Tag Archives: leadership

A three-step process for resolving conflict in the church – Titus 3:9-15, Part 4

15 Aug

Has your church family experienced disagreements? Divisions? Has your church had to wrestle with how to respond? It can be really tricky, right? Emotions fly, people get offended, and it can seem that no matter what option you choose, someone will not like it, get hurt, and leave the church.

Okay, let’s turn off the pause, hit play, and continue with Titus 3:9-11. There were disagreements in the church, Paul says in verse 9, that were unprofitable and useless.  Clearly, then, Christians are to focus on what is profitable and useful. 

Remembering that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we should want to live in such a way that even in our disagreements we should be Christ-centered.  There is a way to disagree that is loving and caring and in line with Jesus. 

Agree to disagree in love.  Recognize with humility that you could be wrong.  Remember that the other person is also made in the image of God, and is loved by God. 

Paul also teaches a method for addressing a situation when a person refuses to handle disagreement well.  Paul says, sometimes people are divisive, meaning that they can cause division in the church.  So in verses 10-11 he says, “Warn a divisive person once, and twice, then have nothing to do with them.” Paul is once again talking about church discipline, as he did back in chapter 1

Now, though, Paul mentions warnings.  Who does the warning? Paul doesn’t say specifically, but because the letter is to Titus, and Titus primary objective on his short trip to Crete was to appoint leaders, we could surmise that it was Titus and the church leaders who were to do the warning. Because Jesus also talked about something similar in Matthew 18:15, let’s determine if we can connect Paul’s teaching to Jesus’ three-step process, and perhaps we’ll have a better idea of how to handle this.  Go ahead and read Matthew 18:15-17.

See how Jesus’ teaching is similar to Paul’s?  Step 1, you approach the individual, and try to resolve it. If it doesn’t work, Step 2, take one or two other persons with you.  If that doesn’t work, Step 3, take it to the church. Churches have varying approaches to what body in a church should be responsible for Step 3. At Faith Church, our Leadership Team handles such concerns, and I recommend that for most churches some equivalent leadership group, comprised of spiritually mature leaders/elders, rather than the entire congregation, be tasked with Step 3.  So for Jesus, that’s how to resolve conflict in the church.

Back in Titus 3, notice what Paul says in verse 11: if a divisive person will not submit to this process, he calls them warped, sinful, and self-condemned.  They are not truly a Christian, as he said in Titus 1:16.  There he says that though they claim to know God, they show their true colors by their behavior.  It doesn’t matter if you say you are a Christian, or if you believe you are a Christian, when you do not act like one.  Paul says those people will do what they want to do.  Have nothing to do with them.  That doesn’t mean we can be unkind and unloving towards those people.  We should be kind and gracious and loving in all situations.

Paul doesn’t give us specific instructions for much for the nitty-gritty details of each situation.  Our Leadership Team has had to wrestle with these issues, and every situation is unique. Because of that uniqueness, we don’t always choose the same responses for each situation.  I can tell you this, though, that our Leadership Teams over the years have worked hard to preserve confidentiality, and we have prayerfully sought the Lord’s wisdom in the way forward.  That means we oftentimes take it slow, allowing time for prayer, for discussion, for situations to unfold.

Our heart’s desire, just like Paul’s is that all people in the church will grow closer to Christ, turn away from sin, and love and be loved in the fellowship of the church family.

An embarrassing dream told me the truth about my life [How God feels about our fear – Deuteronomy 31-34, part 1]

18 Feb

Photo by Ben Maguire on Unsplash

I want to tell you about a dream I had this week.  I’ve had a similar one before.  Maybe you’ve had one like this too.  My dream started as I was sitting in a chair at a pool party at a place I didn’t recognize.  At the party were some of my kids’ friends and their parents.  It was a fun event, like a birthday party.  But as I looked around, I realized to my horror, that I didn’t have any clothes on.  Instantly, I was super-embarrassed and used my hands to cover up, frantically looking for a towel.  It was a moment of sheer terror. 

Ever had a dream like that?  It is astounding what our brains and emotions can create in our minds when we are asleep.  The images are so vivid.  And often it is not hard to figure out why we had certain dreams.  Our fear and anxiety comes out, right? 

So apparently, I’ve got some fear going on in my life.  What am I afraid of?  Well I’ll tell you.  Since 2011 I have been an adjunct professor for Lancaster Bible College teaching online Bible courses.  The course I have taught most often is a six-week intensive about how to study the Bible.  During those six weeks my life can be crazy busy.  Normally, I can swing it, but last fall I started doctoral studies, taking two classes of my own. So in November, right in the middle of teaching one of those six-week intensives, I said to my wife that it was too much, and after the new year I wanted to look into different options.  My sister teaches online for Eastern University, so maybe they had something more suitable. Two weeks later, Messiah College contacted me out of the blue, asking me to teach a section of their intro Bible course.  I couldn’t believe it.  I hadn’t even thought of Messiah, though my two oldest sons are students there, and it was well before the New Year.  The Bible department chair got my name from his colleagues who lead the Clergy Leadership Program of Central PA, of which I was a participant in 2015-17. One thing led to another, and I was hired.  We started telling our older boys about it, and our second son, a sophomore, wrote back and said, “I think I’m in that class!”  And sure enough he was!  It was amazing how God answered my prayer far beyond what I expected or asked for.  So I have started teaching for Messiah. 

And that is where the fear comes in. The Messiah class is not online, but in class.  A few weeks ago it hit me, I’m going to have to stand in front of a class, including my son, and actually have something to say.  Online classes had none of that.  As of this writing, I have finished two weeks of the Messiah class, and I think it is going okay, but I can tell you that you I’ve had anxiety and fear about it!  Additionally, this past week I was up at my seminary three days for my doctoral residency, and there, too, I can feel very intimidated surrounded by really smart and amazing people, all thinking about doctorates and dissertations. Put together, it can feel overwhelming.

I’m almost certain that is what led to my embarrassing dream! 

In this final series of posts in our study through Deuteronomy we are going to meet someone who also faced what could easily seem like an insurmountable situation.  A guy named Joshua.  He was about to enter into the top leadership role in the nation of Israel, following in the giant footsteps of Moses.

Have you ever experienced a transition of leadership where a long-time leader was concluding their time as leader, and a new person was stepping into that role?  It may be a company you work for.  It may be a volunteer organization.  A church.  A family.  Might be in government.  A Coach.  Recently here in our school district we’ve had a couple long-time leaders move on.  Some elementary school principals.  Then the superintendent of the district retired two years ago. 

These transitions evoke all kinds of emotions don’t they? People miss the previous leader.  People are afraid that the new leader will mess things up. 

Transitions are hard.  They raise fear in us.  Transitions can make it seem like the foundations are shaking.  When there are pastoral transitions, some statisticians say, on average, 25% of the congregation will leave.  Usually not all at once in some big exodus, but often gradually, over a few years.  Why? We get scared, fearful. 

And you know what, the new leader is scared too.  Fearful. And it comes out in our dreams, in bodily anxiety, panic. How do we deal with this?  

In Deuteronomy chapters 31-34 we’re going to learn about a leadership transition, and a bunch of people that could be fearful. Check back in for part 2 of the series!

Christians, justice and leadership in the Church [God’s heart for good government, part 5]

16 Nov

In this series of posts, we have been studying God’s heart for good government in Deuteronomy 16 and 17.  In those chapters, God created levels of governance for Israel: local, national, and over all, the king.

What have we seen in all these levels of government that God had for his people? Many things:  Justice is the foundation of governance.  All people are equal and to be treated fairly.  While there will be leaders, local and national, and they are to be people of high character and wisdom, it is God who is truly king, and we must follow his law.

So how might this passage matter to Christians?

First, these are principles that can apply to any nation, and Christians can work, and I would say should work, towards having national governments that are based in justice for all.  Where there is injustice in society, we Christians should work to correct it.

I’ve been so impressed with our sister church in Chicago, Kimball Avenue, (and even though they changed denominations recently, in Faith Church’s heart and mind, they are still our sister church!) and their Justice Watch group, and how they have for years worked on bringing God’s justice to their community.  It was in Chicago that I learned about babies in the water, which is a thought-provoking story to help us learn about justice.

We should be passionate, therefore, about justice inour community.  Are there any ways we seeinjustice around us? What can we do to address it?

Second, not only justice for the community, but also justice and godly leadership should be our goal in the church.  We can read in the New Testament numerous passages that talk about selecting leaders in the church, and here at Faith Church we have summarized them with the phrase: the spiritually mature should lead the church

But the leaders don’t do all the work.  Just as God wanted Israel to have lower courts and higher courts, we divide up into groups.  The top leader is not to handle it all.  In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul wrote that the church leaders were to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the church may be built up.” Leaders, then, have a job, to raise up others, train them up, help them grow in their faith in Christ, so that more and more people can serve.

We seek to do this at Faith Church.  We have our Leadership Team and ServeTeams.  The Leadership team is focused onleading the church spiritually, while the Serve Teams direct the various areasof ministry.

Leaders in the church must follow theprinciples of leading with justice and fairness.  Leaders in the church must make God theirking.  It is not our church, it is hischurch, he is the one true leader. Pastors, staff and leaders are not to be put on a pedestal, worshiped,because that is a place reserved for God alone!

So let us be a people that pursue God’s heart for justice and worship him alone.

How kings and presidents should lead [God’s heart for good government, part 4]

15 Nov

How should a king or president lead?  In America over the years we’ve seen wildly divergent styles of leadership in our presidents.  Take a few minutes and think about it.  Try to avoid your personal support or disagreement with their political views.  Just consider how our recent 5 or 6 presidents have lived out their leadership style.  How would you describe them?  And furthermore, what makes a good leader?  Plato in The Republic presents his view of the ideal leader, what he calls the Philosopher King.  What about God’s heart for leadership? Can we learn how God wants kings or presidents or those in many positions of leadership to handle their role?

In part 3 of this series, we saw that God knows the people of Israel will ask for a king, so perhaps he can set some laws in place to help this king idea turn out different from the nations around them.  The nations around Israel had kings, and Israel knew what those kings were like.  They could be horribly abusive, selfish, and destructive.  Why in the world Israel would want that when they had YHWH as their king?  Well, God knows the human heart.  We long for celebrities, like kings, queens, and presidents, to worship.  Therefore God wants Israel’s king to be different from the pagan kings.

Look what he says in Deuteronomy 17, verse 15. The first way a future Israelite king would be different is that he was to be chosen by God.  As we saw in 16:18, Israel could choose the local judges, but God chooses the king.

Second, the king must be an Israelite, not a foreigner.  Why?  Because God wants Israel to have kings who see themselves as equal brothers with the rest of the nation.  See that in verse 20 where God teaches that the king should “not consider himself better than his brothers”?  That’s not possible if the king is a foreigner.  What is God’s heart for this king?  He wants the king to be humble.  Not on a pedestal.  Not worshiped.  That is so different from the way of the other nation’s kings. 

Thirdly, God lists a number of rules for the king. Look at verse 16 and following: the king must not acquire a lot of horses, he must not make the people go back to Egypt, he must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. Also he must not accumulate lots of gold. Sound like any of Israel’s kings you may have heard of?  Yup.  Solomon.  Solomon broke all these rules, even ended up enslaving people as laborers for building projects.  God knows the proclivities of the human heart, and he wants Israel to be different.

Those were the negative rules.  Now for a positive one.  Look at verses 18-20.  This is really quite amazing.

When he takes the throne, the king is to write out his own copy of this law. Wow. What a practice! The king’s copy of the law is to be with him, he is to read it all his days that he may learn to revere the Lord! Of course, the king is to carefully follow the Law.

This is huge.  When you think of kings, what is one of the normal activities that kings do to govern their lands and people? (I’m not talking about taxes.)  Kings make proclamations.  Royal decrees.  Kings are the ruler of the land, thus they make the laws.  But not Israel’s kings.  Israel’s kings are to follow God’s laws.  Why?  As we saw in part 3, because God is the actual king!  And his law is best.  No king could improve on it. The king, therefore, was to always know his place, and that is a place of serving God.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if our local and national leaders would strive to lead like this?  Officials who are Christians, you can choose to do so, even if that style of leadership isn’t enshrined in the laws of our land.  Jesus gave his disciples clear instructions about how they were to lead, and it was to be very different from the pattern of leadership in the world.  They were not to “lord it over” people, meaning that Christ-like leaders should lead like Jesus himself led, serving, willing to give of himself out of love for his people. 

Will your life’s work be a waste? (3 Lessons from Moses to make sure it won’t)

14 Sep

Image result for moses commissions joshua

Are you investing in people to take over for you?  Or will your efforts stop with you?  It might be a volunteer position in your church.  It might be a job at work.  It might be a leadership role in your family or on your sports team.  You’ve served and worked and given much of yourself.  What will happen when you are gone?  Will it all fall apart?

Our final installment of Deuteronomy chapter 3 is found in verses 21-29, and there we find Moses in the very position I describe above.  Moses has invested his life leading this group of people, the nation of Israel, to their new home.  He knows his tenure is about to finish.  Will the 40+ years he has given be worth it?  I wonder how much Moses reflects on the fact that he grew up a prince of Egypt.  I wonder if he thinks “Man, I had it good there.  And I gave it all up for this?”  I wonder if he ever fears that his life’s work will be wasted.  Will Israel survive without Moses leading them?

Moses is about transfer leadership to Joshua.  As we read Moses’ conversation with God about this transfer of leadership, we’ll find some concepts very applicable to followers of Jesus and the task he has given us, to make disciples.  Do you remember that task God has given those of you who are his followers? Many times Jesus said things like “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” or “Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Is it possible that can we learn about the task of making disciples from Moses and his relationship with Joshua, even though Moses lived more than a thousand years before Jesus?

I see at least three discipleship principles we can learn from Moses’ in Deuteronomy 3:21-29.  I believe we apply these principles to our own lives, as we seek to make disciples as Jesus commanded us.

First, Moses reminds Joshua of what God has done.  This is a way to build Joshua’s faith for the conquest to come.  Notice the personal words: “God will fight for you.”  Moses wants Joshua to place his faith in the Lord.  He wants Joshua to know the personal relationship with God that he has known.

Second, Moses reviews his own failings, perhaps as a warning to Joshua.  Moses is called the most humble man who ever lived in Numbers 12:3.  I think Moses’ willingness to publicly review his faults is one way he shows he is humble.  So in Deuteronomy 3:23-27 Moses discusses his sin and punishment, possibly because he does not want Joshua to fall into the same trap.  Here Moses is not only demonstrating for Joshua that a leader can be vulnerable and honest, but also that a leader needs to avoid pride, practicing humility, and giving God the praise and glory for everything.

Third he commissions Joshua, encouraging him in front of the whole nation.  Here is Moses telling the people what God said, so all the people knew that Joshua was going to be the next leader.  Moses is managing this significant transition that is about to take place.  He is leading the people to buy in to this transition, to take the trust they have placed in Moses, and give Joshua that same trust.

Moses led the people for 40+ years.  Will the people trust Joshua?  Will this transition work?  It is incredibly difficult to have a revered leader transition to a new guy.  Even if the new leader is familiar and known to congregation.

It seems to me that most of the Israelite nation would have expected Joshua to take over.  I highly doubt it would have been a surprise.  Given nepotism, and how prevalent that can be in some societies, perhaps people wondered if Moses’ children or family were going to be the next leaders of Israel.  The fact of the matter is that Joshua had been at Moses’ side for a long time, and the people knew that.

You know what, though, even if the vast majority assumed that Joshua was going to be the next leader, the transition can still be hard. I suspect not everyone was pleased.  In nearly any leadership transition, people can be downright upset, and they leave.  Those people feel little to no connection to the new guy.

So Moses needs to prepare the people, and he needs to invest in Joshua.

How are you investing in the lives of those around you?

And who are you investing in?  Who is going to take over for you?  This could be in your business, sports team, volunteer organization, family, church?  This applies in many ways.  As we think about Jesus call to make disciples, we his followers can look at these three principles and apply them to the task of discipleship.

Be intentional.  Invest your life in the lives of others, so that more and more people come to know Jesus, and be his disciples who make more disciples.

You are Moses.  Who is your Joshua? 

And also consider that you are Joshua.  Who is your Moses?  Who is investing in you? 

4 leadership principles from Moses in Deuteronomy 1

31 Aug

Not too many of us will ever lead a group or organization with a million or more people like Moses did. But just about all of us will have the chance to lead at least a few people.  Parents and grandparents lead their families.  At work you might have some employees you’re responsible for.  Or you might be a volunteer leader at a local school or in your church.  As we continue looking at Deuteronomy 1, Moses gives us four important leadership principles that apply to just about anyone.

First, sit down with those you lead and tell the story of how you got to the point you’re at. This is especially important for people who are new to your group. But even if the people you are leading have been around for a while, it is important to remind them of the history of your organization. The entire book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last words of reminder and remembrance to the people of Israel.  A new generation of Israelites was about to enter the land God had promised their forefather Abraham about 500 years earlier.  These newbies needed to know how they got there and why.  Moses wasn’t going to be leading them, making sure they followed God’s leading and law.  He knew how fickle the people of Israel were.  There were plenty of times he needed to advocate for them before God because they had screwed up so bad. So he wanted to make sure they knew the story of God and kept the law of God intact, long after he was gone.

Leader, you carry the history of your group with you like no other.  Are you telling people that story?

Second, raise up and rely on other leaders. In Deuteronomy 1:9-18, Moses, as he is telling the people their history, gets to the part where he divided the people up into groups, placing judges over them.  Moses was only to deal with the hard cases.  This is a very smart move.  There’s no way Moses could have enough time to solve the problems of a nation that probably numbered a couple million people at this point.  Years earlier his father-in-law, Jethro, had advised him to break the people into groups, or Moses was going to burn himself out.  Again we see the leadership genius of Moses.  Delegating, raising up leaders.  And a subpoint here.  Listen to those older and wiser than you.  I can hear my father-in-law already, “Yeah, see! You need to listen to me!”  But it’s true.  While Moses was leading a nation, Jethro was leading Moses, and Moses was humble and teachable to rely on Jethro’s advice.

Leader, who are you raising up to help you?  Who are you relying on for wisdom?  Don’t go it alone. 

Third, seek perspective before making a big move. Moses continues talking to the people in verses 19-25.  Remember that in verses 1-8, the Lord had instructed them to take the Land.  Moses is still sitting down having his fireside chat, reminding them of what happened to get to that point.  In the story they started the initial process of taking the land, but they get to the border and stop.  Rather than just barge in, they make a wise move, which is to get some intelligence data.  What are they up against?  Strong people groups?  Weak people groups?  What is it going to take to win over the Promised Land? They propose a spy mission, choosing 12 men to be the secret agents. The 12 spy the land, and come back with a report that it is a good land.  Things sound great.

Leader, are you faced with making a big move?  Maybe you’re seeking a career change, maybe a company change, maybe hiring or firing employees.  Parents, are you dealing with some tough issues with your kids?  Get some intel.  We can get so frustrated waiting in the middle of a difficult situation, and we just want out.  The emotional toll can be heavy, urging us to react.  Follow Moses’ lead, take a pause, gather data. What are you up against?  What are your options?

Fourth, tell the whole truth to your people; the truth about them and about you.  Continue reading Deuteronomy 1:26 to the end.  Up to this point, things have been going so good.  But now Moses has to tell the cold, hard truth to the new generation.  Some of the 12 spies got freaked by what they saw in Canaan.  So Moses says that their parents were disobedient, fearful, mistrusting, and rebellious.  Why would Moses rehash all this?  How would you feel about having your family’s past mistakes brought out in front of you? It is highly likely that Moses wanted to share a warning to the next generation.  “Look, here is how we got to the point where we are at.  I want you to learn from this.  You are starting something new.  Don’t repeat the mistakes from the past.  So be reminded of that God is with you.”  See in verses 29-30 how he wants to encourage them that God is with them?  Then in verses 42-46, he refers to the part of the story where God specifically reached out to the nation, giving them guidance.  “Don’t go fight yet, or you will be defeated.”  But they didn’t listen and tried to fight anyway.  And they were beat.  Moses wants the next generation to do better than their parents.  He wants them to obey the Lord.  That means Moses needs to talk about himself too.  Not only do the people rebel, and lose their trust in God, but we also read that Moses is not able to enter land.  We’ll spend more time on why Moses is barred from the Land when we come to chapter 3.  The point here is that Moses is honest about himself, willing to share his mistakes.

Leader, are you honest with your people?  Do you tell them the hard truth?  Are you vulnerable with them about your failings?  This is a hard one for me, as I tend to be a people-pleaser.  I can get really nervous that I will hurt feelings, or people will get upset at me, and thus avoid telling the truth.

Moses is considered to be one of the greatest leaders in history.  Perhaps these four principles can help you grow as a leader.

Is it weird to preach a sermon about leadership that is mostly for those who aren’t leaders?

3 Mar

Related image

Have you ever been asked to lead something in the church and thought “What? Me? No way!!!”

The thought of being a leader can raise a number of feelings.  Here a few that I have heard:

  1. It’s too much responsibility. What if I make a bad decision?  I don’t want to have to deal with the consequences.  What if I have to weigh in on a difficult situation?  What if I don’t know what to do?  I don’t want to know about the dark underbelly of the church.
  2. It would be too hard.  I don’t think I’m leader material.  I don’t like to be up front or in charge.
  3. I don’t think I’m called to be a leader. God never told me that I was to be a leader.
  4. I’ve never been a leader before, so I can’t be one.  I don’t know what to do!
  5. I’m too shy, too quiet.  I don’t like to speak up, and I certainly don’t want to be up in front of a crowd.  I hate public speaking.
  6. I don’t know the Bible well enough.

Have you heard these before?  Maybe you have heard them coming out of your mouth!  Are there other reasons that you have heard, or that you have used, to suggest that a person shouldn’t be a leader?

And most importantly of all, should these concerns invalidate a person from becoming a leader in the church?

As we continue our series through 1st Timothy, we have arrived at chapter 3, and it is all about leaders.  Who should be a leader?  How should they become a leader?  At Faith Church we have wrestled with these questions numerous times.  In 2014 we updated our approach to leadership, and we said we made these changes based on biblical principles. For those of you a part of Faith Church, read what Paul says to Timothy, and then answer: how well do you think we did?

Check out 1 Timothy 3.  Read the selection, then continue reading below.

Paul gives Timothy quite a long list of qualifications for leaders, doesn’t he?  One of my concerns as I prepare this sermon is that at Faith Church we currently have 9 people on our Leadership Team.  Maybe the rest of the church will hear the topic and think “Oh, this sermon is just for those 9 people on the Leadership Team.  So I don’t have to listen in.”   If you’re thinking something like that, I encourage you to still listen in. Here’s why:

This sermon is mostly for those who are not leaders yet.  It is for the rest of the congregation, those who might become leaders, and even those who won’t.  Why?  Because those 9 current leaders have already achieved these qualities in large measure or else there is no way they could have been considered for our Leadership Team.  Our current leaders can hear these words from Paul as an important reminder, for sure.  But it is best for all the rest of us to see Paul as speaking primarily to us. Everyone can and should see these qualities as describing how a disciple of Jesus should live.  Therefore, Paul’s words are for all of us.  Let’s all pay close attention to the life that Paul describes here.  Let’s all ask God to speak to us through his word, as perhaps there is something in these descriptions of overseers and deacons that we need to hear.

Join us Sunday, March 3, at Faith Church to learn more!