Good morning, all! It’s the Lord’s Day, where churches all over the world gather around the Word to proclaim Christ boldly. Pray for your pastors. How? Let’s talk about that!
Christ is moving and working in His church even now. He has promised this. He is the one to build His church. Men may believe it’s ultimately up to them, but Christ builds His church. Book after book is written that can, at best, serve as supplements–only the Bible carries the substance of how Christ personally and intimately builds His church.
How though, does Christ build it? For now, let’s just see two ways that parallel the original creation. By the Word of God, creation came into being in general; and by the Word of God the church (meaning, His organization and His people). In 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul writes: “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Hearts and minds are changes and galvanized by His glory that shines in us and by His Word that transforms. When Jesus told His disciples, “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me” (John 6:37) and all through the first part of Acts that, through the preaching of the gospel to all who would listen, that “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:39). When we realize that the word ‘church’ comes from the Greek word ‘ekklesia,’ which means ‘called out ones,’ it is Christ who is calling out those whom God has chosen unto Himself. It will happen. He’s building His church.
MacArthur rightly said,
By human reason, persuasiveness, and diligence it is possible to win converts to an organization, a cause, a personality, and to many other things. But it is totally impossible to win a convert to the spiritual church of Jesus Christ apart from the sovereign God’s own Word and Spirit. Human effort can produce only human results. God alone can produce divine results.
It’s His church. We are not simply projects, but are people, souls that Christ is intimately personal with. Recently, I watched an interview with Brett Favre, former Green Bay quarterback. He holds most every QB record in the book when he retired. His father was a football coach–and His Father never told him how proud he was of him. He told others, but never Brett. Brett understood his father loved him in his own way, but never saw it demonstrated.
Daily, Christ is showing us how much He loves His church, which we will see in a bit. But He loves you. Not your religious activities, but your relationship with him, from which those activities arise.
Christ will build His church. And we know that when Christ makes a promise, He never fails to follow through. In Titus, Paul by the Spirit says that God cannot lie (your versions may say does not lie, as if he had a choice to lie or not, but the Word is an absolute–He cannot lie).
Do we truly believe He will build His church? Do we really take God at His Word as to what He wants His church to be? What would happen if God moved in our hearts and spirits by His Spirit and we said, “Lord, I trust you to build your church your way, not mine.” The way we would know where we stood is if He told us to move something that’s a favorite away. It could well expose some idols that need toppling.
I just finished Matt Perman‘s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. This stands as one of the best, if not the best, book I’ve read on productivity. It’s building on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, but putting a gospel-centered productivity aspect to this. I love how he showed that being productive is not just about doing things for you in a self-centered way, but is an act of loving your neighbor. That chimed with me, and may well be the final catalyst for being productive. Below is a choice quote from the book (p. 303) about why being effective and productive is not for selfish ambition, but actually is about ‘loving your neighbor.’
How does individual effectiveness lead to the greater effectiveness of the organization? It’s not simply that by doing your work better everyone around you gets more done and thus the organization gets more done (though that is true).
It is also because personal effectiveness has an impact on the spirit and culture of an organization, creating an environment that calls forth the best from everyone. This raises the sights of everybody and creates an environment that calls forth their best. This is good for everyone individually and for the organization. As Drucker puts it, “As executives work toward becoming effective, they raise the performance level of the whole organization. They raise the sights of people —their own as well as others. As a result, the organization not only becomes capable of doing better. It becomes capable of doing different things and of aspiring to different goals” (Drucker, The Effective Executive, p. 170-71).
Thus, “executive effectiveness is our one best hope to make modern society productive economically and viable socially” (Drucker, 170).
This book will stay close by on my desk for the foreseeable future. It provides concrete measures to help you sort through various actions and projects that will come your way.
I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough. Blending the purpose of preaching, pastoring, and productivity is what this blog is all about–and will help all leaders lead their organization more joyfully and less stressfully. Who knows? We may spend some time going through this book chapter by chapter.
So let’s get started with a key question: What steals your joy as a leader? Low numbers for your events? Criticisms? Too many meetings? Preparing a sermon (or three) each and every week? Concerns about the future?
I understand completely. In talking to my buddy and NAMB representative Dave Howeth, he shared that pastors often look at the blade of grass rather than the entire forest. Sometimes, those blades of grass loom awfully large the closer you are to that issue.
The apostle Paul expressed an anxiety that he has over his churches (2 Corinthians 11:28)–this after expressing how much physical torture and suffering he faced in his day-to-day ministry. Concern for the health and future of churches brought an anxiety that equaled or even surpassed the physical issues he endured. Quite telling, wouldn’t you agree? But all who serve as pastors of their local churches understand this acutely.
Reading through Hebrews 13:17, we see that church members are to “Obey [their] leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over our souls, having to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Keeping watch over their souls? My, no wonder Paul felt such anxiety!
Leaders have an industrial-strength calling: to keep watch over the souls of those to whom God has entrusted them. Why? We’ll have to give an account. So the Spirit tells the congregation to “let them do this [watch over our souls] with joy and not with groaning.”
In looking at this passage, pastors and leaders could put all the onus on the congregation: “OK, people, obey me and submit to me. I gotta watch over your souls and give an account for you. So don’t make this difficult. The better you obey and submit, the more joy I will have. That’s what God says. Amen.”
So, is it all on the congregation? Does the call of God to lead the church give us a bulletproof vest? No! No! No! Joy comes to the leader when they see God’s children walking with Christ. The apostle John in his third epistle notes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
So this leads to the question: what steals our joy? Is it the congregation that refuses to “obey and submit?” Is it your own personal expectations that rob you? What other things at play?
What steals your joy? According to Scripture, what may steal our joy is the inversion of what John wrote: few heartbreaks exist like seeing those in our churches not walking in the truth. This is why Jesus instituted church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13) in order to bring about repentance of sin and restoration to Christ and His body. We must desire to pour ourselves out to help others walk in the truth. And that we ourselves walk in the truth.
What steals your joy? Share with us in the comments section.
- “We should leave the work of the ministry to the professionals! After all, they’ve been to seminary and been trained. We haven’t. And that’s what they get paid for, right?”
- “I have an idea of what the church should be doing. I think I’ll suggest it to the pastors and deacons so they can get to work on it.”
- “So the ministers do all the work? I want to get involved in a church where I can make a difference for the Kingdom. That doesn’t seem to be happening here—I think I’ll move on.”
- “You mean the ministers expect us to be involved in ministry? That’s not what I signed up for—I just want to go to heaven, and not go to hell. Isn’t that why Christ died? I don’t like these expectations—I think I’ll move on.”
These quotes above are examples of how people think the ‘work of the ministry’ should go in a church. Some think it’s up to the trained people, while others don’t want that but want to be a part of Kingdom work in a local church.
Ephesians 4:11-12 gives a helpful (and Spirit-inspired) insight into the purpose of the leaders in the church—to identify and equip future leaders in the church for Kingdom work. Why? What are some reasons and benefits that come from this. Below are five. It’s not a comprehensive list by any means, but a list nonetheless that will get the conversation started.
- This is a command of Christ himself. This is sufficient—but as always, when Christ commands us to do something, reasons abound. He never commands anything in a vacuum or to simply cramp our style.
- This is a reason He called you into the ministry. We are called to “make disciples”—that is, we are called to reproduce ourselves. This is part and parcel of our calling into the ministry. If you have any doubt, read 2 Timothy 2:1-2.
- This builds up the body of Christ into unity and maturity. The more people are involved in leadership, the less time they may have to complain about what’s happening. They will see what it takes to make things ‘run’ (for lack of a better term). But when we work in the same direction, captured by the same mission and vision that Christ has laid on us, a unity and maturity into the likeness of Christ takes place. We are, as Tozer said, all instruments tuned to the same tuning fork. And by virtue of that, we are tuned to each other.
- This safeguards the minister from believing he is irreplaceable. Few things serve as stumbling blocks to leaders in thinking that the ministry of a church would fail without them. This stems from a significant insecurity in the minister needing to believe he is irreplaceable. This mindset is dangerous for the church and for the leader. A leader must not consolidate ‘power,’ but give it away. That way, things do not grind to a halt when he is out of the pulpit or out of his class. The church keeps moving along because the true pastor is the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ (John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:4-5).
- This develops ownership of all of the members of the body of Christ, not just the leaders. While you will have people content to spectate, more and more people have other options to take up their time. If we as leaders do not equip and encourage and provide opportunities for people to learn and serve, we will lose them. People wish to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Can you think of any other reasons why identifying and equipping leaders is necessary?