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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How does a rich man repent?

3 01 2017

Recently I heard a sermon about John the Baptist and his call to repentance as a way to prepare for the coming of King Jesus. The preacher exhorted each of us to consider ways we should repent (i.e. turn around). The church was located in an affluent area, and the congregants reflect the lifestyle of the financially prosperous.

After the service let out, I was in the parking lot talking to my hosts, when another attendee walked past and engaged in conversation. He said he was soon to drive his motor home to Palm Springs to stay for some weeks, after which he would drive up along the California coast visiting beautiful cities along the way.

In these instances, we who have spent years in poorer countries or neighborhoods are often challenged with a private, parallel conversation. For me it could be summarized as, “What would one of my simple village pastors from Africa think if he had heard that sermon on repentance, and now stood in this conversation in the parking lot?” (Note: I include the descriptor “village” because some city pastors and elders in African cities are economically more akin to the American RV owner than their village compatriots.)

I had the same internal conversation on a walk during the recent Christmas season. I passed through a neighborhood of multi-level homes which cost hundreds of thousands to build. In the driveway sat at least one glimmering SUV, and on the lawn a “creche” depicting the humble birth of Jesus. Again, I wondered if a Christian from the developing world would view that scene as a bewildering contradiction.

How does a rich man repent?

I think of the rich young ruler who engaged Jesus with the question of  his salvation. Since the man was keeping the Mosaic Law, Jesus finally told him to sell all he had and give to the poor. The young man went away sad because he had many possessions.

Did Jesus want the young entrepreneur to give everything away so as to join the ranks of the poor? I think not. But the Lord saw that the man loved his possessions, which was an impediment to discipleship. Paul wrote along this line when he said that the love of money is the root of all evil. If I love my money, I need to repent. But how do I know when I have stopped stewarding my money righteously and come to love my money? If such love is actually covetousness, idolatry, possessiveness, or a source of pride, then no one knows if I need to repent other than God and me — and I am well able to deceive myself.

I begin to see that the African villager cannot really know how the rich American should repent, any more than the rich American can really know how the African should repent. But I am sure each would receive insight on the matter, to their benefit, if they spent some hours together reading God’s word and praying!

A young Christian family, living in the same metro area as the wealthy RV owner, formerly wanted to buy a larger home. But they intentionally decided to live simply in their current house. Dad takes the shuttle train to work, when he could drive his own car. A rich young family is seeking to live a lifestyle of repentance.

I heard of a Christian church that has decided to rent a central space accessible to all, rather than build their own building in the suburbs; this way they are able to put more funds into mission and outreach to the community. A rich young church seeks an attitude of repentance.

Repentance is a matter of the heart. If I am a hypocrite in my heart, I must deal with the fact that the Holy Spirit lives there too. A man with less money can actually love his money more, even as a man with more money can love it less. Are both of them ready to give their money away freely, as managers of God’s resources?

Repentance is a matter of my time, place, and circumstance. Another person cannot know my context, and therefore cannot rightly judge what I should do. But neither should I judge what another man does, or does not do. Maybe that is why community is so important, for people who share the same context can observe and speak forthrightly into each others lives.

“If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14, NKJV).


Photos:  WP ImageSmart/Pixabay

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How honesty pays

28 12 2016

“Honesty pays,” is a phrase we hear from our youth. I suggest it “pays” in peace of mind, whether or not it pays financially.

Recently my daughter bought a car. I was helping with the transaction, and when we came to filling out the transfer documents the seller suggested he would be willing to falsely lower the purchase price to lower the amount we would have to pay in tax. We declined and entered the actual amount of purchase.

Not an hour after we had left, the seller called and surprised us by saying, “We would like to give back $300 because the tires will need replacing soon, and because you didn’t lower the sale price on the document.” We told him this was not necessary, that it was highly unusual, but very kind. We accepted his gift with thanks!

This incident came to mind again this morning as I was reading the story of Abraham receiving God’s command to take his beloved son Isaac up the mountain to offer sacrifice. You will recall that Abraham, beyond belief, proceeded to sacrifice his son, when the Lord graciously spared the boy and provided a ram as sacrifice. That holy place was named “YHWH Jireh.” This name has come to us as one of our favorite names for God: “The-LORD-Will Provide.”

But the story continues with a vital statement:  “as it is said to this day, ‘In the mount of the LORD it shall be provided” (Gen. 22:14). We love to focus on the Lord’s provision, but we detach His provision from His call to the mountain.

Truth-telling must not be lost as our culture grows comfortable with compromise. 

Three years ago I made a mistake when I calculated my taxes. Later I engaged a tax preparation service which offered to check my past statement. I thanked them for this service, but was dismayed when they informed me that I had ignorantly underpaid by several hundred dollars. They gave me options, one of which was to assume the IRS would not find the mistake since they are so understaffed. I said no, send me the form to correct my error so that I can pay the back taxes (which I am still doing in monthly increments).

My application of the text is that I “went to the mountain” of obedience, and the Lord is providing.

. Not only does honesty pay in peace of mind, it says something to others who happen to observe it. Let’s be different, and have fun doing it!


Photo credit: WP Image Smart/Pixabay

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How might you experience spiritual sacrifice

9 02 2016

Here are some ways I have experienced living through (or should I say “dying through”) times when Jesus calls me to sacrifice.

  • Stop doing it
  • Apologize
  • Burn it
  • Mortify
  • Repent
  • Chains broken
  • Walls down
  • Betrayal
  • Smash idol
  • Flush it
  • Suffering
  • Offer to God
  • Give it up
  • Forgive him/her
  • No regrets
  • No rights
  • No plans
  • Flush it down
  • Break it
  • Break up

What do you identify with?

What would you add?