A Mystifying and Unexpected Event

lightstock-washing_feet.jpg

Servant leadership. It’s talked about a lot in books, conferences, and social media by church leaders and business leaders too. But it’s not so common. Talking about it and living it out are two entirely different things, as we all know. Sadly, the chasm between talk and action can be pretty wide.

Chapter 13 in the gospel of John opens with Jesus knowing His hour had come. It was the time of the Passover, a national festival and memorial. It would be the last Passover Jesus would eat with His disciples but one He would fulfill prophetically to provide redemption for all humanity (Luke 22:15-16).

John’s narrative makes clear what is meant by His hour had come (John 13:1-3), which prefaces an unexpected and still misunderstood event—Jesus washing the disciples' feet. The first five verses paint a paradoxical picture—the Son of God—sent from heaven—stoops down to wash the feet of His closest followers.

Have you ever pictured how this took place?

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4 Ways to Lead Well

 Photo from lightstock.com

Photo from lightstock.com

Leadership is influence. Many good authorities on leadership confirm this.

But is leadership just influence? I'd say it's a lot more than influence.

The question is—What kind of influence does a leader have?

Some leaders are authoritarian—almost tyrannical in their style and influence, while others use a more laid-back approach, even guru-like, as a mentor. And many leadership approaches fall somewhere in between those two.

True biblically sound leadership is more than a style or approach. True leaders and shepherds lead the way for others with confidence and humility. When done well, people follow them by following their example.

Example is essential

This is the third post in a series related to pastoral leadership. We've looked at three words essential to being a shepherd like Jesuslove, feed, and lead. As with the two previous posts, I'll use the four letters of lead as an acrostic—L-E-A-D.

What can be said about leading? A lot! And a lot's been written and spoken about how to lead. Most of what’s written is related to business environments and some of it is quite relevant. But a ministry—especially when pastoring a church—is not a business.

Our prime model for leadership is Jesus. He's the example for all believers wherever they may lead but especially for those of us who are pastors.

How did Jesus lead? He led with authority and humility and used various means to prepare His followers for leadership.

A major part of Jesus' leadership was His example. Not just as a sinless human but as a genuine one. As a Son who followed His Father (John 4:34; 5:19). This is important to note because we need to be lead-able to be good leaders of others.

Our own life example is essential for leading as Jesus led others

4 Ways to lead well

L– Listen and Learn

Listening and hearing well is somewhat of a lost art. We all want others to listen to us but how good are we at listening to others?

Listening is a vital part of good leadership. Leaders need to listen and they need to hear what's being said by those they lead.

A missionary friend of mine pointed out how Jesus listened and even asked questions as a young man (Luke 2:46). I’m pretty sure He knew the answers back then but it reveals the respect He showed others.

Reading through all four gospels this is seen in how Jesus engaged in conversations with everyone. Jesus was observant and heard what His followers talked about and even asked questions (Mark 9:33-37; Matt 16:13-15) to probe and prod them to think.

Listen well

Jesus didn't listen to look for a place to jump in with what He wanted to say. He listened then responded in a way that let others know He heard them.

If you're a leader, are you able to listen to others and hear what they have to say? If not, why should anyone listen to you? It helped me pastor God's people when I started learning to spend more time listening than speaking.

I've learned a lot by listening to others, some of it good and some not so good. I try to hear their heart as well as their words. I also try to pay attention to what's not being said, as this can reveal much.

One more thought on all this. A good leader keeps learning from others even as we see in the example of the young Jesus in the temple. This is a sign of humility and openness.

When people see humility and openness in you and me—like what we see in Jesus—they’ll be more willing to follow our leadership.

When people see our willingness to listen and learn, they’re more willing to follow our lead

E– Educate and Equip

Education is often reduced to teaching and transferring knowledge. But a good education needs to be practical and useful for life. An academic education won't prepare God's people to serve in the church.

God gave leaders to the church body to equip them for service (Eph 4:11-16). I spoke about this previously when we looked at the word feed.

Jesus taught people more by example and dialoguing with them than just talking at them.

Look at how Jesus equipped His followers—those chosen as apostles and those who chose to be His disciples. Yes, He taught them as He spoke to the crowds but also revealed things to them behind the scenes (Matt 13:10-17).

Hear, see, and do

Those who followed Jesus learned by watching Him, hearing Him, and being with Him. Those He equipped for ministry watched, learned, then were given opportunity to do what they learned from Him.

Perhaps you're familiar with Jesus sending out the twelve, found in Matthew 10 and Luke 9. Later, Jesus sends out others who followed Him—not His specially chosen apostles (Luke 10:1-3).

This is an important example for pastors—we who are shepherds of God’s people!

Teaching and training need to be useful and productive, otherwise, it's just knowledge. Nowadays we can get that on the internet. We need to educate people for a specific purpose or purposes. This is the nature of equipping.

A simple question for any of us who lead is—Are we talking about truth or equipping people in the truth?

Are we talking about truth or equipping people in the truth?

A– Accept and Acknowledge

I've served in many different ministries over the past four decades or so, often at the bottom of the "food-chain," as some of my friends say. You name it, I've probably done it, from cleaning toilets to running a backhoe.

But my wife and I also served in several different leadership roles. Because of our own experience, we learned to accept people as they are not how we think they should be. Not everyone can do everything or has the same gifting (Rom 12:4).

We've had staff who didn't do well in certain things but excelled in others. This taught us to find the right place for each person within the ministry.

Acknowledged and appreciated

Everyone has a place and purpose within the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:14-25; Eph 4:16)

When a specific role needs to be filled, it's important to find the right person. Otherwise, they will be frustrated as will we (their leaders). Accept people for who they are without unrealistic or unreasonable expectations of them.

When people feel valued, they do their work better and they're a lot happier doing it. They need to be acknowledged, noticed, and appreciated. This is especially true for those who serve in a volunteer capacity.

We all want to hear the Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt 25:21).

Everyone has a place and purpose within the Body of Christ

D– Disciple and Delegate

In a previous post, we looked at discipleship as a means of feeding God’s people, but here I'd like to see how it benefits the Kingdom of God as a whole.

Discipleship isn't just about knowing doctrine and how to live it out, there is a greater purpose. Yes, a good disciple is a disciple-maker but there's still more to it.

Jesus knew He was preparing the apostles to lead and establish the church—the Kingdom of God on earth. Discipleship should involve doing. Yes, it's good to do life together but it's more important to have shared experiences.

By shared I mean a mutual participation on equal footing. How? Prayer, worship, serving others or any other activity where the leader isn't in charge of or overseeing the disciple. This helps create a shared trust of one another.

Delegation is not dumping

Delegation works best when trust exists. Not just dishing out responsibilities or tasks but entrusting it to others. Too often delegation is seen as dumping work off onto others. But wise delegation in ministry is an extension of discipleship.

Genuine discipleship sets the stage for reliable delegation. You come to trust those you disciple and they trust you. When trust exists, it's a lot easier to delegate a task or responsibility with confidence that it will be done well.

Early on in the Lord's training of His followers, He sends them out to do what they've seen Him do (Luke 9:1-6). He delegates ministry to them. He entrusted His authority to them along with responsibility.

Jesus shows us how discipleship done well leads to fruitful delegation. It includes authority with responsibility because of mutual trust.

Delegation works best when trust exists

Love, feed, lead

This is the last of four posts originally posted on the Poimen Ministries blog. Three posts looked at three primary elements of leading as Jesus led—love, feed, lead—based on His role as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

If these posts blessed you, please share them with others. I hope they will be helpful for any leader within the Kingdom of God, whether you lead in a church or other ministry, or lead some other way.

Here are the other posts from first to last—

People Need Leaders

A Shepherd’s Love

Feed My People!

 

Refreshing Souls in a Cynical World

 Photo by  Ethan Sykes  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

Becoming consistent, credible, and faithful people with a message of life

Most of us like consistency but not monotony. We want to be able to count on something but don’t want it to be repetitious. So, how do you get the one without the other?

We’ve all experienced the fickleness of people saying one thing but doing another. It can make us wonder if there’s anyone who can be faithful and consistent in what they say and do.

For example, take politics. It’s easy to become cynical when a politician makes promises they don’t keep after their election to office. For that matter, we’ve seen this in other aspects of life, including the church.

So, how can this change? How can we find consistency, credibility, and faithfulness in our life?

The trite old expression comes to mind — become the solution. But how?

How can we find consistency, credibility, and faithfulness?

The coolness of snow

Like the coolness of snow on a harvest day, ⌊so⌋ is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him: He refreshes his masters. (Proverbs 25:13 GW)

At first glance, the idea of the coolness of snow and harvest time might not make sense. Wouldn’t the snow be bad for the harvest? It probably would be, but this is a figurative picture to stimulate the mind’s senses.

You probably have some idea of what a harvest is like when workers bring in a new crop. It’s hot and dusty work, and the dust gets caked onto the worker’s sweaty bodies.

If you were one of the workers in the field, what would you want at that point? How about an ice-cold drink of water from a snow-fed stream? Sounds good, doesn’t it?

This is the idea of a faithful messenger or servant who refreshes the soul of his master. This needs to be true of us as followers of Jesus.

Our master isn’t a boss or a parent or any other authority figure—it’s Jesus, the humble servant-leader who laid His life down for all people everywhere (Mark 10:45).

We need to be a refreshment to those with whom we share the life-giving message of the gospel and to whom we are accountable—at work, at home, in relationships in our daily life. This extends God’s kingdom on earth.

The world needs living refreshment

People in the world around us also need refreshment. When we are a refreshing bright spot in the lives of others, this reflects upon our Lord Jesus — our Master.

I imagine it also refreshes Him.

Jesus sends us believers out with His message written in our hearts. It’s a message of hope, love, and restoration that refreshes the hearts of a thirsty world. A world thirsty for compassion, faithfulness, and hope.

When we are faithful in all we do in this life, we become a refreshment to others. We are also faithful messengers of our gracious Master — Jesus.

Have you found yourself getting cynical about people, and your purpose in life?

It’s hard not to get cynical and bitter but we are called to something better as followers of Jesus.

How we can begin changing the world around us

Look around at the people in your life. How do you see them?
Do you see people through cynical eyes or through the eyes of Jesus?

Think of the ways other people have refreshed you. This gives you insight into how you can be a refreshment to others. Start with simple things and do it without expectations of anything in return.

Look for ways you can be a refreshment in the lives of people around you. Here are 3 ways to get you started—

  1. Say an encouraging word to those who serve you in some way—a server at a restaurant, someone at work, anyone who does something for you. Look them in the eye and let them know you see them and appreciate them.
  2. Greet people along the way of life each day. Again, look them in the eye, show them respect, say something encouraging about the day, them, and the Lord.
  3. Give someone a call—perhaps someone you’ve lost touch with for a while or someone you’ve recently met who needs encouragement. Invite someone for a cup of coffee or whatever. Offer to pray for someone while you’re with them.

Even if the world doesn’t seem to change as much as you’d like, when you refresh others you’ll be refreshed and blessed, and I’m pretty sure it will bless the Lord and others you’re unaware of in the process.


This post was originally published on Faith Hacking in Medium

Here's another post of mine on Faith Hacking in Medium— The Problem with Stinginess

How Can Someone Pray Without Ceasing?

 Photo by  Joshua Earle  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Have you ever read something in the Bible and wondered how it would be possible? Perhaps there’s a lot of things you’ve wondered about in the Bible but I’m thinking of admonitions that seem impossible to do.

When someone asks if I take the Bible literally, I try to clarify what they mean by literal. The Bible is full of figurative language—language that has a meaning beyond its literal meaning or dictionary-based definition.

Even some things Jesus said to do weren’t intended to be taken literally—like gouging out an eye when looking at a woman (or man) lustfully or cutting off your right hand if it causes you to sin (Matthew 5:29–30). If we took this literally, then we’d know the truly honest believers because they’d only have one eye and one hand!

Pray without ceasing

When I first read the phrase “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) and thought about what it meant, I realized this wasn’t to be taken literally. Or is it to be taken literally?

This phase is one of several admonitions at the end of the first epistle to the Thessalonian church—

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess 5:16–22)

How does someone pray without ceasing? I mean, if it were taken ultra-literally it would mean never eating or sleeping or doing anything else. Ok—it should be obvious that the apostle Paul didn’t intend that. But what is meant by this phrase?

The idea of praying “without ceasing” is to pray in a continual way. This means we are to pray throughout the course of daily life regardless of circumstance and in all situations.

When you think about it—it’s very liberating.

The idea of praying “without ceasing” is to pray in a continual way

Prayer free from form

Our prayer doesn’t need to follow some form or take place with a certain posture. It can be a few words spoken silently or a continuing conversation with God while driving. Come to think of it—there’d probably be a lot less road rage if believers prayed more while driving in traffic and speeding along on a crowded freeway.

I believe there’s a place for more formalized prayer and I prefer to kneel or bow when praying on my own. But I’ve said prayers while talking with people in various situations—asking for wisdom, discernment, clarity, or for peace in a heated discussion or tense situation.

I pray while reading the Bible and have often thrown up a quick prayer while teaching and preaching or while counseling someone.

Sometimes I pray without words—I know God knows my heart but I can’t formulate my thoughts into a specific prayer or don’t know how or what to pray regarding some decision or how to respond to a situation I’m facing.

Learning to pray

I remember an instance early on in my search for the Lord that helped me understand the nature of prayer. I was driving a station wagon full of people along a highway on the northern coast of California. It was the height of the hippie era and I was spiritually lost but searching.

My girlfriend at the time was sitting next to me when a rear tire blew apart. I called out loud to God as I struggled to gain control of the car as it swerved across lanes and I tried to pull off the highway. Once stopped, my girlfriend turned to me and said, “He heard you and answered your prayer!”

It was a simple testimony of God’s grace and protection for both of us. I called out and He heard me. He answered. It wasn’t a formal prayer and I wasn’t a committed follower of Jesus. But God made it clear that He was near and attentive.

I’ve learned to pray without ceasing in various ways. I’m sure I’ll learn more as I continue to follow Jesus and become more intimate in my relationship with Him. I know He’s ever-present and attentive but am I trusting Him in all things through each day?

Faith is a journey of trust and prayer. Unceasing and continuing prayer is how we stay connected to the Lord along the way.

Faith is a journey of trust and prayer

What about you?

Have you learned to “pray without ceasing?”


This post was originally posted on Faith Hacking through Medium

Here are 3 more of my posts on Faith Hacking and Medium—

A Reliable Source

Rhetoric, Relationships, and Racism

The Practicality of Being Spirit-Filled

Sheep Need a Shepherd

People need leaders

A good friend told me long ago, "People need leaders." I was a young pastor and he was a captain of firefighters. We were leaders in our respective fields and I was his pastor—and we mentored one another as fellow followers of Jesus.

His statement resonated in my heart as true. It reminded me of my responsibility in God's kingdom. Not just as a pastor, but as a follower of Jesus. Discipleship done the way Jesus did with the twelve apostles will naturally produce leaders.

An important characteristic of the Jesus People Movement was the importance of life example in leadership. I'm concerned this is a neglected emphasis today in all aspects of leadership, but especially in God's kingdom.

Life example is important for leadership in God's kingdom

Grassroots leadership

Look at the leadership of Jesus and what He endeavored to instill in His followers. What was the key? Jesus was intentional about who He discipled and He did this through shared life—it was personal.

People were drawn to Him in a natural way. From the first to the last, people saw Him, heard Him, and could not ignore Him. Even those who opposed Him and later plotted to kill Him couldn't ignore Him.

So what was it about Jesus that drew people to Him? His design for leadership was to build from the ground up—a grassroots leadership. He set the example with His humility.

People saw Jesus and heard Him but could not ignore Him

Humble leadership

Jesus used no fanfare or clever strategy to draw more people. In fact, He often avoided big crowds of people and His teaching and expectations for following Him seemed to push people away from following (John 6:60-66).

This is so backward to what is popular and prevailing mantra of more and bigger is better.

But that's not the way of Jesus. It's also not the way of great leadership, according to Jim Collins in his book, From Good to Great.

What set apart the companies that rose to greatness? One essential—humble leadership. In a business model, this means putting the company and your people above your self. This was the example of Jesus for the kingdom of God.

Humility is essential for great leadership and to lead like Jesus

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Leadership in God's kingdom involves following the example of Jesus. This is seen throughout the gospels but illustrated and explained in John 10 where Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Just as people need leaders—sheep need a shepherd—a shepherd they can trust.

Several years ago, I was asked what the basics were to pastoring and planting a church by a young missionary pastor in Thailand whom I mentor.

I came up with three words to summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead—based on John 10:1-18.

3 words can summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead

I'd like to unpack these three words related to the leadership of Jesus and pastoral leadership in additional posts. Hopefully, you'll see how they can apply to leadership at any level for anyone who is a follower of Jesus.

As a pastor and missionary overseas, I've found myself challenged by the unending demand and task of leading people in ministry. In the process of leading, I developed a basic list of ministry priorities and values.

Feel free to download that list here— Ministry Priorities and Values