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Saturday
Jul192014

Spectacular ministry with an absence of sincerity…a recipe for disaster and disillusionment! 

I recently was impressed with 2 Corinthians 5:12 in the New Living Translation,

“Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart.” (Emphasis mine)

“…having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart.” This phrase really caught my attention. This past week I had lunch with a savvy Christian leader who mentioned that there seems to be a proliferation of well-known Christian leaders around the country with spectacular ministries but also with a seeming absence of sincerity, lack of character and some very public and sinful attitudes and behaviors. I am beginning to see the same thing. It is an emerging pattern that people are noticing.

It seems to me that we are engulfed in an evangelical culture of worship and the inordinate fawning over popular and successful Christian leaders. This is especially dangerous when some of these leaders have questionable character which has become publically evident.

Here, with a very insightful treatment of the problem, is Jerry Wragg, pastor of Grace Immanuel Church in Juniper, Florida. By sharing this, I am not endorsing anything Jerry might have said elsewhere, but simply allowing his voice and concerns on this specific issue to speak to those who frequent “Leadership From the Heart.”

I understand that Jerry Wragg has been closely associated with pastor John MacArthur. I have differences of opinion with McArthur and don’t agree with some of his theological persuasions; but feel, nonetheless, that what follows here is worth reading and paying close attention to. I am not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater (so to speak) and don’t feel that I should not share truth as I see it just because I don’t agree with other things the person might have said or written.

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Posted by pastor Jerry Wragg on June 30, 2014

Perhaps evangelicalism would not suffer so many celebrity-leaders with weak character and shallow theology if it was humble enough to admit that it could’ve prevented the problem early on by simply heeding the warnings of more discerning Christians bold enough to expose unbiblical ministry and character!  But where big numbers and broad public favor are concerned, red flag-raisers are almost universally scoffed at.  Hordes of bedazzled leaders and sheep are quick to dismiss the smallest whiff of criticism, chiming in chorus: ”Leave that popular leader alone.  He just has some rough edges.  Look at the impact he’s having.”  Like it or not, this is nothing less than the worst form of pragmatism—the kind evangelicals love to claim they’d never fall into.

But what truly astounds me is how quickly some celebrity’s adoring fan base goes mute once their guru’s weaknesses reach a particular level of public embarrassment.  The typical progression today goes something like this: Christians hear of a teacher or leader’s ministry and growing popularity.  Everyone begins indiscriminately gulping at his fountain without first researching more closely his theological and pastoral training, skill in handling Scripture, or evidence of personal holiness and biblical discernment.  

Once intoxicated, the cautions and criticisms of others are scorned and targeted as “out of touch,” “harsh,” and “unlovingly narrow.”  But as soon as that leader’s weaknesses spin out of control and into the evangelical headlines, his former followers pretend they were never followers at all.  A deafening silence replaces their former shouts of praise.  Then after some weeks, former supporters begin offering their own strong criticisms, snuggling up to the bevy of uncompromising believers who, from day one, always voiced serious concerns.  Not so fast, you who say, “Who, Me?”  If you were one of those well-meaning evangelicals who simply didn’t do your biblical homework when an evangelical star began rising, and you advanced his influence while ignoring the red flags, then at the very least you could help future generations by embracing your misstep as publicly as you once carelessly endorsed a bad influence.

I truly marvel at the slick way evangelicals deny any previous affinity for reckless leaders/authors they were fawning over just months earlier.  It’s a Christian sleight-of-hand technique that lets us ride the wave of what’s trending while preserving our reputation in the event a fashionable leader becomes an embarrassment.  It’s a cunning dance—a sly two-step that prevents having to take public responsibility for widely promoting and defending questionable leaders. 

It’s pleading ignorance in order to mask negligence.  In today’s celebrity-homage ministry culture, very few are willing to admit ignoring or excusing early warnings and glaring signs of weakness.  And even fewer highly respected leaders are willing to make restitution for having endangered other sheep who blindly followed what they enthusiastically sponsored.  Instead, we’ve become quite comfortable just silently distancing ourselves from spiraling icons.  Where we once blogged, tweeted, and indiscriminately heralded our favorite trail-blazer’s every word, we suddenly emerge from months of curious silence and smoothly announce that “we’ve had concerns all along.”  Like reporters who resist printing a retraction, many evangelicals loathe ever having to publically retract their hasty fan-boy enthusiasm for the latest fad.

This is not the way to strengthen and edify the body of Christ.  Lack of biblical discernment is a serious weakness and is never excused in Scripture (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:11-14). For children to grow from their mistakes, a wise parent helps them learn to humbly admit imprudence and naiveté.  In our home, our kids learned from their mishaps, not by pretending they didn’t occur, but by thoroughly examining their pathology.  We helped them identify sinful motives and ungodly thoughts, and taught them to confess and forsake weakness, renewing their hearts and minds by faith in God’s word.  It should be no different with the family of God.  Honest confession of our pride, stubbornness, and lack of biblical vigilance is the first step toward greater spiritual discernment.  When we’ve slipped into pragmatism, carelessly advancing a popular but questionable leader, we need to openly admit it…

For the continuation of this article, go to Jerry Wragg

Wednesday
Jul162014

What Would It Look Like If We Approached God's Word Like This?

I delight in your decrees  (Psalm 119:16)

It seems almost too simple, doesn’t it? Naïve.

At best, it sounds old fashioned and quaint.

Who comes to the Word of God with delight any more?

Aren’t we more sophisticated than that today?

We come with determination, diligence, discipline and a sense of duty

We bring charts, commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, encyclopedias, guides, graphs, maps, outlines, schedules, summaries, systems and study helps

We search for applications, attitudes, comparisons, concepts, contrasts, commands cross-references, examples, exhortations, illustrations, repetitions, statistics, and warnings.

We discover key words, key verses, key thoughts, key statements, and key chapters.

We develop word studies, topic studies, character studies, and prayer studies.

We use translations, paraphrases, editions, versions and revisions of versions.

We read and re-read until we become well versed.

We are experts on Bible study methods

What could the Psalmist have been thinking of; “delight myself in your decrees”

Surely, this approach is too childish for mature Bible Students!  Still, some of us wonder…

Do you suppose it would be all right with the Father if we were to sort of ditch school once in a while and just curl up with a good book?  It really is delightful

 Public Domain. Adapted from an Intervarsity newsletter

Tuesday
Jul152014

Learning To Be A Weak Leader

We have all been encouraged to be strong leaders; to focus on our strengths and build on them.  What part does weakness play in good leadership?  Chuck Lawless addressed the question very well.

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Originally posted by Chuck Lawless in July of 2014

"Learning To Be a Weak Leader"

I know the title of this post sounds strange. The concept of “weak” leaders is contradictory to the world’s thinking. Nevertheless, that’s where the Bible takes us: Christian leaders lead best when they, in their weakness, rely on the power of God to guide others.

1.  God sometimes takes leaders into impossible situations to remind us that He alone is our warrior. I could write several posts to show numerous biblical texts that make this point, but here are a few:

Exodus 14:1-31 – God led His people to the Red Sea and then challenged them through Moses, their leader, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation He will provide for you today. . .  The Lord will fight for you” (14:13, HCSB). When the Hebrews then trusted God to be their warrior, even the Egyptians knew they were defeated: “Let’s get away from Israel . . . because Yahweh is fighting for them against Egypt!” (14:25).

Judges 7:1-25– God reduced Gideon’s army from 32,000 warriors to 300, lest the strength and size of their larger forces cause them to take credit for any victory. “I will deliver you with the 300 men,” God said (7:7).

1 Samuel 17:1-51 – God did not use mighty military weapons to defeat the Philistine giant; instead, he used a shepherd boy who would remind us, “and this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s” (17:47).

2 Chronicles 20:1-30 – King Jehoshaphat, facing three armies against his troops, heard the prophet Jahaziel remind him of this truth: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast number, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (15:20).

The world tells leaders to depend on their knowledge, their training, their experience, and their charisma – but the Bible tells us to depend on the name of the Lord (Psa. 20:6-7). Sometimes God must remind us of that truth by leading us into the impossible.

2.  God sometimes leaves us in spiritual battles to keep us weak. The apostle Paul is the primary example here (2 Cor. 12:1-10). He wrestled with “a thorn in the flesh,” a messenger from Satan that tormented him. Three times Paul pleaded with God to take the thorn away, but God refused to release Paul from the battle. He had a greater lesson to teach the apostle: it would be in his weakness that Paul would most experience God’s power. He would lead best when he could “boast” not about his heritage or his training, but about his weakness and dependence on God.

Paul’s story reminds us that even called, faithful, obedient leaders are tempted with ego and self-dependence. Indeed, we’re probably most tempted when our ministries are going well and the battles are few. God, though, so loves us that He allows the enemy to aim his arrows at us – and we, in our resulting weakness, learn again that we can really lead only in His power.

3.  God seeks giant-slaying shepherd boys more than census-taking mighty kings. In 1 Samuel 17, David the shepherd boy rejected human armor and took on a giant in the power of God. Only a youth with no battle training, David in all his weakness brought down a well-armed giant who had been a warrior from his youth. Goliath’s might was no match for David’s weakness overshadowed by the power of his God.

Fast forward, though, to 1 Chronicles 21, where David the king ordered a census of his people. We don’t know for certain the purpose of the census, but it appears David wanted to know how powerful his military was. Apparently, he was putting his trust in his forces rather than the One who was to be his warrior. Such a sin brought the judgment of God on the king and his people.

If we’re honest, most of us have walked in David’s steps. As young, inexperienced, needy leaders taking on giants, we sought God and followed Him in His might. When we gained knowledge, experience, and power, however, we too often depended on our own strength instead. It’s then we needed to be taken back to our shepherd boy days.

It’s then we needed to be broken to be the most effective leaders.

The equation is a simple one, really. If we want to be great, we must serve (Mark 10:43). If we want to be first, we must be last (Mark 9:35). If we want to live, we must die (John 12:24-25).

The problem is that few of us lean toward serving, being last, and dying—and that’s precisely the point. Only in God’s grace can we be—and must we be—weak leaders.


Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

 

Sunday
Jul132014

I've Got A Secret

There was a television show that premiered June 19, 1952 and ran until April 3,1967 called “I’ve Got a Secret.” Many of you were not even born while that show was running. I watched it regularly when in high school

Here’s the way it worked: A well-known celeb would come on and sit before a panel of other well-known celebs and the panel would try to guess the “Secret” that the guest had. It was usually something that was unusual, amazing, embarrassing, or humorous about that person. The guest would whisper their secret to the MC and the secret would be seen on the TV screen for the folks watching and then the guessing game would begin to see if the panel could, through certain permitted questions, discover what the guest’s secret was.

Well, I also have a secret—actually, I have six secrets!

Let me explain.

I will be 75 in December of this year.  As I travel, coach and teach, I often hear: Wow!  Almost 75 and still going hard after it!  How do you do it? What’s your secret? You have such amazing energy, are in excellent health, have drive, goals, dreams, and an exciting vision for the future in your heart.

Many people your age are kind of through…retired, sitting in a recliner in front of the TV, sailing around the world on cruises, playing endless rounds of golf, or pushing their walkers around the “Sunny Hills” retirement home. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I have nothing against TV, cruises or golf. I honestly don’t relish the idea of pushing a walker around any retirement home and one day I could possibly be there, but not yet, by His grace!

 I often say that I believe that “tired” is a biblical concept, but not “retired.”  Change pace? Yes! Slow down a little? Yes! Relax a bit more? Yes! But retire and do almost nothing of any lasting value…just live for myself and my own pleasure?  No! When someone is in his/her 70s or 80s, it could be the best years of life and a fantastic opportunity to make an incredible contribution to the next generation. That’s what I intend to do as long as He gives me health and vitality.

So, what’s my secret as to how I do it--my six secrets, that is? Well, you won’t have to guess as they did on the TV show. I’m going to tell you right now.

Here is the one verse that sets the stage for my secrets:

“But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I’m not about to let his grace go to waste. Haven’t I worked hard trying to do more than any of the others? Even then, my work didn’t amount to all that much. It was God giving me the work to do, God giving me the energy to do it.  1 Corinthians 15:10 (The Message) Emphasis mine

Paul, working harder than most, attributing it all to God’s grace and generosity in his life and sincerely believing that God was both leading him and empowering him in everything he was doing.

My secrets:

1.  Practicing long obedience in the same direction

D. A. Carson refers to what he calls “Grace-Driven Effort.” This at the heart of what motivates me. It is something the Lord led me to years ago: to pray for the ability to immediately respond to whatever he shows me and to do this for a long, long time. Eugene Peterson wrote a book: “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” That’s it in a nutshell: consistency over the long haul. I have been, by his grace, consistent with a handful of good habits and practices for over 50 years.

2.  Bathing daily in God’s word

One of my consistent habits is spending time daily in God’s Word. I want to  practice Colossians 3:16, where we are told to: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” I believe it is basking and bathing in God’s word through hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating that enables me to minister to others out of the gifting he has granted me. Either God’s word will keep me from sin, or sin will keep me from God’s word. I prefer the former. His word reminds me of the gospel, of his grace, of his power and of his desires for me.

3.  Being available to God whenever and wherever

Many years ago I heard a message on Isaiah 6:8: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, here I am! Send me.” I told God I was willing to do anything or go anywhere for him. That set the stage for lots of exciting experiences and opportunities that are still happening to this day. The greatest ability is availability! I believe this with all my heart.

4.  Believing that God loves to take ordinary people and do extraordinary things

As I read my Bible, it seems clear to me that it’s a story of unlikely and, at times, unprepared and unsuspecting ordinary people doing unusual and spectacular things as they trust God and walk with him. I am childish and naïve enough to believe that God can use me, and will use me, beyond my education, personality and gifting. He is God and can use whom he wants, when he wants and where he wants. I rest and take great delight in this  liberating truth.

 A.W. Tozer wrote:

“Anything God has ever done at any time he can do now.

Anything God has ever done anywhere he can do here.

Anything God has ever done for anyone, he can do for you.”

This is pasted in the front of my prayer book and I think about it and pray about it most every day, as I ask for courage and boldness to live in light of these truths.

5.  Being very clear about my purpose, calling and vision

I am a leader-developer. My dream and vision is to help equip and empower as many of the next generation of leaders as I can before he takes me home. I do this through coaching, writing (as I’m doing right now) and teaching through seminars based on my two books, “Leaders Who Last” and “Mistakes Leaders Make.”

I have lots of passages of scripture the Lord has given me through the years that I have committed to memory and pray over regularly. These help me remember who I am in him, what he has gifted, called and is leading me to do, and to be constantly reminded of what he wants to do through me. I am a man on a mission and it gives me energy and focus to know what that mission is and stay on task with it. No rabbit trails, please!

Here are just a few my motivational passages of scripture: Matthew 9:36-38; 2 Timothy 4:7,8, Joshua 13:1; Psalm 71:18; Colossians 4:17

6.  Being a life-long learner

I, with his grace, decided a long time ago that I would keep learning, growing, changing and becoming more like him until I breathe my last breath. I love Colossians 1:6 in The Message: “From the very first day you heard and recognized the truth of what God is doing, you’ve been hungry for more.” Emphasis mine.

I’m still hungry for more: More love for him and others, more intimacy with him, more power, more wisdom and more energy. I read, write, think and learn constantly. This habit keeps me fresh, vibrant and open to what he has for me. I don’t want to fall into what the late Dallas Seminary professor, Howard Hendricks, called, “Hardening of the categories.”

Yes, I have a secret…six secrets, actually.  What are your “secrets?” What is enabling you to walk and work well so that you can finish well?

 

 

 

Saturday
Jul122014

Ten Common Traits Possessed By The Best Leaders I've Ever Had

If you were asked to sit down and make a list of the qualities some of the best leaders you’ve ever had all possessed what would your list look like?  Here is Ron Edmondson’s list.

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Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

All my life I’ve been a wisdom seeker. I have had some great leadership influence in my life. Beginning with my high school principal when I was student body president and a man in retail who took interest in me in college, I’ve been blessed with good role models.

Looking back, the best leaders I ever had shared some common traits.

Ten Common Traits among the Best Leaders I Ever Had

1.  Believed in me more than I believed in myself.

2.  Were available to me when I needed them.

3.  Asked good questions of me.

4.  Challenged me to be better than I thought I could be.

5.  Encouraged my dreams, while equally providing for me a sense of reality.

6.  Had a character worthy of following.

7.  Were skillful and competent, but not arrogant or self-serving.

8.  Continued to learn personally.

9.  Were visionary and challenged mediocrity.

10.  Kept their word, but didn’t over-commit themselves.

Would you add any to my list from the best leaders in your life?