Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Biblical Guidelines for Church Leadership: Pleasing God


O, church, whom are you pleasing?  A good question, and a question that every church leader and every church member should ask themselves.  Healthy and honest introspection is good.  It is good to ask yourself hard questions about yourself.  It is good to have a season of self-examination.  This is true also for the church, and it should be done by its leaders and its members.


There is a slogan/saying/catch phrase that I have heard and read over the last few years, and it is in context of "doing church."  It is, "It is not about me."  Now this is used to mean that the church service is not for church members, but for those whom the church is trying to reach...the seekers, the unconverted, the non-christian..  It is used as a reason or excuse for the church doing what it feels is necessary to reach the unchurched.  It is the undergirding of the philosophy that drives how the church conducts itself, and in particular how it conducts its Sunday services.

Even though it is true that church is "not about me," the application of this truth has been misplaced. It has become "it is all about them," which refers to the unconverted and unchurched. What has been missed here?  It is simply this:  it is not about me, nor about us, nor even about them....it is about God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit.

We have taken the focus in our churches off of God, and placed it onto those who are ungodly. We have ceased focusing on pleasing God, and are now striving in every way imaginable (and there is great imagination used) to please those who are enemies of God.  When God gives the command in Hebrews to not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, He did not mean for the church to come together so as to focus on those outside of its self, to focus on anyone other than Him.  The minute that the church starts trying to entice the unbeliever, it must start seeking to please the unbeliever in order to draw him or her in; and must conduct its service so as to please them in order to bring them back.

The hard question the church (its leaders and members) must ask its self is this, "In the way we conduct our services have we placed pleasing the ungodly over pleasing God; in our attempts to not offend the ungodly are we offending God; in our attempts to attract the ungodly have we made ourselves unattractive to God?"  Has the church placed its affection and adoration on the ungodly and taken it off of the Lord?  This is a question that I am afraid is not getting asked.

Here are a smattering of Scriptures that speak to this.  Notice how unimportant man is in these references.

Isaiah 2:22 Stop regarding man, whose breath of life in in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed. (O church, why regard man if there is no area, no arena, in which he can be esteemed in God's eyes?)
Isaiah 40:17 All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless(O church, even the nations are nothing compared against the great and mighty God who has given us life, breath, and all things!)
Psalm 144:3-4 O Lord, what is man, that you take knowledge of him?  Or the son of man, that You think of him?  Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow. (O church, have you elevated man above where God has him?  Have you elevated man above God?)
I Corinthians 7:3 You were bought with a price; do not become the slaves of men.(O church, whom do you cater to?)
I Corinthians 8:6a yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things and we exist through Him.
( O church, for whom are you existing?)
II Corinthians 5:9 Therefore, we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. (O church, is your highest ambition to please Him?)
I Thessalonians 2:4 But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. (Church leaders and members, if God examines your heart to see whom you are seeking to please, what would He find?)
Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (O church, have you become the bond-servant/slave of the ungodly by trying to please them?  And in trying to do so have you left your first love and fallen to a lesser spiritual state?)
Leviticus 10:1-3 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on  it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.  And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the Lord spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.'" (O church, by seeking to please the ungodly have you neglected to treat the Lord as holy before them?  In seeking to be attractive to men have you substituted honoring men over honoring the Lord?) 

“It is to be feared that thousands are selling Jesus for a less price than Judas received.  A smile from the world has been a bribe sufficient to seduce many”
Charles Spurgeon

In the final analysis, there is only One to please.  As His body the church is to be a God-pleaser not a man-pleaser (
Galatians 1:10)  Instead of trying to be pleasing to the ungodly the church should be teaching them what is required to please the Lord (Ephesians 5:10).  O church, remember that it is the Lord Christ whom you serve, not man (Colossians 3:24).  O church, examine yourself honestly and rigorously, and make sure you are living to please Him, for it is Him for whom you exist.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Biblical Guidelines for Church Leadership: Consistency

Consistency, sounds pretty boring doesn't it?  And, actually, many times it is.  However, when considering traits that should be present in pastors and spiritual leaders, this is usually one of the most overlooked.

There should be a consistency of character, a consistency of philosophy, a consistency of theology, a consistency of mission, a consistency in his walk, a consistency in his preparation, a consistency in his growth, a consistency in how he makes decisions, a consistency in how he deals with others, a consistency in how he communicates, and a consistency in how he expresses himself.  In other words, there needs to be a thread of consistency that permeates who he is, and therefore what he does.

Why is this important?  Because it gives stability to his church, and his ministry.  It gives security to his people, his staff, and the leadership he works with, as it make him reliable, and even predictable.  I once had an upper level manager tell me that his goal was to be so consistent that his people would know the answer before they asked him.  Not a bad trait, in fact, it is a great trait to have. Unfortunately, there are many whose only consistency is their inconsistency.

Think about the comfort and security it gives to those who you work with, do ministry with, and live with when they know they can depend on what they know about you.  Think about the frustration that is caused by having to deal with those whom you never know how they will react, or those who always seem to be changing their mind, ministry direction, or ministry philosophy. Think about the confusion that comes to the church when the leadership is always being blown in the direction of the latest cultural wind or chasing the next big thing.

Have you ever noticed how consistent the Lord is?  We call it immutability or unchangeableness; but have you ever wondered what it would be like to serve a Lord that you were never sure how He was going to react, how He wanted to be worshiped, what His standards for holiness would be, or what His requirements for salvation would be? Would it be a little unnerving, kind of like an eternal insecurity instead of an eternal security?

I take great comfort that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, yes and forever (Hebrews 13:8); that He, the Lord, does not change His mind, and therefore I am not consumed (Malachi 3:6); that with Him there is no variation or change like the imperceptible shifting of a shadow (James 1:7); that even from eternity He is I am (Isaiah 43:13), that of old He founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of His hands.  Even they will perish, but He will endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing He will change them and they will be changed.  But He is the same, and His years will not come to an end (Psalm 102:25-27); that His lovingkindness is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him (Psalm 103:17); that He has one eternal purpose that runs through the ages that is carried out in Christ (Ephesians 3:11), and that He has declared the end from the beginning, saying, "My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10).  This consistency in the character of God and the acts of God give me security in my relationship with him, it gives me confidence in my relationship with Him, and it strengthens and solidifies my trust in Him.

You see, I believe that pastors and spiritual leaders must be consistent; and it is being like the Lord that brings about that consistency. If He is consistent, then a worthy trait to be desired would be to be consistent as He is consistent.  The same comfort, confidence, security, solidity, and trust that we draw from our relationship with the Lord because of His consistency is the same comfort, confidence, security, solidity, and trust that the church and its staff should have in their leadership.  Consistency provides the stability that is needed in every leader, and is a key component of pastoral leadership.  As Christ models consistency, so should all those in spiritual leadership.  Indeed, it is a worthy aspiration for us all.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Biblical Guidelines for Church Leadership: The Importance of Faithfulness



The Pastor and Faithfulness

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, 
who has strengthened me, 
because He considered me
faithful, putting me into service.
I Timothy 1:12
NASB

Boy, there is so much in this verse, but let's look at one particular aspect of it, and that is Paul's faithfulness.  Reading through Acts and Paul’s letters, the one thing that really stands out about Paul is his faithfulness. If you think about this in relation to what the Lord told Ananias in Acts 9:16 that He would show Paul how much he must suffer for His name's sake, you come away with a deep-breathed wow; because here was a man who was shown up front how much the cost would be, and he counted it (Luke 14:27-35), lived it (II Corinthians 1:2-7; 2:4; 4:7-12; 6:3-10, 7:5-6), and remained faithful to the end (II Timothy 4:5-7).  

The question might be asked, "Faithful to who, faithful to what?"  Obviously, Paul was faithful to his calling, faithful to his ministry, faithful to his friends, faithful to keep his vows, faithful with the treasure with which he had been entrusted, and faithful to the churches.  But his being faithful in all of these areas was the outflow of his faithfulness to the Lord, his Lord; and he never wavered in his faithfulness to the One who had called him to suffer for His name.  Even with his great learning, the great revelations he had been given, and his great gifting- his greatest attribute was his faithfulness. Without his faithfulness, his calling and all the learning, revelations, and gifting would have been for naught.  Paul understood this and you can see this in I Corinthians 4:2.  

Faithfulness is manifested in many ways in our lives, and manifested it will be.  In thinking about what are the really necessary qualities in a pastor this has to be at the top.  It is nice if he is a good communicator, a gifted expositor, good with people, dynamic, personable, a good leader, educated, caring, and charismatic.  But, again, without faithfulness all these qualities and gifts will be of no use.  Faithfulness grounds the pastor, keeps him steady when tempted, keeps him loyal to his calling, strengthens him when tried, keeps him going when discouraged, keeps him looking to the Lord and not his circumstances, guards him from compromise, gives him a higher perspective on his life and ministry, pushes and pulls and prods him on when weary, keeps his focus on the Lord and not himself, sees him through the storms of life and ministry, empowers him to endure, and keeps him from looking for greener pastoral pastures.  Faithfulness keeps him locked in on following the Lord and His will for his life.  In thinking about it...wouldn't you want to see this in your pastor if you were a church member, wouldn't you want to see this in your servant if you were the Lord?

The Lord regarded Paul as faithful, and therefore placed him into service; not any service, mind you, but maybe the most important role of any of the apostles, certainly the most demanding role, and obviously a strategic role. And in that strange and mysterious dynamic of God working in and through men, the Lord strengthened Paul to remain faithful as Paul was being faithful.  

If we are honest, we would all admit that the struggle we have with faithfulness is whether we are going to be faithful to the Lord and His will, or be faithful to ourselves and our own selfish and egotistical pursuits.  Which one will we be faithful to?  


Pastors and partakers of the pastoral calling, I want to encourage you to be faithful.  Be faithful to the Lord in the living out of your calling, and call on him to keep you faithful; and in your faithfulness you will find Him faithful to you.


Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Biblical Guidelines for Church Leadership: The Weight of Small Sins



The Weight of Small Sins

Spiritual leadership without character is only religious activity,
possibly religious business or, even worse, hypocrisy......
The qualified leader is a man of the Book, using it not just
to prepare sermons and preaching notes, but, first and foremost,
to prepare himself.

James M. George
The Call to Pastoral Ministry
Pastoral Ministry
(How to Shepherd Biblically)
Page 91

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you;
and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7

How important it is for those of us who occupy a place of spiritual leadership to be men of character, character forged by the Holy Spirit and formed by the Word of God.  Providing spiritual leadership is a daunting responsibility,  a responsibility that underscores the Lord's admonition in James 3:1 "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." This is why the Lord stresses Godly character in His requirements for those who occupy the post of pastor; and why Paul buffeted his flesh, so that after he had preached to others he would not be disqualified.

The landscape of the church is littered with the moral failures of those who failed to watch themselves.  In fact, it has become much too common, and it is just not in the area of personal sexual immorality, as noted by the current furor over a seminary president.  Over the last several years we have seen pastors removed due to lying, inflating numbers, financial impropriety, bullying, alcoholism, and undue self-promotion.. One of the issues the SBC has been taken to task by those within its own ranks is for inflated membership numbers and an evangelastical (intentional spelling) way of counting baptisms.

These are the obvious, the news grabbing and headline making, but what about the ones that don't make the news, the ones that cause damage just as great?  I was reading an internet article about how Peacemaker ministries worked to reconcile a church's pastor and elders after temper, egos, and innuendos had split them and the church.  What about the detrimental effects of pride, stubbornness, selfishness, ambition, jealousy, unforgiveness, lying, greed, and gossip?  What about those that fear man more than they fear God, those that are men-pleasers vs God-pleasers, and those who would compromise rather than confront? What about the small things that are done daily that add up over time?  Most often it is the weight of the small sins which make a ministry ineffective and erodes the trust and confidence necessary to be followed.

I remember once hearing Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, preach, and in his sermon he was stressing the need for moral integrity.  He said that he had asked God to take him home before He let Bill commit adultery.  Admirable, yes, but for most of us, we are on guard against the big A when it is the perniciousness of the so called small sins that we ought to be on guard against as well.  Is our prayer, "Lord, lead me away from temptation in the areas where I am weak and most easily tempted, and let not evil have any way with me. Please keep me from causing any of the brethren to stumble.  Help me to adorn the doctrine I preach with the life that I live.  Empower me to do what is right, to love what is good, and to walk humbly with You. Enable me to treat others the way I would want to be treated in every circumstance. Let not anyone, saved or unsaved, look at me and cry hypocrite.  Let me be at home and behind the scenes what I am publicly."

Who is adequate for this?  None of us outside of the power that God supplies. There is a greater burden, a greater responsibility, for those whom God has called into ministry; but there is a greater grace available as well. Let us be on our guard, empowered by the grace of God, so that sin will not have its way with us, not derail us nor render us impotent in our efforts to advance the kingdom of God in our own lives, so that we will be effective in advancing His kingdom in the lives of those whom He appointed to our shepherding.  Let not the sin in our own lives be an impediment, an excuse, for those whom we lead in dealing with the sin in their own lives.

Father, guard our hearts and our minds.  Work within us only that which is pleasing in Your sight.  We are frail and weak in our own strength, so help us by the strength which You supply to live a life worthy of the gospel of Your Son, and a life worthy of the calling with which we have been called.  Help us to be an example to the flock, living a life worthy of admiration and imitation.  Guard us from our own selves, and give us a sensitivity to the sin which so easily entangles us.  Help us to fight the good fight of faith and finish our course without disqualification.  AMEN.


Friday, June 01, 2018

Biblical Guidelines for Church Leadership: The Mandate for Integrity



Leadership and Authority

Leadership in the church is not based upon power, but upon authority.  Therefore being a pastor/elder is not a position of power, but a position of authority.  However, it is not an authority inherent in the person, it is a delegated authority because of the position held.  It is delegated from God to the elder(s), and also delegated from the congregation to the elder(s).

It is God who has created the position of pastor/overseer/elder and laid out the qualifications for the office, and it is the recognition by the congregation of those who meet God's qualifications (I Timothy 3, Titus 1) that bring the man of God to that position. So God calls the pastor/elder to that office from the congregation with their approval.

The pastor/elder is to lead, not lord it over the people (Hebrews 13:7, I Peter 5:2-3); and the people are to voluntarily submit to his leadership and follow his example (Hebrews 13:7, 17; I Corinthians 16:16), just as a wife is to voluntarily submit to her husband.

As such, the man of God is accountable to both God and man, as both were instrumental in placing him in that office; and both delegated to him the authority which the office holds.

The Three Cords of Church Leadership

In Ecclesiastes 4:12 we learn that a cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart or easily broken.  It is interesting to note how many times we see this principle applied in the Scriptures. One of the applications of this principle is in the requirements for the elders given in Titus 1:5-9.

In verses 6-7 we see he is to be a man of moral integrity.  These verses are governed by the term above reproach, which means not that he is sinless, but that he is held blameless from the charge of moral impurity.  What is stressed in these verses is what the man of God is not.

In verse 8 we see he is to be a man of spiritual integrity.  What is stressed here is what the man of God is, with the word devout governing the verse.  Devout means to be pious, clean, and pure.  It also denotes devotion and loyalty to the Lord, and emphasizes that he lives his life in conformity with the word of God.

In verse 9 we see that he is a man of biblical and doctrinal integrity.  What is stressed here is his biblical and doctrinal fidelity, which is demonstrated by what he holds to.  His teaching and preaching are always in conformity with the body of doctrine given in the Scriptures. He does not deviate from the faith once for all delivered to the saints; and just as he is a one woman man, he is also a one word, one doctrine, one faith, and one Lord man.  He is a man of unwavering devotion to the faith that is contained and presented in the Scriptures and he will not teach anything that contradicts it.

Also of note in these verses are the three words describing the role of a church leader:

First is elder, which denotes dignity, maturity, and leadership.  This word gives us a picture of his role and the gravitas of the office.  It says this person is to be looked to for leadership, and his persona should be able to bear the weight of the mantle of leadership.  Implicit in this word is the earned respect and trust of the people he leads.

Secondly, we see the term overseer.  The word means superintendent, magistrate, or watchman; and gives us a picture of the authority and function of the office.  This person is to be able to watch over, guide, and direct the church.  This word shows us that the church leader is responsible for the protection and direction of the church.

Thirdly, we see the term God's steward.  The word steward means house manager, one who manages the affairs of another, one who is in charge of another's property, including slaves; and he is usually a slave himself.  This term gives us the understanding of the responsibility and accountability of the office.  This man is responsible to God for the household of God, as the church is not his property but God's.  It is the Lord's church, the people of God whom God has called out to be His possession. This means that the church leader is accountable to God for the wellbeing and the spiritual prosperity of God's property.

As leadership goes, so goes the church, which is why the Lord gives Titus these guidelines for the men who would be the leaders in the church. The church is only as strong as its leadership, and when leadership fails, or leads poorly then the church is weakened and the flock is left unguarded or misguided. It then becomes vulnerable and is at risk of being defenseless and directionless.  

In the three elements of integrity we see a strength and quality of character combined with commitment to the Lord and commitment to His word as given in the Scriptures. The combination of these qualities of integrity affirm and strengthen each other and make the church leader strong in resisting the attack of the enemy, who seeks to devour him. When possessing these strands of integrity the church leader will lead ethically, will lead spiritually, and will lead biblically.  This is the type of man people will want to follow, who will be trusted to follow, and will be safe to follow.

In the three terms for church leader given here we see the strength of balance.  These descriptive terms define role, function, authority, and accountability, with each of them governing the other two. They not only define the role of church leader, but in defining the role give it its parameters and boundaries.  An understanding of his role, function, authority, and accountability keeps the church leader from misusing or abusing his office; and it also gives the church a benchmark from which to evaluate and measure his ministry; and will give them the knowledge to keep themselves from being taken advantage of or abused.

Yes, a cord of three strands is not easily broken!  How wise is our God in His design for the leadership of the church.