It’s time to invest in face-to-face training that empowers employees to have difficult conversations, says Tamekia MizLadi Smith. In a witty, provocative talk, Smith shares a workplace training program called “I’m G.R.A.C.E.D.” that will inspire bosses and employees alike to communicate with compassion and respect. Bottom line: always let people know why their work matters.
Today’s post is part of an ongoing discussion about what followers of Jesus Christ can do to help transform our urban centers. I am by no means an expert but want to help facilitate the conversations and begin to tap into the collective hearts and minds of my readers and those serving in this vital area of ministry.
What are Cities famous for today?
1. Cities have diversity.
Ray Bakke says, “Yesterday, cities were in the nations: today all the nations are in the cities.”
2. Cities have a wealth of assets.
The city has a wealth of talented people, businesses that come from a broad and diverse background. Imagine being able to organize and tap into all that potential and focus it on transforming the cities in which we live, breath, and have our livelihoods.
3. Cities also have their share of problems.
a. Corruption in government
I will let you insert your own experiences with dealing with city government and some law enforcement officers. I want to emphasize some police officers. I have run across many more dedicated servants than bad ones.
b. Gang Activity.
“In the metropolitan Chicago area, about 100,000 young people are involved in gangs. The largest is the Latin Disciples with about 10,000 members. There are about 120 different gangs in the Chicago area.”
c. Drug addiction
This problem is tied to the one listed above. Gangs make their living by engaging in the business of selling drugs. These young people have developed a very lucrative drug trafficking business. Here is the reality. In Chicago, my context, it is possible for young kids, ten to sixteen years old to make $800 to $1,000 a week just being a spotter for drug dealers. I remember driving to a meeting at a church in Chicago, and I was talking to a co-worker on the phone as I am passing by a drug deal going down on the streets right in front of me.
We all know the ugly realities and the potential of the city. What could they become? Here is a look from Scripture of what God imagined.
So, what should our cities and communities look like? (Zechariah 8; Isaiah 61)
“Thus, says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.”Zechariah 8:4-5
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;” Isaiah 61:1
The background of the passage in Isaiah is the “Year of Jubilee” described in Leviticus 25:7ff. Every seven years, the Jews were to observe a “sabbatical year” and allow the land to rest. After seven sabbaticals or forty-nine years, they were to celebrate the fiftieth year as the “Year of Jubilee.” During that year, all debts were canceled, all land was returned to the original owners, the slaves were freed, and everybody was given a fresh new beginning. This was the Lord’s way of balancing the economy and keeping the rich from exploiting the poor.
Imagine giving everyone in the city a reset. What would your life look like if every seven years you could reset? Your past wiped out and you get a fresh start. As Christians, we get a constant reset.
“But God, being compassionate, kept forgiving their sins, kept avoiding destruction; he took back his anger so many times, wouldn’t stir up all his wrath!”Psalm 78:38
“But don’t remember the sins of my youth or my wrongdoing. Remember me only according to your faithful love for the sake of your goodness,” Lord. Psalm 25:7
I will leave with this challenging question until next week’s blog post. As believers and churches, how could you engage your city and community in a fresh way? And if you interact differently what new ministries are you creating and old ones you are redefining? I would love for you to share that in the comment section for all readers to benefit and share ideas.
If you like this share it. Let’s help this conversation go viral. Let’s love the cities back to God.
Locke, Heart for the City, 437.
Early in our married life, my family moved a lot, six times in six years to be exact. You learn a great deal about how to transition. Transitions are hard on you; they are hard on the family, and they are hard on organizations. Here are tips to help you transition well. Now, these tips work for organizations, but they are also good general principles for personal change.
Whenever you come into an organization if you are the leader of that group you are a significant disruption to the status quo. You have radically altered the norm. Your presence as a new leader creates uncertainty and doubt. One way to ease the tension is to establish stability. You can do this by starting a consistent pattern. Keep, the rhythms already in place. Developing a beat will help ease the tensions of your co-workers. It allows people on the team to know what to expect from you and communicate those expectations early and often. No one wants to guess what the leader is thinking.
Before you can lead people anywhere, you have to earn their trust and their hearts. First, they follow you because of your position. That is the lowest level of leadership. John Maxwell defines this first level of leadership. “This is the lowest level of leadership—the entry level. People who make it only to Level 1 may be bosses, but they are never leaders. They have subordinates, not team members. They rely on rules, regulations, policies, and organization charts to control their people.”
If as a leader you don’t take the time to invest in relationships you will struggle to get above this lowest level of lead. You earn your peoples trust and loyalty, and they will follow you because they believe in you as a leader. Then your team will feel in your vision. As the new guy, it falls on you to go the extra mile in making the authentic relationship connections.
To be fair on this one, it is more of a personal requirement. Deep in the core of who I am, I value authenticity. I don’t like fake people nor fake relationships. I have a small circle of real friends, and I demand and offer hard honest conversations. The disadvantage of our social media generation is that we can fake authentic relationships. I purged my Facebook list because I had over “two thousand friends.” I had to look at their pictures to know who they were and even then, it didn’t help. When it comes to the work environment I want to be in a place where we can have those tough conversations. It is in those moments we can both grow. How many people do you want to tell that something they do or don’t do is affecting either your relationship or the health and production of the organization? You won’t have that hard conversation, and the relationship suffers, the ministry suffers.
Following these simple tips can make your transition go a little more smoothly. It is important for you to remember change is an opportunity to reset. Learn from past mistakes and past success.
Because change is always tricky to navigate here are more posts on leading change:
Teens don’t get enough sleep, and it’s not because of Snapchat, social lives or hormones — it’s because of public policy, says Wendy Troxel. Drawing from her experience as a sleep researcher, clinician and mother of a teenager, Troxel discusses how early school start times deprive adolescents of sleep during the time of their lives when they need it most.
Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place relates an incident that taught her always to be thankful. She and her sister, Betsy, had just been transferred to the worst German prison camp. They had not seen Ravensbruck. On entering the barracks, they found them it overcrowded and flea-infested.
That morning, their Scripture reading was 1 Thessalonians. It would remind them to rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first refused to give thanks for the fleas. But Betsy persisted, and Corrie finally succumbed to her pleadings. During the months they spent at that camp, they were surprised at how freely they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings, without guard interference. It was not until several months later that they learned the reason the guards would not enter the barracks. It was because of the fleas.
The opening illustration points out an interesting dilemma we Christians face discussing praying with a thankful spirit. A grateful spirit becomes more challenging during times of oppression, persecution or grief than during periods of bliss. I have had seasoned, and new Christians ask me this question. “Please tell me how we are supposed to ignore all the pain and suffering and have a thankful attitude? What exactly I am thanking you for Lord?” Have you been there? Have you wanted to ask God this question? I want to explore the answer. We will see want answers God provides.
For our text, Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:15-18
One key to understanding the context is to realize giving is addressed to God. The significance of this distinction is that our thankfulness is connected to God. We are thankful to God regardless of our circumstances and despite whatever may happen. We are not grateful for what happens to us. Our dedication is to God. The psalmist models this. You will see the psalmist pour his heart out to God in a lament. He is not thanking God for his situation, but the psalmist will lay his case before God. The writer releases his pain. He acknowledges his thankfulness for God’s faithfulness and strength. A sample of this is in Psalm 142. Examine the format below.
Address and introductory cry
With my voice, I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice, I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
The Lament (the real problem)
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
Confession of trust
I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
The Christian through faith can rejoice in spite of meanness and persecution. The joy for the Christians is the result of the entire gospel of Jesus Christ. That Gospel wells up and overflows in the soul of the believer. This salvation is theirs in Christ. Our earthly joys fade, but for a brief moment due to our circumstances. We can remain thankful because the joy of salvation never fades. It is this joy of salvation that allows us to pray with a thankful spirit. So it is not the situation or some Pollyanna view of a broken world that shapes our thankfulness. We are reminded to rejoice in spite of the many little adversities. Satan will attempt to use against use to lessen and even darken our joy. But the Christian stands in bold defiance on the cross of Christ and declares, “Satan you will not take my joy. You will not ruin my happiness because my life merges into eternal joy.”
Other blog posts in this series on prayer.
 Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
In my travels to hundreds of congregations, I have one new common question I ask members. “How are you being trained to use the spiritual gifts God has given you?” The blank looks or even looks of confusion tell a troubling tale of a failure by the church.
As we continue this series on ministry engagement, allow me to take you deeper into Ephesians 4.
Importance of development
Paul in verse 14 says, then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
R.C. Sproul points out, “One of the greatest obstacles encountered in a teaching ministry is this idea, pervasive in the Christian church, that there is no benefit to be had by the laity in serious study of the Word of God or in the study of theology. We have elevated to the level of an idea the idea of having a simple, childlike faith. We find people saying, ‘I want my faith to be simple and childlike, I don’t need to know any theology. All I need to know is Jesus.’ That sentiment is a childish sentiment and, I suggest to you, it is a sinful sentiment.”
The church is doing their members no favors by watering down the importance of growth we receive in the study and application of God’s word. The enemy of spiritual growth is time. Our schedules don’t allow for intense training. It is easy to skip our need for spiritual maturity in the things of God. Paul warns that this lack of depth leaves our people targets, even prey for the craftiness and cunning of men and Satan. I would also argue this leaves our churches open to whatever new wave of false teaching and ministry misdirections may come our way. The church that is not grounded is susceptible to every fad that comes down the line.
In my research on Millennials two essentials things they value is: 1) Leadership they can believe in and 2) Leaders to help develop them. I don’t think that only applies to Millennials. This leadership development is what Paul is describing. He talks about living a life above reproach and one where he does not become a stumbling block. Here in Ephesians 4 he also champions developing the people God has called us to shepherd. Both are vital elements in engaging the people sitting in the pews. Come back next week for the next installment.
If wonder how does this look? This post will be a starting point.
As I begin this new week help me be what you have called, chosen and set me apart to be, a witness to the light. I am reminded of the words of Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Those words echo your words given to us through the apostles Paul, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth and find out what pleases the Lord. – Eph 5:8-10 I am so blessed you have called me out of darkness Lord, give me the strength to live a life worthy of my calling. In the gracious name of Jesus Christ, Amen
It is Monday and I want to begin my week in the comfort of your love. You know Lord that when life is influx it causes my spirit anxiety. The Psalmists reminds me, “Whenever I feel my foot slipping, your faithful love steadies me, Lord. When my anxieties multiply, your comforting calms me down.” Ps 94:18-19. Teach me, Lord, to live one day at a time. To learn to enjoy every moment I get to live in your grace. I know hardship and trials will come, buy lead me through those moments deeper into your grace, mercy, and peace. Jesus, you took on the effects of this sinful world and you lifted the veil of darkness off of death, and gave me the victory through your death and rising again to life. Remind me to trust in my Savior who will make all things right. Bring me joy this week and help me pass that joy on to those you put in my path. I pray this in the precious name of Jesus my Lord and my Savior. Amen
As I rejoice that you have allowed me to see the beginning of a new week. I am reminded of your words, your directive, your purpose for my life in Matthew 5 “You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” Lord send people into my path this week I can be a blessing to, or encouragement, may the words of my mouth, the witness of my life, and the influence of my deeds show others your holiness and grace and lead them to acknowledge your majesty and might and give glory to Your name. You sent people to do that in my life, let me pass that light on to others. In the mighty name of Jesus, my Lord and My Savior, Amen.
You have brought me to the beginning of a new week. I should be refreshed and raring to go but to be honest Lord I am tired, I am weary, and I am exhausted. Here is my moment of transparency, my time of confession Lord. I get my priorities mixed up more times than I care to admit. I work too hard and play too little. I major in the minors. Make mountains out of molehills. Worship at the altar of success and accomplishment. My number one strength is competition. Losing is not an option. I fail to place God first. My prayer life is sporadic. I talk more to you God than listen. I am Self-centered, me-focused, anxiety-ridden, completely and totally out of line with God’s desire for my life more often than I want to admit. I am a sinner in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Yet, despite my miserable condition Jesus you still love me. You still shepherd me. You offer me the same invitation you did to the disciples in Mark 6, “Let’s go to a place where we can be alone to rest for a while.” In this place of solitude, you offer me time alone with You to refresh my soul, to recharge my physical body so I can be the effective servant you called me to be. Help me Lord, find balance in my life, forgive me when my selfish goals have taken me outside your will. Let me start this week refreshed and ready to serve my Lord and Savior. In Jesus precious name, Amen.
It’s Monday and as the summer fades into fall and many young people turn their thoughts to school, it reminds me of how dangerous labels can be. We all face labels, whether people see you as white and privileged, black and dangerous, Latino who some claim are illegals and taking our jobs, or Millennials that they label as entitled and self-centered. None of those labels define who we are, who we were created to be. If we stripped away all the factors that would identify us, our race, heritage, location, GPA at our very core who are we? Apart from Christ, we are sinners in need of a Savior. The world and Satan designed labels to limit what God has planned in advance for us to accomplish. Lord, help us not to let the world define others nor accept those definitions for ourselves. You have called us, your masterpiece. God, you have said we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”Peter reminds us we belong to something bigger than ourselves. We belong to something with an eternal significance, our lives matter. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” You have set us apart for a divine purpose to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”1 Peter 2:9 Dear Jesus help us live as children of the light and shine brightly in the darkness. In the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
As the dawn of a new week rises, I pray today for all pastors and leaders of the church. I am reminded of the conversation our Lord had with James and John when they asked for a place of glory at Your right and left side. You replied, “You will drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left hand isn’t mine to give. It belongs to those for whom my Father prepared it.” While they sought glory, you promised them a baptism of persecution. Put a hedge around your servants Lord to protect them from the Evil One. Surround them with faithful members who will lift them up in prayer. Raise up for yourself praying churches, because as the believers in Acts 12, remind us, there is power in prayer. Never underestimate the power of a praying church to defeat the plans of the Devil. Direct our prayers to hold up and strengthen our leaders. We pray for the clarity of the mission. Lord give us the heart to engage with those disinterested in Your grace. May your church threaten the strongholds of the Evil one, as the victory has already been won through Jesus death and resurrection. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, who has done immeasurably more than we could ever imagine. Amen.
As this new week begins, I am seeking your clear direction for my life. You know Lord that patience is not my natural virtue. I don’t like the unknown. Uncertainty is like fingers on a chalkboard. This new week I find comfort in the words of the Psalmist who so beautifully pinned these soul-enriching words, “3 Lord, in the morning you hear my voice. In the morning I lay it all out before you. Then I wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3 I lay before you Lord all the things in life that cause my soul distress. All those things that create an unsettled and troubled mind. I know that everything will be according to your divine plan, help me Lord lay it all before you and learn to walk away. Whether I can see your plan clearly or not, I know it will be alright. Give me the patience to wait confidently for your will to be revealed. Allow me to remain in the arms of my Savior peacefully and to wait expectantly for you. In Jesus precious name, Amen.
It’s Monday and going back to the grind of daily life can be hard. Sunday afforded us an opportunity to reconnect with you and be fed and nourished by you. Now, Monday brings the dance of another week all over again it is the beginning of a work adventure, possibly new challenges, new adventures, or new opportunities. This is a week filled with potential and potholes. So, I pray you would help us to embrace this day and trust in you this day.
Let it be a new day and a beautiful day. Help us to see beyond the clouds and embrace the sunrise. Let us not focus on the rain but the ripples of your grace in the oceans. Create in us a passion for embracing those you created and value them as you do as ones loved by the Almighty. Help us not focus on the tensions and troubles in our lives, but live ours with a spirit of gratitude. Monday need not be the grudge day to be endured but the fun day to be embraced. May this indeed be a happy Monday. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (CEB)
It’s Monday again. This is the beginning of a new week. Spring is in the air and with the blooming of fresh flowers is also the blooming of new hopes and dreams. With everything beautiful comes thorns and weeds. Lord, I pray you don’t let the challenges of life choke out my joy and my contentment. Contentment does not come from what is happening around me it is internal, based on the fact that I am redeemed, loved and, forgiven. Teach me your ways oh Lord that I can live my life as Paul suggests, always rejoicing, praying continually and giving thanks for what I have not what I desire. Lord, keep me inside your will for me this day and every day. And this will be a truly happy Monday. In Jesus’s precious name, Amen.
On this Monday, as we saunter toward the Festival of Pentecost, always enkindle us, eternally, uplift us, let the fire of Pentecost burn brightly in us. May your Holy Spirit repeatedly point us back to where our deliverance lies in your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. For those outside the Light of the World, who have been crushed by the weight of sin, for those whose spirit is lowly may the Holy Spirit resurrect them. For the one who is high and lifted up, who lives forever, whose name is holy, says: I live on high, in holiness, and also with the crushed and the lowly, reviving the spirit of the humble, reviving the heart of those who have been crushed. In the Magnificent Name of Jesus, Amen
Another Monday has arrived. I endured another weekend and look forward to the start of a fresh experience with you. This week we celebrate the Holy Trinity. I can recall consuming way too much time struggling to interpret it to my flock instead of just admiring the roles Your distinct persons play in my creation and development. Dear Father, thank you for uniquely creating me to accomplish something awesome in your kingdom. Jesus, my Savior, thank you for redeeming me, I didn’t and still don’t deserve the sacrifice you made on the cross to make me Your Own. And Holy Spirit, thank you for daily pointing me to a limitless pool of writing material, devotional reflections, incredible ah-ha moments, new perspectives, deeper dives into the work of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What has the Trinity done, created, redeemed and enlightens me. This Monday I stand in awe of you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thank you for all you do. In Jesus Name, Amen.
It is Monday the start of another week, another opportunity to reconnect with you. The struggles of life make it very easy to forget how deeply loved I am by you. Lord, you are there amid my healing you are there when your heart breaks. You are there when Satan tries to convince me I have fallen from grace. You are there when my heart is breaking, and all I see around me is chaos and pain. But you have never abandoned me, you instead have promised me you would never leave me nor forsake me. Let your love, grace and forgiveness wash over me like a tidal wave. Refresh me this week Lord with your Word in our time of prayer and devotion. In Jesus Name, Amen.
As I begin this new week, help me take to heart the words of Paul, “13Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:13). I know my life does not always reflect the faith I confess. I pray dear Jesus as you are sending me in the world to be a witness to the love and grace I have received that my actions, my words, my life would lead people to ask about the Saviour, who welcomes sinners. Make me ready and able to defend the faith with bold confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
Another Monday morning dawns, this week Lord remind me of your divine protection. Life, like the year, has its season. There are moments when my walk with you seems cold, as life happens at a breakneck pace and situations distract me from the source of my strength and comfort. Other times are like spring, new life, deeper connections, new revelations in our time together. Then you have the times of struggle, uncertainty, trials where it feels like the heat of summer. Life bares down on you like the heat of a Louisiana summer. No matter where you go, no matter what you do the weather, the pressure on life is unbearable. In those moments Lord, I am reminded of the words of the psalmist, “The Lord is your protector; the Lord is your shade right beside you. The sun won’t strike you during the day; neither will the moon at night.” So, dear precious Savior, Jesus Christ, be my shade today, this week, this season. In the name of my protector, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Save this link. I will be adding more each week until we reach 52. Feel free to share. I pray this is a blessing to you.
Sometimes in my life when I look back at my time in the parish I feel for my congregation members. My parents raised me with the idea that “good enough” was not acceptable. The definition of complacency, “as soon as you are comfortable with where you are, you are heading in the wrong direction.”
Boy, do I relate to this quote, “Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with things as they are. The second is a rejection of things as they might be. “Good enough” becomes today’s watchword and tomorrow’s standard. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new. Like water, complacent people follow the easiest course — downhill. They draw false strength from looking back.” -Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, p. 15.
The Signs of Complacency.
1) Satisfaction with things as they are.
15I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelations 3:15-16
Complacency is a spiritual condition. John describes it in Revelation with the Laodiceans. This church was in a spiritually lukewarm state. Their situation was not cold as in those in the world who have no relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ. Neither were they hot fervently living out their calling as the people of God. No, the Laodiceans were in this comfortable middle, a state of Lukewarmness, they were complacent. One commentator describes it this way. “The lukewarm state, if it be the transitional stage to a warmer, is a desirable state (for a little religion, if real, is better than none); but most fatal when, as here, an abiding condition, for it is mistaken for a safe state” He describes along with John the danger of settling for “good enough.”
2) The rejection of things as they might be.
How does the Church and Christian get here? There are many factors. It is a rejection of growth, personal, spiritual, and organizational. It is a rejection of an innovation. We will define this term later so hang in. The enemies of change are lack of vision, embracing the status quo, and too many rules and regulations.
When many church people hear business terms, they recoil immediately and reject them without ever taking the time to consider it. Let me start this section with a definition of what innovation is: “Innovation can be defined as the process of implementing new ideas to create value for an organization. This may mean creating a new service, system, or process, or enhancing existing ones. Innovation can also take the form of discontinuing an inefficient or out-of-date service, system, or process.”
What the church needs to hear from this is simple. I am not asking nor promoting we throw out our faith, our doctrine, our beliefs, but I am asking you to throw out the programs, the ministries, the practices that are not working, have not worked since 1954 and try to update your way of doing ministry. The world around you is changing; it is adopting, it is ignoring the church. The world sees the church as out of touch. I am sharing this because we have a message the world desperately needs to hear. I sort of feel like Jeremiah. Keeping the word of God to myself would be easy. Just preach to whatever people show up, but it is too critical to keep it contained in my building, in the ears of my tribe alone. There is an intense fire trapped in my heart burning in my bones demanding the word of God be shared. We have the message right, now let’s get the methods of delivery right. You can’t base new ideas on old paradigms.
9I thought, I’ll forget him;
I’ll no longer speak in his name.
But there’s an intense fire in my heart,
trapped in my bones.
I’m drained trying to contain it;
I’m unable to do it. Jeremiah 20:9
Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible(Vol. 2, p. 562). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Common Ministry Misconception: The people of God are comfortable sitting in the pew watching the clergy do all the ministry.
The Truth of the matter is: The people of God do not want to sit they want to be equipped and sent. If you get nothing else from this series on engagement get that point.
The church is not a gallery where we exhibit the finest of Christians. No, it is a school where we educate and encourage imperfect Christians. 1
The concept of “equipping the saints” is complex. Church leaders often focus on only a portion of this verse, “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Stopping here leaves out the reason for the equipping and what we are equipping people to do. Here is the complete verse for our study and reflection.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.2
There is much to unpack here. And too much to cover in 500 words or less. With that in mind, this will be a two-part blog post. Come back next week for the conclusion.
Equipped to Build Up the Body of Christ
As leaders of the church, you have been given gifts for God to accomplish His mission. The caution for leaders is understanding how to use your gifts. The gifts given to leaders are to unite the body of Christ not to tear it apart. One of the sadist things I have witnessed in the church is to see leaders get puffed up because of their gifts and what was intended for good, destroys unity in the body and eventually does damage to the mission. Gifts were meant for the edification, uplifting, strengthening and building up the people. He arePaul’s words again.
Eric Alexander remarks on this passage that the principle of unity is inviolable, having been established by God. The practice of unity, however, is violable, being broken all the time. The goal of maturity in Christ is to successfully unite those two. How ironic it is that the very unity of the faith, and unity of the knowledge of God, is, in fact, the very thing that causes schisms. Paul here is speaking doctrinally—there is but one true gospel to which all believers should adhere. How desperately sad is the fact that the church is known by schism, not unity; ignorance, not knowledge; and indecisiveness rather than maturity. How it must break God’s heart to see us continue in such a poverty-stricken condition in light of what he has done, stands ready to do, has the resources to accomplish, and has defined as our calling in Christ.
Step one in equipping the saints is to lead the Saints to use their gifts for the strengthening of the body of Christ. Next week come back for the second critical piece.
1Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively(Revised edition of The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
2The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 4:11–14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
3Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Purpose of God: Ephesians(p. 104). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.
Other posts in this series:
I am sure reading this title alone causes you great angst. How dare you say the church is wrong? Maybe wrong is a strong word but I think the modern church has forgotten or limited the impact and understanding of discipleship. The reason for the two camps is how we have defined the mission of the church. The mission and discipleship are linked. Our understanding of mission determines how we prepare folks to carry out that said mission. As with any organization if we don’t pay attention to the mission, then the mission can get hijacked by nefarious forces. The mission is influenced even shaped by external factors, i.e., declining denominational and local church affiliations. Decisions made to save the institution shape the focus and direction of the programs and emphasis, what gets lost in all of this is the clear, simple task Christ gave to his church. “Go, teach and make disciples.”
So, it comes down often to these two options: Is the church’s mission to invite people to connect with the Savior, Jesus Christ (Evangelism)? Or is the mission to teach people to follow the example of Jesus, learn to obey His teachings, while inviting others to join you on this journey of faith (Discipleship)? Most would say “yes, both are right”, but we don’t do both. Sometimes we don’t do either, and we make church about something else. We make church about fellowship, gathering together, and celebrating that togetherness. Stop and think, if the mission is about evangelism and discipleship then why are we not measuring those things? Instead, we measure how many gathered together each week and how engaged they are by how much they give.
This story by David Currens hits home for me.
Thorwaldsen, the great Danish sculptor, portrays this scene in marble. In a church in Copenhagen stands his statue of the risen Christ with outstretched hands bearing the print of the nails and sending His disciples on their errand of peace. On each side of the church are six figures, representing the Twelve Apostles, in which group Paul takes the place of Judas.
To see the group as here represented makes a deep impression on the mind. Here is Christ, not on a cross, but ready for the Throne and yet scarred. The twofold message from His lips, according to John’s Gospel, is caught by the artist’s skill: “Peace be unto you” and, “As my Father hath sent me, even so, send I you.” We have peace through His blood and apostleship through His example. David L. Currens1
Is the mission to evangelize?
“…go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
The church’s mission is apparently to evangelize. Jesus gives us a clear mandate to take the peace that Jesus Christ suffered and died to win for the world, to the world. I love this quote from the book I am reading, “The Great Commission is neither evangelism-centered nor discipleship-centered. It is gospel-centered. The command to make disciples is described in three ways: 1) being sent in the power of Jesus, 2) baptizing into the name of Jesus, and 3) teaching the commands of Jesus. The mission of the church is radically Jesus-centered.”2
Is the mission to make disciples?
20 Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. “And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.”3
For this mission to be accomplished, it can’t all fall on the pastors. And the new modern reality is fewer people are walking into the church to hear this message of peace. So, as David points out in the work of Thorwaldsen, the Father is sending His disciples into the world to deliver this message of peace. Discipleship is about preparing the saints to be sent on the mission. The church has gotten distracted, we have focused so heavily on the gathering we have neglected the equipping of members to be sent. I have talked to many people sitting in the pew, who have a hunger and desire to be equipped. Church, your people do not want to sit they want to be equipped and sent!
If you like this share it with anyone whom it may be a blessing or a challenge.
In the Service of an Awesome God!
1Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times(p. 815). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
2Dobson, J & Watson, B, “Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Community,” p 49
3GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Mt 28:19–20). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.
Let’s start this discussion by clarifying what constitutes Generation Z and how they differ from Millennials: Generation Z are people born in the late ’90s and early 2000s. While Millennials were born in the 1980s and 1990s.
How they are Viewed by Employers.
“What these generational representatives will probably tell you is that kids these days are nothing like their immediate elders. Where Millennials were searching for meaningful toil, Gen Z are money-minded. The former like working together; the latter believe it’s every entry-level drone for themselves. Raised on participation trophies and gold stars, Millennials would rather focus on what they’re good at; having seen how cutthroat the economy can be during the most recent downturn, Gen Z are more open to working on their faults. (Those bon mots come courtesy of the SmartTribes Institute, a leadership consultancy.)”
What is Generation Z’s view of religion?
Generation Zers in America have been homeschooled more than the last several generations, and most are close to their parents.
But All is not Rosy.
This generation has grown up with a new cultural sense of ordinary. One study by Joan Hope pointed out that there is a significant spike in church attendance by Gen Z. It is too early in their development to see if this trend holds accurate long term. Studies also show that this will be the most significant non-white generation in history in America. With Hispanics as the fastest-growing group among Gen Z. It is all about fertility rates. Hispanic mothers have an average of 2.4 children, compared to black mothers (2.1), and Asian and white mothers (1.8) Tom Rainer points out. And due to this large number of non-white population growth more, Gen Z will be interracially married. Estimates that at least one of ten of this generation will marry across ethnic and racial lines.
The Social Challenges of this Generation.
Tom Rainer also points out that, “homosexual marriage will be embraced as normative. But we cannot tell yet what percentage of Gen Z will be in a homosexual marriage. Two historic events have shaped Gen Z. Most of them were not born when 9/11 took place, but their parents and others have made the event a part of their lives and insecurities. The second event, the Great Recession, is still a reality through the recession is officially over. Gen Z parents, and thus, their children still feel the impact of a weak jobs economy.”
This information paints a much more hopeful picture for the church, but it is not without its challenges. Generation Z is a highly tech-savvy generation growing up with the internet and Smartphones as a part of their very existence. But unlike Millennials they do tend to crave more personal contact. More to come on this, I just wanted to whet your appetite.
Other posts on Generation Z:
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"For God can speak in one way, or in another, Yet man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night when deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering on their beds."
Life in Jesus Ministries, Fear of God and not Religion.
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