How To Inherit The Earth: Submitting Ourselves to a Servant Savior by Scott Bessenecker, the Associate Director for Missions for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, is simply the best book I’ve read in years on spiritual influence. I wish I had understood and practiced the things that he unpacks in this small book about the ways of Jesus, in my early days of walking with the Lord and launching out into a life of service.
If you want to be a better, smarter, and more respected spiritual leader, may I recommend any number of books besides this one! The list of books whose quality is, in my opinion, disclosed by an excessive use of words like “strategic” and “successful,” is endless. You can search for them under keywords like “super-sizing” or “turbo charging” your ministry. Pastors and ministry leaders gobble up books like those hoping to learn the Six Secrets, the Seven Habits, or Twenty-one Laws of great leadership. Continue reading →
“I grew up in a Candy Store Church where we consumed spiritual candy to obesity and competed with other churches of similar ilk. For sure, there were many things at my CSC that commended itself, but I found that we were only growing in girth and not so much in God. My fondness for sweets notwithstanding, there’s only so much of it that a body can take.
Then I found the Vegetable Garden Church. While I intend no malice toward any church in particular, I would like to rate my experience with this new church in contrast to my former.
It seems like a healthier way of doing church…
I think VGC has a greater chance of producing a healthier sort of Christian disciple. You tend to leave from their gatherings healthier than when you came in. In CSC, you may mistake being “full” for being nourished. At VGC, your pangs of hunger are healthily satisfied rather than just being silenced until the Sunday sugar high turns to a Monday low. Continue reading →
I’m a zealot. With the exception of a season or two into which I lapsed into a domesticated and politically correct Christianity I’ve been this way since I met Jesus. Given his reality and love it’s the only way that makes sense to me. They used to call us “Jesus Freaks,” a label I wore like a badge of honor. When I say zealot I don’t of the same ilk as the first century sect of Jews that worked for the overthrow of the Roman domination of Israel by whatever means necessary. My zealotry is of a different sort, not the violent or political sort. I’m a simple lover-of-Jesus sort.
Someone said, “Zeal without knowledge is the sister of folly.” I have to admit that in my zealotry, has gotten me in a lot of trouble. I’ve been hurt and I’ve hurt others along my passionate path. Recently someone I deeply love told me that sometimes the way I manage my zeal does him more harm than good. Though it hurt to hear it, in time I came to understand his heart and apologized for my often less than edifying approach to his discipleship. Continue reading →
Andrew Carnegie, one of the wealthiest men of his time, was a philanthropist, endowing libraries and other organizations. One time, he bought literally thousands of organs for churches. He said it was to “lessen the pain of listening only to sermons.” Sometimes, when I’m guest speaking in a church I’ll look around and say, “I noticed that you don’t have an organ here. Too bad for you!”
Speaking of “sermons” – a term I’ve never really liked, and only use it here because it’s the most common term among the church-going crowd for what pastors do on Sundays – I admit that I’ve given way too many of them. Not only have I erred in the number of said sermons, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve often failed in the matter of their individual length. Solomon said, “Too much talk leads to sin.” I’ve never figured out if that’s the sin of the preacher or the preached-to. During the interminable sermon, the preached-to sin by their exasperation and the preacher by the imprudence of droning on.
I’m certainly not saying that Bible teaching is unimportant. The truths of the Bible and those elucidated by gifted teachers have literally saved my life. I’m an ardent, almost obsessed student of the Scriptures, and an avid patron of good teaching. But, what I’m not such a fan of is the “Filibuster Sermon.” Continue reading →
In Part 1 I shared how some of the best witnesses are the neediest ones. Now, from my own experience, observation of others, and the New Testament I’ll share how some of the most effective church planters and missionaries are ones who go out, as did the original apostles, with little to nothing. As with any rule of thumb, there are exceptions to this, but as I see it, apostolics and those who send them out, would do well to consider an approach other than our typical present day scenario.
At 26 I embarked on planting the first of three churches. When I met with my denomination’s regional supervisor he asked me if I needed any money for the venture – you know, like “Venture capital” for the startup. I had no strategy or team like they have today, or any money for that matter. I just had a sense that we were supposed to move to a city unknown to us and start a church. I heard myself say to Doc (that’s what everyone called him), who already thought I was a little offbeat, “No I don’t think so. I wouldn’t know what to do with it if you gave it to me. But if I change my mind I’ll get back to you.” By the time I got to the parking lot I was already trying to formulate a speech to give to my wife when I got home to tell her that I had turned down money. We didn’t have kids yet, so if I failed I wouldn’t go to jail for neglecting them or anything, but still, what was I thinking? We didn’t starve and the Lord made a church in spite of my paltry plan and measly budget. Continue reading →
This post, exposing a controlling model of spiritual leadership and proposing a more Christ-like alternative, borrows from chapter 5 of “Learning Leadership Lessons from 2 Corinthians.” The tendency toward dictatorial leadership is nothing new. Spiritual leaders have always been tempted to try to control and coerce people for one reason or another. The sincere, albeit gravely mistaken, ones either thought that God required it or people needed it. Others, with less than noble motives, eat up the power to steer people where they want. It makes them feel and look important.
In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul was dealing with the rumor that was circulating in the region that he was no longer an apostle at all. Considering all that he’d invested in this high-maintenance church it must have been quite a hard blow. The way he handled these attacks is a great model of leadership to any generation. If we follow his train of thought, his exhortations, and pleas in the letter we can learn a lot of life-saving leadership lessons for ourselves.
Among other things he felt compelled to address was the accusation that he practiced a controlling leadership style. His response is a good reminder to any spiritual leader of any age about the relationship God demands between the leader and the led. Continue reading →
This is chapter 2 in my “Learning Leadership Lessons from 2 Corinthians” that you can find here.
2 Corinthians contains more references to “trouble” and “tribulation” that any other book in the New Testament. But it also contains more in it about God’s “comfort” than any other. While the term “tribulation” is used 9 times, the term, “comfort” appears 29 times! There must be at least three times as much comfort available to us as there is trouble awaiting us!
The first thing we learn about comfort is that God doesn’t comfort us in order to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters! This is particularly true of spiritual leaders. It is crucial for a leader to model and teach how a person receives comfort from God in the middle of difficulty. Paul is telling us that the leader has to suffer so he can access the help of God, and thus be able to mentor others in how to access that same help for himself. The leader whose closest contact with personal pain is what they read in a book won’t very well be able to help the hurting!
I recall a painful rejection of a very close friend and colleague. I went out to one of my favorite prayer spots along the railroad tracks among the broccoli fields overlooking the ocean. At one point I just sat down on the tracks and wept over the experience. Prior to that, I hadn’t ever really taken particular note of the Psalm that says, “God is close to the brokenhearted.” But at that moment of pain, the Holy Spirit brought those words to me, and I took comfort in them. How often, when consoling other brokenhearted people, I’ve drawn on that verse, and the experience that brought the truth of it to my attention. He comforted me in my troubles, so that I could comfort those in trouble with the comfort I myself had received from Him! Continue reading →