Paradigm One Logo

Oneness: The Place to Live

Oneness: The Place to Live

Oneness: The Place to Live

John 17:20-23 — I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Please read the above passage again and again. Immerse yourself in it until the full power of Jesus’ request before the Father overwhelms every fiber of your being.

If Jesus is to be the lead pastor, then we must surrender our rights to live within the parameters of His divine request: Oneness, love, and glory must define our attitude within the believing community.

This kind of intentional oneness becomes a witness to the world that Jesus was sent, that they are loved, and that they may believe. What good does it do to have a sophisticated mission statement accompanied with energetic outreach programs if the home base is in pride-driven turmoil?

Paul said it this way: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Oneness is both a position we enter into and a practice which is lived out daily.

On one occasion we had a staff member that always brought a negative spirit to our staff prayer meetings and planning meetings. In my exhaustion with it, I knelt by my chair, claimed my oneness with him in Christ, then asked for the enablement of God’s Spirit to respond lovingly to him when we were together. Within a few days the Lord graced him with repentance of a secret sin and oneness was restored.

Jesus died and rose again for our oneness and it is delightful. David poetically described it like this:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore.

(Psalm 133:1-3)

When we work on oneness in the Spirit of Jesus’ prayer, it is both fragrant—refreshing—and fruitful. A people who live like this will live in a place of blessing.

If this is how Jesus prayed, then certainly this is how He would lead. And if we follow Him, there we will be in a place where we can hear from the Spirit (Revelation 2,3).

From Belief to Behavior

As an under shepherd who is abiding in the Vine (I call these “branch leaders”) regularly remind the flock of Jesus’ request for Oneness and then nurture them to pray together in accord with Scripture and in the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). We may not always agree on everything, but we can be in oneness about the main thing.

START A CONVERSATION - REQUEST A CALL

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Prayer: The Place to Start

pastors-pastoral resources

Prayer: The Place to Start

I Timothy 2:1—Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.

Every good leader will embody some ambition, or he probably won’t be a good leader. But if Jesus is to lead the church, our leadership must start with prayer.

In the language of the Bible, Paul instructed Timothy to “pray first.” Literally he said, “Before all your doings . . . pray.” Evidently the Ephesian church had stopped praying, and Paul urged Timothy to make it a priority again.
Where we start will set a trajectory for where we go and where we end up. Where we start can also be a protection for wrong motives as well as fleshly methods.

Timothy was a God-called man who was getting marching orders in how to wage a good warfare (1:18) and avoid shipwreck in his life and leadership (1:19).
Give Jesus the first appointment of the day and of the work week. Let the first strategy be a prayer strategy which will provide a base of operation for everything else in the church. Build Scripture praying by Spirit-filled believers into the foundation of ministry so that the superstructure of ministry won’t collapse because of a lack of support.

Jesus has a will, a word, and a way for our church, and we will know it if we slow down and pray until He clearly reveals it to us. Take time with a few Spirit-filled believers to develop an undergirding of prayer before you do anything else. Let your ministry be birthed by God. If we are going to have effective outreach, we must have fervent and effectual upreach. Strategic outreach is given its grace through strategically timed upreach in prayer.

The early church “waited for the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4) and “continued with one accord in prayer,” (Acts 1:14). So, “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place,” (Acts 2:1). Being obedient in prayer first put them right where they needed to be in order to strategically launch their witness. They didn’t plan their birth; God birthed His plan for them and it was perfect.

Through praying first, we will stay in touch which then allows us to stay in tune with Jesus all the time—and that’s where all fruitful ministry begins. Make these times of prayer joyful, focused and expectant. Savor them by grace and not laborious grudge. God is for us. He is our #1 cheerleader.

From Belief to Behavior

No one can prescribe what the prayer strategy for your situation should be, but here is a suggestion: Pray, then choose two Spirit-filled believers from within your ministry who will pray with you about a prayer strategy for your church. Keep it simple, Scriptural, and Spirit-filled; i.e. life-giving. Re-evaluate the prayer life of your church or ministry on a regular basis as it grows and changes—as Jesus leads and builds His church.

START A CONVERSATION - REQUEST A CALL

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The Titus Roundtable: The Stewardship of Evangelism, Part 2

The Stewardship of Evangelism, Part 2

Remember evangelism is the overflow of the grace to the lost out of the heart of a joyful believer.

So far, I have presented the idea that we shepherds must minister to the hearts of the sheep so that their hearts will minister through their mouths and proclaim the good news of Jesus. 

Mark Dever says, “Evangelism, in other words, is not doing everything we can to get a person to make a decision for Jesus—attempting to force a spiritual birth. Furthermore, evangelism is not the same thing as sharing a personal testimony. It’s not the same thing as presenting a rational defense of faith. It’s not even doing works of charity though all three of these things may accompany evangelism. Nor should evangelism be confused with the results of evangelism, as if to say we’ve only successfully evangelized when a conversion follows. No, evangelism is speaking words. It’s sharing news. It’s being faithful to God by presenting the good news—that Christ, by His death and resurrection, has secured a way for a holy God and sinful people to be reconciled. God will produce true conversion when we present this good news. In short, evangelism is presenting the good news freely and trusting God to convert people. Salvation comes from the Lord.”

I have strongly felt that part of my stewardship at this point is to stay alert to local opportunities for evangelism and bring them to the attention of the congregation. I like to scout things out for them, knowing that prepared hearts will look on their own. Sometimes your approval or caution will encourage them to move out more freely. Here are some common ideas.

  • Teach them to build redemptive relationships with unbelievers.

  • Teach them to use their homes as gospel centers.

  • Give some training in how to give a clear gospel witness.

  • Cast a vision for outreach events where the gospel will be preached. Team evangelism let even the timid have a part.

  • Teach them how to be alert to divine encounters where a Christian with a prepared heart encounters a lost one who has had God drawing his heart. This is a sweet experience which encourages alertness.

  • Introduce them to local ministries available and looking for volunteers (jail ministry, crisis pregnancy centers, rest homes, rescue missions, women’s shelters, mentoring programs in schools, etc.). Help them see things and reach out.

  • Ordain elders. Be ready to “lay hands” on the faithful and send them forth.

A true reviving from the life of Christ should eventually move us out of our comfort zone into the multitudes with a full heart and a fervent message that Jesus paid it all.

According to Acts 2:42, the New Testament church believed the same truth (doctrine), shared the same love (fellowship), remembered the same gospel (breaking of bread), depended on the same source (prayer), and committed to the same cause, “To know Christ and make Him known.”

The Titus Roundtable video series was never meant to be an exhaustive content of each stewardship. Nor was this content meant to offer some mysteriously new material or insight. Much has been written concerning all these stewardships. You are totally capable of adding to each one. My heart here has been to reveal an order which reflects a pattern in the way God, through Jesus, works. In their order, they reflect the ways of God. If we heed them, we can enjoy God’s best. Remember that revival is the experience of the church which overflows into evangelism as its expression. Let the servants be glad and press on—

By grace
Through faith
In worship
In warfare
By choice
Within the church
Into the world.

START A CONVERSATION - REQUEST A CALL

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The Titus Roundtable: The Stewardship of Evangelism

pastors-pastor resources-church leadership-church leaders-ministry resources

The Stewardship of Evangelism

The good news of the resurrected life of Christ penetrates the darkness of the lost world when the church overflows with the witness and gladness of God’s grace.

Our Stewardship: Evangelism.

Our stewardship of shepherding here should result in the saints enjoying such reality in Christ that they minister out of the overflow of a full heart.

When revival is the experience of the church, then evangelism will be the expression of the church. John Piper says, “People who prize Jesus praise Jesus.” He continues, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” Nehemiah encouraged his workers with, “For the joy of the Lord is your strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Real joy in the camp equips the soldier for work and witness. Paul related his heart to the problem-ridden church at Corinth. “Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand,” (II Corinthians 1:23, 24) With God as witness Paul said:

  • I gave you time and space to repent.

  • I have no interest in domination.

  • I am a helper of your joy.

In this stewardship of evangelism, we are right to start with being helpers and models of joy. Countless times over these 50 years, I have had to find a place to retreat for a while, and like David, encourage myself in the Lord.

Satan hates the spread of the gospel and leadership that helps move people toward a joyful, bold witness of the gospel will often come under attack. In David’s case at Ziklag, the women and children had been taken captive, the city had been burned with fire, his army wept till they could weep no more, and some spoke of stoning David. Alone with God, David found encouragement and direction from God to win a great battle and recover all that the Amalekites had taken (I Samuel 30). Sometimes you will have to fight for your joy as well.

From the autobiography of George Mueller, we read, “It has pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, the benefit of which I have not lost for more than 14 years. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord, but how I might get my soul in a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.

How different, when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon me!”

People are more likely to follow a joyful leader.

In short, unified, glad and single-hearted believers make the best evangelists. They seem to find favor with people, and doors seem to open for them. The Lord loves to add new babies to these joyful nurseries (Acts 2:46,47).

Don’t miss Jesus’ way of keeping people passionate for the harvest. Notice the progression of these familiar words, “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest,” (Matthew 9:37,38). This is Christ’s way of making our church excellent at outreach. He first wants us, through prayer, to become occupied with the Lord of the harvest. When we do, He pours His life and passion for the shepherdless multitude into us. As we follow Him, He sends us forth into strategic places with sufficient power. While there, we freely give away what He has freely given us (Matthew 10:1-8). We never need to evangelize in our own limited strength. We can live by His life and be empowered by His passion for the harvest. The secret to keep people reaching out is to keep them reaching up. Jesus is still “moved with compassion,” literally “sick to His stomach” over the multitudes. So He instructs us, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing,” (John 15:4,5).

Without the life-giving Vine, the most enthusiastic branch will have a very short ministry. As stewards of evangelism, we need to encourage our branches to abide in the Vine, and lasting fruit will come (John 15:11).

START A CONVERSATION - REQUEST A CALL

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The Titus Roundtable: The Stewardship of Equipping the Saints

pastors-pastor resources-church leadership-church leaders-ministry resources

The Stewardship of Equipping the Saints

Our theme verse for this article is Ephesians 4:11,12: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

At this point the reality of Christ permeates the true church as the body of Christ ministers to itself in love. This is called body life.

Our Stewardship: To equip the saints within the local body to love and serve in harmony and to edify one another in love (Ephesians 4:16).

The reviving life of the Vine thrives in an atmosphere of love where people are laying down their lives for their friends. Our job as shepherds is to equip them to minister to each other. This article is different from the previous one in that while discipleship is focused on the growth of the individual, this stewardship focuses on the health of the whole body.

I was introduced to the concept of equipping when I was thirty, just prior to starting my relationship with our second church. Before that I basically understood myself to be a preacher, teacher, soul winner, visitation pastor, and activity director. I was your typical “one-man band.” It was all I knew. My beloved seminary professor and predecessor in our second church, Dr. Gerry Benn, shared this concept with me, and my ministry life took on a whole new adventure. The Bible says that the pastor is Christ’s gift to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry. I resisted this truth at first because I feared the delegation of ministry would be interpreted as laziness on my part. However, when our people saw the effect of many hands and felt the joy of ownership and my trust in them, they formed a great team to minister with intention. I like to think of it like coaching. Help each member to assess his or her gifts and callings, train him or her in how to use those gifts in the body, and then plug each individual intro practical ministry within the body to serve one another. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the motivational gifts of Romans 12 and then lead members to identify which ones best describe their heart throb for ministry. Here’s what each heart-gift might speak if you asked them what they were looking for in a church.

  • Prophets—Look for well-prepared sermons exposing sin, proclaiming righteousness, and warning of judgment.

    Servers—Look for practical assistance to each member of the church to encourage him and to help him fulfill his responsibilities.

  • Teachers—Look for in-depth Bible studies with special emphasis on precise meaning of words.

  • Exhorters—Look for personal counseling and encouragement for each member to assist him in applying Scriptural principles to his daily living.

  • Givers—Look for generous programs of financial assistance to missionaries and other ministries.

  • Administrators—Look for smooth-running organizations throughout the church so that every phase will be carried out decently and in order.

  • Mercy Showers—Look for special outreach and concern for the precise and varying feelings of individuals with a readiness to meet their needs.

While an attitude of serving should prevail at all times, knowledge of specific giftedness and motivation helps the servant enjoy the journey more and bring maximum benefit to all. Warren Wiersbe says, “Ministry happens when divine resources meet human needs through loving channels for the glory of God.” God is always the source, but loving channels properly paced are a God-send to the body. You can never be everything to everybody, but the body working together becomes the fullness of Christ in your midst. Again, quoting Wiersbe, “We are not manufacturers, we are only distributors.” A good pastor learns how to distribute the gifts God has given. This stewardship of body life also relates to the first two stewardships of grace and faith.

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another,” (Romans 12:3-5).

Paul lists five qualitative goals that flow from the body that effectively edifies itself in love (Ephesians 4:13-16).

  1. Unity of Faith (v. 13a) – This is a unity of confidence in the character of God as well as a unity in transforming, gospel doctrines.

  2. Christlikeness of Believers (v. 13b) – This is a church with members that are becoming like the “perfect One.” They are approaching the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

  3. Stability of Believers (v. 14) – These are Christians who know what they believe and why. We especially need this in our postmodern, post Christian, subjective truth culture. Every worldview must be accountable for its own interpretation. When I started 50 years ago, the landscape of the culture looked quite different. Many of my younger disciples are actually coaching me in the changes in today’s mindset—another example of the ministry of the body even to its pastor. Changing winds of doctrine should not blow us off course. Revival thrives best where doctrinal stability secures the foundation.

  4. Truthing in Love (v. 15) – This is a literal translation of the original. Speaking the truth in love is an indication of growing up into Christ our Head. When our confidence in God is strong, Christlikeness dominates our attitude, and our doctrine is secure. It becomes us, then, to be able to speak the truth in love. Truthing in love serves the gospel well whether we are witnessing to the lost, correcting our children, or confronting our peers with sensitive issues. The life of the Vine flows freely through this quality of the branch.

  5. Harmony of the Body (v. 16) – Here we see that Christ makes the whole body fit together by flowing through each member as he or she does his or her part, thus helping other parts to grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing in full love.

Pastor, if you’re like me, you would rejoice to see this happening in your church. At this point, equipping the saints for ministry should look pretty valuable to us.
In closing, let mention 3 more dynamics which enrich body life.

  1. A life-giving class for new attendees who show an interest in becoming members–it will give all parties an intimate chance to go heart-to-heart about our church. This is my favorite thing to do.

  2. A proper ministry to keep the radical cells of false doctrine, immorality, and division from destroying the spiritual health of a local church. Church discipline will not work in an environment where relationships are not nurtured. Rules without relationships breed rebellion. However, there is a sense of security when blatant sin is dealt with in an atmosphere of unconditional love. Jesus will be there, and the Father will work by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 18:15-20).

  3. The life of the Vine freely flows amongst the branches as we embrace our call and commitment to the “one another” commands of Scripture. Don’t overlook the Holy Spirit’s curriculum for supernatural body life. In the “one another,” context we model Jesus with skin on, incarnate! The assembly of freed-up believers is both unselfish and contagious. This is a worthy stewardship for any pastor to teach, train, and model.

START A CONVERSATION - REQUEST A CALL

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The Titus Roundtable: The Stewardship of Discipleship

pastors-pastor resources-church leadership-church leaders-ministry resources

The Stewardship of Discipleship

Let’s begin our discussion with a reminder of Jesus’ well-known words spoken just before heading back to heaven.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV).

All serious Bible students know that the only command in these words is “make disciples.” Every other promise and phrase are a support to that one mandate.

The Lord promises us His authority and His presence and then says in the original Bible language—in essence—

While you are going
Make disciples
By baptizing them and
By teaching them to obey.

The purpose statement of our church is “Make Disciples Who Make Disciples” because of what Jesus said.

You see, the authority and reality of Christ becomes clearly focused when we count the cost and make a choice.

Our stewardship: To disciple the faithful who will teach others.

A very effective mode of operation is given to Timothy by the Apostle Paul in II Timothy 2:2 (NKJV), “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

By grace, through faith, in worship and in warfare, you should now begin to identify those who are being faithful in attitude and actions. They are to be discipled, trained, and commissioned. This is where we begin to multiply shepherds. When I started in ministry, discipleship was not emphasized, but I had a sense that new converts needed to be followed up, and in a short time there was not enough of me to go around. I started discipling in random manner just to survive. Now it’s my way of life for ministry, and I find it delightful to watch the multiplication process take place. Making disciples is not a cookie-cutter process. Some grow faster than others. Different backgrounds will require varying approaches, etc., but the principle is the same; train the faithful in ministry that is suited for their personality and calling. If your ministry is to stay healthy while you grow in numbers then you must grow in good shepherds amongst the flock.

Any reviving can experience some fall out which can be discouraging to you and disheartening to those who watch. The timid ones as well as the skeptics may try to discredit what God is doing, but you can be strong in grace and commit to the faithful ones your philosophy and approach to ministry. Their growth and passion will be a securing factor for the long haul and lay to rest the fear of others. For the most part, I have found that the net result of revival in a local ministry is a faithful remnant who have had their awareness of the crucified life and the filling of the Spirit raise. They have counted the cost and made the choice to follow Jesus at any cost. With no hidden expectations, no personal agenda, and no double mindedness, they follow. They are rewarded with a growing reality in their relationship with Him which only serves to cause them to hunger for more. These deserve our priority attention. For years I tried to keep the unfaithful in church while neglecting those faithful ones who always stayed by the Lord. Multiply the faithful and you will multiply your ministry.

Don’t forget that older teaching the younger is a very natural and effective way of commissioning the faithful and multiplying shepherds. Older, Spirit-filled believers who have weathered the storm of life make tremendous mentors. With the breakdown of the family, these folks provide surrogate dads and moms for the young who are raising their children. My dad’s advice to me has paid immeasurable dividends in ministry. He told me again and again, “Joe, respect your elders. You will be old someday.” I have heeded his advice, which is Scriptural, and have treated the older men as fathers and the older women as mothers. They have not only encouraged my life and family but have participated in ministry as well. It is my practice to give value to all ages which, in turn, opens their hearts to learning and growing. With this attitude on your part, you will discover the wisdom of the sage who has the freshness of youth. The key is discerning Spirit-filledness.

Jesus defines the cost of discipleship clearly in Luke 14. Here’s a summary of how he describes the attitude of those who are making the choices to let Jesus be the primary focus for their lives.

  • They have relinquished the right to have any relationship in their lives which they cherish more than their relationship with Jesus (v. 26). They are satisfied with Jesus.

  • They have relinquished the right to eliminate circumstances from their lives that make them uncomfortable (v. 27). They love not their lives unto death.

  • They have relinquished the ownership of the things which they possess (v. 33). They replace ownership with stewardship.

They who are carriers of this attitude are both fragrant and refreshing (Psalm 133). These are the effectual ministers of Christ’s reviving life in our congregation. Your stewardship is to equip and resource them so that the life in them will permeate the body.

Teach your congregation to live in a II Timothy 2:2 sandwich like Timothy. He was to be accountable to Paul and responsible for faithful men. If everyone will align themselves under a faithful person to whom they are accountable and pray to find God’s person for whom they are responsible, disciples will multiply exponentially. I love to watch it happen.

Even the Apostle Paul went through a discipleship process. In Acts 9-13 we can identify seven stages of development which ended in a call from the Holy Spirit to a world vision of ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 13:1-3).

The reward of disciple-making is the call of God. Some are called to stay with us, and some are called to go elsewhere. Either way, we are multiplying ministry and building His church.

START A CONVERSATION - REQUEST A CALL

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The Titus Roundtable: The Stewardship of Warfare

pastors-pastor resources-church leadership-church leaders-ministry resources

The Stewardship of Spiritual Warfare

We know from I Peter 5:8 that Satan is always on the prowl, especially when Jesus is on the move. Why are we surprised when attacks on our ministry come? Satan has hated Jesus since the beginning of time and has lied and murdered in every way possible to stop the Lord’s Christ (John 8:44).

Therefore, as ministers of the gospel, we ought to expect to be called upon to be good stewards of spiritual warfare in our ministries. After all, the authority and sufficiency of Christ is tried and proven in the oven of adversity.

Our Stewardship: To fight (agonize) the good fight of faith.

This verse from Paul’s instruction to young Timothy was used in both military and athletic endeavors to describe the concentration, discipline, and extreme effort needed to win. The “good fight of faith” is the spiritual conflict with Satan’s kingdom of darkness in which all men of God are necessarily involved. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), we do not war according to the flesh (II Corinthians 10:3), and our weapons of warfare are not carnal (human) but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4). In a word, The Bible clearly says, our enemies are not flesh, our war is not a flesh effort, and our weapons are not human! But when our church is fighting, all we encounter seems to be flesh! We read body language, see angry faces, hear cutting words, and watch the hallway huddles curb their conversation when we walk near. All these signs of flesh give us suspicions about the war with darkness.

A good steward of revival must not be surprised when adversity comes. Adversity is as much a part of life with the Vine as grace, faith, and worship. The Father as the faithful husbandman even uses such adversity to prune us for the purpose of more fruit (John 15:1,2).

Peter helps us here. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you…” (I Peter 4:12).
In seamless fashion, he continues to equip the believer with six attitudes that will enable him to endure and employ the fire.

  1. Expect it (v. 12).
  2. Rejoice in it (v. 13, 14).
  3. Evaluate the cause (v. 15-18).
  4. Entrust it to God (v. 19).
  5. Feed the flock with truth (5:2).
  6. Take oversight willingly (5:2).

You must lead your flock to do the same. Fighting each other is not an option. Remaining objective when under fire is one of the toughest challenges of ministry.

Don’t fight alone. Two are always better than one and a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

A pastor should always be in the process of enlarging his intimate prayer team and building a team type ministry. There is a reason why Jesus sent the 70 out two-by-two and why He called Paul and Barnabas and why Paul only traveled alone once. Paul’s missionary journeys were, for the most part, a team effort. In a multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 15:22, 24:6).

Ellen S. Lister selected quotes from the letters of Samuel Rutherford and put them together in a tiny book entitled The Loveliness of Christ. Many of his letters were an encouragement to ministers who were suffering adversity. This quote is helpful to us here.
I found it most true, that the greatest temptation out of hell is to live without temptation; grace withereth without adversity. The devil is but God’s master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.

A reviving from God is not the end of all battles but rather an equipping for battles. The sovereign working of God in revival will prepare us for the sovereignly approved visitation of trials. That’s why stewardship of adversity is so important. God is not protecting us from all warfare but rather providing us with mighty weapons for warfare.
This same pattern is seen in the Apostle Paul’s first missionary journey. (Acts 13, 14). In Cyprus, Antioch, and Iconium, the same sequence appears.

  • Communication
  • Opposition
  • Perseverance
  • Fruit
  • Glory

It should be comforting to us to know that this great steward of the mysteries of God (I Corinthians 4:1) also faced great opposition in the process of being faithful. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that, if we find ourselves wearied and faint in our minds, we must fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the contradiction of sinners like no one else. Through perfect obedience He earned the right to be set down at the right hand of the Throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).

We need to be reminded that attacks and adversity is par for the course, especially when God is up to something great. Satan’s devices are varied, and we must not be ignorant of them (II Corinthians 2:11).

Many good books have been written on warfare. I highly recommend Tom Harmon’s book simply entitled, Spiritual Warfare.

God is working through adversity in order to do you, as a leader, a favor. Listen to this from Paul, “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (I Corinthians 11:18,19).

Factions and adversity often reveal those who have passed the test of spiritual genuineness and purity. We will not be able to take the mixed multitude to maturity. “Curious onlookers” and “bread and fish” followers do not make the cut during adversity. Through trials, the “cream” rises to the top and the faithful remnant will appear. Honestly, I have often been surprised at who endures through hard times. Again, in the ministry of Jesus, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). The residual effect of a faithful stewardship during adversity will leave you with a committed remnant who will then follow Jesus.

START A CONVERSATION - REQUEST A CALL

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The Titus Roundtable: The Stewardship of Worship

pastors-pastor resources-church leadership-church leaders-ministry resources

The Stewardship of Worship

As player-coaches our next responsibility is to be good stewards of real worship. If the life and activity of Jesus begins by grace which is then embraced by faith, then we find that His life and authority continues by regular acts of worship.

Our Stewardship: Lead in such a way as to help the congregation maintain a first love relationship with Jesus through Scripture-based adoration.

We should constantly remind the flock that worship is a lifestyle where we do all things for an audience of One. This simple yet powerful approach was frequently modeled by Jesus Himself. In a sense, we leaders have to be like Peter when he wrote to “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance,” (2 Peters 3:1). Our people don’t hang out at the church, they aren’t as intimately involved (for the most part) in the epicenter of the ministry, and they need to be reminded and given time to reflect and remember why we are doing this. They also need to be given real ways to express their first love for Jesus.

In his handbook, Teaching the Psalms, Christopher Ash says, “the Psalms were given by God to get us out of the pew and into the choir.” I believe we need to be the worship leaders—not in the sense of playing an instrument or leading a song, but in role modeling how every aspect of our lives can be offered up as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.

Again, time must be given in public services, small groups, and private conversation to facilitate this.

I think a fair question is, “what is first love?” Here’s my definition: First love happens when we find in another what is desperately needed in ourselves. And, I might add, the greater the desperation, the greater the appreciation and adoration. I often say to the church, “we can live without anything but Jesus.”

All churches begin to lose the power of grace through faith when they leave their first love. A reviving brings new life, new life leads to new ministries, new ministries lead to new busy schedules, new initiatives, new ideas, new standards, and with good intent we “leave town with Jesus.” He gets lost because of “the company,” (Luke 2:44). The reality of church life is that we will always find ourselves fighting for first love. Our ministries will not drift into first love. Even a “purpose-driven” church must be very careful to assure that love for Jesus drives our intentions. Sometimes our ambition can become our worst enemy, especially if the Lord graces us with bountiful resources.

The Ephesian church had enjoyed great grace from God. The apostle Paul, along with Timothy and the apostle John, had started the church at Ephesus. Paul was greatly loved by the church there. When he was about to leave after reporting to them for the last time, they hugged him and kissed him and cried because he said he would never see them again (Acts 20:36-38).

The Lord Jesus, the Head of the church, give His assessment of this great church.

“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted,” (Revelation 2:2,3).

These were a suffering people who were patient, hated evil, tried false apostles, persevered, worked hard without quitting for Jesus’ name. From the outside, they looked almost perfect. But Jesus knew their hearts were growing cold toward Him and described them as having left their first love. Something we need to remember here is that when our love for Jesus grows cool, so does our love for each other. If we are honest, we have to admit that Jesus is easier to love than people. Often, we fail to recognize that the compromised ministry and outreach of our church started with our interrupted love for Jesus.

Jesus, with His omniscient, accurate assessment, faithfully reveals to the Ephesian church their problems, then tells them what to do about it.

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent,” (Revelation 2:4,5).

He gives them a divinely solemn ultimatum. They could remember, repent, and return their hearts to Him, or He would remove their candlestick! That’s scary! While we might excuse a cold heart for Jesus as an ”acceptable sin,” He sees it as a reason to close down a church!

Here are some general observations:

  1. A church can appear to be doing everything right and still be in trouble.
  2. Leaving our first love is a sin and grieves Jesus.
  3. Leaving our first love can lead to the removal of our witness as a church.
  4. We can listen and change and be blessed.
    “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God,” (Revelation 2:7).
  5. The Lord Himself knows all the intimate details. This should always be a great comfort to any leader. It should also be a call to prayer.

In summary, the loving worship of Jesus can never be separate from the understanding of Scripture. The Bible does allow us to have objective truth (logos) and subjective reality (rhema), but we will never enjoy first love in our spirits without the Word of God.

When Jesus met the woman at the well (John 4), He said to her that the Father was seeking true worshipers (v. 23). In His dialogue with her, He exposed three categories of worshipers:

  • Ignorant worshipers
    Ye worship ye know not what (v. 22a)
  • Knowledgeable worshipers
    We know what we worship (v. 22b)
  • True worshipers
    But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth (v. 23)

That’s our goal. In this stewardship, we must lead our flock to become true worshipers who love Jesus through obedience and adoration.

A fuller explanation of worship can be found in my book, The Life of the Vine in the Soul of the Church, Chapter 21. Request a free copy here.

START A CONVERSATION - REQUEST A CALL

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The Titus Roundtable: The Stewardship of Faith

pastors-pastor resources-church leadership-church leaders-ministry resources

The Church Shall Live by Faith

If we are going to let Jesus lead by acts of grace, then we need to embrace His activity by faith. Here’s the main point of this discussion: The life and authority of Christ is embraced by definite acts of faith.

Our Stewardship: To mix faith with everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Every one of you reading this believes in the sovereignty of God. Therefore, we rest in knowing that nothing is introduced into our ministries that hasn’t passed across God’s desk first. With that being said, our ministry moves forward when we respond in faith at both triumph and trials.

From the day of our salvation, grace has always taken the lead, and faith responded unto an effectual saving. By grace we are saved through faith . . . (Ephesians 2:8). So early on we learn that faith comes by grace, and through faith, God’s grace takes up residence in our lives. So it is in our churches. When God shows up with some display or challenge of grace, it is faith in His movements of grace that become a birth place of ministry functions.

Some practical examples could be like this:

  • The grace of a new convert calls for discipleship of some kind.
  • An influx of people is a call to clarify philosophy of ministry, core values, and visitor awareness.
  • A divisive person is a call to confront according to Matthew 18.

Clearly the scenarios of opportunity are endless. The Bible is full of examples of heroes who moved by faith as well as others who missed God’s gospel movements because of unbelief.

For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it (Hebrews 4:2).

Remember the idea here is for us to steward the movements of God’s grace by embracing them by faith and obeying Scripture in every one of them. I think it’s okay for us to say we ought to become excellent in all ministries that shepherd our sheep from the cradle to grace. And Jesus, our lead pastor, knows exactly what our next step should be.
Let me emphasize here: Every movement of grace is always a call to make much of Christ, pray together, and believe to complete obedience. A ministry that turns every movement and challenge into a treasure hunt for God will experience God’s reward (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Also, it must be said that sometimes the best movement of faith is not to move at all but rather stand still and see the salvation of the Lord (Exodus 14:13).

There is an amazing encouragement that comes to our people when we can point out how God fought and won the battle (II Chronicles 20:17). These moments are great faith builders.

So, after some great movements of grace when expectations soar, don’t be surprised if the landscape looks bleak. Remember, if God can’t be understood, He can be embraced by faith. And if you will lay down any pride and believe the best is yet to come because the Lord is in His holy temple, you too may sing a new song and tell a new story of faith which only brings more grace.

Finally, Jesus Himself gives us instruction to let faith in Him be our first primary work. In John 6, we find Jesus being pursued by the multitudes. He knew they were only “bread and fish” followers and told them so when He said, “Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (v. 26). He then challenged their values by saying, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life…” (v. 27). They responded with this question, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” (v. 28) Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent” (v. 29).

Jesus considers our faith in Him to be our greatest calling and priority work. Everything flows from that. He loves it when we really believe that what we believe is really real. In ministry, if we are going to live with God, we are going to live by faith. Paul said, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6). When the stewardship of faith becomes the lifestyle of our church, there will be a growing core of believers who discover Him to not only be their salvation but also their sufficiency and satisfaction.

I have at times made things way too hard by trying to make things happen. As I learned to watch for God, I found that He was always at work, and when we joined Him, the ride was both exciting and productive.

Let’s finish this installment with some delightful insight from Alec Motyer in Psalms by the Day.

Referencing Psalm 77 he says this, “Now the main point is this: the solution to every problem is the way of simple faith. It may not prove to be a simple thing to place faith and to hold on to the way of faith, but faith itself is essentially simple—childlike trust. It was in this way that the eternal problem of getting right with God was solved, was it not—simple faith in Jesus? If the greatest problem yielded to faith, how much more lesser problems, however testing? It is the way to greet each new day, to face every new problem, and rise to every new challenge. Faith however, must rest on a sure foundation. Faith is not a leap in the dark; it is a leap from light into light. Faith is conviction leading to action on the basis of evidence—and the only sufficient evidence is what God has done, objectively, historically. Here’s the conclusion: the mind stored with, assured of, resting on the great facts of God’s salvation is a mind at rest.”

START A CONVERSATION - REQUEST A CALL

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The Titus Roundtable: The Stewardship of Grace

pastors-pastor resources-church leadership-church leaders-ministry resources

Serve by Grace Not by Grudge

My ministry began in the mid-1960s, and certain ministries were trending in our circles as to how to grow a church. They were all good. My mistake was that I forgot to begin with Jesus. Instead, I began with a method. Because of my personality and work ethic, I just believed that if I put my hand to the plow everything would be great. So my hand was on the plow, but I didn’t know how to take His yoke. The plow without His yoke crushed me—and I needed to be crushed so I could learn a whole new way to minister.

The remaining videos summarize lessons I learned from then on. These are truths, when put into place, that allow Jesus to be in the lead. Again, we are answering the question, “How can I allow Christ to build His church as He promised and still maintain responsible leadership?”

These thoughts are meant to be timeless, not trendy. They fit any size congregation. They work in large cities, small towns, or country churches. They fit any culture. They are meant to be “good news” which comes from the life of Christ and the power of His gospel as opposed to “good advice” which may have applications only for a particular genre of church. They do also give us an idea of what our response should be as we yoke up with Jesus as He builds His church. In some ways they are simply learning how to abide in Christ on the corporate level. As undershepherds, we can lead our flock to green pastures of grace.

Here’s the main point:

The life and authority of Christ invades the church through divinely orchestrated acts of grace.

Our stewardship: To observe carefully and cherish what God initiates.

Let me start by saying that it is always good and fitting for a leader to apply all the common graces given to us in the written Word–things like continue steadfast in the apostles doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayers, and bold witnessing of the resurrection. The commission to make disciples, take heed to the flock, preach the Word, study, ordain elders and so forth are ours to employ. But how, what, when, and where to use them always needs some direction and enabling by the grace of God.

God, by grace, has always been the initiator of all kingdom activity. From Adam to the apostles, God is writing His story, and He still is. So when you observe His grace movements and alert your congregation to them, ministry begins to be an adventure and not just a duty. That’s when it gets to be fun for everybody. As I said in a previous blog, we must learn to set the sail and not just drop the oars.

As a reminder, Jesus never initiated anything on His own. He certainly had the ability but only applied His life to His Father’s work, His Father’s words, and His Father’s will (John 5:17-30).

On a practical note, we can look for the movements of grace in the following but not exhaustively:

  1. New people He sends

  2. Open door opportunities

  3. Heart changes

  4. New converts

  5. Natural and supernatural giftedness

  6. Physical resources

  7. Hardships

God loves for us to cherish and treasure every morsel of grace He gives. He gives us more when we do (Matthew 13:12). The reward for successful ministry is more ministry.

Always remember that humility always precedes grace. A proud church will find itself fighting against the Lord Himself (James 4:6). In the words of Del Fehsenfeld III, “Humility is the starting point for Life with God,” (Revive Magazine, August 2015).

Note: A fuller treatment of this stewardship may be found in The Life of the Vine in the Soul of the Church of which you can receive a free copy. To get a copy, click this link to go to the form.

START A CONVERSATION - REQUEST A CALL

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn