have to in order to turn onto the road. He stopped in the middle of the intersection blocking my way, got out of his car, and proceeded to cuss me out for being too far forward. He didn’t understand that that was the only position where the traffic could be safely viewed.

So we too often get upset when others don’t understand what we understand. We also get upset when we think others pretend to understand things that we don’t understand where they actually do understand. We like to think that if we don’t understand something, it can’t be understood. So Ned asked me angrily, “Why can’t Jonas just admit that there are just some things we can’t understand?” So I was left to explain to Ned what I explained just now so that he wouldn’t despise his brother over it.

There are some things that are difficult to convey because very few people can understand them. Sometimes art becomes the means for expressing what would otherwise be inexpressible. A few times in the video, the transcendent nature of art is mentioned. As for having any particular meaning, this is artsy gobbledygook. But it speaks of a general sense of this matter of attempting to express the inexpressible. But this is in some way troubling in the description of Crossway’s The Four Holy Gospels as being “illuminated”. Art usually conveys a general sense of some idea but rarely, if ever, conveys any particular concept. If anything, the words of scripture illuminate the art, rather than the art illuminating scripture.

But the biggest danger of art is the focus on self. Look at the video from about the 5:00 mark. The lady narrating expresses what is most troubling about the art community by about 5:11. The purpose for all that Fujimura does, as she lists it, is to reveal himself; to say, “this is who I am.” The problem that most Christians have with art in this sense is that if the Bible reveals anything about us, even as individuals, it’s that we are not worthy to be revealed except as sinners in need of God. As such, the Bible is here to reveal God in His beauty and glory, not man.

Of all artists, the greatest is God. Even in it’s fallen state, this world as created by God is intensely beautiful. For those who have the Holy Spirit all of creation reveals the Creator. The great literary work that He created is upheld by His creation and formed of the history of his people. While all of creation reveals the Creator, it is the words of scripture that illumine Him to us that we might know to Whom all this creation of His points. Therefore, art that glorifies God never illumines, it points.

We worship God with the artistry of music. But music is merely an art. Music never illumines, it points. I’ve never been in a worship service or known a piece of music that fully reveals God. There are some words of worship, encouragement, or instruction in the lyrics, where there are lyrics, but never a complete revelation. I know songs and hymns with the nuts and bolts of the gospel, but that is the closest I have seen to a complete revelation.

So it is that we can worship with art, but only if we seek to point to the revelation of God. One man talked about artists feeling restricted by Christianity. Look at the video again starting at about 2:45. The man talks about a sense of spirituality among artists, but that they felt confined by Christianity. If the goal of the artist is to use art to draw people away from God, then they will feel confined by Christianity. If their goal is to point the way to God, then they will not feel confined; in fact they will feel freer than they would otherwise.

And it is not art that transcends, but God who transcends. Only when art is fixed on the Great Artist, and our minds are fixed on He who is all-knowing and all-wise, can we truly communicate through the many means given to us.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Atheism and the Problem of Sin

Atheists are interesting. First, they argue against the existence of God based on the problem of evil. God can’t exist, they say, because God wouldn’t allow evil to exist in the world. Second, they argue that although it seems there must be some sort of natural law of morality, there is no absolute standard of good and evil. So, on the one hand they say that God doesn’t exist because evil exists and on the other hand they say that evil doesn’t exist because God doesn’t exist.

What is further interesting is that lack of intellectual development beyond this. Some atheists recognize the conflict to some degree and try to rectify it by a weak appeal to some natural law of morality. This only results in a relative morality that still fails to address the universal question.

Evil in the world creates a paradox that confuses our thinking on every issue since evil lies in the intents of men. Any attempt to construct a true philosophy is frustrated by this. As a result, we have need to debate and wrestle not merely over issues of behavior and relationship, but over concepts and ideas. This fact alone should be a clue that things are not as they ought to be. But if intellectual conflicts are normal, then they should be expected in our theology. However, atheists point to theological paradoxes as though they are unique to theology when theology alone answers the presence of the paradoxes. So atheists pursue the resolution of the paradoxes of atheistic philosophies and fail to consider any resolution of theological paradoxes proposed by theists.

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The recent cruise liner incident reminds me of stories of the way many people historically came to the United States, some with great desire to come here, some quite against their will, but all with varying degrees of what we would consider bad travel conditions. Many immigrants from Europe coming to Ellis Island were on ships living in each other’s vomit and raw sewage. Slaves from Africa had it the worst being packed in like they were mere cargo with no thought to their hygienic needs. Many didn’t survive the voyage and some were thrown overboard alive for various reasons.

Just a thought – do you get angry and complain because of some minor inconvenience? We have gone from being people who can tolerate the poorest of conditions and even great injustice to come to America to a people who can’t seem to tolerate the smallest inconveniences like waiting a few minutes for a table in a restaurant, cleaning up after a young child, cleaning toilets at a spiritual retreat, watching someone not do something your way and letting them do it their way because they are still getting the job done… the list could on.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mentoring the Next Generation of Christian Leaders

This is the eighth and last post of a series on Godly Leadership.

In my last article I talked about people who have the lower gifts although all must desire the higher gifts. But what happens when one desires the higher gifts and might have the potential to have those gifts?

Discipleship is part of the great commission. Discipleship is not simply giving people theological information. Discipleship involves teaching people how to apply the scriptures. But it goes even beyond that. One can have all the knowledge and experience to apply truth, but not have the desire for God. Discipleship focuses on imparting that desire and how to fuel the desire with knowledge and application of the scriptural truths.

As I discussed in the last article, everyone in the Body of Christ has gifts given by the Spirit to minister within the Body. While each is to be a leader in his or her own right with regard to the gifts each has been given, there must be some leadership to help them plug in where they are needed in the Body. I have had highly trained, well-gifted, full-time ministers tell me that they wished they had some of my gifts. Yet none has yet to call on these gifts from me. If they see a need for my gifts in the Body of Christ, they should ask me to use the gifts I have in the way that they would use them if they had them. We should envy no one their gifts, but call on those people who have the gifts we need to help us as we minister in the Body of Christ. Call this “mentorship on the go”. It’s the ministry we give to each other on momentary basis by helping each other to grow in ministry by seeking the gifts in each other that God has provided for our fellowship.

John Piper addressed this briefly. Look at this video. Starting at about the 3:00 mark, he discusses something that we don’t generally think about:

What I see too often follows this pattern. Someone has a gift and has the desire to use that gift but doesn’t have an outlet that is apparent for use of that gift. There is no opportunity. These people are typically frustrated in ministry and can become defeated. So when they express their defeatedness, the typical response is to acknowledge that the person has a gift to use. This is not helpful because that’s the source of their defeat. They are unable to use their gift.

Piper talked specifically about prayer, but it applies to all aspects of the use of any gift. For example, one may say, “I don’t think I’m good enough to teach.” This really means, “I think I can teach and I have learned much that I desire to share with others, but I don’t get the idea that I’m really needed among a sea of other teachers, or other people don’t really seem to want to learn anything from me.” A typical response may be, “You are a very intelligent man. I wish I could understand things as well as you do.” The intent may be to encourage, but it still doesn’t change the fact that that person is unable to use his gift. In fact acknowledging a gift that is not being used in this way as such is almost like saying, “I want to have your gift to use it for myself, but I don’t want you to use your gift to minister to me.”

Therefore, not mentoring can be an issue of pride for many leaders. Some leaders may feel threatened by others in their congregation who want to grow in ministry. Some leaders may simply not have the time. But at some point the idea of taking on too much ministry can be a matter of pride. This is where a minister thinks that he is the only one capable of doing all that needs to be done instead of building up others, mentoring them, to do join in the work, and trusting God even in the differences in their gifts to accomplish His purposes through different people.

In any case, with regard to using the particular gifts we have been given, or developing especially the greater gifts, mentors are necessary. It is my firm belief that Christian leaders need to mentor the next generation of Christian leaders. Perhaps this is where the wisdom comes that allows people to know how to make particular decisions or determine particular direction with only general principles. I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had anyone mentor me after this fashion, but I highly suspect that this is true.

Jesus mentored the twelve. Paul was mentored by Ananias and the disciples in Damascus. Paul mentored Timothy. Paul instructed Timothy to mentor others in his church (2 Tim 2:2). Mentoring is a Biblical pattern and I suggest it is vital to a church to raise up new generations of Christian leadership through intentional mentoring.

And with that ends this series on godly leadership.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Don’t Waste Your Mediocrity

This is Part seven of a series on Godly Leadership.

You may be wondering what a teaching on mediocrity has to do in a set of teaching on leadership. While it’s true that there are mediocre leaders, one would wonder why all such teaching wouldn’t be geared toward making leaders great. While we should want leaders to be great, and we should want to be great leaders, we should understand that most of us will never be great leaders no matter how mature we become in the faith. Maturity in the faith and great leadership abilities are not synonymous.

Look at 1 Corinthians 12. Throughout the text we see that different people have been gifted for different things. Some have gifts that appear more honorable than others (1 Cor 12:21ff). For a reason not all the gifts are the same, or of the same honor or strength. God intends the Body to have equity, but we all know that that’s not the way it pans out. Imagine the most worthless person in your congregation. There is the person who has the medical condition or bad attitude and can’t seemingly contribute positively. Now think of the leader in your church you admire the most. God intends for you to care for each of these the same (1 Cor 12:25). But you don’t, do you? None of us does like we should. And yet here is Paul’s clear teaching on it that we conveniently ignore.

Does God know that we ignore this? Yes. In fact He had Paul acknowledge that our perceptions are skewed (1 Cor: 12:23). The point is that we each have gifts, but some are greater than others. Paul also mentioned this in verse 31:

But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:31 ESV)

Notice what we are to do here in this verse. We are to desire the higher gifts. The higher gifts, like prophecy, edify the church more than the lower gifts, like speaking in tongues. But will all be gifted with prophecy? Decidedly not. So here we see that the Bible tells us to do something that will never come to fruition: all of us are to desire something that most of us will never receive. I don’t know if it’s more depressing to do this or to realize that most Christians don’t do this.

If you really do this, then what must you think when you won’t ever have the higher gifts that you are commanded to desire? You know that you can’t not desire it. You know that even though you may never have the gifts that you desire, you are supposed to be cared for as though you did, for the lower gift that you have is Biblically just as important. You also know by experience that you will not be considered by people who possess higher gifts to be as important as they are. Those who have more humility may give some lip service to your ostensible importance, but you also know that they likely don’t know what it’s like to not have a higher gift. And when it comes to honoring people, you know that you can do nothing that anyone considers particularly important. It can hurt.

And it doesn’t apply only to when you have no skills. You can have many skills, but no opportunities. I have a pretty broad skill set. However, there’s little opportunity to use most of my skills and virtually no opportunity to use some of my more exotic skills because ministry strategies tend to mainstream the more abundant gifts. As I hinted in my last article, God has not provided for me to use many of my gifts. Therefore, I am relegated to mediocrity in the use of my gifts. I function as one with lower gifts.

But it’s this mediocrity on which I focus. God can do anything and he can use me greatly in the future. All I have are the likelihoods to plan on and it’s likely that I will take untapped skills to the grave. When I see people who are either not able to use the gifts that God has given them or have not been encouraged to grow in their ministry I ache for them. I see in them the potential to serve God in a mighty way and I wish I could help them somehow to grow in this.

What I notice is that people who are mediocre will either tend to seem overly content, not desiring the greater gifts, or will desire the greater gifts. For those who tend to be content the message they are given is to get up and do something. But that doesn’t address their over-contentment. For those who desire the greater gifts, the message is most often platitudes that are meant to encourage them to try.

What I don’t see as a message to these is a call to desire the higher gifts. But I do see a low value placed on those who have lower gifts. That is, they receive no honor for their seemingly unimportant gifts but rather are implicitly expected to honor those who have higher gifts. The message should be that while we may desire the higher gifts, it is important that people have lesser gifts, and those people are indeed important to the Body of Christ.

Next lesson: Mentoring the Next Generation of Christian Leaders

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Theological Tension on Ministerial Leadership

This is Part six of a series on Godly Leadership.

I love Theological Tension. Theological Tension is when the Bible teaches two things which appear to contradict one another. The reason I love it is because God uses it to focus our thoughts on what is important and to give us a guide to change our thinking. Examples of Theological Tension, particularly for Westerners, includes questions like the following:

“How can God be sovereign and still create man with free will?”

“How can we pray to God and ask Him things so as to influence God when God is immutable (unchangeable)?”

Too often debates over these questions end up focusing on what is not important. When we finally figure out what we really do know versus what God is silent on and figure out what is truly important, then the Theological Tension disappears. There is no contradiction, for example, between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.
Any perceived contradiction in scripture is due to our flawed thinking.

Given that, I find some Theological Tension in considering the Bible’s teaching on Leadership. This means that my thinking is flawed. I just haven’t figured out how yet. To be sure, it’s not a direct teaching found in the Bible, but in the storehouse of general Biblical principles that could be applied to leadership. The apparent contradiction is the absence of teaching on how to make particular decisions based on general principles.

Let me give a few examples:

We know that we must preach. Proclamation of the truth is how the truth is propagated, according to Paul. Jesus did it. Peter did it. Paul did it. Paul instructed the churches to do it. How does any preacher know what to preach at any given time? Unless he has a direct word from God, how can he be certain that he is preaching particularly what God really wants him to preach? How can he be certain that God even wants him in the pulpit?

Someone may answer: “God didn’t give us particulars because He wants us to use our minds.”

Me: “But on what basis are you certain that your mind is generating an accurate conclusion toward the discernment of a particular?”

Someone: “That’s the freedom we have in Christ.”

Me: “What verse is that?”

Someone: “There’s not a verse. It’s just that as long as we don’t go against what actually is in the Bible, we’re free to use the gift that God has given us to choose what we think might benefit the congregation.”

Me: “Granted that what you say sounds reasonable. But since it’s not given in scripture how can you be so certain of yourself?”

Someone: “Didn’t I read where you successfully chaired an Evangelism Committee? Tell me how you knew to start the outreaches that you did.”

Me: “It was a shot in the dark. Seriously. I had no confidence that anything positive would come of it or that I was doing the right thing. How can I pretend to have some certitude about something particular that I cannot know is particularly right from scripture?”

Someone: “Well, you just have to trust the Holy Spirit.”

Me: “How does that work toward a particular decision without some direct information from Him like Paul got when he went to Macedonia?”

Someone: “He directs your desires. As long as that desire doesn’t contradict scripture, then you should be fine.”

Me: ”Should?”

Someone: “You know what I mean. So is there anything that you really want to do to serve God?”

Me: “Whatever He wants me to do. I’m available.”
[Back to square one!]

This is how most of my imaginary debates go in this area. It always ends with a general desire to do in particular whatever God wants me to do. Once again, I know that my thinking is flawed in there somewhere.

To be honest, there have been many particular things that I have desired to do. For example, a great outreach ministry would be to take eight gifted vocalists capable of striking up a variety of Christian a cappella music (sans instruments), performing short skits, giving their testimonies, and presenting the gospel. They would be able to walk into a neighborhood or park, start singing, draw a crowd, proclaim the gospel, counsel any who profess Christ, and leave without any permits or set-up time. I have had countless ideas like this one. However, they all require getting other people involved. No one I’ve ever told of this idea is particularly interested. So I must conclude that either my ideas are not of God or I’m going about it all wrong.

Consider this: if it is of God, He will provide what I need to accomplish it. Do I need a mentor to teach me how to accomplish this? God has not provided one. Do I need other people who are interested? God has not provided them. Do I just need to come up with the idea and let others who can lead take it and run with it? I’d gladly do that, but God has not provided those either. Do I need some other way of thinking? God has not provided that yet.

So, If God does not provide what is needed to accomplish what I want to do in His name then I must conclude that God does not want me to do this thing.

So, I’m still back to square one on this… except for one point: This thinking agrees nicely with something I noticed in 1 Corinthians 12. But that’s my next article: Don’t Waste Your Mediocrity

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Leadership and Submission

This is Part five of a series on Godly Leadership.

Understanding that (1) Leaders are not perfect and (2) Leaders are assigned by the authority of God, we must be in submission to God’s leaders – to a reasonable extent.

We have a problem in the Western Church. We are fixated on what has been called the three B’s of the Western Church. These are:

  1. Budgets

  2. Buildings

  3. Butts in the pews.

We tend to place way too much importance on these things. They give us a false sense of importance. Indeed, in the Southern Baptist Convention, we tend to elect presidents on factors similar to these three B’s. Whoever has the biggest is considered prime for inclusion in the running.

Budgets: God has blessed with money, so what can we spend it on to make ourselves look like we are doing the right things for God?

Buildings: New building projects give us something to sell to congregations, and potential members, and make us look like we have a growing church.

Butts in the pews: One reason too many churches don’t do church discipline is because we vie to have churches filled with people. Too many churches are content to allow non-Christians on the rolls for this reason. They may not think of it in this way, but having lax membership qualifications invariably lets in more people who do not have true faith in God.

The thing is that these things are looked at in the Western culture as being vitally important to a church fellowship. I served on the church council in the last church I was in. (It is roughly equivalent to the deacon board of most Baptist churches.) The Finance Committee had more members on it than the Social Ministry and Evangelism Committees combined. Sadly, the congregation in general couldn’t tell the difference between evangelism and social ministry. I was selected to chair the Evangelism Committee and met with the one other person who showed up for the initial meeting of my chairmanship. By the end of my chairmanship, I had several people involved in evangelistic outreaches. I had created the church’s first welcome center, small as it was, with brochures for visitors, and created a regular fellowship time where people could learn of evangelistic outreaches to get involved with. After I left, it all but disintegrated. More important to people were the three B’s. Today, due to this fixation as well as some problems with that particular denomination, the church is all but dead. There are virtually no more youth or even young adults.

I was a leader in that church for a short time, but most of the other leaders were there long before me and many are still there leading a dead church. In their prime, those leaders were the wealthiest in the church. They assumed that the budget they created with their large contributions gave them the right to claim leadership over all things in the church. They set aside hundreds of thousands for improving the pipe organ, renovating the Fellowship Hall and Kitchen, renovating the old Scout Hut into a new meeting room. The most of a budget that I could muster from them for the Evangelism Committee was about fifteen hundred dollars one year.

I suspect that it is a similar case for many dead or dying churches.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

What things will be added? According to the context, material things will be added. Don’t be fooled, however. Some may be tempted to say that our final goal is the material things.

But I’ve already said that I’m not goal oriented. The process is to seek the Kingdom of God and not worry about material things. That’s what’s important here. The passage acknowledges that we need material things. But their proper place is secondary to the process of seeking the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is permanent. Material things are perishable as are most of our considerations regarding Budgets, Buildings and Butts in the pews.

So what are we to do when our leaders lead us to consider the three B’s first? As long as they remain faithful to God, submit to them.

Now it can be argued that pursuing the three B’s is not being faithful to God. Humbly submit your concerns to the leadership and follow their lead. They have been placed in authority over you as all imperfect leaders are. But where they lead you to go against the important things of God, you must be first obedient to God. This is the primary reason I’m not at my former church anymore.

So, understanding that leaders aren’t perfect, but that their authority comes from God, and we are called to be in submission to the authorities that govern us, willingly submit to them and do not try to usurp their authority.

Trying to usurp authority engenders distrust. Submitting to authority engenders trust and your leaders will be more inclined to lend you their ear and consider your plea to a more faithful leadership.

Next article: Theological Tension on Ministerial Leadership

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Leadership and Authority

This is Part four of a series on Godly Leadership.

In the last article I pointed out how our motives are flawed. Even the best of us suffer, to some degree, the struggle of desiring our purposes where they do not match God’s. Even when we follow God’s purpose toward the decision to make some action, that action is still polluted with sinful motives (Romans 7:15ff).

Every sin has at its root the desire to usurp the authority of God. This often plays out in the covering of expenditures. Wealth to the wealthy is not generally an end in itself, but the means to gain power. In every way, we like to have some measure of freedom to do what we want, especially where we might influence others.

Now, this influence is handy when it comes to organizing a fellowship of believers. As long as there is considerable humility behind influence, then any sinful desire to control other people can be nullified. Manipulation becomes encouragement with a couple of factors: One is transparency in leadership. The other is willing submission to a leader. Manipulation builds distrust and resentment as one person tears down another. Encouragement builds trust and fellowship as leaders build up the people who follow them in faith to God. But the tools of manipulation and encouragement are the same.

Therefore, leaders may be both manipulative and encouraging at the same time.

There is a difference between manipulation and encouragement as I use those terms here. Manipulation is when a leader seeks to influence people to some degree against their will otherwise. This grows out of a lack of trust in that others won’t do what the leader wants them to do. Therefore, manipulation uses various psychological and sociological tools in order to control the information available to people so that they will make the decisions to act according to your purposes. Governments all over the world do this. Even here in the United States, the popular media controls the information it dispenses according to its particular political bent. The ever mysterious mentalists use subliminal cues to manipulate people for entertaining effect. Criminal interrogators use similar techniques for manipulating suspects to willingly give up information they may have. Children who do not receive the emotional care they need often end up manipulating in an effort to get the attention they need. Militant atheists often accuse religious leaders of using religious trappings and truth claims to manipulate their followers. Manipulation can be overt or insidiously deceptive.

When we often think of encouragement, we might think of nice things we say to someone to positively nudge them in a helpful direction, whether to boost their self esteem or make them think about some area of work or ministry that they should think about doing more of. The definition of encouragement I use here is a little broader than this. Even this level of encouragement is a bit of transparent manipulation. Everything we say to someone else changes them a little bit. If a leader appears to be confident and clear in the direction he gives followers, then they are encouraged to follow him. So encouragement may mean giving hard directions with a certain confident demeanor that might put some followers off initially. But if the bulk of people follow gladly, then malcontented followers will generally learn to do the same for a time.

But it’s this matter of confidence that I have issues with. As someone who is not gifted with natural leadership abilities, I imagine that people might tell me (and some have) that I need to have more confidence. My issue with confidence is what confidence actually is. The word has its root in Latin and comes to us through French influences: “con fide” literally means “with faith”. To pursue confidence, one must define the object of our confidence. If we place confidence in ourselves, then we have entered a most un-Christianlike place. To have confidence in myself is to assume a power that belongs to God. Rather, our confidence must be in God.

Too often, I’ve noticed that the confidence that many leaders exhibit is a false confidence in the weight of their own opinion. I’ve seen salesmen make promises they didn’t know if they could actually keep and make them with such apparent certitude that they were believable enough to make a sale. I’ve also noticed that this is useful for accomplishing goals.

If I fail in leadership, it’s that I know how uncertain things really are and I’m simply too honest to pretend otherwise. I have all confidence in the promises of God, but I know that my motives are never fully pure. I also know that the motives of people I depend on are never fully pure. So I can’t confidently make promises I can’t keep. I can’t be cock sure that my opinions are right.

Additionally, I know how to manipulate people. I also have a strong distaste for it. If I fail in leadership, it’s because I intentionally err on the side of not manipulating enough. I know that I can push proverbial buttons and pull emotional strings and make things happen. I choose not to do so. If God wants me to lead, He will send followers motivated by the Holy Spirit or an appointment to lead by someone in authority. (And I would silently question their wisdom in asking me to lead anything.)

But I am on rare occasion asked to lead. And when the time comes, I generally lead well because I have no authority other than what is given to me. I have heard others talk about how they are “take charge” kind of people. That begs the question: From whom do they take it? There are certainly times when no one is in charge. However, sometimes people “take charge” when someone else is already in charge. In a Christian setting, I believe this to be a violation of Paul’s admonition to be in subjection to governing authorities (Romans 13:1). God has already placed someone in charge and judging them to be weak in leadership is judging God’s appointment of them. God is the One from Whom comes the authority to lead.

And that is the tie that binds the rambling nature of this article together: God perfectly appoints imperfect leaders to accomplish His purposes.

Next article: Leadership and Submission

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Role of the Holy Spirit – Desiring God

This is Part three of a series on Godly Leadership.

[7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. [9] You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:7-9 ESV)

[14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-15 ESV)

Studying Romans 8 we learn much about our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Aside from what I discussed in the last article, here we can see that those who do not have the Holy Spirit are hostile toward God. Those who have the Holy Spirit have a desire for the things of God as His children.

On the surface this looks like a simple teaching. I’ve pointed it out and you may say, “Yeah. I knew that. No biggie. What’s next?” But we need to dwell on this a little bit.

Do you know anyone who makes decisions with fleshly motives? We must understand that our motives are never completely pure as long as we live in this world of sin and death (Romans 8:10). If our motives were pure, then we would not need the Holy Spirit to guide us and intercede for us when we don’t know how to pray (Romans 8:26). People who don’t have the Holy Spirit may desire to do good things, but any reason they have for this necessarily excludes any desire for God. That’s the best case scenario. But people who have the Holy Spirit will have a transcendent desire for God and be duly motivated by a joy for satisfying Him although they may occasionally fail at pursuing this desire.

In the last article I pointed out a discrepancy between Christians knowing from the Holy Spirit that the Bible is accurate and sufficient and it being difficult for Christians to discern between the activity of the Holy Spirit and their own flawed desires and emotions. The balance lies in the weakness of our motives.

First, we might understand that the canon of scripture is certain. However, none of us fully appreciates the magnitude of God’s communication to us through His written accounts in the canon of scripture. It is a matter of doubt that some who claim to be Christian do not believe that the very source of our information about Christ, the Bible, is very certain.

Roman Catholics, for example, are one such group. While I have no doubt that there are Christians in their number, I doubt that there are many. Why? Because they hold the source of their faith in question as authoritatively lesser than those who are in position over them. While we need to be subject to our governing authorities, they cannot controvert that which secures their authority without bringing their authority into question. They place sinful men over what God has established as His authoritative word. That’s a minor example. Sadly, there are more that are far worse.

Second, the reason we as Christians have difficulty discerning the difference between the Holy Spirit and last night’s lasagna (as it affects our bowels enough to give way to a visceral spiritualism) is, first, because our motives are mixed and, second, because the Bible doesn’t indicate how precisely God will communicate to us directly.

God has directly communicated with me twice in my life. He didn’t controvert any of His word and His messages were to me. I don’t often mention them because what He told me was not intended to edify the Church and His words are not generally fruitful for anything but self-promotion. But I mention it here because I knew beyond any doubt that God was speaking directly to me. Before, I might have thought that God would want to use me as a prophet or something and want me to tell people something in general. Looking back, such thoughts were motivated in part by a desire to be known as a great man of God. Now, I realize how foolish I am and I’m careful to make any pronouncements from God’s word with the fear that I might get it wrong and lead someone astray and also to qualify uncertain musings as those of my own that might be wrong.

Therefore, I’m wary of any who claim to have some word from the Lord that is not taken from scripture. I know how impure motives can generate false prophecy.

What I mostly want to take from this is that the Holy Spirit gives us the great motive which is a desire for God and to see His glory truly revealed, but that we will still harbor self-serving motives that will interfere with making wise decisions in leadership.

Next article: Leadership and Authority

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Role of the Holy Spirit – Cessationism vs. Continuationism

This is Part two of a series on Godly Leadership.

I have often been counseled to “walk in the power of the Holy Spirit”. This is good counsel in general, but it needs much in the way of clarification. And sadly, the clarification either doesn’t come or is very, very vague.

A very encouraging passage is from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11 ESV)

While this particular verse seems to only be talking soteriologically (about our salvation) the passage that it comes from is also ministerial. In other words, it doesn’t merely say that we are alive because the Holy Spirit has made us alive, but that we have a meaningful life because of the work of the Holy Spirit. Of note:
We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). We are led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit is not simply a general spirit of goodness that we have in our hearts as I have heard some say, but He is the Spirit of God separate from our spirit (Romans 8:16). The walk of our life is not merely characterized by, but is centrally a matter of co-suffering with Christ (Romans 8:17) and that we are not immune from the groaning of all creation as we wait for the hope of the return of Christ which brings the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). The Holy Spirit helps us in this weakness (Romans 8:26). All things happen according to the will of God and work together for good (vv 27, 28) because we are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:29, 30). So is all this merely soteriological? Go back up to verse 5 (Romans 8:5) to see that we “live according to the Spirit”. Then go to 1 Corinthians 11 and see how the Holy Spirit provides for our ministry as a Body.

The question remains as to how we perceive the particulars of the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is the heart of Christian epistemology. Two schools of thought define the spectrum among conservative Christians: Cessationism and Continuationism. I’m not sold completely on either school of thought for various reasons. I’ll make some observations and summarize each one.

First, we already know, as I have pointed out, that as believers we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and have His guidance. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13). How the Holy Spirit does this is what is in question:

Cessationism is the belief that the miraculous acts performed by virtue of the Holy Spirit have ceased. The money verse for this belief is:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)

The understanding is that no more scripture is being written, therefore there is no more need for signs and wonders to mark extra-biblical authority. Many cessationists do not deny that miracles can still happen, but that no act or special message from God outside the Bible can be reliably attributed to God through the Holy Spirit.

There are indeed false prophets who claim to speak on God’s behalf. There are people who “feel led” to do certain things and attribute these feelings to the Holy Spirit. However, there is no way for others to determine if such a feeling was given by God or last night’s lasagna. In fact, too many people seem to think that a flutter in your gizzard means that God is telling you something. Some, in hopes that God is giving them the gift of prophecy, claim certain things as prophetic that are clearly not.

But does this discount such things? Could there be a difference between a prophetic word that should be scripture and a prophetic word that God does not intend to be scripture?

Continuationists, in this vein, believe that miracles have not ceased. Not only that, that we are given divine gifts as such to mark, not scripture as such, but the fellowship of the Body of Christ. The money passage for this view is 1 Corinthians 12 (or even Acts 2 for Pentecostals in particular). In this verse, we learn that some have been given the gift of tongues and others have been given the gift of prophecy. While cessationists claim that these should only be interpreted in a merely natural sense (preachers and translators), continuationists understand Spiritual gifts as anything but natural.

Setting these aside for the moment, let’s look at the facts.

  1. Given the history of the Bible and the unanimous acceptance of the canon of scripture by the early churches even before the Council of Nicea demonstrated such agreement, we must understand that the canon is closed. That is to say that we have a known standard by which we can judge things to be true.

  2. This standard is confirmed in the lives of true believers by the Holy Spirit.

  3. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts to use in the context of other believers for the proclamation of the truth of Christ.

  4. The Holy Spirit is, by definition, supernatural.

  5. It is too often difficult for most Christians to discern the difference between the activity of the Holy Spirit and our own flawed desires and emotions.

Given #2 and #5, we may have a problem as individuals, especially where it comes to leadership. I plan to address this problem in the following articles.

Next article: The Role of the Holy Spirit – Desiring God

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Friday, November 05, 2010

Being a Godly Follower

This is Part one of a series on Godly Leadership.

Much is made of godly leadership. Often this is because many pastors, Bible teachers and other ministers are gifted in leadership and teach what they know.

The concept is that each of us has some set of spiritual gifts and abilities to offer and we are to be leaders in our use of them for the edification of the Body of Christ. Generally, some mention of marks of a good leader is given including spiritual marks as well as marks of a natural leader. For example, one Christian leadership course gives the following information:

Natural qualities of a leader:

  1. A spirit of initiative

  2. Willingness to take risks

  3. Sense of responsibility

Desired qualities of a leader:

  1. Personal authenticity

  2. Generosity

  3. Personal accountability for actions

Given that a Christian leader combines natural qualities of a leader with Christian virtues, the Christian virtues that contribute to Christian leadership are:

  1. A living faith

  2. Hope

  3. Love

  4. Humility

This is a good list. However, while all spiritually mature Christians should exhibit these types of qualities, not always will that mean that they will make great decisions or that others will be inclined to trust their decisions. As such, not every Christian is gifted with good leadership abilities. I count myself as one who is not gifted with leadership. I don’t seem to have the ability to pull volunteers together in cooperation toward the achievement of some goal. Partially that’s because I’m process oriented, not goal oriented. That is, goals are nice, but I’m always asking what happens after the goal is achieved. My focus is on planning for continuity rather than ending the game. My fellow Westerners appreciate goal oriented leadership rather than process oriented leadership. Therefore, I cannot be used to lead them because they will not follow.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV)

This passage would seem to indicate that being goal oriented is scriptural. However, the context is that Paul is talking about the purpose for his actions, not actually accomplishing the end of any particular race or goal.

It may be argued that even a process must be broken up into smaller goals that need to be accomplished. However, this fails to miss the full import of the process. The goal in the process is never to accomplish a series of smaller goals. The goal in the process is to continue after a certain manner. Smaller goals are never that which is to be particularly accomplished but they are merely benchmarks along the way.

The endless accomplishment of goals is to be focused on performance. The continuity of purpose is to live in submission to the One who gives purpose.

I have often heard it said that in order to be a good leader one must also be a good follower. I must add to this that we must all strive to be good followers, but that leadership must not be our goal. I say that as a process oriented person. The good process is to live in submission to God. Even Christ lived among us and lives today in submission to the Father. How much more should we be in submission to Him? If we happen to be raised up as a leader, then we will have the heart of Christ in leadership and will exalt Him as our supreme leader, the King of the Kingdom of Heaven of which we are citizens.

Leaders do not think of themselves first. They think of God first. When Moses was confronted by sin against God at Mt. Sinai, he struck the Israelites with a just punishment and thousands died. When Moses himself faced attack by his brother, Aaron, and sister, Miriam, he did nothing in his own defense. God came and defended Moses outside of any action Moses took. When God was slandered by the Philistine giant, Goliath, David took up sling and stone and stood boldly in His defense. When king Saul, God’s anointed, was disrespected David struck those who did so with death. When David was personally attacked by Saul and by his son, Absalom, David fled raising no hand against them. Paul judged Christians with due harshness who blatantly sinned against God. But he suffered severe physical abuse for preaching the gospel without seeking retribution for his suffering. This is the testimony of leadership in the pages of scripture.

Next article: The Role of the Holy Spirit – Cessationism vs. Continuationism

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Godly Leadership Series - Introduction

I’m not naturally gifted in leadership. For all my gifts, leadership is not one of them. Nevertheless, as one called to be the leader of my family, I have found it necessary to study godly leadership so I can do the best I can for them in the name of Christ.

This has not been an easy endeavor.

First, I was in the Marines and naturally promoted into the ranks of non-commissioned officers. As such I was effective as a leader when men had to do what I told them. I didn’t have to convince them except that typically when they saw that my directions yielded results, they had no problems following. That was a matter of demonstrating substance. Now, as a civilian, I typically must elicit the cooperation of others since there is no disciplined mandate for them to follow me. Too often I’m challenged by potential followers on the basis of preference rather than substance. Most people think preference is important. There’s always more than one way to accomplish something and when I have had the opportunity to lead, I’ve been doubted when I leave matters of preference up to others while I dictate matters of substance. At work, I have the privilege of determining the substance of a schedule while my boss implements it. So my part of the plant leadership is one of substance while my boss handles it by matters of preference (often dictated to him from corporate leadership).

Second, there are still some things that frustrate my understanding in the area of leadership and there has been spillover of this frustration into other areas of ministry. Particularly, doing ministry involves some measure of leadership in the utilization of gifts that one has been given.
This struggle involves some insights that might be helpful in the way that we encourage each other in ministry. The next several posts are a series that investigates Christian leadership and the way that we go about making decisions that honor and glorify our Lord.

The assumptions that I make in this series are that potential leaders are already Christians, that they are relatively mature in their faith, and that they are generally conservative in their theology (high view of scripture).

The links here can be used as an index:

  1. Being a Godly Follower

  2. The Role of the Holy Spirit – Cessationism vs. Continuationism

  3. The Role of the Holy Spirit – Desiring God

  4. Leadership and Authority

  5. Leadership and Submission

  6. Theological Tension on Ministerial Leadership

  7. Don’t Waste Your Mediocrity

  8. Mentoring the next Generation of Christian Leaders

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