How an overly politicized culture may affect our view of leadership
Would Moses have run for president? And if so, would anyone have voted for him? Instead of “choosing to run,” Moses would more likely have only served if convinced he was truly “chosen to lead” Israel. Even then, it would’ve been difficult. Unlike American politicians, instead of running for office, Moses would have been more likely to run away from it.
The most important consideration of Moses and the Oval Office for church leaders, however, is this: How does the roller-coaster world of U.S. presidential politics affect or infect our pure biblical view of leadership within the church? The fact remains, while our nation is embroiled in the search to elect a political leader to serve the nation, the church is still responsible to call upon godly ones to serve the church.
A God-given plan for avoiding the pitfalls of power, prestige and possessions
Have you ever wondered why God the Father would allow Jesus to be tempted by the devil? In the desert? In a weakened physical state after Jesus had just spent 40 days fasting?
I believe God allowed His Son, our Savior, to endure these kinds of trials to benefit us—the people He came to renew and redeem. He knew our lives would be filled with temptation. By allowing Jesus to experience the same adversity, He gave us the preeminent model for how we can and should respond to the enemy’s lures.
The Three P’s: Power, Prestige, Possessions
Just as Satan attacked and tempted Jesus with what I call the three P’s (power, prestige, possessions), we can count on Him doing the same thing to us—repeatedly.
Power.First, the devil tempted Jesus by appealing to Him to use His power to turn stones into bread (Matt. 4:3). By refusing, Jesus not only showed us how to overcome temptation, He also reassured us that He understands our struggles firsthand (Heb. 4:15). Instead of using His divine power, Jesus enlisted Scripture and rested in His Father’s power.
Don’t miss this: Jesus refused to establish His identity on the basis of what He could do. Essentially, He told Satan, “My identity is based in My Father’s power, not Mine.”
Do you base your identity in what you do? For years, Satan used this “P” on me. I thought my power—or my profession of being an NFL player—defined me, and that people would accept and like me because of what I did. If I lost my career, who would I be? I bought the lie of believing that what I did defined me as a person. The big problem is that NFL stands for “Not for Long.”
When we ground our identity in what we do, we never win. It’s bondage.
Prestige. Second, the devil tempted Jesus with prestige: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down” (Matt. 4:6). Jesus didn’t find His identity in opportunities to promote Himself, but in being God’s Son. Once again, He went to Scripture to deflect Satan’s appeal to prestige (v. 7).
If you haven’t already been tempted with prestige, you will. We live in an age of self-preoccupation and self-promotion. Our culture values and worships superstars. The popularity explosion of Facebook and YouTube should tell us something: People love to promote themselves. Conversely, Jesus valued humility and called His followers to be servants (John 13:1-17).
Possessions.The third temptation was possessions—probably the No. 1 scheme Satan uses to shipwreck the common man. Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4:8-9). But Jesus, once again secure and grounded in His identity as God’s Son, refused to find His identity in possessions. He crushed Satan once again, using Scripture (v. 10).
Every advertisement or commercial screams, “Buy me and you’ll be better.” Granted, there’s nothing wrong with having nice things. But when things have you or when you find your identity in what you possess, something has gone terribly wrong.
Strength Training in the Wilderness
Jesus knew His identity was secure and anchored as God’s Son. By refusing to find His identity in power, prestige or possessions, He resisted (I like to think He drop-kicked) the devil. Because we are God’s sons and daughters through our faith in Jesus (John 1:12; 1 John 3:2), we too can resist and defeat Satan’s temptations.
Take time this week to think about and ask yourself these questions:
Is temptation playing out (or about to play out) in my life?
How is Satan using power, prestige and possessions to pull me away from God?
Where do I find my identity?
Each day this week, send yourself a text or email, reminding yourself that power, prestige and possessions do not define you.
Derwin Gray is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community in Indian Land, S.C. From 1993 to 1998, he played football for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers. Gray is the author of Hero: Unleashing God’s Power in a Man’s Heart and is a highly sought-after communicator. For more information, go to tc521.org.
Have you ever wondered what is happening to churches today? Many have lost their sense of purpose, floundering for identity, in a sea of hundreds of other churches competing for the same people. Approximately 80 percent of “church growth” numbers can be attributed to people transferring from one church to another rather than new converts. As many as 3,000-4,000 churches close their doors every year—unable to stay open due to financial burdens, infrastructural turmoil and apathy.
In this discouraging environment, day in and day out, pastors and church leaders toil for the kingdom of God. Often overworked, underpaid and unappreciated, they deny themselves the luxury of time for rest and spiritual renewal. Is it any wonder that more than 1,500 pastors leave their churches every month due to spiritual burn-out, moral failure or contention within their congregation?
Imagine a new communion of multiethnic churches committed to discipleship and church planting
Some days in your life will forever rest in your memory. I think back to August 2004 in London. I was sitting at a table as a guest of one of my gospel heroes, pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, a church planter, author and major student of church growth worldwide. He had invited me to participate in Europe's largest Christian conference. During those years the BBC, The Times of London and every national media outlet had "discovered" this faithful servant of God; as a result, Pastor Matthew had become something of a celebrity in the cultural landscape there. I'll never forget reading the headline "African missionary to England leads U.K.'s largest church." He and I talked about the fact that at the time, only 5 percent of England's population was committed to both faithful church attendance and a biblical worldview. We marveled at the idea that a nation, which had been mightily used to take the gospel to the ends of the known world during its "heyday," would now not allow the preaching of the gospel and Spirit-led ministry to be aired on regular television. In fact, it was more acceptable for Britain's government to give deference to non-Christian faiths than to Christians. Within a few years of that discussion, my friend would be wrongly persecuted by Britain's version of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and his church would be forced to sell its primary facilities.
Worship should be the focus and source of our service
My dad, Bill Johnson, has always said to us,
“Everything we do in life and ministry should flow out of our worship to God.”
True worship is a heart surrendered to God, and the overflow of that surrendered heart is a life of praise. I believe anything is possible in a room of worshippers. Healing often takes place in the atmosphere created by worship. His presence is that atmosphere. We don’t worship to get miracles, though. He is the result and in Him is everything. He is the One we seek.
Praising God when you don’t feel like it isn’t fake praise. In fact, that’s when it’s sometimes the most real and honest. Those are the times when we go past our human emotions and make it loud and clear to the spirit realm that we are taking a step of faith and saying, “I believe!” God can’t help but intervene in the life of a passionate worshiper.
Effective administration ensures the best outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Administration’s time has come. These words still echo in my head two years after first hearing them in the form of a prophetic word. That word would cause me to fully embrace and value my gift of administration, as well as encourage others to do the same.
Administration is often misunderstood to be about typing, filing and clerical work. To study administration is to study how to lead and manage change. Administration is leadership. Misunderstanding, devaluing or disowning this gift is a huge mistake, particularly at this moment in history. We live in the days of the greatest change and opportunity this world has ever seen. The corporate world has grasped this and has stewarded increase with great skill, creativity and hard work.
At the same time, the church is hesitant to embrace the very gift that will enable it to carry out the God-given assignment of stewarding increase, change and transformation.
The recipe to transformational worship is basic ingredients and a pinch of creativity
My wife is a great cook. Throughout our marriage I have watched her prepare (and joyfully partaken in) literally hundreds of unique dishes. She is more of an artist in the kitchen. Each time it is a little different. Recently we had some children over to make pancakes. My wife patiently helped them find each of the ingredients; they had a grand time cracking eggs, stirring flour, getting the ingredients ready, in anticipation of the delicious breakfast to come. For me, worship is a little like cooking.
As I have had the privilege to minister in worship with the Eagles’ Wings team in nations around the world (from churches of 25 to stadiums of 25,000) I have tasted a lot of different flavors of worship, but have seen some common themes that seem to be ingredients that move worship from just singing songs, to a life-changing encounter with the Creator King.
Lift Up. What are we focused on when we worship? Is it the great sound, the amazing skill, the flashing lights? If we only focus on the externals, we can inadvertently lead people into “spectator mode.” As leaders, we have the opportunity to model a “God-first” approach, inviting people to interact with the Living God. Beginning with prayer to God, not just about God, and reading portions of Scripture throughout the time can realign people’s focus on Who this is really all about.
Honoring God’s covenant with Israel is foundational to successful apostolic leadership
We are considering what God’s ancient covenant with Israel means for tomorrow’s church. In short, covenant means everything for effective leadership.
When believers choose to bind themselves in covenant with God, they are also bound covenantally to one another. This godly unification is the basis for the apostolic church, which I believe is the model we must return to if we are to see a successful church in the 21st century.
In order to maintain a biblical apostolic structure, there must be an apostolic vision. The apostolic leader is one who has a vision from God so great there is no way for him to see it fulfilled on his own—or even within his own lifetime. This is where apostolic team leadership and apostolic succession come in.
Four ways to mobilize your church into political and marketplace influence
Serving a city involves accepting responsibility for spiritual climate beyond your congregation. As pastor of a local church, my awakening occurred when Holy Spirit whispered, “I want you to pastor this city.”
The implications of that simple directive radically redirected ministry philosophy and tangibly shifted our community to become a city where our mayor now boldly announces “Jesus is Lord in Cedar Hill, Texas.” The practical effect of activism requires pastors and churches to consider themselves partners, even owners (generators) of community values.
For example, when a business prospers or a neighborhood improves, I celebrate as though the title were in my name. When a business closes its doors or the school system struggles, I mourn. Our partnership with political leaders, business owners, school officials and citizen’s groups provides unparalleled treasure and opportunity for “kingdom to come, here, now” in cities across America.
People will tune Christians out, if all we do is complain
When it comes to engaging in public policy and challenging today’s culture, some of the least successful strategies are ones built around criticism. The growing number of churches and ministries that are constantly “against something” is a disturbing trend.
Every month, I see an avalanche of direct-mail campaigns and magazine articles by organizations upset about the latest movie, court decision, TV show and cartoon series, or mad at the homosexual community or some other special interest group.
But while a healthy debate is the cornerstone of a vibrant democracy, the truth is, just being critical creates very little change. After all, as Christians, we of all people should be known as being for something.
A successful marriage ministry program needs more than a ‘one size fits all’ approach
Ministering to marriages in the local church for me has been both exhilarating and exasperating. It is exhilarating in that the need is obvious and great in today’s society. It is exasperating because it often feels like swimming upstream, and casualties continue regardless of how many good things are made available to people.
My attitude is let’s keep swimming. Having the right philosophy and elements can make the difference in a successful marriage ministry program.
First, there are two ends of the spectrum when approaching marriage ministry: preventive vs. crisis-oriented. The preventive side attempts to equip individuals and couples with good information, skills and resources that can keep a marriage from ever getting to a crisis stage.
Clear boundaries and expectations are vital for an effective counseling ministry
With more than 20 years’ experience counseling couples, I have learned some things that could help pastors and ministry leaders in this area.
Definitely counsel those who have problems that you feel competent addressing or areas in which you have training. I have a master’s degree in divinity as one of my degrees, which required that I take only one counseling course. I realize some parts of counseling are just common sense, biblical understanding and spiritual discernment. However, if you feel you’re in over your head or the individual or couple isn’t changing under your guidance, it’s time to consider a different strategy.
Have clear hours designated for counseling and stay within those boundaries. Even professional counselors can only do so much. Pastors have so many tasks and time demands that counseling is best when set for a designated time. Clearly define what an emergency is so that others don’t define that for you.
Why you need to stay focused on the dream God has given you
Human beings are mysterious creatures who are powerfully affected by vision. We are designed in such a way that we will move in the direction of what we see. Your vision is your future, and your vision is your imagination. You need an imagination inspired by the promises of God. You need the eye of the eagle. The eagle builds its nest high atop a mountain or tall rock. From there, “it spies out the prey; its eyes observe from afar” (Job 39:27-29).
God has not called you to be a chicken pecking around in the barnyard of the status quo, never seeing anything but the dust of Old MacDonald’s farm. God has called you to mount up on eagles’ wings of faith and soar above the storms (Is. 40:30-31).
I have found that I remain excited about life as long as I hold on to the vision that hope can create. As I live in the realm of hopeful vision, I find I can begin each new day with fresh energy and enthusiasm.
Identifying the kingdom characteristics of a healthy church
There is much discussion about identifying and articulating the culture of our individual local churches. Amid countless innovative trends and strategies, we have to keep a strong grip on the fact that we are carrying out one central mission. Jesus, the head of the church, preached the kingdom of heaven.
As we carry out our mission of building the church He began, there is a “kingdom culture” that must be protected. I love what strategist and author Sam Chand says: “Toxic culture will eat great vision for lunch!” Any senior leader whose great vision has been hijacked by bad attitudes, practices or motives can attest to the fact that a crucial responsibility of leaders is to be guardians of the culture of the ministries we lead.
How to equip the people in your church so they become generous givers
We are living in tough economic times. In many churches, budgets are shrinking, resources are lacking, and downsizing isn’t something reserved just for the marketplace anymore. With a high unemployment rate, mounting national debt and no quick-fix solutions, we’re facing unprecedented economic challenges.
But this isn’t the first time church leaders have faced difficult conditions like these. While attempting to raise funds to aid the struggling believers in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul offered these words: “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Cor. 8:1-2, NIV, emphasis added). Wow, what a statement!
Your staff has God-given gifts you need to identify (and affirm)
Doing more with less might be one of the most common buzz phrases in the marketplace and church-ministry world today—and most frightening. In this unstable economy, everyone wants to know how to improve results while using fewer people and spending less money but still achieving or maintaining the same level of excellence. More and more churches are having to operate on smaller budgets and with smaller staffs. But, it is possible to achieve greater results from fewer resources while maintaining your organization’s integrity and budget, as well as your staff’s sanity and happiness.
The Statistics Aren’t Pretty. Last year, according to the government figures, worker productivity climbed 3.5 percent as companies shed millions of employees and figured out ways to get more work from those who remained. It was the biggest increase in six years—and it was great for corporate profits.