Devotional Message, Leadership

Are You Looking for a Take-Charge Leader?

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When I work with churches seeking a new pastor I usually ask the question, “What kind of pastor are you looking for?”  Depending on what transpired before with the last pastor the answer may vary.  If the congregation is coming out of a difficult period and has lost is ministry mojo, they will say, “we want a take-charge type of shepherd.” That response makes me nervous, so I probe a little deeper.  Define what qualities that pastor possesses.  “We don’t care if he is black or white, young or old, just a guy who will take the bull by the horns and lead us out of the abyss of mediocracy.  We want to get back to the good old days.”  Then the next question out of their mouth is, “And by the way, are you available?”  To which I respond, “NO!”  What the congregation wants is, Jesus.

The Perfect Take-Charge Attitude.

In Mark chapter 1, he shares this spiritual insight, “The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts.”

It was a typical practice for visiting teachers to be invited to read the Scripture and even to speak. So, the fact that Jesus was asked to speak indicates he had already established a reputation as a teacher.  Jesus was recognized as a teacher even by his opponents, but what amazed the crowd was how different His teaching was, He had a unique authority.  Religious leaders of that day taught the same way.  They would read lengthy quotations from the Law and prophets with memorized comments from long gone scholars to supplement the teaching.  This lecture style is my worst educational nightmare.  Just get me a pillow.  How blessed we are that God can work through any style to communicate His message of grace, love, and forgiveness.  I am sure the people listened reverently and respectfully, but you wonder how many went away feeling unfulfilled?

Jesus comes along, and His approach is refreshing.  It seems too different. Immediately this young teacher got the people’s attention.  The verse above has an interesting element in the original translation: “and dumbfounded were they at his teaching.”  In other words, the people were speechless.  They were struck by a blow, dumb with amazement.  Why was this the case?  Understandably, the scribes taught from a second-hand knowledge of the Scriptures, but Jesus taught as one who had personal experience. Surprisingly, Jesus taught as an insider.  He did not report the facts; He shared what He knew from His personal relationship with God and being the centerpiece of the Father’s plan to rescue His people from sin, death, and the Devil.

Authority in Action

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Mark 1:23-27  [1]

When the man with an unclean spirit appears on the scene, Jesus’ words now go into action.   In a later post I will dig deeper into the issue of “unclean spirits,” but for now I will leave you with this thought.  We tend to deny the reality of demonic possession. Even in western Christian society, we dismiss the demonic as mental unbalance, or physical abnormalities.  There are real 21st century unclean spirits.  Flip on your television, and without much effort, you will get a sense of uncleanness. Not to mention the unclean spirits that we can find on the internet with the click of an innocent email or ad.  Just think of what evil our children have access to at their fingertips?  And don’t get me started on the drug problems people are fighting today legal and illegal.  We have our demons.  We also have our champion.  Jesus rebukes the unclean, and the unclean spirit obeys Him because He only spoke as one who had authority He actually has power.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 1:23–27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

 

 

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Congregational Life and Ministry

He Said What? The Danger of Gossip

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“13 Plus, they get into the habit of being idle. Not only are they idle, but they band together and roam from house to house, gossiping about and meddling into other people’s business; they talk about all sorts of things that should never be spoken of.” 1 Timothy 5:13 The Voice (VOICE)

My father in law was a God fearing, quite, humble and sagacious sage. When I was just starting out in ministry, I like the young pastor in Paul’s writing; Timothy would seek advice about ministry from my father in law, Rev Eldor Bickel. He was reluctant in some ways to give too much information. Looking back, I believe it was because he knew I would face different challenges as the landscape in which I was doing ministry was very different from his context. With that being said, he did give me an ideal approach to managing gossip in the church and my personal life. Not in my wildest dreams could I predict just how regularly this counsel would aid me in ministry?

It is an uncomplicated formula, and maybe it will serve you well as it has me. He referred to it as the Three Gates Test. When you encounter gossip how do you process what the proper response? Well, the test will give you a method to discern God’s will as you prayerful consider your next steps. Once you process the information through these three gates, it will give you guidance to determine whether you share it or bury it.

Gate one: Is the story true? This first one seems obvious, yet how often do we receive communications about someone or something that has happened and the intelligence is inaccurate. Often there is a measure of truth contained in the report, however from there it takes on a life of its own. Morris Mandel has a great quote about the dangers of gossip. “Gossip is the most deadly microbe. It has neither legs nor wings. It is composed entirely of tales, and most of them have stings.” Before you give that story wings take the time investigate its truthfulness.

Gate Two: Is it kind? The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Col 3:12 We are called to be distinct and unique from the rest of the world. Christ has claimed as members of his flock. Our words and actions reflect the call of God in our lives. Is the information that has been shared with us, of such a nature that it is crucial to the well-being of the individual, our team or the body of Christ? Or is it just a malicious rumor that in the end only serves to lift us up? Wrestle with that through prayer to seek direction.

Gate Three: Is it necessary? Your information may pass the first two gates, but the last one is critical. Do people need to know the information you have to share? It may be true, and may even be kind, but how will this information build up the individual or the body of Christ. There are times when the information we have is necessary for people to hear and by keeping it silent we are doing harm. My fear is that usually, it is information we are just dying to share with them for our benefit. Before you go off and share gossip keeps this little poem in mind from Henry Lesser:

May I give all of you some very sound advice?
When you speak of others, say something nice;
Try to say good things, regardless of who is around,
If you have nothing good to say, don’t utter a sound.
You may find that an innocent remark, in the end,
May lose you a close and valued friend.

Life is about relationships, is any gossip, we have stinging our lips worth losing the people we value? May this advice from the heart of a humble man of God be as much of a blessing to you as it has been to me. God bless you, and God bless his church.