30 July 2013

Cooperation in Christian Leadership

As we've looked at my first five characteristics of Christian leadership, we've covered:
1.    Calling
2.    Cost
3.    Commitment
4.    Confidentiality
5.    Communication
We're closing in on the final installment, the last two "Cs." Today, at number six, we come today to "Cooperation."

Leadership is not a "Lone Ranger" assignment.

It is a well-known leadership axiom that leaders won’t ask followers to do what they would not do. This certainly is the case with Jesus, who tells us to follow Him, and that there will be sacrifice involved. And He made the biggest sacrifice of all. 

But Christian leadership is not just about telling people what to do. It’s not just about getting a job done. Christian leadership is also about growth and development of gifts as we carry out tasks together. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
  1. All gifts come from the same place, so none are to be despised.
  2. All gifts are given for one reason, so that there will be no division.

The point is to be cooperating; making efforts which are not redundant; as we all grow toward maturity in the faith In Ephesians 4:11-16 we read
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  
You see; no matter what the intermediate goal may be: church cleanup, making curtains; assembling a worship team; evangelizing; the ultimate goal remains the same. We are to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We grow as we work together; support one another; and abound in love toward one another. When we do this, the work is easier, and the goal is achieved: making Christ known.

23 July 2013

Leaders Communicate

Communication. When I was having difficulties with a major computer company (not affiliated with fruit) a few years ago, the Case Manager I was speaking to told me that the best he could do was give me a prorated reimbursement for my computer because it was used. It was sitting in a box; it never come out of the box. I asked him if I could speak to his supervisor. He said “no.” I asked if he had any superiors. He said, “yes, but they don’t speak with customers.” As it turns out, Jim was wrong on all counts. I tell you that little story to point out that this is never the case with a Christian leader. We not only have a Supervisor, but we need to be in communication with Him – and – those who follow us can also be in direct communication with Him. Once again, I reiterate that the most important characteristic of a good Christian leader is that he/she be a good follower. We are called to follow Christ and those leaders He puts in our lives. Then we are to be leaders to others.

There are several levels of communication that are important to the Christian leader.

  1. Communication with God. John 17:20-21. Jesus prayed often. He prayed for Himself and He prayed for His followers.
  2. Communication with those with whom we work. We have many methods of communication open to us today in the church. We have the www, email, phones (of all kinds; we don’t even have to be home to use them). On a less technical level, we have bulletin boards; a weekly bulletin with order of service and announcements. Most of those announcements are also given verbally from the pulpit. And yet, almost every week, someone will stand there and ask the pastor: what time is the family Bible Study?, etc.

Your big word for the day is “perspicacity.” Something that is perspicuous is something that is clear or evident. The doctrine of perspicuity of scripture is that God has made clear in His Word all that is needed for us to come to Him for salvation.

This was an important to the reformers of the 16th century. They wanted the Scriptures to be written in the language of the people – and accessible to them because they argued that access to the Bible gave the average person in the pew (or in the society, for that matter) access to God. The focal point of their argument was that the Scriptures, which brought God to the people, were perspicuous.  God’s communication to us is clear and unmistakable as to what He wants us to do. So must our communication with one another be clear and understandable.

How do we do that?

Some general rules of communication for Christian leaders.  

  • Be clear. READ Rom. 1:19-20. Make sure that you as author, make clear what you want people to do and when it should be done; or when the party is; or what the format is.
  • Be inclusive.  READ John 3:19. Make sure that everyone who needs to be included in your communication loop is, in fact, included. If an opportunity for service or fellowship is open to all then that needs to be communicated to all; publicly. When we just tell a few people; we restrict access to that blessing. (People hide things when they are ashamed or when they want their own little club. Light is the great disinfectant). Use the church bulletin – get announcements to the appropriate person in a timely fashion.
  • Be repetitive. READ Galatians 1:9; Philippians 3:1, 4:4. Paul and his repetitions. People don’t get it if they hear it or read it just once.
  • Be creative. Genesis 1:1-3, 27;   God is a creative God. We are made in His image….Find new ways of getting your message out. Again, you have many means: phone, email; mail. Create a newsletter; a website, a blog.

Zimmerman reaction (of course) and guest blog

OK, the entire blogosphere has commented on the Zimmerman verdict. Actually, I wrote about Race Relations in America twice in the weeks preceding the outcome of that trial, but without reference to that court case.

But I want to share just one reasonable response from the computer of The BenAddiction.
Boy, have I been busy lately! For the past two months it seems my life has been like a whirlwind. I’ve done a lot of personal and ministry related travel and I haven’t been able to write in a very long while.Much has transpired since my last entry. Some of the highlights include the US Supreme Court’s ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act, we’ve learned that the government – via the NSA – has been spying on everyone, that the government – via the IRS – has been targeting conservatives, and very recently we’ve had the George Zimmerman murder trial.Most of my conservative friends and acquaintances think the Supreme Court’s ruling is apocalyptic in its brazen defiance of the sheer obviousness of the created order. Additionally, most of my conservative friends have been outraged at the gross constitutional violations involved in the revelations of governmental spying and the targeting of individuals and groups on the basis of political ideology. At the same time, many of my liberal friends and acquaintances applaud the Supreme Court’s ruling, and are mostly unconcerned about the government targeting on the basis of ideology and they appear ambivalent about the NSA spying on the entire populace.In these scenarios it is the conservatives who are outraged by the actions of the courts and government, while the liberals are in general agreement with the actions and decisions of the various governmental bodies.However, when it comes to the George Zimmerman trial and the resulting verdict,...
To read the rest of this essay, please go here.  

19 July 2013

What Are We To Think of the Bible?

Christians have long been known as people of the book. Ours is a faith based upon the authoritative teachings of God’s Word as found in the Bible – both the Old and New Testaments. But the question is often raised these days whether the book is flawed – or perhaps outdated – or both. Perhaps it’s time to simply place it on the bookshelf along with the “nice pieces of literature,” or even next to Grimm’s Fairy Tales or Aesop’s Fables. OR, is it still to be viewed as THE authoritative Word of God, a word which cuts across historical eras and contains timeless truth.

A fairly common perspective was expressed to me a few years ago by a young man who wrote me a letter. He had heard (third hand) that I had spoken of the practice of homosexuality as contrary to God’s law. He took me to task for basing my views on such a “shaky” authority as the Bible. He informed me that I was putting too much stock in what he described as “an anachronistic moral code.”  

Let's take a look at a few popular views on the Bible.

We’ve outgrown it. “We’re modern. We live in a scientific age. The Bible was written for people who needed an explanation of the workings of the universe. After all, they were ‘pre-scientific.’ They were ‘primitive.’ They couldn’t answer all the ‘why’ questions; questions about what was going on around them: the Sun, natural disasters, seasons, etc. So they needed ‘primitive’ answers. Science can now answer all the questions, so we don’t need the Bible anymore – or God, for that matter. It’s interesting to note that the Czech Republic has officially announced what many nations already practice. They say that they are beyond the need for God.”  

The word ‘primitive.’ What makes us smarter than our grandfathers? To assume that we have a greater facility for understanding is to assume the evolutionary theory – and even to go beyond it considerably. Moses, Abraham, Paul, and jesus seemed to have no problem accepting God’s Word –p and I’ve never heard of any one of them being described as an ape, or Zinjanthropus, or the “missing link.” Their minds were every bit as well formed as the so-called “modern mind.” This conceit that we are somehow wiser than our forbears is something CS Lewis called “Chronological snobbery.”

It seems to me that science today has MORE unanswered questions than in generations past. No scientist is ready, yet, with a definitive answer as to what was the “First Cause” or what preceded the “Big Bang.” At that point, many scientists say, we are in the realm of theology. Of course, for the most part, they are unwilling to hear the answers of theologians. 

Just having unanswered questions does not make one intellectually incapable. Likewise, just having the technology of “modern science” does not render the answers of the Bible unnecessary, faulty, or mythological. Science has not disproved anything in the Bible. Archeology has not proved any of the geography or history of the Bible untrue. 

So, over the next few installments (whenever they occur!), I want to have a quick look at a few more of the common views people have of the Bible. 

Stay Tuned.

12 July 2013

Confidentiality and Leadership

As we have looked at this concept of leadership in the church, I have commented on three of the "Seven Cs of Leadership," namely Calling, Cost, and Commitment. Today we have some thoughts on "Confidentiality."

When you become an identifiable leader in the church, people will come to you. In fact, people from outside the church will come to you. When I worked for a group of newspapers, I was not a pastor, but I was identified by co-workers as a Christian; one who seemed to make decisions based on something other than emotion and desires of the flesh. They never heard me swear. So, they came to me with their questions about relationships; ethical issues; legal problems; you name it. 
You have probably encountered this, as well.

Within the church, when people begin to see that you are taking on your proper role in the body, they will also come to you. Sometimes, depending upon the situation, you may have a group of people working with you and/or for you. If they see I you as a follower of Christ, someone they can trust, they will come to you to tell you things and ask for advice. This is why confidentiality in any Christian leadership situation is important.

One of our jobs as Christians is to listen to one another. Take a look at Romans 15:14 and  2 Corinthians 3:5.

A Christian leader is a counselor, not necessarily in the professional sense that we often apply to that term, but in the sense that we are gifted by God with the ability to listen to one another and instruct or counsel one another. God's Word uses an interesting word to get this concept across: nouthetueo (to put in mind, to admonish, warn, advise). 

We are able, by the grace of God, to help one another with advice and counsel. Understand that this is only a useful gift to the extent that we develop it in a Godly manner. There are a lot of people who are more than willing to tell us what we need to do – and that God spoke to them about your situation. That’s not Godly advice. Nor is it Christian leadership. 

Another word I want to just spend a moment on is “able” or “capable of” or “competent.” This comes from the Greek word dunamis. This is the word from which “dynamite” comes. This is a powerful; explosive gift.
James 5:16 reiterates this concept. 
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Now the reason for me spending so much time on this is that sometimes what people will tell you they will want held in confidence. You need to keep your word if you promise confidence. A good leader doesn’t blab. When I have had counseling appointments, I usually told the people that what they say will be held in the strictest confidence. I do not even tell my wife what is said. Most of the time I do not even tell her who I am counseling. Nor do I tell the elders who I counsel when I report to them – unless it’s a matter that needs to come before them – and the person or persons involved are aware of that. When people trust us, we need to make good on that trust.

However, there are instances when we should neither promise, nor keep, confidences. The Catholic Church insists that if something is said to a priest in his role as confessor. He may not; under any circumstances; divulge what was said. This has been the plot in many a movie and TV drama. But, I am not a priest. There may be times that I have to break this silence.

A word about mandated reporters. A mandated reporter is a person who is constrained by law to report suspected abuse of a person or anyone who makes a threat to himself/herself or others.  According to Maine State law, among the definitions for Mandated Reporter are: "Any person affiliated with a church or religious institution who serves in an administrative capacity or has otherwise assumed a position of trust or responsibility to the members of that church or religious institution, while acting in that capacity regardless of whether that person receives compensation."  The definitions are pretty much the same in all states.

We need to be careful what we hear. If we are not ready to keep confidences - or to break them only when it is a matter of grave danger, then we not accept the role of leader/listener. This is an important role within the Body of Christ, and it is not to be taken lightly.

09 July 2013

There is now no Greek, or Roma

Recently, I came across an article (on FaceBook, where else!) on race. In it’s entirety, it reads like this:

Contrary to popular opinion there is only one race; the human race. According to the Bible, all mankind can trace their origin back to our first parents Adam & Eve. All mankind is made in the image of God and deserves the respect and dignity of that image. The only time the natural right of that image is forfeited is if a capital crime has been committed. Christian Church, black or white, Asian or Latino, male or female, free or bond, we must get over our love affair with ourselves and look to Christ alone who"...wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5:9). In the end, one could argue for two distinctions within the human race - those who live in the first Adam and those who are in the Last Adam. (For more from this site go here.) 
Interestingly, on the same day I read an article in the Prague Daily Monitor about the “Separate, and Unequal” treatment of Roma children here in the Czech Republic.  

It seems that Roma (also known as Gypsies) children are often put in “Practical” schools that cater to the intellectually handicapped or Roma-only schools. Sounds strangely like the segregated schools of the US in times gone by (some might want to argue that those times are not yet over).The article states that 
Local municipalities don’t want to change the status quo, and the majority of Czechs don’t want their children to go to school with Roma,...”  “Roma are satisfied because the schools aren’t so difficult. Teachers are satisfied because if they have a ‘problem’ child, he or she can go somewhere else. Practical school teachers are satisfied because they have well-paid jobs.

But is this an equality issue? Not really. “No education means no job and being supported by the state,” said Martina Parizkova, a media officer for Amnesty International. “We are trying to explain that this problem has consequences for society in general.” So, it’s an economic issue.

But God says it’s a creation issue. Genesis 1:27 states, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Is God a Roma or a Czech? Mark 12:31 gives us a little info about how to use the info given us in Genesis 1. Mark writes, "The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Neither of these verses addresses distinctions in the church (although there are several verses that do). The point is that men are men; not black men, Roma men, slavic men, caucasian men. (the same goes for women).

This will be a hard-fought battle in the Czech Republic. Just last week there were anti-Roma riots in the south Bohemian city of Ceske Budejovice. There were injuries and there were arrests.

I cannot change Czech society. I can't even do much about American society. But God can. Prayer and the setting of examples are called for. Evangelism is called for. Roma need Jesus. So do non-Roma.

PostScript: Some time ago (in March 2013) I posted a piece on race in America. The link to that is here. After writing this current piece, this came across my screen. It's worth a read. It asks the question: "What Post-Racial America?"

05 July 2013

Reasserting Christian Influence in a Moral Wasteland

Having laid out the probem of lost Christian influence, we should now consider what, if anything, can be done about this. 

In order for Christianity to reassert its proper place in western (and eastern) culture, it must first reclaim the churches. Orthodox Christian theology indicates, of course, that Christianity will never be “dead.”  Certainly, however, it is in need of doctors, spiritual doctors. The condition of the patient has worsened because of the malpractice of the spiritual doctors. The world does not know or understand Christianity because we have not taught it. The leadership of the church needs to extricate itself from the many “isms” and “programs” it is following down the path to humanism and reassert the primacy of Scripture. The very fact that mankind will not allow the Christian memory to die confirms the fact that a spiritual thirst still exists. Seeking some kind of spiritual fulfillment, men and women are casting about trying to find some good news.

An acquaintance with Biblical doctrines is the surest inoculation against runaway humanism. In his plea for preachers who will preach to the heart, Sinclair Ferguson states, “When there is the exposition of the Scriptures, an enlargement and opening of the preacher’s heart, and the exposing of the hearts of the hearers, then the majesty of the Word of God written will be self-evident and the presence of the Word of God incarnate will stand forth in all His glory.”[8] When we get the relationship between the Creator and His creation right, we can hardly continue to place man in the position reserved for God.

Avoiding Entangling Alliances

A second step toward the repositioning of Christianity within the society is to take the advice of President George Washington, who warned the fledgling nation to avoid entangling alliances. In recent years conservative Christians have bonded with the Republican party. Branding the other party “liberal,” Christian leaders have allowed themselves to be co-opted by the political leaders of their party. Yet, many of the elected officials and political operatives of the Republican party openly stand for abortion rights, homosexual marriage and other anti-Christian policies.

Some Christians have simply opted out of politics altogether. This would seem a foolhardy approach, since Christians are called to affect the society in which they live in a positive manner. Rather, a careful assessment of candidates, on an individual basis, rather than endorsement of a platform full of humanistic platitudes, would be a reasonable approach. Failing to find candidates who are willing to stand for truth and justice, as expressed in God’s Word might just call for Christians to find better candidates – or run for office themselves.

Neither political party is the party of God. Neither is the Christian party. As attitudes and beliefs ebb and flow, politicians adjust to the shifting sands beneath their feet. If Christians are to retake the moral and political high ground, and reassert Christian morality and practice in the west - and particularly in the United States, they need to be wise in their choices – not going along with the “moderates” in the allegedly conservative party.

Proclaim His Wondrous Deeds

Christianity will not magically become the ethos of the land once more. Christians must be willing to do the work to bring it back to prominence. We are to be the first to model our repentance and obedience to the law of God. We should pray for our land – for our family members, neighbors, and strangers. We are called to work on behalf of the fatherless and widow, and to seek justice. As Colson and Pearcey put it, “We  must be men and women who will dare to wrest Christianity free from its fortress mentality, its sanctuary stronghold, and establish it once again as the great life system and cultural force that acknowledges the Creator as sovereign over all.”[9]

The west has been lost to Christianity, not by invasion or military conquest, but by self-centeredness and smugness. We have “claimed to be wise” and “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and animals and reptiles.”[10]

All is not lost.  God will use even the weakest of His creatures for His glory. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than Man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”[11]


[8] “Preaching to the Heart,” in Feed My Sheep (Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, Morgan, PA, 2002), pp. 196-7.
[9] How Now Shall We Live, p. 36.
[10] Romans 1:22-23 (NIV).
[11] 1 Corinthians 1:25 (NIV).