Church Leaders Devotion 14: Woe #2

Let's look at the second woe and see what we can learn and apply to our own Screen Shot 2020-03-07 at 10.21.32 AMleadership philosophy:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are" (Matthew 23:15).

God expects His leaders to focus on the important things—His priorities—and build His kingdom and not their own. The leaders in Jesus' day were doing the opposite. What's more, because they had not achieved any spiritual maturity and discernment themselves, they were incapable of leading anyone to a better place in the Lord. Therefore, their converts were actually farther removed from spiritual reality and thus incapable of entering into any kind of healthy spiritual place. 

God expects His leaders not to bind up followers under legalistic rituals and rules that limit their creativity and growth. They must teach followers how to apply general principles to the new challenges every generation must face so the Lord is honored and His purpose served and enhanced. This includes denominations, faith-based organizations, and even successful independent churches that delight in having their adherents follow the traditions they have honed over time rather than a life of the Spirit who leads and guides His followers into all the truth. 

What kind of leader are you? Are you setting people free or binding them up? Don't answer too quickly, but instead seek the Lord to help you understand what kind of evangelist you are—one who recruits people to a life of freedom or a life of bondage.

Leaders Devotion 8: Be An Example

Peter's few verses directed to leaders tell us much about his leadership philosophy that he obviously learned from Jesus: Screen Shot 2022-08-27 at 9.34.56 AM

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them . . . not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2, 3).

The temptation to use leadership power to dominate others as overlords is powerful yet subtle. Some have become benevolent dictators for the good of others, but Peter's words are clear not to be fooled into thinking misuse of leadership position is acceptable for any reason. No one is immune from power's effects but Jesus provided a perfect example of selfless leadership that used power and position for the benefit of others. Therefore, Jesus is our model for leadership. We are to emulate Him as a model for others to learn from and follow. Peter's comrade Paul wrote, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). What's more, for someone to follow our leadership indicates we are close enough to the people that they can observe and even question our behavior they are to imitate.

Are you close to the people who follow you, close enough that they can learn from your example? Or has leadership power gone to your head, requiring others to keep their distance and address you by your title, affording you special honor simply because you are the leader? One way to tell if you're intoxicated with leadership power is to pay attention to what angers you. If people dishonor you and don't recognize your position and that makes you angry, then ask God to show you if you are walking according to 1 Peter 5 or to the standards of another leadership mentality.

Leaders Devotion 7: Be a Servant

Last week, we took our first look at Peter's instructions to the shepherds of God's church when he wrote,

"Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them . . . as God wants you to be; not pursuing Screen Shot 2022-08-20 at 8.57.58 AMdishonest gain, but eager to serve" (1 Peter 5:2).

The word for 'dishonest gain' in the KJV is translated 'filthy lucre,' which gives us the idea that Peter was referring to money, pure and simple. We as leaders are not to be looking for the monetary reward that can come when leaders manipulate or pressure to give money to God's work, which then goes into the leaders' pockets. Peter mentioned the antidote for this temptation and that is service. Servants don't do what they do because they get paid; they do what they do because that's their role and their master then provides for their needs, if that master expects them to survive and have the strength to carry out their duties.

Service isn't just being polite but it's using your leadership power and using it to empower others, to equip them to carry out the will of God for their lives. Are you a servant? Are you doing what you do as a job for money and benefits, or are you doing it as unto the Lord as His servant and trusting Him for your provision? How can you be a more effective servant? Keep in mind that even Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. You would do well to follow His example, making sure you have a good understanding of what it means to be a servant and how that should look in the role God has given you.

Leaders Devotion 6: A Willing Leader

We have looked at Paul's remarks to the Ephesian leadership, now let's examine what Peter had to say to church leaders Screen Shot 2022-08-13 at 11.13.22 AMabout their role and demeanor while overseeing His flock. Let's examine the first portion of his exhortation:

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing (1 Peter 5:1-2).

Peter did not exalt himself above the church leaders even though he was an eyewitness of Jesus' work and ministry. He acknowledged that his and their reward was yet to come, which let's us know that he is about to tell the leaders that their role is not one that leads to personal gain. Instead they are to care for and shepherd God's flock. They must not see their work as a burden or compulsory, for there is a big difference between work that is done because one has to do it versus work of those who willingly and enthusiastically choose to do it, accepting their call as a privilege, not a burden.

Are you willingly leading God's people? If so, are you exerting energy and creativity as you lead and care, or are you doing the minimum? Are you a disciple of Christ who happens to be called to leadership or do you see yourself and your work as elite, placing you above the people you shepherd? As we will see repeatedly emphasized in future studies, the call to leadership is not one of privilege but of self-denying service, through which you will share in the sufferings of Christ, the Chief Shepherd.

Church Leaders Devotion 5: Be On Your Guard

Paul delivered some sobering remarks to the Ephesian elders as he closed his sermon:

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church Screen Shot 2022-08-06 at 8.01.32 AM of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! (Acts 20:28-31a).

Being appointed by the Spirit to be a shepherd of God's people is serious business and it is fraught with danger, for the temptations for leaders to care for themselves or to make themselves the center of attention are ever present. Paul warned that there would be attacks upon the flock from without and within and urged the elders to "keep watch" and "be on guard." They were to "be shepherds," and not those who do what they do for money or prestige for they were dealing with sheep purchased with the blood of Jesus.

Are you shepherding God's flock? Do you know the sheep? Are you keeping watch? Are you careful to lead the people to Jesus and not to yourself? Do you work at maintaining correct doctrine so you won't "distort" the truth? Perhaps you want to make this shepherd's prayer a part of your leadership arsenal of prayers:

Lord, I acknowledge that I didn't choose to lead, but was appointed by the Holy Spirit to be an overseer in the church of Jesus Christ. Help me to lead and care for the flock in a way that's pleasing to You. Remind me that it's not about me, but about the people. Keep me from any attitudes or practices that would cause me to neglect or abuse the sheep. Protect me from doctrinal weirdness or error, and give me discernment to recognize dangers for the flock (and myself) when they appear. I submit myself to Your oversight and the authority of Your word as I exercise oversight for others. Amen.

PurposeTalk Social Media 1 v2

Church Leader Devotion 4: Hard Work

As we continue to examine Paul's remarks to the Ephesian elders, we see that Paul concluded his sermon with these words: Screen Shot 2022-07-30 at 7.32.22 AM

"You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:34-35).

Paul didn't see leadership as a means to profit or gain, but as an expression of service. He worked as a tent maker so he could pay his own expenses (and those of his team) and did so to set an example of hard work that would help the weak. Who were the weak? It was those who would have assumed that Paul was being paid to do what he did and thus was nothing more than a hired worker, thus dismissing him as just another traveling teacher who were common in those days. Paul devised this strategy in direct response to Jesus' words, "it is more blessed to give than receive."

Are you doing what you can to help the weak not take offense at your work and ministry? Are you "working hard," the root word in Greek being kopos, which when translated means "intense labor united with toil and trouble"? Do you see ministry as a means of financial gain or spiritual reward? Ask God to give you a strategy like Paul had that will meet you and your family's needs but will also set a good example that the ministry is not something to be used as a means to personal gain.

Church Leader Devotion 3: The Whole Counsel

As we continue to examine Paul's address to the Ephesian elders, we read his summary of his ministry values and approach Screen Shot 2022-07-27 at 1.19.11 AMwhen he was establishing a church in any venue:

"You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:20-21).

In these verses, we learn that Paul conducted both evangelism efforts to identify new believers and then preached "anything that would be helpful" to the converts. His goal was to equip the church for successful living, which was made up of moral and ethical directives consistent with a holy lifestyle, along with an appropriate understanding of the mystery of Godthat the gospel was now available to the Gentiles by grace. Paul summarized all this when he said,

"Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God" (Acts 20:26-27).

One Bible version calls it the "purpose of God" and another summarizes it as "all that God wants you to know." Today, the whole counsel is found in the sacred Scriptures, which leaders are to be familiar with so they can present a full perspective of God's will. Since Paul was addressing the Ephesian elders, it would be good to examine his letter to the Ephesian church as a good example of the "whole counsel," for the first half of the letter is doctrinal while the last half addresses holy behavior.

Are you balanced in your ministry between evangelism and discipleship? Do you major in one or a few doctrines, like faith or the end times or political social action, or do you teach through the Bible in some systematic format, not avoiding those passages or issues with which you are not comfortable or competent? What are you doing to become more adept at ministering the whole purpose or counsel of God?

Church Leader Devotion 2: Leadership Purpose

In the last devotion, we began a study of Paul's farewell address to the Ephesian elders when they came to visit him in Miletus. Screen Shot 2022-07-09 at 9.32.00 AMLet's move on to look at more of that sermon:

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace" (Acts 20:22-24).

Paul's main objective was to fulfill his purpose, which was "testifying to the good news of God's grace." More specifically, Paul did that more effectively among the Gentiles than he did with his own people. That is the power and focus of purpose. It is what you do that when you do it, you can sense God partnering with you, and you see results from your work. The Ephesian elders were proof of Paul's effectiveness, for he had established the church there and years later, it was thriving with elders in place.

If you're a church leader, don't assume your purpose statement is simply "preaching." It could be working with a certain age group through counseling, teaching, or practical care. It could also just be your presence, which encourages or challenges people in the Lord's will for their lives. Then again, it may be any of those in a particular area of your city or country, or even a foreign land.

Paul further described his purpose in Galatians 2:7: "On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised." What task has the Lord assigned you? Where are you most fruitful in your ministry work (not where do you hope or think you are most fruitful)? Can you describe it clearly and simply? Is it your aim to finish that race and complete your work like Paul? How can you be more effective?

Church Leader Devotion 1

I have had notes for quite some time that one day I hoped to publish in some kind of devotional for pastors and church leaders. Screen Shot 2022-07-02 at 11.51.30 AMI  have decided not to put it off any longer but to start with Paul's remarks to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:

From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:17-21).

What do we learn from these first few verses?

  1. Paul lived among the people so they could come to observe and know his way of life. He was not aloof but rather accessible to all.
  2. Paul had to deal with Jewish opponents wherever he went. Yet he remained humble and meek, and not combative. He stayed focused on his purpose for being among the people.
  3. His teaching and preaching were to equip and edify to the believers, not to perform or broadcast his own ministry.
  4. His ministry was both large group (public) and small group (house to house). Once again, we see he was accessible to the people. (Perhaps today he would use social media to teach and touch others.)
  5. His message was clear: repentance and faith.

How do you measure up to this first of Paul's statements in his address? What else do you see in these verses that would be relevant to church leaders? What changes do you need to make based on what you read in this post? Feel free to add your comments to the site where this entry is posted.

Contrasting Styles

There are no two leaders in the Bible who provide a greater contrast in leadership styles than the first Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 7.25.10 PMtwo kings of Israel: Saul and David. I have often said that David learned more about leadership from Saul than he did anyone else: Saul taught him how not to lead. For the most part, David learned his lessons well and today, 3,100 years after he reigned, the nation of Israel still calls itself the people of David. I would say that indicates David did a pretty good job!

I was reflecting once on the differences between Saul and David to identify lessons for my own leadership growth and understanding. Here are some contrasts I found. There are probably more, but these are the ones I discovered.

  1. Leaders raise up other good leaders. Saul had one mighty man (David), while David attracted, developed, and released many mighty men. 
  2. Leaders learn to serve others. Saul never learned to serve anyone; David served others, even Saul when he was pursuing David to kill him.
  3. Leaders must draw on multiple skills to be effective. Saul was one-dimensional (he was a great warrior); David was multi-dimensional (warrior, musician, poet, administrator, prophet). 
  4. Leaders do not rely on their gifts or God's presence alone. Saul was anointed but then did nothing to develop himself. David was anointed but spent the rest of his life developing himself.
  5. Leaders must have courage. Saul was fearful from the time he was anointed, but David learned to recognize and function in the midst of fear.
  6. Leaders have a relationship with God's Word. Saul was never a spiritual man, but David loved God's word and helped write it! Saul's anointing had no roots in God's word; David's did.
  7. Leaders allow suffering to play a role in their development. Saul spent his career trying to avoid or alleviate his suffering, while David learned from his ordeals—and even wrote poems about them.
  8. Leaders seek guidance from others. Saul sought no one's input until when he sought illicit wisdom from a witch at the end of his life. David constantly sought God's face and direction.
  9. Leaders deal with their anger and are self-controlled. Saul ruled and controlled others through temper tantrums and intimidation; David ruled through compassion and love.
  10. Leaders know themselves and how they work best. Saul used a sword and armor to protect himself, and assumed David would do the same. David rejected Sauls armor and used a sling with no body protection to get the job done.
  11. Leaders do not serve themselves. Saul never understood this but David served others even when Saul was seeking to destroy him.

There are more lessons such as David learned from history ("I have killed the bear and lion"), Saul did not. Saul was vindictive, but David was forgiving and gracious. David was a worshiper, but Saul had no such mindset. If you are a leader, go over these lessons and spend some additional time studying to see what you can learn from David's leadership example as well as Saul's—keeping in mind that Saul's lessons are mostly on how not to lead.