Good Leaders Accept Help

“O, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and tongue….please send someone else.”  Exodus 4:10 & 13

Moses, probably the greatest leader in the Old Testament recognized his limitations.  He admitted that he was not good at everything.  He asked God to remove the burden of leadership from him.  Instead, God directs him to a helper, someone with the gift he lacks.

“Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite?  I know that he can speak well. … He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth …” Exodus 4:14-15

Later on, Moses encounters a different problem — time management.  As leader, he is dealing with so many small problems, he can’t get to the bigger ones.  This time, it is his father-in-law, Jethro who gives the advice to delegate.

“Look for able men from all he people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe;  and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.  And let them judge the people at all times.  Every great matter they shall decide themselves.  So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.”  Exodus 18:21-22

Likewise, in the book of Acts, the twelve apostles found they could not meet all the needs of the growing church.  Some widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.

“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

We can’t expect our leaders to go it alone.  Good leaders recognize the spiritual gifts of others and they learn to delegate and train.  Maybe the greatest talent of good leaders is to recognize and cultivate the skills of the people around them.

I can see this in my own life.  Leadership is not my strongest spiritual gift, but I have found myself in situations when I am called to lead.  When this happens I know that I need someone with the gift of administration as a strong #2 — I see the goal, but not always the steps that need to be taken to get there.  I also need people with the gift of service — the ones who can just see a task that needs doing, and jump it to take care of it.  For me, leadership is all about assembling the right team–a group who can work together and accomplish great things.

What about you?  What can you do well, and what do you need to delegate?  I’ll be writing more about this in an upcoming post on spiritual gifts.

 

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The Laity — Christians in Action

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve, if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage then give encouragement; if it is giving then give generously; if it is to lead do it diligently; if it is to show mercy do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8

The book of Acts in the Bible is actually a type of genre that was popular in its time.  Such works chronicled the acts of a heroic figure or an important city.  Some commentators divide this book into the acts of Peter and Paul, but read through it and you will meet a host of gifted early Christians.  These were some of the original laity, and they ought to give us an idea of the many things lay people can accomplish.

  • Lydia used her gift of hospitality to invited others into her home to hear the gospel. (Acts 16:15)
  • Philip had the gift of evangelism.  He witnessed one-on-one to an Ethiopian. (Acts 8:35)
  • Barnabas was called “son of encouragement.” He encouraged Paul, Mark and others.(Acts 4:36)
  • Stephen was known for his wisdom.(Acts 6:10)
  • Cornelius was generous and faithful.(Acts 10:1-2)
  • Tabitha served others. (Acts 9:36)
  • The Bereans studied the Bible earnestly to gain knowledge. (17:10-11)
  • Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila were all gifted teachers (Acts 18:24-26)

Peter and Paul deserve our respect and admiration, but they could not have spread the gospel alone.  The church needs pastors and missionaries, but it also needs the laity.  We have been given gifts to support, encourage and maintain the church.  We also have the ability to reach and serve people in our family, community and work environments, who may never meet the pastor.  Study the book of Acts and see where your special gift fits in — the church needs you!

Turn Around

“…I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds …” Acts 26:20b

Did you know that the word repentance, as used in the Bible, actually means to “turn your guts (or insides) around”?  Repentance doesn’t just mean saying “sorry” or even feeling sorry.  It means going forward in a different direction — doing an about face.  Many times, maybe most of the time, we really don’t want to do this.  Sometimes we think we can’t  do this, because the sin is so deeply ingrained.  Saying sorry often means we’re sorry we got caught.  We’re sorry our bad behavior was noticed.  We want to look good instead of being good.

In the verse, the apostle Paul is explaining to King Agrippa exactly why the Jews want him to be prosecuted and put to death.  He had the audacity to demand that they change their ways!  He expected them to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and it made them furious!

True repentance is a willingness to turn away from our sin (whatever that happens to be) and start walking in a different direction, walking towards God’s way instead of our way.  It’s difficult, and sometimes we’ll stumble or even fall.  When that happens we need to get up, get going, and stay focused on the goal.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

Are you willing to turn around?

 

Book Learning #2

In my last post, I promised to share some of what I have been reading lately.  I read widely and eclectically.  I read because I’m curious, and I like to know how and what others think.  I don’t always agree with everything I read, and so I don’t want our readers to necessarily take this post as a recommendation or endorsement of every book I mention.

First of all, in our weekly Bible study, we’re doing Acts this year.  I can certainly recommend this book!  Acts is exciting reading.  It includes miraculous events, travel, interesting people, sermons and even a ship wreck!  Written by Luke (the gospel author), it can be seen as a bridge between the gospels and the epistles and also between the work Jesus did on earth, and the work He continued to do through the Church.

In our Sunday School class, the material we are using comes from Concordia Publishing House (good if you are looking for solid Lutheran teaching, I recommend you look at their website).  This quarter we are studying kings and prophets.  Our first lesson deals with Solomon, David’s son, and his prayer for wisdom.

I’m also reading two books from our library and both are fairly new.  The first is My Utmost:  A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford.  I chose it because I’m fond of what I call spiritual autobiographies.  I enjoy hearing about the spiritual journeys of others.  Ms. Halford was raised as a Southern Baptist;  when she was twelve, her grandmother gave her a copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  She has read this daily devotional through every year since.  Wow!  That was the greatest take away for me — I never thought of using the same devotional over and over.  I tend to use one for a year and then it remains on my bookshelf forever, seldom touched.  This is an idea I may try.  I admit I have never used My Utmost for His Highest, but I know our author, Leslie has, so maybe she’ll chime in to tell us more about it.  (hint, hint).  I learned a lot about Oswald, who was definitely not a Lutheran.  According to Ms. Halford:

“Attempts at pinning Oswald down generally failed:  ‘He was a sort of proto-Pentecostal mystic, and Wesleyan in his theology,’ wrote an anonymous commenter on Puritanboard.com.’ That was as close to correct as one was likely to get, but it still wasn’t entirely correct.”

He definitely tends toward the Holiness traditions (Methodist and Wesleyan) and my husband and I had a lively discussion about the difference between how the Lutheran view of sanctification differs from the Holiness churches– they believe in the possibility of entire or complete sanctification” — Lutherans, I guess, believe sanctification is always incomplete, on this side of heaven.  (Maybe my friend, Nancy, who is Methodist would like to comment on this).  At any rate, according to the book, someone can read the My Utmost devotional without even noticing Oswald’s views on this.  (If you enjoy theological debates, the book also covered different views on the end times — post and pre millennial, the rapture, etc.).  The author says My Utmost has been called “the little black dress of books”  perfect for every occasion.  I liked that.

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My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir                          An Oasis in Time: How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life by [Marilyn Paul]

The second book I am reading is written by a Jewish woman named Marilyn Paul and it’s called, An Oasis in Time:  How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life.  I haven’t gotten too far into it — just reading a chapter a day– but it is about the importance of taking a Sabbath day of rest, and she talks about Christian and Muslin traditions, as well as her own.  I found it interesting to realize how much our life revolves around a weekly routine –on Monday, we plan the things we want to accomplish, and by Friday we’re assessing how we’ve done and winding down.  Rest is an important part of the routine (built into us since creation, when God “rested” on the last day).  Without rest, we lose that routine and become more and more burned out and stressed.  There are suggestions at the end of the chapter and exercises to help learn how to celebrate a day of rest.

Well, that’s it for me and what I have read, studied and learned about this week.  I’d like to hear from other writers and readers:  what are you reading?  What do you like/not like?  What has been edifying?  I want to hear your suggestions, too.

 

 

Achieving Unity

” And all who believed came together and had all things in common;  and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

I’ve already mentioned that unity doesn’t happen in a day;  it’s a process.  The early Christians worshipped, ate and praised God together.  They shared one another’s lives.  They cared about each other. They were willing to make sacrifices for the congregation.  This made their fellowship so attractive to others that they wanted to be a part of it.

You may join a congregation by coming to church on Sunday and/or standing up front and professing your desire to be a member.  However, true unity comes from day-to-day working and serving together, having fun together, sharing stories and lives.  It comes from seeing children grow up and older people die.  It comes from being willing to contribute your time, talent and yes, even money to support and nurture the group.  It means sticking in there to resolve problems and disagreements, instead of walking away.

Of course, these days it’s rare to belong to the same church for your whole life.  There are times when we must change because we move.  There may be times when we are called to leave our congregation to serve elsewhere.  Maybe there are even times when our doctrinal positions become so far apart that leaving is the only option.  When this happens, though, I believe we should join into our new church home with vigor and commitment.  We can’t achieve unity without doing our part.

“…and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25

I would like to hear from our readers and other authors.  Do you feel unity with your congregation?  What had led to that unity for you?

 

Evangelistic Acts

“..the word of God continued to increase and spread.”  Acts 12:24

If you’re looking for a primer on evangelism, turn to the book of Acts.  If there is one overarching theme of Acts, it is the verse above –the spread of Christianity.  Acts is also a book about people, individuals, who through their words and deeds made an impact for Christ.  I’m going to list a few of them here.

  • Philip:  one of the first to preach the gospel outside of Jerusalem (Acts 8:4-40)
  • Peter:  led by God to Cornelius, one of the first Gentiles to become a Christian(Acts 9:32-10:48)
  • Barnabas:  went to Antioch as an encourager; traveled on to Troas (Acts 11:25-30)
  • Apollos:  left Alexandria for Ephesus, preached in Athens and Corinth(Acts 18:24-28)
  • Priscilla & Aquila:  taught the complete gospel story to Apollos (same reference as above)
  • Paul:  went on missionary journeys along with Barnabas and John Mark (Acts 13: 1-14); Silas, Timothy and Luke (Acts 15:36-18:22); Erastus (Acts 18:23 and 19:1-21:4)

In all, Acts mentions over one hundred people who contributed to the growth of the church.  It’s inspiring and exciting reading!

What’s On Your Bucket List?

I sometimes hear people say something’s on their “bucket list.”  In other words, it’s something they really want to see, do or accomplish before they die.  So what’s on yours?  Do you want to travel to Europe?  Write a book? Rise to the top of your profession?  Become a parent? Build a house? There’s nothing wrong with having goals such as these.

The apostle, Paul, however, had an even more important item on his bucket list.  Listen to how he describes it in Acts 20:24:

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

So today I just want to challenge you (and myself) to compare our bucket lists to Paul’s.  What’s really important in the long run?  Does anything I may have or accomplish compare to the joy of telling one more soul about Jesus? Your life may be the only Bible some people ever read:  is it pointing to the One who wrote it?