Friday, November 30, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Unity In Adversity

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Unity In Adversity
Staying united during times of adversity reveals an unshakeable resilience that makes the impossible seem possible, empowering leaders to overcome their circumstances instead of being overwhelmed by them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Doing Church Or Being The Church?

The community I live in recently presented the local churches with an interesting challenge when the city council changed the day of the community Christmas pageant from a Saturday morning to a Sunday morning.  This clash with traditional Sunday worship times was further complicated because, for the past 6 years, the combined churches were the organisers of an after-pageant BBQ immediately following this community event.

What was interpreted as an afront to the Church, provoked passionate discussion at our Minister's Fellowship meeting where we debated the council's motive and the churches response.  Does the church close ranks and protect our worship time, protest the decision, boycott the event, come to some sort of compromise or maintain our involvement?  What reaction is the council expecting?  What will best glorify God? 

As you can imagine there was an equal tension between wanting to make a clear statement about the value of Sunday worship by not compromising the priority of "doing church" and wanting to maintain an active witness by keeping Christ in a community Christmas event by "being the church".  Some viewed this as a threat to the church, while others viewed it as an opportunity for the church. Who is right, who is wrong?

After much discussion and prayer between the churches and within our respective congregations, the outcome was that three churches chose to see this as an opportunity and take "church" to the streets and continue to serve our community.  We believed that God was best glorified not by retreating but by reaching out.  We felt it was more important to bless our community than our congregations.  We wanted to defy the religious expectations of Christians by giving a relational testimony to Christ.

In the context of this event, I don't think that it is any cooincidence that I read the following statement by Andy Stanley about the church this week: "If the church is God's primary vehicle for dispensing the message of grace, then the local church is clearly not for church people.  It's for everybody."  This ethos of the church is further supported by Erwin McManus, as quoted by Craig Groeschel, “When have we forgotten that the church doesn’t exist for us? We are the church and we exist for the world.”

While I still hold Sunday worship as a high value, I am more concerned about being the church than doing church!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Top 5 Influential Books

I was recently asked what is my top 5 list of books that have had the most impact on my leadership and faith journey.  Wow, what a tough question to answer!  I read so many amazing authors on such a variety of subjects, to narrow it down to the five most influential is a tough call.  Nevertheless, here goes the impossible.  I will choose a book I've read during the past couple of years for each of the categories of my EphesiansFour12 blog +1 that captures my life theme:

1.  Passion for the LORD:  The Divine Mentor - Wayne Cordeiro

2.  Passion for the LOST:  Just Walk Across The Room - Bill Hybels

3.  Passion for LIFE:  Chasing Daylight - Erwin McManus

4.  Passion for LEADERSHIP:  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni

5.  "Equipping the people of God for the work of the ministry":  The Equipping Church - Sue Mallory

This is a reluctant top 5 list, as there are so many other books that have had equal influence and impact in each category; then there are other subjects I'm passionate about that have also shaped my spiritual journey.  Maybe I will do a follow-up list identifying another top 5 books...in fact, it could be an annual top 5 list of books I've read that year - there's a thought!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Who Deserves The Credit?

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Who Deserves The Credit?
By myself, I bring a limited set of skills and knowledge to my leadership roles, but together with a team there is a collaboration of shared wisdom that increases my leadership capacity.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Divine Moments

"When we choose to seize divine moments, we create an environment where others are unleashed to fulfill their God-given potential."  Erwin McManus, Chasing Daylight

Throughout my leadership journey I have been presented with numerous divine moments that have had the potential to have a profound impact on my own life and the lives of those I lead.  When I've embraced those moments that potential has translated into a life changing reality, however, when I have missed those moments, opportunities for growth are lost.

God has placed an unquenchable passion upon my heart to "equip the people of God for the work of the ministry to build up the body of Christ."  Therefore, it stands to reason that God will unleash divine moments to enable me to embrace those opportunities to create an environment to fulfil this passion.

There is an extraordinary privilege that comes with leadership to help people realise their God-given potential through recognising and participating in their own divine moments.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Journey Of Faith

I am almost finished reading "Chasing Daylight" by Erwin McManus, which has been an inspiring read about seizing divine moments and living a passionate life pursuing God's will and purposes.  In his chapter on 'Uncertainty', McManus discusses the progression of faith in the context of miracles by making a comparison between Moses standing at the edge of the Red Sea and Joshua standing at the edge of the Jordan River.

"With Moses, God parted the waters, and then the people crossed over."
It is relatively easy to step out in faith when we see the miracle first.  God does something spectacular that demands our attention and gives us the confidence to embrace those divine moments.  When the waters are parted and we see the way through, standing on the edge of faith is exciting.

"With Joshua, the leaders were required to begin crossing first, and then the waters parted."
It is quite another story stepping out in faith before the miracle occurs.  God's promises go before divine moments giving us confidence that He 'can', however, that confidence requires us to trust that He 'will'.  When the waters block our path and we cannot see the way through, standing on the edge of faith is scary.

McManus captures this development of faith that comes through maturity in Christ brilliantly:

"What it means to live on the edge as your faith begins to develop is not the measure of faith when you walk in maturity.  You should expect and desire that God would move from parting the waters while you stand on the edge of the shore to calling you to step out into the waters and experience the miracle happening around you.  In the first, you watch the miracle.  But in the second, you become a part of it.  Both experiences were expressions of a journey of faith.  Both had amazing similarities, but what God required in the second exeeded what He required in the first." (McManus 2002, p. 89)

There is another dimension of faith living that takes us beyond the need for the certainty of miracles to act.  When our faith rises to a level of maturity that drives us to act amidst the uncertainty of life, but within the certainty of God's faithfulness, we create the context for miracles to happen!

Friday, November 9, 2012

God Will Show You Other Giving Opportunities Worthy Of Your Support

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 40 - God Will Show You Other Giving Opportunities Worthy Of Your Support
 
"The Christian who is pure and without fault, from God the Father's point of view, is the one who takes care of orphans and widows, and who remains true to the Lord"  (James 1:27)  
 
Throughout this 40 day spiritual journey to a more generous life it has been made abundantly clear through Scripture that God has blessed us not for our own personal gain and glory, but for His glory by being a blessing to others.  Our Christian faith gives witness to a generous God when we are living a life of generosity towards those who are most disadvantaged in our community.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Building Projects Are Worthy Of Your Support

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 39 - Building Projects Are Worthy Of Your Support
 
"O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you."  (1 Chronicles 29:14-16)  
 
It may surprise you that as a church pastor, with a background in Architectual Drafting and who has led three building projects, that this is a contentious issue for me.  While I acknowledge the need for functional buildings to advance the mission of the Church, I feel a real conflict when I see a disproportionate amount of resources invested into buildings in the first world where the Church is in decline, while there are grossly under-resourced churches in the two-thirds world where the Church is experiencing revival.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Main Focus Of Your Giving Should Be Your Local Church & Leaders

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 38 - A Main Focus Of Your Giving Should Be Your Local Church & Leaders
 
"Be careful not to neglect the Levites (ministers) as long as you live in your land"  (Deuteronomy 12:19)  
 
Throughout our full-time ministry role we have been on the receiving end of enormous blessings by people in our congregation who have supported or served us in generous ways.  There is a powerful witness given when the body of Christ share their resources to support the work of the ministry of the local church.  It has been my observation that when a church is generous in supporting its own ministry it overflows into generous mission outside the church.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Even Your Smallest Acts Of Kindness Will Be Remembered And Rewarded

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 37 - Even Your Smallest Acts Of Kindness Will Be Remembered And Rewarded
 
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"  (Matthew 25:37-40)  
 
I don't think we can ever over estimate the impact that the smallest act of kindness can have on a person.  As a receiver of other people's kindness when it really matters, it is the seemingly small things that I remember the most.  Similarly, I have been surprised to hear years later the impact of something I've said or done, that I have long forgotten, has had on another persons life.
 

Monday, November 5, 2012

When You Help The Poor, Don't Do It For Public Recognition

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 36 - When You Help The Poor, Don't Do It For Public Recognition
 
"They loved praise from men more than praise from God."  (John 12:43) 

When it comes to giving to people in need or to causes, I do believe that motive matters.  Am I giving to make myself feel good or to look good?  Do I expect something in return?  Or, do I give because it is just the right thing to do, even if no one notices?  There is a deeper satisfaction that comes from giving with the right motives - for the glory and honour of God.

Signs, Symbols & Sacred Songs

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Your Giving In This Life Will Have An Impact On Your Experiences In Eternity

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 35 - Your Giving In This Life Will Have An Impact On Your Experiences In Eternity
 
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven."  (Matthew 16:19-21) 

While serving in Christchurch after the earthquake I met many people who had lost everything they worked for and were questioning what was really important in life.  We can spend so much of our lives investing into things that ultimately don't last, or we can sow into life transforming ventures that have an eternal impact on our lives and the lives of those around us.
 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

God Can Use Anyone And Any Resource To Provide For His Work

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 34 - God Can Use Anyone And Any Resource To Provide For His Work
 
"Her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the Lord; they will not be stored up or hoarded."  (Isaiah 23:18) 

It always amazes me the generosity of our community towards The Salvation Army through donations of money, goods and people who volunteer their time to support our mission.  Despite where they are on their faith journey, God takes what is given and blesses it for His glory.  God's work is advanced through the resources that are given and sanctified for His purposes.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Any Wealth Gained By The Wrong Means Has Serious Consequences

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 33 - Any Wealth Gained By The Wrong Means Has Serious Consequences
 
"Like a bird that fills her nest with young she has not hatched and which will soon desert her and fly away, so is the man who gets his wealth by unjust means."  (Jeremiah 17:11) 

Justice, integrity and righteousness are qualities that reflect the character of God when it comes to how we live our lives in community with others.  This includes how we obtain and utilise wealth. The way we do business should be according to kingdom values for kingdom purposes. The ends never justify the means if it dishonours God or exploits His creation. 

Empowering Leadership

There are those satisfying moments in leadership when simple feedback encourages you to continue to step out in faith and take a risk by equipping and empowering leaders "to do the work of the ministry to build up the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:12)

The other day I received a text message from an emerging leader in our church who has overcome significant personal and social fears, stepping way out of her comfort zone, to pursue her heart for mission and desire to develop as a leader.  A statement within her message said, "Thank you for having faith in us."  This affirmation resonated with me as only a week earlier my twelve year old daughter sent me a message saying, "My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me."  

Empowering leaders hasn't come naturally to me as it has clashed with my perfectionist nature and desire to get things done in the most efficient way possible.  It has meant letting go of control, learning to value process and giving people permission to make mistakes.  I still need to resist the temptation to say, "leave it with me I'll deal with it" and remind myself to say, "let's talk about how you might go about dealing with that situation."  While I may see clearly where we are and where we want to be and have a strategy in my head about how best to get there, I am not really empowering leaders unless I am prepared to engage them in the process.  

Empowering leadership has become a stated value in the Church and other organisations, but it only ever becomes a real value when it is integrated into the ethos of leadership.  This becomes a reality when we are prepared to step out in faith and take a risk in giving real-time authority to emerging leaders.  Craig Groeshel pushes this point by saying, "You do not just delegate tasks to the next generation or you will just create followers. You delegate authority because then you create leaders."  

Is there a risk in empowering leaders?  Absolutely!  Is there a cost in empowering leaders?  Yes, but there is a greater cost not to or to just giving lip service to empowering leadership.  When we exercise the biblical mandate to "equip the people of God for the work of the ministry to build up the body of Christ," we unleash the full compliment of the gifts of the Spirit and generate an "unstoppable force" (McManus) for the kingdom of God!  

“Good leaders give their power away. They look for good people, and they invest in them to the point where they can be released and empowered to perform.” (John C. Maxwell)


Thursday, November 1, 2012

God Will Bring Specific People Into Your Life That You Can Truly Help

40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life
Day 32 - God Will Bring Specific People Into Your Life That You Can Truly Help
 
"Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land"  (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)    
 
I really like the phrase in this Scripture that talks about being "open-handed," as it manifests the spirit of generous living.  In my role as a Salvation Army Officer I find God placing people in my path regularly who are in need of help.  When that help is given from an "open-handed" spirit, instead of a sense of duty, the Spirit of Christ is revealed and God's command is truly fulfilled.