Christianity 201

February 9, 2016

On Being a True Servant

Today we’re paying a first-time visit to a writer whose blog was bookmarked in my computer, but I don’t believe we’ve ever featured here. Tanya Nemley blogs at God Speaks I Listen and you may click the title below to read this at its source, complete with graphics.

Are You a Servant of God?

John 12:26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

I decided to write about the subject of being a servant of Jesus Christ. Why… you might ask? Because I feel that I need and maybe we all need to remember why we remain on the earth after our salvation experience. To put it simply…we are now working for God!

A servant is a…helper, follower and supporter of an important person, one who performs duties for a person in charge, a personal attendant, worker, hired help, steward, hireling, underling, an assistant.

We are not to be the one in charge but a servant to the one in charge. We are not supposed to out there making a big name for ourselves but making a name for the one we serve. Our whole Christian walk is not about us and what we can get out of God. It’s about what God can get out of us. This is for our benefit in our eternal life with Him. Some may ask… why don’t we just go to heaven after we get saved? We are servants after salvation and we assist in leading others to Jesus.

Mark 10:44-45 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

There is a word in the above scripture verse that really quickened me down in my spirit and that word is “even”. Even Jesus who is the Son of Almighty God served. He knew His place and duty down here on earth. He knew He had a job to do for Father God. We all have a job to do for God.

The older I get and the more I pray and study God’s word I am coming to realize my purpose for my existence and reason for my earthly stay. Excuse me for putting it this way…I want to work my butt off for God! Now that I know who I am and what my whole life is about I KNOW what I need and want to do. My life is dedicated to serving my husband, my 6 kids, my parents, family, friends, acquaintances and strangers.

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

I need people to see Jesus in my life and the only way to show them is to do what He did:

John 13: 12-15 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

servant heartBeing a good servant means being keenly aware of the one that you are serving. Without knowing who’s in charge one might begin to take control of things. They might take over authority. They could abuse power that they don’t really have. Worse yet they may get puffed up and accept credit for any successes.

Paul makes it clear who he is as he makes these statements several times in the bible…” Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus”.

John the Baptist made this statement:

Act 13:25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.

See people will try to follow you because John said “who do you suppose that I am.” He knew that they what they were thinking about him and that they might want to follow him. But John was a Worker and was trying to complete his job here on earth. He could have taken a little credit here and told these men to come and join his group but instead he told them of the master… his employer. He humbled himself by saying he was unworthy to even tie His employers shoes. What a servant John was!

Jesus mother Mary said this:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:18

What a woman of God! There was no doubt that she knew what she was!

The bible says we must be a servant and the Holy Spirit will help us accomplish this task all day every day. God WILL honor you us serving. We will be rewarded too.

Don’t follow anyone who is looking for praise and adoration, but stick around with those with a humble and giving spirit. You don’t even need a lot of discernment for this…you will just know the difference between who wants to be served and who is serving.

I’m seeing a vision right now: I see Jesus high and lifted up and there is a very long line of people standing in front of Him.   They have servant’s outfits on with a towel on one arm and the other behind their back. They are saying…. “What can I do for you my Lord?” Jesus says something to each one and they leave Him. I asked Jesus what did He say to them and He said He told them to obey the word. He said He has told everyone what to do already. He said everyone was born with gifts and talents and then when we accept Him as Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit has been leading us from day one. We must obey God.

Checklist for our job as a servant of God:

  1. We all have a gifts and talents naturally given to us by God. Think about yours.
  2. The bible gives us clear instruction in what we are to do for the kingdom. If we don’t know what to do start by finding out what the bible says we should do.
  3. Walk with God so you will find it much easier to hear Gods voice when He by way of the Holy Spirit gives you direct orders for His divine purpose or mission.
  4. Make sure you are always prepared and ready to serve. Know your word, have tracks and bibles available, have your testimony ready and be prepared to share it, have a sharp eye for those divine appointments…in other words look for opportunities kingdom work.
  5. Make sure your house is in order. Have you ever seen a beautician with her hair looking busted and she wants to do your hair? We represent the King of Kings. You don’t need a Louis Vuitton handbag to witness to someone but a clean, humble, willing and dedicated heart.
  6. Be willing to do dirty work. God may not start you at the top. He may want to see if you’ll be faithful with smaller task until He sees that He can trust you.
  7. Let love be your motivation in all that you do for Him. Have love for Him and love for others.

Looking back over the past day, week, month year(s) can you really say what you’ve done for the Lord? Maybe a little, a lot or nothing at all. We need to take our Christianity seriously. Being a servant is what a Christian is and who a Christian is. I pray this blog today will cause one to ponder and make adjustment if necessary. God bless you!

 

October 30, 2015

Serving Others

Acts 9:36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

Today’s devotional was found at the multi-author website The Domain for Truth, and the author of this piece is Jim Lee. Click the title below to read this at source, and then take a minute to browse other articles there.

Dorcas: Serving Others and the Resurrection

Have you ever met someone in your church who was a huge servant?  They did everything out of selfless love and generosity.  They did it to serve the LORD.  Ultimately it was for an audience of One.  They were very humble about their ministry.  Yet everyone knew about their service to the Lord despite how they quietly served.  Sometimes one only find out the extent of their service to the church after they had passed away.  So when such a servant departs, it is a great loss to the church.  Yet they also leave behind a great example of service to the Lord.

In Acts 9:36-43 we see such a woman who was an example of such a saint.  Her name was Dorcas, she followed Christ’s example of how to humbly serve the LORD for heavenly rewards and not for earthly recognition.  She reached out to widows and served others in love.  According to verse 39 she helped the widows by making them tunics and garments.   She also spent them “with them.”  Widows can be easily forgotten by others.  But not Dorcas who remembered the widows and thus she obeyed God’s command to honor and care for the widows (1 Timothy 5:3).

Then one day she got sick and died.  The people who knew her and her service to the Lord were heartbroken.  Look at verses 37-39 and what it says.  Notice how Scripture states that Dorcas’ body was not buried right away.  Which would be unusual if they were familiar with Jewish customs.  Did the disciples and her friends expect and hope that God would use Peter to bring about a miracle?  The LORD graciously answered their prayers as we see in verse 40-41.  As a result people come to know the Lord.  But then again even when Dorcas was alive the Lord was already using her testimony.

While this story has the unusual twist that God brought her back to life through Peter, we too must consider our service to God in light of the future resurrection that is promised to believers.  Are you motivated to serve God and those in your community out of loving obedience to Christ?  Does the thought of one day meeting your Savior face-to-face make you want to love others in a way that pleases Him?

Reflection and Discussion

  • Do you know anyone that is like Dorcas in your life?  Consider how their example can encourage you to serve the Lord and love others within the church.
  • Are their widows in your church that you have shown love and care for?  Who are the people within the church that perhaps God has placed in your heart to minister to?  Consider the possibility that it might be of another generation or background.  What are some possible ways you can be of service to them?
  • Serving the Lord in a community might not always be easy.  How does the Gospel help us desire to serve Him?  Specifically, what about Jesus would make us want to serve God and love others?  Similarly what about the Resurrection?

 

 

October 2, 2015

A Servant’s Heart

Phil. 2:19(NIV) I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

Today we pay a return visit to the blog of Harvest Pointe Fellowship in Evans, Georgia. This resource has been on their site for over a year, but is a good fit for us here. Click the title below to read at source.

Deeper In God’s Word – The Heart Of A Servant

Most often, we don’t have much faith in the results of public polls but sometimes we get useful information from the Gallop polls. One Gallup poll taken recently (and supported by Barna) has produced statistics that will shock many of us. In some ways the outcome was positive. In some ways the outcome of the poll was very negative. The poll found that never in the history of America has church attendance been so high. It is encouraging that church attendance is at an all time high in America. We look back to previous generations and we tend to glorify the days past as a time when church attendance was common. But according to the Gallup poll never in the history of America has the attendance of Christianity been so high as it is now.

But then the second part of the poll reveals the discouraging aspect of this poll. Never in the history of America has church attendance made such little difference. In other words, many are attending church and many are coming more than ever before but the problem is the influence the Christian has on society. Never has Christian influence been so weak. It could be said, that we have a real problem with the absence of Christian character today.

The passage of scripture that Chris taught us from on Sunday addresses this problem. In Philippians chapter 2:19-24, we meet two friends of the Apostle Paul. These were real men who quite literally display the character of Jesus Christ that Paul has been writing about.

First, we meet Timothy in verses 19-24. As Paul writes about him we see that the underlying quality that marks the man is Jesus Christ. We see that Timothy is an exceptional man. Paul says, “I have no one like him.” Wouldn’t you like to have that written about you? I know there must have been many things at which Timothy did not excel. With his frail body, I am sure he was not much of an athlete. He could very easily have been beaten at sports, or possibly surpassed in learning. But there was one area where no one even comes close to this man, and that is in his selfless care, his demonstration of genuine and anxious concern for the welfare of others. Here he is demonstrating that peculiarly Christian virtue, that distinctive mark of the presence of Christ within: selflessness (Berkley). That is what the Lord Jesus said of himself, “Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.”

Recently, I read a definition of meekness that I think is awesome. I’ve been searching for a definition of that word for sometime. I don’t know any word in Scripture that is more thoroughly misunderstood than “meekness”. Most of us think of meekness in terms of weakness. We picture some spineless wimp who lets everyone walk all over him. But of course that description would never apply to our Lord. What did he mean when he said, “I am meek”? I found that “meekness is that quality which receives injury without resentment, and praise without pride” (Pettigrove). Timothy is demonstrating that utter unconcern for the rights and privileges of self, and an outgoing, deep and genuine concern for the needs of others.

I am not sure exactly what Paul means when he says, “for all others look after their own interests.” But, I think this reveals a frustration that as Paul searched among his acquaintances there in Rome for someone to go to Philippi, he sadly found no one with a selfless character. Evidently all of them turned him down. Not because they couldn’t do it. I’m sure Paul would not have asked them if that had been the case. But they turned him down because they were interested solely in their own concerns. They all had perfectly good excuses why none could undertake the journey to Philippi. The only one to whom Christ’s business was his business was Timothy. You can imagine what an encouragement he must have been to the apostle’s heart as he is longing to send someone to the Philippians to help them with their problems and everyone turns him down simply because of their own selfish concerns. But Timothy says, “All right, Paul, I’m ready to go-any time, any place, anywhere.” Like a sprinter in the starting blocks, he was sitting on ready. This was the selflessness of this young man. No wonder he was always a channel of power wherever he went, as he went ready to be an instrument of God’s grace (MacArthur).

This is the question. Are we self-satisfied with ‘random acts of kindness’ which may cost us little? Are we really in a constant state of readiness? As we consider the incomparable sacrifice of our Lord on our behalf, can we do less than worship Him with all we have and are?

Prayer: Father, teach us to be a people who genuinely care for the welfare of others, and who are willing to demonstrate that care in selfless acts of service.

Deeper In God’s Word,
Tom Renew


C201 New LinkMission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Your suggestions of articles and websites to consider are always welcome.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

May 29, 2014

The Humility of Christ

Somewhere yesterday I read about someone who has memorized Phil. 2: 5-11 and tries to remember to recite it every day. I found that interesting because this is something I do when I wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep.

Recently I’ve been thinking in particular about these verses:

rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!  (NIV)

This is the core of the text and lists four things:

He entered into the human condition.

John 1:14 states:

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. (NLT)

The word that’s translated, “the word became flesh” is sarx.  A ‘nicer’ word would have been soma which would imply that God ‘took on a body.’ But sarx implies the nitty-gritty of humankind: The muscles, sinews, bodily processes and all. This is the sum and substance of incarnation. Jesus was 100% human while all the while being 100% divine.

He came as a servant.

Matthew 28 quotes Jesus as saying

28 “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29  Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. (CEB, emphasis added)

The poem “One Solitary Life” says

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman… He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never traveled more than 200 miles from the place He was born. He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness…

He could have been born into nobility. He could have established a major organization. He could have  built a religious empire. But rather, he chooses relative obscurity.

Note carefully the contrast between the verse 3 (I’ve added emphasis) and verses 4 and 5 that describe Jesus sharing a Passover meal with his closest disciples in John 13:

Jesus knew that the Father had given him power over everything and that he had come from God and was going back to God. So during the meal Jesus stood up and took off his outer clothing. Taking a towel, he wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

I love that he picked up the towel and the basin knowing the extent of the divine power he possessed.

We see this again in Matthew 21, where in his “triumphal entry” — oh, the irony — he chooses to enter the city riding on the back of a donkey.

His human experience included submission to death.

Jesus experienced the full arc of human living, including death. It’s critical that he identifies with us in his death, especially when so many fear end-of-life experiences. But he didn’t simply die in his sleep, we’re told:

He experienced the most tortuous death known to people of his day.

Sometime soon, we’ll look specifically at the doctrine of the suffering of Christ before and during Calvary.  I wanted to focus more on the first two points of the text, and leave room to include a song that we haven’t featured here before. The lyrics are included the video. Meekness and Majesty reminds us of this contrast between his divine attributes even as he submitted himself to earthly life with us.

 

December 7, 2013

The Person God Elevates

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Ps. 75:6 No one from the east or the west
    or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges:
    He brings one down, he exalts another.

Every day here I always encourage you to read the various devotionals we find at their source blog. Today that is a necessity, because the original is very long, but very good (and it’s almost entirely scripture). It’s about the culture of celebrity pastors which now, dare I say, plagues us in North America.  The two excerpts below do not comprise the entire article, which also ends with a prayer. So here is the link to: Celebrity Pastors and the Glory of God from the blog Feeding on Christ by Joseph Randall.

…The Biblical and historical fact of the matter on celebrity pastors is this:  The LORD sovereignly chooses to make people great in the eyes of the world for the purpose of making His own name great and to be a blessing to the world through the Gospel.

He did so with Abraham:  “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.’” (Genesis 12:1-2)

He did so with Joseph:  “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.  His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands . . . But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison . . . The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” (Genesis 39:2-3, 21, 23)

He did so with Moses:  “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh . . . .’” (Exodus 7:1)

He did so with Joshua:  “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.’” (Joshua 3:7)

He did so with David:  “Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.  And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.’” (2 Samuel 7:8-9)

He did so with His own beloved Son:  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

He’s done it with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and many other faithful preachers and theologians in our own day.

And He does so now with whomever He pleases:  “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.  The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.  He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.  For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.” (1 Samuel 2:6-8) …

 

The article continues:

1.  Let us remember that the LORD doesn’t need us:

“Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)

“God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)

2.  Let us remember that the LORD grants all mercies, ministries, and positions in His Church as He sees fit:

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15)

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)

 “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ . . . But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose . . . But God has so composed the body . . . And God has appointed in the church . . . .” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 18, 24, 28)

3.  Let us remember that the LORD delights in and lifts up the humble:

“The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” (Psalm 147:6)

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Isaiah 57:15)

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

4.  Let us consider all other preachers (and people!) better than ourselves:

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

5.  Let us seek the LORD to build our ministry or all is vanity:

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

6.  Let us forget about ourselves and exult in the glory, beauty, and satisfaction of Jesus Christ alone – Who is the greatest and most famous One, but was made nothing on that cross so that we might have all in all in Him!

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

May 11, 2011

Read the Fine Print

For many Christians the concept of denying themselves was not part of the deal.  They grew up with the message that such a radical decision really isn’t necessary.  So they signed up to follow Jesus, but if denying themselves was part of the explanation, it was definitely the fine print.  That’s especially true of Ameican Christians.  In part, this due to the collision of Christianity with American capitalism.  It has created a culture of consumers in our churches.  Instead of approaching their faith with a spirit of denial that says, “What can do for Jesus?” they have a consumer mentality that says, “What can Jesus do for me?”

…One of the reasons it’s so hard for us to deny ourselves is because the whole idea seems to go against our greatest desire in life. Most everyone would say that what they want more than anything else is to be happy.  We’re convinced that the path to happiness means saying yes to ourselves. Indulgence is the path to happiness, so to deny ourselves seems to go in the opposite direction of what will make us happy. The right to pursue happiness seems to be in direct conflict with the call to deny.

…That’s what the story of the Rich Young Ruler is really all about.  It’s not just about giving up money and the things that money can buy; it’s about giving up, period.  That’s what it means to deny yourself and follow Christ.

~Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan, pp 148, 150, 155

(publishing May 31st)

January 2, 2011

The Biblical Concept of Leadership

Jamie Arpin-Ricci is founding co-director of YWAM Urban Ministries in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; a vocation which combined with his writing on the Missional Church would never catch you guessing that he’s also a third order Franciscan.

I really like the way he has come to understand what we can — and can’t — infer from leadership models in scripture.    This appeared just before his Christmas on his blog, A Living Alternative: Our Missional Pilgrimage, under the title Godly Leadership.

When I consider leadership in the Church I am deeply convinced that God calls His people to a politic of communal and absolute submission to the Lordship of Christ alone.  So what does that mean about leadership?  That word, “leadership”, comes loaded with baggage from the wider culture (for better and for worse).  In response to the worst aspects of leadership models that come from the world into the church- namely the pastor as CEO- some have pushed back against the very concept of leadership, questioning whether it is even biblical.  A few (and I believe a very few) reject leadership in toto.  Sadly, when legitimate concerns about leadership are raised, some respond by citing the dangers of this minority perspective, thus failing to recognize the more immediate and prevalent problems that were being addressed.

In considering “biblical leadership” I must always begin with Jesus, the perfect example of human leadership.  Jesus is the King of Kings, the leader of leaders.  So much can be gleaned from Him that we can only barely brush the surface here.  However, a few aspects emerge centrally for me.  Interestingly, Jesus does adopt the title “king”, drawing from the surrounding culture in respect to the nature of His leadership.  However, Jesus leads like no other king in human history- from His birth through to His resurrection and ascension- modeling a humble, servant posture that subverted the very system He draw the name from.  From this we can then recognize that when Scripture borrows from other examples in the world (such as “presbyters”, which translated as “elder”, etc., used widely outside of the Church), we cannot presume that the function of those roles are in anyway similar to their namesakes.

Jesus modeled a leadership that was absolutely submitted to the Father (”Not my will, but Yours be done”).  If the King of Kings functions in complete submission to the Father, then we too must only embody leadership that is in complete submission to Christ.  And when we submit to leadership in the Church (and I believe there are times where such leadership is right and godly), we are practicing leadership in that very act of submission.  Too often we read reference to submission in Scripture as an affirmation of specific authority when in fact God is teaching us that submission is the greater good, the ultimate point, not the leadership it is submitting to.  Any role and opportunity of leadership must, in itself, be an act of submission to God, making humility the primary condition for all leadership.

The New Testament talks about those to whom we are meant to submit to, such as in 1 Timothy 5:17.  The word “rule”- “proistēmi” in the Greek- share the same root as the word “first”- “prōtos”- from Matthew 20:16, when Jesus promised that the last shall be first.  In other words, those who might be in positions of leadership are not the point in and of themselves, despite how our culture celebrates and especially honors such leaders.  They exist for the purpose of those they are serving.  Leadership, while essential, is ultimately meant to serve the community of Christ in the same way a buttress supports a cathedral.  The buttress/leadership is designed to lend support, stability and even boundaries for the cathedral/community.  They have a specific and essential role, but no more important than the whole.  In fact, they are to be “the least”.

A more powerful image for how the community of faith is meant to function is the Church as the Body of Christ.  In the function of any body, there are parts that function in more apparent prominence, such as the mouth or hands.  It is easy for some to view such roles as more important, more valuable.  Few Christians would deny this truth, yet functionally we continue to treat those roles with greater honor.  Yet the truth is that the most critical parts and functions of the body (and the Body) are unseen, hidden, even intentionally covered.  This truth has to move beyond a conceptual, espoused conviction and shape the very nature of our communities, relationships and leadership.  Further, like any body, certain circumstances require different aspects of the body to take leadership.  Thus, leadership should be more situational, circumstantial and mutual, as the dynamic realities of life and service to God require genuine and intentional submission to others in some situations, while requiring initiative and sacrificial service in others.

We must also recognize that all communities, like all the individuals in those communities, are moving towards wholeness in and through Christ.  Therefore, the role and the nature of leadership in communities are shaped by the circumstances.  In my inner city context, there is a greater need for my more intentional, directive pastoral leadership.  However, my commitment in that role is to work myself out of such centrality- not completely out of leadership, but rather as one of many uniquely gifted leaders in a community of submitted disciples of Christ, equally submitted to His servant Kingship.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci

December 31, 2010

We Don’t Need Another Hero

When Pete Wilson mentioned this piece, which he originally titled Plodding Visionaries, as one of his top posts of 2010, I decided to give it another read.    It’s true.   We don’t need another Christian superstar.

So this is me, re-blogging Pete re-blogging Keven…

So, I read a blog post last week that has challenged me all weekend as I’ve reflected back on it. I rarely quote this much of someone’s blog post but I couldn’t do it justice any other way. The following post was written by Keven DeYoung on the Ligonier Ministries blog. Do yourself a favor and read the post in its entirety.

I’m quite confident many of you won’t agree with the entire thing but man did he challenge me. There are times I get so frustrated with the church that I just want to scream and walk away. Generally it’s because I see something in her that reminds me of something glaringly obvious in my own life.  Trying to consistently lead a church to be everything God has called her to be is the biggest challenge of my life. So thankful for all the “plodders” God has put around me. Don’t know where I would be without you!!

It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being un-Biblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risk-taking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.

My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without follow-through. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole. We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono — Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church.

As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too — same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people.

But in all the smallness and sameness, God works — like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days.

Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.

December 19, 2010

The Servant King by Graham Kendrick

This morning while we were singing “Joy to the World,” I was reminded again that only the first verse is, strictly speaking, Christmas-oriented.  The other three commonly sung verses would fit better at Easter.

Which brings us to a similar situation with “The Servant King.”   Although I just posted another Graham Kendrick song a few weeks ago,  I always associate this associate this song with Christmas, even though it speaks more of Christ’s death and resurrection.     (Another song, which also begins incarnationally is “Here I Am To Worship,” which works well at this time of year.)

This song originates in the UK, and is well-known to Canadians, but probably many of my American readers are not familiar with it.     The lyrics appear onscreen.

Phil 2:5 (NIV)In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

(Some similar writing to “The Servant King”  can be found in Kendrick’s Meekness and Majesty, another song known well in England and Canada, but not so much in the U.S.  We’ll post that one here in a few days.)