Hope For the New Year

Job 42:10-17:

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.

And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch. And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job's daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days.

John Piper from The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God :

The little girl looked up and smiled:
"What are you thinking, Papa?" Job
Thought for a while, then said, "You probe
Perhaps, Jemimah, where the road
Is rougher and the mental load
Too heavy for your little mind."
"I like it, Papa, when you find
A story you can tell about
Your life. Why were you sick?" "I doubt
That you would understand," he said.
"Do you?" she asked. "Your little head
May not perhaps grasp all the Why,
But it may do us good to try.
Your daddy once was very rich.
And you had three big sisters which
I loved with all my heart. They died
With seven brothers all inside
A great big house that fell because
A giant wind broke all the laws
We thought we knew. How little did
We know! And then one day amid
The grief I got so sick no one
Could tell that it was me. I'd done
All that I knew to do. But still
It came and vexed my soul until
I almost lost my faith."

"Do you
Think God made you so sick?" she drew
Her breath and swallowed hard." "I know
You'd like to think that there's a foe
That hurts and God who heals. and that
Would not be wrong; but I have sat
And pondered months in pain to see
If that is true — if misery
Is Satan's work, and happiness
Is God's. Jemimah, we must bless
The Lord for all that's good and bad."

"But, Papa, God's not mean or mad.
He's not our enemy. He's kind
And gentle, isn't he?" "Your mind
Is right, Jemimah, but it's small.
He's gentle, kind, but that's not all.
I have some friends who thought they knew
The mind of God, and that their view
Of tenderness exhausted God's,
And that severity and rods
Could only be explained with blame,
To vindicate his holy name."
"So you think it was God who made
You sick?" "I think God never laid
Aside the reins that lie against
The neck of Satan, nor unfenced
His pen to run at liberty,
But only by the Lord's decree."
"So you think God was kind to make
You sick?" Jemimah asked, "and take
Away your health and all your sons
And friends, and daughters — all the ones
You loved?" "Jemimah, what I think
Is this: The Lord has made me drink
The cup of his severity
That he might kindly show to me
What I would be when only he
Remains in my calamity.
Unkindly he has kindly shown
That he was not my hope alone."

"O, Papa, do you mean your friends
were right?" "No, no, my child, to cleanse
An Upright heart of toxic stains
With searing irons is not like chains
Laid on the soul in penalty
For guile and crimes no one can see.
No, they were wrong. And kindly has
The Lord rebuked good Eliphaz,
And I have prayed for him, and all
is well. You see, their mind was small,
And they could not see painful times
Apart from dark and hidden crimes.
Beware, Jemimah, God is kind,
In ways that will not fit your mind.

It's getting late, Jemimah, come,
I think I hear the bedtime drum.
My little theologian deep,
It's time to say goodnight and sleep.
"But, Papa, please, one more: would you
Tell me about the wind that blew —
About the whirlwind and the word
Of God. You told me once you heard
the very voice of God. What did
He say?"

"He said, 'There's giant squid
Beneath the sea you've never seen,
And mountain goats above the green
Tree line that bring forth kids on cliffs
So high and steep that little whiffs
Of Wind would make a human fall.'
God asked me, 'Is the wild ox all
At your command? And will he stay
The night beside your crib and play
Or work with you on leashes made
Of hemp? And have the horses brayed
At your command, and do you make
Them leap like locusts? Do they break
Through shield and chariot because
You formed their neck? What laws
Of flight have you designed for hawks?
Have you devised the way he walks
On wind and snatches up his prey
In flight? And could you ever play
With stars to loose Orion, seize
The distant chains of Pleiades?
Where were you, Job, when I with mirth
The great foundations of the earth
Did lay, and all the sons of God
Rejoiced to watch a formless clod
Become the habitation of
My bride? Did you once brood above
The waters and appoint their bounds?
And have you joined the King who crowns
The mammoth sky with morning light?
Come, Job, gird up your feeble might
And make your case against the Lord.
Do you know where the snow is stored
Or how I make the hail and rain,
Or how a buried seed bears grain,
How ravens find their food at night
And lilies clothe themselves with white?
And finally, my servant, Job,
Can you draw down and then disrobe
Leviathan, the king of all
The sons of pride, and in his fall
Strip off his camouflage of strength,
And make him, over all the length
Of earth and heav'n, to serve the plan
Of humble righteousness? I can.
I make Leviathan my rod.
Belov├Ęd Job, behold your God!"

"And what did you say, Papa, when
The Lord was done?" I said, "Amen,
And bowed as low as I could bow.
Come here, my lass, I'll show you how."
And when she crouched before his feet
He picked her up, and with a sweet
And tender grip he said, "Watch this."
And on her cheek he put a kiss.

Behold the light of candle four:
What we have lost God will restore
When he is finished with his art,
The silent worship of our heart.
When God creates a humble hush,
And makes Leviathan his brush,
It won't be long until the rod
Becomes the tender kiss of God.


Ministry Mind-Shifts

In Chapter Two, "Ministry Mind-shifts, of The Trellis and the Vine, argue,

"...structures don't grow ministry any more than trellises grow vines, and that most churches need to make a conscious shift--away from erecting and maintaining structures, and towards growing people who are disciple-making disciples of Christ."

This shift requires numerous changes of mindset or mental shifts. They are:

1. From Running Programs to Building People
2. From Running Events to Training People
3. From Using People to Growing People
4. From Filling Gaps to Training New Workers
5.From Solving Problems to Helping People Make Progress
6. From Clinging to Ordained Ministry to Developing Team Leadership
7. From Focusing On Church Polity to Forging Ministry Partnerships
8. From Relying On Training Institutions to Establishing Local Training
9. From Focusing On Immediate Pressures to Aiming for Long-Term Expansion
10. From Engaging In Management to Engaging in Ministry
11. From Seeking Church Growth to Desiring Gospel Growth

Here are a few blurbs from some of these ministry mind-shifts.

From Running Programs to Building People:

Instead of working from existing programs currently in place and planning for the upcoming year concerning how you can make those programs more successful, "start with the people in your church, having no particular structures or programs in mind, and then consider who are these people God has given you, how you can help them grow in Christian maturity, and what form their gifts and opportunities might take.

From Using People to Growing People:

Volunteers are the ones who maintain and expand church programs...The danger of having such willing volunteers is that we use them, exploit them, and forget to train them. They they burn out, their ministry is curtailed and we find that we have failed to develop their Christian life and ministry potential. Instead of using our volunteers, we should consider how we can encourage them and help them grow in the knowledge and love of Christ, because service flows from Christian growth and not growth from service.

From Filling Gaps to Training New Workers:

Instead of thinking, "Who can fill this gap in our personnel?", perhaps the question we need to consider is "What ministry could this member exercise?"

From Solving Problems to Helping People Make Progress:

If ministry in our churches is based on reacting to the problems people raise, many will receive no attention because they are more reserved in sharing their problems. The goal is to move people forward in holy living and knowledge of God, whether they are facing problems or not; this is why we proclaim Christ, 'warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.' (Col. 1:28)

From Seeking Church Growth to Desiring Gospel Growth:

We must be exporters of trained people instead of hoarders of trained people...But our view of Gospel work must be global as well as local: the goal isn't church growth (in terms of our local church expanding in numbers, budgets, church-plants and reputation) but gospel growth. If we train and send workers into new fields (both local and global), our local ministry might not grow numerically but the Gospel will advance through these new ministers of the word.

Church Growth Vs. Gospel Growth: Which Is Your Church Pursuing?

In The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mindshift That Changes Everything the authors make the distinction between Church Growth and Gospel Growth.

Marshall and Payne write,

We talk a lot these days about church growth. And when we think about our lack of growth, we think of the lack of growth of our particular congregation: the stagnation or decline in numbers, the wobbly state of finances, and possibly the looming property issues.

But it's interesting how little the New Testament talks about church growth, and how often it talks about 'gospel growth' or the increase of the 'word.' The focus is on the progress of the Spirit-backed word of God as it makes its way in the world, according to God's plan. Returning to our vine metaphor, the vine is the Spirit-empowered word, spreading and growing throughout the world, drawing people out of the kingdom of darkness into the light-filled kingdom of God's beloved Son, and then bearing fruit in their lives as they grow in the knowledge and love of God...

This results, of course, in individual congregations growing and being built. But the emphasis is not on the growth of the congregation as a structure--in numbers, finances, and success--but on the gospel growth, as it is spoken and respoken under the power of the Spirit. In fact, New Testament congregations, as far as we can tell, were usually small gatherings meeting in houses. They were outwardly unimpressive, and had minimal infrastructure. But God kept drawing people into them by the gospel. Or to put it another way, Christ kept doing what he said he would do in Matthew 16. He kept building his church.

Here's to Christ continuing to build his church--through Gospel Growth, not necessarily Church Growth.


Answering Questions We Know the Answers To

Well, here we are. I will have to be honest and admit that six months ago when I resigned from our previous church, I never thought that six months later we would be where we are now. On June 28th, six months seems like forever. On December 17th, it seems like just yesterday. And I was certain, absolutely certain, that sometime within that six months, the Lord would open the right door of ministry and that our house would sell--all before December 31st.

Now, on December 17th, God hasn't opened up that next door of ministry. Neither has He brought us a buyer to buy the house. And tomorrow, Friday, we will pack up all of our belongings in a moving truck, pull out of the driveway on Saturday, saying good-bye to precious friends, and leave the keys to our house on the kitchen counter for the bank to come and secure our home and take possession of it. And we'll move to NC and as of January 1, we will have little to no income.

And you can be rest assured, I have been confused and questioning over these final couple of months of waiting. A few weeks ago, I had a fairly intense time of interrogating the Lord. My round of questioning went something as follows:

"God, why? I am the one who stayed faithful to Your Word. I am the one who refused to compromise Scripture for pragmatic purposes. I am the one who refused to sacrifice the global part of the Great Commission in order to build a local kingdom. God, I was faithful to You and to Your Word and faithfully preached it.

But now God, we are the ones who are suffering. We are having to say good-bye to precious friends. I am the one who is not able to do what You've called me to do. We are the ones who are losing our financial livelihood. We are the ones losing our home. It's our little girls that are having their lives pulled up and losing their friends too. It's our five year old who is having to change schools. God we were faithful, but we are the ones who are suffering."


And then the Lord answers in that way that humbles you and shames you, but at the end of the rebuke, encourages you. It was as if the Lord reminded me, "Why are you surprised by this? This is the normal outcome of those who are faithful."

"Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Tim. 3:12)

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it." (Mark 8:34)

"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also to suffer for his sake..." (Philippians 1:29)

"...who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two; they were killed with the sword..." (Hebrews 11:33-37)

In this sinful, fallen world, this is what happens to God's people as they faithfully follow Him. I should not be surprised and really I should have never asked that question--I knew the answer. I've preached the answer many times. I've counseled that answer many times.

"Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?" (Job 4:3-6)

And so while this is definitely not where we thought we would be two and a half years ago and while, in our minds this is not where we should be, this is where God always intended us to be. This is His plan, discomfort and all. And though it is uncomfortable, I am encouraged and thankful for a few things.

First, I thank the Lord for an amazing wife who has stayed by my side and who has suffered with me through this and who has spoken God's truth to me when I needed it the most.

I am thankful for our two little girls who are oblivious to all that is happening. They have demonstrated the child-like faith God wants me to have towards Him. Over these six months, it has never crossed their minds that their mom and dad will not take care of them. They have not worried or been anxious. They have simply trusted in the care and love of their daddy and mommy.

I am thankful to the Lord for my family who has stood by us and who is supporting us in so many ways right now.

I am thankful to the Lord for the amazing friends that God has given us here in Tennessee. Leaving them will be tough, probably the toughest good-byes we have ever had to make in ministry. However, we praise the Lord for them. Their support in this time has been an evidence of God's grace sustaining us through this trial.

I am thankful for the unexpected and surprising faithfulness of the Lord as He continues to provide for us and meet all of our needs.

I am thankful for the privilege of suffering with Christ. I hesitate to even call what we have been through, "suffering," when there are brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are giving their life for the cause of the Gospel. But to whatever measure this can be considered suffering for Christ, I am thankful that He has counted us worthy to endure it and has chosen to use us to glorify His name through this trial. I am thankful He has given us this gift. I pray we will be found faithful.

I am thankful for God's sustaining grace in the midst of this trial. Our ability to persevere in the midst of this is evidence of God's grace. It is not natural to go through what we are going through and to lose what we are losing and still be able to laugh and trust the Lord and His Word. I cannot do that. In my strength, I would have folded a long time ago. I would have compromised and not been faithful. But thankfully, "...it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13)

Finally, I am thankful for Jesus--the perfect life that He lived in our place and the perfect death that He died on our behalf on the cross. It is only because of Jesus, who He is and what He has done and continues to do, that is the reason for all of the above. God's grace flows to me in the cross on which the Prince of Glory died and from the cross. No matter what the bad news is for the day, the Good News of Jesus is always present. It is the Good News that Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification that sustains us. It is the gift of Jesus Himself that is enough for our family in the midst of this trial. No matter what happens, because of Christ, we are doing better than we deserve.

"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." ( Isaiah 43:19)

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places." (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Note To Self: "Listen To This!"

Here is Part 1 of "Trusting God Through Unemployment" over at 9Marks.

#1: Own your unemployment

This struggle has revealed how much I wrongly value work and wrongly value being seen as important. As a reaction to this new reality, my flesh wants to pass through this trial quickly. My flesh doesn’t want to slow down and absorb the lessons that God has for me in this season.

So there is a constant struggle to avoid admitting that I am unemployed or that my unemployment has extended so long because it tells my flesh that the world doesn’t think much of me. So I am tempted to tell people that I took a few months off before I really started looking; anything to minimize the embarrassment.

Embracing the trial, to me, means being honest with myself and forcing myself to run to God and to depend on him. I need to work at not putting up defenses. I need to regularly admit to people that I am unemployed…

This honest assessment drives me to the scriptures to find rest and solace in God and His word and NOT in anything else.

#2: Preach to yourself

In times like this, it is too easy to speak to yourself and become discouraged, to doubt and even to accuse God. We need to arm ourselves with His word and battle those thoughts. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Here are a few common "thoughts" that we need to "take captive:" worry (Luke 12), fears that my struggle is meaningless (James 1), fears that God doesn't love me (Galatians 4:6-7), fears that God is powerless (Numbers 1:23).

Use God's Word to fight your thoughts that challenge God's truth.

#3: Prepare for the Storm

The book of James is clear that we do not know the future. We don’t even know what is going to happen tomorrow. So, we are wise, to prepare. As proverbs says: “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer.” Are you prepared for tomorrow? For those of you with jobs, you are in your ‘summer.’ Are you preparing for winter? Don’t think that it can’t happen to you. It is a good thing to live well within our means so that we can give sacrificially now while also saving that we might provide for our families in the future.

#4: Depend on the LORD

As a believer, it is a blessing to depend on the LORD. It is really evident to me that the LORD is pouring out his grace on me and my family right now. We know that Faith is a gift from God and he has been kind to allow me to trust him as I walk through this trial.

God is giving me hope. Not just in that he will provide a next job. But is giving me hope in him and is fitting me for heaven.

#5: Be surprised at his Kindness

In the midst of real difficultly, this has been a surprisingly sweet period in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I want a job, but I see this as God ordained. He gives and he takes. And, while waiting for a job, he has blessed me.

  • He has refreshed my soul and reoriented my heart towards Him.
  • I have been able to spend a ton of time with my family.
  • The extra time has allowed me to serve my church and care for them.

God knew what I needed and has been an abundant provider of blessing.


Don't Be This Kind of Shepherd

Tim Challies posts a valuable lesson learned from a recent mishap in Turkey involving a shepherd and his sheep. Pastors, let us take note.

ISTANBUL: Hundreds of sheep followed their leader off a cliff in eastern Turkey, plunging to their deaths this week while shepherds looked on in dismay. Four hundred sheep fell 15 metres to their deaths in a ravine in Van province near Iran but broke the fall of another 1,100 animals who survived, newspaper reports said yesterday. Shepherds from Ikizler village neglected the flock while eating breakfast, leaving the sheep to roam free, the Radikal daily said. The loss to local farmers was estimated at $74,000.

Can’t you picture the shepherds, their eyes bulging as sheep after sheep disappears in the distance, careening off the edge of the cliff? Can’t you see them running towards the flock, yelling, shouting, drying desperately to distract the sheep from following their leader? Can’t you picture their shame as they look at the mass of writhing, broken bodies, and then look back at their breakfast, now forgotten?

This isn’t really the fault of the sheep is it? It was the fault of the shepherds who had neglected their flock in order to indulge in a meal. They knew their sheep and they knew that sheep are not intelligent creatures. While these men filled their stomachs, they neglected their sheep and hundreds of them were killed, falling to their deaths in a mad, blind rush off the edge of a cliff. It brings to mind Matthew 9:36 where we read that Jesus, going from town to town and village to village looked at the people and “had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” A sheep without a shepherd is helpless and pathetic. It is pitiable.

Needed Words Against Pragmatism

John MacArthur in a recent post on pragmatism and the church today:

But when pragmatism is used to make judgments about right and wrong, or when it becomes a guiding philosophy of life and ministry, it inevitably clashes with Scripture. Spiritual and biblical truth is not determined by testing what "works" and what doesn't. We know from Scripture, for example, that the gospel often does not produce a positive response (1 Cor. 1:22, 23; 2:14). On the other hand, Satanic lies and deception can be quite effective (Matt. 24:23, 24; 2 Cor. 4:3, 4). Majority reaction is no test of validity (cf. Matt. 7:13, 14), and prosperity is no measure of truthfulness (cf. Job 12:6). Pragmatism as a guiding philosophy of ministry is inherently flawed. Pragmatism as a test of truth is nothing short of satanic.

Nevertheless, an overpowering surge of ardent pragmatism is sweeping through evangelicalism. Traditional methodology—most notably preaching—is being discarded or downplayed in favor of newer means, such as drama, dance, comedy, variety, side-show histrionics, pop-psychology, and other entertainment forms. The new methods supposedly are more "effective"—that is, they draw a bigger crowd. And since the chief criterion for gauging the success of a church has become attendance figures, whatever pulls in the most people is accepted without further analysis as good. That is pragmatism.


(Un)Planned Detours: Pretty Applicable

Giving our current situation, I found this post by John Bloom at Desiring God, fairly appropriate and very encouraging.

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

As Jesus' earthly father, Joseph, discovered in Matthew 1-2, that's just another way of saying that when your plans are detoured and redirected, you find out who's really charting the course.

* * *

Nazareth. It felt good to Joseph to be back home. The same old market and the same old merchants. The same old neighbors with the same old complaints. The same old synagogue and the same old rabbi.

Oddly, though, the normalcy felt a bit strange after the unexpected adventures of the past checkcouple of years. What an odyssey this simple Galilean carpenter had been on.

It had all started with Mary's world-shaking pregnancy announcement that took an angel to help him believe. He had hardly stopped reeling from that news when he was hit with the census decree from Rome.

Joseph recalled the anger he had felt. Some vain emperor a world away was ordering people to go to their ancestral cities to register. As a descendent of King David, this meant for Joseph a royal 100-mile walk to Bethlehem. It seemed outrageously unjust. Not only would this disrupt his business and incur travel expenses they could not afford, but Mary would be in advanced pregnancy!

He remembered venting his exasperation to a friend who had replied, "Surely the Messiah will come soon and deliver us from these tyrants!" And then to cheer Joseph had added, "Hey, maybe you'll see the Messiah there! You know what the prophet said,

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days." (Micah 5:2)

His friend might as well have hit Joseph on the head with a plank. All at once he saw it! Augustus in all his imperial pomp was merely a tool in the hand of God to fulfill Scripture. His anger melted into awe-filled joy. Yes, Joseph most certainly would see the Messiah in Bethlehem.

In fact, after Jesus' incredible birth, Joseph had fully expected to make Bethlehem their new permanent home. Surely that's what Micah meant. And he had just started to get his business going when the angel of his dreams came again, shortly after the Persian magi visited. "Flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you." Herod wanted to murder their baby!

Joseph had felt anger rise against Herod. And he felt a stab of fear. The Egyptian border was another 100-mile foot journey for his wife and child, mostly through dessert.

But he quickly remembered. If Augustus was God's tool, what was Herod? God had his reasons to send his Son to Egypt. So Joseph snuck his family out of town in the cover of night.

Egypt. That was one place Joseph had never expected to see, much less live in. He hadn't had any idea how he would feed and house his family there. But he need not have worried. God provided wonderfully for them like he had all along.

And then after a few months another dream and another commission: Herod had died and he was to take the child back to Israel. Joseph assumed this meant returning to Bethlehem.

But he soon learned that Herod's son, Archelaus, was ruling over Judea. Archelaus was a sharp chip off the cruel block. If he got wind of a Messiah in Bethlehem, no doubt another assassination would be attempted. One more angelic dream visit and it was back to Nazareth.

And who knew how long that would last…

* * *

The Holy Family's first few years were not tranquil. They were filled with grueling travel during the hardest part of pregnancy, a birth in worse than a barn, no steady income, an assassination attempt, two dessert crossings on foot with an infant, living in a foreign country, waiting on God for guidance and provisions just in the nick of time. It was difficult, expensive, time-consuming, career-delaying and full of uncertainty.

And it was God's will.

The unplanned, inefficient detours of our lives are planned by God. They are common for disciples, and they commonly don't make sense in the moment. But God's ways are not our ways because our lives are about him, not about us. He is orchestrating far more than we know in every unexpected event and delay.

So when you find yourself suddenly moving in a direction you had not planned, take heart, hold tight, and trust God's navigation.


"Introverts In the Church" & Leadership

I recently begun readying, Introverts In the Church: Finding Our Place In An Extroverted Culture. While, I don't agree with everything in the book, it has been a fun and informative read, considering I tend towards the introverted personality. Here's a good review here, if you're interested.

Chapter Six is entitled, "The Ability To Lead." I thought I would share some encouraging quotes concerning introverts and leadership. Enjoy!

In commending humility, self-sacrifice and a commitment to the organization over personal glory, Collins [Jim Collins, Good to Great], finds himself in the heart of an ancient tradition of leadership: the biblical picture of the servant leader. The authors of the New Testament caution us against those leaders who are heavy on allure and light on humility. Scripture subverts our subtle tendency to identify leaders by glamorous personality features and instead points us toward people who are faithful servants to God and others.

It cannot be overemphasized that the biblical descriptions of leadership do not include references to personality type. Instead they consistently describe leaders as people of admirable and consistent character.

True leadership is not cultivated in the limelight; it's won in the trenches. Character is something that is built. Thus, the mark of godly leadership is not a magnetic personality; it is discipline, because discipline develops character.

True leaders don't lead out of who others want them to be; therefore, introverts with character will lead as introverts. We do not try to be extroverts or contort ourselves in ways our personalities are not able to go. While we seek to grow as leaders and as people, we are committed to remaining true, because one of the greatest gifts we can offer others is leading as ourselves.

God has always been about the business of shattering expectations, and in our culture, the standards of leadership are extroverted. It perfectly follows the biblical trend that God would choose the unexpected and the culturally 'unfit'--like introverts--to lead his church for the sake of his greater glory.


A Valuable Lesson Learned

Well, we are less than two weeks away from moving and we continue to wait for the Lord to move us into the next church where we will have the privilege to serve with a church family.

Though we are continually amazed at the ways in which the Lord is planning for our provision up to this point without me having secured some kind of job, I do continue to look for work of any kind to provide for my family. And believe me I have applied for a host of different jobs--from washing dogs to teaching in a Baptist College.

And believe me, as much as I love dogs, I would much rather be teaching in a Baptist college than washing dogs in this period in between churches. But this prospect of teaching in a college has afforded me the opportunity, by God's grace, to learn or be reminded of something concerning pastoring.

I have been greatly encouraged by my wife and by former church members with their kind words in regards to how well they think I would do as a teacher in a Bible college. Whether or not their enthusiasm is warranted, I'm not sure.

I can say, though, that I would enjoy it. It would be an opportunity to teach and to teach about the Scriptures and the things of God found in the Scriptures. And I greatly have a passion for that without question. But that is not the same as being a pastor, obviously with all the other responsibilities that go along with pastoring. And more specifically is the area of preaching as a pastor not equivalent to teaching in a Bible college.

Someone may object, "But isn't weekly preaching to a congregation just the same as teaching weekly to a classroom in a Bible college." And in one sense I guess the answer is, "yes." Both the pastor and the professor/teacher are teaching the Scriptures. However, in a much larger sense, the answer is an emphatic, "No."

How so? The answer lies in this beautiful organism that the Gospel has created that we call the Church and more specifically the local expression of it--the local church. There is nothing in all the world like the local church. In the local church you have a group of individuals from different backgrounds--socioeconomic, racial, age,etc., --whom God has caused to be born again through the Gospel and who now God has brought together in the context of this local church to covenant together to live out the implications of the Gospel in relation to one another and the world around them both locally and globally with a goal of bringing glory to God as they are shaped more into the likeness of Christ and as more of those who are without Christ are relocated in Christ through the local and global missions efforts of that local body as it carries the Gospel across the street to its neighbors and across the ocean to the nations.

And in that covenant community you have this precious and unique relationship of pastor/shepherd and sheep. You have a shepherd/pastor or group of pastors/elders whom God has set apart to feed and care for and love this group of sheep. This pastor loves the sheep and binds up their wounds and pulls them back when they stray away and loves them with all their imperfections and they love him with all of his imperfections--for both he and they know all too well that he too is a sheep. This pastor would lay down his life for this group of sheep. And if the pastor shepherds this group of sheep God has entrusted to him by being biblically faithful to God's Word, this group of sheep would lay down their life for their shepherd.

And so you see, "No," teaching in a classroom at a Bible college, as much as I would enjoy the opportunity to do (definitely much more than washing dogs or selling cars), is not the same thing as preaching weekly to a local church. The issue between the two is not just the fact that in both you are teaching the Scriptures. And that's why, as much as I would enjoy teaching in a college if that is what the Lord has for me to do in this between time, it could not hold a candle to standing before a local assembly of God's people weekly to feed them the Word of God as we covenant together to be faithful to the Word of God in growing together in the likeness of Christ through good times and bad and reaching out across the street and across the ocean with the Gospel for the glory of God.

You see, I have learned a valuable lesson in the past five months of not being a pastor. It's a lesson that I hope I have just been reminded of and not actually learned for the first time. But either way, I am thankful to God for it. That lesson is this: my passion for preaching/teaching and whatever giftedness God has given me to express that passion is not isolated to just preaching/teaching. My passion for preaching/teaching God's Word is inseparable from my love for the local church and God's call upon my life to be a pastor of a local church.

God did not call me to preach/teach. God called me to pastor a people. My passion to preach/teach is an extension and reflection of my passion to pastor a people and my love for the local church.

A valuable lesson learned and I pray one that is never forgotten.

"I Did Nothing; I Let the Word Do Its Work."

From Martin Luther's sermon, "Second Sermon on Monday after Invocavit, March 10, 1522":

In short, I will preach it [the Word of God], teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Witternberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything. Had I desired to foment trouble, I could have brought great bloodshed upon Germany; indeed, I could have started such a game that even the emperor would not have been safe. But what would it have been? Mere fool's play. I did nothing; I let the Word do its work.

How do we change the culture (s) in which we live? We don't. The Word does. We simply preach it, teach it, write it, and live out radical lives changed by the Word in the culture in which we live.

How do we change the culture of our churches? We don't. It is not about our programs or music style or whatever else you would like to throw against the church wall to see if it sticks. It is the Word of God that will change the culture of our churches. We must have faith that the Word of God will do the work of God among the people of God.

It really is that simple.

Good Question. What's Your Answer?

From Michael Horton's The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People In A Bad News World :

What is your church like? More importantly, what came into your mind first when you read that question? Here is one possible answer: We have great music, programs for every age group and interest, lots of ministry opportunities, clean nurseries, and an awesome youth group. I feel at home there: it's a great place to make friends and establish community (i.e., there are a lot of people there like me). Here is another possible answer, though probably less popular: The Word is faithfully preached, the sacraments are faithfully administered according to Christ's institution, and the elders and deacons look after the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people.


An Endangered Species?

Below is a quote from the 2009 9Marks report card. It refers to the rarity of faithful pastors in churches today.

The problem is, faithfulness is not a high priced commodity in churches these days. Churches demand relevance and excellence. They want John the Baptist to lose to camel's hair and put on a pair of jeans. They want quality programming, T.V. good looks, musicians who would make it in a studio, and preachers who could host a late night talk show. Paul might say he's no super-apostle, but in this market he better be, or they'll change the channel.

Pop goes the church.

How many pastors look into their congregation's eyes and worry that everyone's only two weeks away from leaving for a better church! So should we say goodbye to the ordinary, faithful pastor? Put him on the endangered species list?

We hope not...