followers of Jesus

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!

 

Faith—the Simplicity of Trust

Photo by  Jon Flobrant  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

"In God we trust" is emblazoned in green ink on our American currency. This phrase became our national motto in 1956. After 9-11, it became popular to sing "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games.

The idea of trusting in God is woven into the fabric of American history, despite the continuing efforts of atheists to remove all mention of God associated with anything government related. But is historical revision really necessary? I mean, does America really trust in God?

I'm not talking about atheists or agnostics or the more current category of the nones. I'm wondering about those who confess a belief in God and say they trust in God.

Belief isn't trust

Trust in God isn't a matter of belief—what a person believes about God. It's a confidence in God and His nature (Heb 11:6). Many people say they believe in God, in Jesus, in the Bible, have faith, and so on. But that belief doesn't always translate into trust.

In the book of James, we're told that demons believe in God. They know He exists but they don't trust in Him, they fear Him (James 2:19)!

Belief doesn't always translate into trust

The Bible is full of examples of people who have a belief in God but don't trust in Him. One book of the Bible illustrates this well—the book of Judges. Thankfully, many examples of people who believe and genuinely trust in God are found throughout the Bible.

The obvious examples

Noah built an ark—a huge ship—because he heeded God's warning and trusted His guidance (Gen 6:11-22). God warned Noah of a cataclysmic flood. He believed God even though Noah had never experienced either rain or flooding.

Noah's obedience to God demonstrated his trust in God—a personal and complete trust.

Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, became the father of many nations—people groups—because he trusted in God. His trust in God transcends mere belief as seen by his willingness to slay the son God promised to give him (Heb 11:8-12, 17-19).

God considered Abraham to be righteous and a friend, not because of a mere belief but his complete and personal trust in God (James 2:23).

Genuine faith is a simple, personal, confident trust in God

King David trusted God in a very personal way as expressed through the many Psalms he wrote (Psalm 23). He trusted God through many difficulties, betrayals, and even when he utterly failed God (2 Samuel 12:7-13; Psalm 51).

These three men led extraordinary lives and appear to have extraordinary faith. They did. They do. But this is the very type of faith—a simple, personal, confident trust in God—any person can have that exemplifies true faith in God.

Faith, trust, and risk

Faith, believe, and trust are common words in the Bible and may be used interchangeably. But their true biblical meanings are best understood and illustrated through the lives of people such as Noah, Abraham, and David.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews gives many examples of these people. The genuine faith of all of them is described in Hebrews 11:6—

No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Genuine faith involves an element of trust and trust is always a risk. It requires a commitment to move beyond the fear of failure.

Genuine faith involves an element of trust and trust is always a risk

Faith in the face of failure

Real faith—a commitment of trust—is often clarified and confirmed by what appears as a failure at first. Consider Abraham who was known as a father of those who live by faith (Rom 4:10-12 GW).

Abraham was promised a son but he and his wife tried to make this happen through Sarah's servant Hagar and it was a colossal failure (Gen 16:1-6). Abraham waited 25 years for the son God promised to give him through his wife Sarah (Gen 12:1-4; 17:15-19).

Even after Isaac, the promised son was born, Abraham's faith was tested beyond belief. God told him to sacrifice him! As God saw Abraham's childlike trust in his willingness to slay his son, God honored Abraham and promised even greater blessing (Gen 22:1-18).

The story of Abraham, Isaac, and God's command to sacrifice this promised son is a story all its own—a story of redemption.

Genuine faith is often clarified and confirmed by what appears as a failure at first

Faith is impractical

For more than 45 years, my wife and I have lived by faith in a simple way. At times we've been questioned and even mocked for the simplicity of our faith. Yet, God has proved faithful and blessed us with many opportunities to serve Him and blessings beyond.

Our faith was tested in many ways over the years. It still is tested as we move into different phases of our life. This is to be expected.

Faith is not a practical pursuit, it's a matter of trust in God and His faithfulness to honor our trust in Him (Heb 11:6). Faith is more than what we believe about God.

True, genuine faith is a complete and personal trust in God—a childlike trust. What kind of faith is needed to please God? This is what Jesus instructed His first followers—

I can guarantee this truth: Whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom of God as a little child receives it will never enter it. (Luke 18:17 GW—context– Luke 17:15-17)

True, genuine faith is a complete and personal trust in God—a childlike trust

What kind of faith do you have?

Is your faith more than beliefs about God?

One Throne—One Gospel

Christ before Pilate-Mihaly_Munkacsy-public domain

Christ before Pilate-Mihaly_Munkacsy-public domain

It's easy to oversimplify and generalize truth. Doing so can make it seem shallow or trivial. But my observation is that teachers who teach well take difficult to understand truth and make it simple. This enables people to gain a good understanding of what's taught and internalize it.

My basic philosophy of learning is that unless a person (myself included!) struggles to think something through, they won't fully understand it or internalize it. Simple questions and challenges to see truth from different perspectives are useful in stirring up productive thought.

I've been writing on a certain track of thought with previous posts (see links below) and want to bring it to a conclusion—there is only one throne and one King of Kings believers need to submit their life to and this is based on the simplicity and depth of the gospel of Jesus.

Believers need to submit their life to only one throne and one King of Kings

A short review

The presentation of gospel truth—the good news of God's redemption for all humanity—is most often given in bits and pieces within a western cultural context. I wrote about this earlier.

A cursory reading of the New Testament (NT) reveals the gospel is presented in five narratives—4 Gospels and a history of the early church (Acts).

The remainder of the NT books explain this gospel narrative and give an understanding of how the truth of the gospel and its theology impact daily life within the church and among people outside the church. 

The larger narrative of God's Story, as it unfolds throughout the Bible, is important for those unfamiliar with the theology of redemption. Even Revelation, the last book of the Bible, is a heavenly narrative of how God's Story will conclude at the end of the Age.

The larger narrative of God's Story is important for those unfamiliar with the theology of redemption

Worldviews and the gospel

Consider again how truth is processed by different people with different world-views. Generally speaking, western thought presents bits and pieces of information strung together until the whole picture is seen.

In MOTROW, information and truth are understood as a whole, while bits and pieces are only seen as part of the whole. When the truth is presented in bits and pieces a disconnect between what is believed and how one lives often happens.

The post-modern mindset is similar to MOTROW when it comes to understanding truth. This mindset may still approach things in a linear fashion, but there's a freedom to associate other truth or information to a belief. This leads to a belief system like Moralistic Therapeutic Deism mentioned in a previous post.

Are you performing well?

A common emphasis in American Christianity is on what is termed a performance-based Christian faith. This is the idea that I need to do something as proof of believing in God or being a Christian. I need to give something to show my commitment to God.

This is often spurred on by well-intentioned calls to the altar—to accept Christ, to recommit your life to Christ, to serve Christ, and so on.

As mentioned in an earlier post, altars are for offering sacrifices and gifts. I see this as an expression of self-focused performance, especially when repeated many times in different services.

Are these responses or calls to some altar of self-sacrifice genuine? Yes, often they are. But the question ought to be, are they necessary?

A common emphasis in American Christianity is termed performance-based Christian faith

Only 2 vows necessary

I realized long ago that there were only two vows a person ever needs to make—one to follow Jesus and the other being joined in marriage. Both are all-inclusive and exclusive. Neither requires any additional commitments because they are all-inclusive commitments.

The call to follow Jesus is simple and requires no further clarification—Matt 16:24; Luke 14:26-27, 33. God's view of marriage, repeated four separate times in the Bible, is just as simple—Gen 2:24; Matt 19:5; Mark 10:7, Eph 5:31.

Some may argue, "But there's more to it than that!" But I ask, does God see it that way?

Reading through the book of Hebrews, I'm reminded of the great access provided for believers in the New Covenant established by God's grace—direct access to God's presence.

This access requires nothing of ourselves as believers—no giving, no doing, just coming into His presence—

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:16)

There are no minimum requirements for entering and remaining in the Kingdom of God. The only thing God asks is that we come to Him—Matt 11:28-30.

Access to God requires nothing of ourselves as believers—no giving, no doing, just coming into His presence—His throne of grace

What compels you to seek God?

So, back to the question—altar or throne? How are you compelled to come to God? Are you offering Him something rather than yourself? Or, are you coming to Him in all circumstances, good or bad?

When my children were young and I was a young pastor, I had an open door policy for my children and wife when I studied for messages. I can become so absorbed in studying that I block everything and everyone out.

My wife would remind me of my need to make myself accessible to my children and her., so I didn't elevate my work or my interests over them.

This is how I see a believer's access to God's presence. I can come at any time, in any condition, in any situation and His door is open. I don't need to offer anything or ask special permission.

The Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit are our promised intercessors (Rom 8:26-27, 34) ready at all times to hear us and be our advocates. Nothing and no one stands between believers and God.

How are you compelled to come to God? Are you offering Him something rather than yourself?

Guilt or grace?

Even as a young believer, I felt manipulated to respond to altar calls. I don't like being manipulated with emotion, nor do I want to just do something because it's expected or because I feel guilty about something. 

I'm not against altar calls per se, just the manipulative way they can be used and the assumptions made based on responses to these calls. I'm especially concerned about the self-effort I see people exerting to get into God's good graces. It's just not necessary.

God didn't ask Abraham to offer his son Isaac more than once. God accepted it and declared Abraham as righteous by faith (Gen 15:6; 22:1-18). Jesus only died once to justify those who trust in Him (Heb 9:12-14), this is made clear in several places in Hebrews.

Is there any need for doing something additional? If you think so, you don't understand God's grace. God doesn't manipulate us nor does He use guilt or shame to bring us to Him.

God doesn't manipulate us nor does He use guilt or shame to bring us to Him

Confidence in God and His grace

I laid my life at God's altar and I made a vow to my wife over 45 years ago. I don't need to make any more vows or make any sacrifices to gain the Lord's acceptance.

I approach God's throne with confidence when I am in need, though I still fall far short of perfection. My perfection—my sense of completeness—is only found in my Lord and Savior Jesus. I had nothing to offer long ago and still don't, but He has all I am.

What about you?

Are you going to God's altar and waiting for Him to accept you? Or, are you going boldly before His throne of grace at any time whatever your need? (Heb 4:14-16)

Jesus calls each of us to deny our self and take up the Cross, and then follow Him in faith. He doesn't ask us to make more vows at an altar of self-sacrifice. He invites us to come to Him because of His grace, and as the traditional hymn declares—Just as I am.

God doesn't ask us to come to an altar of self-sacrifice but invites us to come to Him because of His grace

Links of previous related posts—

Many Altars but One Gospel

Altar or Throne?

Go! Get Out of the Bubble!

Bubbles_Juneau
Bubbles_Juneau

No doubt you've heard the phrase, living in a bubble or something similar. It was coined a few decades ago, based on the movie of a boy with an underdeveloped immune system who had to live in a bubble-like environment.

This made-for-TV movie came out in 1976 (The Boy in the Plastic Bubble), combining the life stories of two boys with rare diseases. Of course, the movie dramatized the story (added some fiction) and a romantic theme far from reality.

But the concept of living in a bubble—like an incubator—caught hold as a cultural expression. In real life, these boys were unable to venture out of their bubble-like environments without fatal consequences. And yet, their great desire was to live outside the bubble.

Imagine what it would be like to live in a sterile environment without physical human contact. 

Living in a bubble

It wasn't long before people applied the phrase living in a bubble to other situations and people. For example, the office of the U.S. presidency is bubble-like, with the 24/7 Secret Service guard, and screening of people with whom the president will come in contact.

Today it could apply to people focused on their cell phones, gaming, and social media in a virtual bubble. The phrase came to describe anyone isolated from the world around them.

Living in a bubble can describe anyone isolated from the world around them

Sadly, this describes many Christian believers.

Many Christians live in an insulated Christian world surrounded by other Christians and locked into Christian-oriented media and music. And, many Christians like it this way. They don't want to leave this protective bubble—their faith bubble.

And so, the world around them is untouched by their Christian beliefs and values. Why? Intentionally or not, we've constructed an ivory tower of faith.

Not as Jesus intended

This is not what Jesus had in mind when He spoke of the Kingdom of God on earth. Not at all.

This bubble-like isolation isn't reflected in Jesus' teaching about the kingdom of God. What Jesus intended for His followers is seen in several parables and other teachings.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus sent out twelve disciples to "preach the kingdom and to heal the sick" (Luke 9:1-6). Later, in the last year of the Lord's ministry on earth, Jesus sent out seventy others in the same way (Luke 10:1-12).

Here are His final instructions to those who would lead the church after His departure—

But the Holy Spirit will come on you and give you power. You will be my witnesses. You will tell people everywhere about me—in Jerusalem, in the rest of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world. (Acts 1:8 ERV)

This is echoed in all four of the gospels and termed the Great Commission. Jesus intended for His followers to be empowered and go out with His message to the world around them.

Jesus wanted His followers empowered to go into all the world with His message

Getting out of the Christian bubble

For the "Boy in the Bubble," leaving the bubble put him at risk for his life. But it's different for us followers of Christ. Our spiritual life is at risk if we don't get outside the Christian bubble!

We need to engage people who have different values and beliefs than our own. Here's a blog post by Pastor Cary Nieuwhof that addresses this— The Evangelism Conversation No One Is Having.

I've posted similar or related articles related to sharing your faith without being aggressive or overbearing. But, we still need to get out of our faith bubble to engage people who don't share our faith. How will they know if we don't share God's redemptive message with them?

Our spiritual life is at risk if we don't get outside the Christian bubble!

One simple question— 

Are you willing to get out of your own faith-bubble to engage people about faith?