Christianity 201

November 11, 2016

Developing and Practicing Biblical Discernment

Today we’re paying a return visit to Revive Our Hearts, though with a different author, Terri Stovall. This is a women’s ministry blog but I obviously felt there were some principles here that could be beneficial to a broader audience. Please support the various sources we use here by reading the articles at source by clicking the titles like the one below.

Get Off the Roller Coaster: 4 Ways to Practice Biblical Discernment

discernment-articleI am fascinated with roller coasters and just love riding them. Did you know that when a roller coaster is being constructed, if the builders are off even a half inch at the bottom of the first lift hill (the upward-sloping section of the track), it can be off as much as three feet at the top of the lift hill, depending how tall it is? That’s a coaster I don’t think I want to ride!

This past year has felt a bit like being on a roller coaster. Many of us have been shocked by the events and news reports that seem to challenge the very core of our beliefs. We live in a time when women are talking about transgender issues, political elections, and Supreme Court decisions on the one hand while struggling to know what really is true, noble, just, and pure (Phil 4:8–9).

Perhaps the place in which we find ourselves today is like the proverbial roller coaster that was a quarter of an inch off at the bottom of the lift hill. The issues that a decade ago didn’t seem like a big deal to slide a half-inch have now set us on a course where we feel we are about to fly uncontrollably off the track.

…We may not be building roller coasters, but we are mentoring, discipling, and influencing the lives of others. And it’s important to recognize there are many things that can move us off course from the truth.

We have the responsibility to make sure we are not even a half-inch off.

Warnings of Twisted Truth

Scripture warned that there will come a time when some will try to twist truth and deceive, even to the point of calling evil “good” and good “evil” (Matt. 24:4–51 Tim. 4:12 John 7; Isa. 5:20–21). Additionally, we have been commanded to grow in our ability to discern in order to test all things and to approve those that are excellent so we can hold fast to what is good (1 Thess. 5:21–22Phil. 1:9–11; Eph. 5:8–11). But I fear we have loosened our grip, and we are about to fly out of the seat.

Biblical Discernment: Four Ways to Develop

Discernment is being able to decide, determine, distinguish, or discriminate what is truth and what is error. So what is truth? It’s whatever God decrees. How do we, as women, build up those discernment muscles in order to know truth and recognize what is error? Jude 20–23 gives four admonitions that help us develop biblical discernment, which will keep us on track.

  1. Build your faith (v. 20) by being secure in knowing what and in whom you believe. The only way to do that is to continually read, study, and be consumed by the Word of God. You must engage and immerse yourself in what is truth so that when you encounter error, it can’t help but be obvious. How much does the Word permeate your typical day? How secure are you in your knowledge of who God is?
  2. Pray in the Holy Spirit (v. 20). You can have true biblical discernment only in and through the Holy Spirit. Pray without ceasing, being in constant communication with heart and ears wide open. Are you staying in constant communication with the Spirit, or do you have an on-again/off-again connection?
  3. Keep yourselves in the love of God (v. 21). How are you to love God? By being obedient to all He has commanded and walking accordingly (2 John 6:1, John 15:9–10). Are you picking and choosing some things to obey and letting others slide, or are you daily striving to walk obediently?
  4. Look for the mercy of our Lord (v. 23). That is, keep your eyes fixated on Christ. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the church at Colossae: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). When we take our eyes off those things above, we become distracted and frightened by all that is going on around us. What are your eyes fixated on today? What things easily divert your eyes away from Christ?

Biblical Discernment: Four Ways to Practice

As women’s ministry leaders, we have an added responsibility when it comes to the women we influence.

  1. Know what you believe, why you believe it, and be able to articulate it. If you can’t articulate it, you can’t counter lies with truth.
  2. Help the women you lead develop biblical discernment by teaching the whole counsel of God, not just the easy, feel-good parts we like.
  3. Recognize your responsibility to be on guard for the “savage wolves” that will come in attacking the flock ( Acts 20:28–29). You are the gatekeeper for what is let in and exposed to the women you lead. Keep your guard up, testing everything.
  4. Be willing to redeem and rescue. Jude 22–23 makes it clear that there is a time to be compassionate and redeem those who have strayed off course and there is a time to sound all alarms, rescuing someone before they are lost.

Yes, it does feel a bit like a roller coaster ride today, and you may wonder how in the world you are going to be able to navigate all that is to come. The answer? Look to Jesus, the One who can keep you from falling out of your seat.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24–25).

June 22, 2016

Following the Directions

Today we pay a return visit to Jen Rodewald at the blog The Free Slave’s Devotional; an article from her archives. This is also a return visit to Joshua, who we looked at yesterday.

directionsHe Gives Me Directions

“And Joshua fell on his face…and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?’” ~Joshua 5:14, NASB

We discussed the felling of Jericho yesterday, and with it, the purpose for the nation of Israel. They were a people of God’s choosing, a people set apart for His purpose. His glory. His revelation.

They were to show who the true God is to the world. And God worked in and through them to reveal himself. Pretty well, too, despite the Israelites many, many flaws. Consider Rahab, her response to the Hebrew spies…

“…our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:11)

She had heard about the Red Sea. About the wilderness, and the mighty kings the nomadic wanderers had taken out. No doubt she’d heard about the crossing of the flooded Jordan river…and now these people, whose God was clearly THE God, were coming.

Notice what she didn’t hear about…How amazing the leadership was among Israel. The awe-inspiring orator who captivated his audience. The unbelievably gifted song leader who could raise a frenzy of praise with his charismatic performances…

She heard about God. HIS power. HIS doing. HIS redemption of his people. Were there amazing leaders, great writers/speakers, gifted musicians? Yep. Among many other extraordinary people, there were such in Israel. Gifted and called by God himself. But Rahab’s faith didn’t sprout from them. She planted herself into the conviction that God was sovereign over all–people, nature, nations. All.

So, what does that have to do with the felling of Jericho? Well, we know Rahab was saved from that destruction. We also know that her legacy wasn’t restricted to her soiled past. Boaz, her son, was quite a good man, you know. And God saw fit to include Rahab in Jesus’s genealogy.

Anything else?

Well, we circled around to this question: “How do we, like the Israelites, show who God is to a godless or idolatress world?”

Perhaps the answer is found in this part of the story.

“I have given Jericho into your hand…. You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days…then on the seventh day march seven times, and the priest shall blow the trumpets…and all the people shall shout…”

What? Not only is that a very strange string of directions, it’s actually quite terrifying. March around the fortified city walls? That is a completely vulnerable position. And seven times? Not only is it vulnerable, it has now become predictable. A recipe for slaughter.

Here, maybe, is the key. Obedience. God said march. Just walk. No shooting. No secret attack. Nothing fancy, cunning, or brilliant. A simple walk around the wall–easy directions that are leg-shakingly difficult to complete. But the obedience is visible, so when Rahab and her family ask “why did you do that?” the people would say, “because God said to.” So when the nations around heard about the walls coming down, the only bit of strategy that they could gain from studying that victory is, “they obeyed God.”

Sometimes showing who God is to the world around me is as simple as walking. Am I willing to obey?

 

December 21, 2015

Asking for a Double Portion

2 Kings 1 (NLT) When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal…

…8 Then Elijah folded his cloak together and struck the water with it. The river divided, and the two of them went across on dry ground!

When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.”

And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.”

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.”

11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress.

13 Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. 14 He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.

15 When the group of prophets from Jericho saw from a distance what happened, they exclaimed, “Elijah’s spirit rests upon Elisha!” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.

Though much more meaningful than a “What do you want for Christmas?” type of question, Elisha is still given a wide open set of possibilities when Elijah asks him what he would like. It’s a question of what Elijah will “do” so some type of blessing is in view here, but Elisha’s response is unique in scripture.

Most translations refer to the request as for a “double portion” but we also have:

  • Let me have twice your spirit (CEB)
  • Please give me twice as much of your power as you give the other prophets (CEV)
  • Please, let me inherit two shares of your spirit. (Holman)
  • Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you. (Peterson)
  • Leave me a double share of your spirit. (NCV, NRSV, NLT and others)

Double PortionEven with the help of various translations, I still wasn’t clear as to what was meant by the request. Did he want be Elijah-times-two? Actually, the translation by Peterson above (The Message) is closest to what I read at sermonnotebook.org : (I’ve underlined key sentences)

The Content Of His Request – Elisha asked to receive double portion of Elijah’s spirit! The request was not for twice the power that had rested on Elijah. The request was to be recognized as Elijah’s replacement. Of course, he had already been selected by God for that position – 1 Kings 19:16. It was common for firstborn children to receive a double portion of their father’s estate. This was mandated by the Law, Deut. 21:17. (Note: He called Elijah “my father” in verse 12.) Elisha was asking for the right of the firstborn! He was asking that the same Spirit that had empowered the ministry of this great man of God be given to him as well. What kind of spirit was he asking for?

1. A Spirit Of Faith – Elijah learned to trust in the presence and power of God in this world. He knew that God was in absolute control of every situation. He walked by faith!

2. A Spirit Of Obedience – Elijah instantly and without question, even when the commands of God made no sense at all!

3. A Spirit Of Courage – His faith in God and his obedience to God combined to give him the courage to stand for God, even when others ran away.

He merely wanted to take over where Elijah had left off. He wanted to be the next prophet to Israel!

But scripture, ever rich in meaning, can offer us multiple perspectives, insights and applications. At biblestudytools.com the double portion is said to be: (again, I’ve done some underlining; read slowly)

The two parts of the gifts of the spirit he had, that of prophecy, and that of doing miracles, as some think; or two parts out of three of what Elijah was possessed of; or rather double as much, and which he might desire, not from a spirit of vanity and ambition to be greater than his master, but from an eagerness to promote the glory of God, and the interest of religion, to reclaim the Israelites from their idolatry, and establish the true religion, which he might observe Elijah was not able to do with that measure of grace and gifts he had; or however this phrase denotes an abundance, a large portion or measure, as it everywhere does.

Many… have thought it refers to the double portion of the firstborn, and that Elisha does not mean a double portion with respect to Elijah, but with respect to the junior prophets, with whom he might be considered as a firstborn, and so desired a double or greater portion than they, and which may be most correct; and when he asked this, he did not suppose it was in Elijah’s power to give him it, only that he would pray to God, at parting with him, that he would bestow it on him.

So when you’re asked what you want for Christmas, you can give the person who asked you something to think about when you say, “A double portion of God’s Spirit.” Seriously, what better thing could Elisha, or any of us, ask for?


We’ve covered the meaning of “double portion” before here in May of 2012 in an excellent devotional study by K.W. Leslie.


Do you have a verse or passage you’d like to see studied here? Send us the reference using the contact/submissions page.

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.

February 27, 2013

Howard Hendricks Quotations

“You’re looking at a completely fulfilled human being. If I died today having produced some of the people God has given me the privilege of shaping, it will have been worth showing up on the planet.”

—Prof Hendricks to the Dallas Morning News, 2003

Many in the Christian blogosphere took time last week to pay tribute to Howard Hendricks.  Some of his books included As Iron Sharpens Iron, A Life of Integrity, Teaching to Change Lives, The 7 Laws of the Teacher, and Living By The Book. He was a mentor to many, taught the mentoring principle through his teaching and writing. You can read one such tribute at Daily Encouragement, and  at Dallas Theological Seminary’s online magazine.

The mentoring principle in scripture is best expressed in the relationship between the Apostle Paul and Timothy, who joins Paul at the beginning of Acts 16:

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named  Timothy,  the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.  He was well spoken of by  the brothers  at Lystra and Iconium.  Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him…    (ESV)

and in the introduction to his first letter to Timothy, Paul refers to him as a spiritual son:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy my true son in the faith. Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

That’s the kind of relationship Howard Hendricks felt every mature Christian should have, and it works both ways; you can ask yourself, ‘Who is my Paul and who is my Timothy?” Sometimes we can emphasize one over the other; we are being helped and influenced by one person but not passing that on; or, conversely, we are constantly giving of ourselves to nurture another person, but nobody is guiding and shaping us.  Yes, it is God that forms us, but his desire is that we grow in community. Yes, God uses His Word to teach us, but he also works through other believers He places in our lives.

Many of Hendricks’ quotations online are one-liners from his teachings, but we’ve also included some longer quotations below as well.

  • howard_hendricksIf your religion does not work at home, don’t export it.
  • Succeeding in business and failing at home is a cop-out. For no success in the workplace will ever make up for failure at home.
  • There is no fear of judgment for the man who judges himself according to the Word of God.
  • A good leader has a compass in their head and a magnet in their heart.Our problem is that we are in the Word but not under the Word.
  • You cannot impart what you do not possess.
  • How big is your God? The size of your God determines the size of everything.
  • The Bible was written not to satisfy your curiosity but to help you conform to Christ’s image.
  • If you leave the church service thinking about how good the pastor was, he has missed the mark. If you leave consumed with Christ, the pastor has been used by the Lord.
  • Man is the only animal which you can pat on the back and his head swells up.

A webpage devoted to Dr. Hendricks at Talbot Theological Seminary contains some longer quotations of which these are two:

The greatest tragedy among Christians today is that too many of us are under the Word of God, but not in it for ourselves. (p. 9) The genius of the Word of God is that it has staying power; it can stand up to repeated exposure. In fact, that’s why it is unlike any other book. You may be an expert in a given field. If you read a book in that field two or three times you’ve got it. You can put it on the shelf and move on to something else. But that’s never true of the Bible. Read it over and over again, and you’ll see things that you’ve never seen before. (p. 81) I think the great need among God’s people today is to get into Scripture for themselves. And because they are not doing so, they are losing the fizz in their spiritual life. They are flat and lukewarm. Nothing is more repulsive. People are weary of words, but they are starving for authenticity. (p. 340)

Living by the book. Chicago: Moody Press. (1991)

Perhaps you find yourself talking more these days and enjoying it less. If so, you may be on the verge of the greatest breakthrough in your Christian life and ministry. Nothing is as easy as talking; nothing is as difficult as communicating. Those to whom you and I effectively communicate are changed; they are never quite the same again. I believe communication is one of the most delicate and critical tasks ever to confront the human mind—especially communicating in the spiritual realm. Here the results affect not only time but eternity. (p. 24)The man or woman who stops learning today stops communicating tomorrow. (p. 26) I have found that the closer I get to an individual, the more influence I have on his life. I talk to many students; unfortunately, I teach very few. Those I teach, I change, and that requires personal involvement. (p. 58)

Say it with Love. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. (1972)

March 11, 2011

Should Women Teach Men in the Church?

I realize I’m wading into a more contentious issue then we usually get into here at C201, but I think it is important that people demonstrate grace by listening to divergent views on any given subject that deals with interpretation of scripture.

Several years ago I had a conversation with someone who told me about the monthly editorials by J. Lee Grady in Charisma Magazine. I immediately became a fan. In an environment often characterized by excesses, Grady is a balanced Pentecostal. As such, he has my highest respect.

I should say now that this isn’t a book review, but rather a chapter review from his latest, 10 Lies Men Believe: The Truth About Women, Power, Sex and God, and Why It Matters; the final chapter, which is titled “#10 – A Man Should Never Receive Spiritual Ministry from a Woman.”

Grady begins with the story of the famed Southern Baptist event where guest speaker Anne Graham Lotz was met with the commotion of many men turning their chairs in protest so that their backs were to her as she spoke. Class act, huh? He then goes on to present a rather convincing case that this viewpoint, that a woman should never teach the Bible where men are present, not only has no support in scripture, but that the Bible shows the very opposite to be true.

“While they praise mothers in the natural, they leave no room for spiritual mothers.” (p. 171)

Grady is convinced — and convincing — that the admonition against women in the New Testament is an isolated case.

“While Paul once clamped down on a group of women in Ephesus and forbid them to teach; if we look at the women who served with Paul in gospel ministry, it is obvious that he empowered men and women and invited them to be part of his team.” (p. 172)

Then he provides a list of some standout examples:

  • Priscilla (Acts – note she is always mentioned before her husband)
  • Phoebe (deaconess of Romans 16:2; word is prostatus, which means presiding officer)
  • Nympha (Col. 4:15; no other leader mentioned)
  • Junia (Romans 16:9; not Junias, the male form, as some translations tried to change it to fit their theology)
  • Euodia and Syntyche (who Paul describes as ‘fellow workmen’ in Phil 2:3)

He then refers to Old Testament examples such as Sarah, Deborah, Hannah and Huldah; and then jumping to modern day examples notes that both Bill Bright and Billy Graham cite Henrietta Mears among their greatest spiritual influences.

At the end of the chapter, he concludes that I Tim 2:12, the verse that says,

NIV I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

  • conflicts with the Old Testament
  • conflicts with Paul’s own practices
  • conflicts with his writing in other places which encourages women to participate

# # #

Because some of you are no doubt curious, here is the list of the ten lies covered throughout the book:

  1. God made men superior to women
  2. A man cannot be close to his son
  3. A real man is defined by material success
  4. A man is the ultimate boss of his family
  5. Sex is primarily for the man’s enjoyment
  6. It’s OK for a man to hit or abuse a woman
  7. Real men don’t need close male friends
  8. A man should never admit his weaknesses
  9. Real men don’t cry
  10. A man should never receive spiritual ministry from a woman

10 Lies Men Believe is available in paperback from Charisma House, at 14.99 U.S. and went on sale last month. To learn more about J. Lee Grady’s Mordecai Project, a ministry to empower women around the world, click on the book image above.

February 6, 2011

We’re ALL Leaders

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Derek and PJ blog at Neutral Gets You Nowhere.  (Love that title!)  This one appeared a few days ago at their blog under the title, You’re Being Followed:

A leader is more than someone whom others follow.

I’ve heard that definition repeated throughout the halls of corporate America and in professional development seminars for several years now. I think it’s supposed to make everyone feel good about their potential to lead other people.

Technically, I guess it’s accurate. We are all leaders in a sense.

When a friend picks up a new hobby to spend time with you or because you looked like you were having fun doing it, you’re leading them. When your sister starts getting her hair cut at the same salon as you, it’s because you led her there. When your children dress, laugh, act, and eat like you, it’s because of your leadership. There are people whose names you’ll never know and whose faces you’ve never seen who have shaped particular aspects of their identity to be like you. Maybe they spotted you pumping gas and liked your shades so they bought a pair. Maybe they heard your contagious laugh in the next booth at a restaurant and decided to be more jovial and outgoing. Maybe they saw you with a grocery cart full of potato chips and ice cream and made the choice right then and there to get in shape and eat healthy. The point is this: you are being followed.

Because we are all leaders, we have an implied responsibility to be good ones.

Ask yourself: where am I leading the people who follow me? Is it toward God? Away from him? Am I leading anywhere at all, or just standing still?

Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Community Church in Georgia, has this to say about leadership in his upcoming book The Next Generation Leader:

“Your talent and giftedness as a leader have the potential to take you farther than your character can sustain you. That ought to scare you. The fact that people choose to follow you is not necessarily an indicator that you deserve to be followed. There is a significant difference between having a following and being worth following. The truth is that talented, charismatic, visionary people will almost always have a following. Whether they are worth following is a different question, predicated upon a different set of values.

To become a leader worth following, you must give time and attention to the inner man. To leave a legacy that goes beyond accomplishment alone, a leader must devote himself to the matters of the heart.”

Don’t worry about becoming a leader. You already are one. Worry about being a leader that glorifies God and encourages people to follow Him.

January 30, 2011

Imitate Me, As I (try to) Imitate Christ

Jon Swanson’s blog, 300 Words a Day is one of a very few listed in this blog’s sidebar because of his consistent devotional focus.   This piece appeared there several days ago under the much simpler (!) title, Being a Model…

Am I living a life I’d want someone to copy?

Why not?

Those two sentences found their way into my journal over the weekend, as I was thinking about a presentation I’ve got coming up. I’m going to talk about being and making disciples. (That subject has shown up as my one word and in my list of 8 ways to get better at following.)

As I thought about the idea of making disciples, of developing followers, I realized that part of making a disciple is being willing to be a model.

I hate that. So do you. The last thing we want is for someone to use our life as a pattern. We know all of the ways that we fail. We know all the strategies that don’t work. We know how we don’t measure up. We know how we hurt someone we love.  We are, we think, models for spiritual failure.

But I think I’m wrong.

Paul consistently said, “Here are my failures. Here’s what I don’t do well. Here’s what God does wonderfully, sometimes in spite of me, sometimes through me.” He said this especially to Timothy, his most mentioned disciple. (A working definition of a disciple is a person who chooses to allow the life and teaching of someone to shape his/her own life.)

Helping people learn how to follow Jesus doesn’t mean being perfect.

It means being translucent, keeping the details hidden but allowing the outline of your humanity to show. It means acknowledging the failures and the forgiveness. It means showing when you let your mouth get ahead of your brain, here is how you ask forgiveness.

When you don’t know how to talk to God, here’s where you start. When you feel like you aren’t measuring up, here’s how you stop trying so hard.

~ Jon Swanson

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.