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.

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: My God, My God, Why hast Thou Forsaken Me

Jesus was on the cross for six hours at this point. It was about 3pm (the ninth hour of the day).  Up to this point, we have seen a great bit of detail about the physical side of Jesus’ crucifixion.  In this fourth statement, we are now fully introduced to the deeper anguish pressing down on the Savior.

Matthew 27:46

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Fully God – Fully Human

  • The suffering was very real, it was more than a feeling.  However, it is difficult for us to understand.  Jesus who had always been with the Father for all eternity is now feeling separation with God.
  • He had all power and was without sin being fully God.
  • But, with our full humanity, he bore the weight of our sin and punishment under the intense pressure of cross and the shame and reproach.  He suffered our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional pains.

Psalm 22

  • Jesus was not speaking random words.  Nothing He said or did was with waster breath.  We find this statement in Psalm 22 and a deeper reading here finds many similarities to what Jesus was experiencing.  I will highlight some of the easier ones to see.

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.

They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.

All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.

10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.

11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.

13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

19 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.

21 Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

23 Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.

24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.

26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.

28 For the kingdom is the Lord‘s: and he is the governor among the nations.

29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

30 A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.

31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

  • We so much messianic prophecy being fulfilled from this Psalm in the crucifixion of Jesus.  I believe it also helps us see what is happening.
  • When Jesus went through the temptation in the wilderness and the intensity of the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, Angels came to minister to Him and restore His strength (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43).  Help was always near.
  • Jesus cries out on the cross, and from the content of Psalm 22, speaks of desperation for God’s presence and help.  However, on the cross, it was not there.  Why?

Christ became Sin, who knew no sin.

  • Christ was not forsaken from communion with God.  He did not cease to be the second person of the triune God.  Even Psalm 22 shows a still confident faith in who God is and trust in His character.
  • The sinless Son of God who had been, from all eternity, in an intimate relationship with His Father, is now spiritually separated from Him as we are when sin is present in us. When the sins of the world were put upon Jesus there was, for the first time, a separation between the Father and the Son. The Bible records something happened between them that we can only understand through the eye of faith.
    • That is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).
  • The Father was placing the sins of the world upon the Son in order that everything in the universe that had been affected by sin could again be made right with God. Jesus was suffering the pain and separation that we deserve:
    • For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • In order for this to occur, the Father had to forsake the Son and allow our punishment to fall on Christ as our substitute.  
  • At this time, Jesus is standing not before God as Father (abba), but God (el) the righteous judge of sin.
  • May we grow in greater appreciation of Christ giving His life for us.
  • Christ was forsaken so we can have confidence before God in saying, “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

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.

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

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?