Tag Archives: Leadership

Leadership Wisdom

2 Mar

LeadershipYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Wisdom spoke. She spoke noble and right things. Her message is available and she can be found. Wisdom is not just for the educated elite, but is available to any and all that will listen. She is far more valuable than gold and jewels. This morning, wisdom continues to speak and she offers up a guarantee and gives us some points to consider.

I encourage you to take the time and read our text for today found in Pro. 8:12-21.

Let’s look at wisdom’s clarity. Just when I think we’re beginning to understand the depth of godly wisdom, she gives us additional insight into how truly incredible she is. She, “dwells with prudence.”    Prudence means showing care or concern for the future. And it can also mean careful good judgment that allows someone to avoid danger or risks. In the context of Proverbs, it conveys the idea of sensible behavior. She also finds, “knowledge and discretion.” These are three qualities that form the wisdom triad. When these qualities are ingrained in you, it becomes easier to live the life that God expects. When these qualities are evident in your life, it demonstrates the power of God. Everything we do should point back to God. When we allow this triad to work in our lives, Solomon tells us it helps us do three things.

First, because we fear the Lord, we “hate evil.” Remember, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pro. 1:7) Evil is a general term wisdom uses for anything that could be considered ungodly. Specifically, “Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” So wisdom is a hater too. Remember the haughty eyes that God hates? We have the same thing here; pride and arrogance which always seem to go hand in hand. Have you ever been around someone like this? Wisdom mentions the “evil way.” I want to spend a bit of time here. I frequently talk about manner of life and this is what wisdom is referring to. Much is being said about how we should be as individuals and as a church. Society has told us that it is unloving and judgmental to say some form of behavior is wrong. We’re called intolerant because we adhere to a biblical worldview. I submit to you that it is unloving and ungodly to allow people to boldly enter hell without ever hearing the message of hope that is found in Christ.

If you have paid attention to the things that God and wisdom hate, you would quickly realize that nowhere is it said that God hates people. He might call us names like stiff necked, obstinate, and stubborn, but that simply describes our behavior. Just because things might not be going your way or it seems like the world is against you doesn’t mean God is against you. The evil way is not the godly way. We need to evaluate our manner of life. Is there anything in our lives that would indicate we’re not walking on the path of righteousness? The wise person does not approach the cliff to see just how close he can get to the edge without falling over. Once you fall, it’s too late. The wise person recognizes the danger and stays away. That’s really wisdom’s message. Once wisdom tells us what she hates, she tells us what she is. “Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine.” Counsel means what you think it means. It is guidance, advice, direction, but always from a godly perspective. Job 12:13 says, “With Him are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel and understanding.” These qualities are who wisdom is; they are inherent to her character. Do these words sound familiar? Isaiah 9:6 says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;  And the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,  Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

What does leadership look like in practice? You may not consider yourself a leader, but one thing is for sure, you cannot lead effectively without wisdom. Well, I suppose you can, but your leadership won’t last long and you likely won’t be followed. Remember that Solomon prayed for wisdom to lead his people. It seems unlikely that anyone could lead a nation effectively that does not possess wisdom. In our world today this is definitely lacking. In context, we’re still talking about biblical wisdom and the only way to have that is for the Lord to give wisdom according to Pro. 2:6. Rom. 13:1 says that all authority is established by God so leaders need to rule in accordance with God’s instructions and principles. When your decisions are made apart from the counsel of God, they are sure to fail. Solomon calls out kings, rulers, princes, and nobles, but this principle applies to anyone in leadership.

Wisdom also has tangible benefits. You sometimes hear business people talk about return on investment or ROI. Unless there is a significant ROI, there is a hesitancy to spend money on something. This model has made its way into the church too. What price do you put on eternity? Wisdom says, “I love those who love me.” Do you love wisdom? How would you know? Think about the people and things you love. It’s obvious the love you have. Wisdom should be no different. Do you scoff or ignore wisdom? “Those who diligently seek me will find me.” It’s not a wild goose chase where you’ll never catch what you’re looking for. If you go looking, you’ll find wisdom. But you have to be diligent. Careful and conscientious. We exercise diligence in other areas of our lives and wisdom is far more important than those other things. People will say, “No. Sports, school, work, pursuit of pleasure, and, spending time with my family is important.” See there’s the mistake people make. No one ever said those things aren’t important, they’re just not as important as seeking God. Are you really seeking wisdom? She can be found, she is not elusive. Ps.119:33 says, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end.”

Let’s answer the question that many people are asking . . . including people in the church, “What’s in it for me?” Her benefits are tangible and they are found in vs. 18-19: “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield better than choicest silver.” But wait! That’s not all. Check out the last two verses. The idea of righteousness here refers to our horizontal relationships with people and our vertical relationship with God. Justice here is better translated judgment and justice. These are character qualities that set us apart from the norm. Look at the final thing wisdom offers. “To endow those who love me with wealth that I may fill their treasuries.” If you’re thinking that your treasury isn’t full, maybe you don’t love wisdom. Matt. 6:20, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.”

Solomon asked for wisdom and he got that and wealth. If you really love wisdom, you’re going to seek her and you will find her. Then you will follow her where she leads you. You’ll be walking in God’s will and that is the best place to be. Our inheritance, “is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”  (1 Peter 1:4)

10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly

19 May

I was fortunate to have a colleague from our sister church in Rincon, GA come for a visit to our church yesterday. I got to sit back and soak in the awesomeness of Scripture as Pastor Mike preached from Matt. 14-22-33. It was a blessing. Since I had a break I decided to post an article I read last month. The original post is found here.

 If you’re a shepherd or have a shepherd’s heart, you’ll find yourself nodding your head in agreement. I’m not saying these things control us. You’ll often hear me say it’s okay to have feelings – God gave them to you, but don’t allow your feelings to control your actions. Times do get rough and tough for me, but I keep going. That’s my mindset, that’s the way I’m made, that’s the right thing to do. I am content right where I am. I have no aspirations to go anywhere or do anything other than love my wife and shepherd the people God has charged me with. So here we go. Read on. The article posted in its entirety.

From Matt Boswell, Pastor/Elder of Redemption Church in Duvall, WA.

mb-postsWhen Ellen and I were first married ministry was not our 20-year plan, the Navy was. We had it all planned out; we were to spend the next 20 years with me being gone for 15. The Navy explained to my sweet new bride how grueling it would be, that I would be gone often and that even when I was around my mind would be elsewhere. Knowing that my particular career path in the Navy would be a marriage destroyer I pursued a discharge for the pursuit of higher education. With the promise of a difficult future behind us we embarked upon an easier dream where everyone would love us and things would be calm: pastoral service.

Twenty plus years later I can tell you it has been a ride we never could have anticipated. So much so that only now do I feel equipped enough to share a few things I either lacked the clarity or courage to share until this season of life. I want to share the 10 things we as pastors don’t really want you to know about us. Now in doing so my aim is not to rat out my fellow pastors. Nor am I doing this so congregants sleep with one eye open regarding their leadership. My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this:

  • Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges.
  • Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations.
  • People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.

Therefore I give a glimpse into what we as pastors don’t like to admit about ourselves.

#1. We Take It Personally When You Leave The Church.

It’s just a straight up fact. We pastors eat, drink and sleep the local church and with that have a deep desires to see it thrive. Therefore when you leave to another church because…

  • you’re bothered by a recent decision, but didn’t ask about it…
  • the new church has a bigger and better kids wing, youth group, worship team, building space, (fill in your blank)…
  • your friends started going there…

… it hits us personally.

For us it feels disloyal, shallow or consumer driven. People affirm that church is a family, thus when you up and leave because the church down the road has Slurpee dispensers, a fog machine or it’s just cooler, well it jams us pretty deep.

#2. We Feel Pressure To Perform Week After Week.

The average TV show has a multimillion-dollar budget, a staff of writers and only airs 22 weeks out of the year; that’s what we feel we’re up against. Where the pressure is doubled comes from the previous point. We know there are churches near by with a multimillion-dollar budget or a celebrity pastor who have the ability to do many more things at a much higher level. From this a sense of urgency is created in our mind to establish the same level of quality, option and excellence to meet the consumerist desires of culture.

Now if this were exclusively in the hopes of reaching new people this wouldn’t be so bad, but increasingly pastors feel the need to do this just to retain people who may be stuff struck by the “Bigger and Better” down the way.

#3. We Struggle With Getting Our Worth From Ministry.

When the numbers are up, the complements are flowing and the people are lively we feel great. When everything is level, it feels like it’s in decline. When things are actually in decline, it’s a full-tilt tailspin in our soul. We almost can’t help but equate the growth of the church with our ability/inability to produce growth. Therefore if there is any appearance of waning we feel defeated and wonder how long before the church board wises up and trades us to another team. The “Idol of Ministry” comes on and off the shelf pretty regularly in a pastor’s office.

#4. We Regularly Think About Quitting.

This comes in two very different forms.

One form is the variation of perhaps leaving ministry all together. While there are some really great things about vocational ministry, there are also less enjoyable realities such as: pastors’ families are noticed (i.e. judged) routinely, pastors’ purchases are observed (i.e. judged) overtly and pastors’ words are weighed (i.e. judged) consistently. Therefore the ability to hide among the masses and not be noticed is very appealing.

The second form comes with the desire for a change of scenery. Pastors are shepherds, thus we love greener grass even more than sheep. To leave for a bigger budget, better building or a place with less difficult people (yeah, we get delusional sometimes) stands out as lush Kentucky Bluegrass when contrasted with the dusty patch of ragged earth called “our current church.” This “Greener Grass Gawking” usually occurs when we become too proud (“My gifts are better than this place”) or too insecure (“I stink and just need to start over”) and flows from #3.

#5. We Say We Are Transparent – It’s Actually Opaque.

Today pastors are generally more open about their struggles than previous generations, but we still sense there is a threshold that is not to be crossed. People want open, honest and real, but not too much. Generally churches want just enough so they feel safe with you, but not so much that it spoils the expectations they have of you. Unfortunately the threshold is a blurry line by which pastors never know how much is too much until its too late. After a couple of infractions we learn that opaque is safe – even if it’s isolating.

When pastors’ wives are polled on how it feels to be the spouse of someone in full-time ministry the #1 answer is one profound word, “Lonely.” They are around hundreds of people every week, but they never feel they can let their guard down because they know people have opinions on how a pastor’s wife should be. Now I know people say they don’t, but literally every church I have served in has shared unflattering stories of the previous pastor’s wife. Many of these stories came from the spiritually mature leadership who considered the pastor and his wife to be their friends. The real irony comes in when later in the conversation I would be told, “But don’t worry, we don’t have any expectations on your wife. We just want to love on her.” Right! Now I don’t blame people for this natural human tendency, but being aware of how things are keeps you relationally opaque. And it’s not merely pastors and their wives who insulate. Pastoral families at large feel alone because there is a certain level of unknown expectations buried like landmines through the field of the church and so there is a constant mode of mostly transparent.

#6. We Measure Ourselves By The Numbers.

Numbers don’t matter! Yeah right. No matter how badly we want to slap that bumper sticker on our Ford the reality is that numbers matter to us. And they matter to us it part because they matter to God. The problem however goes back to #1-3. The absence of growth in our churches can cascade into an internal turmoil by which we begin to scrounge for “The Next Big Thing” that will bring “Radical Growth” “Guaranteed.” So we read books on how to be a “Deep & Wide, Vertical, Purpose Driven, Radical Reformission, Creature of the Word, Big Idea, Center Church.” Then we jet off to a conference with thousands of other pastors who are seeking to glean the secret of success. And what is the first question we ask one another between sessions? “So, how big is your church?” Yep, we measure ourselves by the numbers.

#7 We Spend More Time Discouraged Than Encouraged.

Occasionally people say to me, “Must be awesome to get paid to study the Bible all day.” Every time they do I think to myself, “Must be awesome to be able to give someone the finger on the 520 without people saying, ‘The pastor at Redemption Church flipped me off today during rush-hour.’” I’m not fully sure why that is the comment that flashes across my mental dashboard, but I think part of it stems from what I perceive to be the tone of the comment. Rightly or wrongly I infer they are saying, “Must be nice to have such a cush gig as a paid quiet-time.” In all honestly it is pretty awesome to be paid study the Bible, but it’s a major downer when people:

  • tell you – after 2 minutes of un-investigated reflection – that your 30 hours of study and 2 collegiate degrees were wrong.
  • tell you that they just couldn’t stay awake today during your sermon, but no offense. (How about I fall asleep at your kid’s graduation and we’ll call it even.)
  • tell you how you should have also said…
  • tell you how Pastor So-N-So says…

Aside from these particular examples I find that for most pastors it generally feels like the boat is taking on water more than racing with the wind – regardless of size or rate of growth. Lead pastors particularly suffer from this since much of their job is to focus on seeing things get better, which often translates into focusing on the broken, lacking or unfilled parts of the church more than enjoying what is right and working. Many of the most faithful and fruitful pastors in history have suffered deeply with anxiety and depression for the same reasons.

#8. We Worry About What You Think.

We’re human and we want to be liked. Therefore when we know we’re going to do or say something people won’t like, we worry about it. Now when I say that I don’t mean to infer that it causes us to avoid the hard things. There are some of my fellow pastors who avoid challenging topics or decisions out of fear of people, but most of the ones I run with still choose deliver the mail regardless of the popularity of its message. Yet we still worry about how you may take it.

#9. We Struggle With Competition And Jealousy.

We like to hold ourselves above the petty fray and reiterate, “It’s all about the Kingdom,” but in reality pastors are a competitive bunch. As soon as one pastor asks another, “How big is your church?” the game is on if the two churches are within 20 miles of each other (past 20 miles we lighten up a lot and think each other is pretty cool). Within 20 miles however we begin to assess one another’s style, focus, message, sophistication and marketing. We gauge to see if it’s a “Goldilocks Church” – not to deep, not too shallow, but just right (like us). If you’re too deep we benchmark you as internally focused. If you’re too shallow we brand you as consumer-driven. If however we conclude that you too are a “Goldilocks Church” we then figure out how our church is still better than your church. If you have lame amenities, we critique that you will never grow until you reboot that 70’s sanctuary. If you have awesome amenities, we criticize that you grow only because people are shallow and care more about stuff than Scripture.

Yes we know it’s not right. We know that it’s ego driven, but we still fall victim to it. We believe our church is the best church ever and we can’t understand why everyone doesn’t see it.

#10. We Feel Like We Failed You More Than We Helped You.

Most pastors will never be famous. Most churches will never break the 100 mark. Yet we all entered ministry to change the world and reach the masses. With this we know it is the expectation of churches that we accomplish this very thing. Every job posting reinforces the idea with the sentence, “We are looking for a man that will take our church to the next level.” Then when the next level isn’t hit in the way anticipated or within the timeline envisioned – we feel like we failed you. This is especially true in light of the reality that we are our own biggest critics. We came in with expectations higher than anyone in the church. You look to us for direction and when we feel like we failed to produce we feel like we failed you.

An Introduction to 2 Peter

28 Jan

Galilee

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

We begin a new series this morning into Peter’s second letter. Why does Peter feel a need to write again and who is he writing to? What is going on? Is this a letter for today? In this study we will answer those questions and more as we search God’s incredible riches together.

2 Pet. 1:1 says, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

First things first. Let’s review what we know about the man. Peter was originally named Simon and he was the son of Jonah according to Jo. 1:42. He had a brother named Andrew. He was married, but Scripture does not mention her name. Jesus healed his mother-in-law of a high fever as recorded in Luke 4:39. He was a fisherman that made that life changing decision to follow Christ while entertaining Jesus on his boat in the Sea of Galilee. In Acts 4:13, the elders in Jerusalem called Peter, “uneducated and untrained.” Peter was part of the inner circle of Jesus and is always listed first in Scripture when talking about Peter, James, and John. He is generally considered the leader of the apostles and typically is the first to speak. When he had questions, he asked. In Matt. 15:15 Peter admitted his ignorance at Jesus’ teaching; in Luke 5:8 he confessed his sinfulness. Peter was with James and John at the transfiguration and also heard the voice of God on what he called the holy mount in this letter. Peter didn’t quite understand the resurrection that Jesus taught. We see Peter’s faith waver as he walks on the water. We see his frailty in the garden when he fell asleep after Jesus asked him to watch and pray. Everyone recalls that Peter denied Jesus three times. It was Peter that cut the ear off of Malchus that Jesus subsequently re-attached. When told of the empty tomb, Peter ran and looked, but failed to understand its significance. Seeing Jesus on the shore after His resurrection, Peter dives into the water and swims to shore. Too often we focus on the negative aspects of Peter, but Peter was a great man for God; a great man of God.

It was Peter that was recognized as the leader of the disciples. He was an apostle of Christ, a messenger of Christ. It was Peter who first recognized Jesus as Messiah in Matt. 16. It was Peter that preached at Pentecost quoting Old Testament scriptures in Joel and Psalms that resulted in over 3000 Jews being saved. At the gate Beautiful, it was Peter who saw the lame man begging for money and said, I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk.”  (Acts 3:6) It was Peter that first preached to the Gentiles and understood that God does not show partiality. (Acts 10:34) When the Pharisees wanted to make the Gentiles keep the Law by being circumcised, it was Peter that stood up and reminded them they were saved by grace and asked them, Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”  (Acts 15:10) It was Peter that raised Dorcas from the dead.  (Acts 9:40) Peter was a great man for God.

Can you trust Peter’s second letter? That’s a great question. There are many skeptics say that this letter was not written by Peter. In fact there is more doubt this letter is authentic than any other book in the N. T. Scholars say Peter draws too much from Greek culture. A Galilean fisherman would not be so closely acquainted with Greek culture. There are 57 words used in this letter that aren’t used anywhere else in the N.T. 32 of those words do not appear in the Greek translation of the O.T. known as the Septuagint. Some argue the writing style is totally different from 1 Peter. So how can you know that this letter is authentic? We always let Scripture interpret Scripture. I think as we progress, you’ll come to the same conclusion I did. This letter was written by the Apostle Peter as he was led by the Holy Spirit of God just as Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:16. As we progress through this letter, I think you’ll see overwhelming evidence that Peter is the human author and this letter is the Word of God.

Peter greets his readers by saying, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:1) Notice that Peter identifies himself right at the beginning. Most of our English translations say Simon Peter, but the original says Symeon, pronounced sim-ee-own´. Peter did not use the normal Greek term for his name, but a Semitic term – one that would be used in a Palestinian or Arab type setting. A setting such as Israel. Symeon was not used in the second century dating this letter in the first century probably around 60-65 A.D. Peter describes himself as, “A bond servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:1) This is really interesting because the bond servant comes from the word that means slave. He willingly placed himself under the authority of Jesus Christ. He had no authority in himself, it came from Christ. The word also conveys the idea of honor. Peter was pleased; it humbled him to be a slave for Christ. Too often we lament and complain about what we perceive we cannot do because we are Christians and we ignore the tremendous honor that comes with being called a child of God; with being a slave for Christ. If you think being a slave is bad, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Paul, James and Jude are each described in the same way. I think that’s a pretty good group of people to be associated with. What we know about slavery in America is not what Peter is talking about. By the strictest definition, a slave is someone that is owned by another without rights to be used in whatever way the owner sees fit. The difference in being a slave for Christ is the Owner has plans for you to prosper, not to harm you. Jo. 12:26 says, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” Imagine, the God that created all the stars, and planets, and animals: the God that created us chooses to use us to grow the Kingdom, to use us to further His plans, to use us to show the love of Jesus: chooses us as part of the plan – if – we’ll simply follow Him.

Not only is Peter a slave, he is an, “Apostle of Jesus Christ.” In some contexts, apostle simply means messenger – that word occurs over 80 times in the N. T. Peter uses it more technically than simply being a messenger. He was called and appointed by Jesus according to Matt. 10 and Mark 3. As we’ll see later in this letter, Peter has all the authority necessary to write as if it were God Himself holding the pencil. He writes, “To those who have received a faith the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The recipients aren’t listed geographically as they are in his first letter, but there is a bond. They, “received a faith.” Received gives us the idea of a gift that must be accepted before it becomes yours. A faith that is, “The same kind as ours” is better translated equal standing leading us to the conclusion that his recipients were likely Gentiles. This would have been somewhat problematic given the special bond between God and His chosen people. Referring to the Gentiles, Paul wrote, “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:12-13) How about Acts 10:34, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.” This echoes the same thing Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:28-29) How is this faith received? “By the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Don’t underestimate the significance of this verse. Some say this righteousness is based on the fairness of God. Nonsense. The gift of God is based on His grace, not some measure of fairness. The righteousness is based on Christ’s sufficiency. He is God and Savior – the same person.

So there we have it. Peter provides a brief introduction before he gets the crux of the letter. This is an extraordinarily important letter as we will see as we search God’s Word for ourselves.

Peter’s Shift in Age

24 Sep

You can catch the podcast here.

Last week Peter spoke of the elder as overseer and he talked about the nature of the elder. Elders are examples not just to God’s people, but to people everywhere. This week Peter closes out this section by speaking to younger men.

1 Peter 5:5-7 says, You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Peter shifts from speaking about elders to the younger men, but what does younger mean? Some people get really hung on this phrase. Remember that Peter is writing to believers scattered across Asia. In 5:1 he speaks directly to the elders among the church. In light of this, it is likely that Peter is speaking to the younger men among the people as a specific age group. Why would Peter call out young men? The answer comes from what he says next. He says, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders.” Likewise – just like everyone else in the congregation. It’s a reminder to the younger men. Why them? Think about the young men you know. As a rule, are they compliant? This isn’t the first time Peter mentions the idea of submitting to authority. In 2:13, he told us to submit to every human institution. In 2:18, he told servants to submit to their masters whether they were good and gentle or unreasonable. In 3:1 and 5 he told wives to be submissive to their own husbands. The idea of submitting to others is not new. But it’s the younger men in particular that Peter reminds to submit to those in authority. There seems to be a rebellious streak in young men that may not be as prevalent in young women and Peter wants to be firm in his reminder to submit to those in authority. But it’s not blind obedience for any follower. We saw earlier that Peter told leaders not to use their authority as dictators. If teaching or guidance is given that is contrary to God’s Word, it shouldn’t be followed. At the same time, people should be inclined to follow the leadership and submit to their authority and not complain about everything that goes on.

Now Peter shifts again. “And all of you.” If there’s any doubt, he includes the entire congregation scattered about. “Those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” (1 Pet. 1:1) Everyone who is reading this letter, who is having this letter read to them. “And all of you clothe yourself with humility.”  Smooth relations will exist in the church if we have a spirit of humility. If we simply have the attitude that everyone is important, things will be smooth. If we have the attitude that we’re all on a journey of discipleship, we’ll get along just fine. Problems can arise when someone wants to exercise some kind of power over another, or wants to dictate how something must be done, or gets upset if their idea isn’t adopted or supported. The foundation of Peter’s challenge is found in Prov. 3:34: Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted.” James quotes the same proverb in 4:6 of his letter. God is against the proud. It’s as simple as that.

Peter’s concludes by saying, “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” Let’s look at the first phrase. The “therefore” is there to tell us that since God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, we need to be humble. When we humble ourselves, we’ll experience God’s grace. We know contextually that believers are suffering through trials and persecutions and afflictions for their faith in Jesus who is the Christ. Believers are challenged to persevere regardless of their circumstances. We need to accept the suffering that God allows in our lives as part of His plan for our purification that Peter spoke of in 1 Pet. 4:7. He will lift you up at the proper time. When is that time? It may not be in this world, but we’re under God’s mighty hand.

The second phrase is one of the most often quoted verses in times of trouble. All you have to do, troubled Christian, is throw the cares or worries of this would to the Lord. It’s that simple! But too often, those words are hollow reminders of our inadequacy and we continue to worry over matters that are beyond our control because no one ever told us HOW to do that. Cast is a verb – an action word and it’s connected to the phrase humble yourselves. It tells us how to actually cast all your cares on Him. Here’s the relationship between the two. Believers humble themselves by casting their worries on God. If we continue to worry, then we are giving in to pride. How can anxiety and worry be characterized as pride? No one would argue that at the very least, worry could be a lack of faith, but pride? When we worry – also a verb – we’re convinced that we must do something to fix or control a situation. We’re trusting in ourselves. When we throw our worries to God, we acknowledge our trust in Him. We acknowledging that God is Lord and He is sovereign over everything. Peter knows the church is suffering; he knows they are under persecution and affliction. Casting your worries on God wouldn’t bring comfort if God wasn’t able to provide help in time of need. You wouldn’t tell someone your troubles or concerns that’s apathetic, cold hearted, or cruel. You wouldn’t do that because they don’t care. Giving your worry to God makes great sense, “Because He cares for you.” God is not indifferent and He’s not cruel. He has compassion on his children and will sustain them in every distress. Ps. 55:22, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Affliction and trials will either drive you into the loving arms of God or will separate you from God. You think Peter doesn’t know a thing or two about pride? Peter told Jesus in Matt. 26:3, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you.” I’m sure Peter’s pride haunted him.

Regardless of your affliction or trials, God really does care for you. When you trust Him, you acknowledge His mighty hand, His power, His strength, and His sovereignty. When we humble ourselves before Him, it opens the floodgates for His grace to pour down on us.

The Elder as Shepherd

10 Sep

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week Peter encouraged us with the fact that more trials are coming and we ought not be surprised about it. But he also said that judgment is coming and it will begin with the house of God. As we move to Chapter 5, Peter begins addressing a group we haven’t seen to this point.

1 Peter 5:1-4 tells us, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Peter talks about the elder as a shepherd and mentions the term elder here for the first time. He addresses the elders who are among you in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. He counts himself among them as a fellow elder. Peter exhorts them. This is an interesting word. It means to encourage or address in a manner of comfort and instruction. It was not a word that describes sternness or a command to obey. Peter says, “I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder.” Peter was an elder like those he was addressing. He did not approach them with the authority of his apostolic office. He did not use these words because he was the head of the church; or because, he had any pre-eminence over the other elders. Remember Alexander Haig? He was the Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. After the assassination attempt on March 30, 1981, Haig was quoted as saying, “I’m in control here.” Do you think Peter would he have used this language if he was the “head of the church” on earth?

Peter wanted the elders to understand that he was one of them, not over them, but a fellow elder. He speaks with humility and compassion. Remember, he just told them, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Peter is concerned about the order and government of the church as well as submission and devotion. It is with this background that Peter speaks with the elders, those who are leaders, administrators, and judges in the church.

Let’s look at the term so we can get a better understanding of what it means. Eldership in the N. T. church followed the example that the Lord established for Israel. Gen. 50:7 speaks of elders in the house of Joseph. Elders of Moab and Midian are mentioned in Num. 22:7. Abraham’s servant is mentioned as having charge over “all that he owned” in Gen. 24:2. During the exodus from Egypt, the elders of Israel formed a definite group whose authority was recognized in Ex. 3:16-18. The ordinance of Passover was given to Israel through the elders as recorded in Ex. 12:3. Moses structured the government of Israel to include judges to govern groups ranging in size from 10 to 1000. 70 elders of Israel were granted a vision of God in Ex. 24 and were later filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied in Num. 11. Elders continued in a governing fashion during the exodus, through the exile period, and after exile. Each Jewish community had a council of elders or presbytery as mentioned in Luke 7.  In Chapter 20, Luke also mentions, “the chief priests and the scribes with the elders” in the temple confronting Jesus. When Christ made atonement for sin on the cross, His sacrifice eliminated the need for a priestly office, but the government of elders continued. Paul distinguishes the gift of rule and the gift of teaching when speaking of the functions of the office and ordained elders in the churches he planted. Administrators as well as teachers served the church. Jesus spoke of scribes that seemed to indicate these men were specially gifted in teaching and preaching. The ministry of teaching elders is emphasized in the New Testament, but Peter seems to emphasize the governing aspect of elders and likens an elder to a shepherd, a term that means feeding as well as oversight.

Elder comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which means elderly. Some denominations are governed by a group called the presbytery or elders. There are several words for the office of pastor that are used interchangeably in the New Testament. Each describes a different function of the office. Here, Peter concentrates on the shepherding aspect of an elder. Peter exhorts the elders to, “shepherd the flock of God among you.” Shepherd comes from the word poimaino. Peter knows about this word first hand. It is the same word that Jesus used to describe Peter’s responsibility to His sheep in John 21 when He called Peter. Shepherd covers two aspects of an elder’s responsibility. The first is feed which represents the real aspect of feeding.  It is providing nutrients. For the shepherd, it means leading the flock to green pastures. It means making sure the flock has everything necessary to ensure their physical well-being. The second aspect of shepherding addresses the care, guidance, and protection of the flock. A shepherd was to offer proper food for his flock and to govern it.  We call this exercising the office of pastor. It means, as a good shepherd provides for the wants and needs of his flock, the pastor of the church is to furnish food for the soul so the faith of believers may be strengthened. Notice the elder is shown as a shepherd leading his flock rather than a cowboy driving them. Sheep do not respond well to force and neither do the people in God’s flock.

It takes a special man to shepherd the flock. It can be discouraging and disheartening when the sheep don’t follow the lead. But you don’t quit. The sheep need proper nourishment.

Exhortation, Leading, and Administrations

3 Mar

Our text today comes from Romans 12:6-8 if you’d like to grab your copy of God’s Word. We’re going to look at three gifts today. The first is a spiritual gift that doesn’t get much exposure from the pulpits of America in this day and age.  The gift is exhortation.  The word exhortation comes from two Greek words: para meaning to the side and kaleo meaning to call or to call near. When you put it together you get parakaleo which means to call to someone’s side, or entreat. It refers to someone who urges another person to pursue a course of conduct. The person with the gift of exhortation has the supernatural ability to effectively encourage or comfort another person. It is the ability to come along side someone and encourage them to walk a path of obedience.

Let’s look at some other words in Scripture that will help us better understand what this word means. In John 14:16, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” Helper is the Greek word parakletos. Sound familiar?  It comes from the same root word as exhort. What Jesus is saying is an extraordinarily important concept in Christianity. Here’s the background:

  • Jesus is with the disciples and they had just eaten the last supper.
  • He’s talking about going to prepare a place for them and they’re wondering where He’s going.
  • Jesus tells them they know the way and Philip responds by saying, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?  Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'”
  • Phillip asks Jesus to show them the Father.
  • Jesus says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
  • The disciples are concerned about living without the guidance and direction of Christ.
  • That’s when Jesus tells them, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” Helper, remember, is the word parakletos.

The Father will give another helper. In this context, another means in the same kind as Jesus. This other helper would be with the disciples forever indwelling them.     This helper gives the ability for believers to obey the will of God. But we know that there is a spiritual gift of exhortation given at salvation, so let’s see if we can find out some more about it.

In 1 John 2:1 Jesus is called the Advocate which comes from the same word as exhort.  When believers sin, Jesus acts as an advocate with God. Advocate is someone summoned, called to one’s side, especially called to one’s aid.

In Acts 9, it was Barnabas that took a newly saved Paul under his wing. Barnabas’ given name was Joseph, but the apostles renamed him Barnabas which means son of encouragement. Barnabas came along side John Mark when Paul dumped him in favor of Silas. Barnabas was so effective in encouraging and mentoring John Mark that Paul asked Timothy to bring Mark to him in 2 Timothy 4:11.

In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas were in the synagogue hanging out.  After the synagogue officials read from the Law and the prophets, they asked Paul and Barnabas, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.” I encourage you to read the account for yourself, but here’s the short version. Paul’s words of exhortation covered Moses and the exodus, the teachings about the death and resurrection of the Messiah, and a word of warning about what they had just heard. The word of encouragement was so powerful, that the people begged them to come back the following Sabbath and speak dome more. The next Sabbath, nearly the whole town came to hear from Paul.

The writer of Hebrews concludes by saying, “But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” Urge comes from the same root word as exhort. In other words, he’s saying I exhort you to listen to this word of exhortation which is actually a warning.

Paul’s wrote warnings as part of his letters to the Thessalonians. They were exhorted to work in a quiet fashion and eat their own bread. Some folks had quit working and had become busybodies and were being a burden on others because they didn’t want to work. Paul had a warning for those folks and said, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” (2 Thes. 3:10)

Peter exhorted the people at Pentecost to be saved and exhorted the elders to shepherd the flock.

Timothy was told by Paul to exhort with patience and instruction.

Titus was told to hold fast the faithful word so he could exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.

The gift of exhortation is the supernatural ability that enables some believers to motivate others to live lives that are in keeping with the commands of Scripture.  They give encouragement and warning to the body and call others to believe in Christ. This gift is often paired with the gift of prophesy or teaching, but also appears by itself. Like the teacher, the exhorter must be a student of the Word to provide encouragement and motivation that line up with Scripture.

The second gift for today is the gift of leadership. Romans 12:8 tells us that whoever has the gift of leadership should lead with diligence. Lead comes from the word that means to stand in front or before, to preside or maintain.

Jesus was the perfect example of leadership. He set the standard of leadership by washing the disciple’s feet, a job normally performed by a servant. He encouraged them to follow his example and wash one another’s feet. He led with humility and He led by example. Peter was one of the ones who got his feet washed by Christ. Remember he protested this unseemly act until he understood its significance.  He then asked Jesus to wash his hands and his head.

  • Peter was a leader who exhorted the elders to shepherd the flock of God, to exercise oversight, not lording it over them, but to be an example to the flock.
  • Paul followed Jesus’ example and led believers to be imitators of Christ.  He wrote to the elders about how to lead and he exemplified good leadership.
  • From our teaching on the pastor – teacher, I hope you remember that one of the words for pastor is overseer. It means one who is an over seer, a leader. In 1 Timothy 3, elders were required to manage their households well. Manage is the same word as rule in Romans 12:8. A leader in the church is someone that must manage his own household well. Some other characteristics of a leader include being above reproach, respectable, gentle, of a good reputation, and they are to hold fast the faithful word.

There are also some warnings regarding leadership. Paul and Peter warned against following false teachers and prophets.  These are people who would lead others away from the holiness of following Christ and His Word. Paul warned Timothy that he shouldn’t receive an accusation against an elder unless there were two or more witnesses. Paul gave another warning to Timothy, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily.” He’s not talking about physically laying hands on someone, but that doesn’t mean you can. Paul is saying that people need time to develop their gift before being in put in charge. Observing other leaders is a good way to learn what to do  . . .and what not do.

Leadership is serious business. Hebrews tells us that leaders watch over your souls and will give an account to the Lord. The church is to, “. . . appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” (1 Thess. 5:12-13) Charge is the same word rule used in Romans 12:8.

Elders, overseers, and pastors should have this gift and should be using it for the common good of the body. Is it possible for a pastor to be a pastor and not have this gift? Absolutely, but in order for the church to function effectively, there must be other people surrounding the pastor that have this gift.

Finally we’ll look at the spiritual gift of administrations. This gift shows up only in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and is a similar to the gift of leadership. Administration comes from the word kubernesis meaning to guide, steer, or direct. In Acts 27:11, the word is translated as pilot and in context was the one that is actually steering or guiding where a ship was going.

So what’s the difference between leadership and administrations? There are some people that believe that the gift of leadership and the gift of administrations are the same. They are very similar, but there is a difference. The person with the gift of leadership sets the over arching goals, sets the direction, and exercises care and control over those under his charge. The person with the gift of administration is the one who devises the specific plans to achieve the goal.

Leadership and administrations come from two different Greek words and are used in two distinct ways in Scripture so I would conclude that they are two separate gifts. Think about it this way. The person steering the ship still takes his orders from the captain. The captain knows where they are going and provides direction and leadership to get there, but does not control the rudder. It’s the same thing in the church.  The leader sets the course and the administrator steers and guides the body in order to arrive at the destination.

Each of these gifts are active in the church today. Are you spiritually gifted by God in these areas? If so, how are you fulfilling the purpose God has for you?