Seven Sayings: I Thirst

Soon Jesus would be dead.  The four last statements of Jesus seemed to happen in quick succession.  The fifth word of seven is, “I thirst.”

John 19:28-29

28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

  • He did this to fulfill another scripture.  Everything Jesus did was in the will of God and no breath, no action, no word was wasted.
    • John 5:39, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
  • The prophecy referenced here is Psalm 69:21, “They gave me also gall for my meat, and in my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink.”

Two drinks

  • Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23 speak of a drink offered to Christ at the beginning of the crucifixion that was mixed with gall.  He would not take it. Gall was used to dull pain.
  • The second time, here, it was simply vinegar, the drink of the commoner.
    • Why was vinegar there?  It was popular among the Roman soldiers.  They would mix vinegar and water to prevent scurvy and other water born diseases.  It was also better at quenching thirst. Think of it as the Gatorade of Jesus’ day.
  • Jesus would drink the bitter cup that he asked the Father to let pass from him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

A man like no other.

  • Matt. 27: 48-49, “And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.  The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him”
  • Matthew 27:50-54, “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. 54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.”
  • 2 Peter 2:22-24, “21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:  24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

What do we see and are challenged to follow?

  • Jesus’ physical humanity.
  • Jesus’ knowledge of the scriptures.
  • Jesus’ commitment to fulfilling the Father’s will.

Seven Sayings: Behold thy…

John 19:25-27

In the previous two statements made by Jesus on the cross, we were given a glimpse into the salvific power of Christ.  The intercessory work was demonstrated through Jesus’ prayer to the Father over the ignorance of the crowds.  The immediate nature of salvation was seen in the words spoken to the penitent criminal on another cross.

Still, at the cross of Jesus we also see the compassion of Jesus and the devotion of many of his Followers.

  • As crowds gather round, Jesus sees five familiar, friendly faces.
    • Jesus’ Mother was there but we don’t see any of May and Joseph’s other children (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21; John 7:3-5).
    • His aunt – Mk. 15:40 (Salome), Mt. 27:56 – mother of Zebedee’s children (James and John).
    • Mary the wife of Cleophas – mother of James and Joses (Mt. 27:56).
    • Mary Magdalene – the woman who Jesus cast 7 demons out (Lk. 8:1-3)
    • The Beloved disciple, John (John 13:23)

Mary was under Jesus’ Care.  No one cares for us like Jesus.

  • We know the song, “Mary, did you know?”  Let’s talk about what Mary knew.
    • She knew the message of Angel.
    • She heard the words of the magi and shepherds and pondered them in her heart (Lk. 2:8-20)
    • However, when Jesus was 12 years old at the temple in Lk. 2:41-52, she didn’t seem to have a full understanding of who He was and His purpose.
  • All, we can tell is she knew he was special.
    • Wedding at Cana – (John 2:1-5)
  • However, more than Mary’s love, we see Jesus’ love and compassion.  Scripture testifies of His care for us as well.
    • 1 Pet. 5:7, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
    • Phil. 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
    • 2 Cor. 12:9, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

What we also see is how Jesus provides much of our care as He gave the care of Mary to John, a representation of the Church, the body of Christ on Earth today.

  • Why didn’t Jesus entrust Mary to Joseph or their other children?
    • Apparently, Joseph was dead.
    • Also, the step-siblings had not followed Jesus as we seen earlier.  At least not at this point.
  • So, instead of finding care in our physical relations and the world…
    • A new relation was given the responsibility
      • Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
      • Mt. 19: 29, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”
        • How can we have a hundred mothers, or children, siblings, and so forth?  No where but through the Spirit in the Church.  We receive a hundredfold the benefits of our human relationships.  To be bound together through Holy Spirit is something stronger than any relationship outside of the Spirit. 
      • We are not a part of this kingdom, we are part of the church.

Seven Sayings: Today

The second sermon in our series, “Seven Sayings from the Cross” comes from Luke 23:35-43.  Everything Jesus did and said had a purpose.  There were no wasted movements or waster breath with Him.  Including the words, He spoke from the cross.  While I don’t think they were intended to be wordy theological dialogues like the parables, they are indeed practical theology.  The complexity and immensity of what Jesus accomplished on the cross are demonstrated in these statements in a way that every person can understand with ease.

Luke 23:35-43

35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. 36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

First, we see this Scripture demonstrating the instant nature of salvation by the grace of God alone received by faith alone.

  • In the very moment, “today,” we receive God’s gracious offer of salvation by faith we are brought into justification and adoption.
    • Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”
    • Romans 8:14-17, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
    • Romans 10:9-13, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
  • Notice, the only thing the penitent thief could do was confess his fallen nature and need of the Father’s grace.  He could do not works, and we can do no works to gain or add to our salvation.
    • Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

This Scripture also demonstrates the reality of heaven and hell.

  • The cross stands as a dividing line between those who receive Christ by faith and those who reject (the two thieves being on each side of Christ).
    • Lazuras and the rich man in Luke 16:9 show the clear teachings of Jesus’ teaching on our eternal destiny.
    • While our culture talks about a lot of grey areas, Jesus did not.  For example, look at Jesus’ “altar call” at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:13-29).  There are two separate gates, two different paths, two different endings to find.  You either bear good fruit or evil fruit.  A person can either build on the teachings of Jesus (rock) or reject them (building on the sand).  There are no grey areas in any of our responses to Christ.  You are either with Him or against Him.

 

Lastly, this Scripture demonstrates the comfort knowing Jesus brings to us.

  • Since salvation is made a reality at the moment we receive Him by faith, we can have confidence before God in the Judgement.  We do not trust in ourselves but in Jesus’ glorious work on the cross and His Word to us.  We find comfort in knowing Jesus, for at the end of our life we will be with our Lord in eternity.
    • 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”

Most Read Posts of 2018

We just wanted to send out a message to thank everyone for another wonderful year on our blog.  The following lists show the ten most-read posts this year.  Looking forward to another year of serving and writing!

10. Christian Baptist Camp Meeting 2018

9. Three reflections on the Old Testament Tabernacle.

8. Don’t Quit!

7. Get out of the cave!

6. A pre-history of Christian Baptists.

5. Apps for small Churches.

4. But, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

3. Camp Meeting Time! 

2. New Research Publication

1. Reasons for going to youth camp.

The Fellowship of the Church

Relationships between Church members possess great influence when it comes to the overall health of the church.  When a church is known for its loving fellowship, the atmosphere may be characterized as warm, welcoming, non-threatening, and hospitable.  On the other hand, if a church is known for not having a loving fellowship than it may be characterized as cold, non-welcoming, threatening, and uncomfortable.

Without a loving fellowship, a congregation will struggle in everything that it does.  Charles Arn wrote, “One of the most important contributions your church can make to members— and nonmembers— is to teach them how to love” (Arn, 2013, p. 127).  This is the foundational belief of why it is so important to focus on congregational relationships.  This is obedience to Christ’s teaching in John 13:34-35 but it also how we come to know God.  In 1 John 4:7-8 we learn that if we love we know God and if we don’t love then we don’t know God.  What we see is that Christian fellowship not only connects members to each other but also connects them to Christ.

There is an undeniable sense in scripture that believers are to have a deep spiritual connection displayed through their relationships.  Passages like John 13:35 word as though our relationships are markers for the Christian faith.  By having a common faith brings believers to a common ground but there is also the understanding that believers have the Spirit of God binding us together in the most holy faith (Ephesians 4:3).  It would be hard-pressed to say there is any scriptural ground for a Christian not to engage in deeply committed and authentic relationships with other believers.  In fact, part of the sanctification a person goes through is to turn their thoughts and feelings out of themselves and towards other believers. 

We see Jesus immediately begin to gather his disciples after his baptism and temptation in the wilderness.  Fellowship with others was of paramount to Christ.  We see when Jesus was away from the disciples in pray but we also see him keeping them at least a few yards away during His most intense night of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus spent over three years of time with the disciples sharing in everyday life.  Jesus one day would look at the disciples and says, “ I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made it known unto” (Jn 15:15).  In relationships, there has to be a mutual honesty and transparency.  Jesus called the disciples friends because He could freely share what God had been doing.  Congregational relationships mirror this “friendly” relationship with confession, exhortation, rebuke, and encouragement. 

After the Holy Spirit descended and indwelled in the disciples, after the sermon of the Peter, after the three thousand souls were added all on the same day of Pentecost, we see almost immediately a close fellowship mentality.  The people seemed to throng upon the disciples as, “they continued stedfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).  It seems the remainder of the New Testament is about the growth of the fellowship of the church and the growing pains it would have to deal with.  In the context of congregational relationships, we read “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13) and “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).  The congregations were to be “of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:2), and that we are to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:25). 

In Paul’s letter to the Philemon, the master of a runaway slave, Onesimus, he focused on the common ground that believers stand on.  According to Paul, fellow believers all share in some in the same grace from God and therefore live in a common mutuality that makes all equal.  The implications this has for churches has been profound.  Coming from this perspective, it would be perfectly acceptable and even beneficial to all, for pastors to approach others as their equals.  This goes for board members and congregational members.  It would also apply to others as they relate to the pastor.  In this view, it would be normal for pastors to have strong relationships with others in their congregations.   

Leading the fellowship.

Paul wrote in Romans 12:3-8 about a diversity of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ.  This diversity ended up causing issues at some point in several of the churches, including those at Rome and Corinth.  With the church at Rome, the tensions between people’s gifting’s were only bolstered by growing racial tensions between Jews and Gentiles.  Such differences are magnified when they are also used to solidify a person’s position and authority over another person.  But these things shouldn’t be in the Christian community.  Paul’s view on this is that the Christian community is a body in which each individual is joined to every other member of the community”.  

Therefore, it seems that both of the scripture describes an approach for all believers to approach relationships with other believers with a high level of openness.  As for pastors, they need to be aware of the dangers of pride from spiritual gifts or different positions in the church bring.  They also need to be aware of the utility of diversity of gifts and backgrounds.  This demands that pastors approach all other believers with a mutual respect, not of a position of hierarchy.  Each believer is valuable to Christ and to other believers.  This usefulness extends past the profitableness for ministry but also for the benefits that relationship brings with other people.   

The biblical foundation begins to point out the importance of fellowship in the congregation.  Loving fellowships, mutual understanding, and ministry partnership are all important components of a healthy congregation.  Without strong relationships in the congregation, the likelihood of a church accomplishing the great commission will be minimal.  To flourish a congregation must have fellowship and it is up to the leaders to promote and cultivate the leaders.  Peter Scazzero writes in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Church (2010), “As go the Leaders, so goes the Church” (p. 20).  A proverb from my dad says, “a fish always rots from the head down.”  The leadership of the church can point the direction of a church’s fellowship by what it teaches and by what it models.  Mostly by what it models how to fellowship in front of the members of the congregation and community. 

If the leaders of the church are together in one mind and one accord they will produce an atmosphere of unity in the church.  When they work together through conflicts and problems they will model to the church how they can do the same with their own personal conflicts.  When the leadership of the church partners together to do ministry it encourages and models how others in the congregation can also work together.  On the opposite side if there is division in the leadership, jealousy, and a whole number of other relational pitfalls then the potential for harm in the congregation is great and the possibility of schism looms.   Since the ramifications of unhealthy congregational relationships are serious, it is important that the leadership of the church keep their ears open to what is taking place in the relationships of the people. 

Fellowshipping better.

This means that leaders have to constantly gauge themselves and the relationships of those in the congregation.  The first part is probably a little harder to do since it might mean adjusting the way we relate to people.  Mel Silberman put it in his book, People Smart (2000), “Think of getting interpersonally fit just as you would think of getting physically fit” (p. 9).  He suggested that we have to do some work to make improvements in our areas of strength and our areas of weakness.  

While individuals can work on their relationship skills it is still the responsibility of the church to foster those relationships by creating atmospheres for relationship building.  The joke is that many churches think of fellowship as the two minutes of handshaking during the worship service or involving the green bean casserole after the service.  While those do play in a part in fellowship but only a part.  They only add to a much larger possibility of a loving fellowship atmosphere in the church.

Russell and Russel (2010) wrote that there are several ways to create this type of atmosphere through the work of the church.  The first is the use of the “large atrium” in which “You can hear the buzz of the crowd long before you arrive in the atrium” (p. 212).  It’s been said that you can see how much people enjoy each others company by how long they stay before and after service.  He offers two more suggestions for creating an atmosphere, recreational opportunities, and meaningful activities like service projects and mission trips. 

The methods are many and very personal to each church’s particular culture.  What may work best at one church may not work at another.   Ultimately, each church need to rely on the biblical foundation for having a loving fellowship and the basic need of people to belong.  Having a loving fellowship can be one of the strongest assets a church has in regards to discipleship and evangelism.  It’s too important to not understand and study.  It’s too important to not intentionally promote and protect our Christian fellowship. 

References

McIntosh, Gary L.; Arn, Charles (2013). What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church. Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Russell, Bob; Russell, Rusty (2010). When God Builds a Church. Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

Scazzero, Peter, (2010). The Emotionally Healthy Church. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI.

Siberman, Mel; Hansburg, Freda (2000). People Smart. Berret-Keohler Publishers, Inc. San Francisco, CA.

Changes that have affected ministry.

The following is a list of major shifts in everyday life that have changed how a large portion of how ministry takes place.  The first list focuses on past changes from the 1950s to 2000.  The second list focuses on changes since 2000 and the trajectory into the future.

Past Changes – 1950’s to Present

  • Shepard to Rancher – Family church minister shifted to larger congregational care.  Pastors are more specialized in their area of care (lead pastor, teaching pastor, executive pastor, worship pastor, youth pastor, etc.).
  • Inclusion – More open and friendly to other faiths/denominations.
  • Community Perception of Pastors – Less respect and use by the community.
  • Communication – Technology has increased ability but apparently disconnected us more.
  • Priority of church vs. family – Church is no longer a priority. 
  • Authenticity – Transparency has increased and generations clash over how much to share.
  • Worship style – In regards to ministry, shorter preaching, more worship arts focus.  
  • Dress – Formal clothing shifted to more casual.
  • Technology – More than just communication, but also travel, audio systems, a/c, and so on.
  • Women in ministry – Women are taking more leadership roles and entering the ministry.
  • Preaching/teaching – Style is more conversational and teaching.  Regularity in times preaching. Not as much “shouting” preaching.
  • More fellowship opportunities – Less time spent together outside of a church.  

 

Future Changes – Present to Future

  • Diversity/Globalization – People are scattered.  Grow diverse or shrink.
  • Age – Baby boomers are moving to old age.
  • Relevant – How much engagement with the culture and changing along with it?
  • Increasing inter-faith – Common ground. Inter-denominationally already accepted.
  • Technology – Continually changing and driving church practice.
  • Family  Dynamics – mixed families focus.
  • Authentic Worship – Experiential (attractional) vs. truth
  • Online Community – Physical church or online church.
  • Diversity – Women and greater ethnicity in leadership.
  • Formal education less valued – Where can I get the training for less debt?
  • No single source of information – Many other opportunities for information and spiritual formation outside of the church.
  • Reverse formation – Younger generations teaching older generations.  
  • Teamwork vs. solo ministry – Greater use of staff in the church.

Some thoughts about lay ministry.

Last year, a friend and I were talking about the ministry of the laity in the church. What is laity? Basically, these individuals are those who serve in the church and are non-ordained (commissioned to preach/pastor). However, in my association of churches, we ordain deacons and their role is different from the pastor. So, laity for us, are those who are not ministers.

Our conversation talked about the training. It seems that most training for those who serve as laity comes from outside the church. Their professions are where abilities, talents, and knowledge is refined. So, we talked about how we could better serve them and help them fulfill their calling to serve.

A part of better service to lay ministry is to understand some foundational aspects of their calling. In a recent survey, I found some very good thoughts that we must be aware to position them for better service. Look at the following points and see if any impact the way you think about the lay ministers in your congregation.

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How does laity describe their call to serve?

  • The respondents defined their calling as something God has asked them to do in a specific church setting. Lay ministry was something tied to the ministry of the congregation.
  • Lay ministers, like most, answered the call to serve in their church in a variety of ways. Some mentioned that they heard God’s voice or felt God nudging them to serve. Others, perhaps with a tug from God, desired to do more for the people and pastor or felt a need in the church could be met through their service.
  • Some of the respondents either sought out the pastor for help exploring their call, or they wanted to serve and did not know where to start.  To me, this shows just how important it is for the pastor to be involved with the placement and growth of lay ministers in their church.

How does laity understand their place in the larger life of the Church?

  • As one of the respondents answered, many think that those in non-ordained ministry do not have much to do.  However, in just a few responses, there were plenty of things for the laity to do.  The list included prayer warriors, background support, group leader, youth worker/volunteer, deacon, worship leader, trustee, serving the homeless, music ministry, teacher, maintenance, sound tech, janitor, yard work, play director/volunteer.  I could begin to add to that list as well.  The body of Christ is unified and diverse.  Everyone has a place.
  • All the responses were closely tied to the pastor.  The first way those in lay ministry evaluated their effectiveness was by the ability and freedom the pastor is able to do their ministry.  Lay ministry was seen as an extension of the pastor’s work.  However, as the next point shows, it goes father than the pastor.
  • Laity also described their effectiveness as measured by others in two ways.  First, like the pastor, lay members also saw themselves as an extension of the whole church.  If other ministries are able to serve more faithfully, these people feel closer to fulfilling their calling.  Secondly, its also based on those outside of the church whose lives are touched by the Gospel and transformed.  The laity is an essential part of ministry to those inside and outside of the congregation.
  • While some were open to God changing their current place of ministry, most described their future in a way connected to present.  The majority were either not sure of any possibilities or thought they would stay in the same area of ministry.  As a pastor, this is a place where we can help people understand their calling at a deeper level.  Also, pastors should take note and continue encouraging the faithful workers and celebrate God providing them to labor in the field.

Leaving a Legacy

A few years ago, I was introduced to a concept called legacy leadership.  This model of leadership is one of many attempts to understand the Biblical perspective on leadership.  What’s funny is there are many people who would try to appear spiritual and say something to the effect, “But the Bible says never uses the word leadership.”  Which is true, but there are many other words that we use to explains concepts in the Bible that still have a strong and clear presence in Scripture (e.g., Trinity).  There is no culture or individual who has not been touched by the principles contained in the theories of leadership.  In this post, I want to introduce you to legacy leadership and then explore how to leave a legacy in your congregation.

Legacy Leadership

Legacy leadership was introduced by researchers Whittington, Pitts, Kageler, and Goodwin (2005) as an exploration of Paul’s approach to leading.  The theory is based on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-2:12.

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. 10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: 11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, 12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

The idea of legacy leadership is that we are perpetuating ourselves through others, but rather the content of our message.  In Paul’s case, this was the method he used to spread the Gospel.  First Thessalonians 1:4b-8 is key to understanding his approach.  He would go into a place where the Gospel was not found and begin to build.  After the Chuch was established in an area, he would ordain elders to lead.  He would leave but would periodically check on the congregations.  As in the case of the Thessalonians, he would find the church not only grew in itself but would spread the Gospel to other areas.  Paul did not have to go to those areas to plant churches because the Gospel was already present.  This was Paul’s legacy.  He was to be a leader worthy of imitation, who would lead others, and in turn, they would lead others.  Paul put it like this in 2 Timothy, 2:2

“And the things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

The researchers then put together the qualities of legacy leadership.

  1. Worthy of imitation.
  2. Boldness amid opposition.
  3. Pure motive.
  4. Influence without asserting authority.
  5. Affectionate and emotional.
  6. Vulnerable and transparent.
  7. Authentic and sincere.
  8. Active, not passive.
  9. Follower-centered, not self-centered.
  10. Changed lives: The real measure of leader effectiveness (Whittington, 2005, p. 754).

Legacy in the Church

So, how can we promote a legacy culture in congregations?  Especially one that is not centered on an individual person but on the Gospel?  I want to offer three examples from a pastor’s perspective.

A life worth living shared through testimonies.

First, as a pastor, I know and understand the importance of living a life worthy of imitation.  Again, some people trying to act spiritual say that we don’t follow others.  However, Paul, as we read, shared many times to follow Him.  Why?  Because he was following Christ and wanted us all to go to the same place He was going.  We ought to act in a way at all times as an example to believers and unbelievers (1 Tim. 4:12-16).

Still, one of the best ways I see this achieved by everyone in the church is through testimonies.  The testimony of believers shared through living life faithfully and through vocal testimony of God’s grace and goodness.  I can remember many dear saints testimonies, and they make an impact on me daily.  The same is true for others as what we celebrate proliferates.

Intentional discipleship of the next generation and new converts.

We really need to emphasize the importance of discipleship in our congregations.  However, we shouldn’t put all our energy into one method.  Most churches have a Sunday School program, and that’s great. Yet, more can be added.  Connecting the church to formal Bible and ministry classes are essential as well.

Yet, that will all fail if there is no intentional thought given to modeling and being a daily example in front of the next generation of believers and new converts.  It is important that we invite them into our daily lives, homes, and activities.  So many people have a misconception about what a Christian does every day.  The disciples basically lived with Jesus for three and a half years.  They ate what He ate and did so much together.  And, we can say that Jesus never did anything with wasted breath.  Every moment with Jesus was an intentional building block of their discipleship.

Investment in the lives of those in our seats.

This final area is significant to me.  Many times we bring others into our congregations to fill needs.  This often happens in smaller churches because they may not have the talent.  However, I’m not for stealing sheep.  Instead, I think it is more important to invest in the people in your current congregation and equip them to serve.

I want to give an example of how this has happened in our congregation.  When I first started pastoring, we wanted more musicians.  We had a piano player, and I could play guitar, bass, and drums (but not at the same time, ha!).  So, we could have asked for others to come and help, but we didn’t.  Instead, I offered to give free lessons to anyone who wanted to learn the guitar.  Three people in the congregation took up the offer.  Within just a few months, they were learning and taking part during worship service. Eventually, this ability developed in the church spread to them learning the other instruments as well.

What can you take from this example?  Let us say you will need a new piano player in a few years or as soon as possible.  You could bring someone else in from another congregation.  But, entertain two other possibilities that I think is better.  One, if you have a piano player and want to ensure a legacy, have them teach another person in the congregation.  Or, take someone that is willing to learn and pay for their lessons.  I believe these last two approaches will create a longer lasting legacy and a true spirit of discipleship in your congregation.

What are some other ways you have seen a legacy worthy of imitation passed on to others?

References

Whittington, J. L., Pitts. T. M., Kageler, W. V., & Goodwin, V. L. (2005) Legacy leadership: the leadership wisdom of the Apostle Paul.  The Leadership Quarterly. 16. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.07.006

The unwritten rules.

In every group or organization, there are unwritten rules.   Even in church organizations. I am reminded of this daily through observances and conversations.  It is something that most know, but very few pay attention to unless they are directly affected by it.  In this post, I want to point out a few categories that these unwritten and sometimes unspoken rules fall into.  For the pastor of the small church which may not have much in the way of formal organization, leading through these unwritten rules is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

Culture

First up is the foundation that all the unwritten rules create.  Culture is probably the most explicit way for people to understand and discuss the unwritten rules.  Peter Drucker is attributed with the saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Many pastors and church leaders are often frustrated with a lack of progress when they implement their big plans.  Basically, the unwritten rule of “How we do things around here” undermines any strategy.  If your plan does not account for the culture of your church or group, it most likely will fail.

Expectations

While unattentiveness to culture may frustrate a pastor’s plans for whatever, unwritten expectations are destructive.  A church may or may not have a written list of expectations or duties for the pastor, but they all have expectations that are not articulated.  These range from attendance at events, evangelistic efforts, pastoral care, preaching ministry and more.  These rules become highly problematic as they tend to become unrealistic demands.  When a person is then held accountable in the person’s mind or publicly, they are blindsided and left confused as to what happened.

How do you change the unwritten rules?

  1. You have to become aware of them.
  2. They need to be addressed humbly and candidly discussed.
  3. Solutions presented, accepted, and implemented.
  4. Accountability and reflection.
What unwritten and unspoken rules have you come across?