Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Week in Review

The Life of a Healthy Church

Church leadership requires one to dedicate him or herself to the work of God. To minister in a leadership capacity with success, one must understand what they are being called upon to do. Two web sites, and try to help the leader understand what they are being called upon to do.

The first web site, writes about leadership development. Kenneth Boa, Th.M.; Ph.D., is the writer of the article, Leadership Development. In his article, he uses Jesus as the example to use as a guide for being a successful leader. Boa explains that Jesus picked his disciples and then for the next three and a half years, he taught them and empowered them for ministry (1). He explains that God did not need man as a part of the plan, but it was God’s purpose to use men from the start.

“First, they were well-trained” (2). When Jesus sent out the seventy-two they were given instructions on what to do and how to handle things if there were not received well. Jesus did not leave anything out of their training. Their training was what had the seventy-two rejoicing when they returned with good news of their success. The devil’s powers were stopped because of God’s power working through them. This is important to know and understand that it is through God’s power that all work is done. When one prepares God’s way, the work can be done.

“Second, they had a clear vision: They were impelled by Jesus’ urgent declaration that ‘The harvest is plentiful’” (2). A great leader must take the responsibility to define a clear picture of the mission. “Leadership is not merely a cognitive grasping of concepts…Leadership, like most things, is more caught than taught” (2).

An important fact mentioned is that Jesus took time to prepare for his mission. “Our Lord developed as a servant leader through personal discipline, through ‘reverent submission’…Jesus never invites us to do something he has not done for us first…He doesn’t ask us to love unlovely people without having first loved us in our unlovely state. He does not ask us to serve others without having first served us” (3).

“God has called us into being and is preparing us for a purpose” (3). God is in fact calling us to a purpose but the process is not guaranteed to be an easy one. “The hardships and struggles we endure during the transformation process will eventually provide us the strength we will need to accomplish the tasks our transformed nature will require” (4).

The last point Boa mentions is mentoring is mandatory. “Leadership development should be an ongoing process in our own lives as well as in the lives of those we seek to prepare. We should have multiple mentoring relationships” (5). These relationships consist of the one being mentored, to also reach out and teacher someone else. In these mentoring relationships, the one being mentored will be able to learn from one-on-one contact and experience. This is what Jesus did for his disciples. He took them with him and showed them how to be great leaders.

Those in leadership must develop spiritual disciplines that allow their life to be seen as an example of holy living, and this is mandatory for exampling to those they are training. J. Hampton Keathley, III in his article, Marks of Maturity: Biblical Characteristics of a Christian Leader states, “Being a godly example is not an option, it is commanded in Scripture. We need Christian maturity that provides people with real honest-to-God examples of authentic Christ-like living. Effective ministry to others is often equated with such things as dynamic personalities, with talent, giftedness, training, enthusiasm, and with Charisma…Much more is needed. In the Bible, the qualities that lead to effective ministry are found in the elements of spiritual character, in the character of Christ reproduced in us by the ministry of the Spirit” (1-2).

The goal of spiritual disciplines is to be more like Christ. In doing so, the minister (leader) then becomes an example for others to emulate. These disciplines help the minister in personal development, which help their ministry as well as their home life. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). This scripture gives the minister/leader a clear understanding of their purpose. One is to follow Christ in all their ways, and then the minister becomes an example for others to see Christ. This is the true purpose for developing one’s self for the mission.

What is discipline? The American Heritage College Dictionary defines it as, “the training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior. It is controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control” (402). The web site, states, “Spiritual disciplines help to keep our relationship with God in good working order, and even help develop intimacy…Disciplines and practices are tools that are a part of cooperating with the Spirit on the task of remaking us into what God wants us to be” (2). Spiritual disciplines are necessary to sustain a life in ministry.

Having a healthy prayer life is important for all believers, however it is vital for the minister/leader to dedicate time to prayer. The minister’s prayer life needs to cover prayers for themselves as well as for his or her ministry. James E. Rosscup, one of the writers included in the book, Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically states, “We show we are fools, setting ourselves up for mediocrity, emptiness, and disaster unless we devote ourselves wholeheartedly to prayer” (143). If one is to be successful, the time must be taken to hear from God regarding one’s life and ministry. It is necessary to prepare one’s self by praying for God’s wisdom, guidance, and strength.

God is the one that will strengthen the minister when faced with difficult situations or circumstances. Piper states it this way, “But finally, we must ask how a person comes to be willing to spend time with and be open to the Word of God? The answer seems to be that we must acknowledge our helplessness…This means that the beginning of spiritual leadership must be in the acknowledgement that we are sick who need a physician…And as we read the wonderful promises that are there for those of us who trust the doctor, our faith will grow strong and our hope will become solid” (2).

This leads to another important duty one should do in conjunction with their prayer time, and that is the study of the Bible. It is important to seek God’s answers in the pages of the Bible. One can receive direction for living as well as for how one should pray from the pages of the Bible. John Piper, the author of The Marks of a Spiritual Leader writes, “The hardest part of the missionary career, Mr. Taylor found, is to maintain regular, prayerful Bible study. ‘Satan will always find you something to do,’ he would say, ‘when you ought to be occupied about that, if it is only arranging a window blind’” (3).

How we lead as a church results in what we really look like to the world at large. What a church looks like to a visitor speaks more than we think it does. What the building looks like, tells those that come, how important it is to the congregation. If it has chipping paint, bad bathrooms or poor sound systems, visitors will not come away with a good impression of who we are. Yet, this is not a new idea to keep God’s house in good working order. “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink; but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:2-6).

The author points out that for any changes to happen, they must come from leadership first. It puts a big responsibility on leadership, but it will not take root unless leadership is one hundred percent for the process (come back next week for the next installment).

The Week in Review

The Role of the Pastor in Church Administration (Part 2)

Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams
October 11, 2007

This leads us to examining the congregation’s relating and functioning style. In week one’s lecture, it states, “These two things contribute to a church’s duality. Every church as a relating style that stems from its unwritten rules and expectations, as well as an organizational style or functioning style that is more easily identified by espoused values” (Toombs, pp. 7-8).

A pastor helps the church to live out both their functioning style alongside of the relating style by trying to help the congregation connect both to the mission of God. In some churches there are by-laws and rules, however everyone may not be aware of what the rules or laws really are. They may be written down, but they are not related to the congregation as a whole. This might be due to the church being comfortable in her past. The church may have become caught in her tradition (like the Brownstone church in a scenario’s from a previous lesson) that she does not remember everyone does not know about the church’s past or importance. This discourages some because you are expected to live up to laws, ways and ideas that you do not know and were never taught. I jokingly call it the “secret minister’s book”.

Some are expected to know how to function in areas of ministry, yet they may not have ever been taught the values of the church, which can discourage them in their walk. Individuals may not have been taught what is expected, but are criticized if you do not match up to the “mysterious standard”. I believe the pastor needs to help the body in this area by making sure that there is full disclosure of the by-laws of the church. I also believe this is one area that the church needs to teach.

I wanted to make sure I was prepared for ministry so I returned to school so that I could be trained in the best way possible for the mission of God. Going forward, I see that in whatever church capacity I function, I must teach those for whom I am responsible. That is the reason I set in motion “Student teachers” for the teenage class I teach. The oldest teenagers are taught how to study the lessons, prepare for class and teach. I allow them to teach the class with my assistance to gain competence instructing in the word. This process of growth and development involves some extra work and risk, however it is critical to the furtherance of the teaching ministry.

John Galloway, Jr. in the book Ministry Loves Company suggest to the reader regarding vision this, “If we cannot grow together to the point where we tilt forward in risk, the Lord can never teach us to walk. What we are saying is that we make a transition from listening to leading, not by drafting a vision statement or a long-range planning report, but by adjusting attitudes and procedures…Churches like families, get rather set in their ways…Our task is to free up the visionaries and then help them focus their vision” (p. 40). This is the biggest hurdle that faces the church today. There are those that do not want to change things or move outside of their comfort zone, even though they see their local church dying. The pastor then has to try and help those with a vision for the church that lines up with the will of God to have the freedom to grow and motivate others to grow. One of the suggestions from this author on how to move individuals forward in a positive way is, “Be yes people ourselves” (Galloway, p. 35).

Many pastors are receptive to hear individual’s ideas regarding the needs of the congregation. I have seen believers get excited because of the support of their pastor regarding the work in the church and due to his “yeses” others have wanted to be involved in the ministry. “Without strong pastoral leadership the reins of a church may well wind up in the few hands of an overworked, though saintly core, who have so much church business on their plates they gag on even the thoughts of something new” (Galloway, p. 37).

Galloway also gives us other criteria on how to function, as a church should. He writes about accountability. The pastor has a major role in helping the church understand whom she is accountable to. As Galloway states it, “To whom or to what are we accountable?” “For whom are we playing the game?” (p. 42). Sometimes believers think they are accountable only to the leader of their organization or to what someone has said, or just to themselves however, the pastor must help the body understand all are first accountable to God and not to holding to their traditions or ways of doing things. “Don’t get me wrong. The will of the congregation cannot be taken lightly. After all, we are a people who believe in collective wisdom…What the ruling board needs to grasp is that, while we take the input of the congregation with great seriousness, perhaps even wondering if the Lord might be speaking to us through the will of the congregation, we are to see ourselves quite differently from politicians who have been elected to represent their constituents…Our task is repeatedly to remind them that we take serious the will of the congregation but are accountable to God” (Galloway, pp. 42-43).

Reforming. Galloway also speaks about being “always reformed, always reforming” (p. 47). This speaks to the church’s ability to continue to grow in holiness of purpose and commitment. “In other words, ministry is a terribly difficult balancing act of getting people enthused about a particular work, but not so narrowly enthused that the work becomes an idol…Remember, folks: Our work is in service to God. It is not itself God” (p. 49). The pastor then has the responsibility to help us understand that we must be willing to change our attitudes and behaviors so that we are doing things for the Lord and not making our traditions, or work a god in itself. The pastor must help us keep a clear vision of how we look at what we do. It is also his responsibility to help us with “self”. “Nowhere do we need to be more intentional in our work of reforming than we do with our own idolatrous worship of our own sinful egos” (Galloway, 52). – Came back next week for the next installment.