Relationships

Community Greetings

Photo credit: lightstock.com I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ. Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet the Lord’s people from the household of Narcissus. Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me.

Give my greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who meet with them. Give my greetings to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and to Olympas and all the believers who meet with them. Greet each other with a sacred kiss. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings. (‭Romans‬ ‭16:‭1-16‬ (NLT)


I expect most people either skip over or skim through the end of epistles with all the greetings. But if the Word of God is inspired and able to equip us for God's service (2 Tim 3:16-17), then we need to take a closer look at these greetings. What can we learn from them?

Long, long ago, in a world without mobile phones and the world-wide-web, people wrote letters and talked to each other face to face. This might be hard to imagine for some people, but it's true!

These greetings were more than courteous gestures, they were testimonies and acknowledgements. Sometimes there were warnings or exhortations, but mostly they were words of encouragement. All of them remind us of the nature of the early church.

One singular element of the early church that is still sought today was their sense of community. They had a bond of fellowship through their common relationship with Jesus, their Lord and Savior.

The church was a large, spread out community that had this one common bond—Jesus. It was like extended family. Paul knew what they knew—people are the most important element of community.

People united by their relationship with Jesus were the heartbeat of the church. Not its leaders, nor its organizational infrastructure, but their relationship with one another through Jesus. ©Word-Strong_2016

GMO-Free Community (part 2)

Photo credit: unsplash_JSheldon

My parents are gardeners. Growing up I ate fresh vegetables and fruit. I vividly remember the juicy taste of tomatoes and strawberries.

Yet, I remember the outward appearance of these naturally grown fruits was always different.

Organic community is both consistent and diverse.

What is the seed of organic community?

In the previous post I said organic community must have a raw and organic beginning, similar to how organic fruit or vegetables start with non-GMO seed. God is the original seed of community.

In his book Created for Community, Stanley Grenz states,

God’s triune nature means that God is social or relational— God is the “social Trinity.” And for this reason, we can say that God is “community.” God is the community of the Father, Son, and Spirit, who enjoy perfect and eternal fellowship.

From the very beginning God reveals that his way of life is not singular but plural. “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image'” (Genesis 1:26).

God is the consistency and we are the diversity of community.

The organic community of the early church

Looking at the birth of the early church, we see evidence of organic community.

In the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus came together with expectation. Imagine the emotions in the room!

Jesus left them with no formula but a simple command to wait for the promise of the Father,

“which you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4).

Many times we desire a formula on how to create community. We want to be told how to muster up results. Organic community is the opposite of that.

There are no formulas because the organic seed is God who is a relational being.

Diversity is the basis for organic community

God loves diversity. Organic community reflects the diverse and creative nature of God.

When the Holy Spirit encounters the disciples in the upper room, the result is not identical tongues (languages). The result isn’t a call for uniformity.

The result is a diversity of tongues (languages) calling together a diverse crowd of people. In Acts 2:9-11, the author mentions sixteen different regional locations.

Diversity was welcomed in the early church.

What shall we do?

Throw out your formulaic approach to community.

I've been training my mind to think differently about community. I avoid saying I want to create community, and replace that with, I want to nurture and foster community.

Embrace a relational view of community.

God is a relational being working within humanity. He is the creator of community because he is community. Community will always look different from the outside but will feel the same on the inside.

I encourage you to simply ask God what He is creating around you.

Are there dear relationships in your life? Invest your time and effort there.

God resides within people, we (believers) are His temple (1 Cor 3:16).

Look for God in His people, and you will find yourself in community!


This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski whom I've worked with the past few years teaching and training others in discipleship and Inductive Bible Study. You can see more of his posts at — http://kutrovski.wordpress.com/

Heart of Compassion

Photo credit: Mick Ewing I can spot grandparents right away. It's not the age differential, but their interaction with the children.

Grandparents, especially boomers, tend to look younger than in earlier generations, and some become grandparents in their forties.

When I see three generations of a family together, it's easy to see who the parents are. Aside from their appearance, parents and grandparents interact with the children in very different ways.

Parents and grandparents

Parents wear the day-to-day responsibility on their faces, and have the countenance of marathon runners mid-way in a race. Grandparents now enjoy the race as spectators. But, they are experienced spectators.

As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him. Psalms 103:13 (NKJV)

Imagine God the Father as a grandparent. As a pastor, I've known many people who find it hard to relate to God as a father, because of their relationship with their own earthly father.

But God has lots of experience as a father—for hundreds of generations. He's the Almighty Father—full of compassion with a mercy that endures forever (Ps 136).

[bctt tweet="God has lots of experience as a father—for hundreds of generations" username="tkbeyond"]

Affection and compassion

I'm a father of four and a grandfather of five (so far!). Although I liked playing with my children a lot when they were young, it's now become a primary role for me. I love it, just like so many other grandfathers!

I'm sure you've seen grandparents fawn over their grandchildren, acting as if they're the only children on the face of the earth.

It's because the affection and compassion that fills our hearts outweighs our responsibility for them. I've seen fathers who were strict authoritarians melt into sugary cupcakes as grandpas.

In this text, the NKJV uses the word pity, but it also translates as compassion or mercy. This is the heart of God (Luke 6:36), whose mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23).

[bctt tweet="God's heart is filled with mercy and compassion, which are new every morning" username="tkbeyond"]

The fear of God and compassion

Even though God's mercy is an overflowing reservoir of compassion, it is reserved most for those who recognize Him for who He is— God.

The fear of God is not a cowering, anxious dread, but a respectful sense of awe and wonder.

God, the Creator and Sustainer of life for all, bends down with a compassionate heart to embrace us, His children. He extends this love to whoever will receive it and Him (John 3:16-18).

He calls us into a very personal relationship. It's an affectionate embrace for those who see Him as He is—God Almighty and full of mercy.

Not every one has a living, loving father on earth, but everyone can have and know the Father of all fathers. His love knows no boundaries and His heart is an ever flowing stream of compassion.

[bctt tweet="God's love knows no boundaries and His heart is an ever flowing stream of compassion" username="tkbeyond"]

Some questions and an encouragement—

What is or was your relationship like with your natural father?

How does your relationship with God reflect this?

If you have difficulty relating to God as Father, have you expressed this to Him?

If not, what would you say and how do you want it to be different?

Who has been a good fatherly influence in your life or the life of those you love?

Let them know this today.


This was originally published on the Daily Devo blog of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. Here's the original post– Heart of Compassion

What Does It Mean to Flourish?

Photo credit: OceanCityChurch.org Comparisons are valuable in choosing one thing from another, such as an appliance or car. But making comparisons between ourselves and others is never valuable, unless you're trying to make yourself miserable.

What's worse is when we carry on conversations in our mind, it's called self-talk, where we belittle ourselves for not measuring up. Measuring up to what? Who? What standard? That's exactly the problem.

When we condemn ourselves on the basis of our performance as a person, it's so nebulous and random, and we're the only one who hears it. Sound familiar?

A universal problem

All of us battle negative self-talk. It leaks into our thoughts in spite of our intentions and desires to curb it. Why is this so? Too many reasons to list, and they're different for each of us.

Most of it comes from what we heard growing up, but interpreted and filtered by our own perceptions of what we heard said, and done in some cases. Then, doing what comes natural—estimating how we size up in comparison to others—and that is a losing battle.

Who's to blame for it all? Go back to the first garden and the fruit from a certain tree (Gen 3:1-7). Forget about blame, what can be done about it all?

A simple solution

Just last week, I saw a video that features some of my family, narrated by my son's lovely wife, LeAna. As I watched and listened, I was captivated and encouraged by what she said.

It's something that needs to be heard by everyone, especially Christian believers.

I hope you'll read through LeAna's thoughts (echoed in the video) and watch the video below. It's well done and worth the few minutes it takes.

Take it to heart, and run it through your mind instead of all that negative self-talk.

LeAna's thoughts...

I felt like the Holy Spirit impressed something on me just recently. I felt like he gently said to me a few days ago this phrase, “LeAna…you live under a cloud of guilt.” hmmm…WHAT was that, HS?! Where’s that coming from??

But as i’ve thought about that, I see exactly how that is true of me.

Here are thoughts that constantly run through my mind…

“I should be doing more…”

“I’m a crappy wife…”

“I suck as a mom…”

“Why does anyone want to me my friend?”

“I’m far too much for people to handle. They don’t want any of that!”

“I need to be doing more for God.”

“I’m simply not doing enough…”

“I need to reach out to more people.”

“I’m not spending enough time with God.”

“I need to work harder…”

It might sound like a bad case of low self esteem…for sure there are definitely some insecurities all over those thoughts, not the least of which is comparison to anyone and everyone who might seem like they are doing it better than me.

But its more than that.

I feel like the Holy Spirit was sweetly telling me that I live and operate out of a belief system…a false belief system, that keeps me under a cloud of condemnation.

I’ve heard the phrase before in my life, “i love you, but I don’t really like you.”

Sometimes I think God says that about me. “I love you LeAna…(almost cause He has to say it…He’s God)…but my enjoyment of you comes and goes, based on what you are doing or not doing.”

THAT IS THE BIGGEST LIE IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD!!!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 NIV)

What does it mean to flourish?

Ocean City Stories: Flourish from Ocean City Church on Vimeo.


Here's LeAna's original blog post that this post and the video are adapted from– Receiving

In that post, you'll see my lovely daughter-in-law and two of our grandchildren when they were much younger.

Thanks for reading and watching! I hope this video blesses you as much as it did me!

How I Got Theology– Part 2

Photo credit: unsplash.com_JErondu Leadership is often described as influence. Several heavyweight leaders say these terms are interchangeable. I don't see it that way.

Yes, leaders can be quite influential in both good and bad ways, but this is not a given. I've seen people in leadership roles with little to no influence. The net effect of their leadership is nil.

On the other hand, I've known and witnessed influential leaders who've had great impact.

Leadership and influence

I ran across an excellent article on the difference between influence and leadership by Steve Graves. He makes a good case for the distinction between leadership and influence.

[bctt tweet="There is a distinction between leadership and influence" username="tkbeyond"]

Plenty of people have been good leaders with good influence, such as, Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, and Billy Graham.

Leaders with evil influence? Sadly, it's not a short list, but men like Adolph Hitler come to mind.

Then there are many leaders who have a somewhat sketchy influence. A cursory look at political personalities could produce a lengthy list.

What about spiritual leaders where character and integrity are essential? Among them we can find good, bad, and even sketchy examples.

[bctt tweet="Spiritual leaders can have good, bad or sketchy influence in people's lives" username="tkbeyond"]

Another question

Last week, I answered the first of three questions I posed in a challenge in a previous post.

This week I want to look at the second question and give my personal answer. Here's the question—

Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?

Three leaders were influential in the early development of my spiritual life and theology.

Two are now with the Lord, but their leadership and influence are still embedded in my life. One is my age, alive, and still influencing others for good as a leader.

[bctt tweet="Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life and in what way?" username="tkbeyond"]

My first pastor

I came to faith during the Jesus People Movement of the late '60's and early '70's. I mentioned some of this in last week's post.

Ironically, the church I was thrown out of for asking the wrong question is where I got grounded in the truth of God's Word. It's also where I began serving the Lord in full-time ministry under my first pastor, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.

It was under him that I developed an appreciation for the grace of God and studying God's Word. Pastor Chuck was known for these two distinct things, not only in my life, but for thousands of others.

Both the grace of God and God's Word became foundational in my spiritual growth and my theology through his ministry. He was a living example of their importance and value, and a strong pastoral leader with great, enduring influence. Chuck went to be with His Lord in October of 2013.

[bctt tweet="God's grace and Word were foundational in my spiritual growth and theology" username="tkbeyond"]

A sage and a mentor

As my wife and I grew in our spiritual lives, we became more involved at the ground level of ministry while serving at a church and retreat center near Desert Hot Springs, CA.

When we arrived in 1973, it was a small church and retreat ministry in a sparsely settled area of the low desert of southern California. Susan and I learned so much about serving in every way imaginable.

Although it was remote, many significant spiritual leaders of the 1970's visited this little spiritual oasis. One of them was Rev PHP Gutteridge, known to us as "Percy". He was much older than us and also much wiser, a true sage.

Percy's teaching had spiritual depth and often centered on the cross of Christ, and the need for Christian believers to walk the way of the cross. Originally from England, he pastored this church in its infancy. In our time there, he visited on a regular basis, especially when we held large holiday retreats.

After I planted a church in 1978, he would come to preach to our little growing congregation in the upper desert area of Yucca Valley, CA. When he died in October of 1998, we were missionaries in the Philippines.

His life and ministry continue to influence us both to this day. Percy stirred my heart to further plumb the depths of the Scriptures and the essential simplicity of the way of the cross (Matt 16:24).

[bctt tweet="I was stirred to plumb the depths of the Scriptures and the way of the cross" username="tkbeyond"]

My friend and mentor

My involvement in ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa came at the invitation of a young man my age, but with much greater experience.

Bruce's wife, Joni, was pregnant and found it difficult to hold her guitar to lead praise for children's church. I and a couple others jumped in to help and this began a long term friendship in ministry.

Bruce opened the door for me to serve in many ways. When he and his young family moved out to the church and retreat ministry I mentioned earlier, we joined them and the ministry about a year later. We served their for five years, and it was of great value in so many ways.

Through Bruce's pastoral guidance, I learned how to preach, teach, counsel and lead as an assistant pastor. This was the foundation for my stepping out to plant a church and to develop a Bible College in the Philippines. It was practical, hands-on training.

[bctt tweet="I received practical, hands-on training that became a foundation for pastoral ministry" username="tkbeyond"]

But he was more than a pastoral mentor to me, he was a true friend. Bruce has a clear grasp on the immense, far-reaching love of God, which was infectious. His influence continues to reach around the world in a ministry he founded while pastoring in southern California—He Intends Victory.

Who for you?

So, now that you know who were important spiritual influences in my life and theology, how about you?

Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far?

And what is their influence in your life?

Life Reflections

IMG_0819 What significance do life events have? Are they just random, or is there a distinct meaning and purpose for every life event that takes place?

These types of questions keep philosophers and theologians in business, so to speak. All people tend to wonder about such things.

I'm sure some events and situations have a purpose in our lives that have significance to us, but I admit, many life events can seem pretty random or insignificant.

Planned events and purposes

This past month, my wife and I spent time with our youngest daughter, husband, and now, two daughters. Our purpose in spending a month with them had two primary goals—being present for the arrival of our fifth grandchild and be of some help to our daughter and son-in-law.

We enjoyed our time immensely and fulfilled those two primary goals. But other life events took place while we were there.

I won't enumerate them all, but I want to note a few of them, then consider whether they are random, planned, or if their timing matters.

Random or planned?

Two births

The week we arrived, our granddaughter did not. If fact, it was the beginning of week three when she arrived.

The week we arrived, the pastor where my daughter fellowships announced his wife was pregnant. He shared with the church on the next Sunday about their miscarriage. It was a bittersweet morning, but the pastor handled it well.

But still, we awaited the arrival of our granddaughter, our daughter was overdue by a week or so. We were waiting with expectant joy and the pastor and his wife were grieving.

A death and a birth

Soon after our arrival in Germany, I heard of the passing of a dear friend in the US. I had been praying for her for several years, now I would pray for comfort for her husband and their three grown children.

They were a significant family in the life of the church we planted in the late 70's. They are good friends of ours and were some of our supporters while we were missionaries in the Philippines.

Over a week later, we welcomed little Brielle into the world and into our family. One person leaves this life, while another comes into it.

Timing

It's not so much the events, but the timing of these things. Is there significance to this timing, or is it just random?

Just before we left Germany to return to the US, I heard about a long time friend receiving a devastating diagnosis, and another friend passed away.

It's normal, maybe typical, for us to wonder about the timing of certain life events. But do we need to know or understand everything? Do we need to have a definitive answer and insight into it all?

Faith, randomness, and destiny

Some people see everything in life as random. I'm pretty sure that most believers in God, regardless of religion or theology, don't hold that opinion.

Still others see every event in life as part of a grand plan, even destiny. I suppose this can include people who are into conspiracy theories (I'm not one of those people, btw). The idea here is that every single thing is preordained (predestined) and has a meaning.

I don't doubt that life events have significance, but I've stopped trying to figure out how it all fits together, or whether certain events even do.

It's not because I don't care or don't think about all of this. I do. But I accept that some things are just beyond my capacity to figure out, and I've realized I don't need to know everything about all life events—mine, yours, or anyone else's.

Faith and reflection

An inherent quality of faith is trust. Not theological belief, but an implicit trust in God (Hebrews 11:6).

In 1997, a tragic fire took the lives of five children under our care, and nearly took the life of our youngest daughter. Everything we had in the orphanage building was reduced to rubble and ashes.

Remarkably, God sustained us in the aftermath. That's a long story all its own, but not for now. So many things didn't make sense, and yet it all made sense somehow.

Indeed, our family was in shock for quite a while, something like PTSD. All I know is this. God sustained us in ways we can't explain, through many people and a series of events that's followed that tragedy.

Why do we need to know?

People reached out to us, prayed for us, and cared for us. We, along with many, had the usual questions summed up in, "Why God?"

We don't have a clear answer to it all, but we clearly saw the hand of God upon us and the ministry for years afterwards.

I needed to come to a place of trust more than understanding. I accepted that I didn't need to know why.

It was a lesson in faith, in trust. Either God is God, or He's not. I believe God is sovereign and living and personal. I also believe in free will. I choose to exercise my free will to trust in the Lord without having to figure everything out.

That's faith. It's what Abraham was recognized for that brought him friendship with God (James 2:23). The Bible is full of similar people of faith, and I choose to be among them.

How about you?

Have you learned to trust God this way, or do you think you need to understand it all? 

(Please feel free to comment!)

A Man and His Faith

Ayele_teaching_Omo Last week, I took a quick look at theology—our beliefs about God. We've all got theology, but we all don't believe the same things. By "we," I mean humanity.

Why don't we believe the same things? Because we're all different, with different backgrounds, and different life stories.

This week, I want to look at the intriguing life story of a friend of mine.

My Ethiopian friend

I first met Benjamin (pronounced Beny-a-min) at a church service and liked him immediately. He was the first Ethiopian I met, but not the last. His life story intrigued me, yet it stirred some controversy. He has a common name, but his life story is far from common.

He was born in rural Ethiopia into a muslim family. When he came home from school and saw smoke rising from his home, he was happy. He knew his mother was cooking a special meal for his father, who had other wives than his mother.

He came to faith in Jesus through dreams, as I've heard take place for many of Islamic faith. Because of his choice to follow Jesus, he was ostracized by his family, which sent him on a search.

Benjamin set out to find help to learn about his new faith and was directed to missionaries in Kenya. Along the way, he was captured by Communist soldiers who tortured him for his faith in brutal ways. Eventually, he found the guidance he needed, and came to America for education.

A passion for his people

I met Benjamin as he raised support to work with a mission in Kenya. He became a missionary to Ethiopian refugees gathered in neighboring Somalia. These were his people and he wanted them to know the Lord Jesus.

I had him preach at our church a couple of times in the mid-eighties, so I heard much of his story. We also spent time talking about his mission and passion for reaching his people with the gospel.

I found Benjamin to be a man of great faith and integrity. He was childlike in the ways of American culture and social norms, but well-read and intelligent. I trusted him.

An interrupted testimony

He told me of a time when he shared his testimony at another church. The pastor invited him on the recommendation of someone in his congregation. As he told the story of his conversion from Islam to Christ, the pastor interrupted him and had him sit down.

The pastor told him he didn't believe in such things (the supernatural experiences), and discounted his life story. This stunned my friend Benjamin. It saddened me as he told me of it. Needless to say, this pastor was not one of his supporters.

Here was a man of integrity and without deceit who shared his personal encounter with Jesus, but he was not believed. Why? Because the pastor couldn't get past his own theological filters.

I'm glad for my encounter with Benjamin. His life added more depth and fullness to mine. He was one more encouragement for my own missionary experience. Years later I would visit his homeland (see photo above).

When we moved to the Philippines and he moved to Kenya, we lost contact with each other. But I will never forget Benjamin and his faith.

We're not all the same

Our experiences and encounters in pursuit of the truth shape and impact our faith and understanding of God. Identical experiences don't produce the same results. A simple reading of the gospels reveals this.

All of the apostles were afraid of Jesus as He walked on the water. Only Peter got out of the boat to walk towards Him (Matt 14:22-33). The Roman centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus realized He was innocent, unlike his fellow soldiers (Luke 23:47). After Jesus healed ten lepers, only one came back to thank Him (Luke 17:11-19).

Each of us view things differently. We often draw different conclusions with different perspectives from similar experiences. So, how can we possibly have any unity in the Christian faith? Benjamin and I shared the same faith in Jesus, but our life stories were very different.

The Christian faith is a personal faith because it's centered on the person of Jesus. The closer we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the more unified we become as a group. This can be seen during a worship service, as the Lord intends (1 Cor 12:12-14, 25).

A question and a challenge

Last week, I mentioned two things I hoped to get more response on, so here it goes again.

Would any of you reading this post be interested in learning more about inductive Bible study? If that sounds interesting, let me know.

Here are 3 things I want to challenge you to do—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important to your spiritual growth and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What’s been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

I'd love to hear your responses to any of the above. You can post it in the comments for this post, or post it on the Word-Strong Facebook page.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post!

Common Mentoring Myths

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ALitvin No one has all the answers. I'm wary of anyone who thinks they do or thinks someone else does. Sometimes we just get things wrong, I know I do.

If you don't think you do, you're setting yourself up for a fall and will probably take others with you.

The topic of mentoring has become more popular over the past few years, but it's not always what some people make it out to be.

Authoritarian or authoritative?

A while back I came across an article posted on Facebook about authoritarianism. It was related to American politics but it got me thinking.

An authoritarian leader is quite different from an authoritative one. I've worked under both and sadly, at times I've acted more like the first than the second.

What's the difference? King Saul of Israel was an authoritarian leader, while King David was more of an authoritative leader. An authoritarian leader acts more like a bully, while an authoritative leader sets a confident example.[bctt tweet="An authoritarian leader is quite different from an authoritative one"]

King Herod was a bully and tyrant (Matt 2:13-18). Herod wielded his authority out of insecurity. He didn't trust anyone and tried to kill anyone deemed a threat, including Jesus.

Jesus led by example, yet His authority was well-recognized—

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)

Mentors are not masters

One of the graduating classes from the Bible college in the Philippines gave me a poster filled with their thoughts and thanks. They called me their beloved "Tor-mentor" because their studies were difficult and I could be a tough teacher.

But mentoring is not about being a taskmaster, or any form of master. There may be a time and place to be authoritative, but this excludes using authority in an overbearing way.

Perhaps a more appropriate way to look at being a mentor is to see ourselves as journeymen (or is that journey-persons?). Mentors are people with experience and expertise who aren't stuck on themselves.[bctt tweet="Mentors are people with experience and expertise who aren't stuck on themselves"]

Mentors have something to offer because others have poured their experience and expertise into them. Here is a simple way to look at discipleship—we (mentors) pour into others what God poured into us.

3 common mentoring myths

Here are three mentoring myths that get in the way of mentoring well. They may not be spoken out loud, but are often latent attitudes among those of us who would be mentors.

  • I have the answers to your questions you may have answers to their questions, but they don't need to be given at the expense of the relationship
  • You need to know what I know— this may not be true at all, especially if connected to an air of superiority or arrogance
  • I'm a fount of great wisdom— wisdom can be gained from many sources, you nor I have a corner on wisdom

Perhaps there's some truth in these opinions, but they do more to offend than help. A common reason for generation gaps is an unwillingness to listen. If we, the mentors, aren't willing to listen, then why should anyone listen to us? Jesus understood this (Luke 2:46).[bctt tweet="If mentors aren't willing to listen, then why should anyone listen to them?"]

Here's a reframing of those three common attitudes—

  • You don't have all the answers— You may have answers to many questions, but sometimes you need to admit that you don't know something. This may open the door for a mutual pursuit of an answer.
  • You're not always right— I learned this with my wife and children first, but also with staff and students—I need to admit it when I am. This may be humbling, but it brings opportunities for a more open and healthy mentoring relationship.
  • Your advice isn't always needed— This may be hard to swallow at times, but it's true. If you're not asked, don't feel obliged to dispense whatever wisdom you think you have. This is especially true if you're a Boomer like me.

Good mentors are not experts looking for opportunities to dispense their wisdom, but people of experience and expertise with humble attitudes.

A different perspective

One thing that helps me is to level the relationship between me and whoever asked me to mentor them. I make a point to not insist on a role of superiority, and don't want to be addressed by any title, such as pastor. I may have experience and expertise someone else doesn't have, but it doesn't make me better than others.

When I make mentoring a mutual relationship at least two things happen. First, I make it clear that whoever I'm discipling know they have value and importance to me. This encourages a much more engaged and committed relationship.

The other benefit is being open to learn from those I mentor. Often I'm able to see things differently because the relationship is more open. This helps me mentor more effectively.

Are there any mentoring myths you've seen or run into?

 

Dealing with Unmet Expectations

Photo credit: unsplash_LKirb We all have expectations, every one of us. Some expectations are general and others are more specific. Many are intrinsic to who we are and our personal makeup.

In western countries, we expect water to come out of a tap, uninterrupted electric power (especially for the TV!), and nowadays, free wifi. But there are more personal expectations.

Many of these, if not most of them, won't be met. Why? Because many of our expectations are unrealistic. What's a sure sign of an unmet expectation? Disappointment.

How can we handle unmet expectations?

How do we handle disappointments and unmet expectations? There's a lot of advice available for dealing with unmet expectations. Much of it focuses on marriage or work relationships, and some of it is very good.

So, how can we best handle other unmet expectations?

Situations in life often don't go as we would like or hope. Some circumstances we find ourselves in are beyond our control, and many of our dreams and hopes get dashed in the crush of life.

Let me take a shot at answering this question from a somewhat counter-intuitive way.

Lower your expectations

First of all, we need to lower our expectations. This may sound opposite of what you hear in entrepreneurial pitches, but the key here is realism, not optimism.

Many times, lowering our expectations to more realistic or reasonable levels will help us avoid a lot of disappointments. Even Jesus understood this—

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. John 2:24, 25 (NIV)

Keep this in mind—people will always disappointment us in some way, and at some point, we disappoint others.

[bctt tweet="People will always disappointment us at some point, and we disappoint others"]

Dump your expectations

We just might need to dump our expectations. What?! This may really sound strange, but here's my perspective on this.

Unrealistic expectations are often a matter of misplaced trust.

When we trust people in whatever way, for whatever reason, we are placing some trust in them.

This in itself is not wrong, but it can set us up for disappointment. Our trust may be unrealistic, or something may happen that's beyond the control of whoever we've placed our trust in.

[bctt tweet="Unrealistic expectations are often a matter of misplaced trust"]

Again, Jesus offers us some guidance. When asked by His followers who was the greatest in God's kingdom, Jesus brought a child before them and said—

I tell you the truth, you must change and become like little children. Otherwise, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who makes himself humble like this child. Matthew 18:3-4 (NCV)

Sometimes we need to dispense with or forego any expectations. Instead, approach life and relationships with a childlike faith in God. Childlike is not the same as childish. Childish would be to expect things our own way. Childlike is to be expectant but open.

Examine your expectations

But what if our unmet expectations are with God, not just other people? It's easy to question God, even blame Him when things don't go the way we expect or want.

But is this realistic or reasonable? This is the crux of the matter. Why not start here? Because we're not likely to go here till we've been disappointed.

Our expectations are often a projection of ourselves onto others—our needs, desires, hopes, or whatever we think will answer the questions we hold inside.

[bctt tweet="Our expectations are often a projection of ourselves onto others"]

Disappointment cracks open the denial we protect ourselves with when the world around us moves in on us. Or, when someone, even God, lets us down. But what if the problem lies with us, not God or others?

We could get cynical, which many people do, or we could get honest. How? Jesus, again, gives us some simple but useful direction—

If any of you want to be my follower, you must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me. Matthew 16:24 (ERV)

We need to examine our own hearts and motives to see why we expect what we do of others or God.

[bctt tweet="We set ourselves up for disappointment with unrealistic, unreasonable expectations"]

In other words, we often set ourselves up for disappointment with unrealistic, even unreasonable expectations. Disappointment is hard, but misplaced blame won't resolve it.

No guarantees

I can't give you any guarantees. That would just set you up for more disappointment. But, give these three things a try in dealing with disappointments and unmet expectations, especially when they recur.

  1. Lower your expectations—be realistic
  2. Dump your expectations—be childlike, not childish
  3. Examine your expectations—get to the root of why you expect what you're expecting

No guarantees you won't ever be disappointed again, but maybe they'll help keep you from getting let down so often. Here's where some pure, childlike faith in God will also go a long way in that direction.

What's your experience in successfully dealing with unmet expectations?


Here's a couple of other posts on the subject of unmet expectations that might be of some help and encouragement—

Three Ways to Handle Your Unmet Expectations

Unmet Expectations

Resolving Unmet Expectations

 

Our Problem with Grief

Photo credit: unsplash.com_VOlmez Grief is most often connected to death or tragedy. When someone close to us dies, we grieve because of the loss. We can also experience grief with natural disasters, a terrorist attack, or any significant loss, even a loss of freedom.

Grief is a personal sorrow, and our natural need is to be comforted. Where does this comfort come from? We can look to God and others as sources of comfort.

But what about when we cause grief for others? Can we even grieve God? Yes indeed! Continue reading

This is a guest post on the Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale Daily Devo blog. Click here to read the whole post— Our Problem with Grief

Relational Interruptions

SweetWorship_CCFB_2-14 Life interrupted my plans this weekend. Not in a bad way, but my plans to work on this blog post were disrupted with a couple of valuable life events.

Saturday night, a pastor I've mentored for several months contacted me to ask if I could fill in for him because he was sick. So, I began preparing a message for the following morning. In the morning, I headed south to a church whom I've assisted over the last several months and where I've preached a few times.

By Sunday night, I hadn't started my post, but had two unexpected encounters. One with a young couple I've encouraged over the past few months, another with a young missionary family who served in the Philippines and needed a place to stay.

Ministry and people

Life as a pastor and missionary is full of what might be called relational interruptions. I mean, without people there is no viable ministry. People are the work of the ministry, not all the tasks of doing ministry.

Don't get me wrong. Doing ministry involves many, many tasks, some of them very important and some quite mundane. But these tasks are meaningless if they're carried out at the expense of relationships.

When the work (aka tasks) of the ministry becomes more important than the people, priorities get out of balance, which brings unintended consequences.

[bctt tweet="Life as a pastor and missionary is full of relational interruptions"]

Thousands and thousands of families are sacrificed on the altar of ministry by well-intentioned pastors and missionaries. This is also true for those who volunteer their service to a ministry.

Consequently, people can become collateral damage in the wake of churches, or missionaries, driven to complete their ministry mandates.

Ministry-related injuries

It ought not to be, but too often people get hurt, slighted, taken advantage of, or just plain run over by the machinery of ministry or some heavy-handed leader. I get it. My family and I have endured our share of ministry-related injuries.

But I see that as the norm, not the exception. I accept it as part of the reality of family life—church family life. And I'm pretty sure no one gets excluded from it.

[bctt tweet="The work of the ministry should never be more important than the people"]

Plenty of blogs shout about ministry abuse, but this isn't one of them. I want to share a couple of relational interruptions that were blessings, not disruptions.

[bctt tweet="We had a couple of relational interruptions that were blessings, not disruptions"]

My unplanned appointments

My wife and I got a call Saturday night from our daughter in Daytona Beach. A young missionary family we know needed a place to stay Sunday night. Their plans fell through, that is, someone backed out of a commitment to them, and the four of them needed a place to stay.

How could we say no? I mean, yes we had plans, but we had an empty guest room, and had experienced similar things in our own lives as missionaries. So, we prepared for our guests, which included two preschool boys.

After the morning service, I greeted people and intended to head back home, but was pulled aside for a few necessary conversations. The young couple who lead worship and youth ministry asked me to lunch. OK, so I know I've got guests arriving, but I knew God set up an appointment I needed to keep.

Meals with a purpose

Once again, I enjoyed a meal and conversation with this young couple, and an opportunity to encourage them in what God gave them to do. It was simple. It was relational. It was a relational interruption, and it was worth every minute.

[bctt tweet="God-appointed relational interruptions are worth every minute they take"]

The afternoon and evening were a time of catching up with a young family who stayed with us several years ago in the Philippines. They were in the process of transitioning out of their ministry in the Philippines into a new organization and ministry assignment.

They are still going through what's called reverse cultural shock. This varies for everyone, but it takes up to a year or so to fully transition from your home on the mission field when reentering your home culture. Truth is, you never fully transition, because you're forever changed. But that's another subject for another day.

We all headed out for an early dinner together. Not exactly the kind of date night we planned for Valentine's Day, but it was clear that this was God's plan.

A responsibility, not an obligation

Once again, our meeting with them was an opportunity to encourage those younger than us in ministry we've experienced. They appreciated the time and so did we. Once again, we get to share in the life and ministry of others. This is a privilege, not an obligation. It's also a responsibility.

I see this type of mentoring and ministry of encouragement as our responsibility. Who? Those of us who are older and experienced in ministry, and who live a life of faith in God's kingdom.

[bctt tweet="Those of us who are older & experienced need to mentor & encourage others younger than us"]

Susan and I feel a strong commitment about this. It's part of our passing the baton to another generation. Isn't that the responsibility of every generation? I'm pretty sure that's been true for centuries, and I see that as God's plan for His kingdom.

So...that's why this post is late this Monday. Anyway, it's a national holiday, a time to be a little laid back ;-)

What are some God-arranged relational interruptions you've had?


BTW, here's a link to the (unedited) message I shared this Sunday titled Don't Drift Away

[audio mp3="http://word-strong.com/wp-content/uploads/Dont_Drift_Away-Heb2_1-4.mp3"][/audio]

 

Those People Are Us

Photo credit: howardjkoepka.com Are there people in your life who only seem to come around when they have some need? Then they act like they're your BFF? They may want to borrow some money, need a ride, or be rescued from some crisis. They come to you for help. When the need is met, they're gone again.

This was a common occurrence in my roles as pastor and director of a ministry overseas.

The thing is, we are those people to God. You and me. All of us. Think about it. Be honest.

How many times have you called out, even cried out for God's help? Have you thanked Him for all those times? Read more...


This was originally posted at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog— Those People Are Us

Next week, I plan to post the follow up to Fuel for the Soul–Part 1

A New Year with New Plans

2016_fireworks I'm not very big on making New Years resolutions, as mentioned in a recent post– More Than Promises. I'm also not a formal goal-setter, though maybe I should be ;-)

But I do have some new plans for the coming year. Some of it is carry-over from 2015, but it's still new or yet to be done. I'll share some of it in this post, which is more personal than my usual posts.

Happy New Year!

TNSK_fireplace2015-16Here's the closest we get to a Christmas card photo this year! Susan and I stopped doing Christmas cards many, many years ago for a few reasons. One is expense, but a bigger one is the time involved doing it, especially in this digital age.

While on the mission field, we started doing newsletters to stay in touch. But we enjoy getting cards from others, so thanks to all that sent them to us!

Nowadays, we keep somewhat current via Facebook and email, text, and some calls. How different things are today when it comes to communication!

Some family news

Christmas was a little more quiet this year with our family a bit more spread out than last year. Our youngest daughter and her family are in Germany, where her husband serves in the military.

Our older daughter lives more than an hour south of us with a new job, and she was able to visit her sister in Germany before Christmas.

Our younger son and his wife live in San Antonio, TX, where they both work as PA's in urgent care centers. We visited them between Christmas and New Years and had a great time.

Our oldest son and his family are still local and work with two local ministries, so we get to see our other three grandchildren pretty often. We had fun with all of them during Christmas and New Year's weekend.

Our next travel will be to Germany for the birth of our fifth grandchild, yay!

What's happening now

My wife is working full-time as the assistant director in a Christian preschool near us. She's also taking an online course related to her job, so she stays busy!

I continue blogging 3 times a week and leading 3 Bible studies through the week. I continue to work with Poimen Ministries and will be representing this ministry at an upcoming pastors conference in FL this month.

I'm also working with the church we've been involved with for the past 3 years (RCC) in an advisory/coach role. I did a ministry evaluation for them last summer and have been working with them over the past few months. This is a temporary role in preparation for the addition of an executive pastor to come on staff this year.

What's ahead

As mentioned in a fall update post, my heart for teaching and training overseas, especially in the Philippines, was stirred in a fresh way last summer.

I plan to go over to the Philippines this year (summertime?) to work with the Bible college and a church in Manila. I've wanted to help set up more extension campuses connected to the school in Dumaguete, where the Bible college just celebrated its 20-year anniversary.

For a long time, I've wanted to develop some online courses. I've developed a couple, but they haven't launched well. Recently, I met a Christian brother who developed a platform for online courses that is user-friendly and affordable.

I've developed some preliminary course outlines, so now I need to do the work of recording videos and setting up the courses. I'm excited and challenged about this opportunity!

Feedback Please

Would you please give me some feedback on the following questions?

  1. What type of online courses would you be interested in?
  2. Of the 3 posts I do each week, which is your favorite or most beneficial?
  3. If I started a podcast, what topics or focus would interest you?

You can respond via this link– contact or by email– trip(at)word-strong(dot)com

I look forward to your input... Thanks!

Adopted and Accepted

IMG_3137 It’s an amazing thing to watch a child meet and bond with their adoptive family. My wife and I, with our daughters, witnessed this many, many times over the past two decades. It never gets old.

For us and our Filipino staff, it was a bittersweet time. It was sad to say goodbye, but seeing this union filled us with great joy. We saw adoptive parents from many parts of the world come greet their children. Language barriers melted away with love and affection.

We also saw some of the children we cared for reunite with their families of origin. This reminds me of God’s restoring love for those who return to Him and trust in Him again.

The church worldwide is like a huge blended family. We may look different on the outside, we may sound different, and even have different customs, but we’re of the same family. Read more...


This was originally posted at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog— Adopted and Accepted

Have a blessed New Year!

 

The Work of Making Disciples

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ABurden Over the past few decades, the work of making disciples seemed to get set aside for other things. What things? Bigger and better ministries, with a broader approach and appeal.

At present, much more attention is given to disciple making, and I'm glad for this. But it brings up some important questions.

What is the work of making disciples? How did Jesus do His work in making disciples?

The mandate of Jesus

The Lord Jesus gave a mandate to make disciples. It's called the Great Commission. As pointed out by many, it's not the "great suggestion." Jesus gave this mandate after His resurrection, before His ascension into heaven (see Acts 1:1-8).

This mandate began long before His going to the cross to provide redemption for humanity. It was embedded in His public and private ministry. What Jesus did in public ministry was training for those involved in private ministry.

I say private ministry to distinguish it from what everyone saw in the open. The more private work was done with a select group of men, and included others, even women, who were also His followers.

More informal settings is where the work of making disciples took place. His followers saw Him in real life. Conversations came about in a natural way, but these were intimate teaching and training sessions.

[bctt tweet="The Lord Jesus gave a mandate to make disciples, not a suggestion"]

The real Jesus and the real you

This more informal approach is difficult for some people to grasp as disciple making, but it is. Consider this. How can people know you are a genuine believer unless they see you in unstructured, non-formal settings? This is where they see the real you.

Jesus preaching to the crowds was instructional for His followers, but it wasn't the heart of how He made disciples. In my work as a pastor and missionary, the most effective work equipping others took place during informal, unstructured times.

People need to see our heart in every day action, so they'll catch our heart for making disciples. This is how the disciples caught Jesus' heart for making disciples.

[bctt tweet="The disciples caught Jesus' heart for making disciples by being with Him"]

More than instruction and training

The work of making disciples isn't just instruction or training, but sharing our inner spiritual life with those we disciple and mentor. It is this more personal, intimate sharing that has the greatest impact.

This can be seen with Jesus and the disciples—

  • The disciples first personal encounter with Jesus– John 1:35-51
  • Jesus with Levi and the tax collectors– Luke 5:27-32
  • When Jesus walked on the water– Matthew 14:22-33
  • In the garden at Gethsemane– Matthew 26:36-46

In all the accounts above, Jesus made Himself known within life as it unfolded. It wasn't staged or formalized, but raw reality. In the end, in Gethsemane, He bared His heart with those closest to Him.

[bctt tweet="Jesus made Himself known & made disciples in everyday life occurrences"]

Who's disciples are we making?

One more thing. The work of making disciples may be our work to do, but it's His mandate. Whoever we would disciple, they are always to be His disciples, not ours.

Many years ago I learned this lesson. I worked for several weeks with a few men. I taught them what I knew about studying the Bible, preparing to teach, and what it meant to serve in the church.

In my mind, I was developing leaders to help in the ministry of the church I pastored, but the Lord had other plans.

One by one, these men moved out of the area because of work opportunities. All those I invested in moved on from the church, and I had to start mentoring another group. I complained to the Lord about this, pointing out how unfair I thought it was.

[bctt tweet="Whoever we would disciple, they are always to be Jesus' disciples, not ours"]

An important lesson

I remember clearly how the Lord impressed on my heart that my job was to make disciples. His job was to distribute and place them where He wanted them.

Once I realized this it set me free from trying to hang on to anyone. Of course, I wanted to equip them and get their commitment for service where I pastored. But the ultimate commitment is to serve Jesus.

The work of making disciples is God's work through His servants (us) for service in His kingdom. As leaders, we must be careful not to make disciples of our own, for our own ministries.

[bctt tweet="Making disciples is God's work through His servants (us) for service in His kingdom"]

Something to consider

If you're a pastor or leader in God's kingdom, here are some questions to consider—

Are you intentionally engaged in the work of making disciples now?

How closely does your approach to making disciples match the way Jesus did it?

Are those you've discipled also discipling others?

4 Elements of Leading Well

Photo credit: unsplash.com_BWschodni Is leadership just influence? I'd say it's a lot more, but certainly includes 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 mentor or guru approach.

True leadership is more than a style or approach. True leaders lead the way for others with confidence, and people follow them.

Example is essential

This is the third post related to grassroots leadership where we've looked at three words—love, feed, and lead. As with the other two 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.

Our prime model for leadership in ministry is Jesus. He's the example for all believers wherever they may lead. How did Jesus lead? He led with authority and humility, as noted in earlier posts, 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, and a Son who followed His Father (John 4:34; 5:19). This is important to note. We need to be lead-able our selves to be good leaders of others.

Our own life example is essential for leading as Jesus led others.

[bctt tweet="We need to be lead-able our selves to be good leaders of others"]

4 Elements of leading well

L– Listen and Learn

Listening and hearing well is somewhat of a lost art. We all want to be listened to, but how good are we at listening to others? This is a vital part of good leadership. Leaders need to listen, and they need to hear what's being said.

A missionary friend of mine pointed out how Jesus listened, even asked questions, as a young man (Luke 2:46). Reading through all four gospels this is still seen in Him, especially His dialogs with people. He was observant and heard what His followers talked about, and even asked them questions (Mark 9:33-37; Matt 16:13-15).

Jesus didn't listen to look for a place to jump in with what He wanted to say, He listened then responded. 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?

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. This is a sign of humility and openness, and the people you lead will see this and be more willing to follow you.

[bctt tweet="A vital part of good leadership is the ability to listen and hear well"]

E– Educate and Equip

Education is often reduced to teaching and transferring knowledge. But a good education needs to be practical, useful for life. An academic education won't prepare God's people to serve in the church.

God gave leaders to the church to equip them for service (Eph 4:11-16). I spoke about this some last week when we looked at the word feed.

Look at how Jesus equipped His followers, those who were chosen as apostles, and those who chose to be His disciples. Yes, He taught them as spoke to the crowds, but he also revealed things to them that weren't shared publicly ( Matt 13:10-17).

Those who followed Jesus learned by watching Him, hearing Him, and being with Him. They watched, they learned, then they were given the opportunity to do.

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, who were not His chosen apostles (Luke 10:1-3).

Teaching and training needs 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.

A simple question for any leader is—Are we talking about truth or equipping people in the truth?

[bctt tweet="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 have also been in 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.

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.

When a specific role needs to be filled, it's important to find the right person. Otherwise, they will be frustrated and we (their leaders) will be also. We need to accept people for who they are, and not have 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, appreciated. This is especially true for those who serve in a volunteer capacity.

I think we all want to hear the Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." (Matt 25:21)

[bctt tweet="We need to accept people without unrealistic or unreasonable expectations"]

D– Disciple and Delegate

Last week, we looked at discipleship, 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, it has a 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 important to have shared experiences.

By shared I mean a mutual participation, on equal footing. How? Prayer, worship, serving others or any activity where the leader isn't in charge of the disciple. This helps create a shared trust of one another.

Delegation works best when trust exists. Genuine discipleship sets the stage for reliable delegation. Delegation isn't just dishing out responsibility for a task.

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.

[bctt tweet="Genuine discipleship sets the stage for reliable delegation"]

Love, feed, lead

This is the last of four posts, three that looked at three primary elements of leading as Jesus led, based on His role as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

If these posts blessed you, please share them with others. My hope is that they're helpful for any leader within the Kingdom of God, whether you lead in a church or ministry, or lead in some other capacity.

Here are the other posts from first to last—

Grassroots Leadership

How Do You Spell Love? L-O-V-E

Well Fed

Well Fed

Photo credit: babycentre.co.uk Feeding a baby or toddler can be a challenge. They still need to be fed much of the time, but their self-will is in full-bloom.

They can close their mouth and refuse to eat. They're often distracted by more interesting things. Most young toddlers want to feed themselves, even though they haven't developed the dexterity to do it well.

It can be a challenging and messy process, and it's only the beginning. Children are often finicky and picky eaters, and hormonally challenged teens have odd eating habits.

Pastors and leaders also face challenges in feeding their flock. It can even get messy at times.

Last week, We looked at leading with unselfish love, as we see in Jesus, our Good Shepherd. This week we'll look at the second of the three words related to what I call grassroots leadershipfeed. Again, We'll look at this word as an acrostic—F-E-E-D.

Keeping God's people well-fed

Just opening up the Bible and letting-it-rip (preach) isn't going to keep the people of God well-fed. There's more to it than that.

It's not just about preparation and presentation, although they're important. Certain priorities impact our preparation of any ministry with God's Word and however we present it.

Let's look at four important priorities needed to keep God's people, His sheep, or anyone we lead or disciple, well-fed.

"F" stands for focus

What's the number one priority? Focus. Our focus always needs to be on Jesus in whatever ministry we do, and whatever capacity we lead (as a believer).

How do we do this? First, each leader needs to be focused on Jesus, not the people we lead, nor on any ministry task. He is our Good Shepherd and we are His under-shepherds.

All ministry, even teaching in whatever form, is relational. It always needs to be connected to our relationship with Jesus.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14 NIV)

Our ministry and leadership also need to point to Jesus, in all we do. We are to follow His example, so others will follow our example of following Him.

[bctt tweet="Our ministry and leadership need to point to Jesus in all we do"]

"E" speaks of the need to examine God's Word

If we want to feed people with the truth, we need to understand it. We need to examine it well before we teach, preach, or share it in some other way.

We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is. Would you be surprised if I told you it's Jesus? It is!

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Many different methods are used for studying the Scriptures. I've used the inductive study process for the past thirty years. It is a simple, systematic, and self-contained approach to Bible study, which is why it works well in any place in the world, within any culture or language.

Whatever method you use, be diligent in it. Keep examining the Scriptures so that your understanding moves from your mind to your heart. Then it will flow out of you in a natural way in whatever setting or circumstance you share the truth.

[bctt tweet="We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is—it's Jesus!"]

"E" also reminds of the need to explain well

Thankfully, I learned early in my call to ministry the value of teaching the truth in a simple way. My general premise is this—if a child can understand and grasp what you teach, then you can teach it to anyone. This is an oversimplification but it's essentially true. If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone.

How can people feed on the truth of God if they don't understand it? This is obvious, but I find many preachers, teachers, bloggers, and others don't always make things simple for the average hearer.

Here are two simple ways to make God's Word hear-able and easy to grasp. First, use stories and parables, but learn to tell them rather than just read them. The second way to make things simple works with stories—put the truth in your own words (IYOW). Telling stories and parables IYOW helps people connect well with the truth.

Sound heretical? Not hardly. Remember, the original version of the Bible was oral, not written. The process of putting things IYOW requires processing the truth. It takes some practice, but it's very doable, and makes the truth more understandable.

[bctt tweet="If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone"]

"D" is for disciple

The Lord Jesus said we are to "make disciples... teaching them...."  (Matt 28:19, 20). This was not a suggestion but a command. It's called the Great Commission.

Discipleship has become more popular over the past several years. Of course, as with other things, several approaches and methods are used, but discipleship isn't just teaching and training.

Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, a pouring into the life of others what God has poured into you.

Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge. Lecture style teaching may be the most common form of Bible teaching, but it's the least effective. It's unidirectional and can be dull and difficult to understand for many people.

Like feeding a toddler, you can try pushing the food into their mouth, but they can close their mouth or spit it out. Also, there's a big difference between feeding people and equipping them to feed themselves.

Jesus, as always, is our example. His primary method for establishing the church was to disciple twelve men. This included teaching, but much, much more. Eleven of those twelve, and thousands who followed them, were well-fed. They continued what Jesus began with them.


Here are some related posts related you might find helpful—

How Did Jesus Teach?

Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Lasting Fruit

Here are a couple of links of people I trust regarding inductive Bible study (aka IBS)—

Dan Finfrock

Jeremy Brummel

If you'd like a copy of the workbook I've developed for IBS, contact me and I'll let you know how you can get one.

How Do You Spell Love? L-O-V-E

Photo credit: NASA As the song goes, "Love makes the world go 'round." But does it? Really? You wouldn't know that from reading and hearing the news headlines.

Then the question is, if love were to make the world go around, what kind of love is it? Is it romantic love like the song, "The Power of Love"? I think it would need to be something more substantial than that to keep the world turning on its axis.

Who comes to mind when you think of a more substantial love? Maybe Mother Teresa? Perhaps St Francis of Assisi, as reflected in his prayer?

But who was their role model? Jesus, of course. He is the personification of love, literally (John 1:1, 14; 3:16; 1 John 4:8).

Love, feed, lead

Last week, I talked about grassroots leadership as an illustration of the style of leadership we see in Jesus.

I also spoke of three words that summarize the role of a pastor, but which also apply to truly great leadership at all levels.

Those three words are—love, feed, and lead. I want to focus on love in this post, and I want to use the four letters of this word as an acrostic.

L-O-V-E

A lot's been said about this short, four-lettered word, but I want to look at each letter as it represents the leadership of Jesus.

This applies especially for pastors and others in a leadership role within the church, but I also see it as representative for believers who are leaders in other arenas in life.

What are those other arenas? Anything from business (small or large) to military leaders, and even less formal roles within life, even parenting.

L–

I originally saw the words love, feed, and lead based in John 10:1-18, where Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd.

Jesus expresses what He means by being the Good Shepherd in verse 11—

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Of course, most believers think Jesus refers to His sacrificial death on the cross. But there's more to it than that.

The most basic call of discipleship, in Matthew 16:24, makes it clear that we are to die to our self if we would follow Jesus.

Jesus extends this idea to leadership when He tells the disciples—

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)

"L" stands for love. Love is the mark of a great leader in God's kingdom—someone who is willing to lay down their life for another, and for Jesus.

[bctt tweet="Love is the mark of a great leader in God's kingdom"]

O–

The love of God is spelled out for us in the well-known text of 1 Corinthians 13. It's also the natural product of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22, 23).

It's also seen in the way Jesus called, led, and trained His followers. It wasn't by compelling them, but with humble leadership.

The apostle Peter learned this the hard way when Jesus restored him, after Peter had denied the Lord three times. We see this in John 21:15-19.

Peter passed this on to those he discipled as leaders. He exhorted them to "shepherd the flock of God..., not domineering over [them]..., but being examples to the flock." This is found in 1 Peter 5:1-5.

So the "O" stands for oversee. Godly leaders are not to be overbearing or domineering as lords, but caring for people as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, did.

[bctt tweet="Godly leaders are not to be overbearing or domineering as lords"]

V–

When a godly leader understands their power or authority is based in an unselfish love and oversight like that of Jesus, they value people.

Over the years, many churches have undervalued people, especially their volunteers and part-time staff. They undervalue them by taking them for granted.

Too often I've heard of people who get burned out serving in a church or ministry, and are left hanging in the wind, as others take their place. This should not be. Nor should this need to be explained.

We need to see people the way Jesus saw them, as sheep who need a shepherd (Matt 9:36).  This is the heart of Jesus, hear what He says—

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

"V" is for value. Any smart leader at any level, but especially godly ones, will value people, especially those who volunteer their services.

[bctt tweet="Many churches have undervalued people by taking them for granted"]

E–

One of the simple ways to value people is by empowering and enabling them to do what they are to do. Many in roles of leadership think they need to keep people under control, but this is not how we see Jesus leading people.

This brings us back to the earlier nature of the love we are to have as we lead people, a love that lays itself down for others.

Do we want others who serve under our leadership to succeed? Do we want them to do well? Then we need to find ways to empower and enable them to do so.

This is to be a basic role of all leadership in the church, and it makes sense for any role of leadership. The apostle Paul tells us that God gave gifts so the leaders could empower and enable those they lead.

This is what we're told in Ephesians 4:11-13, and the result is enormous and beneficial to all, including God. As it says in verse 11—

to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

"E" reminds us that good, godly leaders empower and enable people.

[bctt tweet="A simple way to value people is by empowering and enabling them to do things well"]

L-O-V-E—love that is unselfish, overseeing not overbearing, valuing people, and empowering and enabling them. That's how I spell love every godly leader needs to lead others. Just as Jesus did.


Next week I'll take a look at the word "feed" as I see it in relation to leading people.

If this post is worthwhile, please share it with others. Thanks for reading!

 

Grassroots Leadership

unsplash_path_thru_grass This year's presidential political campaign has surprised many who follow it. It's even made Black Friday look pale by comparison.

One political party has too many candidates, while the other has few. One grabs headlines, the other spawns yawns. What's happening?

You could tag it with various labels, including the old standbys of populism and grassroots politics. I think it's just one more indicator of what's needed in the world, let alone America.

People need leaders

A good friend told me long ago, "People need leaders." I was a young pastor and he was a young captain of fire fighters.

What he said rang true in my heart. It reminded me of my responsibility in God's kingdom. Not just as a pastor, but as a follower of Jesus.

One seemingly forgotten characteristic of the Jesus People Movement was the importance of life example in leadership.

[bctt tweet="Life example is important for leadership in God's kingdom"]

I'm concerned this is a neglected emphasis today in all aspects of leadership, but especially in God's kingdom.

Grassroots leadership

Look at the leadership of Jesus and what He endeavored to instill in His followers. What was the key?

People were drawn to Him in a natural way. From the first to the last, people saw Him, heard Him, and could not ignore Him.

[bctt tweet="People saw Jesus, and heard Him, but could not ignore Him"]

Even those who opposed Him and later plotted to kill Him, even they couldn't ignore Him.

So what was it about Jesus that drew people to Him? You could call it grassroots leadership.

Humble leadership

There was no fanfare, no clever strategy to draw more people.

This is so backwards to what's most popular today, the prevailing mantra—more is better.

But that's not the way of Jesus. It's also not the way of great leadership, according to Jim Collins in his book, From Good to Great.

What set apart the companies that rose to greatness? One essential was humble leadership.

[bctt tweet="Humility is essential for great leadership and to lead like Jesus"]

In a business model, this means putting the company and your people above your self.

Jesus the Good Shepherd

In God's kingdom, it means following the example of Jesus. It's seen throughout the gospels, but illustrated and explained in John 10 where Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd.

I am the good shepherd.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Several years ago, I was asked what the basics were to pastoring. A young missionary pastor to Thailand to whom I'm a mentor, asked me for a simple explanation.

I came up with three words to summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead—based on John 10:1-18.

[bctt tweet="3 words can summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead"]

Over the next few weeks I hope to unpack these three words related to the leadership of Jesus.

Hopefully, we'll see how they can apply to leadership at any level.

 

What Can We Learn from Dead Churches?

Photo credit: unsplash.com KHillacre Throughout the history of the Christian church, there have been cycles of life and death. Cycles of revival and decline are evident by their impact upon the culture around them—both good and bad.

What about individual churches? You can find similar cycles of revival and decline. Some churches seem to thrive, while others struggle to survive.

Is death and decline an inevitable destination for every church? Not if we're willing to learn from history.

Thom S Rainer's book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, doesn't sound like a fun read. I wouldn't call it fun, but it is enlightening, and in the end, encouraging.

I could easily see various churches I've known or been involved with that identified with Rainer's post-life church assessment. These are actual churches Dr Rainer worked with and knew.

He begins with a story of a church as if it had been a patient, in denial of her real condition. She no longer had vision and followed a familiar path to death. It's a sobering look at fourteen different churches who died. The author provides insights as to why, and later gives twelve responses to the question, "Is There Hope...?"

What is learned from the autopsy

Amazon-Autopsy_ChurchAll the insights Rainer writes about are helpful, but a few struck home in a sad way. He speaks of the Slow Erosion (Chap 2) that takes place, and of the inward and rigid focus a church develops.

In the The Past Is the Hero (Chap 3), a fixation develops on the "good old days." I've seen this too often in churches who experienced high points during the Jesus Movement, but this applies to other churches also. Rainer says this was the "most pervasive and common thread" in all of the autopsies, which created a backwards-looking vision.

This nostalgic, inward focus eventually leads to a church with ...No Clear Purpose (Chap 10). I've seen this way too often, churches that "do church," but have no clear direction or purpose except to exist.

Out of place and out of sorts

Rainer's small, succinct chapters yield insights into churches who didn't change, though the community around them did (Chap 4). Other churches rarely prayed together (Chap 9), and others became ...Obsessed Over the Facilities (Chap 11).

A chapter that struck a sad, familiar chord is where, The Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission (Chap 6). As a missionary and pastor, this one grieves me the most. The focus of the church becomes so inward that the command to "Go!" is set aside and forgotten.

I see this in both a lack of local evangelistic outreach and disinterest in world missions. This is pervasive throughout America today, along with a diminished focus on discipleship and equipping God's people.

Another great insight looked at the life stages and decrease in pastoral tenure (Chap 8). Rainer lays out five general stages of relationship between a pastor and the church. From my own experience, I found these to be accurate and remember going through or seeing each stage.

Is there hope?

An autopsy isn't fun, unless you're a forensic doctor I guess. So the book doesn't end on a down note but with hope.

Rainer lays out twelve responses to give hope. These are laid out in three categories of churches— those with sick symptoms, very sick, and dying.

You might think the last category isn't going to have much hope, but you'd be wrong. It's all a matter of focus and perspective, which is lost in a sick or dying church.

Final thoughts

I was sent this book by my friend, Pastor Bill Holdridge, who established Poimen Ministries, and graciously allows me to be part of this ministry to pastors and churches. He's seen all of this more than I have. If you're a pastor and concerned about the health of your church, I encourage you to contact Bill or any of us with Poimen Ministries.

So I recommend Dr Rainer's book for any pastor, no matter what your current role may be in church. It is well worth the read.

Here's a blog post of Dr Rainer's that echoes much of the same issues in his book– 8 Reasons Many Churches Are Living in the 1980's

Another resource I recommend is the blog of Pastor Karl Vaters, especially for pastors of small churches– New Small Church. Karl has a clear focus and purpose that is healthy and outward, and is a great encouragement to many.


If any of this post encourages you, or you see its value for someone else, please feel free to share it! Thanks for reading!