Christianity 201

July 4, 2018

Follower’s Default: Blaming the Leadership

In preparing material at Thinking Out Loud, I visited the blog of Ron Jacobs, only to discover it is presently inactive. This was the last item posted, and I thought it would be a good fit here at C201.

Lessons In Followership

“And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” Exodus 16:2-3

I feel for Moses. This situation is not his idea nor is it of his making. It is the result of following God. Much has and will be written about the leadership lessons and abilities of Moses. But I want to focus on the other half of the leadership equation. The followers.

The Israelites complain and grumble against Moses and Aaron. Why? Why do they not realize and remember that the entire vision of this exodus from slavery, from Egypt is from and directed by God? Yet they yell at Moses and Aaron and not at God.

It is human nature to complain to those we see-the leaders.
Even though God is in control and is responsible, it is our broken nature that complains and grumbles to man.

Leaving Egypt was God’s plan.
The plagues were God’s plan.
Hardening pharaohs heart was God’s plan.
Leading them to the sea was God’s plan.
Pharaohs Army pursuing them was God’s plan.

None of this was the fault of Moses or Aaron. And yet they complain to them as if it is.

The mistake of the follower is to blame those who are at the front, but not who is ultimately in control.

Leaders have a responsibility to hold the truth that they are, “Not God” in all they do. But do not followers have a responsibility to hold this same truth about their leaders?

The leader doesn’t part the sea, he or she merely holds up the staff
Bitter water is made clean by God’s hand.
Manna comes from heaven, not from man.

What is the responsibility of followers to their leaders?

The Israelites are a broken people.
They thought and acted like slaves.
They complained out of their brokenness.
They grumbled out of their hurt.

But it is not the leader’s responsibility to heal their brokenness. Followers must take responsibility for that themselves. I have often criticized leaders out of my own brokenness. Followers have just as much responsibility to work on their character as leaders do

The world suffers from the brokenness of leaders daily. It is on display in social media feeds continuously. But what is missing is an honest look at the brokenness of followers.

Broken followers must deal with their hurts, habits, and hang-ups and not project them onto their leaders. Broken followers will complain to leaders, again and again, looking for the leader to provide what only God can give.

Broken followers hunger for what the leader cannot give.
Broken followers thirst for what the leader does not possess.
They fear and seek protection that the leader cannot provide.

Followers must not look to leaders to do what only God can do.

May 15, 2018

The Reluctance of Moses to Serve

Today we’re back at Lightsource, but this time on the page for the In His Grip Devotional, which features the writing of Dr. Chuck Betters from MarkInc.

…God’s confrontation with the Old Testament patriarch, Moses, gives us a glimpse into our own hearts and often excuses for turning down God’s invitation to partner with Him by using our own gifts to introduce others to His son, Jesus.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Moses, when given the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, objected strenuously (Exodus 3:1-4:17). First, Moses questioned, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

God responded, “I will be with you,” the very promise He made to Abraham (and to us, Matthew 28:28).

Second, Moses objected, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is Him name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God responded, in effect, “Tell them that Jehovah, the faithful and trustworthy God of their fathers, has sent you.”

Third, Moses doubted. “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Moses probably remembered his earlier rejection by his people and questioned why this time would be any different.

Throw Down Your Staff

God responded that Moses should throw down his staff, the symbol of his identity as a working shepherd. Without his staff he could not take care of the sheep or protect himself. God changed the staff into a snake, the national symbol of Pharaoh’s alleged sovereign power. God changed it back into a staff when Moses obediently picked it up. This was no magic trick; it underscored God’s power and authority over Pharaoh. Moses had to surrender his shepherd’s calling in order to accept God’s commissioning. Though Moses carried the simple staff of a shepherd, God had invested it, as indeed He had invested Moses, with a power far beyond its humble appearance.

Fourth, Moses continued to object, claiming he was not a man of words. “O Lord,” he complained, “I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since You have spoken to Your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

God responded, reassuring Moses and promising him that the Lord Himself would help him speak and teach him what to say. As with Moses, God also promises to give us the strength and abilities we need. As it says in the book of Ephesians, every child of God is “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (2:10).

Fifth, Moses decided he wasn’t the best man for the job. God’s promise of His presence, power, and authority was apparently not enough for Moses. He desperately exclaimed, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it(Exodus 4:13).

This is the first time during this encounter that God actually became angry with Moses. He bluntly told Moses that his eloquent brother Aaron would serve as Moses’ spokesman.

Moses at last acquiesced and obeyed. On his long journey back to Egypt and into the jaws of his enemy, however, Moses did not travel alone, for God was with him.

Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

Everyone who answers God’s call to know Him intimately must confront His call to courageously serve as Moses did.

Look around your local church. Are you the missing piece needed to reflect God’s compassion and mercy in a broken world? Which of Moses’ excuses is your favorite one behind which you hide?

What gift, talent, or resource are you hiding in your pocket?

Are YOU the missing piece in your local church? Share the love of Jesus in you, by sharing the gifts He has given to you!

January 14, 2018

Sunday Worship

At the outset of this series, we said we wanted to focus on the broader meaning of the word worship and not limit it to music in the church. However, I found this article yesterday while spending much time in the archives of the Institute for Biblical Worship at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While it appears on the surface to apply only to those who lead us at weekend services, I believe there are some broader principles we can extract from this as we serve and honor God in various ways. The author is Dr. Scott Connell, Assistant Professor of Music and Worship Leadership; Program Coordinator, Worship and Music Studies at Boyce College in Louisville, KY.

Seven Essential Characteristics of an Effective Worship Leader

I have the privilege of training worship leaders. This means that I have the task of preparing musicians to lead their congregations in doing something that they will continue to do in eternity. Done well this act should help teach people how to live in faith and one day die with hope. Leading a task that engages a holy God with such eternal implications should not be handled tritely. It takes a substantive person to plan, prepare, and lead what should be a substantive act. Here is what I believe a worship leader must demonstrate in order to be effective for this significant task:

  1. Musical talent. This is the only characteristic on the list that must be present at birth. Some people have a gift for music and others do not. For those that do, that talent must be developed and refined. This takes time and work, but the combination of these two demonstrates the presence of talent. Effective worship leaders practice and get better.
    Psalm 33:3 (ESV) – “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully…”
  2. Teachability. Regardless of how talented a worship leader is, teachability is always required. Good worship leaders are continually learning and seeking instruction. A worship leader who resists instruction will be a poor teacher himself. Effective worship leaders strive to be teachable.
    Proverbs 13:18 – “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.”
  3. Biblical Knowledge. This is a characteristic that everyone begins life with a total absence of. It is necessary to create a lifelong appetite for God’s word. Every week worship leaders point people to God while also representing the character and works of God in song and speech. Too many do so out of theological and biblical ignorance. Effective worship leaders develop a reservoir of Biblical truth within them so they can speak and lead intelligently.
    2 Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
  4. Character. The hypocrisy of a duplicitous life on any platform will eventually be revealed. Standing on a platform to lead worship is essentially saying “Follow me while I follow Christ.” Perfection is unattainable for anyone, but sanctification is honest about sin and progressive in growth because it comes from following Christ intentionally. Unfortunately, talent has a way of taking musicians farther than their character can sustain them. Effective worship leaders grow in godliness.
    1 Samuel 16:17b – “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
  5. Passion. Worship should have an appropriate and authentic emotional component. I am not referring to pep rally emotionalism, but neither should there be the appearance of apathy or disinterest. Worship should reflect deep-seated joy, true brokenness over sin, and authentic (even euphoric) gratefulness for the Savior. Effective worship leaders cultivate the capacity to be appropriately affected emotionally because worship is an unparalleled journey of enjoying ultimate fulfillment at Christ’s expense.
    Psalm 84:2b – “My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
  6. Humility. This may be the most elusive characteristic on the list. Performing music can tend to make musicians arrogant. A musical skill can become a motive for boasting in an otherwise reserved individual. The types of thoughts that can come to mind while leading worship can be startling if evaluated honestly. Effective worship leaders pursue God’s glory over their own glory.
    James 4:6 – “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
  7. Love for the Church. This can often be the most forgotten item on the list. If allowed, love for music can eclipse love for the people. The true allegiance of our affections will be on display in numerous decisions that we make every week. Effective worship leaders examine their motives and advance strategies that make music a servant, not a master.
    Romans 12:10 – “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Being a worship leader is a journey. Proper orientation in these things reflects one’s capability and fitness for being used in a role that none of us truly deserves to hold. We serve at God’s pleasure. Enter humbly, grow intentionally!

October 13, 2017

Achieving Results on Human Strength Alone

Numbers 20:11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.

Today we have an excerpt from a brand new book by Skye Jethani, Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc.; published by Moody Press.  Although the book is written for pastors and church leaders, there are principles here that I believe have a much broader application for the mature Christ-follower.

Effectiveness

…In Numbers 20, Moses has just led the people of God out of Egypt and into the wilderness.  There they begin to complain about not having any water. They’re ready to riot against Moses.  So he falls on his face before the Lord in the tabernacle and prays for a solution.  God says to him, “Speak to the rock and it will bring forth water for the people and their animals.” (see Num. 20:8).

Something happened to Moses after leaving the presence of God, however, and rather than speaking to the rock as he had been commanded, Moses struck it twice with his staff.  Incredibly, a miracle happened anyway. Water flowed abundantly.  The people were saved. Moses was a hero.

Now consider the scene from a human point of view, or from the perspective of the Idol of Effectiveness.  Was Moses’ ministry effective? Absolutely! By any human standard, Moses was an effective leader. Was his ministry powerful? Yes, a miracle occurred! Was Moses’ ministry relevant? Clearly. It’s difficult to be more relevant than giving water to thirsty people in a desert. Was his ministry strategic? Without a doubt. He equipped the people with what they needed to reach their goal, the Promised Land. If Moses were here today, he’d be selling books on 3 Steps to Drawing Water from Rocks.  He’d be speaking on the ministry conference circuit and hosting webinars for dehydrated churches. From a human perspective, Moses was outrageously effective.

But what about from the Lord’s perspective? Not so much. God was far less impressed.  In fact, Moses was punished severely for his disobedience. He was forbidden from entering the Promised Land. Instead, the Lord determined he would die within sight of it. Why? Because God does not judge our effectiveness. He judges our faithfulness. It’s clear in Numbers 20 that God decided to perform a miracle in spite of Moses, not because of him.

So, when we focus on effectiveness, we are focusing on the wrong fruit. We assume that if people are coming to faith, if the church is growing, if the world is changing, then we must be right with God. But in fact God may be working in spite of us, not because of us. And here’s the real truth we don’t like to admit — every time God works, it is in spite of us. He does not need us to accomplish His work. If He did, He wouldn’t be a God worthy of our worship. There is an important truth that ministers need to hear as much as, if not more than, everyone else: God does not need you.  He wants you.  He did not sent His Son to recruit you to change the world. He sent His Son to reconcile you to Himself. Your value to God is not in your effectiveness, but in your presence…

pp25-26

 

August 23, 2017

Unsettling Times

Today I picked up a Christian periodical and discovered that Arnold Reimer, a retired pastor from a church I frequently attended — Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto — had a blog titled Finishing Well. I read several articles, but this one from June jumped out at me as still being quite timely. Click the title to read it at source.

Unshaken?

It is hard to remember a time in world affairs more unsettling than this present one.  When the greatest economic and military power seethes with division, indecision, hateful accusations, political stagnation, worrisome threats, and moral decay,  then international angst soars.  It is possible that some foolish enemy might take advantage of the situation , when respect and confidence in authority are so confused, and leadership is so consistently distracted and defensive.

We are living in times Scripture describes as follows: See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.  For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, (Noah, Moses, the prophets) much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.  And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’  And this expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (God’s truth and righteousness)   Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”

I repeat what I have often said… the Church, its leadership and followers, must speak, live and demonstrate with awe and reverence, not just the love of a gracious God, but the wrath of a holy God, who is a consuming fire.  Yes, the Lord our God, Sovereign Ruler of the universe, Creator, Saviour, Healer, Sanctifier and coming King, is patient, loving, gracious and forgiving.  But, He hates sin and judges it.  Eventually, He withholds blessing from the disobedient and indifferent. That great and awesome God insists that we proclaim both His cursing and His blessing, whether they listen or not.

If the proverbial house on fire requires a daring saviour to disregard self in order to rescue the perishing, why, in heaven’s name, are we pampering the saints, watering
down prophetic truth, and coddling sin and sinners?  Do we not understand our times?  Do we not realize that the popular parading of evil, running rampant in our day, and generally approved, left unmentioned, unchallenged and un-rebuked will hasten the exercise of God’s wrath?   Is sin so obscure in Scripture that we can be ambivalent about it from our pulpits?  Are we not to hold governments, educational and religious institutions and the general population accountable for degenerate behaviour?  Is the applause and approval of men so important, or the fear of their response so great, we dare to please men rather than God?

These are sobering, heart-searching thoughts for which we who own His name shall stand accountable.   Surely, for those who know God and His Word, finishing well demands a bold, fearless acknowledgement and response to these things.  Those of us who are older have been given the perspective of time, duty and experience to see a bigger picture.   We know the value of love, prayer, lifestyle and sensitivity necessary to an acceptable presentation of truth and warning.   We also know what evil can do!   In a shaken world an unshakeable faith in a gracious, forgiving God will enable us to speak lovingly, wisely and clearly.

Rev. Arnold Reimer


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February 16, 2017

Ten Towering T’s of Spiritual Discipline

This is an excerpt from an article by William Barrick at Parking Space 23 in an article titled:

Hi-def Leadership in a Hi-def World: Attributes of Godly Leaders

…As an aid to examining the characteristics of Christian leadership, I have outlined my thoughts by means of “HI-DEF” as an acronym:

  • Humility
  • Integrity
  • Discipline
  • Excellence
  • Faith

The section below appears in the discipline category.

Discipline

One of the greatest causes of failure in leadership relates directly to one’s failure to manage himself properly—in other words, a lack of self-discipline. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, could not become a leader: “Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence” (Genesis 49:4). Self-control (self-discipline) must be carried out in ten major areas of life—the Ten Towering T’s:

  1. Thought. Self-discipline begins with managing our minds, our thoughts, our daydreaming. We waste mental energy in worry, anxiety, and over-thinking each situation we face. As leaders the best use of thought involves developing priorities and focusing on a plan of action and how to implement it efficiently.
  2. Time. Too often we end up piddling around with minor matters, or exhausting valuable time avoiding the difficult matters. In the Facebook age, we begin by looking at what one friend has posted and end up three hours later on an online rabbit trail that leads us away from the things we ought to be doing offline.
  3. Transformation. The task of becoming a man of God continues unendingly. We must begin every day seeking God’s presence and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14).
  4. Tasks. A godly leader must order his tasks according to their priority before beginning to do the work itself. A Hi-def leader must identify, define, and prioritize pertinent tasks.
  5. Toil. A persistent devotion to labor marks every great Christian leader. Paul spoke of how he surpassed others in the amount of labor he expended in gospel ministry: “I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Such leaders “who diligently labor” are worthy of respect (1 Thessalonians 5:12).
  6. Talents. Skills and abilities, as well as spiritual gifts, come from the Lord. Great leaders know how to manage their gifts and how to maximize their efforts. They recognize where they lack skill and seek co-laborers who make up that which the leader himself lacks.
  7. Treasures. Wise and prudent management of one’s finances and possessions also characterizes godly leaders. Being “free from the love of money” (1 Timothy 3:3) does not mean that a godly leader should ignore proper management of what God has given to him and to his family. Such good management includes honoring “the LORD from your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9).
  8. Tongue. With Hi-def clarity James 3:1–12 reveals the importance of controlling one’s words. The same teaching abounds in the Old Testament in passages like Psalm 39:1—leaders must guard their mouth “as with a muzzle.” The Hi-def leader chooses his words with care and keeps silent when it is wiser not to speak (James 1:19).
  9. Teaching. A leader must practice what he teaches (Romans 2:21). Paul exhorted Timothy to “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16). This discipline must be passed on to future leaders: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
  10. Thanks. Being thankful takes discipline and management. A godly leader will excel in giving thanks when and where thanks is due—first of all to the Lord, then to others. Thanksgiving was such an important aspect of corporate worship that David appointed Asaph as “the leader in beginning the thanksgiving at prayer” in the Tabernacle and the Temple (Nehemiah 11:17).

I encourage you to click the title above to read the full article.

August 16, 2016

The Baptismal Formula; The Discipleship Formula

As we did last year at this time, yesterday and today we’ve been re-visiting the website GCD (Gospel-Centered Discipleship) and this time around the featured writer is Pittsburgh young adults pastor Austin Gohn. Click the title which follows to read this at source, and then spend some time looking at other articles.

In the Name of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit

“In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Whatever the format—swimming pool, font, bathtub, or baptistery—this simple, rhythmic phrase has “stirred the waters” (Jn. 5:4) of baptism since the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). As a second grader, I remember hearing these words at my own baptism while trying to catch one more breath. Now, as a pastor, I pronounce them over young adults as I baptize them in my church’s small and under-heated baptistery (complete with its own Bob Ross worthy Jordan River mural).

As we step into discipleship, though, we often leave this phrase (and the reality it proclaims) in the water. We attempt discipleship in the name of the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit, but not in the name of the Holy Three. We might confess the Trinity at a doctrinal level, but we forget, sideline, or ignore the Trinity at a practical level. As Eugene Peterson noted, “We know the truth and goals of the gospel. But we have haven’t taken the time to apprentice ourselves to the way of Jesus, the way he did it. And so we end up doing the right thing in the wrong way and gum up the works.”[1] Instead of living “life to the fullest” (Jn. 10:10), we end up stuck, smug, or spent somewhere in the course of discipleship.

But, what if Jesus intended baptism “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to set the tone for discipleship? Listen to the way Dallas Willard paraphrases the Great Commission:

“I have been given say over all things in heaven and in the earth. As you go, therefore, make disciples of all kinds of people, submerge them in the Trinitarian presence, and show them how to do everything I have commanded. And now look: I am with you every minute until the job is done.” (italics mine)[2]

The Trinity is not a mere entry point into discipleship but the ongoing environment for discipleship. This means that gospel-centered discipleship is only as gospel-centered as it is Trinity-centered (please read Fred Sanders on this). Perhaps, this is what St. Paul meant when he prayed for “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” to be with the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 13:14).

If we want our discipleship to bear fruit, sometimes we need to be pulled aside like Apollos and have explained to us “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:24-28). We need to uncover the areas where we only lean into the name of the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, and recover discipleship in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Discipleship in the Name of One or Maybe Two

When we attempt discipleship in the name of one or two persons of the Trinity, it’s like attempting to live on only food or oxygen or water (or two out of three). Sooner or later, you are going to feel the effects of forgetting to eat, drink, or breathe. It’s a life or death matter. Discipleship is no different. Without the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, disciples (and even entire communities of disciples) start to shrivel up.

Trinitarian DiscipleshipAlthough there are many angles from which we could consider this (e.g. overemphasis on one person of the Trinity), let us consider what happens when we neglect one person of the Trinity and attempt discipleship in the name of two, but not the other. If we attempt discipleship apart from the Son, we might begin to equate our progress in the faith (or lack thereof) with our status before God (Eph. 2:8-10, Gal. 2:15-16). If we attempt discipleship apart from the Father, we might attempt to live like Jesus without knowing the fundamental knowledge about the Father that made his life the logical overflow (as expressed in his Sermon on the Mount, especially Mt. 6:25-34).[3] And, if we attempt discipleship apart from the Spirit, we might burn out as we try to overcome our sinful habits through own insufficient power and discipline (Rom. 8:12-13, Gal. 5:16-25). Whether through ignorance or intention, each of these mistakes can be deadly for discipleship.

In my own life, I tend to lean into the Father and the Son but forget the Holy Spirit. Even if I believe (and teach) that transformation is not possible apart from the Holy Spirit, my own discipleship growth often centers on correct motives (the finished work of Christ) and correct knowledge of the Father.  Borrowing the language of A.W. Tozer, it’s possible that 95% of my own discipleship would go unchanged if the Holy Spirit were withdrawn. As a result, I am prone to feeling burned-out, tired, and exhausted.

Since these kinds of oversights are difficult to notice on our own, we need a community of disciples who can gently point out where we need some course correction. This is not something that can be figured out with a Trinity survey or checklist, but by careful listening to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In our church, this happens best in discipleship communities (our equivalent of missional communities). While we are eating together and talking, I’ve heard phrases like:

  • “I don’t feel like I can change.”
  • “I feel like I am letting God down.”
  • “I don’t understand why Jesus would tell us to do that.”

These phrases act like signposts that clue us into areas where we need to be reminded of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are an open door to talk about the Trinity-centered gospel.

Discipleship in the Name of All Three

The best way to get back on track is to remember that we are already locals in the neighborhood of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Discipleship is not a way into the neighborhood, but something we do as part of the community. As St. Paul made clear in Ephesians 1:3-14, our participation in the life of the Trinity is thanks to the saving work of the Trinity in the first place. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit chose, loved, predestined, redeemed, sealed, and adopted us (just for starters!). At baptism, the Trinity became our home.

With this confidence in the saving work of the Trinity, we are free to explore how discipleship in a Trinitarian shape might look. Although there are many possibilities, we can start by considering some of the implications of John 13-17 (which is arguably the best discourse we have on life with the Triune God). Here are a few implications from Jesus’ conversation with his disciples:

  • Discipleship in the name of the Father is dependent on the Father’s provision (15:16) and love for us (16:27).
  • Discipleship in the name of the Son is made possible through him (14:6), looks to him to see what the Father is like (14:9), converses with the Father through him (14:24; 16:23), and trusts him to bring about the fruit of discipleship (15:1-4).
  • Discipleship in the name of the Holy Spirit relies on the Spirit to remind us of what the Son taught (14:25-26), convict of us sin (16:8), and teach us how the truth applies in present circumstances (16:12-15).

This is just a taste of discipleship in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Alongside this and other Trinity-soaked texts, read authors like St. Augustine, John Owen, Eugene Peterson, Susanna Wesley, Dallas Willard, Fred Sanders, and Wesley Hill—people who have both written about and experienced life with the Triune God. Steep in these for a few minutes and the possibilities for discipleship in a Trinitarian shape really start to open up.

It’s Missional

As a final note, doing discipleship in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not just about us. It’s for the sake of everyone else. The process of discipleship is just as critical to God’s mission as the product of discipleship. In a culture that is looking for the next self-improvement strategy, discipleship in a Trinitarian shape offers people a transformative relationship.Discipleship itself is an opportunity to show the world not only different goals to pursue, but also a different way in which to pursue them—in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that’s good news.

[1] Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 300.
[2] Willard, The Great Omission, (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2006), xiii.
[3] I am thinking here of the way Jesus deals with anxiety. He doesn’t say, “I’m not anxious, so you shouldn’t be anxious.” Instead, he says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (italics mine). Anxiety is rooted in wrong ideas about the Father.

 

July 22, 2016

The Influence of Spiritual Leaders

Today’s post is excerpts from a larger, topical article which appeared at the blog of Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Senior Pastor of Cross Church, immediate past President of the Southern Baptist Convention. For that reason, click the title below to read the entire piece at its source. We’ve excerpted the spiritual teaching from the article.

Spiritual Leaders and Their Influence in This Election Season

…In this presidential election season, some are acting like we have had pure choices before and now we do not. Let’s get real: we have never had pure choices to select from. We live in a fallen world and all of our systems are less than perfect. It was failed when some of our greatest presidents have been elected or when some of our greatest presidents have emerged through the fire of leadership. Perfection will not occur until we die and our residency changes from here into heaven, and ultimately when Jesus comes again in His coming eternal, sovereign Kingdom.

Besides this, our trust needs to be in our Sovereign God, not in people or our processes. Think on and stand with confidence upon these words:

  • Daniel 2:21, “He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings.
  • Daniel 4:26, “…Heaven rules.
  • Proverbs 21:1, “A king’s heart is like streams of water in the Lord’s hand; He directs it wherever He chooses.

Our trust is in the Lord and His word…

…I prayed, searched, and became convicted in March that there was one biblical character God wanted to use in my life who would become my mentor and model while navigating through these tumultuous waters.

daniel_prayerDaniel was a statesman and a prophet. This is what I want to be in my life and leadership. Daniel lived in Jerusalem. In 605 B.C., some say at age 15, Daniel was taken captive along with others and exported to Babylon. He lived there for at least seventy years, where three times each day, he would open his window, kneel facing Jerusalem, and pray. John MacArthur noted this about Daniel: “He quickly rose to the role of statesman by official royal appointment and served as a confidante of kings, as well as a prophet in two world empires.”[1]

Daniel was a godly, praying and fasting man whom God used powerfully. He was entrusted with favor from God and had favor with man. Daniel was entrusted with influencing the King and the future of the country, as well as given the authority to lead. Daniel 1-4 speaks of his relationship and influence with one of the most wicked leaders of all time, King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 5-10 speaks of his relationship with King Belshazzar, King Darius, and King Cyrus.

America is like a modern-day Babylon: sinful, wicked, and godless. God raised up King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon to exercise God’s judgment upon the people of God. Daniel and the people of God being exported into this godless, wicked nation gives us a living example of where we are as Christ-followers. We need to go to school on how God used Daniel and others in this season of judgment.

Daniel determined he would honor God whatever the costs. Daniel received God’s favor and was given leadership and influence. Each spiritual leader should aspire to be like Daniel.

Throughout Scripture, we see men and women of God who had a voice with leaders of nations. Some examples of these God-called spiritual leaders speaking to a nation’s leader:

  • Moses to Pharaoh
  • Eliezer to Jehoshaphat
  • Elijah to Ahab
  • Elisha to King Ben-hadad of Aram and also to the King of Israel
  • Nathan to David
  • Esther to Ahasuerus
  • Jeremiah to Zedekiah
  • Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus
  • John the Baptist to Herod
  • Peter and John to Annas and Caiaphas
  • Paul to King Agrippa

There are others I could list. This is a biblical precedent that is undeniable.

What If

What if Daniel had refused to acknowledge King Nebuchadnezzar and acted like he was too righteous to relate to him? What if Daniel had not answered the request to come interpret his dream? When you read the book of Daniel, you find him relating to these leaders continually, oftentimes entrusted with great influence upon the nation and even property; but at other times, being put in prison or ending up in a lion’s den. Daniel was not for sale. He even told King Belshazzar, “keep your gifts.”[2] God always prevailed. Daniel was always faithful.

Why would we not want godly spiritual leaders to be influencers upon national and global leaders today? 

Spiritual Leaders Need Tact and Discretion

Daniel 2:14, “Then Daniel responded with tact and discretion to Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, who had gone to execute the wise men of Babylon.This is a pivotal verse that we need to go to school on in 2016 as spiritual leaders. In this day of social networking and endless opinions, Christian testimony is being destroyed and people are being hurt continually.

Daniel’s tone and words were flavored right, proper, and wise. Daniel’s counsel was sound, careful, and sensible.

As Christians and Christian leaders, we need to make sure our tone and words must never eliminate our ability to win someone on this earth to faith in Jesus Christ.

…Let me set the record straight today: I want Daniel, the statesman and prophet, and the life, leadership, and legacy of Billy Graham and their relationships with national and global political leaders to be my model rather than sitting on the sideline, critiquing every political candidate and anyone whom God would raise up to influence them.

Now is the Time to Lead


[1] https://www.gty.org/resources/bible-introductions/MSB27/daniel, accessed June 26, 2016
[2] Daniel 5:17

June 21, 2016

Characterized by Courage, or Characterized by Fear?

Did your high school ever do a production of The Wizard of Oz? This one is from the UK.

Did your high school ever do a production of The Wizard of Oz? The one pictured here is from the UK.

Today, one of our past writers recommended a site, Love Everlasting Ministries, which in turn led us to the blog of Sarah Callen, Work in Progress, where we found today’s article.  Click the title below to read at source.

Courage, My Heart

The Wizard of Oz is a classic movie full of wonderful and memorable characters, one of my favorites is the Cowardly Lion. I love the irony of his character: a huge, ferocious looking lion who is scared of everything and severely lacking in courage. This lovable character spends his time with Dorothy in search of courage, understanding that his lack of courage is unbefitting.

I wonder how many of us are like the Cowardly Lion: we know we are to be courageous, but find ourselves crippled by fear. 

Lately, in my own quiet time with the Lord and in conversations with others, the word “courage” has consistently come up. Our lives, especially as Christians, require a great deal of courage. Trusting God, trusting that we’re hearing his voice, following God’s instructions, and living “on mission” all require courage. It takes courage to forgive, it takes courage to be kind, it takes courage to depend on God, it takes courage to love others. The life of a Christ follower requires courage at every turn. Following God is not for the faint of heart.

Courage n. mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

One of my favorite Bible characters is Joshua. He was a man who had faith in God, learned to submit to his leaders and then led his people into the territory God had given them. His story is one full of faith and courage and he lived in a way that can inspire us today. In the book of Deuteronomy we learn that Joshua was the apprentice of Moses, he followed him around wherever he went and learned as much as he could from the leader of Israel. The next book, the book of Joshua, begins with the death of Moses and Joshua being appointed as the leader of the nation. Talk about pressure! I can only imagine the insecurity and fear that Joshua faced. The people rebelled and argued with Moses, a man who heard and spoke directly with God, if I were Joshua I would be completely doubting my ability to lead this unruly group. But God knew exactly what Joshua needed to hear to lead His people into the land that had been promised to them. Joshua 1:5-9 begins with God’s instructions to Joshua:

“…No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

In the span of four verses God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous three times… I think he may have been trying to make a point. Courage was necessary for Joshua and the people Israel, they could do nothing without courage. But I find the flow of this passage to be very interesting.

It takes courage to lead. 

The first “be strong and courageous” is directed specifically to Joshua, as Joshua would be unable to enter the promised land without it. During his time as the leader of the nation, Joshua showed immense faith and courage, resulting in the miraculous acts of God on behalf of his people. Joshua had the courage to listen to God, take him at his word and not budge, knowing that whatever God said would indeed come to pass. It takes immense courage to see the vision of God and not be dissuaded by circumstance or naysayers.

It takes courage to obey. 

Has God ever instructed you to do something that just scared you? Have you ever read a verse and thought to yourself, “I just don’t know if I can do that…”? I know I have. Obedience to God takes a great deal of courage. Read through the book of Joshua and witness the seemingly crazy instructions that God gave Joshua who in turn had to tell the people. It took courage to march around the city of Jericho for seven days instead of coming up with a plan of attack. It took courage to devote the entire city to God instead of keeping everything for themselves. It took courage to go up against giants and armies when Israel was vastly outnumbered. But every act of courageous obedience resulted in overwhelming blessing.

It takes courage to go. 

“Go” is the most expensive word in the Bible. It can be easy sometimes to focus on the cost, instead of summoning the courage to “go”. Courage is required to spread the love of Jesus, whether that means going to your neighbor or another country. But, when we summon the courage to go, knowing that God is with us the entire time, I believe great things can happen. When fear-conquering courage fuels faith-filled actions this can lead to changed lives and communities.

In what areas of your life do you need an infusion of courage? How can that spark of courage in your life lead to the benefit of others? It’s my hope and prayer that we will all be strong and courageous as Joshua was so that we can lead, obey, and go as the Lord instructs.


To read another article by Sarah which was our introduction to her writing, scroll to her June 14th article at Love Everlasting Ministries.

 

July 4, 2015

Passing the Torch of Leadership

“Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites.
~Joshua 1:2 NIV

Brian StillerToday’s post is by Brian Stiller, former President of Youth for Christ Canada, former President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, former President of Tyndale University College and Seminary and now Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance. Brian has lived many lifetimes! You can read more about him here.

What makes what follows so interesting is that it was written in 1987. It appeared in an EFC communications piece, The Sundial, and my wife typed this out so we could share it here.

When we fail to pass the torch

As we look at churches and organizations today, we can see that there are many in need of torch passing. But either the senior leader desperately holds on too long with no attempt to train or give opportunity to the younger, or the tension produces so much conflict that the younger leader heads off to some other more flexible opportunity. Out of it all, energy and vision are suppressed. This leads to an increasing loss of touch with reality and a lack of clear goals and effective strategy.

How can the torch be passed?

There is a wonderful example in the Old Testament of the passing of the torch – from Moses to Joshua.

The announcement, “Moses, my servant, is dead”, boomed out across the tents in the valley. What would happen now? many wondered. Fortunately for the people of Israel, Moses had carefully nurtured and developed a younger leader – Joshua.

What Moses did then lends powerful ideas to this generation.

Leadership includes different styles

Moses recognized that leadership emerges out of different styles. Whereas he was a crusader, Joshua was a manager.

Moses was angered by the treatment of his kinsfolk. Later he defended some young women who were being harassed while tending their sheep. Ultimately his crusader instinct led him to say yes to God’s call to lead the people out of Egypt.

How different Joshua was. Right from the beginning we see his obedience. Never is there conflict between himself and Moses. There was no sign of trouble because of a strident spirit or a self-centered personality.

Moses didn’t look for someone identical to himself. A different style was needed. Moses’ and Joshua’s backgrounds, personalities, styles, means of operation and public profiles were vastly different. Yet each was a leader and each, from his base of strength, was used by God in a particular way and particular time.

Different times call for different styles

It’s easy to be trapped into believing in a “best” form of leadership. My generation has grown up thinking its cloth must be cut from a certain model. Since World War II church leadership has been characterized as aggressive, charismatic, individualistic and outgoing. This view of leadership, however, has been typecast from a specific time and culture. It’s time we looked for other models.

Moses was a restless and dominating figure who led his people out of bondage and defined the basis of the community by his special contact with God. How different was Joshua! Learning from his tutor, Moses, he took the patterns and ideas expressed by his predecessor and molded them into a working society. Each leader was competent but their styles were different.

Passing the torch is inevitable

It’s not always easy to make the transition from one generation to the next. My generation has lived with the “long shadow” syndrome. The long shadow occurs when a key senior leader, often a creative and crusading “Moses”, continues for so long that his or her shadow blankets the one who is following. And the up and coming leader never gets an opportunity to nurture his or her own vision. Instead, the potential leader gets trapped by serving the older and never really develops the fine edges of his or her own leadership.

Managing Moses’ ideas

Joshua became the manager of Moses’ ideas. And how necessary it is that crusaders nurture and train managers to put their ideas into order and practice. Joshua succeeded because he refused to succumb to the weakness which plagues all managers: maintaining the status quo. Rather, he nurtured his vision and risked beyond the borders of Moses

March 24, 2015

Serving While You Are Young…and When You’re Older, Also

In I Timothy 4, Paul instructs his “son in the faith” (1:2) on the carrying out of his ministry. If you’ve ever had to write a word of encouragement to a younger Christian — especially a child or teen or twenty-something — chances are you might have quoted verse 12:

12a Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young…

But there is more to that particular verse:

12b Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 

Breaking it down, Paul gives “Tim” five areas in which he is to be an example:

  • words, teaching, speech
  • conduct, behavior, actions
  • love, charity, agape
  • belief, faith, faithfulness
  • purity, integrity, a pure life

But this verse also leads off a list of five things Timothy is encouraged to do:

12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.

The other four would be:

  • read the scriptures; preach the scriptures; exhort and encourage people from the scriptures
  • do not neglect (or be careless with) the gift that was given to you, referencing a gift specifically imparted when the elders laid hands on (i.e. set apart) Timothy for ministry service
  • serve this ministry with abandon; immerse yourself in all aspects of the work; be absorbed in it, devoted to it, and un-distracted from it.
  • while doing all this outward ministry, watch and be conscientious about your inner life; be self-critical with your own spiritual progress; and do this not for the sake of your own spiritual life, but that of those who are watching you and are under your spiritual care

The Asbury Bible Commentary notes,

Paul’s exhortation in v. 12 shows an obvious awareness that some may not respect Timothy’s youth and that Timothy might even use his youth as an excuse for immature belief. Example is a pattern or copy from which other patterns or copies are made. The trio of love, faith, and purity conforms nicely to the admonition of 1:5.

The verse mentioned at the end occurs just a few after Paul calls Timothy his “son.”

I Tim. 1:5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

While some of you reading this may not be young — in years, or in your faith journey — I believe this passage can be used by all of us a type of “report card template” for us to examine ourselves to see how we’re doing.  Here are all nine of the above bullet points restated as a question:

  • What do people know about me by my speech?
  • What do people see through my actions?
  • Am I known as a giving person; a loving person; a person of charity?
  • What is the role of my beliefs in my life; how are they reflected?
  • Do I have a reputation for integrity; am I walking in purity?
  • Is my life scripture-rooted? Am I passionate about God’s Word?
  • Am I using my gifts in service or have I set some aside?
  • Would I be described as passionate in my devotion to Christ?
  • Is there a consistency between what people see and how things are internally?

You might even want to print these out, and keep them in a special place. You could check-mark things where you’re feeling no particular focus is needed right now, and underline things which need to be addressed. Then check back with the list in a month, in a new season, or in a new year.


Go Deeper: Here’s some teaching on Paul and Timothy relationships as part of a study on The Antioch Tradition. The graphic below is from that source.

Paul and Timothy

 

 

 

February 17, 2015

Before You Act, Speak, Hurt, Get the Facts

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In all my writing, not just here, I try to practice the art of “trans-Atlantic cross-pollination.” I believe there are great things being said by writers and musicians in the UK that we miss out on from having a faith worldview that stops wherever we meet a large body of water. Recently, I started getting weekday morning devotions from Andy Elmes sent to me by email.  (There’s a similar service offered by Skye Jethani.) Today I want to share the one that arrived on Monday:

Good to get your facts right before you crucify someone

Mark 15:12-14 (NKJV)

Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!” Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”

Just days before Jesus had heard this same crowd shout “Hosanna” as He entered Jerusalem, now so many in unison shouted “Crucify Him”. Sadly, this is a true testament to how fickle “the crowd” can often be. But in reality it was no surprise to Jesus, because He knew He was born to die on a cross, and their ignorant uninformed shouts were only driving things in the direction His Father had appointed them to go.

The reality here is that, while Pilate desperately looked for facts, the crowd had made its mind up. The trouble was, their collective mind was already made up – without the facts. Their opinion was based on “some things they heard” from people. Maybe it was  because they liked the people or because the people were very earnest and convincing that they felt the information making this man guilty did not need to be proved? But the real problem was, they were wrong. As they joined in with the chant of “Crucify Him” they were actually guilty of believing a bunch of well-presented lies, and of hanging an innocent man on a cross to die.

So the trial continued and the innocent man is condemned. He is whipped, mocked and hung on a cross to die like a common criminal, as they watched on still cheering. The problem for them is that, directly after His death, it is indisputably proven that the man on the cross was actually innocent, and the people who put Him there were actually guilty – guilty of not seeking out the truth, guilty of listening to only one side of the story, guilty of not giving the person accused an opportunity to relay their side of the facts or defend Himself.

Our lesson today is simple. After you have crucified someone is too late to realise you have made a mistake and that you did not have all the facts!

It has often been said that there are always two sides to any argument. It’s just immature and unjust to not find out the other side of what has happened or to check that you are indeed in possession of all the facts before joining in with a judgement. Wisdom will always wait until it has all the needed information before passing judgement. How often can one person seem so right, until the other party is heard – like the Bible puts it so well:

Proverbs 18:17 (NKJV)

The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.

Whether it is a person, or even a church leadership, that appears to be guilty, take a moment before you join in with the crowd that shouts “Crucify” to make sure you have all the facts, because after you have killed a person’s reputation or integrity is the wrong side to realize that maybe you were wrong. Remember, there are always two sides to every story!

March 25, 2014

A Time to be Tender, A Time to be Strong

Today’s reading is in two parts. The first is an introduction to Phil McCallum who is a pastor in Washington State.  The second one, you’ll have to click through for; it’s an explanation of how Phil starts his day in prayer.  The first reading for today can be seen at Phil’s blog, Deeper Still, where it appeared under the title Follow, Don’t Wallow.

Scripture

Joshua 7
7Then Joshua cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, why did you bring us across the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side!

9For when the Canaanites and all the other people living in the land hear about it, they will surround us and wipe our name off the face of the earth. And then what will happen to the honor of your great name?”

10But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? 11Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings.

13“Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you.

Observation

Joshua was a great leader who made a wrong assessment. Here is his train of thought.
We were defeated by our enemies
It’s my fault for overreaching
I should have aimed for less
I should have been content with little
What matters is what others think
And it’s up to me to give God a good reputation with others

While he is wallowing, God slaps him across the face and calls him to follow him.

“Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this?”

God had a very different train of thought.
My leaders don’t wallow. Get off the dirt.
My leaders follow me.
Think like a man of God.
This battle is spiritual, not just physical.
There are demonic powers involved.
There is a hidden sin.
The demonic powers have used this to their advantage.
You won’t be defeated until you have a camp that pleases the Lord.
Then you will be backed by the host of heaven.
Deal with the real problem and you will win.

Application

As a leader, there are times when I am tender when I should be bullet-proof and there are times I’m Teflon when I should be tender. Toward the Lord I must have vulnerability; toward my enemies, I must be tough and clear-minded. In times of defeat, I’m not to wallow, I am to follow God. I cannot allow Satan to lead me into a pseudo-humility, that looks like tenderness, but really offends God. Instead, I am to stand tall, face the facts, and know that even my radical ambition pleases the Lord.

Prayer

Father, where I’m wallowing today, help me to stand up and follow. Amen.


Here’s a link to part two for today: Get to know the writer you just read and how he begins his day with God in prayer.  Click to read How I Start My Day in Prayer.


 

Some days I really struggle with the idea that it seems so few Christian writers are willing to try their hand at writing devotional literature.  But then, this week I discovered this page at CBN. It’s good to know that there are others out there who prioritize the gift of encouragement and the gift of teaching and are willing to take the time to write out thoughts that will strengthen and encourage others.

 

May 25, 2013

Leadership Videos from Verge Network

Many of you are involved in leadership in your local assemblies. Have you ever had experiences in ministry which seem to take away all your joy?  Sometimes the enemy of our souls has ways of creating intense frustration and discouragement.  Francis Chan looks at this at one of a number of videos at Verge Network’s YouTube channel.

Matthew 7:21 (NLT)

21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.

Here’s another message from the same channel. David Platt looks at the variety of beliefs — some of them somewhat wacky — belonging to people who identify as Christians. Can they really be Christ followers? I know some of you don’t have internet connections which allow you to watch videos, so some of the text is printed below.

David Platt says,

“We live in a day where is means almost nothing to be a Christian. According to research almost 4 out of every 5 Americans identify themselves as Christians…But in this group of self proclaimed Christians, less than half of them are involved in church on a weekly basis. Less than half of them believe the Bible is true. An overwhelming majority of them don’t have a biblical view of the world around them. So researchers went even deeper then to distinguish men and women who are ‘born again Christians,’ as if there’s any other kind of Christian. But these are people who say they’ve made a personal commitment to Jesus, they believe they’ll go to heaven, because they’ve accepted Jesus as their savior. And according to research nearly half of Americans are ‘born again Christians.’

But you look at this group of ‘born again Christians’ and researchers found that their beliefs and lifestyles and virtually indistinguishable from the world around them. Many ‘born again Christians’ believe their works can earn them a place in heaven. Others think that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Some believe that Jesus sinned while He was on Earth. And an ever increasing number of ‘born again Christians’ just describe themselves as marginally committed to Jesus. So people you can use data like this to conclude that Christians are really not that different from the rest of the world. But I don’t think that interpretation of that research is accurate. I think the one thing that’s abundantly clear from those statistics is that there are a whole lot of people in our country who think that they are Christians, but they are not. There are scores of people—here and around the world who culturally distinguish themselves as Christians and biblically are not followers of Christ.”

April 29, 2013

When Computers Set Ministry Agenda

Romans 8:14 (NIV)

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Most of you probably have some type of agenda/organizer that came with your computer. There are also programs available to pastors and churches that are more specialized; more specific. They are capable of setting the agenda for all sorts of things from a one-year preaching arc to visitation to church finances and everything in between.

In A. W. Tozer’s day the personal computer or laptop had never been envisioned, let alone the smart phone. Instead, he wrote about the most progressive office organizing tool of his day, what we know now as the Rolodex. The article he wrote was titled, “Beware the File-Card Mentality.”

It is part of human nature to want to organize, to put things in boxes and people into categories. It’s part of our DNA to compose lists, make charts and have a diagram for just about everything. Our ability to visually simplify things is not all bad; where would we be without maps? But there are dangers implicit in doing this in a church or ministry environment.

A W TozerTozer wrote:

  • The essence of true religion is spontaneity, the sovereign movings of the Holy Spirit upon and in the free spirit of redeemed men.
  • When religion loses its sovereign character and becomes mere form, this spontaneity is lost also, and its place comes precedent, propriety, system — and the file-card mentality.
  • Behind the file-card mentality is the belief that spirituality can be organized. Then is introduced into religion those ideas which never belong there — numbers, statistics, the law of averages, and other such natural and human things. And creeping death always follows.
  • The danger comes from the well-known human tendency to depend on external helps in dealing with internal things.
  • [This mentality] divides the Bible into sections fitted to the days of the year and compels the Christian to read according to rule.
  • From the road in, it looks like a good idea to work out a system of sermon coverage, mapping out the doctrines of the Bible as a farmer divides his acres, allowing a certain amount of time during the year for sermons on the various Bible truths so that at the end of a given period, proper attention will have been paid to each one. Theoretically, this should be fine, but it will kill any man who follows it, and it will kill his church as well and one characteristic of this kind of death is that neither pastor nor people are aware that it is come
  • It is a deadly thing and works to quench the spontaneous operation of the Spirit.
  • The glory of the gospel is its freedom. The Pharisees, who were slaves, hated Christ because He was free. The battle for spiritual freedom did not end when our Lord had risen from the dead. It still goes on…

All of the above is mostly word-for-word, but for Tozer’s final paragraph, I have to paraphrase this to make it relevant to our century:

  • It will indeed be a cause for mourning when the work of God is entrusted wholly to the webmaster, the ‘tech pastor,’ and the IT department.
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