Tag Archives: Christianity

Christian Leadership Development #7

Essential Skill #5

The Art of Delegation

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          As the ministry grows the necessity of delegation grows as well. The need for delegation arises when we reach our natural and spiritual limitations. When a ministry becomes more complex, a point is reached where the leader is no longer able to cope with every aspect of the ministry on their own, realizing that neither time nor their own efforts are adequate to meet the needs of the people they are leading. Before this point is reached a plan for delegation should already be in place.

          The inability or unwillingness to delegate to others can stall ministry growth and produce burnout in the senior leaders. This is a common mistake that small ministries make and many times it is the reason they stay small.

          A great analogy for delegation is, “the ability to score without touching the ball.” Learning to accomplish things through others involves the skill of delegation and it is an imperative part of effective leadership.

Self-Awareness

self awareness

          The Art of Delegation begins with self-awareness and an honest assessment of our own limitations. Identifying the areas where we are weak will help us target the right people with the right graces and abilities to compliment the ministry. No one likes to admit they have areas of weakness, but the reality is we all have them.

          An honest self-assessment can be difficult and usually requires the input and feedback of other leaders and peers. If you are married, your spouse can be a huge asset in this department. The point is, don’t just trust your own point of view because your perspective can often be filled with blind spots. We all have blind spots and we need others to help us see from a broader point of view. The need for delegation is often a blind spot with many leaders.

          In Exodus 18 we see a powerful example of the need to delegate. When Moses was leading the children of Israel he came to a point where Jethro, his father-in-law, had to point out his need to delegate responsibilities. Moses was sincere, but the need to delegate was his blind spot.

Exodus 18:13-23  And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”

15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. 19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

blind spot

          Bearing the burden of ministry yourself is never God’s plan. As individuals we are not capable, even with God’s help, to fulfill all He has called us to do. We are called to community and relationships. Every part of the body has a role to play, a function and purpose that will help edify the body as a whole.

          Every leader must come to the realization that he needs to surround himself with solid relationships that he can share the load of ministry with. This is the only way to fulfill God’s plan.

          There is a powerful truth in Ephesians 4 that will help us understand this.

Ephesians 4:16 – From whom (Christ) the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Notice in this passage that supply comes from the joints in the body, not the parts of the body.

          A joint is where two parts meet together, like your elbow or knee. It is the RELATIONSHIP between the parts.

          A healthy joint causes both parts to be more effective, more mobile, and increases the ability and strength of both connected parts. It is no coincidence that Jesus used this analogy. If you have ever had an injured joint like an ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist, you know how debilitating and restricting it can be.

          It is the relationships between the parts that bring the needed supply for ministry growth. If relationships are healthy, every part in place effectively working and doing its share, growth and edification in love is the result.

          This is why it is so important to be deliberate and intentional about who you delegate to. Maintaining a healthy relationship with those to whom you delegate is essential for success.

effective-delegation

Some Guidelines for delegation:

  • Delegate early.  

Make an effort to delegate responsibilities early to avoid unnecessary pressure. This avoids undo stress on the leader and sets up the person you are delegating to for success. Waiting until things get to the point of neglect is poor stewardship and makes it difficult on everyone involved.

“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” ~ John C. Maxwell ~

  • Select the right person.

Ensure that the person has the character to represent the ministry and the time to take on the responsibility. Before sending them out to tackle the new responsibility, make sure the person has all the training and resources needed to succeed.

“Delegate to people who are better than you and let them do the work. Look for people who will aim for excellence and not settle for anything less than the remarkable.” 

  • Set clear goals and expectations.

Be clear and specific on what is expected. Give information on what, why, when, who and where, but leave the “how” to them. Don’t be too concerned about how it gets done, but that it gets done right and on time. Confirm and verify goals and expectations on a regular basis and get updates on progress. This gives you an opportunity to give needed feedback and encouragement.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” ~ George S. Patton ~

  • Delegate authority with responsibility.

Giving people the authority to make certain decisions, use their own creativity, and even recruit others to help accomplish the task allows the person to take ownership of the responsibility and shows that you value their opinions and trust their judgement. This helps maintain a healthy relationship and grooms them for leadership.

It is frustrating to be given a task and no authority to make decisions on how it gets done. Micro-managing every task you delegate will run people off and prevent you from building a strong leadership team. The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling while they do it.

“When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders.” ~ Craig Groeschel ~  Founder of Life Church

  •  Evaluate and recognize performance. 

Evaluate results more than methods. Celebrate the wins and give credit where credit is due. Analyze the cause of any insufficient performance but don’t be too quick to take a project back. Rather, continue to work with the person and ensure they understand the project to be their responsibility. Give advice on ways to improve and be willing to be a resource yourself. This sends a message that you believe in them and that you want them to succeed. This approach inspires people and ensures dependability.

“No Leader will build a great ministry that wants to do it all themselves or take all the credit.” ~ Andrew Carnegie ~

          Delegation is one of the most essential requirements for a successful ministry. It is the key to fulfilling God’s vision with excellence and provides an opportunity for others to de­velop their skills and abilities, gaining enough competence to fill higher positions in case of need.

          Every person we lead has amazing, God given gifts and talents. Delegation is a great way for people to function and develop in their gifts. This promotes growth in the individual and brings healthy challenges that stretch their faith and empowers them for Kingdom use.

“The greatest leaders are those who empower others.”

Question: What are two reasons that delegation is important?

Question: Why is self-awareness important when delegating responsibilities?

Question: What are two areas you are weak in?

Question: Can you name three guidelines for delegation?

Question: What was Moses “blind spot” in Exodus 18?

JC

Christian Leadership Development #6

Essential Skill #4

Communicating Grace

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            Once we have given our due diligence to skillful listening we enter the arena of communicating grace.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Grace is one of the most important words in the Bible and can be easily defined as,

“The divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life.”

            Grace is God’s influence, not necessarily ours. Keeping in mind that God’s influence, should be palpable in our speech will keep us humble, gentle, and conscious of what is being imparted in our conversations.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

            The word corrupt in the previous passage simply means, “Worthless and of no value.” If our words are not ministering grace to the hearer it shouldn’t be coming out of our mouths. We should constantly be judging our words before we speak, asking ourselves, “Is this going to edify, help, and bless? Am I truly speaking from the Lord’s perspective, or just mine? Is my tone right, are my motives pure?

grace05            As leaders, we must understand that God uses us as a mouthpiece to speak to others. God does not take this lightly and neither should we. The Bible is replete with scriptures about the power and significance of words and the effect they have on our lives. What we say and how we say it can literally be ministering death or life into a person’s life or situation.

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.

            This reinforces the importance of being a skilled listener, but even more so, the importance of our own intimate relationship with God. Our spiritual condition has a profound effect on our ability to communicate the heart of God.

Love is the license to speak truth

            An area I see young leaders often miss it is in their delivery of truth. Truth is received in the manner it is delivered. The Word of God is truth. It is also a sword, a double edged one at that. Truth should never be delivered with the intention of “straightening someone out,” or “correcting someone.” Let me explain:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

            This is the most misused misinterpreted and misunderstood scripture in the New Testament to justify the Bible bashing, finger pointing, and judgmental approach to correcting people in the name of God. Actually it is a self-centered, self-righteous assault on people that comes from not understanding their identity in Christ and opens one up to the influence of religious spirits.

            Notice that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God.” God is love according to 1 John 4:8. So we can conclude that if the delivery of truth isn’t inspired by Love it is NOT profitable for doctrine, it will NOT reprove, it will NOT correct, it will NOT instruct, it will NOT complete, and it will NOT equip. It just cuts, and it cuts deep. Love is the license to speak truth. If we don’t have genuine love and compassion in our hearts toward the ones we are speaking to, we have lost our license to speak on God’s behalf.

nausia.03            Let’s say you love a perfectly cooked ribeye steak. It may be your favorite food in the world, but if I serve it to you wrapped in a dirty diaper you aren’t going to eat it. It’s the same with delivering truth. The word of God is so powerful it can change a life but it must be palatable, seasoned with salt, full of grace, and delivered in sincere love for it to be received.

            If we are not imparting God’s grace, communicating God’s heart, and being a vessel of God’s love, we should remain silent. If we can’t correct that on the spot we may need to stop and reschedule a time to finish the conversation giving us time to pray or seek council from another leader. Don’t be pressured into speaking when you know your heart isn’t right.

            There is a simple rule that will keep us from a myriad of problems if we apply it.

silence speaks

“When we speak, be sure it’s an improvement on silence.”

            Following this rule does a few things,

  • It slows down the conversation and keeps us mindful of the power and purpose of our words.
  • It diffuses conflict that arises from elevated emotions.
  • It teaches us the value and power of silence.
  • It gives us greater control over ourselves and the entire situation.
  • It allows us time to hear from our heart what the Holy Spirit is saying in the situation.

            Personally, I believe this is what was happening in John 8:1-11 when Jesus was writing in the sand with His finger while everyone pressed Him for an answer to judge the woman caught in adultery. I think Jesus was simply giving His heart time to tell His mouth what to say.

            Not being willing to speak until He heard from the Father is a lesson that every leader should take to heart. There are few worse feelings than knowing we have hurt one of God’s children with our words.

            As leaders, we think before we speak, selecting words that nurture and build up rather than tear down and destroy. When faced with hostility we speak gently so as to diffuse anger and emotions rather than feed them. When faced with uncertainty, we are slow to speak, letting silence speak to the person and God speak us.

“Godly communication isn’t merely a skill, it is a discipline.”

Question: What is the definition of grace as it pertains to communication?

Question: What defines a “corrupt” word as stated in Ephesians 4:29?

Question: What are 3 things to keep in mind before we speak?

Question: Before we speak, what should our words be an improvement on?

Question: What license must you have before you can speak on God’s behalf?

Christian Leadership Development #5

Essential Skill #3

Skillful Listening

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            Great leadership depends on effective communication. A leader who cannot communicate well will not lead very well or for very long.

            In his famous prayer, St. Francis of Assisi asked God to help him to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

listen1            Understanding doesn’t come by talking, it only comes from listening and learning. Being a skilled listener is the most important part of being a great communicator. Learning to hold your tongue is a valuable skill for anyone, but as leaders this is a must.

James 1:19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.

            To be quick to hear and slow to speak means having both humility and respect for others. It means you take the necessary time to sincerely listen to people instead of just voicing your opinion.

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3 Keys to effective listening:

  • Listen to God

 

            Good communication with people starts with good communication with God. After all it is His people you are ministering to. Always keep in mind that you are the gift He has chosen to give to the people. Like St. Francis, if you will prayerfully seek Gods will and direction before ministering to others, inviting His involvement and be mindful of His perspective, you will tap into His wisdom and better express His heart in any given situation. If leaders will first practice this in their prayer life, the fruit of it will show up when communicating to others.

            When leaders don’t first communicate with God they tend to lean too much on their own understanding or their own strengths and abilities which often leads to trouble like misunderstandings, offenses, broken relationships and eventually burnout. Trusting in God brings good direction and success.

            Leaders must learn to first communicate with God before they even consider communicating with people. If you find this point being overstressed, it’s not. That’s the order that will produce the greatest level of effectiveness and success.
            So often in the church we find too much counseling of others without first seeking God. Too many meetings in which the church’s affairs are discussed without first seeking God’s guidance in prayer, and far too many decisions being made without adequate preparation in prayer, and yet we still expect God to bless it.

            Prayer is the most important part of any leader’s life. Not their talents, not their gifting and abilities, not their personality and charisma, but getting direction from The LORD on how to proceed.

“He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” ~Aristotle~

            The BEST leaders are ALWAYS the best followers of Christ. If a leader is not being led by the Lord, where and how is he leading those who are following? To be an authority with dynamic influence we must submit to God’s authority and invite His influence. Christians follow leaders primarily because of their relationship with God, a relationship that is birthed and cultivated in the secret place but is evident to all.

  • Listen to people

 

listen3.jpg            Listening to people is more than just hearing words, listen with your eyes when people are talking. Pay attention to how they enter a room, to tone, body language, eye contact, emotions, and emphasis on words or phrases. Listening to people is about gathering information so you can provide the proper response. If you pay close attention and let people do most of the talking up front, the proper responses will usually become clear.

Proverbs 18:13 He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.

            Give people plenty of time to share their thoughts and don’t interrupt. Interruptions send a message that we don’t value what they say. If we’re going to truly understand a person’s situation and honor them properly, we should always let them fully express themselves. Silence can be our friend. A nod and a thoughtful look will many times keep them talking and bring out more important details that they may be hesitant to share. The skillful use of silence can do some heavy lifting in a conversation.

A great little rule to keep in mind is:

“When we speak, it should be an improvement on silence.”

            Making a habit of weighing what we say against the current silence will prevent us from speaking harshly or out of turn. It avoids offence and protects relationships.

Beware of the lobbyist.

            Some people are not looking for answers or council, they are just lobbying for agreement. If a person uses phrases like, “God said, or God told me,” don’t get trapped into a debate or argument. If God truly did say something, that leaves no room for us to argue or disagree and we need to make that clear to them. If they insist on our opinion, we don’t give it to them, especially if we are in complete disagreement. This puts the responsibility of their future actions squarely on their shoulders.

            We can ask questions like, “are you absolutely sure that God spoke to you?” If they insist that He did we can council them to be patient and pray for God’s will and purpose to prevail in the situation, but we shouldn’t speak against what they believe God said because it will give them a license to break fellowship and violate relationship.

            On the other hand, if they are sincere and submitted to leadership, using language like, “I think God is telling me this, or I believe God is directing me to,” then we have an open door to lead and council.

  • Listen to your heart

 

Proverbs 16:23 The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips.

“Give your heart time to tell your mouth what to say.”

            There is tremendous power in being slow to speak. It shapes the atmosphere, transforms relationships and allows us to hear the Holy Spirit speak to us before we speak to others. It’s so easy, when someone comes to us in a hurricane of emotions, to write them off because of their delivery and not listen to what they have to say. It’s times like this, we really need to lean on the Holy Spirit for patience, love, and grace so that we don’t respond in kind.

listen“Good communication is a two way street. Good communicators promote an equal amount of traffic in both lanes, understanding that the listening lane is the first one traveled.”

Question: Why is listening important when communicating?

Question: What is the first key to effective listening?

Question: What percentage of time do you spend listening when in prayer?

Question: How would you describe the communication in your prayer life?

Question: On a scale of 1-10 how would you rank yourself as a skilled listener?

Question: What can you change to raise that number?

The Ministry Of Goodness

The Ministry of Goodness

            I am in tears as I write this because the Lord has taught me something that has changed my perspective on everything and everyone. This simple thing, if you apply it to your relationships, will change the hearts of those around you. It is the ministry of goodness.

What is goodness according to the Bible?

Goodness – The state or quality of being good. Moral excellence; virtue. Kindness, generosity, excellence of quality. The best part of anything.

Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

All fruits of the Spirit are expressions of God’s goodness, righteousness and truth.

Ephesians 5:9 for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth,

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            I have a brother that is 18 years younger than I. By the time he was 2, all the other siblings were grown and off to college or the military. My parents were financially secure by then and absolutely spoiled the kid, not giving him the same discipline the other siblings had received. He grew up an entitled and confused child with anger issues and was constantly in trouble.

            By the time my little brother was in his early 30’s he had been in jail or prison 12 out of last 13 years. Everyone, including me, had written him off as screw up and had pretty much given up hope on him ever changing. He was a professed atheist and prison had really messed with his mind.

            The whole family would continually tell him what he needed to do to “get his act together” and we were all quick to point out his mistakes and explain to him why he made them. I would write him in prison to encourage him and let him know I loved him but the conversation would deteriorate if I mentioned God and he would lash out at me with terrible accusations that made me question his sanity.

            Finally, I had given up writing to him in prison because he would write back saying what a fool and a hypocrite I was, bad mouthing God with a language that can only be learned in a super max prison. He read everything he could while in prison to prove that there was not a God just so he would have some ammunition to use in our next conversation. His hatred and accusations toward me and God had hardened my heart towards him. I was done being ridiculed for my faith from a lowlife convict. I’m just being honest, that’s where I was at.

            I had been praying for him over the years and I was at the point where I was going to pray one last time and turn him over to the devil. I saw in 1 Corinthians 5:5 where the apostle Paul delivered such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. I felt like this was my only option and even talked with a few pastors about the situation and they agreed.

            As I was contemplating this and asking God if this was the right thing to do, God spoke to me and said, “Show him My goodness.” A few scriptures immediately came to mind when He said that. In Romans it says that the goodness of God leads men to repentance, and in Exodus when Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said “I’ll show you my goodness.”

Romans 2:1-4 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

Exodus 33:18-19 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” 19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.

            God was showing me that if I wanted my brother to change, to repent from his ways, that ministering goodness was the only thing that would work. My constant judging of him was actually making it worse. I was so conscious of his sins that it made him even more sin conscious of them, perpetuating his wrong behavior. I saw that sin consciousness isn’t just about you being conscious of your own sins, but the sins of others also. In fact, if you are conscious of the sins of others, its a big indicator that you are conscious of your own. But that’s another lesson.

            I decided to listen to God and change my approach. I wrote him a letter telling him how much I loved him and believed in him, magnifying all the good qualities in his life, speaking to his potential and not his past. I encouraged him not to give up or be too hard on himself, acknowledging that I too had made some terrible mistakes and that I respected his moral right to believe anything he wished. I apologized for being hard on him and I let him know I was there to love and help him in any way I could.

good3            I didn’t mention God once in that letter, and for the first time in years he responded with sincerity and humility. He acknowledged his own weakness and opened up about some of the struggles he wrestled with. Sure, he used some foul language and made some rash comments that didn’t set well with me, but I didn’t respond to it, I overlooked it. Over the next 19 months, prior to his release, I just continued to love him and be good to him even when he tested it with his accusations, bashing God and badmouthing my faith.

            His pattern of behavior for more than 13 years was: Get released from jail or prison, behave for two to three months, and then do something completely off the wall stupid and go right back to being incarcerated. I am happy to say that the pattern has changed.

            My brother has been out of maximum security prison for ten months now. He has regained his driver’s license that was lost ten years ago. He is working a steady job, he is starting his final semester of welding school and has already been offered a position at a local company with great pay and benefits. He is a different person and it is obvious to the whole family. He is still a professed atheist but that will soon change. He has already started to make the turn. That’s what repentance means, to turn from something, to something or someone else.

            I am thankful for my little brother, and I am thankful that God kept me from giving up on him. I am so grateful that He showed me a better way, a higher way, His way.

1 Timothy 4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;

            Preaching the Word means nothing if you don’t live the Word. Instead of telling people about God we should introduce them to Him through our submitted life. The ministry of goodness can be the most powerful evangelistic tool available if sincerely embraced and lived.

Perhaps the most famous quote from St. Francis of Assisi is:

“Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

            I think St. Francis had a revelation of what I am talking about. In fact, I am just now catching up with him. Consider the words of Jesus:

Mark 10:18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.”

            In this passage even Jesus was acknowledging the fact that all goodness comes from God, the Father. Jesus said, “I only do what I see the Father do.”

John 5:19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

            Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus was anointed with the Power of the Spirit the following manifestation was goodness and healing toward all.

Goodness is an expression of love, and God is love. 1 John 4:16

            I have also used the ministry of goodness on my children to correct wrong behavior and quench a spirit of pride and rebellion. I have applied this to other strained relationships in my family and in the church. Without fail I have seen the fruit of peace, restoration, joy and spiritual growth in every relationship.

            God’s way to turn people to Him is a good way. I opens doors of communication, disarming any antagonism and gives you a license to speak into the lives of others and present the Lord to them in reality, not just in word.

Question: Are you living the gospel or merely preaching the gospel?

Question: What ways can you yield to God’s goodness?

Question: Can you describe a sin consciousness?

Question: What relationships in your life could be improved by you being good to them?

Christian Leadership Development #4

Essential Leadership Skill #2

Developing Culture.

culture1

Culture = the shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterizes any organized group of people.

Culture identifies what is important to a body of believers, reflecting the vision, values and purpose of the assembly. A well-defined culture promotes momentum, creates unity and provides stability.

            With culture, everything rises and falls on the leadership. Leaders provide more influence in shaping a church’s culture than any other factor and the senior pastor/leader is the key player when it comes to establishing culture.

3 ways leaders shape culture:

1) Leaders shape culture through personal influence.

            All leaders must embody the culture in which they are endeavoring to establish. Culture is always established within the leadership team before it can be effectively established in the congregation. Once there is unity of culture in the leadership team you can begin to cast the vision of culture to those following. Remember that establishing culture is a marathon and not a sprint.

2) Leaders set direction and cast vision.

culture2            The focus of the congregation on its future and direction is vital to the success and health of the ministry. The vision of the church must be well defined and consistently emphasized. Not with long wordy explanations, but with short concise statements that embody the culture of the ministry and speaks to who you are as a people. The skillful use of language and terminology is a powerful tool. Language impacts the way people think and behave, what they value, and ultimately what they begin to believe. It is the belief in the vision that the leader is after and being creative in how you cast vision and set direction shapes culture faster and more effectively.

3) Leaders equip the saints and hold God’s word in the highest regard.

Ephesians 4:11-12 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ          

            The purpose of 5-fold ministry is to equip the body to do the work of the ministry. Not all leaders are 5-fold ministry gifts, but all leaders are called to help equip the saints.            Great leaders shape their church’s culture in ways that reflect obedience to the Word of God. The most powerful way to shape or change a church’s culture is through teaching what God’s Word has to say about the church. Associate pastors, team leaders and department heads should be knowledgeable in the Word, emphasizing what is spoken from the pulpit and inspiring the flock to run with the vision of the house.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

            In order to change the behavior of a church, the values of the church must first be changed. To change the values of the church, the beliefs of the church must be changed. The most effective way of addressing people’s deeply held assumptions and wrong beliefs is to teach God’s Word. Many people will not change what they believe simply because the pastors and leaders believe it. They must be shown from the Bible why they need to change.

            Great leaders always demonstrate to the people that the change they are proposing is rooted in scripture. This helps them recognize the need for change and see that the authority to demand that change goes beyond the influence of the pastoral leadership and comes directly from God.

            Developing a culture where the Word of God is final authority is the only solid foundation to build upon. Taking time with your leaders to help define the culture of the house will produce much fruit in the future.

            Don’t be rushed into defining your culture. Have leadership meetings to discuss ideas and hold it up as a prayer target. Visit other successful ministries to experience their culture. Read books on church culture. Give a survey to the faithful, active members of your congregation and get their feedback. Allowing these people to have a voice develops influence. You don’t necessarily have to follow their suggestions, but allowing them input gives them a sense of belonging and importance that makes them feel like they are a part of the process and an important part of the ministry.

3 important questions to help you define your church culture:

1) What do you care most about as a ministry or congregation?

important            The truth is, you can’t care about everything. This doesn’t suggest that there are some things you actually don’t care about, but helps you understanding that each ministry and every local assembly has a specific role to play and a specific mission to accomplish. Your church/ministry is a part of the body, not the whole body, and each part needs to focus on, and emphasize the things that God has assigned to you specifically. Clearly defining God’s assignment is the foundation upon which culture is established.

Here are a few questions that will help identify what is important to your culture. 

  • What has God put on your heart and the heart of the leadership team?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What keeps you awake at night because you feel something must be done?
  • What ministries are currently thriving and effective?
  • What ministries are non-negotiable?

            2) What are you doing about what you care about?

            What you do is an expression of who you are. Selecting what ministries you do and don’t do plays a major part in setting the culture. It’s not enough to say “we have a heart for the homeless,” what are you actually doing about it?

James 2:18-20 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

  Culture is an expression of your faith, a reflection of your beliefs. What you do, and don’t do, from missions to local outreach, to how you embrace first time guests, to developing leaders all plays a significant role in shaping your culture. You don’t need to tell visitors what your culture is, they experience it. What you do from the parking lot to the pulpit shouts culture.

            Every ministry will find its own cultural expression. Culture is impacted by things like age demographic, location, and ethnic mix. Also, style and preference play a big part. Is your church more casual or formal? What is your style of worship? Don’t worry too much about these factors, they will develop naturally. It is what you do about what you care about that sets the culture.

3) How do you do ministry?

            It’s a given that churches do ministry differently. Leadership style, theology, ministry priorities, finances, etc. will naturally cause the leaders to practice ministry a little differently from church to church. How you do what you do sends a message about who you are.

            Every church should strive for excellence in ministry in every department, from the cleaning team to the worship team to the leadership team. Excellence is simply doing your very best with every task, every function, in every area, and every department. Your best is only your best until you can do better.

            If you are starting a ministry you may have all the responsibilities, from cleaning the toilets to preaching from the pulpit. This doesn’t excuse you from excellence. You should give Christ your best in every situation and if you start with this attitude it will be easier to acclimate others to a culture of excellence as they come on board.

Colossians 3:23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

            This has a huge impact on culture. Excellence, as with most things, begins and ends with leadership. Leaders should regularly be asking themselves, “Can we do better?” As more staff and volunteers are added and more resources become available the level of excellence should evolve and become more apparent.

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            Excellence is a mentality that requires constant training, emphasis and maintenance. People can easily slip into the “it’s good enough” mentality. This shows a lack of understanding about what they are doing and why they are doing it. A congregation will never rise above the level of excellence portrayed by their leaders so it is your responsibility to model excellence in everything you do.

When culture is healthy and well defined, it prepares you for growth and success in ministry.

3 things that happen with a well-defined church culture:

1) Evangelism will increase.

            People will love being there and talk to others about the amazing church they attend. It creates a desire within the body to invite others to get involved. Your church will become attractive to the community and make it easier to fulfill its vision.

2) Spiritual growth increases throughout the body.

            People flourish in the place of their assignment. A strong culture creates a sense of belonging and inspires people to get involved, taking ownership of some portion of the ministry. This allows people to develop and use their gifts and talents causing growth and strength in the individual. In turn, this develops strong, healthy relationships and edifies the body as a whole. One of the most rewarding things for leaders to witness is growth and health of their followers. This is what makes leadership exciting and rewarding.

3) It attracts great leaders.

            Up and coming leaders will join themselves to the ministry. This creates a pool of leaders to mentor and disciple which will prepare you for future growth and additional ministry outreach.

Question: Can you define the culture of your ministry right now?

Question: Who sets the culture of a ministry?

Question: What systems need to be in place in order to define your culture?

Question: What is happening right now in your ministry that does not reflect your culture?

Question: Is excellence in ministry a focus of the leadership?

Question: What areas of ministry can you do better with minimal effort, and why aren’t you doing it?

Question: What changes need to take place within your leadership team?

Christian Leadership Development #3

Essential Leadership Skills

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Leadership is the ability to mobilize others to willingly accomplish a common mission. People follow leaders because they choose to, not because they have to.       

1) Developing and Maintaining Influence.

  • All leadership skills are to help the leader develop and maintain influence.           

          Influence is the ability to convince, inspire, persuade, and encourage others to follow them. Without influence there is no one to lead. A Leader’s effectiveness can be measured by the amount of influence they have over the ones they lead.

 

  • If you are not willing to serve, you are not qualified to lead.

           Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” 

           The best leaders in any capacity are, without fail, are the best of servants to those they are leading. When we hear the word, “servant” we tend to think of a slave or a hired hand. In the case of leadership it takes on a much higher and nobler meaning. A servant leader is one who is devoted to meeting the needs of those he is leading.

 

  • Leadership is not management.

            You lead people and you manage things, logistics, resources, plans, vision, etc. There is a huge difference between leaders and managers. Anyone can be a manager but not all managers are leaders. Managers are appointed to a position of power. Leaders gain authority by developing influence. People that are managed do things because they have to. People that are led do things because they want to.

Power vs. Authority

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Power – The ability or right to force or coerce people to do your will, regardless of their willingness to do so, because of your title, position, might, skill etc.

            Maybe you have heard phrases like: “Do it or else!” or “Do it because I said so!” or “Do it or you’re fired!” This is the use of Power. Power forces people do your will. Power can be given and taken away. It can be bought or sold. People can attain a position of power by any number of unjust means. Not so with Authority.

            The use of power has its place, but continued use of power will erode relationships and create tension. You may be able get a few seasons out of power, you may even accomplish some great things, but it is usually at the expense of healthy relationships and healthy relationships are the key to maintaining influence and authority.

All great leaders pursue, cultivate and protect healthy relationships.

Authority – The ability or skill of getting people to do your will because of your personal influence in their life just because you asked them to.

Authority = Influence

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            We are all called to lead in some capacity. In our families, at our jobs, in our local government, or maybe on a sports team. Although we may not see ourselves as leaders, everyone is called to live a life that leads others to Christ. Look at this powerful scripture in Ephesians.

          Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

            This passage is a goldmine of revelation for leaders. Follow God’s example…walk in love…and give yourself for the benefit of other. Understanding that God has given YOU as gift to others will keep your role in the proper perspective.

            How we live our daily lives determines the amount of influence we have on those around us. When we are examples in speech, conduct, and character we become salt and light to those around us, building confidence in others to follow us and create a desire within them to help fulfill God’s vision and purpose for the church.

Matthew 5:13 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

            Ministry leaders that work primarily with volunteers must be skillful in leading with authority because the use of power will drive volunteers away. Authority grows as respect for the individual grows. Once you have earned respect, your influence will begin to increase as long as you are consistent.

            Power can be handed from one person to another. Authority must be developed and maintained. When power is used consistently, resentment, division, strife and discord will surely follow.

          Developing and maintaining influence is what builds a faithful following and a dynamic leadership team. It is also the foundation upon which you develop a culture among your followers.

Question: What is the difference between power and authority?

Question: What 3 areas can you improve on to increase your influence with others?

Question: Can influence be delegated?

Question: Why are healthy relationships important to leaders?

Question: In your opinion, what 3 qualifications for leadership are the most important?

Question: How do you define influence?

Christian Leadership Development #2

Leadership Mentoring Development

            Not all followers of Christ are qualified to lead and not all potential leaders are qualified to lead now. Being a leader requires two main things, development of Christ-like character and development of leadership skills. Character without leadership skills causes frustration and discontent from the body and with other leaders. Skill swithout character produces animosity and mistrust from the body and other leaders. Both situations can set the leader up for failure and hinders the growth, development and fruitfulness of the body.

            Developing both character and skills ensures the leader will become a pillar in the church and not a stumbling block.

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Character

            Character reflects nature. It is the nature of God being expressed in our lives that is the ultimate goal. This applies to all believers, not just leaders. The character and nature of God is what all leaders are leading others to. You can’t lead another person to a place you have never been. God’s nature must be established in a leader before they are qualified to lead.

Love is God’s Nature

1st John 4:8 (NKJV) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

1st John 4:16 (NKJV) And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

1st Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

            According to John, love isn’t just the nature of God, love is the embodiment of God. God IS love.

fruit6.jpg           In 1st Corinthians 13 we see how God (love) behaves. These behaviors must be developed and continually strengthened in a leader so that God’s nature can be evident to all. Embracing love (the nature of God) will bear the fruit of the Spirit.

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Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

            In Matthew 12:33 it tells us that a tree is known by its fruit, so let’s take a closer look at the fruit that should be hanging from the tree of a leader.

1) Love. The opposite of love is not hate, it is selfishness. A leader lays down his life for others, sacrificing self in favor of another. It should never be about you.

2) Joy. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy not only brings strength to the leader but to those around him. A good leader enjoys what he is doing and others enjoy working with him.

3) Peace. Peacemakers create an atmosphere that promotes healthy relationships with God and others. They avoid unfruitful confrontation and diffuse strife and contentious situations. A leader will find common ground to build on and will magnify the positive, not the negative.

4) Patience. Patience makes room for others to grow in their gifts and calling, providing a safe environment that allows them to make mistakes without the danger of condemnation and shame. Patience doesn’t just see the individual but has a view of what that individual will look like when completely submitted to God.

5) Goodness. Romans 2:4 tells us that it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance. Being good to people even when it costs you and doing the right thing even when it is not convenient causes people to turn to God and away from self-centered living.

6) Gentleness. 2nd Timothy 2:24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.

Being mindful of proper etiquette and the emotional state of those you are dealing with, using kind words and expressing genuine concern for the individual creates a platform that you can minister from and gives you the influence to speak effectively into the lives of others.

7) Faithfulness. 1st Corinthians 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

Leadership is a stewardship from God. Being steadfast, reliable, honorable and consistent speaks volumes about the heart and character of the leader.

8) Meekness. Meekness is not being a pushover, it is the humility of controlled strength. Numbers 12:3 says that Moses was the meekest man in all the earth and yet he was the one used most in the earth at that time. There is a connection between meekness and a vessel that God can use.

9) Self-control. This can’t be accomplished without a healthy prayer life. You don’t have the ability to control yourself without the Fathers help. The more intimate time you spend with God when no one else is looking, the easier self-control will be. A robust prayer life creates constant awareness of God that makes it easy to resist temptation and make right decisions.

Question: As a leader, are you stronger in your character or your skillset?

Question: Do you, or did you have strong leaders to mentor you and help you develop as a leader?

Question: What are you a steward over right now, and what would you like to be a steward over in the future?

Question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rank you faithfulness?

JC

Christian Leadership Development #1

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Christian Leadership Development Series

Qualifications for Leadership

          What is a Christian Leader? Is Christian Leadership different from secular leadership? How are Christian leaders chosen? What inspires people to follow a Christian Leader? These are a few of the question addressed in this series.

          There are many great teachings available on Christian leadership. However, in this series we will focus on what I believe to be the essential, must have qualities and skills needed for a successful Christian leader. Leadership is not a position, it is a perspective that dictates how to think, act and make decisions. Applying the lessons in this series will help develop and maintain a proper leadership perspective.

“Leadership Is Not Position, It Is A Perspective.”

          The greatest Christian leaders have a plan for disciplined spiritual growth and developing skillsets that enable them to be more effective while mentoring and equipping others for the work of the ministry. Great ministries are built on the shoulders of great leaders. Great leaders are not born, they are developed and committed to the development process.

Choosing Leaders

lead.jpg          The New Testament has some established guidelines for choosing leaders and if we don’t have these standards in place first we undermine our entire leadership culture.

          I see many churches that hold their leaders to a high standard of character and behavior but they have very low standards when choosing a leader. It is not fair to put a person in a place of leadership that requires strong character when their character has not yet been developed. I see it all the time. A person is chosen for a position of leadership simply because of availability or an obvious gifting, or even worse, people are placed in positions of leadership because of their financial contributions to the ministry with no consideration of character or maturity. It is a recipe for disappointment and disaster.

Here are a few questions to consider before choosing leaders:

  • Is the individual a devoted follower of Christ?
  • Have they proven themselves faithful or are they recent converts?
  • Do they pursue Jesus passionately and have an obvious intimate relationship with God?
  • Do they have a robust prayer life?
  • Does the individual have a good knowledge of God’s Word?
  • Are they able to encourage people to take steps to spiritual maturity?
  • Do they possess self-control?  
  • Are they gentle, hospitable, upright, holy, and disciplined?
  • Is their life an example to the flock?

          If you look at this list and fall under conviction, it’s ok. Maybe this applies to you or a person you have placed in a leadership role and you realize you have missed the mark. Don’t fret. Correction is a part of leadership, receiving it and giving it. We will address these questions in light of scripture in the following lessons and provide a roadmap to develop a strong leadership team.

Qualifications For Leadership

            I’m so thankful that God took out the guesswork in qualifying church leaders. The Bible lays out some very specific guidelines for choosing leaders and these guidelines are the foundation for leadership, mentoring, and ministry success. Understand that this is God’s prescribed method of choosing leaders. It is His way of determining who is, and is not qualified to lead. Being mindful of this and honoring this process inspires faith, produces strength, promotes success, prevents problems, and establishes structure and boundaries. If we adopt any other method of vetting leaders we subvert God’s plan and bring a reproach on Christ. I know that may sound harsh, but it is the harsh reality that we are faced with.

            Let’s start with qualifications for Deacons and Elders and define their roles in the church. The roles of Deacons and Elders encompass all of the qualified leader positions in the church. All others should be in a position of being groomed and mentored for these offices.

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Elders:

            Elders are the spiritual leaders of the church. They serve as pastors, associate pastors and teachers they provide general oversight on organizational, financial, and spiritual matters. Elders can be 5 fold ministry gifts that have matured in their gifting and have proven themselves faithful in ministry, serving under the authority of other leaders. Elders are not limited to 5-fold ministry gifts but should live a life in such submission to Christ that they can readily embody the expression of the 5-fold ministry at any given moment. They understand that Christ is the embodiment of the 5-fold ministry and if Christ chooses to move through them as a Prophet, an Evangelist, or any other gift, they yield to that expression.

            Leaders don’t find their identity in the office that they occupy, but in Christ alone. In other words, Pastor, or Teacher in not who I am, it is how I serve. A seasoned Elder will wake up every day and be willing to serve others in whatever capacity God chooses.

          An Elder understands that they exist to love and serve others, that their life is not their own and selfishness is never an option.

Deacons:

            The biblical requirements of deacons are very similar to that of elders, but there is a clear distinction between the offices. The role of a deacon may include a variety of services and differs from denomination to denomination. In general deacons function as servants, ministering to the body in practical ways. They may serve as a lead usher, oversee the benevolence outreach, lead a home group, or lead the hospitality department.

             No matter how they serve, scripture is clear that the office of a deacon is a rewarding and honorable calling in the church and a necessary role for elders to function in their office. The ministry of deacons is vital to the success of the elders, it frees them up to focus on prayer, studying God’s Word, and pastoral care. It is a great example of how one body part depends on the other. Deacons are Elders in training.

Leadership requirements for Elders:

Titus 1:5-9 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.

1Timothy 3:1-7 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Leadership requirements for Deacons:

1 Timothy 3:8-13 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

lead1            These scriptures are not overly complicated, in fact they are very straight forward and leave no room for misinterpretation. I believe God made it simple for us so we wouldn’t mess it up. If we deviate from these simple guidelines and place an unqualified elder or deacon in a leadership role we have created a recipe for disaster.

            Placing an unqualified leader in one of these roles devalues the office in the eyes of the flock as well as the other leaders. These offices should be held in high esteem and the people in them should be honorable, above reproach, and worthy of respect. This creates structure and boundaries with the body of Christ that are clearly defined and easily understood. It shows people that there is a defined structure of authority that is from God and sends a clear message that the leadership are here for their benefit.

Question: What is one thing you could change right now to make you a more effective leader?

Question: Do you hold your leadership team to a higher standard than what you are living yourself?

Question: How much time do you spend with the Lord in prayer daily?

Question: Do you spend as much time in prayer waiting and listening as you do talking?

JC

Spiritual Gifts are Free, Maturity is Expensive

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         Christians follow others for many reasons. Personality, charisma, doctrine, integrity, social status, perceived success, speaking skills, etc. but the main reason people follow a Christian leader is because of their relationship with the God.

          All great Christian leaders have one thing in common, a genuine intimate relationship with God that is obvious to all. The reason Jesus did what He did was to restore man back to intimacy with God. The message of the Gospel is one of reconciliation and restoration of relationship, the removal of all barriers that stand between God and man. If a Christian is not continually growing in this revelation, walking in, and living out this truth, he/she is not qualified to lead others anywhere.

          A leader’s influence should be used to bring others into a deeper relationship with God. Deep down this is what we all want. This can only be done by example first and teaching second. It is impossible to lead someone to a deeper relationship with God than you have personally experienced. You can’t lead anyone to a place you’ve never been.

          Jesus is the example of leadership that we must follow. We can look at His life and glean many leadership principles that we can live by, but I will only address one main principles that we see Him practice in the gospels. Intimacy with God.

          There are no shortcuts to intimacy, it takes time, discipline, effort and commitment. Intimacy with the Father is the greatest investment you can make in yourself and others.

Gifts are free, but Maturity is expensive.

          Intimacy leads to maturity and intimacy is a result of continuous fellowship. Many Christians follow others because of their “Spiritual Gifting,” not understanding that gifting can easily be manifest without spiritual maturity.

          Our identity is not found in our gifting but in our relationship with the Father. Pastor, Teacher, Prophet is not who I am, it is how I serve. We must find our identity in loving and serving, not gifting.

          The goal of a leader is to reproduce themselves and nothing is reproduced without intimacy. First priority is relationship with the Father. Jesus only did what He saw the Father do. This demands a lifestyle of watching and praying. It’s not always convenient or comfortable but it is always necessary.

          A leader can easily get distracted from spending intimate time with the Lord. A common trap is to replace reading the Bible and studying with being alone with God and communing with Him. The problem is, you can only learn about God from reading the Bible and studying. To truly know Him you must spend time with Him, commune with Him, listen to Him.

          If I read your biography I can learn a lot about you but I can’t honestly say that I know you. I can only know you by spending time with you. It is the same with God. When intimacy becomes a lifestyle, reading and studying takes on a whole new dimension and bears much more fruit. While reading the written word you see them through His divine nature, you look at them with eyes and a heart of love that makes you more sensitive to His spoken word. This is when the scriptures really begin to come alive.

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          The Lord taught me a powerful lesson about who I am and I would like to share it with you.

          I pray often that God would live in me and through me in fullness. That people would see Him in me. I remember some time ago, ministering to a lady on the phone one day and she asked me if I was a Pastor. I said “No, my wife is a pastor, I have been offered ordination and refused it because I am not a Pastor.” The Lord then spoke to me and said, “But I Am a Pastor, and if you deny Me that expression in your life I can’t answer your prayer to live through you in fullness.”

          God was showing me that titles and labels don’t define who I am, He does. I was limiting His expression through my life because my words were stout against Him and I had a limited idea of who I am.

maturty3.jpg          Who you think you are must come second to who He wants to be in you at any given moment. He showed me that He is the embodiment of the fivefold ministry and if I will maintain intimacy with Him and be sensitive to His desires He will be free to move through me and touch lives in a way that I could never do through my own strength and ability.

Ephesians 4:11-16  And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith (P)and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

JC

The Discipline of Watching

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Understanding Watchfulness

         What did Jesus mean when He said “Watch and Pray?”

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

          Just what are we watching for?

         I remember going to a store one day and remaining in the car while my friends went in to do some shopping. In the car next to me was this little dog sitting in the driver’s seat staring intently at the door of the store. This little dog would not take his eyes off that door. Every time the automatic doors would slide open the little dog’s ears would perk up. He would stand with his front paws on the steering wheel panting, wide eyed and tail wagging expectantly. Time and time again people would come out of the door that was not his master and the dog would return to his intense watchful position, not disappointed, but with an obvious understanding that one of these times it will be his master, he had only to wait patiently.

watch3.png         As I watched this dog the Lord showed me through this simple illustration that this is what He is talking about when He said “watch.” Eventually the little dog’s master did exit the door. His excitement and enthusiasm came unhinged! I could hear his happy little whines and yelps as he watched his master walk strait to the car. His love and appreciation for his owner was unquestionable.

         They could not have been apart for more than 30 minutes, yet the dog greeted his owner like he had been missing him for a month. To this dog, his master was the most precious person on the planet, and could not bear to be apart from him for any length of time. It was so obvious this dog loved his master with everything that was in him.

         What would it be like if we saw our Heavenly Father this way? What difference would it make in our lives? How would it affect our relationship with Him? What would it do to our perception of life? How would it affect our joy? Our peace? Our faith?

         After seeing this little dog I am convinced that we often take the Lord for granted. That we don’t really relate to Him like He is the creator of the universe, the master of ALL. Our hearts are divided, our minds are distracted and we allow other things matter more than what should matter most.

         The Bible says to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all our needs will be met. (Matt 6:33) Yet we continue to approach God with our laundry list of needs and wants like He wasn’t serious when He said that.

         The gospel of Jesus Christ is about living a life with a very narrow, focused perspective. To maintain that perspective we must be imitators of Jesus. Jesus said this:

John 5:19-20 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

         Jesus ONLY did what He saw. Jesus was able to do what He did because He constantly practiced watching the Father. He truly did “seek first the Kingdom of God.” Could this be a big reason that we don’t see the level of supernatural life that we read about in the book of Acts?

         The discipline of watching moves us from being a child/servant to a mature son. It is only the mature sons that can receive an inheritance. (Gal 4:1-2)

         The discipline of watching creates an awareness of God that puts all of life in proper perspective. The more we keep our attention and focus on Him, the clearer we become on who He really is and who we really are to Him.

         The discipline of watching produces an integrity of heart that makes resisting temptation easy.

         The discipline of watching keeps you prepared to face anything that life would dish out to you.

         The discipline of watching produces humility and He gives His grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5James 4:6-7)

         The discipline of watching may be the most important part of prayer. When we practice watching, we know what to pray for and how to pray. We know what to do and how to do it. We position ourselves to be a trusted vessel that the Father can use to flow through.

JC