Three Imperatives in the Selection of Godly Leaders

20 03 2018

A Christian community can admirably follow a course of prayerful decision-making only to abort God’s direction in a faithless choice in the final hour.

A latent agenda of a power faction, seeds of doubt, or the desire by a leader to control the outcome – these are among the ways a community can be deprived of God’s appointed leadership, even after prolonged, submissive prayer.

The first congregation resisted this temptation. Peter stood up among the 120, who had been committed to prayer, and said they needed to replace the vacancy created by the death of Judas (Acts 1:15-20). Their example shows us three imperatives in selecting godly leaders: Calling, Message, Unity.

  1. The CALLING to sacrifice must be clear.

Other than places where the church is persecuted, leadership has become a desirable occupation. You should see what some churches use to lure the talented one: the salary, the staff, vacation time, further studies, conferences, attendance numbers, housing package, retirement plan. And you should see the line-up to snag these lucrative positions! Oh, its big business.

Peter said to the congregation, as he looked over at the few men who had followed Jesus and said:

“one of these must become a witness (Greek, martur) with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1:22)

Do you want to handle your congregation the way God handled His first church plant? Make sure all your leaders know they are called to sacrificial witness.

  1. The MESSAGE of the gospel must be declared.

The resurrection of Christ was the hope and joy of this mid-sized congregation. But down the stairs from the upper room and into the raucous streets of Jerusalem, the resurrection was hogwash after a downpour.

We must not miss the fact that God’s leaders are called to deliver the very message that is foolishness to the world – the sacrificial death on the CROSS, the BURIAL of His corpse, and the bodily RESURRECTION of Christ to live forever and save the lost.

I grieve what I see and read today, where preachers and writers are reframing the foolish message into a more palatable blend. Yes, justice, compassion, formation, healing, are all aspects of the good news. They can also inoculate from having to give the tawdry facts of sin, judgment, forgiveness, and the cross.

Teachers, we are responsible for what we give. Let us not get creative with the message entrusted to us. Resist the drift! Faithfully tell the old, old story with the fervor of a pardoned criminal.

  1. The UNITY of the people must be guarded.

I recently heard of a church where the pastor of over 30 years has announced his retirement at some time in the near future (Alert: Fuzzy timeline). He says he is going to work with the elders to secure a good replacement (Alert: Controlling). And he does not want an interim pastor but instead wants to guide the new pastor for some time to ensure a minimal loss of attenders (Alert: Naïve).

Sir, I ask you. Whose church is it? Why can you not trust your congregation? And should they mess things up (which they well might) why can you not trust the Head of the church, working with the Holy Spirit, to pull them through stronger in faith?

I note that when the first church of Jerusalem pulled through their leader selection process, the day of Pentecost arrived and “they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1).

No selection of godly leaders should ever have an ungodly effect on the congregation. And no casting of lots should ever result in the casting of insults.

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The problem with church highlights

6 10 2017

Some people don’t care for soccer because, in their view, there is not enough scoring. They may watch a few game highlights, but an entire game?  No way.

I identify. There are sports I don’t understand and therefore don’t watch. Like cricket.

But I undstand soccer and therefore know that where the uninitiated sees scoreless activity, I see skill, coordination, teamwork, fluidity, build-up, and maybe even a GOOOAAALLL!!!  I also see struggle, frustration, play-acting, and momentum change — all of which add to the exhilaration of a score.

Highlights do not tell the real story.

To state the obvious, the insistence on highlights has infected the church. I’ll spare the details, and merely say that we are not getting the real story of what God wants to do in His churches.

The real story of the church includes patience, confession, discussion, training, forgiveness, and decline.  And yes, the occasional SCOOOORES of teamwork, good preaching, reconciliation, amazing worship, and new disciples!

Ancient believers in the monastic tradition practiced the “vow of stability.” After an initial period of time, during which the individual and the community assessed their mutual “fit,” the individual would take a vow to stay with that community through good and bad. Why?

Does this speak to you current experience in church?

A reason for mercy

4 10 2017

If you are a Christian, you belong to a kingdom you did not design. Its design is from its King. The kingdom He brought places a lot of control and responsibility in your hands. Consider this promise:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

Do you want to receive mercy from others? Be a merciful person — in words and actions. Show kindness and you will receive kindness.

This idea reappears in a later teaching: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). Jesus even goes on to say that we can measure out the level of judgmentalism we want to receive, and use that same measure in our judging of others (7:2).

Who am I prone to find fault with today? Family members? Church leaders or workmates? Immigrants? Politicians? “Them”?

Am I willing to receive from God the same measure of criticism that I use toward them?

If that is not a comforting prospect, I had better choose a less critical attitude and intentionally have mercy.

My letter to a young preacher

2 06 2017

Recently, our youth director gave a sermon. Here is the feedback I gave him. I thought his example might encourage some other young preachers out there.

Hey brother Allan,

I just listened to your sermon from youth Sunday. I appreciate so many things about your ministry:

  • Your story told with a personal tone is so engaging; you drew me into your own journey
  • You speak frankly and lovingly of your wife; I get the message from you that you love her, and that marriage is important
  • I love that you include the youth in your story; they matter; they are your colleagues and partners; you need them; this says a lot to them; they will not forget it
  • You take the preaching event very seriously; you labor in preparation; you are nervous because it means so much to you that you honor the preaching opportunity
  • You want the Holy Spirit to work; you want people to be encouraged and prompted to action; you value the emotional aspect of our faith, not just the cognitive
  • You are time conscious; your listeners know that you will respect their attention and time
  • You know you can’t do ministry yourself; you make it clear that you need prayer.
  • You are interactive; you talk to the people and welcome their response; you encourage them to look at, and talk to each other, comfortably (“at home”).

Don’t ever lose these wonderful traits.

Love you brother. In Christ,


He is food for the soul

11 05 2017

I can understand why some disciples left Jesus after they heard this. Jesus seems to have drifted into the terrain of the weird, yet in fact He was plowing further into the soil of truth.

Here’s the background in summary (John 6:1-50):

  • Jesus had fed thousands of listeners on a hillside. He told His disciples that He was the bread of life which would bring not just temporary satisfaction but eternal fulfillment.
  • He’s the bread that ends undernourishment of soul, the supply that can end spiritual starvation.
  • Why? Because He delivers the truth, and nothing but the truth, straight from God the Father. Manna in the desert was great for a while, but 40 years of the stuff got oldy-moldy. But the bread of life is pure satisfaction.
  • Believe it, He says, and you will have eternal life.

If Jesus had stopped there He would have kept His large crowds.

The “bread” I’m talking about, says the One who came down from heaven, is my flesh. If you want to have this life, you must eat my flesh. That’s not all. If you don’t drink my blood you do not have this life I’m talking about. But if you eat and drink, I will raise you up on the last day. “He who eats this bread will live forever” (Jn. 6:58).

At that point, the congregation dwindled. This stuff was too hard. Uncomfortable.

Let’s hang with the inner core disciples and say, in effect, “No we are not leaving because as weird as You are talking right now, you have the words of eternal life.”

What could it mean for us to eat and drink Jesus?

How do we consume a meal?

First, we hunger. We have an appetite for nourishment, realizing that we need food. This must be true whether the food is tasty or bitter. We hunger for food because it is good for us, and often sweet to taste. Peter wrote that we should desire the pure milk of the word so we can grow from it.

Second, we take it in. We put it in our mouths, we chew it, and we swallow it. Some of us heard our mothers say, “Chew your food, don’t just inhale it!” This is a cooperative venture between food and eater, between Christ and the disciple. We slow down and eat His words. We read, study, reflect, ponder. Meanwhile, Jesus functions as nourishment, delivering truth from the Father.

A final thought is that the nourishment becomes a part of us. Ever heard “You are what you eat”? We are changed by the nourishment we intake. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him.” The Son of God progressively enters the soul and inhabits a larger space. And, “he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” (Jn. 6:56-57)

eats my flesh

Where do we go with this today? I got to thinking about this idea of consume.

  • A “consumer” is one who purchases, who uses, who takes for himself.
  • To “consume” is to imbibe or devour.
  • A marriage is “consummated” through profound intimacy.

The Son of God knew this teaching would turn away casual followers, so He pushed ahead and told the whole truth in expectation that a few of us would stay the course.

I want to accept the invitation to His table every day, bringing with me all my emotions, frustrations, and hopes. I want to consume His flesh and blood, and nourish my hungry soul.

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