Devotional Thought for Leaders: The Cult of Personality

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1 Corinthians 1:10-17, 3:4-9

One of the issues the ancient church at Corinth struggled with was division.  In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to that church he wasted no time in identifying one of the main sources of their conflict.  Apparently, the church had been influenced by a cult, the cult of personality.  The people in the church had divided their loyalty among several key church leaders.  Some people had aligned themselves with either Paul or Apollos, while others claim exclusive allegiance to Peter or Jesus Christ.  It would seem that the last group had the right idea, but lived it out in a divisive way.

 Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians that every human leader in the church is just that – a human leader.  Compared to God the Father, or His Son, Jesus Christ. we are all just “workers” in God’s field.  Some may plant and some may water, but it is “God who cause the growth” (3:7).

Unfortunately, the cult of personality didn’t end with the first century church.  Power, fame, and influence are big values in our culture today, and they slip easy into the church.  Sometimes it’s a pastor who is secretly (or not so secretly) set on becoming more popular than Jesus.  Sometimes it’s an up-in-coming staff member or lay leader who wants to make a name for him or her self.  Sometimes it’s a long-time member who enjoys exerting their influence and control.  Whatever form it takes, this passage warns us that the end result of the cult of personality is division, and ultimately distraction.

Here are some questions to help you stamp this cult out in your church or organization:

Is the conflict in your church or organization issue based or personality based?  If it is personality based, what are people doing to create the problem?  Are you part of the problem?

How can you humbly engage with the divided parties and turn their attention back to God and His mission?

Here Is My List for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving-PhotosThanksgiving is not just a cultural or historical holiday, it is a biblical mandate.  Here are just a few verses that encourage us to give thanks:

“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (1 Chronicles 16:33, NASB)<

“Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Psalm 106:1, NASB)<

“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15, NASB)

Since today is Thanksgiving, I thought I would share a list of things that I am thankful for this year.

I am thankful for the salvation I have in Jesus Christ.

I am thankful for my amazing wife and our four healthy, growing kids.

I am thankful for my friends and extended family who have loved and supported us through the ups and downs of the last few years.

I am thankful for our new church family – Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky.

I am thankful for our new home and newly adopted dog, Roger.

I am thankful for my an opportunity to do what I love and what God has called me to do: preach, lead, and shepherd.

I am thankful for my health.

I am thankful for the freedoms and prosperity that we enjoy in America, compared to the rest of the world.

I am thankful for hope and a future because no matter what happens, I know that everything is in God’s hands.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Devotional Thoughts for Leaders: Leading By Example

004-jesus-washes-feetJohn  13:1-20
Jesus knew that his time was short when he gathered with his disciples to celebrate the Feast of Passover.  So he got up from the meal and surprised them by setting aside his outer garment and wrapped a towel around his waist like a lowly servant.  Then, he proceeded to wash the disciples’ dusty, dirty feet.  When Peter objected, Jesus told Peter that he must be washed if he was to have anything to do with Jesus.
When Jesus finished, he returned to the table and questioned the disciples about what had just happened.  Jesus told them that they were right to revere him as their Rabbi and Lord, but he went on to explain that leaders in God’s kingdom, must be servants as well as leaders.  Then, he commanded them to follow the example he just given them of washing on another’s feet.
The thing that stands out about this passage is not just what Jesus said, but how he said it.  In the closing days of Jesus’ earthy ministry, he taught his disciples about the important of humility in leadership.  But he did much more than teach them or instruct them to serve others; he modeled it for them.  He led by example.
Today’s Christian leaders would do well to support their directives, teaching, or instructions with a consistent example.  Leadership is not just what you say, but how you act.  It is as true in the conference room as it is in the pulpit – “Practice what you preach.”
Here are some questions to help you lead by example:
Are you sending any mixed messages in your leadership?  Are you telling people to do one thing, but then doing another thing yourself?  What can you do that fix that?
How can you adjust your leadership style to “show” as much as you “tell?”  Are their lessons or principles that you are trying to communicate right now that need to be experience as well as explained?

How to Teach the Bible Through Discussion Without Missing the Point, Part 2

sm-grp-bible-study-LOWResThis is the second part of a two-part series on how to teach the Bible through discussion without missing the point of the lesson.

Interactive small group Bible studies can be a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship, especially when they are combined with a dynamic church worship service and opportunities to serve and do ministry.  Several weeks ago, I introduced this topic by pointing out 4 major challenges to leading an effective and interactive small group Bible study.  Today, I will share 5 suggestions for teaching the Bible through discussion without missing the point and here they are:

1.Have a clear goal(s) in mind

Motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar is credited with the axiom, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit is every time.”  If you don’t know what you are trying to teach, there is no way anyone else will either.

Discussion based teaching should not be used as an excuse for lack of preparation.  Be flexible, but write down 1 to 3 goals, truths, or principles that you want to communicate.

2.     Ask open-ended questions

Open-ended questions are designed to solicit participation and information from the group.  They are questions that require more than a one word answer.  When used strategically, they can create momentum and buy-in.

Open-ended question help you connect with your students, but they also help your students connect with each other.  As group members hear others respond to questions they are urged to share their perspective and insights as well.

3.     Deal with distractions

In part one of this two-part series, I listed distractions as one of the challenges that small group leaders have to overcome – they are inevitable.  Instead of the ignoring a distraction, identify the “elephant in the room” and move on.  And don’t forget to laugh, when appropriate.  If something happens that is funny, enjoy the moment use it to bring your group closer together.

4.     Clarify responses

Group discussions can become unproductive or confusing without some leadership.  When needed, restate participants responses and ask if that what they meant, if they are unclear.

This kind of clarification can also be a good way to transition to another stage in the meeting or point in the lesson.  It gives the leader an opening in the discussion while affirming the rest of the group.
 
5.     Sensitively seek full participation

Part of a  group leader’s job is to keep “the ball going.”  If some of the members of your group are shy or introverted, you may have to find ways to engage them without embarrassing them.  You may also have to gently restrain over-talkative group members by thanking them for the participation and asking others to chime in.

Do you have any suggestions you would add to the list?  What have you found helpful in teaching the Bible through discussion without missing the point?

Two Aspects of Forgiveness

quotes“Forgiveness is both an event and a process.  Making the four promises of forgiveness (found earlier in the book) is an event that knocks down a wall that stands between you and the person who has wronged you.  Then a process begins.  After you demolish an obstruction, you usually have to clear away debris and do repair work.  The Bible calls this ‘reconciliation,’ a process involving a change of attitude that leads to a change in the relationship.”

-Ken Sande, The Peace Maker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict           (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 219

Devotional Thoughts for Leaders: Ministry Transitions

Paul's mapActs 13 is the transition point between the Apostle Peter’s ministry “in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria” in the first half of the book and the soon to be Apostle Paul’s ministry “to the ends of the earth” in the second half.  The church at Antioch was the first major church planted in those “ends” and things were going well.  The church was growing fast and being discipled.  Their leadership team, which included Barnabas and Saul, grew too, from 2 to 5 in just a few years.

But one day everything changed.  While the church was “ministering to the Lord and fasting” the Holy Spirit sent orders for Barnabas and Saul to leave and set out for a new work.  The leadership dream team was broken up and the church at Antioch had to adjust.

As the rest of the Barnabas and Paul’s ministry played out in the book of Acts, it’s important to realize God removed them from a good situation and placed them in a better one.  God led both men, especially Paul, into an unprecedented mission ministry throughout the known world.  Not only did Paul plant church all over the known world, he wrote half the New Testament.  But none of that would have happened if they hadn’t left Antioch.

Changing your ministry responsiblity or location can be hard, but it helps to remember that when God removes us from a good situation, He places us in an even better one.  And sometimes that situation is even better than we can imagine.

Devotional Thoughts for Leaders: Are You Carrying a Bronze Shield?

bronze sheildAre you carrying a bronze shield?

Revitalization is tough.  When difficult times come into an organization, there is a temptation to ignore reality and pretend things are just fine.  That’s what Judah’s king, Rehoboam, did. When his nation fell on hard times, Rehoboam went into denial and built a set of bronze shields.

To understand the significance of this, we need to rehearse a little Old Testament history.  In 1 Kings 14:21, we learn that Rehoboam was the son of Solomon.  Because Rehoboam acted foolishly during his coronation, God split the nation of Israel and only allowed Rehoboam to rule over the much smaller nation of Judah. As king, Rehoboam took evil to a whole new level, leading his people to do everything that the Canaanites had done that had gotten them kicked out of the Promised Land (v. 22-24).

When Solomon was king, he had so much gold, that silver was worthless.  Solomon lined his palace with 200 large and 300 small golden shields that eventually became a symbol of Israel’s prosperity and security.  These shields were passed down to Rehoboam, but not for long.  In Rehoboam’s 5th year as king, God allowed Egypt to defeated Judah and take away all their treasure, include the golden shields.  This loss signaled the end of an era and the loss of God’s blessing and protection (v. 25-26).

Instead of facing reality and admitting his sin, Rehoboam had a set of bronze shields made to replace the golden shields that were lost.  In order to show that things were just as spectacular as they were in his father’s day, Rehoboam had his palace guards carry the bronze shields out in public whenever he went to the temple.  But when they returned to the palace, they put the “show” shields away (v. 26-28).

Rehoboam will forever be remembered as the king who spilt the nation of Israel and lost Solomon’s treasure.  His legacy should be an eternal warning to Christian leaders and even churches today who construct and carry a “bronze shield.”  Instead of being open and honest about their present difficulties – and changing – some people would rather recreate things that were successful in the past so they can preserve their reputation.  Ministries, programs, or emphases can all become “bronze shields” when they become excuses for going through the motions.

Here are 3 warning signs you or your church is carrying a “bronze shield.”

  1. Consequences, conclusions, and change are avoided.
  2. Energy is expending to recreate the past.
  3. Things that are done in public are not repeated in private.

Does that describe you or your church?  If so, are you willing to put down your “bronze shields” for a chance to be restored?