Lifetime Character Goals

An exercise I like to use in cultivating a leader’s character involves reflection and discussion of John Wesley’s Twelve Rules for Helpers.  I believe there are many salient points for us in ministry today.  Take a moment to reflect through these items and then use the following mini-professional development plan to develop some key areas in your own life.

John Wesley’s “Twelve Rules for Helpers.”

  1. Be diligent. Never be unemployed a moment. Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time; neither spend any more time at any place than is strictly necessary.
  2. Be serious. Let your motto be, “Holiness to the Lord.” Avoid all lightness, jesting, and foolish talking.
  3. Converse sparingly and cautiously with women; particularly, with young women.
  4. Take no step toward marriage, without first consulting with your brethren.
  5. Believe evil of no one; unless you see it done, take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction on every-thing. You know the Judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner’s side.
  6. Speak evil of no one; else your word especially would eat as doth a canker. Keep your thoughts within your own breast, till you come to the person concerned.
  7. Tell everyone what you think wrong in him, and that plainly, as soon as may be; else it will fester in your heart. Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.
  8. Do not affect the gentleman. You have no more to do with this character than with that of a dancing-master. A Preacher of the gospel is the servant of all.
  9. Be ashamed of nothing but sin: Not of fetching wood (if time permit) or drawing water; not of cleaning your own shoes, or your neighbour’s.
  10. Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And in general, do not mend our Rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.
  11. You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those that want you, but to those that want you most.
    1. Observe: It is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care of this or that society; but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and with all your power to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord. And remember! A Methodist Preacher is to mind every point, great and small, in the Methodist discipline! Therefore you will need all the sense you have, and to have all your wits about you!
  12. Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel. As such, it is your part to employ your time in the manner which we direct; partly, in preaching and visiting from house to house; partly, in reading, meditation, and prayer. Above all, if you labour with us in our Lord’s vineyard, it is needful that you should do that part of the work which we advise, at those times and places which we judge most for his glory.

After reading Wesley’s rules, how should we think about our character as leaders?

Mini-Professional Development Plan

 

Character trait & Competency Skill Lifetime Goals What do I need to start doing this month to have a good legacy in this area?
Humility
Spirituality
Authenticity
Integrity
Courage
Bible Knowledge
Church Leadership Sill
People Skills
Hobby Skills

 

Organizing the Biblical Narrative for Easy Memorization

The following is an exercise that I have utilized several times to gauge my students present an understanding of the Biblical narrative.  According to Barna’s report on spiritual growth in 2017, millennials reported Bible reading as the most important spiritual discipline, but less than 30% noted any reading in a previous month.  I would put forth that in my experience, there is a high level of Biblical illiteracy in every generation.  This issue is something our Church leaders need to address with a more intentional approach.

The tool I use is a simple ten-name framework – five Old Testament individuals and five New Testament individuals.  From each of these names, different narratives and doctrines are attached for more natural referencing and deeper dives into the work of God across history.  To begin, I have my audience try to name five individuals from each group, so that signify the crucial changes in the story.  We then go through them and my suggestions.  So, here are the following names I use to tell the Bible story and some of the doctrines and other narratives attached to them.

Old Testament

Adam

Creation, Marriage, The Fall

Noah

The flood, Covenant, Righteousness

Abraham

Covenant, Faith, Patriarchs and Israel, Salvation by Faith

Moses

Slavery in Egypt, Exodus, The Law, The Promise Land, Judges

David

History of the Kingdoms, the Messiah and David’s throne, the devils attempt to destroy the seed of David on the throne through exile and corruption.

New Testament

John the Baptist

The last Old Testament prophet who reminded the people of the promises of God and provided the final connection to the coming Messiah.

Jesus Christ

Everything the Scripture points toward.  The Gospel and all that includes.  Need I say more?

Peter

Represents the early church and its growth and struggles.  The day of Pentecost and living under the Holy Spirit.  Begins the transition from grace centered on the Jewish population toward the inclusion to the Gentiles.

Paul

The apostle to the larger Gentile world.  Furthered the expansion of the church, its organization, and practical theology.

John the Beloved

Brings closure to the New Testament by pointing forward to life under the victorious Christ in uncertain times for an undetermined period.  Demonstrates that God is still on the throne, and Christ will make all things right.

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.

Almost back to normal?

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Write more frequently.  The blog started as a way to practice writing.  However, through it, I found a greater love for writing.
  3. 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.
  4. Travel and visit new places.  This one is in partnership with the next one.
  5. 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?

 

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.

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

Get out of the cave.

Last weekend, my wife and I took our children to Carter Caves and toured Cascade Cave.  The guided tour was 75-minutes long and included 225 stair steps.  Our children loved it, and we did too.   At least, the older two that stayed awake.  Our youngest fell asleep towards the end and was carried through pretty much the entire trip.

When we came out of the cave, our signal returned to our phones and messages and voicemails came on them.  We missed a lot of what was going on and valuable communications.  The experience reminded me that we can enter into spiritual caves in our lives.  The cave is not evil itself and is something that somehow provides protection and a place of solace.  However, it is not a place we are meant to stay.  Let’s look at a couple passages of Scripture to learn more.

David.

1 Samuel 22

David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. 2And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.

3And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. 4And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold. 5And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth.

Elijah.

1 Kings 19

And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? 10And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 14And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

15And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: 16And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. 17And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. 18Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

The Rest of Us

John 16:33 reminds us, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  I am thankful that God has provided grace that is sufficient for all our needs.  Thankfully we can experience His grace during our times of grieving and other overwhelming emotions.  While our feelings can betray us, we must still understand that God has created us with these capabilities.  Emotions are just some of the ways the Lord has given us the power to cope with all the ups and downs of life.

However, as far as the emotions associated with sadness and anger go, we must not stay there too long.  In the passages above, we see that David and Elijah went to the caves in time of despair and depression.  However, both were not there for very long.  It allowed for a moment of profound soul-searching.

We can do this deep searching of the heart during this time because typically we find seclusion.  For Elijah, it was a time where God could speak to Him in a mysterious, yet miraculous way.  Saints of old have called these times the dark night of the soul.  These are times when we feel withdrawn and numb in our emotions.  Communication with God may be foggy at best.  However, it is during these times that we can hold on to God’s Word alone by faith and in the end find out that He still reigns.  This is the peace that Jesus talked about in John 16:33.  We can have trouble and should expect it.  However, we can overcome and have peace because of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death.  That triumph extends to every arena of life.

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?

 

Don’t Quit

This is the recent preaching outline I used for a sermon called “Don’t Quit.”

Job 14:1, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.

Who do you know right now that you would like to tell them not to quit?  Was there a point in your life, maybe even now, that you wish you had someone to say to you, don’t quit?

Job’s background and Introduction

  • He had great possessions, his family, his health, and his marriage.
  • However, beyond his control, he suffered great loss but remained faithful to the Lord.  God blessed his faithful in the end.
  • We experience these cycles in almost every arena of life.  The cycle move from the promises to problems and many of us never see the prize of being faithful because we quit during the problems.  God help us to not give up.  To not quit.
  • Like Job said, we don’t go very long in life without trouble popping up.

The Promises

  • The first day on the job, honeymoon & marriage, children (Job. 14:1), health, home, education, etc.
  • Each of these

The Problems

  • We tend to settle or surrender.
  • We then quit, give up.
    • Gal. 6:9 and reiterated in 2 Thess. 3:13, And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
  • To not quit, we need to ask ourselves the question, “what wrong things do we need to quit so we don’t quit on the right things?”

The Prize

  • God rewards faithfulness in life.
  • The ultimate reward of faith is eternity with the Lord.

 

  • 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
  • Heb. 12:1-2, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.