Friday, April 04, 2014

Ingredients of Great Leaders #SOAP

“O lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” The lord replied, “Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him. (Numbers 27:16-18 NLT)

Moses is about to die.

Moses knows that Israel needs a new leader to replace him so he prays for this. But he already has someone in mind. 

Joshua son of Nun.

Joshua has been his apprentice...for forty years! He's ready.

What's interesting is that Moses doesn't ask for Joshua by name when he prays. He prays for a leader that describes Joshua.

"...someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the LORD will not be like sheep without a shepherd."

The LORD answers his prayer by naming Joshua as that leader. The LORD further describes Joshua as a man "Who has the Spirit in him."

What things does Moses see as important in their leader?

1. A guide. "someone who will guide them."

2. A general. "someone who will...lead them into battle."

An interesting combination, to be sure. But then Moses qualifies this leader by saying why he asks for these qualities: "So the community of the LORD will not be like sheep without a shepherd."

A shepherd. Sounds an awful lot like Jesus. 

Joshua is in fact a foreshadowing (type?) of Jesus. They even share the same name. (Jesus/Joshua means "The LORD is salvation")

The LORD himself adds one more essential quality: A man "Who has the Spirit in him." God would have to do that part--and he did.


To be an effective leader, I need to be myself (not Joshua). However, these qualities are still important, if not essential.

I need to shepherd whomever I lead like a guide and a general filled with the Holy Spirit.

A guide because people are looking for direction. Not just any direction. Direction that is consistent with God's kingdom mission. Direction that will equip and empower them to live out that mission. Sheep want a shepherd who will lead them to green pastures and quiet waters. 

A general because people are looking for protection. People are in a war (whether they realize it or not). They need shepherd leaders who will lovingly feed and lead them through the wisdom of God's word. Teaching them what it says AND showing them how to live what it says. Teaching them how to put on the whole armor of God and to "Stand firm" in it.

Whether I am leading myself, my wife, my kids or my church, I need the Spirit of Christ to shepherd me. By God's grace, I plan to do just that. 

What's God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Taking Charge

This is Deborah's victory song as a judge of Israel. It's written and sung after their defeat of King Jabin after years of tyranny for Israel. The song speaks/sings of the battle Israel won.

This verse jumped out to me because it's about leaders and what happens when leaders lead. Note that it's the first words of the song too:

"Israel's leaders took charge."

That's what leaders do. But that's also what people need (and want). People without leaders are like sheep without a shepherd. They wander around malnourished and vulnerable to attack. That pretty much described Israel at this time.

Note that the people "gladly followed" Deborah and Barak. This tells me a few things:

* The people trusted these leaders.
* The people agreed with where they're leaders were going.
* The people were eager to follow their leaders.
* There was a leadership vacuum needing to be filled.
* The people were so desperate for a good leader that they willingly followed a woman into battle in a day when women were not seen as men's equal. And yet even warriors followed.

God doesn't just need leaders--he needs leaders who trust and fear Him. Leaders who shepherd their people well--not use and abuse.

Make no mistake--leaders are essential. And people want them so badly, they'll even follow bad ones.

What is God saying to you right now? Pause, think about it.

What are you going to do about it?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I Take My Sin Too Lightly

I think we take sin too lightly. I know I do.

Think about Adam and Eve

What did they do? They disobeyed their daddy (Ok, so he WAS God too). What was the consequence? What was the cost? Eternal separation from God for the rest of us. Suffering, violence, shame and death entered our perfect world. Sin entered the world.

Think about Achan in the days of Joshua. He disobeyed The Lord. The consequences were the loss of 36 men (fathers, husbands, sons and brothers). He paid for it with his life and his family's life.

I bet they underestimated the consequences. I know I still do. If that's all it took to cause the world to fall, what's my sin doing?

When I'm tempted to sin, Lord, help me remember that I routinely underestimate the consequences. And those consequences can ripple through generations. Thank you for your mercy. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

What I'm Capable Of

As they were at the table* eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.” Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one? (Mark 14:18-19 NLT)

"Am I the one?"

This question says a lot.

To us it's easy to see Judas Iscariot as a traitor. We know the backstory already. But, at that moment, Judas was so discreet that none of them suspected him. In fact, they all suspected themselves!

Here's what really gets me. "Each one asked in turn, 'Am I the one?'"

That tells me that each one of them believed he was capable of betraying Jesus.

Betray Jesus.

This sounds incomprehensible to first.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I, too, am capable of betraying my Jesus. Yes, I am. I have. I do.

My takeaway?

Admitting that I'm capable of such betrayal; such treachery. Self-awareness is so under-rated.

It's also learning to walk so closely to Jesus that I guard against such treachery. I pray for God's Spirit to keep me close and clean keeping watch and guarding my heart. (Proverbs 4:23)

Close. Close fellowship with him. Trusting obedience.

Clean. Short accounts with God. No unconfessed sin.

Self-aware. And never forgetting of what I'm capable of.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What Comes to Mind?

What comes to your mind when I say the phrase "Make disciples"?

This is the question I'm wrestling with lately. (among many others) It comes from a personal angst as a church leader. Okay, a pastor.

I'll admit that I've preached a lot the last three years on making disciples who make disciples. I do not apologize for this. This has been intentional and strategic.

Intentional because I've had a growing conviction as I read through God's word and other books (i.e. Radical by David Platt) that we, the Church, are not doing this well in America. It certainly doesn't seem to be our main priority or agenda. If it is, we're doing a pretty lousy job.

Strategic because, contrary to some church growth seminars, the quickest growth is always through the strategy that multiplies over the one that just adds. 

That said, it's also been a bit frustrating. Some of that is just my personal immaturity. I'm impatient to see the Church grow and mature into a Jesus movement in America and beyond. But it's more than that, I think. And I think it's bound up in our cultural paradigm in how we "do" church in America.

So back to my question: When I say "Make disciples," what comes to mind?

For many, if not most, it's probably things like:

How to grow in Christ
Bible studies
Spiritual Disciplines
The importance of the Church
Sermon series
Reaching out to those far from Christ
Equipping others to know and follow Jesus
Sunday school

These are all great answers. I guess I just see a couple of disconnects that still exist in many churches today. Even in churches that are leading their people to make disciples. I want to propose two today:

Mass producing vs. Personally investing

My observations are that we tend to equate discipleship exclusively with classes, small groups and sermons. What seems to be missing, either because of a lack of understanding or an unwilling heart, is that discipleship is akin to apprenticeship. And much apprenticeship happens one-on-one or one-on-two. I wonder if our culture has pushed us towards valuing quantity at the expense of quality. And in the end, I would argue that you get both when you start small and focus on quality. (ex. Jesus and just twelve disciples vs. the crowds he spoke to)

Optional vs. Responsible

Another observation is that we don't seem to feel responsible as Christ-followers to be actively making disciples. It feels like we see it as optional. As in I'll do it if I have extra time. I'm not just talking about discipling co-workers and neighbors. ("Love your neighbor...") I'm talking about discipling your own children.

So there it is. Here's a test. Ask your church leaders (staff, elders, overseers, deacons, etc.) to answer this question and see where they go first. Then, after they answer, ask them how have they been doing this the past six months.