Sunday, September 21, 2014

The only way to live a life that counts

Do you truly have the sense that your life matters, that what you are doing really counts for all of eternity?

Or do you have the sense that you are just taking up time, filling up space, and spinning your wheels?

In John 15:5, Jesus says, "Without Me you can do nothing."

What does this mean? Lots of non-believing people do lots of things - even good things - in this world. What does Jesus mean?

John Gill comments, "[Apart from abiding in Christ, we can do] nothing that is spiritually good; no, not anything at all, be it little or great, easy or difficult to be performed; cannot think a good thought, speak a good word, or do a good action; can neither begin one, nor, when it is begun, perfect it. Nothing is to be done 'without Christ'; without His Spirit, grace, strength, and presence; or as 'separate from' Him."

So, if we want our lives to count for something beyond ourselves, if we want to do more than empty works, if we want to move from mere worldly success to eternal significance, we must abide in Christ.

So, how do we do that?

Again, John Gill comments, "Cleave to Christ with full purpose of heart, and so derive life, grace, strength, and nourishment from Him... As Christ is formed in the hearts of His people, He continues there as the living principle of all grace. Abiding in Christ [happens] by fresh repeated acts of faith."

What will be your fresh repeated acts of faith today that will enable you to cleave to Christ, to derive your life from Him?

Abide in Christ. Connect to Christ. Cleave to Christ. Derive your life from Christ.

This is the only way to make sure your life counts, that what you do truly matters.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How thinking theologically can help a busy pastor care more deeply about his wife's agenda

I have had conversations with pastors who struggle with engaging in the small chores at home with the same kind of passion that they tap into when they preach. I must admit that I am that man myself too often.

Pastors' wives and children often have concerns that don't seem to carry the same weight as preaching a sermon, counseling a hurting parishioner, or leading a mission trip to reach an unreached people group.

So, the so-called man of God can often disengage at home and seem disinterested about the things that are on the hearts and minds of those he lives with every day.

The message that we send our families is pride-full: "I'm involved in something important. What you're concerned about is petty. Please don't bother me with your shortsighted, temporal issues." Even if we don't say those words, we send the message loud and clear.

So, the people we're supposed to love the most are the ones that we hurt most deeply.
Is it any wonder, then, that pastors' wives and kids feel lonely, unappreciated, and, too often, unloved. Eventually, they've had enough. They cry out for help - sometimes through conflict and sometimes through disengagement.

I was recently talking with the pastor friend about these issues. I asked him, "What can you do to defuse this semi-polite battle that's going on in your home?" He said, "I guess I could try harder to love her better by being interested not only in my stuff but also hers."

I said, "That's a good response. It's certainly true. But let's think theologically about this. What is a theological way to think differently about serving at home and being concerned about what you feel are petty issues?"

I said, "Think with me. God is big. He is vast. He is Creator. He is Sovereign over all things. And that means He is concerned about the big things in this world. He is concerned about the crisis in Iraq and Syria. He is concerned about the advancement of His kingdom globally through the work of His church. He is concerned about making all things work together for good for everyone who loves Christ."

Then I asked, "What else do we know about God - about His concern for the small things in our lives?" We talked about how He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. We talked about how He numbers the hairs on our heads. We talked about how He invites us to bring all of our cares to Him because He cares for us.

Psalm 18:35 says that God "stoops down" to make us great. He is a condescending God. No concern of ours is too small for His focused attention.

Now, a husband is supposed to love his wife like Christ loved the church. We are to be Christlike. We are to be God–like to our spouses and kids. We should invite them, in a human way, to "cast their cares on us – no matter how small they might seem – because we care for them.

To be like God means that we not only need to be concerned about the "important" things but also we must be concerned about what might seem to be "petty" things.

See, even our most important project, mission, or ministry is really child's play to God. He must condescend to be interested in our most important tasks. Yet He invites us to bring even our smallest concern to Him.

If He is like that toward us, then we ought to be that way to others, especially to our spouses and children.

So, when our wives bring a concern to us – vacuuming the carpet, cleaning the bathroom, or what to cook for supper – that we think we are too important or too busy to deal with, then we need to consider what a God-like - a Godly - response would be. It's ungodly to be disinterested and unengaged.

We are most like God when we will invest ourselves fully in "big things" of ministry and, with equal passion, invest ourselves fully in the "small things" at home.

So, when your wife asks you to spread some mulch because company is coming and you feel like it's a non-issue that doesn't really matter, what can you do to be more like God and less like you?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

12 ways to help your staff enthusiastically embrace a fresh vision from God


If you are leading a church, you are, no doubt, wanting to see significant changes taking place. 

You’d better! Our culture is changing rapidly. The devil is still scheming to neutralize us. Spiritual complacency, worldliness, and lukewarmness are always threats to the church. 

Even the most innovative and effective churches and ministries must change or we will be increasingly ineffective and irrelevant. 

But what happens if you are leading your church or ministry to change and the people on your team resist?
Jesus faced the religious establishment who resisted change. He challenged them to embrace change, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins” (Luke 5:37-38).

So, don’t be surprised if members of your team resist change. But don’t back off the God-given, necessary changes! Instead, pray. Express your God-dependence by asking Him to give you ways to help your team actually become facilitators of the change.

In 1996 book Leading Change, John Kotter wrote that an organization needs a significant number of staff members to go "far beyond the normal call of duty" for significant change to take place. Getting staff to buy into the plan is crucial if the change stands any chance of taking hold. In his book, Kotter, shares an 8 stage process of creating major change. 1) Establish a sense of urgency. 2) Create a guiding coalition. 3) Develop your vision and strategy. 4) Communicate the change vision. 5) Empower broad-based action. 6) Generate short term wins. 7) Consolidate change and produce more change. 8) Anchor new approaches in the culture.

But what if you’ve sought to do all that – even if imperfectly – and your team (your staff) still resist? How do you turn grumpy nay-sayers into passionate cheerleaders?

1. Make sure your staff do not sense an ulterior motive. That’s a sure fire way for them to become resistant. Clarify the unselfish outcome that you want to happen. Personal agendas will be sniffed out and resisted. Make sure your motives are God-centered and kingdom-minded.

2. Seek staff input while the plan is still in development. Once the planning process is over and you're ready to begin implementation it’s too late. Often, staff don't even care whether you use their feedback. They just want to feel that they were heard and the ideas were considered. If that feeling exists, more people are going to be more willing to move forward.

3. Tell stories that illustrate and empower the change you want to make. The more details you can give, the more powerful of a story you can build. You won't just have the what, you'll have the why.

4. Use a variety of communication tactics. Effective communication always relies on repetition."In Leading Change, Harvard's Kotter writes that "vision is usually communicated most effectively when many different vehicles are used: large group meetings, memos, newspapers, posters, informal one-on-one talks.”

5. Establish a sense of urgency. If many other people on the team don't feel the same sense of urgency, the momentum for change will probably die far short of the finish line.

6. Develop a strategy – a plan, a path – and calendar your checkpoints. Sometimes a feeling can develop among staff that if they can wait it out, everything will eventually go back to business as usual, and they don't have to take the change as seriously. Periodically measure your progress to ensure that the change is working correctly and to let the staff know that progress is being made.

7. Communicate clearly and personally how vital each key staff person is. Share how he or she can make a significant contribution to the change. This shows that you’ve been thinking about them. It gives them examples of your expectations. It unleashes their own creativity. Sometimes staff members resist because they simply do not know what the change means for them personally.

8. Make sure the proper tools are available. The proper training, time, and resources must be made accessible for the changes to be viable. Perhaps you could connect them to a peer who is serving fruitfully on another ministry staff team. Don’t set up your team for the “Agony of Defeat” by under-servicing them. Instead, resource them for the “Thrill of Victory.”

9. Don’t allow poor performance to go unchallenged. The team member who consistently turns in a “C” performance will inevitably de-motivate the “A” performers.

10. Deal directly with the naysayers. In churches, we face mostly indirect resistance. Staff may just go along with the change outwardly and take a “wait-and-see” posture. Don’t ignore even indirect resistance. In such cases, think: Retrain, Reassign, or (ultimately) Replace.

11. Adjust your regular & annual staff reviews to align with the new vision. The questions you ask your staff on a regular basis will shape your staff's performance. The staff who have bought in to the fresh vision will thrive and be encouraged. The staff who haven’t will be challenged to change or will either leave or will eventually be asked to leave.

12. Pray, pray, and pray some more. Your vision came about through prayer. You strategy was birthed in prayer. And team alignment can come through prayer. Pray for each person by name. Over and over. Watch God do for you and your team what you can't do for yourselves. Watch Him give birth to His vision for your church and ministry. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to become sweet, not sour when you've been treated unjustly


What has happened in your life – how have you, perhaps, been treated unjustly – and you are ticked about it and you can’t let it go?

Are you sour or sweet?

An Old Testament character, Esau, allowed the problems and difficulties and wounds and injustices of life to make him bitter, not better. But another Old Testament character, the patriarch Joseph, in spite of the fact that he was forsaken, framed and forgotten, became sweet, not sour.

This sweetness was attractive. It attracted the favor of people and the favor of God.

"Joseph found favor in [Potiphar’s] sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had… The Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison" (Genesis 39:4, 21).

See, our anger and resentment, if left unchecked, will grow like a weed in the soil of our souls. Bitterness will cause us trouble and infect everyone and everything around us. But if we let go of bitterness, we set ourselves up to receive the blessing and the favor of God.

Maybe you've been resentful. You feel like you’ve been cheated. Your boss didn’t give you that raise you deserved. Your parents gave more to your siblings than they did to you. A friend lied about you and betrayed you. So now, you sulk. You’ve been perpetually ticked. You’re not as close to God as you used to be. God says, “It’s time to let go of your bitterness. Let Me make you sweet. Let Me pour out My favor on your life.”

The life of Joseph points us to the connection between forgiveness and the favor of God. If you bury the hatchet you get the blessing of heaven.

But how can we find the desire and the power to bury the hatchet?

We get the fuel from Jesus.



See, Joseph is someone who reflects the heart of God. He points us to Jesus because He is a picture of Jesus.

Like Joseph, Jesus was beloved by His father.
Like Joseph, Jesus was sent by His father to care for His brothers.
Like Joseph, Jesus was despised and rejected by His brothers.
Like Joseph, Jesus resisted temptation and sin.
Like Joseph, Jesus was falsely accused.
Like Joseph, Jesus was arrested.
Like Joseph, Jesus suffered unjustly.
Like Joseph, Jesus was raised to a position of power and authority.
Like Joseph, Jesus saved His people from destruction.
Like Joseph, Jesus was reunited with his father.
Like Joseph, Jesus forgave the ones who hurt Him.
Like Joseph, Jesus had the favor of man and God.

The only way you can forgive like Joseph did and the only way you can have the favor of God like he did is through embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's focusing on the gospel that makes us better, not bitter. 


Jesus forgave us. How can we not forgive others?

Do you have New Life in Christ? Are you living out your New Life in Christ? If so, then you can (and will!) forgive and gain the favor of God. You will bury the hatchet and get the blessing of heaven. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Discover how you can reconcile with someone who's hurt you


What if, somehow, God let Joseph come here to tell us his story about forgiveness and reconciliation? What might it be like? What would we hear? Let’s let him tell us his story. You’ll discover some insights about forgiveness and reconciliation. See, God’s favor flows toward those who forgive. 

 
***

I grew up in a dysfunctional family. You think your family is dysfunctional? I had 3 step-mothers, 10 step-brothers, and 1 full brother all living in the same house at the same time.

I was my dad’s favorite. Yes, I was a daddy’s boy. My brothers were jealous because of a dream I had that they would one day bow down to me. It probably wasn’t a good idea to tell that dream to them. I admit that I was more than a little full of myself. I flaunted the fact that I was my father’s favorite.

One day, when my brothers were away taking care of the family business, my daddy, Jacob, sent me out to take them some food. My brothers saw me coming and schemed to kill me. They threw me into a pit. But one of my brothers came up with a plan to save me by selling me to a band of traders headed to Egypt. I learned later that they told my father that I was dead.

In Egypt, I became a household slave and then was falsely accused of raping my master’s wife. I was thrown into prison and then forgotten. Forsaken. Framed. Forgotten. From the age of 17 until the age of 30. 13 years. No one would have blamed me for becoming angry, bitter, and filled with revenge.

Somehow, the stories I had heard from my father about the Lord stayed with me. God had helped my father through some hard times. I guess I believed that He would help me, too. So, I tried to stay connected with God. People who knew me then said I had the favor of God on my life and that I was filled with His Spirit… even in prison.

God had plans for my life. He took me from privilege, to a pit, to prison, and then to platform. The king of Egypt, the Pharaoh, had a dream. He found out that I gained insight from God to interpret dreams.

I told him, “There will be 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine.” I advised the Pharaoh to store the excess during the years of plenty to have enough for the famine. And then I heard, “Great idea. You’re in charge.” So, I found myself second in command of all of Egypt – another sign of God’s favor.  

The famine hit other lands besides Egypt. And my long lost family lived in one of those areas. They needed food. My father had been informed that there was extra food in Egypt. So, he sent 10 of my brothers to ask for some food to take back home to our family. My father, Jacob wouldn’t allow my full brother, Benjamin, to go because Benjamin was now the favored son.

That’s when I, as the governor of Egypt, found myself face-to-face with my 10 older brothers. I was stunned to see them. They didn’t recognize me. How could they? I was 22 years older. I looked and sounded like the powerful Egyptian ruler I was. How could my brothers expect their little brother to have become “the man” in all the land?

You know what they did when they came to see me? They bowed down with their faces to the earth. They fulfilled my early dreams.

But I didn’t reveal myself. Not yet. I tested my brothers to see if I could trust them. I wondered, “Have they changed? Are they more truthful? Are they more kind? Were they sorry that they sold me as a slave? Had they changed at all?”

I said, “Tell me about your family.” They said, “There were twelve of us brothers. The youngest is with our father, and one is no more.” I said, “I don’t believe you. I think you’re spies. If you are telling the truth, one of you will stay here in jail, while the others take the food home. Then, bring back your youngest brother.”

I was talking about Benjamin, my full brother. I wanted to see if they would act toward Benjamin the same way they acted toward me.

 
Then I heard them talking in Hebrew. I knew what they are saying, but they didn’t know that I knew. “Now we’re paying for what we did to Joseph. We saw how terrified he was when he was begging us for mercy. We wouldn’t listen to him and now we’re the ones in trouble.” My brother Reuben said, “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t hurt the boy’? But no, you wouldn’t listen. And now we’re paying for his murder.”

I heard their softened conscience:  “We are very guilty.” I heard how the memory of me haunted them: “We saw Joseph’s anguish.”  I heard them connect the dots between their past guilt and their current troubles: “Therefore is this distress come upon us.” They used to call me “this dreamer,” but now they called me “our brother” and “the child.” I was coming to the conclusion that they were broken. My brothers were coming clean.

They left Simeon behind in jail and headed home. And I waited. Would they pass the test or would they abandon yet another brother?

The famine grew worse. A year later, they came back for more food. And this time they had Benjamin with them. I gave them a feast and then sent them away with their food. But I secretly had a servant put my silver chalice in Benjamin’s bag. When they left town, my servants chased them down and said, “Whoever has Joseph’s silver chalice will be his slave.”

When my brothers saw that Benjamin had the chalice, they were terrified. My brother Judah said, “If we don’t go back with Benjamin, our father will die of grief on the spot. So, let me stay here as your slave, not this boy!”

I knew then that my brothers had changed – that they could be trusted. I had already forgiven them. Now, it was time to reconcile.   

Sure, I wrestled with God. I asked all the questions like, “Why did this happen?” and “Why were my brothers allowed to do that to me?” and “What did I do to deserve this?” and “Why do I have to forgive them after what they have done?”

 
I couldn’t control myself any longer. I cried out, “Leave! Clear out! Everyone leave!” I identified myself to my brothers. I said, “I’m Joseph. Is my father really still alive?” My brothers couldn’t say a word. They were speechless. They couldn’t believe their eyes and ears.

I said, “Come closer. Look at my eyes. I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But I don’t hold it against you. You don’t have to pay. God was behind it. God sent me here ahead of you to save lives. This famine is going to go on for 5 more years. God sent me here ahead of you to pave the way and make sure our family survives the famine. It wasn’t you who sent me here but God. I have been favored by Pharaoh. He put me in charge.”

We kissed and hugged. I cried. I told my brothers to hurry back to tell my father and the rest of the family. I said, “I’ll give you a place to live close to me. I’ll take care of you, your children, your grandchildren, your flocks, your herds. I’ll make sure all your needs are taken care of. You won’t want for a thing.”

My family story means that there’s hope for your family. God can transform the lack of communication in your home. He can heal the hurts. He can bridge the gaps. There’s hope. When we forgive, great good can come.

I’m certainly not perfect. But I have learned a very important lesson in life. If you want God’s favor, you have to forgive. See, God’s favor flows toward those who forgive. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

How to lead a discipleship huddle on the topic of Bible Intake


Recently, I attended a Launch Group retreat designed to equip leaders to train church planters better. Mac Lake led the retreat and gave us some excellent tools to accelerate learning. I wanted immediately to put some of these tools to work. So, I used some of Mac's "Hardwired Habits" to design a discipleship huddle on the topic of Bible Intake.

Below is an outline of the session. If you are discipling in a group setting, this is a sure-fire way of helping your disciples discover truths of their own and to make the time fly by!

***Discipleship Huddle Session
Discipleship Competency: Bible Intake (1)

Gaining motivation and learning skills in order to build life-long habits to hear, read, study, memorize, meditate, and trust God’s Word for the purpose of finding more and more New Life in Christ – for the purpose of life transformation.


Supplies for this session:
Post-it entitled “Discipleship insights”
Post-it entitled “Transforming your Bible intake from a duty to a delight”
Post-it entitled “A believer without Bible intake is…”
Post-it entitled “A believer with Bible intake is…”
Handout: My Heart, Christ’s Home

Copies of the CVC Bible Reading Plan
Sheet entitled “7 benefits of regular Bible intake” with the benefits listed
Bread, honey, and milk

Goals for this session:
Strengthen the disciple’s commitment to regular Bible intake
Promote the faithful use of CVC’s Bible Reading Plan
Help the disciple view Bible intake as a Gospel-based delight rather than a law-based duty
Pray for one another to become life-long learners from God’s Word

Session Outline:
The following timeline is a suggestion; sessions will vary based on levels of coaching required.

Opening: Self-assessment - 8 minutes
Using the “7 benefits” handout, ask each participant to score himself/herself appropriately. Then add up the score and talk about how well each person is doing accessing the benefits of Bible intake. Draw out the insights from the disciples that reveal strengths and growth areas.

Devotional: Guided Debrief - 5 minutes

Using Isaiah 50:4, a Messianic prophetic passage about Jesus, discuss how and why Jesus found the need to “listen as one being taught.” Use the Post-it entitled “Discipleship insights” to record observations. Pray for your time together.

Testimony: Strategic Narrative - 5 minutes

Using personal example, tell a story how you, as an adult, first came to see the value of and developed a commitment to having regular devotional time in God’s Word. End with sharing a personal discipleship insight to add to your previous list.

Activity: Brainstorming - 10 minutes

Ask the group to discuss and fill out the Post-its entitled “A believer without Bible intake is…” and “A believer with Bible intake is…” Squeeze out a long list of answers. Summarize the discussion by adding yet another personal discipleship insight to your previous list.

Reading: Self-assessment - 12 minutes

Introduce the “My Heart, Christ’s Home” material. As you play some music in the background, have each person silently read “The Living Room” section. Ask each participant to highlight 2-3 sentences in this section that encouraged or challenged them. Have someone read through the last 2 paragraphs of this section. Ask each person to summarize the principles being taught in those paragraphs. Ask each person to assess how his/her attitude toward time in the scripture compares with the principles being taught.

Activity: Design Analysis - 10 minutes

Using the “7 Benefits of Bible Intake” sheet, lead a discussion on how this might be used to encourage non-Bible readers to start reading the Bible. Ask, “What are the strengths of this list as a motivational tool to help people become more faithful in Bible intake?” Ask, “How might this list be strengthened as a motivational tool? What should be tweaked, taken away, or added?” Ask, “How might you use this list in your own life or ministry?”

Activity: Strategy Development - 10 minutes

Read aloud the “Perspective” section from Bible Intake (1) Week 1 day 5. Give instructions to the disciples that their assignment is to develop a personal 3-5 step strategy to move their Bible Intake time more and more from duty to delight. (They can use the margin to record the strategy in their Fruit of New Life manual.) Have each participant share what they developed. Give them affirmation and constructive feedback.

Closing: Demonstration 5 minutes

Refer to Week 1 Day 2 session where the disciples learn that the Word of God is like bread, honey, milk, and meat. Serve each person the bread, honey, and the milk in a “communion-like” way while praying for each person by name that the Word of God would become increasingly nourishing for him/her.

Next assignments:
Remind everyone about the next meeting time and place.
Hand out the CVC Bible Reading plan.
Remind everyone to continue with the CVC Bible reading plan and to record insights God gives.
Encourage everyone to be ready to answer the 3 Discipleship Huddle questions:1) Self-Feeder: What is God teaching you from His Word and what are you doing about it? 2) Servant: How are you doing in your most significant relationships and how are you growing as a servant in these relationships? 3) Missionary: Who are you seeking to win to Christ and what are your next steps in seeking to reach them?


Related Post:
The DNA of discipleship the Jesus way

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How much benefit are you enjoying as a result of regular Bible intake?



7 Benefits of Bible Intake

How well are you accessing the benefits of Bible Intake? The Bible tells us that it brings about some amazing benefits.

Rank them in the order in which you are experiencing each of these benefits, 1 being “I am experiencing this benefit the most” and 7 being “I am experiencing this benefit the least.”

___ Great Joy. Jeremiah 15:16

 
___ Practical Guidance. Isaiah 30:21


___ Victory Over Sin. Psalm 119:9-11
 

___ Spiritual Stability, Fruitfulness, and Prosperity. Psalm 1:2-3

 
___ An Ability To Encourage, Help, and Guide Others. Psalm 119:98-100

 
___ Increased Faith and Trust in God. Romans 10:17


___ Preparation for the Day’s Challenges and Opportunities. Psalm 119:105

What might be 2-3 changes you could make in your approach to Bible intake that might make a big difference in the bottom 2-3 benefits that you are experiencing the least? 

1.     __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2.     __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3.     __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Monday, September 08, 2014

10 questions to help you clarify your unique mission, vision, and values

As Lead Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church for 26 years, I was part of a team that enjoyed the unmerited favor of God in spite of my shortcomings as a leader. 

I am convinced, though, that we could have done more for Jesus and His Church. 

I was a good learner. But I think that was part of the problem. I would spend time reading or conferencing. Then, we would adapt and adopt a strategy or tactic that we felt fit our context. Sometimes as soon as you walked through our foyer, looked at our website, or read our bulletin, you could tell what books we had been reading or which church we had just visited. 

We weren't church unique. 

I can remember at least 4 different "profiles of a disciple" that we were trying to produce, I can remember 3 different mission statements. I can remember 3 different taglines. None of these were cohesive or connected.  

I often wonder, "What might have happened if we had been clear and focused on our mission, vision, and values rather than adoptive and sporadic?" 

As I look back, I am convinced that many of the statements, profiles, and we had were good. Often, really, really good. But we didn't know that what we had was often something worth keeping over the long haul. So, were were always adjusting, sometimes radically. We, unwittingly, were creating a moving target that made ministry more complicated than it needed to be. 

We didn't get the kingdom flywheel turning faster and faster (i.e., we weren't multiplying disciples) because we were always stopping and starting. We could have gone further faster if we had been crystal clear and doggedly determined on our unique mission, vision, values, strategies, and measures as a church. 

I don't want you to make this same mistake. 

Maybe you are like I was. The latest book, conference, or seminar causes you to tweak or change things at your church. 

I urge you to gain clarity, simplicity, and tenacity. 

So, here are a leader’s 10 “Make or Break” Questions. Your long-term outcomes as a church are partially identified by the specifics of each question. You should be able to answer, “yes” to these questions. 

If you can't answer "yes" to most of these questions, contact me at rduncan@cvconline.org, and I will share with you a free resource that will help you move toward a unique vision for your church that will help you get the kingdom flywheel turning in your ministry context. 


1. In the last 30 days did you hear church members talk about your church’s vision?

2. Is your church’s identity unquestionably contagious?

3. Does your mission roll off your tongue with clarity and heartfelt conviction?

4. Does your staff embrace the value of values?

5. Have you planned an event in the next six months that will help your staff see God’s future for your church?

6. Does your staff enthusiastically agree about how to accomplish the church’s mission?

7. Do you have a process on paper that shows how your church will develop leaders?

8. Does all church communication reflect and reinforce your vision?

9. Do you have crystal clarity about the next ministry to launch or staff to hire?

10. Have you identified a person to help you develop as a senior leader?

Monday, September 01, 2014

3 signs of a self-serving spiritual leader


The longer a man stays in the ministry and the greater levels of success he enjoys, the more watchful he needs to be.

According to Jesus, God's people need to beware of certain types of spiritual leaders.

"46 Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation" (Luke 20:46-47).

Obviously today's ministerial trappings of success and notoriety are different. But spiritual leaders can still fall into the three big sins Jesus warned against: pride (Luke 20:46), greed (Luke 20:47a), and hypocrisy (Luke 20:47b).

Because of the temptation from the devil and the pull of the world and our flesh, ministries that started well can morph into something dark. What started out godly can become ugly over time.

When spiritual leaders start out, the trappings of success simply aren't there. But when the ministry begins to gain traction, and blogs are being read, phone calls are coming in, text messages pile up, invitations to speak take place, and questions are being asked then spiritual leaders can begin to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think.

So, spiritual leaders, what must we watch out for? 

1. Watch out for pride (Luke 20:46) - for a creeping desire to be noticed, respected, applauded, and admired. 

2. Watch out for greed (Luke 20:47a) - for the desire to use unsuspecting, weak people for personal gain - to manipulate people so the budget will be met and you can have your salary. 

3. Watch out for hypocrisy (Luke 20:47b) - for the desire to make a show of your spirituality that is devoid of the substance, to present a different person in public than the person you are in private.

If we allow these temptations to grow, take hold, and define us then we "will receive the greater condemnation" (Luke 20:47c). In his commentary on Luke 20, Matthew Henry called this a "double damnation." It's not that a spiritual leader can lose his salvation. It's that the pride-filled, self-seeking, hypocritical pretender proves that his spirituality never was genuine in the first place.

30 years ago, I heard Chuck Swindoll say that the sins pastors must beware of are the sins of self, sloth, silver, and sex.

Yes, you are a Beloved Child. And, yes, God wants to use you to further His kingdom. Yes, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, you can do exceeding abundantly beyond all that you can ask or think because of the power of God in you. But God doesn't NEED you. Or me.

Take a trip to an ocean or a Great Lake. Stick your foot or your hand in. Make a big splash. Stir up things. Then take your foot or hand away. How much are you missed?

God did His work long before we ever took our first breath. And He will do His work long after we return to dust.

We are not needed. But we all wanted by Him as long as we maintain our humility, our generosity, and our authenticity.

Watch out, my brothers! We spiritual leaders have unique temptations that must be resisted if we're going to be faithful and fruitful in building His kingdom.

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