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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Series on Witness

(Edited). We are making good progress in our sermon series on witness. Today we are up to the “E” in our acronym of the word “witness.” And the title is “Everyone can be a part.” What we are doing today is remembering some general teaching about the body of Christ and how the body works, and then applying this to our topic of reaching out.

1. Everyone has something to offer

God created each one of us and God has given each one of us unique abilities and talents. As David said to God in Psalm 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And so are we all. A good example of this in our congregation is our worship team.

And as Christians each of us have spiritual gifts, because the Spirit has come to live in us and work through us. This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 – “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

I don’t think that this is an exhaustive list, but it does show us some of the unique ways that the Spirit works through different ones of us. And as each of us allows the Spirit to work in us for the common good the body is built up.

In terms of reaching out, some of you are specifically gifted to reach out. Some of you have talents and abilities and spiritual gifts that empower you to be effective at reaching out. And on top of this, some of you may also be called to the role of an evangelist. I have known a number of evangelists and I love to see them at work. Gary and Denise are among this group. And maybe God is calling others of you to the role of an evangelist. May that be so!

2. God calls forth leaders in the body

Paul says this is Ephesians 4:11, talking about gifts that Christ has given to bless the church, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers . . ..” This verse speaks of four or five different leadership roles in the body of Christ. This is my take:

  •  apostles plant churches
  • prophets encourage and call the church to faithfulness
  • evangelists share Jesus with others
  • shepherds or pastors oversee congregations
  • and teachers teach the Word to the body. These last two may well be just one since teaching is a, or the key activity of a pastor.

As each leader uses their gifts and callings, the whole body is blessed and built up.

In terms of outreach some have been called to lead in reaching out to others. Gary and Denise are helping give leadership to our congregation. The Elders and I work at this. And here recently the Fun and fellowship team has given leadership as well.

3. We are all to be well-rounded Christians

That is, able to do lots of different things as mature Christians. For instance, not everyone is called to be a teacher, but we are all called to teach each other. Paul says in Colossians 3:16 that we are to be “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” So you don’t have to be called to teach SS now and then, or to teach your children about the faith as parents, or to speak a word into a fellow believer’s life that needs to be taught something.

Another example, not everyone is gifted as an encourager, but we are all called to encourage one another. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “encourage one another and build one another up.” So you may not have the gift of encouraging or a ministry focused on this, but you can still see someone who is down and say a good word to build them up and bless them.

So we all have gifts and specialties. But we are all also to be well-rounded, able to let God use us in all kinds of ways, depending on the situation.

In terms of outreach, not all are evangelists, but Jesus calls us all to be a witness for him. Jesus tells us in Acts 1:8,  “you will be my witnesses.” Not all have a ministry focus on outreach, but each of us are to always be prepared, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

  •  we can all speak and talk about the Lord
  • we can all look for opportunities that God opens up for us to share our lives and faith with others
  • we can all pray for the lost
  • we can all support and encourage those who do focus on outreach.

4. Leaders are to equip you for ministry

This is where there is often confusion. We fall into thinking that the pastor or other leaders are here to do the work for us. You support them and they get things done on your behalf. But this is not a scriptural understanding of ministry.

Yes, you are to support them, and yes they are to get things done according to their gifting. But what leaders do ultimately has to do with equipping us all for ministry. Paul makes this point in Ephesians 4:12. After talking about apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers, he tells us that leaders are “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Not to do it for them, but to empower them to do ministry.

For instance those who lead as teachers help all of us to know how to teach and what to teach. And those who have a ministry of encouragement help us all to know how to encourage others better. We become more well-rounded.

In terms of outreach as well, leaders empower and prepare us all to reach out. Neither the Elders and I, nor Gary and Denise are here to do the work for you. Rather we are here to encourage you, to do the work with you, and to provide opportunities for you to reach out in ways that any Christian can do.

5. To be healthy all parts of the body must be doing their part

As I said to you several years ago, the best way to see me have a breakdown is to put all the expectations on me and sit back and don’t participate. Or maybe even criticize. None of us can do all the work of the body by ourselves. And sometimes the ones who are criticizing are the very ones who have strengths who could come alongside to help leaders and others to be stronger, working as a team. Now, I have learned not to take on false expectations of doing it all, but you get my point.

We are a body! What would it be like to be a body where all of the parts looked at the right foot and said, “hey it’s all on you! We’re not going to do anything.” “Hey right foot, we’re hungry!” Or “Hey right foot let’s go into the other room.” One foot can’t move a limp body. Or “Hey right foot, the ear has an itch can you scratch it?” What can a foot do by itself??

No, we are a body. And when every part is functioning, a body can do all that a healthy body can do. And when we are all functioning as the body of Christ, using our gifts, leaders doing their part to minister and to equip the body so that we are all well-rounded – God can do anything through us. Amen?

Paul says this in Ephesians 4:15-16 – “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Notice the phrase – “when each part is working properly.” That’s all of us. Then, the body grows and builds itself up.

In terms of our focus, everyone can contribute to outreach on some level. Leaders, leading and equipping; evangelists and others with outreach gifts doing what they are empowered to do; and each one of us being well-rounded, reaching out as there is opportunity, praying for the lost and supporting those with special gifts and callings.

And then God can do a great work here among us.

William Higgins

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Ah – human nature! We all have it. We are all weak and stumble in many ways (James 3:2). For instance, we all have opinions about everything from the best football teams to the best new fashions, and often think our view is the view.  

And then when we get together in a group this comes out. There will be things we don’t like – it might be a person, a point of view, or just the way things are done. And we know from experience that this often leads to failings on our part and the part of others as we get caught up in ungodly conflicts and division.

With regard to a local congregation we know that God calls us to be together and to love each other and to do the work of the kingdom together. But how do we then deal with the things we don’t like about the group or don’t agree with? I want to be really specific in our focus this morning – how do we deal with what we may not like about the direction the leadership is setting for the group?

The title this morning is The right way to express concerns – or don’t be a grumbler! Let me emphasize, you will never escape being unhappy with parts of what goes on in a group. It’s human nature and you take that with you to any group you belong to. You can’t get away from it. So sisters and brother, we might as well learn how to deal with this in a godly and healthy way.

I share this morning not just because I happen to be a leader here and don’t like grumbling and how it damages us when it happens, but because I am a part of other groups and don’t want to be a grumbler myself. And I haven’t been and won’t always be a pastor, so I need this just like we all need to be reminded of this.

An all too familiar story

There are a number of stories about grumbling in the Scriptures. One story that stands out is Numbers 14. If you will remember the spies have come back from scoping out the promised land and most of them have given a bad report. It’s great, but . . . we will all be killed if we try to enter it. Then comes vs. 1-4. 1Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ 4And they said to one another, ‘Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’”

They are grumbling primarily against God here, but for our purposes I want to focus on the grumbling against Moses and Aaron. And we learn first of all from this passage how grumbling works.

First, something bad happened that caused them to be full of fear and negativity. In this case, they heard a bad report. And instead of trusting God, and dealing with the issue, they gave in to fear. ‘We have come all this way only to discover that there are giants in the land waiting to kill us and our families! And even though God has done all these miracles and has been faithful to us in the past, this is too much. It will never work.’

So they began to speak against Moses and Aaron. As v. 2 says, they grumbled. Grumbling is expressing one’s discontent; it is complaining; and it usually carries with it the idea of saying these things quietly to others in the group. They had a problem, they were fearful and negative, and so they blamed their leaders, complaining about them and questioning their leadership to others.

They do bring their concerns to the leaders (v. 2) but not with a right heart. That’s because grumbling against a leader comes from a heart that is in the process of rejecting the leader. Which is what happened next. 

The congregation rebelled against Moses and Aaron. Let’s choose another leader and go in a different direction (v. 4). This is how grumbling works, at least in the case of grumbling against a leader.

We also learn from Numbers 14 about the seriousness of grumbling. 1. That generation was excluded from the promises. They were not allowed to enter the promised land but wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until they died (14:21-23). They did not obtain what God wanted to give them because of their grumbling.

2. Those who gave the bad report that led to the grumbling were killed by the Lord (14:36-37).

Grumbling brings judgment. Paul in talking about Numbers 14 says this in 1 Corinthians 10:10, we must not “grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” And he specifically says these things were written for our instruction to learn from (10:11). And James says in James 5:9, “Do not grumble against one another, sisters and brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” 

How should we express our concerns?

Well, certainly not with grumbling. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling . . . ” Instead of this, we should 1. have a right heart. That is, don’t be fueled by fear and negativity which undermines leadership. The Israelites spoke to their leaders, but it was too late. They were already planning on getting new leaders and going in a different direction. Their heart wasn’t right.

Rather, recognize that there will always be problems that we go through as a group. And we need to respond in faith that God will lead us through. If we have allowed our hearts to be full of fear and negativity, pray for the Spirit to change your heart before you speak about your concern. 

2. Go to the leaders. Follow the principle of Matthew 18:15 and go to them face to face. Don’t whisper or talk to others, go to them. II have had for a while now a policy of not receiving anonymous critical notes. And I will say now that I will no longer receive any second hand anonymous verbal criticisms. I don’t want to empower this kind of harmful behavior. If you have a concern put your name and face to it. This is what God wants, direct communication about concerns.

Follow the principle of Galatians 6:1 and go with gentleness. Don’t wait so long that it all explodes in a hurtful and harmful way. Be loving and kind. And as 1 Thessalonians 5:12 teaches go with respect for your leaders.

3. Make your concern known. Listening by all parties is the key. James 1:19 says, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

You may find that leadership has more information on the situation than you do, or are working with confidential information, or there might be bigger issues involved that have to be considered. Or, leadership may not have thought of your concern, or they may have a blind spot on an issue, and it is actually God’s purpose that you speak to them to help them.

Hopefully each one’s concerns can be addressed, but sometimes there will still be different points of view. And so as followers we need to let those that God has put in place to lead, lead – knowing that they are responsible before God for the well-being of the congregation and so need to make decisions they are comfortable with. And unless they have done something that warrants their removal, or it is an issue that is so serious that we need to leave the group – we should respect them and the office they hold and pray for them.

Let’s end with a –

A different story

 This comes from Acts 6:1-5. “1Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3Therefore, brothers and sisters pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ 5And what they said pleased the whole gathering . . .”

So there was a complaint, Some were being overlooked in the distribution of food – an alms ministry conducted by the church in Jerusalem for widows. It is interesting that the word for grumbling is used here, translated as “complaint” in v. 1, but it is not used in a negative way. And I think it’s because they had a right heart. They were not fearful or negative, or rebellious against the leaders. They moved forward believing that God would lead the congregation through this.

They went to the leaders, not to others. They didn’t grumble and undermine leadership. And they made their concerns known. They were aware of a problem, which the apostles had overlooked. And because they went the apostles came up with a solution to the problem. They appointed other leaders to oversee the alms ministry and give full attention to it.  

Let me end by just saying once again – in any group we are a part of we will always have disagreements and discontentments. It’s what we do with these that matter.

  • If we follow our natural human response, the flesh, we will grumble and complain to others behind the backs of our leaders. This is the model of Numbers 14.
  • But I would invite you to follow the model of Acts 6. Come so we can talk together. I believe you will find that your input is welcome and valued. And if it seems too intimidating I encourage you to find someone to come with you, and we can talk together.

Which path will you follow? The way of Numbers 14 or the way of Acts 6?

William Higgins 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Kind of Leaders Jesus is Looking For

We are beginning a process of electing a new Elder in our congregation. And this is significant, because Elders are important leaders in a Christian congregation.

To help you as you think and pray about nominations for this, and to also help you more broadly on the topic of Christian leadership – I want us to focus in this morning on “The Kind of Leaders Jesus is Looking For.” 

Our Focus Text – Mark 10:42-45 

“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” 

(more…)

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