Saturday, January 24, 2015

Servants and Leaders

After approximately ten years in vocational ministry I have had a lot of time to think about what it means to serve and what it means to lead.  And I was blessed with the opportunities to observe it being put into practice in a variety of ways.  What is my conclusion at this point in my life and ministry?  Most people don't do either very well. 

The most obvious "bad apples" are found in the operational paradigms of those who would be considered the leader.  But our ministries are also full of people who aren't very easy to lead regardless of the quality of the leaders. 

Why is this?

It is because we are either unaware of, or, unwilling to abide by, the Biblical prescriptions for how we are to conduct ourselves in the context of Christian community.  Let me give you some extreme examples of what this looks like before I do anything else.

Bad Leader:

A bad leader is someone who thinks of their "title" or "role" as conferring to them some sort of unassailable position of absolute authority that affords them the RIGHT to make any demand they want of others, in ANY manner that they choose to make the demand.  Think of a Senior Pastor who has set up his own little enclave of power that refuses to listen to, or, be tender with, the "little people".  Even honest questioning is viewed as disobedience and sin.  Want to ask why your church is allocating such a large amount of money to a private pet project(or salary) to the pastor?  Dems fighting words buddy, get ready for church discipline....

Bad Servant/Follower

A bad follower is someone who is consistently contentious and argumentative about every little thing.  Especially when it is not a Biblical issue, but a preference issue.  They never seem to be willing to joyfully follow reasonable instructions, but instead, argue for every inch.  Think of a church member who won't stop fighting with the church leaders over what color to paint the walls in the foyer, or, complains to everyone around them how "dumb" the leaders are for doing "this" vs "that".  Sadly, what I just described is wildly common.  I have known people who have left a church because the straw that broke the camels back was a disagreement on who should have access to the church kitchen, or, where the church library would be kept. 

If you have been involved in a church for any length of time you have probably had your fair share of experiences on either end of this spectrum.

So where do we start to address this? 


12 Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord's work. They work hard among you and warn you against all that is wrong. 13 Think highly of them and give them your wholehearted love because of their work. And remember to live peaceably with each other.  1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

The most obvious verse we can find regarding the issues of being a follower is found in this text.  What are the key words?  Honor, think highly of, give wholehearted love, live peaceably. 

If you are currently in a position of having someone in a role of "leader", can you claim that this passage accurately and consistently describes your behavior and heart attitude?


42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”-- Mark 10:42-45

What does it mean to be a leader according to Jesus?  To serve.  NOT to Lord it over people.  A leaders heart is to be shaped by an active willingness to lay aside "rights"(this is what a slave imagery conveys) for the purpose of serving those they lead. 

If you are currently in a position where you are responsible to lead others, can you claim that this passage accurately and consistently describes your behavior and heart attitude?

The problem with these two passages is they can easily be used as battering rams to DEMAND that someone else behave in a specific way.  Leaders will bludgeon "followers" with a passage about honoring their leader(which just happens to be themselves...) and followers will disrespect the "leader" because they want to contend that the leader isn't being enough of a servant.....

There is a much more important passage in scripture that cuts through the black and white role defining that we too often do as we try to create defined roles and rules for those roles....

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

The "Fruits of the Spirit" are the guiding principle for ALL Christians, at ALL times, for ALL roles they may ever have the responsibility for.  No matter where you are currently in your life and within a particular ministry and church, EVERYTHING you do is to be evaluated through the lens of these values.  If you claim to be in Christ, but consistently and belligerently act in ways that are diametrically opposed to the outward reflection of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.....well....draw your own conclusions.

No matter your role, ask yourself the question, "In this situation, as right or wrong I, or, they, may be, are the fruits of the spirit evident in my attitude, behavior and words?"

Do you want a healthy church?  It isn't about getting better leaders, or, getting better servants.  It's about each Christian, regardless of position, being shaped and defined by the work of the Holy Spirit.  When that is your first priority, the rest will work itself out.

The best leader of all time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Bedtime stories are a favorite of my son and I.  Recently I began to tell the story of God's people(starting with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat) and have recently arrived at the ministry of Jesus.  Last night we talked about the story from Matthew 8:

28 When He arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met Him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they pleaded with Him to leave their region.

At the conclusion of the story I was asking my son about the townspeople wanting Jesus to leave.  Even though what Jesus had done had freed the people from a great problem, they didn't like the results.  My son wisely responded, "Well, where are they supposed to get bacon now??"
I don't think my son was necessarily siding with the townspeople's rejection of Jesus, but it does illustrate an important point....

Do you ever browse through facebook?  You probably notice something that is becoming more and more common:  Complaining, moaning, drama posts, etc.  It seems like half the people in my feed are ever more increasingly unhappy with the status of their current life.  But do you know what I have learned about many of these same people?  They have no intention of making any changes, or sacrificing anything that they want.

We want to do whatever it is we want to do, but we want the world(and God) to make it all work out in our subjective favor.  We want to be thinner while still eating junk food.  We want to be happier, while still making the same emotionally and mentally poor relationship and life choices.  We want to be richer, while still being financially irresponsible.

There is a refusal to ever acknowledge that what we want may come with a cost.  The townspeople were being completely terrorized by the demoniac.  Surely they wanted the problem resolved.  But no one had apparently made any sort of effort.  They just ignored the problem.  It tells us no one even went that way at all.  So Jesus came in and solved their problem.  And, even more beautifully, freed the oppressed man from what he was experiencing.

What was their response?  Was it, "thank you thank you thank you!!!"?  Nope.  It was, "Can you please leave?"

Look at your own life.  As you evaluate the degree to which you have joy, hope, peace, happiness, etc, are you content?  Or, are you struggling right now?  Then look at Christ's claims on your life, and God's revealed truth about who we are, and what we are called to.  Are you truly aligned with it?  I would argue that you are not.

As long as we live unwilling to come to Jesus, even if it costs us something, then we too will have a demoniac type effect in areas of our life that we will feel shut off from.  Bacon is great, but freedom and hope is better.

The most amazing science in the world

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Healthy Marriage

Of all the things I know, the one I am most certain of is that I know very little.  An old cliché is that teenagers think they know everything and what the are most certain of is that their parents know very little.  But then, as the years rolls on, they discover how little they know and how much they want their parents advice.  The unstated assumption in this cliché is that from our matured adult perspective we recognize how little we knew as children.....but how much we know now. 

This is completely wrong.

When I was young I assumed that all adults had it together.  Life made sense for them, they had all the answers, and they were "grown up".  Today I realize that adults have the same blinders and make the same mistakes that they did as children, we just do it with more wrinkles and facial hair.  Buying into the mistaken perspective that where you are right now means that you have finally "arrived" turns off our brains, negatively impacts our empathy, and shrinks us into self-assured navel gazers. 

The belief in our own "completed" knowledge base is the fertile soil for becoming a self-centered person.  We mistakenly believe that what we believe to be true about ourselves and others is completely true.  And when someone does not live up to the static perspective we have adopted, we find ourselves in conflict. 

You see, knowledge without humility is the impetus to disconnecting our hearts from the human frailty of relationship.  When we become self-assured in our own perspective of "rightness" another person's inability, or, struggle, to meet our standard develops resentment and frustration. 

No where does this become more apparent than within the context of our marriages.  And the world has lied to us about what a marriage is, and so we are set up to fail from the start. 

The primary, and most destructive, lie about marriage is the story about "romantic" love.  You meet the "one", they give you butterflies, you can't stand the thought of spending even one minute apart.  And based on this, marriage is the end game.  When we are told that marriage is about love, what they mean is "romantic love". 

But here is the thing about romantic love.  Experiencing romantic love is a reflection of YOUR sensibilities.  It is based upon your current preferences and standards.  And these things are ever changing.  Not to mention that what is sweet and charming about someone who you see once every few days loses that allure when you see them EVERYYYYYY day. 

Romantic love, when you boil it down, is about what is being done for you.  There is a static standard you have created for yourself that you expect to be met.  While you may recognize that a child has to grow up and change and mature, we believe that we have arrived at whatever intellectual and emotional maturity destination that being an adult encompasses.  So therefore, we are done growing, and that other person better make the effort to meet us where we are at. 

In Ephesians 4:2, we are encouraged to, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love". 

Let me break that down.  The final word, "love", is the Greek word, "agape".  Which IS NOT romantic.  It is a giving love.  A God centered love that seeks the good for others first to the point of being sacrificial.  And this word is the foundation, what the other actions are rooted in, for the rest of the verse. 

So you SACRIFICIALLY are to be HUMBLE and gentle and patient.  While this passage is written to the general Christian population, it is a foundational truth that God calls us all to as the blueprint to guide our relationships. 

To sacrificially act in humility to your spouse means to;

1- Put them first, EVEN as it costs you something

2- Have an attitude of teachability that never wanes, no matter how much you have grown.  Because humility is a willingness to say, "I still have a lot to learn"

Every day we must come to our spouse with a humble heart that says, "I have so much more to learn about you, what I know today is going to be laughably small in comparison to what I shall know by tomorrow." 

Just like we realized that we just didn't know what we thought we knew when we were teenagers, a healthy marriage is found when two people have the self-awareness to say that they can never think they have arrived.

If you want a healthy marriage, start accepting that you know very little.  Become a student of your spouse.  Be empathetic to their short comings and mistakes, because you need them to be the same for you.  And we need to HUMBLY accept our own limitations as we extend that grace to our spouse. 

I just know you were more likely to read this because of his picture.....