A New Definition of Leadership

Before we get started, it may be good idea to explore what we are talking about. Some people do not like the word leadership in reference to Christians. After all, we should be servants. While that is true, the Bible uses the word leader to talk about people serving the church body. What is leadership?

1 Tim 3:1 — “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.”
Being an overseer is noble, not inherently wrong.

Heb 13:7 — “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
Here leaders are spoken of highly and considered a model for behavior.

Rom 12:6–8 — “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Here leadership is listed as a gift given by God. They are admonished to lead diligently.

1 Tim 5:17 —  “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”
Those who lead, and do it well, are worthy of good pay and respect.

Mark 10:42–45 — Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Here the kind of leadership is emphasized, but not the negation of leadership. We are to look like Jesus and serve others. That is how we lead.

I would contend that it is always right to examine ourselves and question whether what we are doing is right and just and of God. Although there are many examples of failure all around us, I am more interested in scripture holding up a mirror to my soul and being honest about what I see there. Things should look like the Kingdom of God inside of me and inside of the church. Too often they look similar to what is going on around us in culture. Leadership in my mind simply means those going first and out front, and if we couple that with a culturally-informed, conquering, superiority mindset, we get into all sorts of trouble.

Keep thinking! Continue Reading,

Pursuing Good: Appropriate

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I remember visiting a church with my family following the horrific attacks of 9/11. To be honest, I was not completely sure how I was feeling. I am sure you can relate. How odd was it that this church barely mentioned those events and did not seem to alter their service in any way. I left with nothing. Whatever that service was, it was not good… and we never went back.

I live within a few miles of Charlotte, NC. Recently our city made national news with the tragic police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and the subsequent protests. This was a time to stand with people who were hurting, to prophetically speak to power, and pray for our police officers. Among the members of our church, we had police officers assisting in the crowd control and congregants joining the protests! I didn’t say this was easy. That’s a lot of emotion to deal with. (And please forgive me for using this tragedy as an illustration. I know how intense it is and that is what makes this conversation about our ministry so critical. Of course I feel that weight. I’m feeling it now.) In fear of not offending anyone or fear of saying the wrong thing, I shudder to think how many congregations completely ignored the entire thing. Shameful.

These examples reveal responses that were neither suitable nor proper (the very definition of appropriate).

If you recall the backstory behind these pursuit of good posts, the example that sparked it all was examining what made an actor good. The characteristic about being appropriate had everything to do with body language and how an actor uses their body as an instrument to convey what is appropriate in a scene. This is an apt metaphor. Are we comfortable in our own skin as the body of Christ?

To be appropriate, we need both emotional range and spiritual fortitude/muscle to wade into these deep waters.

Keep thinking! Continue reading.

Pursuing Good: Complete

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In my recent post Pursuing Good: The Backstory, I began to process what makes something good. I ran into a couple of articles that really helped propel this idea forward. I even started to address the bad press we give good as opposed to great or excellent. I’ll continue to focus on that tension.

Here are the characteristics of a good service. A service is good when it is…

  1. authentic
  2. surprising
  3. exposing vulnerability
  4. interesting (with a by product of my engagement)
  5. appropriate
  6. complete or full (delivers on the expectation)
  7. special
  8. smooth in transitions
  9. purposeful (or communicating a point)
  10. impeccably executed

In this post, let’s do a deeper dive in #6—a service is good when it is complete. As usual, let’s start with a definition to get on the same page:

complete |kəmˈplēt| adjective
having all the necessary or appropriate parts
• entire; full
• having run its full course
(often used for emphasis) to the greatest extent or degree; total
Apple Dictionary v2.2.1

Let’s go.

Keep thinking! Continue reading.

Great Conversations: Jesus and Pilate

Great Conversations_Jesus and pilate

It has been my conviction shared in many conversations that Jesus did not directly confront the Roman empire. Instead, his focus was on Israel, their failure to repent and follow God, and the judgment they were under, thus Rome.

Consider this famous passage in Mark 12

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 
14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 
15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 
16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”“Caesar’s,” they replied. 
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”And they were amazed at him.
Sermons should be developed just based on the flattery they bestow upon Jesus before asking him their “question.” I wonder if our opinion of Jesus often matches theirs. If so, we are missing the point, as His answer demonstrates.
The way I see it Jesus is once again calling them into account for not properly responding to God. The reason they are having to pay the Imperial Tax at all is because they are under judgment. In essence His two-fold answer is pointed in the same direction: Submit to Caesar as he is an instrument in God’s justice and in doing so, submit to God and the work He is doing in the world  (which will entail repentance and new living).
Be that as it may be, although Jesus is not directly confronting Roman rule and any abuse committed by Rome as he answers this question, He is definitely confronting them and their politics which are keeping them from properly responding to God and His rule.

Keep thinking! Continue reading.

I’m Dreaming Of a Church…

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FreeImages.com/gef Brown

I’m dreaming of a church that is:

1. Open to others. Not a fort against the world, but a thanksgiving table with an open seat for anyone.

2. Expanding the government of heaven. Not trapped in politics — not preaching the values of the religious right or the left, but contending for Christlikeness that is both a higher demand and a lighter burden.

3. An active part and participant in the community extending neighborly generosity and working for the common good and human flourishing.

4. A place of community and conversation. The Sunday service is less school and more family gathering.

5. A place of diversity. Not a church that is primarily led by and for one race, one generation, or one class; but empowers all, because the Spirit empowers all. A church that reflects the demographics of the entire community but also gives special place and care to the downtrodden and disenfranchised.

6. A church that values the arts and is artistic and creative in worship and in creating a worship space and environment.

7. A church that contends for the presence of God in passionate worship and prayer.

8. An ancient / future faith. A church that values the traditions of the past—that actively incorporates liturgical practices and weekly eucharist—while implementing the opportunities of new media to make mature disciples (people who can hear God’s voice for themselves, and obey it).

What’s your dream?

I’d be interested to know what you think. Do any of these resonate with you?
Even if you choose not to share it here, I encourage you to dream away. And then pray about the things that God is speaking to your heart.

Have fun!