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Staying at our Post

December 30, 2009 2 comments

In preparation to teach a class on Spiritual Leadership, I am reviewing J. Oswald Sanders’ book, Spiritual Leadership.  This morning I reread the chapter, Insights on Leadership from Paul and his look at characteristics of a leader as described in 1 Timothy 3:2-7.  He includes a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that says,

It is the mark of a grown-up man, as compared with a callow youth, that he finds his center of gravity wherever he happens to be at the moment, and however much he longs for the object of his desire, it cannot prevent him from staying at his post and doing his duty. (p. 45)

This quote struck me because I have been guilty of the very thing Bonhoeffer advises against.  How many of you have been in a position but did not give it your best because you felt you should be in a different position.  Perhaps you thought you were qualified for the next position up the chain.  I know I have been there, and done that. 

I remember a specific instance while serving in the U.S. Army.  I was stationed in Europe and assigned to Howitzer Battery of the First Squadron, 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment as the unit supply sergeant.  I was the junior supply sergeant in the Squadron, but nonetheless, about two years into my three-year tour, I was given the opportunity to assume a position with Squadron Headquarters.  The S-4 Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) had rotated back to the states, and the Army had not assigned a replacement.  I was asked to assume his position until the replacement arrived.  My First Sergeant advised against it because as soon as I left, a replacement would take my job with Howitzer Battery, and then if the replacement for the S-4 NCOIC showed up, I would be left without a job.  Well, in my eagerness to move up to the chain, I went against my First Sergeant’s advice and accepted the offer to assume the S-4 NCOIC position.  Sure enough, about two months into the job, a replacement showed up who outranked me and bumped me out of the position.  I ended up with another unit within the Squadron.  It was a good move, but I ended up working for someone that made my life miserable (as opposed to my former First Sergeant who was a great leader). 

Years later, looking back on this, I know my eagerness to move into a job prior to my being ready resulted in my working in a situation that held up my next promotion at least a year (but that’s a story for another time).  If I had heeded my First Sergeant’s advice, and stayed in the position I was in, chances are I would have received my next promotion a year sooner.  I wish I could say I learned my lesson and did not fall into the same temptation again, but I could name at least two other instances that occurred in my civilian career as well.

Paul’s advice to Timothy as expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one that we should all heed.  God places us in situations and leadership positions for a reason, and it is up to us to live a life of faith and obedience in serving Him to the best of our ability.  May we all strive to follow Paul’s guidance when he wrote, “[An overseer] must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6, ESV).

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Disciple-making in the local church

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Thom Rainer writes about disciple-making in the local church in a recent article in Facts & Trends (you can read it online at http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169885).  Many pastors, including me, are frustrated at the lack of participation in Sunday school and small groups.  He writes, “There was a day for most churches when the solution to this dilemma was to turn to some organizational entity, such as a denomination, and get the needed programs to meet the needs of the church… Not so today” (Rainer, 2009, p. 4).  In the past, a new denominational program was all it took to generate interest, but somewhere along the line, many churches have lost sight of the purpose of these programs – making disciples.  Rainer continues to show what effective disciple-making churches are doing to reverse this trend.

What Rainer has found is those churches that have high expectations of its members are more effective in making disciples.  These expectations are established in “an entry point class that all new members attend.”  Some of these expectations are:

1)      Members are expected to attend an open group Bible study

2)      Members are expected to be involved in one or more deeper studies throughout the year

3)      Members are expected to attend a corporate worship service each week

4)      Members are expected to be involved in at least one ministry or mission activity a year

5)      Members are expected to read and study the Bible daily (Rainer, 2009, p. 5)

As Rainer expresses, many leaders’ immediate response is that people will not expect such high expectations and flee from the church.  I have heard this from the leadership in my church, too.  But I agree with Rainer.  Setting high expectations adds value to being a member of the church.  It also adds significance to each member of the body.  Rick Warren wrote of similar expectations in his book, The Purpose Driven Church

We should not be afraid of setting such high expectations.  Jesus commissioned all of us to make disciples and to equip the saints (Matthew 29:20 and Ephesians 4:12).  How can we accomplish such a great task if we are unwilling to place expectations on our congregations?  We need to be bold and courageous in our work for our Lord and Savior.  After all, we are in the business of building disciples, not entertaining churchgoers.

Are you allowing God to use you fully?

I am rereading the book, Spiritual Leadership, by Oswald Chambers. I originally read it while a student at Colorado Christian University. You know how that goes; you read it quickly, glean what you need for class, and then move on. This time I have decided to read it slowly and spend more time reflecting on the message.

Chapter Two discusses the search for leaders. Sanders (1967) writes, “The Bible shows us that when God does find a person who is ready to lead, to commit to full discipleship and take on responsibility for others, that person is used to the limit” (p. 17). That statement caused me to pause. I thought to myself, am I being used to the limit? I had to honestly answer no. That led to the question, am I allowing God to use me fully? Ah, that is the question.

Sanders continues, “If the world is to hear the church’s voice today, leaders are needed who are authoritative, spiritual, and sacrificial” (p. 18).

Authoritative leaders have a vision and are confident in where they are going. Leaders with such confidence bring authority to their leadership and inspire people to follow them

Spiritual leaders have a close relationship with God and spend time in prayer and reading Scripture. Sanders writes, “Without a strong relationship to God, even the most attractive and competent person cannot lead people to God” (p. 18). Isn’t that what it’s all about? If leaders are not leading people to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ, than none of the rest matters.

Leaders follow the example of Jesus Christ and learn to be servant leaders. Through serving others, leaders set the example for others to follow. Servant leaders also spend time equipping and preparing others to lead.

After reflecting on all three of these attributes, it all came together. A spiritual leader who has a close relationship with God understands His will. A leader who understands God’s will has a vision. A leader who has a vision carries His authority to fulfill that vision through servant leadership.

God is always searching for leaders. It isn’t that He can’t find any, but people may not respond to His call. Are you ready to make that commitment to be the leader God has created you to be? Are you allowing God to use you fully? Those are the things we need to consider.

Reference

Sanders, J. O. (1967, 1980, 1994). Spiritual leadership: Principles of excellence for every believer. Chicago: Moody Press.

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Serving Others Doesn’t Come Easy

I am reading through the Gospel of Mark this week, and as usual, God is speaking to me about an area of my life that needs improvement. This week it is about serving and loving others. Chapter 10 recounts the story of James and John and their request to sit at the right and left of Jesus in Heaven. Jesus asks them if they really understand what they are asking. They answer him saying yes, they understand and are willing. At this point Jesus calls all the disciples together and says, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45) This is the reoccurring theme running through my reading this week.

I was about to write I want to serve in ministry but what I meant to say is I want to work in ministry. I am beginning to see the difference. Until I am willing to serve others, I am not ready to work in ministry.

Here’s the rub. I spent a career in the military as a noncommissioned officer. I retired with 3 up and 2 down. I didn’t serve anyone. Instead, I had others serving me. At that time I wouldn’t have used the term “serve” but “command.” I had upwards of 40 plus soldiers reporting to me at any one time and I only reported to one person. Now, eight years later, I am supposed to turn this completely around and serve the 40 plus. Now don’t hear what I didn’t say. I am in complete agreement with this, and I hope that I present this attitude in my current position. But just the same, it is an adjustment to my natural way of doing things. Ah, but isn’t that the point? I am not to act as one of this world, but as one of God’s children who belongs to another world.

Things to continue pondering…

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