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Leading the people of God

22 Apr

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—” (Titus 1:5, NKJV)

Titus was a Gentile who had come to faith in Christ – possibly even led to Christ by the Apostle Paul himself.  For a time, he had worked with Paul in ministry on the island of Crete.  Paul had now moved on and left Titus to lead the people of God in Crete. The New Testament book of Titus is Paul’s instructions to this pastor.  From this one verse, I want to make several observations….

1)  The people of God are to be led.  This doesn’t mean domineering, “my way or the highway” attitudes, but it does mean strong leadership.  Organizations (churches included) do not fix themselves. The tendency is always “status quo.”  The dictionary defines it this way…status quo: the existing condition or state of affairs. The only way out of the status quo in any organization is leadership.

2)  We must define what is lacking. In his great book Good to Great, Jim Collins says that every organization needs to face the cold hard facts, no matter how cold and how hard they are.  We cannot deal with an issue until we talk about it and define it. In a church, there is one thing that often keeps us from seeing what is lacking: FAMILIARITY.  Over the years in church life, I have found that familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt but it does almost always breed apathy.  A church that stays only with what is familiar and comfortable for an extended period of time will be a peaceful church but it won’t likely be a very effective one.

3)   We must get a vision of a more effective day.  It is not enough to simply define problems. Nothing can be “set in order” until there is a clear picture of what “in order” looks like. That is the point of vision.

4)   We must lead the people of God toward a better future. The Apostle Paul told Titus “for this reason I left you in Crete…”   The reason Titus was there was to lead the people of God.  Some churches change quickly and some churches change slowly.  Some churches process leadership and make decisions faster than others. Every church is different and must be led differently.  Yet, every church must be led.  If we aren’t leading the people of God, then we aren’t being obedient.

Leadership isn’t for the faith of heart.  Not everyone wants to be led.  Change is hard. No matter how clearly and how often you communicate, someone will be confused.  No matter what you do, someone will be unhappy.  Criticism will come.  Pastors and church leaders, please be assured of this one fact:  people will be upset, criticism will come, and someone will be unhappy EVEN IF YOU DO NOTHING AND TRY TO PLEASE EVERYONE.   It comes with the territory for anyone in a leadership position.  Make sure you are spending your life enduring the pain of leadership while you are leading the people of God to a better future.

A Prayer for the Future

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.

Sir Frances Drake Quoted in OC Missionary Prayer Letter of Jeanie Curryer, September, 1997

 

 

Why I have a picture of Spurgeon in my office

15 Mar

spurgeon_chair

Not long ago, a pastor friend of mine was surprised to see a portrait of the great English pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon on the wall of my office near my desk. “You’re not a Calvinist, why do you have a picture of Spurgeon?”  It was a good question. It was also my joy to explain to him why I have his picture in my office even though I am not a Calvinist. Spurgeon was a famous pastor in London who died in 1892. His sermons and books are still in print today and influencing hundreds of thousands of people around the world. While pursuing my doctoral studies, I was required to do an academic paper on an evangelism and revival leader. The professor distributed a list of famous names like Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, W.A. Criswell, and Bill Bright – urging us to choose one.  I chose Spurgeon because he was the one on the list I knew the least about even though I saw him quoted constantly.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I read five biographies of Spurgeon and wrote a thirty page paper on his life and ministry. To say that was transformative in my life and ministry would be an understatement. Every time I look at the picture of Spurgeon in my office, I am reminded of the reasons why I so admire him and why he has impacted my life and ministry so greatly.

1.  Spurgeon is a great example of love for Christ and exalting Christ in preaching. That is the one characteristic that stands out most to me about Spurgeon; if anyone has ever loved Christ, it was Charles Spurgeon. His love for Christ bleeds through in every sermon. I don’t believe I have read a Spurgeon sermon that did not explicitly and clearly call people to place their faith in Christ.  He once described his preaching style as “starting at any text and running to the cross.”

2.  Spurgeon is a great example of faithful Bible preaching. Week after week from the pulpit of his church, Spurgeon opened his Bible and preached. As he grew older, his sermons grew in Biblical and theological depth.

3.  Spurgeon is a great example of soul winning and evangelism. He literally wept for souls and was not satisfied if people weren’t coming to Christ. He was willing to lead his church to change in order to reach people. For instance, when the original facility of his church became inadequate, he lead the church to move its services to a theater – a very controversial decision at that time.

4.  Spurgeon is a great example of pastoral leadership and hard work. He visited his flock. He organized ministries. He met needs. He led the leaders. He answered inquirers. He traveled and preached extensively. He invested in young preachers. He lead his church to send out missionaries. He read six books per week. Yet, he never neglected the pulpit ministry at his church.

5.  Spurgeon is a great example of love for people and encouragement. He loved his church. He loved the people in the city of London. He loved fellow Christians and pastors even if they didn’t agree on every issue.

6.  Spurgeon is a great example of being willing to stand for truth at great personal cost. In his early years, Spurgeon was a phenomenon. In his latter years, he was an outcast among many.  His warnings of theological drift during what became known as the Downgrade Controversy proved prophetic, but they largely fell on deaf ears and earned him the scorn of many. When it came to his convictions, Spurgeon would not bend.

7.  Spurgeon is a great example of perseverance during great personal stress. At the height of his popularity, his ministry endured a great tragedy that Spurgeon never completely got over. After the birth of their twin sons, his wife was largely homebound and was never well again. Yet, by all accounts Spurgeon remained a faithful husband and father. Spurgeon developed health problems himself and suffered greatly during the last two decades of his life. The only thing worse than his physical suffering was his emotional suffering. Spurgeon struggled with depression for many years and spent many days in the depths of despair even though he had an undeniably strong faith in Christ.

On June 7, 1891 the mighty preacher took to the pulpit for the last time. Wracked with physical pain and the weakest he had ever been, Spurgeon ended his last sermon with these words. These are the last words Spurgeon spoke from a pulpit. They capture his heart….

Those who have no master are slaves to themselves. Depend upon it, you will either serve Satan or Christ, either self or the Saviour. You will find sin, self, Satan, and the world to be hard masters; but if you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains.

“There never was his like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. These 40 years and more have I served him, blessed be his name! and I have had nothing but love from him. I would be glad to continue yet another 40 years in the same dear service here below if so it pleased him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day! Amen.”

For more information about Spurgeon visit http://www.spurgeoncenter.com

It’s well worth your time to watch this great film about his life…http://www.throughtheeyesofspurgeon.com/

 

Clash of the worldviews

20 Feb

Dr. Del Tackett who helped produce Focus on the Family’s excellent series “The Truth Project” defines a person’s worldview in this way…

A person’s worldview consists of the values, ideas or the fundamental belief system that determines his attitudes, beliefs and ultimately, actions.

It’s important to understand that there are many worldviews in operation today. Very often these worldviews are shaped by religion.  For instance, the worldview of a Bible believing evangelical Christian in Alabama is very different from the worldview of a Muslim in Egypt.  However, if a person is an atheist or if they make decisions as if there is no god, then that is a worldview as well.

A quick glance at the world headlines reveals that we are watching a clash of worldviews play out in international affairs. The rise of ISIS and Iran’s continuing march toward a nuclear weapon all reflect worldviews in operation. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict reflects a clash of worldviews. China is operating out of its worldview – very different from the Middle Eastern worldview but still a very definite worldview.

Here at home in the United States we are seeing a clash of worldviews that is no less real.  Over the last few decades, the United States has gradually replaced the Christian worldview with a secular worldview.  The moral revolution that our nation has experienced is the direct result of this change.  The clash of worldviews is playing out in every segment of American culture right now.  The cultural elites look at Bible believing evangelical Christians and wonder why we do not just “go along” and “get on the right side of history.”  They do not understand that we are operating under a worldview that values the approval of the Lord above the approval of men.

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1–2, HCSB)

Two indispensable ingredients of leadership

7 Nov

Leadership is needed in all areas of life.  Leadership is needed in our homes, in our companies, on our sports teams, etc. Leadership is needed in the church.  Leadership is needed in government and civic organizations.  In fact, many of the issues that we face today can be traced to a lack of good leadership. Many books and blogs are written every month about leadership.  I enjoy reading some of them. However, as a person who has been on the front lines of leadership for over twenty years now, I have come to believe that leadership can be boiled down to two indispensable ingredients.  They are found in one verse of the Bible.

By any measure, King David was a tremendous leader.  He had courage.  He had people skills.  He was a successful military leader and a successful government leader.  He had a strong faith in the Lord – to the point where he is referred to as a man after God’s own heart.  In the book of Psalms, there is a section that describes God calling David from being a shepherd boy to being King of Israel.  Then there is this verse which describes David’s leadership…

So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.” (Psalm 78:72, NKJV)

This verse identifies two indispensable qualities of David’s leadership…

(1)  INTEGRITY  David was king.  He had the position and the power.  However, the Bible says that what set him apart was his integrity.  Both history and today’s headlines are filled with those who enjoyed position and power but lacked integrity.  The truth is that people follow people they trust and believe in.  You lead from who you are first and foremost – not your position or title. This is certainly true in the church, but if you read what is written about leadership from a secular point of view you will find the same principle.  From talking with friends of mine in the armed forces, the best leaders today are those that people believe in beyond their rank or position.

(2)  SKILL  A leader is competent. A leader gets results.  The organization benefits from the presence of the leader.  Every leader has problems, but the successful leader deals with problems in a way that moves the organization forward.  People will not follow someone they know is incompetent. If they know you are competent, they will follow even if they disagree.

Integrity and skill are the wings of the plane in leadership.  One doesn’t work without the other.  All of the skill & competence in the world will not ultimately overcome a lack of integrity.  On the other hand, a sincere heart of gold will not produce results apart from skill.  Think about it. A lack of either integrity or skill creates unbalanced leadership and steers the organization into the ditch.  A lack of both quickly produces a disaster.

While I have read and benefited from many leadership books, the Word of God is best leadership text ever written.