Translating Love into Decisions

I recently read a quote from Rick Warren I wanted to share. His thoughts go along with some discussion the Skyline elders recently had about how we inadvertantly turn people away by some of our decisions. For best results, chew slowly!

“A church must choose to grow or not to grow. Many churches have deliberately chosen not to grow. They make that choice in a variety of ways. They make it by the programs they offer. They make it by the amount of time and energy they invest in evangelism. They make the decision by the size of the building they choose to build…. If we really love God and we really love people, then the desire for church growth cannot be optional.” – Rick Warren

Virginia Tech Massacre Challenges Young Campus Minister

Some at Skyline may remember Seth Terrell who was involved with our College and Career Ministry while he was a student at FHU. After graduation, Seth became the campus minister at Virginia Tech. The Christian Chronicle has recently published an article about Seth’s ministry following the tragic massacre at Virginia Tech. Follow the link. And remember to pray for Seth’s ministry.

The Blessing of Accountability

“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

Church leadership is hard work. Watching the flock requires constant attention. Searching for strays demands energy and endurance. Feeding the spiritual family means hours spent in preparation through prayer and study. Taking responsibility for souls can be a huge load to carry. Being out in front of the church means walking closely with God because you cannot lead people where you haven’t gone. Admonishing people requires thick skin to go along with a loving heart. And through it all, fostering a peaceful environment can be difficult.

Keeping peace is easy if by peace you mean just avoiding conflict. To maintain this brand of peace you turn the other way when someone is drifting away from the flock. You let go the strays since they might kick and run as you try to bring them back. You wash your hands of any responsibility for the stubborn in the waters of “that’s just the way she is, nothing we do is going to change her anyway.” You find it much easier to keep this kind of peace when you walk behind the flock with a shovel rather than walking in front with a staff. You dismiss admonishment as kind of an old-fashioned approach that just doesn’t work any more.

But peace, real peace, is so much more than the absence of conflict at any cost. The peace Paul calls the church to experience is in the context of a leadership devoted to watching, searching, feeding, leading, admonishing and taking responsibility. All this and peace, too? No question about it, church leadership is hard work.

While this passage reveals a lot about the difficulties of leadership, Paul’s primary purpose here is not to instruct leaders on how to lead. Instead, he is instructing the followers on how to follow. What is the responsibility of the church to their leaders? In a word, respect. Paul asks the followers to respect the work of their leaders.

How does a church show respect for the leadership? Maybe the best way to get started is to understand what hard work is involved in leading a church. Respect may well be the reaction when the hours required and the energy expended are calculated and understood. But there is more to it, I think. Respect may best be shown by following the leaders: remaining in the fold, grazing in the green pastures, listening to direction and instruction, paying attention to warnings, and living in peace. I do not know of a church leader who wouldn’t appreciate that kind of respect.

But the responsibility of followers goes beyond mere respect. It means loving the leaders. Look at how Eugene Peterson has rendered the beginning of verse 13 in The Message. “Overwhelm them with appreciation and love.” That raises the bar for followers.

So we might need to evaluate how we are doing as followers. Are we showing respect for church leaders? Are we giving them our wholehearted love? Remember, leading a church is hard work and accountability is a real blessing.

Burdensome Leadership, Motherly Ministry

“As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:6 b-8).

Paul recognized church leaders can be burdensome. Some of us more than others understand what he means, since some have experienced church leaders who were a burden. Heavy-handed. Oppressive. Dictatorial. Following such leaders sucks all the life out of you. There is no joy as you robotically go through the motions of a worship service. The words, “Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs” (Psalm 100:2) and “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1) seem like a cruel taunt.

But Paul’s ministry style was different. Not only did he not manipulate with flattery or conceal with masks, but also he did not throw his apostolic weight around. You might expect an apostle to be consumed with his self-importance, but Paul was not. In fact, he was careful not to be patronizing or condescending. Paul’s ministry was gentle rather than harsh or arduous; so gentle that he described his ministry as motherly.

Motherly ministry? What an awesome word picture! Who is gentler than a mother caring for her baby? She is aware that her purpose is to provide for, protect, and nurture her child. There is no aloofness between mother and child. She opens up and shares her very life with her little one. Her son is her delight. Her daughter is her joy. She takes delight in being with her children and sharing her love with them.

Such is Paul’s ministry: loving, caring, nurturing, sharing, delighting, and endearing – a model of ministry that is far from burdensome. Paul’s mentoring of Timothy included instruction about gentleness: “God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool . . .” (2 Timothy 2:24 The Message). Paul was merely embodying the teaching of Jesus in his ministry to the Thessalonians and his mentoring of Timothy.

When the other disciples were indignant that James and John were jockeying for position in the kingdom, trying to establish their rank so they would know just how much authority they had to throw around, Jesus corrected them. “Jesus got them together to settle things down. ‘You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,’ he said, ‘and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage’” (Mark 10:42-45 The Message).

May God help church leaders be motherly, not burdensome.