followers

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

The Nature of Encouragement

When you think of encouragement, who comes to mind? Who is an encourager in your life?

What does encouragement look like for you? Words? Actions?

Encouragement can be as simple as a smile and nod of agreement as you share something from your heart. It may be a kind word, sincere gesture of affection, or a timely prayer. 

I've had several people in my life who have been encouragers. I'm thankful to be married to one of them.

Barnabas

There is one person in the Bible, other than Jesus, who was a living example of encouragement. His name is Barnabas. His real name was Joseph, but he was called Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement. He lived up to his name.

He is introduced to us as the early followers of Jesus formed into a church community. He is an example of the nature of this early community of believers. The apostles (church leaders) gave Joseph the name Barnabas, he didn't name himself. [Acts 4:34-37]

Barnabas was a follower of Jesus, and showed this by example

The early church was torn apart by a zealous Jewish leader named Saul, who would later be known as the apostle Paul.

After Saul (Paul) became a follower of Jesus the Messiah, other believers were afraid of him, including the leaders. They didn't trust Saul and wouldn't accept him as one of them, at first.

Barnabas the mentor

In steps Barnabas. He came alongside this new convert who had proved himself in Damascus where he became a believer.

Barnabas stood up for Saul (Paul). He vouched for him. Because people trusted Barnabas, they accepted Paul. [Acts 9:26-30]

True encouragers are trustworthy

Encouragers see the best in people

Barnabas knew Paul was special, with special gifts as a teacher and leader, and a special calling and purpose in life. When Barnabas was sent to Antioch in response to a great spiritual awakening, he remembered Paul, who was sent to his homeland of Tarsus.

Barnabas knew Paul's gifts of leadership were valuable and needed in Antioch, so he sought him out in Tarsus. (Acts 11:19-26)

Encouragers are humble enough to see past themselves

This resulted in a strong church established as an extension of the primary one in Jerusalem. It is out of this church, which was developed under Paul and Barnabas' leadership, that the first cross-cultural missionaries were sent out.

Barnabas and Paul, as primary leaders, were sent out to preach the gospel, make disciples, and plant churches. (Acts 13:1-3)

Encouragement is an important element in leadership

This partnership produced a great harvest of new believers and new churches. This growth resulted in a need to define what we call the Christian Faith today. (Acts 15) 

Although this partnership continued to have a great impact upon this powerful church body in Antioch, it didn't last.

A dispute broke out between Paul and Barnabas, and this partnership was broken, or so it appears. Why? Because Barnabas wanted to give a young man named John Mark a second chance. (Acts 15:36-41)

Encouragers are messengers of God's grace

Encouragers see beyond themselves

Barnabas is never mentioned in the book of Acts after this incident. Much has been made of this, with some people concluding that Barnabas was wrong in standing up to Paul. But was he?

Encouragers see beyond themselves for the sake of others

In later years, Paul realizes the great value John Mark was to the church. While imprisoned in Rome and writing to the church in Colosse, he says as much, "...Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him)" (Col 4:10)

Later, as Paul sees his life coming to an end during his second imprisonment, he makes a request. He asks for John Mark to be brought to him in Rome. Why? "Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry." (2 Tim 4:11)

Barnabas, who had stood up for Paul and brought him to Antioch, did the same for John Mark. Had he not done so, would John Mark be useful in ministry? Would the Gospel of Mark been written?

Encouragement is valuable and useful

Encouragement isn't just pleasant words and helpful actions. It can include risking our own reputation for the benefit of someone else.

Encouraging others requires genuine humility

Encouragers reflect the nature of Jesus

Barnabas exemplifies the nature of encouragement. Although Jesus is our ultimate example, Barnabas gives us an example that is reachable.

What was Barnabas' secret? It's no secret at all. He was a true follower of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit—the Comforter and Advocate given to believers by Jesus.

Encouragement is intended to be a part of the nature of all followers of Jesus. [see Acts 11:24; also John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-14]

If you want encouragement, give it away to others

If you want a real-life example consider Joseph, the man called Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement.

Look for someone who needs encouragement today and encourage them!

Thanks for passing the word along ;-)

Who's in Command?

lightstock.com

lightstock.com

The movie "Captain Phillips" presents a comparison of leaders in command (an American and a Somali) plunged into a tense struggle for survival. A great contrast is seen between the American captain and the Somali warlord, of whom we only see a glimpse, in how they handle their crew.

The captain understood his role, yet cared for the welfare of his men and ship. The warlord intimidated his crew and used people for his own gain.

Solomon reminds us that a person's character is revealed by how they treat people, and even animals (Prov. 12:10).

Servant leaders

Another genuine man-in-command was finally awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor and care for his soldiers. It took four years to be recognized.

Why so long? He spoke the truth and it cost him.

This last example personifies the type of leaders God desires for His kingdom. People who are willing to lay down their lives for others and who uphold the truth.

Of course, this is what we see in Jesus. Many Bible quotes could be given, but I'd prefer you'd discover these on your own by reading the gospels.

Jesus is the epitome of the true servant leader. He knew His role and He showed His great love for His followers, including all humanity.

As far as command, Jesus would be a general, not a captain.

Jesus is the epitome of the true servant leader

But what about those of us who are not generals?

A leader of leaders

Our classic example, after Jesus, is the apostle Paul. Stripped of his role and authority as a defender of the Jewish faith, he was humbled and set aside for a time (Acts 9:1-9; 26-30). Then God raised him up as a leader of leaders.

This is seen in his admonition to Timothy, his son in the faith—

Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses.

Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. (2 Tim 2:1-2 NLT)

The text above is what's in my heart for the ministry of Word-Strong because discipleship is more of a way of life than anything else. This is what we see with Jesus and His followers.

The idea is not just teaching and training to raise up leaders, but mentoring people who also mentor others.

Great leaders teach, train, and mentor others who also mentor others

This is what Jesus refers to by calling Himself the Vine—

“I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me. 

You give glory to my Father when you produce a lot of fruit and therefore show that you are my disciples. I have appointed you to go, to produce fruit that will last...." (John 15:5, 8, 16 GW)

Results or relationship?

We, generally, focus more on results than the development of our relationship with the Lord. Next week, I want to look at what is vital and essential for discipleship the way Jesus made disciples.

Based on what Jesus says in the text above, what do you see are two vital elements of discipleship?

Keep in mind, the Lord is far more interested in the process of being a disciple than what results from it.

The Lord is far more interested in the process of being a disciple than results

Can our priority for discipleship match the Lord's? Of course... if we're willing to see what the Lord sees as essential to discipleship.

What do you think are two vital elements of discipleship?

Lasting Fruit—the Plan of Jesus

The mangoes of the Philippines are amazingly delicious! It's their national fruit, and I've found no other mango like the queen of mangoes, the tu-od variety. I posted this photo on Instagram and Facebook a few years back, proclaiming their goodness, and saw a lot of agreement.

But there are plenty of other wonderful fruits in the Philippines and SE Asia—papayas, guavas, lanzones, jackfruit, and even durian, and much more.

Yet, the fruit I'm most excited about in the Philippines doesn't grow on trees.

Why Do You Believe That?

Photo credit: unsplash.com_EDennis
Photo credit: unsplash.com_EDennis

What's the most visited page on a website? The About (Me/Us) page. It's true for my site, as it is for most others. Is it because our culture is so voyeuristic?

While this might be true to some degree, mainly it's because we want to know someone before we trust what they say. Christian believers also need to know the validity of what they say they believe.

Over the next several weeks, I want to take a look at why we believe what we believe. This includes a look at the 5 Solas, the basic pillars of the Protestant Reformation, from my own point of view as a follower of Jesus.

A very brief history

Every evangelical church, or evangelical community of believers, is rooted in the Protestant Reformation. Many people in evangelical ministries may not realize this, or if they know it, may not know why.

The Protestant Reformation (PR) started when men such as John Wycliffe, John Huss, Martin Luther, Huldreich Zwingli, and John Calvin, over a period of 200 years, objected to the sale of indulgences (kindnesses) and other practices of the church.

As a means of raising money, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) provided a way to pay for forgiveness, even for people already dead. There's more to what paying for indulgences includes, its origin and history, but it worked like a get-out-of-hell-free card.

The reform movement formalized

This led to a movement that set out to reform the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). When it was clear the church—the only recognized church at that time—would not change, the Protestant movement separated from the RCC.

Initially, three primary churches developed, then a fourth, for mostly the same reasons—

  • The Lutheran Church— started by followers of Martin Luther's leadership and influence
  • The Reformed Church— started by John Calvin's followers
  • The Presbyterian Church— started by John Knox in Scotland
  • The Anglican Church— this included the Reformers in England, but was formalized when King Henry the VIII broke away from the Pope

Luther's 95 Theses

Although many people had similar concerns, Martin Luther is most well known for his Ninety-five Theses posted on the door of the church in Wittenberg. Luther was a monk who taught moral theology at the University of Wittenberg.

The original intent for his 95 Theses was to promote discussion not dissension, but the church didn't see it that way.

There's much more to the story, but the essence is that Luther and other reformers challenged the authority of the pope and certain practices of the church that were not biblical.

The driving force of the Protestant Reformation was to bring the church back to its biblical roots. The Scriptures are to be the final authoritative basis governing all doctrines and practices of the church, not the pope nor other church leaders.

The roots of Protestantism

Protestantism is a broad term that includes churches or communities of believers who are not part of the RCC, but who hold to a biblical foundation of faith.

Other churches grew out of the four primary ones mentioned above because of other distinctions in theology, doctrine, and practices, but the essentials of the Christian faith remain the same.

The primary tenets of the Protestant Reformation are summarized in the 5 Solas (originally in Latin)—

  1. Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone – The Bible alone is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice.
  2. Sola Gratia – Grace Alone – “Salvation by Grace Alone.” Salvation is proof of God’s undeserved favor; we are rescued from God’s wrath by His grace alone, not by any work we do.
  3. Sola Fide – Faith Alone  “Salvation by Faith Alone.” We are justified by faith in Christ alone, not by the works of the Law.
  4. Sola Christus – Christ Alone  “In Christ Alone.” Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone; no one and nothing else can save.
  5. Soli Dei Gloria – Glory of God Alone “For the Glory of God Alone.” Salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God for His glory alone.

Why we need to understand what we believe

Pure and simple devotion

We need to be aware of deceptions perpetrated by the enemy of our soul (the devil). As Paul points out, we need a pure and undivided devotion to Jesus.

But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. (2 Cor 11:3 NLT)

It's always about Jesus! He's the Head of the Body of Christ—the church. He's the Core of the Gospel. He's the Alpha (first) and Omega (last). He's the only Son of God—Savior, Lord of Lords, and Returning King.

A strong and deep relationship

Our relationship with the Lord Jesus needs to deepen so we're not so vulnerable to clever arguments, deceptions, or anything else that would draw us away from a pure, uncomplicated commitment to Him.

I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments... And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him... Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. (Col 2:4, 6, 8 NLT)

Spiritual maturity

We need to pursue spiritual maturity, not by gathering more theological knowledge, but through deepening our understanding of Jesus—who He is and what He's done to redeem and restore us.

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. (Eph 4:13-14 NLT)

It's who you know, not what you know

We need to be rooted and grounded in our relationship with Jesus, not just gain more knowledge about Him. We need to understand what He says.

The four gospels are the bedrock for our faith, as they were for the early church. Jesus is the one who interprets the truth of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms for us. He did this personally for the apostles (Luke 24:44), and He will do it for us by the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27).

Jesus is the Cornerstone of our faith (1 Cor 3:11; Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:4-6).

Jesus is our plumb line, our spiritual point of reference. As Jesus said to His closest followers—

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

If the truths we hold about Jesus and the Christian faith don't line up with what He says, then we're on shaky ground.

Do you understand why you believe what you believe?


Helpful links for the history of the Protestant Reformation and the 5 Solas—

Protestant Reformation

Protestant Reformation History

5 Solas

Cambridge Declaration–Alliance–Confessing Evangelicals