As often as the word holy is used by Christians, you’d think that we could all agree on a uniform understanding of its meaning. We read our “Holy” Bibles. We receive “Holy” Communion. We sing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” and acknowledge the “Holy” Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. We understand the word generally to mean “divine” or “of God.”
But when Christians start to discuss holiness, they discover that the implications of the word vary widely. It seems that holiness can mean anything from a name for the pope to teetotalism and not wearing makeup.
From Moses to Martin, preachers have parted political waters and led the oppressed to the Promised Land. Either by summons to a pharaoh to “Let my people go,” parting the Red Sea with an outstretched shepherd’s rod, or accompanied by a soulful protest ballad, “We Shall Overcome” and a federal court order granting rights to march over the Alabama River on the Edmund Pettus Bridge—throughout millennia, preachers have led the advance of liberty and religious freedom through troubled waters, on dry ground or over them on segregated asphalt.
The birth of America’s freedom came no differently, as our forefathers crossed the Atlantic to escape Europe’s political and religious oppression. Has the time come for another Reformation? I believe so—an American Reformation! Where are the American clergy who will stem the tide of religious oppressions rising in our land by taking action against the political forces responsible? Maybe it’s time for a new breed of American clergy or just a restoration of the American preacher.
I talk with team leaders every week where the team is struggling and trying to figure out how to succeed again. I understand. I’ve been the leader of teams in situations like that many times. Every team experiences times of decline. What you do next almost always determines how long it lasts and how well you recover.
First, I should say that every situation is unique and requires individual attention. Don’t use a script for your team. Also, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. It could be anyone, from a paid consultant to a friend who leads another team with whom you trade a favor. Everyone can use a fresh perspective at times. It takes humble and wise leaders to welcome input from outsiders.
In the same way, when you obey me you should say, "We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty."— Luke 17:10
The goal of any college or professional football player is to help his or her team win the championship game at the end of the season. It takes dedication, strength, and a good measure of teamwork to get to that point. In recent years, however, the sport has focused more than ever before on outstanding individual performances, helped in no small way by the media. Sports figures can rarely avoid the spotlight. So when athletes have microphones shoved at them and are asked questions, they have an opportunity to exhibit a key leadership trait. They can brag and boast about their personal accomplishments, they can criticize another team and its players, or they can make sure that everyone on the team gets the credit he or she deserves.
The ability to deflect praise toward those who deserve it is important for a number of reasons. Giving credit to others keeps us from becoming conceited and self-absorbed. In addition, it allows those who had a contributing role to experience the success as well. Praising others also shows our personal desire to be a servant, a true mark of leadership (see Luke 22:26).
This attitude is not one that comes naturally to people. To this end, we must commit ourselves to God daily, asking him to help us live lives that reflect his character. If we're constantly looking for glory and praise from being a "significant" Christian, then our priorities are wrong. The same is true if we choose to give God and others praise, but in a showy, "look at me" manner. Jesus made it clear that we are to simply do the things he asks us to do and reflect any praise we might receive away from ourselves. We're only doing what he asks, right? And in the end, that's more important than any honors and awards we might receive.
Olan Hendrix once said, “Strategic thinking is like showering; you have to keep doing it.” Many churches are intentional about setting short and long-term goals. Unfortunately, because there is no ongoing process, they quickly get stuck and revert back to previous ways of thinking once goals are accomplished.
Strategic Operating Plans guide teams to clarify their mission, vision and core strategies—and then create the right structure and accountability to realize it through prioritized action initiatives. The process is a continual circle because strategic thinking must always be ongoing.
The May edition of Fast Company recently featured an article by Danielle Sacks that really demonstrates the importance of strategic planning.
Those are words many of us have spoken and all of us have heard from others. We know how vital it is for every church to have and fill a solid leadership pipeline. But for many, some of the steps involved in that process seem overwhelming, and many don’t know where to start.
I’m a small-town, simple-minded pastor that has difficulty with complicated processes. So here is a simple pattern I’ve learned to get new potential leaders on your radar and start a process to move them through.
For some time now, the ministry of Heal Your Servant has been dedicated to helping ministers who are at any stage of a moral failure. Some have misappropriated funds. Others have made wrong decisions that have adversely affected their congregations, while the majority of the ministers we deal with are trapped in some sort of sexual indiscretion, whether it is pornography, adultery or a dual identity.
These types of transgressions have left a trail of hurt, pain and anger throughout the entire body of Christ. Many say, “Forgive, forgive,” while others declare, “Off with their heads.”
I recently had a phone conversation with a woman from our congregation who said, “We’re thinking of leaving the church.”
“Tell me why,” I replied.
“Because we just haven’t been able to connect," she said. "The church is so big.”
I can’t argue with that point. Churches can get big. And I believe there truly are times when someone is called out to serve in a different capacity within the community. I’m not one to suggest there is one church that can meet the needs of an entire community. In fact, I truly believe it’s the whole church (all church organizations working together) that will meet the needs of a community because we are the functioning body of Christ.
You can have a thriving ministry without a thriving relationship with God, but only temporarily. Anyone can fake it in the short run, but to go the distance, you need a passionate devotional life and continual closeness to Jesus. Often pastors tend to allow the busyness of ministry and the necessity of studying for sermon preparation to replace a real, personal walk with Jesus. But God wants better for you.
Three T’s for a thriving walk with Jesus are as follows:
People often complain about angry preachers. I don’t like them either, and I agree that if a person mixes a sermon with hateful language (or if he believes God has called him to picket other churches) he’s in the wrong profession. Yet today we’ve jumped to the opposite extreme. Now we are afraid to confront sin.
We can’t preach about materialism because we might offend rich people in the audience—as well as the poor people who buy Lotto tickets every week. We can’t preach about fornication because there are people in thechurchwho are living together. We can’t preach about domestic violence because there are deacons who sometimes hit their wives. We can’t preach about homosexuality because our culture says it’s hateful to call that a sin.
I recently spent a couple thousand dollars cutting down and stump-grinding nine trees that I spent hundreds of dollars planting 10 years ago. Seems dumb, I know. But sometimes, that’s what it takes.
Perhaps you’ve seen these trees—they are called Cryptomeria. They grow extremely fast and easily reach 35 to 40 feet and more with a 20-foot spread at the bottom. They are similar to the Leyland Cypress but typically seem to grow larger, more lush, and are deeper green in color.
Pastor Andrew closed the door to his study and leaned against the hard wood, letting out a long breath. A ball of anxiety grew inside his mind, threatening to shut down all functions.
There are times when that ball of anxiety threatens to overwhelm us. It might be because we have overwhelming responsibilities or because people problems loom. The anxiety can also grow from bills or that feeling that we are missing something.
Have you ever noticed how fear takes over your brain? What starts as a niggling feeling in the back of your mind soon has you comatose in front of the television, hoping to drown out the cacophony of "what ifs."
Simeon was righteous and devout. What distinguished him from other people who were righteous and devout was that the Holy Spirit was with him. This seemingly ordinary man was living a supernatural life simply because the Holy Spirit was on Him:
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him”(Luke 2:25).
Gilian made the point that the Bible makes no reference to the word supernatural. He said that the supernatural was simply a byproduct of the presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. It is the same Holy Spirit that supernaturally impregnated a normal teenager named Mary. It was also the Holy Spirit who visited the ordinary and normal men and women on that fateful day of Pentecost.
The pastor had been called from his rural church to another part of the country. He was excited about the new challenge, as he well should have been. In a parting comment to a friend, he assessed the state of spirituality of the church members he was leaving behind:
“There is enough ignorance in this county to ignorantize the whole country.”
What happens when a pastor gets called to a church like that? A church where the members and leaders alike do not know the Word of God and have no idea of how things should be done (what Paul called “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God,” 1 Tim. 3:15) or why it all matters?
Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them.— Ezra 5:2
The term guru has become a description of a person so knowledgeable on a subject that people seek him or her out for advice. These individuals are often depicted as sitting alone on a mountaintop, waiting for someone to stop by for some wisdom. And when the time comes to share, their answers are brief and filled with multiple levels of understanding.
However, leadership does not come from dispensing mysterious advice. Nor, to be more exact, does it come from acting in isolation. God created people to be creatures of community, and within that network of relationships come opportunities to allow others to challenge and encourage each other regardless of title or distinction.
Zerubbabel learned this while attempting to rebuild the Temple after the exiles returned to Jerusalem. Some of the Levites were distraught and wept when the foundation was laid, knowing this version wouldn't be as magnificent as the one Solomon built. Meanwhile, Israel's enemies wanted to help with the building, but when Zerubbabel told them no, they used their power and persuasion to stop construction for sixteen years.
During this time, Zerubbabel could have given up on the whole project. However, two individuals offered him advice and help: the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Not only did they prophesy to the people, but they also helped get the project back on track again. Their advice and encouragement helped Zerubbabel and the people to complete the Temple despite all the opposition.
Not only do leaders need to be able to encourage others, but they also need to find their own consistent sources of encouragement. This doesn't mean that a "guru" needs to be found. Instead, a leader needs to find trusted people who will listen, pray, and offer advice as God directs them to. Leaders flourish under consistent counsel. Now that's good advice!
All of us who lead in a church understand the cost of doing ministry—the financial cost, that is. We know our budgets and the limits of what we can afford or not afford.
However, many pastors and leaders are allowing some intangible costs to rob them now, and the net result will be devastating if these “costs” are not cut.
1. A complaining culture. We all know what this means. It’s that thing that says, “It’s not my way, so I’m going to complain about it.” Your church can’t afford that. You have to teach your people and get it into your DNA that people simply can’t complain. You want your people to be about 80 percent happy. When people are 80 percent happy, you know you’re reaching all kinds of people. The second people get 100 percent happy, you will only reach those just like them. Here’s the thing: Teach your people that they can’t complain about the 20 percent they’re not happy with. It’s suffocating to your church and your vision. The cost is too high.
Jesus was definitely an iconoclast, continually challenging the conventional thinking of His day. Twenty different times, Jesus said, “You’ve heard it said ... but I say to you ... ” And even today, His thoughts on leadership go against the grain.
Most modern books on leadership, whether Christian or secular, give the same advice: Be confident, never admit fear, maintain control and be composed, be convincing and never show weakness. But Jesus had a different style altogether. Instead of leading from a position of strength (lording authority over people), Jesus led from a position of weakness, becoming a servant.
The term profiling is relatively new in today's vocabulary. It became nationally popular in the early 80s, when the public suspected and targeted a person, or persons, on the basis of some characteristic, behavior, color, race or religion. This has become known as profiling, usually carrying a negative connotation.
Before jumping into biblicalprofiling, which is a major step in God's direction, let me share with you my horrifying experience of personalprofiling. I speak from an event sketched in my memory forever. This is a story I'd rather not relive, but I will offer it up for your benefit and to lay a firm foundation for the value of profiling others.
The power of accountability sets the tone in any organization.
So, what about when someone completely drops the ball?We all have experienced this as leaders. I know I have. How do you respond?
You give a big assignment or project to someone on your team, and they lay an egg—totally drop the ball and don’t get it done. We’ve all been there. I know I have, both as the goat who goofed up, as well as the one in charge trying to figure out how to handle the situation.
So, how do you handle it? Let’s look at this situation from both sides—both the one who dropped the ball and the one in charge.
I absolutely believe that divine judgment is in the earth today, and I reject the teaching that states that from the cross until the Second Coming, God’s wrath will not be poured out on the earth. There is a substantial amount of New Testament evidence that stands against this doctrine.
At the same time, we better be very careful before we start calling specific events “divine judgment.” It is dangerous and unwise to bear false witness about the Lord.
Recently, a caller to my Line of Fire radio broadcast stated that the Boston Marathon bombing was a divine judgment, one of the main causes being the legalizing of same-sex “marriage” in Massachusetts in 2004.