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!
At the beginning of December, I finished the last course for my Ph.D. One-third of the way done with the Ph.D. requirements. The remaining two is the completion of the oral comprehensive exam in February 2019 and my dissertation. I thank the Lord for all He has already done and anticipate greater things still to come. While there is still plenty to be done, it feels like a significant obstacle has been crossed, and normalcy is on the horizon. Possibly? It at least makes me smile. So, the question is what am I looking forward to when my Ph.D. is finished? What is it that keeps me moving forward? Here are some of the things I am looking forward to doing with greater consistency and focus.
- Read for personal enjoyment and other interests. With so much focus on scholarly books and articles, there are so many other books I want to catch up with reading.
- Write more frequently. The blog started as a way to practice writing. However, through it, I found a greater love for writing.
- Develop greater proficiency in playing musical instruments. Right now, I can make a decent sound on most instruments. Still, I would love to be able to have a greater mastery on the piano and guitar.
- Travel and visit new places. This one is in partnership with the next one.
- Most of all, I am already enjoying more time with my family and look forward to completing my studies and having greater flexibility of time. Being able to provide more for my family and giving more of myself to them is a great desire.
Whatever it is that you are doing that is a challenge and sacrifice, what keeps you moving forward?
Thank you, Lord! One of the requirements for our Ph.D. program is the development of a portfolio that includes a display of scholarship ability. This requirement could be satisfied in two ways. The first was a presentation at an academic peer-reviewed conference. I completed this option in April 2018, at the McDonough Leadership Conference. The presentation was on “Community Collaboration and Transformation.”
The second option to complete the academic requirement was to have an article published in a scholarly peer-reviewed journal. Usually meaning that scholars in a discipline read articles in a blind test where they do not know the author and progressively come to a consensus on what pieces to accept. To make sure I had more chances of meeting the academic requirement. I also submitted to a few journals. I am thankful to say that I had an article published. The Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL) out of Regent University has published my article on “Steward Leadership and Paul.” Out of 45 total submissions, only 23 articles were accepted.
You can find the journal and my article by using the following link and scrolling through the abstracts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 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; 4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 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. 6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 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. 9 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: 2 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. 3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: 4 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. 5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: 6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: 8 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. 9 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.
- Worthy of imitation.
- Boldness amid opposition.
- Pure motive.
- Influence without asserting authority.
- Affectionate and emotional.
- Vulnerable and transparent.
- Authentic and sincere.
- Active, not passive.
- Follower-centered, not self-centered.
- 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?
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
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.
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.
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?
- You have to become aware of them.
- They need to be addressed humbly and candidly discussed.
- Solutions presented, accepted, and implemented.
- Accountability and reflection.
What unwritten and unspoken rules have you come across?
What is leadership? Some understand leadership is Influence – Every person is an influencer. Good leaders motivate others for the others right. Bad leaders manipulate others for the leaders good. Another way of understanding leadership is through the actions of a person during stressful situations. In either stream, local churches are in need of godly leadership. Sometimes pastors go into churches, and there are few to no leaders, and they need help to share the ministry with others fast. Selecting and further development of these leaders are essential where there is lack. This is a model that I have been implementing.
F.A.S.T Church Leadership
- This model is about identifying leaders in the congregation. The four areas are essential qualities of each leaders quality that help you see future growth.
- This model is about equipping people. It’s not enough to identify leaders. They need to grow, and you need to provide them with help for that growth.
- This model is about shared leadership. Each quality is more than a personal pursuit. Leaders work in tandem with other people, not alone. No one is a leader without anyone willing to follow.
- This model is about Christian leadership. FAST reminds us of the spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting is about mental fitness, not physical (Mt. 17:21; Mk 9:29). Ultimately, the unnamed requirement is the person has an obvious relationship with the Lord. Don’t make the mistake of being desperate enough to just put warm bodies into positions of leadership. Especially if they have not repented of their sin and professed faith in Christ.
As implied by the previous section, leaders need to have a personal relationship with God. This means they are faithful to God (Pro. 3:5; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Heb. 10:23) and committed to the Church (Acts 2:42, 20:28; Heb. 10:25, 13:17). It also implies they are available to answer the call to lead in the local church (Is. 6:8; Mk 1:17-18).
As stewards of the Gospel and church, leaders need to be held accountable. They are responsible for honesty (Pro. 11:3; 1 Jn 1:6, 3:18), responsibility (Rom. 12:6-8; Gal. 6:5; 1 Cor. 3:8), accountable to the church (Pro. 17:17; Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:16).
Servant leadership is a great model to follow for further development. However, in identifying your next leader, there should be some hints of servanthood already. They should be a servant first, leader second (Mark 10:45; John 13:1-17) They need charisma, but not by the typical definition of an outgoing personality. Instead, charisma in that they are other-centered (1 Cor. 10:24) Finally, they need to be content in knowing their identity is found in Christ (Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude 1)
The final quality is that this person has a holy discontent with their current state and want to be taught and developed further. They learn to listen (Pro. 1:5, 19:20, 25:12; James 1:19). Learn the learning process of action, reflecting, and changing, (Pro. 1:7, 9:9; 10:17). They pursue learning opportunities intentionally (James 5:12; 1 Pet. 2:2). Leaders are open to not only instruction but also correction (Pro. 18:13; John 8:32, 16:13; 2 Tim. 2:15, 3:16-17).
When Jesus spoke to the women at Jacobs well in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to John, He spoke on worship. Jesus stated that God the Father searches for those that will worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23). The conversation basically boils down to the point that true worship does not depend on the physical location of the person but their spiritual position before God.
So what hinders our worship from being in Spirit and in Truth? Here are a few issues impacting our personal and gathered worship.
An unrepentant and deceitful heart (Acts 5:4-5 & 8:9-25)
In these two passages, we see the damage caused by unrepentant and dishonest hearts. Highlighting the necessity of a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, made into a reality by the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit. God is not pleased by anything that is not done by faith (Heb. 11:6). The activation of faith begins with repentance of sin and belief in God. If there is unconfessed sin in our life, we are deceiving ourselves and hindering our worship. We need to come clean with God and allow Him to do the full work of Grace in our life.
Lack of prayer (Mt. 21:13)
When Jesus made his way into the temple at Jerusalem, He was disturbed at the marketing chaos and lack of respect for prayer. He turned over tables and drove the moneychangers out. Now, we might say this is a location but let us cross-reference with the Scriptural teaching that our bodies are the temple of God as well (1 Cor. 6:19). We are to be a people of prayer. Prayer marks our lives because it is more than a ritual of obedience. It is intentional dialoguing with God. If we do not have a habit of speaking with God through prayer, how can we also talk, sing, and serve Him in worship? Prayer is a part of worshipping and can’t be separated from it.
Limited Biblical knowledge (Hos. 4:6 & Col. 1:9)
Despite those with an attitude of intellectual snobbery, Scripture has much to say about the need for Biblical knowledge. Knowledge of God’s Word and His Ways in the world have a significant impact on our worship. Worship is more than emotional outburst and your feelings. A limited Biblical knowledge leads to shallow worship. C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity noted a conversation that demonstrates this. The individual he witnessed to said they did not need the Bible because they thought it restricted what they had already experienced with God through personal observations and feelings. However, Lewis noted that there is a difference between standing on the beach and going out on a ship into the ocean. You can only experience so much in the shallows. But, to go out deeper and experience the totality, you need a map, or you will get lost. The Bible is our map, and it helps us navigate deeper into our relationship with the Lord. The more we know of God, the more we can honestly know God.
Toxic attitudes (Phil. 4:8-9 & Eph. 4:32)
Attitudes of ungratefulness, dishonesty, irreverence, pride, jealousy, cynicism, and more also hinder our worship. We are challenged to think about things that are pleasant and good in the sight of God. We are challenged to have a spirit of forgiveness and preference of others instead of self. If we harbor this ill-feelings and negative thoughts, without ever giving them to God, we will find our souls drifting farther and farther from God.