Friday, March 13, 2015

Are the Ten commandments still relevant to us today?

The following post was originally posted on my wife Lisa's blog "Emissions of Faith."

Are the ten commandments still relevant to us today?

As I was listening to the ESV Bible reading plan (Deuteronomy 5-7) this morning, I was reminded of the instructions that God gave to Moses and the people of Israel after they left captivity in the land of Egypt.  He gave them very specific instructions about how they were to conduct themselves as His people.  These instructions are commonly referred to as the Ten Commandments.  They are as follows:

1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourselves an idol.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. Do not murder
7. Do not commit adultery
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. Do not covet.

God did not give His people these commandments as a means of saving themselves. He gave them these instructions so that they could see how desperately they needed Him to save them, since no human being is capable of following these precepts 100% of the time.

Today God still wants us to see our desperate condition apart from Him. We cannot measure up to God’s perfect standard.  cannot measure up.  desperately need God’s forgiveness each and every day.  It is impossible for me to please God apart from Jesus’ cleansing each day.  In the book of Romans it say, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).  “For whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)   This requires faith that God is willing to forgive me and willing to impart His holiness upon me as the Scriptures say that He does.

Our God is still the same holy God that the people of Israel worshiped.  His expectations of us are still the same.  He expects us to be holy as He is holy.  But He has provided our holiness since we cannot attain it ourselves.  My holiness can only come through my acceptance of Jesus’ payment for my sins and living life in Him.  As I live in Christ He enables me to live out the Ten Commandments which reflect His holiness to the world around me. 

How are we reflecting God’s glory to the world around us today?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Shift #4: Seeing leadership as a joy not a burden

Developing a culture of leadership development takes a shift from leadership as a burden to leadership as a joy.
A friend of mine tells the story of walking down the hallway of the church that he pastored and seeing the monumental passing of the baton of leadership of their children’s ministry.  One frazzled lady carrying a big crate of files and curriculum marching up to another, dumping the crate down and announcing, “Well, it’s your problem now!”
There is no doubt about it, leadership is hard work, but in too many churches all that is communicated about leadership is that it is a burden.  In some places rather than it being a noble task to aspire to (1 Tim 3:1), those who are in leadership roles are simply the people who were unlucky enough not to have been able to come up with an excuse when they were asked to serve.  Leaders ought to be celebrated for their service, our churches desperately need to regain a sense that to serve God and His people in a position of leadership at whatever level is an honorable thing.
How do you publicly recognize and celebrate those who are serving in leadership in your church or ministry.  Be intentional about telling the stories of your leaders, especially those who serve behind the scenes, and look for opportunities to do it regularly.  Perhaps consider intentionally identifying and celebrating one leader every month.
Reflect: In your church, is ministry leadership something that people aspire to or something that they dread?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shift #3: From Tenure to Training

It takes a shift from tenure to training.
I was still a fairly new believer when I went to my first membership meeting at the church that I grew up in.  I don’t remember a lot about it other than the fact that I was bored to tears, right up until the point that I had to choke back fits of laughter.  One lady who was probably in her early eighties begun to talk about the fact that she considered the man who was going to become the new church secretary too young and inexperienced for the role.  At that time I didn’t recognize the name and so I assumed she was talking about someone in their early twenties, that was at least until the Pastor called the individual in question up to the front to speak about why he considered himself qualified.  It turned out that he was in his mid-sixties!  Apparently she didn’t believe that the forty plus years that this “young man” had been in the church was quite long enough for the position.
Okay, so that’s probably a bit of an extreme example, but the fact is that sometimes what we consider to be leadership development is really just showing up for long enough.  Don’t wait until someone in your church reaches some magic age to begin investing in them.  We need to stop looking at the twenty year old's in our church as part of the church tomorrow and recognize that God has placed them in the church today!
Leadership development in the church, for that matter in any organization must be centered around intentional equipping and training, not on just showing up for long enough!
Reflect: What unwritten rules do you have about who can serve in leadership?  Are they legitimate?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Shift #2: Laying a new road

Check out part 1 and part 2 in this series on a new paradigm for leadership development.
Once when you begin to shift your time towards possibility people the next step is to recognize that developing a culture of leadership development:
Takes a shift from filling holes to laying a new road.
I drive the same way to our church every day, except when I don’t.  That sounds like a strange thing to say but let me explain.  The road that I take from my house to the church is beautiful.  It meanders past horse farms and under archways of majestic trees.  If it wasn’t for the fact that you have to keep your eyes on the speedometer as much as you do on the road it would be an absolutely idyllic journey (the Chicago Tribune recently rated it as the worst speed trap zone in the region).  However, I live in Northern Illinois and each year as winter (which lasts for 6 months) turns to spring (which usually lasts for two and half days) the road becomes nearly impassible due to potholes.  Every year for about six weeks, I have to take a different, longer route because the condition of that road just gets so bad, until the work crews come along and fill the potholes.
The problem with filling pot holes however is that the same places open up year after year and get bigger each time.  The hole gets filled but the real problem never gets dealt with.  A lot of churches spend their time filling potholes.  Especially in churches with a large number of programs or ministries we can sometimes find ourselves looking for the next warm body to throw into the hole, to fill the gap.  It might even be that your church has a nominating committee whose full time responsibility it is to fill holes.  But do we ever ask why the hole opened up?  Do we ever ask whether we still should be doing that ministry?  Do we ever consider whether the person that we are trying to fill the hole with is really best suited there? Do we ever wonder if there is a better way to find leaders?
When you determine that leadership development is going to be an important part of the ministry of your church, you are essentially making the commitment to quit filling potholes and instead to lay a whole new road.  Just remember that new construction does take time, but when the road is ready it’s a lot more fun to drive on!
Reflect: How are vacant leadership positions handled in your church?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The first shift in leadership development

In my last post, "A New Paradigm for Leadership Development"  I began talking about the fact that that leadership development in the local church is a matter of stewardship - it's about equipping and releasing well the people that God has already put in your church.  But if we are to begin to develop a culture of developing leaders it will take a series of shifts in our paradigm.
It takes a shift of focus from problem people to possibility people.
I’m not being mean or trying to label people, but let’s face it, in the life of church ministry we work with broken and hurting people, many of whom need a great deal of care, encouragement and support.  If I allowed it, my schedule could easily be filled with the important ministry of care and counseling.  The old adage rings true, that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and in ministry the people with the most needs can get the lion share of our time.  Pastoral care needs to happen in the life of the church but if you are the key leader you have to intentionally guard time to meet with what I call your possibility people.  Possibility people are not usually the ones who cry out for your attention.  They sometimes fly beneath the radar. That’s precisely why you need to make the effort to connect with them.  Possibility people are those, who with some investment and equipping might become excellent leaders in your church and perhaps beyond your church.  There’s no easy answer as to how much time you should devote to possibility people, but imagine what your ministry would look like if you spent at least as much time investing in potential future leaders as you did in helping people with their problems.  Both are important, but consider this, while there are others in the church who can help people with their problems, if you are a Pastor or Overseer, developing a culture of investing in future leaders has to start with you.
Reflect: What percentage of your people ministry time do you spend with possibility people?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A New Paradigm for Leadership Development (pt1)

"It’s great that you are talking about developing leaders, and we definitely need to do it in our church, but where do I find them?”  I get asked that question every time I teach about building leaders.  It’s a good question but to answer it requires that we take a step back and consider our theology.  Do you believe that God has already given to your church every resource that you need to do what he is calling you to do today?  Let’s be honest, there are a lot of times when it feels like the answer to that question is no.  We get frustrated because people are not using their gifts and serving, because they are not giving with an attitude of generous joy and because we just figure that things would be easier if we just had a few more people, a bit more money and whole lot more faith.  The fact is, some of the people in our church are being disobedient.  The fact is, sometimes we find ourselves so overwhelmed that we have stopped leading the people well communicating with them God’s vision for His Church and for their lives.  The fact is, sometimes we are focusing our attention on things that God hasn’t called us to in this particular season.  But, what He has called us to do He has also equipped us for.  Your church needs leaders at every level of ministry, and He’s already given you the people that you need for what He is calling you to do in this season.
If that is true (and I challenge you to read the Bible and then tell me that it isn’t), then leadership development in the local church is a matter of stewardship.  If you are a Pastor or an Overseer you have the privilege and the responsibility to steward the resources that God has given to your care well.  There are however some obstacles that you might need to overcome to do this well, over the next few days we'll be looking at some of them:
  • Shifting from problem people to possibility people.
  • Shifting from filling holes to laying a new road.
  • Shifting from tenure to training.
  • Shifting from leadership as a burden to leadership as a joy.
  • Shifting from task to target.
  • Shifting from resignation to expectation.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Church is the reconciled people of God

The Chicago “L” is one of those really interesting environments which to someone who loves people watching, like me is just extremely fascinating and sometimes quite entertaining.  It's one of those environments where you see people who are totally different from one another kind of forced together. You might for example see a lawyer in their 3 piece suit sat next to a homeless guy who is just riding the train back and forth end to end. Or you might see an elderly grandmother next to someone with all kinds of piercings, blue dyed hair and tear drop tattoos around the eyes.
The 'L' is a place where people you would never put together find themselves in one another’s world if only between stations. Of course it is also a place where most people try to ignore the others around them as much as they possibly can.  But from time to time even people from what appear to be two different worlds come together around a common interest, a conversation about the Bears, a sweatshirt that leads to the discovery that they both graduated from the same school or something else that leads to a fast friendship that lasts for the next 5 minutes.

Most of the time, most of us spend our lives around those who look like us, sound like us and enjoy the same sorts of things that we do.  Different is, well different!  Different takes work.  And often, whether intentionally or unintentionally, different usually divides us.

But the Church of Jesus Christ is utterly unique. The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of people from every tribe and tongue and nation, The Church of Jesus Christ is the body of people who have a new identity in Jesus, who have a real and dynamic relationship with God and who are at peace with one another.
At least, that is who we are called to be, that is how, by the work Spirit of God within us, we are increasingly called to live. In a greater way than any other group of people on the face of the earth the Church of Jesus Christ is to be diverse, beautiful and united.
You see, Jesus loves the Church and He has reconciled us to God and to one another.

In Ephesians 2:11-22 The Apostle Paul talks about this reconciliation to God and to one another that we have through Jesus Christ.  He explains that before knowing Christ we were alienated from God and from one another (v11-12).  But then he goes on to explain that in Christ we have now been reconciled to God and to one another (v13-22).
  • By the blood of Jesus we have peace with God.
  • By the blood of Jesus the dividing wall of hostility between people is broken down.
  • By the blood of Jesus we as believers are joined together in this incredible thing called the Church.  We have equal access to God, and together in unity through the Spirit we get to show His glory to a watching world.
We have been reconciled to God and to one another, and we have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5.) that through us an unbelieving world which is without hope might see the power of Christ. What is more, we have been given a new identity, once we were strangers and aliens – now we are citizens and members of the household of God. So, who we are in Christ now is the defining identity of our life. Everything else must take a back seat to it.
Yes there are cultural distinctions, yes there are different languages, yes there are diverse preferences and experiences and backgrounds. These all testify to the creativity of God. But, our culture, our language, our preference, our experience, our background is not what gives definition to our life. In Christ we are a new creation. In Him we have a new identity a new citizenship. We are not Americans or Hondurans, We are not English or Mexican, We are not Polish or Guatemalan, and we are not black or white.  Through faith in Christ we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We are now brothers and sisters in Christ, joined by one Spirit, therefore we must show mutual care for one another and rejoice with one another, grieve with one another and live in unity with one another. We must show love, respect, fellowship and partnership with one another. That means intentional engagement with other believers even and perhaps especially those who look or sound different than us.  We must engage one another as believers, especially those who we consider different than ourselves, with humility, not comparison or superiority and with repentance over the attitudes and actions that we have allowed to divide us.

A world that is alienated from God and alienated from one another desperately need to see that through Christ there is hope, through Christ there is peace, and in Him there is reconciliation. The Church is utterly glorious, the Church is utterly unique: It is the Church that gets to display the power of Jesus Christ to a world that desperately needs to know Him.
Jesus loves His Church, He has reconciled us to God and to one another – let us put this ministry of reconciliation on display for all to see!