The Spiritual Leader’s #1 Responsibility!

spiritualleadershipSpiritual leadership is a lot of things. It is first a privilege to be involved in the spiritual growth of the precious people that God has brought into our lives. Spiritual leadership is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly, for people look to us for direction and guidance regarding the most significant questions of our existence as human beings. Spiritual leadership is a mandate to make disciples through baptism, teaching of the word, love, and fellowship (Matt 28:19-20, John 13:35, Acts 2:42). Spiritual leadership is carried out by setting an appropriate example for others to follow (John 13:15, Phil 3:17, 1 Tim 4:12). However, there is one thing that all spiritual leaders must understand.

Spiritual leaders are NOT the source of fruit in a disciple’s life!

Spiritual leaders who think that they are responsible for producing fruit in a disciple’s life find themselves living in a state of constant frustration. I must say I have been guilty of thinking this way in the past. My heart was to do everything in my power to help people change and become fruit-bearing Christians. My heart is still there, but my perspective on who is responsible for the outcome is different. There is a long list of things that spiritual leaders do such as feed, care, tend, protect, teach, preach; however, not among that list is producing fruit in a person’s life. Scripture points out in multiple places that a person is responsible for his or her own fruit (Mt. 3:8, Mt. 7:17, Jn 15:16, Rom 7:4) and that Jesus is their source (John 15).

Our job as spiritual leaders is to point them to Jesus in everything we do!

Young believers become attached to their pastors and spiritual leaders and if not instructed properly will believe that the spiritual leader is their source of life. Many leaders and pastors allow themselves to be that source because it gives them significance or helps them feel important. Our job is not to be the source of fruit in a person’s life. Jesus said plainly in John 15:5 “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.Jesus is the only source of fruit in a person’s life; not the pastor, not the Sunday school teacher, and not the small group leader. Our job is to point them to Jesus. If we allow people to abide in us as their source, we are doing them a disservice by withholding the very Gospel that is found only in Jesus.

All spiritual leaders I know have a deep desire to see growth in those they are trying to disciple. This desire is why we do what we do. I encourage you today to evaluate how you see the outcome of your efforts and where you place responsibility for a person’s growth. I pray the Lord will set you free from taking on a role that belongs to him and his sheep. Keep REACHING FORWARD for as many as the Lord would give you to disciple! There’s no greater calling!

Comments are encouraged!

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Why being religious doesn’t work!

Religion without relationship always leads to rebellion. I watch people resort to religious duty when things get bad in their lives. It could be that a person loses their job, their marriage is falling apart or they experience some other unfortunate event in life. It is worth examining how we face crisis and deal with life’s struggles. Many people internalize their misfortunes and conclude that they have somehow disappointed God and must get back into his good graces. Religious duty becomes the focus of the day. Perhaps it is religious duty that causes people to feel better about themselves.

It’s not about religious duty, it’s about relationship!

God doesn’t want our religious duty. Oh sure, he wants our obedience, but not from a position of duty. He wants our obedience from a position of love. All of the religious duty in the world will not get us one step closer to God without embracing the loving relationship of the Father. Relationship requires one being honest with himself and with God. It requires approaching God with humility of heart. Relationship requires an exchange of our life for the life God desires for us. Relationship requires true repentance and shaping our lives around the principles found in Scripture. Relationship is about understanding that our righteousness is found only in Christ not in our ability to do good.

Religious duty might make you feel better about yourself in the midst of crisis, but relationship on the front end will determine the degree of impact the crisis has on your life.

REACH FORWARD for God’s best in your life, not through religious duty but through relationship. He’s not waiting for you to perform for him. He’s waiting for you to open your heart and embrace him so that he can embrace you.

Navigating through the fog

In my military days, I was trained during a time when our focus was primarily on jungle warfare. We prepared for battles to be fought on foot in the jungle or dense vegetation as opposed to the desert and mountains of today’s modern battlefield. Navigation in those environments was difficult, but nearly impossible when darkness fell or thick fog rolled in. However, we were trained to navigate through times of limited or no visibility. Often times in Europe, we struggled with darkness throughout the night and dense fog throughout the day that led to extended periods of time with no visibility. Like a pilot who has instruments to help him take off, land and navigate his airplane through the fog, we too had principles that would help us navigate during those blinding periods of time.

I’m amazed at how our lives can be moving along so well and suddenly darkness falls or a dense fog rolls in. Perhaps you have limited visibility right now. We all face these periods in our lives. Sometimes it’s a little foggy and other times it is down right pitch black darkness. Our fog takes on different meanings to different people. Sometimes it’s trying to find vision and direction in life or wisdom for a critical business decision. Other times it might be relationship struggles or depression. Although our fog takes on different meanings, one thing is certain; we will all find ourselves trying to navigate through it, not once, but several times throughout the course of our lives.

How do I navigate through the fog? The principle is this: When you find yourself in the confusion of the darkness or fog, stay close to the things that are sure in your life.

1. Stay close to the plan you had before the fog rolled in. (Note: This can be a life plan, a business plan or a vision plan) Sometimes the plan needs to change, but more often than not there are other factors causing the confusion rather than the plan itself. In other words, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Review the plan carefully and discern whether or not the plan has taken your eyes off of the vision. If the plan is leading in the wrong direction it needs to change. However, if the plan points to the overall vision then stay on course. Something else is happening but you are likely to still be moving in the right direction.

2. Stay close to people that know you well. Withdrawal is NOT the way to “find yourself” in most cases. This is not to say that some time in solitude and meditation is not beneficial; in fact it is. The people that are closest to you know you better than you think. Let them help you navigate the way. They will encourage you and walk with you until the fog begins to clear. This is the time when you need to stop talking and LISTEN for God to speak through the people that have your ear.

3. Stay close to God and His word. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Sometimes it’s our distance from God that creates the fog in the first place. Stay close to God and His word and listen for that still small voice to speak through worship, prayer and meditation on His word. His word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.

In the jungle fog and darkness can be a great hindrance, but it can also slow you down enough to keep you from making huge mistakes and inadvertently expose you to the enemy. Don’t fight so hard against the fog. Rather, embrace what’s happening and look for the message God is trying to send you. It could perhaps be the very thing that you need most.

If you stay close to your plan; close to the people who know you well; and, close to God and His word, you can be confident that when the fog clears, you will have navigated your way one step closer to God’s best for your life.

Keep REACHING FORWARD…even in the fog!

Comments welcome.

The Truth About Serving in the Church

One of our small group leaders shared an insight that she discovered while discussing serving among small group members. The discussion revealed that most people want to serve in ministry, but they are plagued and often paralyzed by the following questions: Can God really use me? Does God want to use me after what I’ve done? Am I worthy enough for such an important role? What if I fail? Am I qualified to serve in ministry?

These questions have existed in the hearts and minds of people since ancient times. Moses didn’t think he could speak eloquently enough and Gideon felt unworthy. Solomon felt unqualified to be king of Israel and Elijah once felt all alone. The Apostle Paul once had as his life mission to destroy the movement of Christianity, yet ended up as one of the greatest missionaries of all time and wrote over half of the New Testament.

The point is this: God doesn’t choose the qualified, the worthy, the social elite or the super gifted and talented;

Serving God is the natural response of our relationship with Him.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Eph 2:10).

The more we grow in our relationship with God the more we want others to experience His love and goodness. It is out of our relationship with Him that we realize the results of our serving lie in His hands. The answers are clear: of course we’re not qualified, worthy or fully equipped…in our own strength and wisdom. However, God has created each and every one of us to have a place of service in His kingdom (1 Cor 12:7). He has gifted each and every person to do their part in order to make the Body of Christ whole (1 Cor 12:12; Romans 12).

The issue that we really struggle with is fear; fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, fear of making a mistake, and so on. Like Moses, Gideon and so many others, the reason we struggle with these fears is because our focus is on ourselves. When you and I begin to focus on the power and purposes of God, our fears become smaller and smaller. It’s not to say that we will not always have some level of apprehension when asked to step out in faith and serve, but when our focus is on God and His purposes He will give us the courage we need to step forward.

The purpose for which God has designed you is in the context of fulfilling His purposes in the earth.

I want to encourage you today with the truth that God created you for a specific purpose. He has not designed your purpose to make you someone uniquely special for all the world to see. Rather, He has made you uniquely special so that you can do your part in fulfilling His purposes in the earth. You don’t have to figure it all out to get started.  Trust Him to lead you, guide you, and equip you to do the thing He’s asking you to do. If you are unsure, start somewhere! Trust me when I say this:

You will begin to hear God more clearly when you are serving His purposes.

Just start somewhere and allow Him to lead you! The classroom of serving is where we learn how God has truly gifted us. Jump in and get ready to embark on the greatest journey of your life!

Keep REACHING FORWARD in your relationship with Christ and He will walk with you into your destiny!

Comments welcome!

Four questions new believers are asking that every church leader should know.

In the Army we used to have a saying that was “never forget what it’s like to be a Private.” In other words, smart leaders never forget where they came from and where they started. Wise leaders realize they are here to blaze the path for those following in their footsteps.

I spent some time with a friend of mine who walked into a church this past Easter Sunday for the first time in 25 years. He opened his heart to Christ on Easter and has since shown great courage in getting plugged in to the church. In talking with him, I am reminded of some things that all church leaders need to remember and incorporate into their discipleship strategies.

Four questions new believers are asking

1. Will I fit in? New believers coming into the church are wondering if they can be themselves. They are not sure how to approach people who all seem to fit in. Imagine what it was like as a teenager going to a new school on the first day. Everyone seems to know everyone else, but I know no one. Are people looking at me as the “new” guy? Am I dressed the way I’m supposed to be? What if they find out I really have problems and don’t have it all together? Will I have anything in common with these people?

Church leaders need to teach and model how to engage people and make them feel welcome, especially if they are recognized as a newcomer or seem a little awkward in the room. Church goers should go out of their way to find something in common with a newcomer and communicate to them that they do fit in.

2. Will I be accepted or judged? New believers feel like outsiders coming in and wonder how they are going to be received. Many that I’ve talked with who have had positive experiences report that they were very surprised at how well they were received. They are often wondering what will happen when someone finds out what is really going on in their lives.

Church leaders should emphasize environments where people are loved and accepted because they are loved and accepted by God. Leaders should teach members how to deal with sin in a brother or sister without condemning and driving them away.

3. Will the preaching be relevant to my life? New believers are wondering if God really has answers to the situations that they are facing in life. New believers need to know that the Scriptures are relevant for today and that God cares about what is happening in their lives.

Church leaders ought to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in creative and relevant ways that answers the question: “How can my life be different because of what you are telling me?” “How do I live out this life that you are preaching about?” Our listeners should never leave a sermon wondering ‘how’ or ‘what should I do about what you just said’. Let’s equip them and give them the tools they need to be successful according to God’s word. By the way, this applies to everyone not just new believers.

4. Will the church be relevant to my life? One thing is for sure, new believers who publicly profess their new found faith are going to be teased, ignored, ridiculed, and persecuted by people they thought were their friends. They are wondering if there is a way to meet people who can fill this void and help them change their lives. The thought is this; if the people in the church can’t meet me where I am and actually help me through genuine relationships, then why should I change everything about my life and lose all my friends in the process?

Church leaders need to create opportunities for new believers to meet people. There should be multiple gateways for people to break into the church and begin building relationships. Small groups should be easy to join and the steps should be clearly communicated.

Most of us in the church have good hearts and want to genuinely help people. However, we all need to reflect on what it was like to be a new believer walking in to a church for the first time. We need to remember where we came from and create strategies that facilitate the assimilation and discipleship of new believers. Take a look from their perspective.

Comments welcome.