Christianity 201

June 12, 2018

Time Will Tell

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:51 pm
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But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the LORD, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. – Numbers 32:23 NLT

In preparation for something else I came across this verse a few weeks ago:

I Timothy 5:24

The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. (NIV)

Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. (NLT)

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (ESV)

As a matter of general principle this is true. But the Christian Courier notes the context, which is setting people aside for church leadership:

The thrust of the first half of the passage, therefore, seems to be this: Some men’s sins are so evident (open, unconcealed, obvious), that their possible appointment to a leadership role may be dismissed immediately. In such a situation, “judgment” (opinion, determination) can be made early-on; the issue, then, will not have to be dealt with in a more open forum later. There is no need to proceed further in the case of well-known transgressors.

On the other hand, the “problems” with others may not be so apparent initially. A man may be appointed to an important role, only to have his serious character flaws revealed at a later time. Therefore, be deliberate and cautious in the appointments made for leadership roles in the church.

Barnes Notes says,

They conceal their plans. They practice deception. They appear different from what they really are. But the character of such people will be developed, and they will be judged according to their works. They cannot hope to escape with impunity. Though they have endeavored to hide their evil deeds, yet they will follow after them to the judgment-bar, and will meet them there. The meaning, in this connection, seems to be, that there ought to be circumspection in judging of the qualifications of men for the office of the ministry. It ought not to be inferred from favorable appearances at once, or on slight acquaintance, that they are qualified for the office – for they may be of the number of those whose characters, now concealed or misunderstood, will be developed only on the final trial.

William Barclay’s Commentary notes the sovereignty of God in all this. His words remind me of Jesus speaking of letting wheat and weeds grow side-by-side:

This saying bids us leave things to God and be content. There are obvious sinners, whose sins are clearly leading to their disaster and their punishment; and there are secret sinners who, behind a front of unimpeachable rectitude, live a life that is in essence evil and ugly. What man cannot see, God does. “Man sees the deed, but God sees the intention.” There is no escape from the ultimate confrontation with the God who sees and knows everything.

There are some whose good deeds are plain for all to see, and who have already won the praise and thanks and congratulations of men. There are some whose good deeds have never been noticed, never appreciated, never thanked, never praised, never valued as they ought to have been. They need not feel either disappointed or embittered. God knows the good deed also, and he will repay, for he is never in any man’s debt.

Here we are told that we must neither grow angry at the apparent escape of others nor embittered at the apparent thanklessness of men, but that we must be content to leave all things to the ultimate judgment of God.

Matthew Henry covers verses 24 and 25 together:

Observe, Ministers have need of a great deal of wisdom, to know how to accommodate themselves to the variety of offences and offenders that they have occasion to deal with. Some men’s sins are so plain and obvious, and not found by secret search, that there is no dispute concerning the bringing of them under the censures of the church; they go before to judgment, to lead them to censure.—Others they follow after; that is, their wickedness does not presently appear, nor till after a due search has been made concerning it. Or, as some understand it, some men’s sins continue after they are censured; they are not reformed by the censure, and in that case there must be no absolution. So, also, as to the evidences of repentance: The good works of some are manifest beforehand. And those that are otherwise, whose good works do not appear, their wickedness cannot be hid, and so it will be easy to discern who are to be absolved, and who are not.

This brings us to case discussed in verse 25 which perhaps we will look at another time:

In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.

I encourage you to read the whole chapter.

June 1, 2018

Are We Truly Free From Idols?

We’re back for a third time with David Kitz who writes at I Love the Psalms. David has served as an ordained minister with the Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada. His love for drama and storytelling is evident to all who have seen his Bible based performances. For several years now, he has toured across Canada and into the United States with a variety of one man plays for both children and adults. For further information visit: http://www.davidkitz.ca/

Click the title below to read today’s devotional at its original source.

Are There Idols in your Life?

Reading: Psalm 115
(Verses 1-8)
Not to us, LORD, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.
Why do the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
 But their idols are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but cannot walk,
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them
(NIV).

Reflection
Where are your idols? “I have none,” you say. Are you sure? Most readers of this post would deny being idol worshippers, but perhaps we have more idols than we care to admit.

Idolatry was commonly practiced during Israel’s kingdom era. In Old Testament times, the nations around God’s people all practiced various forms of idol worship. One might assume that God’s redeemed people, who were rescued from slavery, would have nothing to do with such vile practices. But you would be wrong. Time and again Israel fell into idolatry.

King Solomon, who was revered for his wisdom, is a prime example of someone who condoned idol worship. Here’s what we read about this ‘esteemed’ leader:

On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods (1 Kings 11:7-8).

When leaders go astray, there will be many who follow. In the church today we have many leaders who have fallen captive to the god of Mammon—material goods. Jesus said,

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).

Before we claim to be free from idols, we need to examine our hearts. Are we yielding to the Holy Spirit, or are we controlled by our desire for what this world has to offer?

Response: Father God, show me if there are idols in my life. In love, correct me when I stray. I want to serve you—put you first in my life. Lord Jesus, be my master.  It’s an honor to serve you. Amen.

Your Turn: Are there other things that can become idols in your life?


Read more: The above article was David’s blog post for yesterday. Under equal consideration was the one from the day before, God Caused the Sea to Flee.

May 30, 2018

A Holy Discontent

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:40 pm
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Subscribers: We’re unable to account for Wednesday’s devotional here. There are a couple of theories! We know you want your money’s worth, so we’re sending you this one tonight as a bonus.

Sarnia, Ontario pastor Rev. Kevin Rogers is one of the longest-running and most frequently-appearing authors here at Christianity 201. I can always count on him to have a thought-provoking article centered on scripture at his blog, The Orphan Age. Click the title below to read at source.

Lead the Way

Have you ever sat back waiting for your leaders to show the way? While that is in their wheelhouse, they sometimes hesitate or hold back from truly leading because they are distracted, hurt or side-tracked. I know that I have been there at times but, what a difference when a leader steps up and takes the risk.

The Book of Judges was written about a time in Hebrew history when God’s people were oppressed, disobedient and powerless. Through that time God kept raising up leaders with holy discontent.

They would not settle for the lethargy and hopelessness that prevailed. We need some more voices in our time that tell us to cast down our idols and lean into God like never before.

Judges Chapter Five is entitled ‘The Song of Deborah.’ She was a leader that God raised up to inspire God’s people to do something. There are a few verses that I want us to consider in light of where and how we live today.

Judges 5:

On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

“When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves— praise the Lord!

“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.

When people willingly offer themselves, we all say ‘Praise the Lord!’ It happens always to people and leaders who have their heart captured by God. There are strategic moments in life when we cannot stand status quo for one more minute. We get weary and disturbed by the oppression of the enemy and have to do something. There is a growing sense that we need to trust God again and something like a song is happening in our soul.

Max Lucado said,

God chooses the person with the strongest character to lead His people to victory at crucial times. The key elements for such leadership are faith, trust, and worship. *

You may not feel as if you are the most qualified, but there is an urgency and demand on your life that must be met– and that is when you need to respond to God with next steps. Faith, trust and worship. Come on now… lead the way.


* Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (NKJV)

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.

October 16, 2013

Matthew Henry on Zephaniah

Because it’s simply too convenient on Bible Gateway, I often quote excerpts from the writing of classic Bible commentator Matthew Henry. However, because Henry alludes to the King James translation, I know that a longer piece — allowing M.H. to teach us through an entire section — can be cumbersome for some readers. Today, I want to take just the first four verses from Zephaniah 3, and offer them with parallel texts, so that you can work your way back and forth between Matthew Henry, the KJV, and the more familiar NIV.

Zephaniah 3 NIV

Woe to the city of oppressors,rebellious and defiled!
She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God.
Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves,
who leave nothing for the morning.
Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.

Zephaniah 3 KJV

Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!
2 She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God.
3 Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.
4 Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.

Commentary:

One would wonder that Jerusalem, the holy city, where God was known, and his name was great, should be the city of which this black character is here given, that a place which enjoyed such abundance of the means of grace should become so very corrupt and vicious, and that God should permit it to be so; yet so it is, to show that the law made nothing perfect; but if this be the true character of Jerusalem, as no doubt it is (for God’s judgments will make none worse than they are), it is no wonder that the prophet begins with woe to her. For the holy God hates sin in those that are nearest to him, nay, in them he hates it most. A sinful state is, and will be, a woeful state.

I. Here is a very bad character given of the city in general.

How has the faithful city become a harlot!

  1. She shames herself; she is filthy and polluted (Zeph. 3:1), has made herself infamous (so some read it), the gluttonous city (so the margin), always cramming, and making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts of it. Sin is the filthiness and pollution of persons and places, and makes them odious in the sight of the holy God.
  2. She wrongs her neighbours and inhabitants; she is the oppressing city. Never any place had statutes and judgments so righteous as this city had, and yet, in the administration of the government, never was more unrighteousness.
  3. She is very provoking to her God, and in every respect walks contrary to him, Zeph. 3:2. He had given his law, and spoken to her by his servants the prophets, telling her what was the good she should do and what the evil she should avoid; but she obeyed not his voice, nor made conscience of doing as he commanded her, in any thing. He had taken her under an excellent discipline, both of the word and of the rod; but she did not receive the instruction of the one nor the correction of the other, did not submit to God’s will nor answer his end in either. He encouraged her to depend upon him, and his power and promise, for deliverance from evil and supply with good; but she trusted not in the Lord; her confidence was placed in her alliances with the nations more than in her covenant with God. He gave her tokens of his presence, and instituted ordinances of communion for her with himself; but she drew not near to her God, did not meet him where he appointed and where he promised to meet her. She stood at a distance, and said to the Almighty, Depart.

II. Here is a very bad character of the leading men in it

…those that should by their influence suppress vice and profaneness there are the great patterns and patrons of wickedness, and those that should be her physicians are really her worst disease.

  1. Her princes are ravenous and barbarous as roaring lions that make a prey of all about them, and they are universally feared and hated; they use their power for destruction, and not for edification.
  2. Her judges, who should be the protectors of injured innocence, are evening wolves, rapacious and greedy, and their cruelty and covetousness both insatiable: They gnaw not the bones till the morrow; they take so much delight and pleasure in cruelty and oppression that when they have devoured a good man they reserve the bones, as it were, for a sweet morsel, to be gnawed the next morning, Job 31:31.
  3. Her prophets, who pretend to be special messengers from heaven to them, are light and treacherous persons, fanciful, and of a vain imagination, frothy and airy, and of a loose conversation, men of no consistency with themselves, in whom one can put no confidence. They were so given to bantering that it was hard to say when they were serious. Their pretended prophecies were all a sham, and they secretly laughed at those that were deluded by them.
  4. Her priests, who are teachers by office and have the charge of the holy things, are false to their trust and betray it. They were to preserve the purity of the sanctuary, but they did themselves pollute it, and the sacred offices of it, which they were to attend upon—such priests as Hophni and Phinehas, who by their wicked lives made the sacrifices of the Lord to be abhorred. They were to expound and apply the law, and to judge according to it; but, in their explications and applications of it, they did violence to the law; they corrupted the sense of it, and perverted it to the patronising of that which was directly contrary to it. By forced constructions, they made the law to speak what they pleased, to serve a turn, and so, in effect, made void the law.

I wonder what Zephaniah would say — having given this word from the Lord — if he were to see our 21st Century churches and religious institutions, especially where corruption or moral failure have become evident?  In other words, what is God saying to us today through Zephaniah?

If you wish to go further into this chapter to see how this resolves, click here to go to Bible Gateway, then click “Show Resources,” then choose Matthew Henry for verses 1-7.

March 23, 2013

Respecting The Office

When Your Pastor Isn’t Perfect

A couple of times in my life I have found myself in a position of being under the leadership of a pastor who in many different degrees I did not respect. Nonetheless, believing him to be placed there in the sovereignty of God, I have made a statement like, “I don’t respect the decision he made [or direction he is taking] but I will support him [it] because I respect the office.” In other words, I didn’t want to undermine the general support I think a pastor should have.

Some of you have been in the position of knowing a Christian leader or author or pastor intimately enough that you are aware of some severe flaws in their character, and yet their preaching or writing was solid; their teaching of God’s word was able to penetrate your heart or move people to a place of repentance.

Ideally of course, this type of situation — or character double standard — shouldn’t exist. It’s really at the heart of hypocrisy.

It shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus addresses this issue.  In Matthew 21: 1-3 we read:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

Matthew Henry observes:

Christ allows their office as expositors of the law; The scribes and Pharisees (that is, the whole Sanhedrim, who sat at the helm of church government, who were all called scribes, and were some of them Pharisees), they sit in Moses’ seat (Matt. 23:2), as public teachers and interpreters of the law…

1. Many a good place is filled with bad men; it is no new thing for the vilest men to be exalted even to Moses’s seat (Ps. 12:8); and, when it is so, the men are not so much honored by the seat as the seat is dishonored by the men. Now they that sat in Moses’s seat were so wretchedly degenerated, that it was time for the great Prophet to arise, like unto Moses, to erect another seat.

2. Good and useful offices and powers are not therefore to be condemned and abolished, because they fall sometimes into the hands of bad men, who abuse them. We must not therefore pull down Moses’s seat, because scribes and Pharisees have got possession of it; rather than so, let both grow together until the harvest, Matt. 13:30

…As far as they sit in Moses’s seat, that is, read and preach the law that was given by Moses” (which, as yet, continued in full force, power, and virtue), “and judge according to that law, so far you must hearken to them, as remembrances to you of the written word.”

The scribes and Pharisees made it their business to study the scripture, and were well acquainted with the language, history, and customs of it, and its style and phraseology. Now Christ would have the people to make use of the helps they gave them for the understanding of the scripture, and do accordingly. As long as their comments did illustrate the text and not pervert it; did make plain, and not make void, the commandment of God; so far they must be observed and obeyed, but with caution and a judgment of discretion. Note, We must not think the worse of good truths for their being preached by bad ministers; nor of good laws for their being executed by bad magistrates. Though it is most desirable to have our food brought by angels, yet, if God send it to us by ravens, if it be good and wholesome, we must take it, and thank God for it.

Our Lord Jesus promiseth this, to prevent the cavil which some would be apt to make at this following discourse; as if, by condemning the scribes and Pharisees, he designed to bring the law of Moses into contempt, and to draw people off from it; whereas he came not to destroy, but to fulfil. Note, It is wisdom to obviate the exceptions which may be taken at just reproofs, especially when there is occasion to distinguish between officers and their offices, that the ministry be not blamed when the ministers are.

I looked at Matthew 23: 1-3 after reading a chapter in a recently released book, Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things by Ken Wytsma (Zondervan).  In Chapter 6, he looks at this from the point of view of our behavior and reminds us:

Pursuing Justice - Ken WytsmaIt’s  deceptively easy to believe a lot of good things about God but fail to live out those good things.  It’s been said what we do is actually what we believe. It’s easier than we think to have the spiritual exteriors without the spiritual heart. It’s easy to mistake the packaging for authentic living, to confuse the décor of religion with genuinely loving our neighbor.

Think of James 4:17, where we are reminded of this truth: “Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” Or Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold the good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” Sometimes trying not to do the wrong thing is the surest way to do the wrong thing.

[This type of sin*] is subtle. We’re often one step away from becoming the Pharisee. And the minute we care more about avoiding the bad than doing the good is the moment we’re in deep trouble. Our spiritual pride blinds us to our own imperfections, causing us to become “lukewarm” from a Biblical standpoint — good only to be spit out.

True morality — true righteousness and justice and love — can never lead to external legalism because we cannot be fully righteous and just and loving. For that we need God’s grace, every moment of every day, and grace is the stake through the heart of legalism.

pp. 93-94  [* eusebeigenic sin, term coined by Eugene Peterson; a sin picked up in a place of righteousness]

So it may be at times in our lives we are called to follow less-than-perfect leaders; times our food will be brought by ravens and not by angels. Nonetheless, we are to follow genuine teaching from God’s word, and also to look in the mirror to make sure that our leadership or place of influence in someone else’s life is free of anything that would be hypocritical.

June 7, 2011

Going Deep into Depth

There are presently two strains of evangelical preaching emerging.  Some preachers prefer the “one thing” approach; providing a rhythm and cadence to their preaching which leaves their listeners remembering a clear message and a clear application.  The classic, “It’s Friday Night… But Sunday’s A-Comin'” is a message you’ve probably heard, or at least heard alluded to, that is based on this type of teaching.

The other style is the kind of message that gives you much information about context and history as well as cross-references to at least a dozen related scriptures.  There are multiple points and various information sidebars.

The problem is that sometimes the people in the second camp, feel that the people in the first camp are not giving their people enough “depth.”  This came up in the Elephant Room Conference where Steven Furtick used hyperbole to indicate the degree to which he did not want to aim for going deep on Sunday mornings.*  

And it comes up here in this exchange between John Piper and Rick Warren.   You might prefer to go direct to the YouTube page and click on some of the other subjects covered in this series.  I’m sorta hoping you will!  Some of the clips will also run in playlist form, allowing you to just sit back as the videos play in succession.

“Simple does not mean shallow.”  “Simple does not mean simplistic.”  What is deep?  Warren says he taught series on sanctification and incarnation without actually using the words; is that possible?

*For your interest, here is the discussion between Steven Furtick and Matt Chandler, moderated by James MacDonald.  It gives you some insight into how pastors wrestle with the “deep” question.

April 16, 2011

Reproducible Ministry

Today’s post is from The Leadership Institute’s Alan Fadling.  It appeared on his blog Notes from My Unhurried Journey under the title, Discipleship – Reproducing Life and Ministry.

I recently heard again the saying:

“Give someone a fish and they eat for a day,
Teach them to fish and they eat for a lifetime.

What kind of a ministry do I provide. Am I making people dependent on me for their daily bread, or am I teaching men and women to listen to God for themselves in ways they will be able to continue over their lifetimes? This is the difference between producing and reproducing ministry.

One way I’m learning to reproduce ministry in others is to invite them into the processes I use to planning an event or gathering. I need to have thought deeply about the rationale and reason for what I do.

One key to reproducible ministry is profound simplicity in what I teach, counsel, and plan. I’m not talking about being simplistic. I’m talking about what Thomas Kelly called “the simplicity that lies beyond complexity.” He says that “the last fruit of holy obedience is the simplicity of the trusting child, the simplicity of the children of God. It is the simplicity that lies beyond complexity. It is the naïveté that is the yonder side of sophistication. It is the beginning of spiritual maturity, which comes after the awkward age of religious busyness for the Kingdom of God–yet how many are caught, and arrested in development, within this adolescent development of the soul’s growth! The mark of this simplified life is radiant joy.”[1]

When we are simplistic and reductionist, we don’t inspire many to reproduce what we are doing. Being profoundly simple inspires people to try their own hand at ministry. Profound simplicity inspires people to believe, “Hey, I could do that!”

Ministry is reproducible when it flows with integrity out of my own life. Instead of thinking of ministry merely something I prepare to do, I am learning that ministry is rooted in who I am becoming and how I am relating with others. I reproduce ministry when instead of only sharing the finished product of my preparation process, I share the process. I can prepare a Bible study and then creatively walk students through the basic process that I went through (on a smaller time scale), rather than just giving them the fruit of my study. Reproducible Bible study would be discovery-oriented, not just delivery-oriented.

Reproducible events or gatherings would involve not just planning them behind closed doors and then delivering the finished product. It would involve doing some groundwork, then walking through the process together with a few who are willing, even hungry to learn.

Reproducible ministry will appeal to external motivation, but seeks to influence through modeling, inspiring and other increasingly internal motivations.

Reproducible ministry is more cooking school then chef, more cultivating learners than just teaching, more developing leaders than just personally leading. This is a paradigm shift. It always feels faster to do it myself than to teach another to do it, whatever it is.

Reproducible ministry requires a healthy sense of self-esteem and confidence in God. If my leadership is the means by which I try to establish my value and importance, I won’t be willing to share that role with others. I won’t want to share my “trade secrets.” I may resist reproducing ministry out of fear that someone else might do it better than me!

Father, help me learn to be one who reproduces ministry in the lives of those around me, even as I learn to receive from You a reproduction of Your own ministry in my life. Reproducible ministry is “Christ in me.”

~Alan Fadling


[1]Thomas Kelly. A Testament of Devotion. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941, p. 36-37.

November 28, 2010

Words That Divide

So often in the Christian blogosphere we’re only interested in what someone wrote in the previous 24 hours.   This post however, is actually from June 2008.   (There’s a lot of good stuff online if you use limited search criteria; I was interested to see if anyone on WordPress had quoted Paul Billheimer, author of Destined for the Throne.)   It’s by BJ Rutledge at BJ’s Weblog where it appeared under the title, If You’re Gonna Walk the Walk, Then Talk The Talk.

Two months ago,  Janet and I attended a conference at North Point Community Church.  While there, we were reminded that a broken heart is usually what fuels your vision.  I think that’s why Sunday’s message on unity is so important to me.  I have a heart to reach people who do not know Jesus Christ and when anything hinders that, it breaks my heart.

I’ve never been in a church with a sweeter spirit than Grace Fellowship, and I want us to protect this spirit at all costs.  I also want us to protect the unity of the universal Body of Christ (the Church) in the same way.  One of the things that breaks my heart is when people – who claim to be followers of Christ – choose to do something totally contrary to His will by tearing down another church or church leader.  I hope you and I will never be guilty of that.  Jesus prayed for us to be “one” so that those who do not know Him could be “won” to faith in Him  (John 17).

When I was serving at another church in another state, I had a youth worker who asked us to pray for her husband who was not a believer and who never attended church.  As a first step, we began to pray for him to at least be open to coming to church and he did.  The Pastor had made some needed changes in the church and we were seeing many people make commitments of their lives to Jesus Christ.  This man began to come and was open to hearing the truth about Jesus.  About this time, two men in the church who were upset with the changes the Pastor had made talked to this man.  In that conversation, they began to rip the pastor apart.  When his wife got home that evening, he told her: “Don’t ever ask me to go to church again.”   His wife and daughter cried.  Those two men probably didn’t think anything about their “unsanctified” words.  That man remained lost without Christ.  I imagine that Satan laughed.

Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, wrote the Christ-followers in Rome these words: May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Romans 15:5-6)

A paraphrase of Eph. 4:29-32 says:   29Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. 30Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.  31-32Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

The next time you’re tempted to be critical of a church, a pastor, or its members, remember Ephesians 4 and Romans 15.   If you have a legitimate issue or problem, Jesus said go to the person(s) involved privately (Matthew 18:15-17).  In Matthew 18,  Jesus wasn’t talking about matters of opinion, He was talking about sin.  In matters of opinion, you may have to agree to disagree, but be careful that your opinions are not used in some way to hinder the cause of Christ.   All of us have opinions, but a principle Paul outlined in 1 Cor 10:23-24 reminds us that even though we may have a right to something – it may not be profitable or help our neighbor.  {23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.  (1 Cor. 10:23-24)}

In Paul Billheimer’s classic book, Love Covers, he states that most problems in churches are not over essentials, but rather happen because of unsanctified ambitions, jealousies or personality clashes.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen this happen in churches and communities.  Whenever you’re around someone who is always trying to stir things up, be cautious of that person and their words.   Proverbs 16:28a says “A perverse man stirs up dissension.”

Billheimer also states he believes more souls have been lost through the sin of disunity than all other sins combined.  That’s a very sobering thought.   When we talk about other believers in a negative way instead of about Jesus in a positive way – those who are not yet believers tend to balk at the offer of putting their faith in Jesus Christ.  You never know who’s listening, so make sure your comments are used to build up others and to draw people toward Christ – not push them away.  None of us are perfect – we all make mistakes – especially with our words!  We don’t walk in perfection, but we can walk with direction.  So, If you’re gonna walk the walk, then talk the talk.

B.J. Rutledge is pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Paradise, Texas.

October 3, 2010

Leading Others to Growth

When I first read this post on Kevin Rogers blog, The Orphan Age, my first reaction was that it would fit well on any number of general leadership blogs.   But the more I thought about how it applies to the discipleship process and mentoring (or what we sometimes call Paul-Timothy relationships), or church life in general, I realized there’s something here that everyone — not just people in leadership — needs to see.

By Kevin Rogers

Some lead according to their stature and height.  They build a ceiling on vision just above their own head.  As long as other leaders and followers are shorter in stature, they can live comfortably in the containment of the leader’s vision.

The Pharisees led people with a clearly defined ceiling on God’s House.  If they stretched up on tippy-toe, they could touch the ceiling.  They felt taller than others and thought they were authorized to define maximum growth potential.

In a small aquarium fish will only grow to a size suitable to their environment.  The same fish in the wild can grow several times larger.

Indoor plants will only grow to the maximum potential of the soil pot they are planted in.  They can grow several times larger when they have more resources.

On the birch tree in my front yard, there were two posts in the ground alongside the slender trunk of the young tree.  The tree had the advantage of stabilizers while it grew to maturity.

Your role in leading leaders is to come alongside and join to them to provide stability so they can grow straight and tall.

It’s not your job to put a ceiling on how big they can grow, unless you want to keep them small like goldfish in a bowl.

Advice from Ross Perot about how to treat your people: “Never ask anyone to do what you haven’t done before and wouldn’t do again. That’s a pretty fundamental rule in leadership…treat them like you treat yourself. Things you don’t like, they don’t like. You don’t like to be jerked around, they don’t either. You don’t like to be talked down to, and they don’t either. You would rather work with somebody than for somebody. So would they. You hate people who pound on your head after you gave everything you had and failed…It’s that simple.”

~ Bits & Pieces, August, 20, 1992, p. 3.

September 29, 2010

The Trouble with “Visionary”

I’m currently reading an interesting little book (pun intended) titled  The Strategically Small Church by Brandon O’Brien, released in August by Bethany House.   I’ll do a full review on the book on Friday at Thinking Out Loud, but I thought I’d share with you this interesting take on trying to force a vision to materialize…

When we forget the principle of the mustard seed, we risk forcing our own vision of the church, or the prescribed vision of experts, onto our congregation.   In our efforts to live the narrative of success, we view the small church not as God’s mustard seed, but as an obstacle to be overcome.   We then rely on our vision to bring about the success we desire.   We do this at our own peril.

Disturbed over the gap between the church in Acts and the German church in the late 1930s, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote Life Together to explain genuine Christian community.   In the first section of the book, the person who comes under the fiercest attack is the pastor Bonhoeffer calls the visionary, the person who has “a very definite idea of what Christian life together should look be and [tries] to realize it.”  Bonhoeffer has strong words for the visionary, for the person we might call the “expert” in Christian community:

The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself.   He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.   He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together.  When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure…. So he becomes first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.