Godly Leaders Don’t Grow on Trees

12036802_1094551717223742_3280681672672402708_nStanding on a hilltop near Pacoti, Brazil, the incredible view before me was breathtaking. The endless green canopy, stretching as far as the eye could see, was dotted with an innumerable number of fruit trees. A dozen or more heavy clumps of ripe bananas were, quite literally, within arms reach. A half-dozen more other fruit trees were within walking distance. The view was amazing and the fragrance overwhelming as I thought too myself, “It’s too bad godly leaders don’t grow like bananas: in clusters on (seemingly) every tree.” Church leadership is a high and holy responsibility to be taken seriously and exercised faithfully for the good of the people and the glory of the Lord.

A church without godly leadership is not a healthy church. A church that is not interested in training a new generation of leaders is both unbiblical and unfaithful. When the Apostle Paul wrote his final letter to his “child” in the faith Timothy he stated plainly, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men” (2 Tim. 2:2). It is unfortunate that so many churches struggle in the area of leadership development.

Whenever personal preferences become the measure of evaluation, preparation, and installation of men into church leadership, the people suffer. While a church may experience some stability for a time, the often-unanswered question is whether or not God will bless the mere efforts of men. It is unfortunate when local church leadership is weak and filled with men who do not know that they do not know how to lead. As Fred Smith put it, “these people rarely recognized their lack of ability. They assumed leadership was a position when in fact it is a function.”

The Bible is filled with examples and specific directions when it comes to godly leadership in the local church. The Apostle Paul left Titus behind on the island of Crete so he might “put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5). Regardless of the country, culture, or occasion, throughout church history the need for godly church leadership has always existed. Thabiti M. Anyabwile says, “The joy, peace, unity, and faithfulness of the local church depends in part on having a cadre of faithful table servants who are present when needed, eager to serve without being intrusive.”

The spiritual health and well-being of a local congregation is directly and inseparably linked to the spiritual lives of its leaders. Where there are godly men in leadership, the church can thrive. Where men are lacking or spiritually weak, the church suffers.

Untitled.001Paul Seger, executive director of Biblical Ministries Worldwide, offers an excellent definition of a godly leader when he writes, “A leader is a godly servant who knows where he is going and inspires and equips others to follow.” In truth, all men should aspire to grow in godliness by the grace of God. All men should be praying for opportunities to exercise servant-like leadership at some level. Today the biblically defined roles of deacon and elder seem more often ignored or misunderstood than embraced and elevated. Every local church needs men who provide logistical services and men who focus on the ministry of the Word of God and prayer.

One of the earliest examples of men being carefully chosen to fulfill a ministry of service and assistance is found in Acts 6

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” v2-4

These servants were specifically selected in order to do whatever was needed to free the apostles so that they could fulfill their responsibility of shepherding and teaching the church. After the Apostles, the Lord has specifically given “evangelists” and “shepherd-teachers” (see Eph 4:11) whom He has charged with teaching, praying, and leading His Church in all spiritual matters.

Shepherding is a wonderful picture found throughout Scriptures of the one who is charged with caring for the spiritual needs of a local congregation. The Apostle Peter exhorted elders to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,” and goes on to charge the elders to “be examples to the flock” (see 1 Peter 5:1, 2, 3).

In Acts 20:28 the Apostle Paul said, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” The shepherd is commanded to keep an eye on his own spiritual well-being and those whom he is charged to lead and feed; those whom Christ purchased with “his own blood.”

The genuine affection of a shepherd is inseparably connected to his ability to “teach.” Using the picture of a shepherd tending his flock, he must “feed the sheep.” If the sheep are malnourished, fed rotten food, or allowed to become dehydrated they will become weak, sickly, susceptible to disease, or dead. A godly leader is a good follower of Christ. He is a disciple who loves, leads, serves, and feeds the sheep in the local church.

12046664_1094907980521449_5680740681765925352_n

Yes – It is a shame that godly leaders do not simply grow on trees. Thabiti M. Anyabwile said, “Without godly, faithful, replicating leadership, churches suffer deeply.” And yet by God’s grace godly leaders can grow in every church that is committed to the Scriptures and praying for the Lord to bless His Church.

Local church leadership is a high and holy responsibility to be taken seriously and exercised faithfully for the good of the people and the glory of the Lord. If we, therefore, do not hear or do not heed His instruction we are either ignorant of the Scriptures or self-deceived into thinking that we can do a better job on our own. Any church that finds itself in a place where God’s Word is not the highest authority for its leadership is a very unhealthy church.

 

Excellent Leadership Resources:

Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons Thabiti M. Anyabwile

Selecting Elders: A Biblical Guide to Choosing God’s Shepherds Dave Deets

Sticky Teams Larry Osborne

Agape Leadership: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership From the Life of R. C. Chapman Robert Peterson & Alexander Strauch

Chief: Leadership Lessons from a Village in Africa Paul Seger

 

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Worship

sunrise-over-the-mountains-8255

Glorious God,

It is the flame of my life to worship thee,

the crown and glory of my soul to adore thee,

heavenly pleasure to approach thee.

Give me power by thy Spirit to help me worship now,

that I may forget the world,

be brought into fullness of life,

be refreshed, comforted, blessed.

Give me knowledge of thy goodness

that I might not be over-awed by thy greatness;

Give me Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God,

that I might not be terrified,

but be drawn near with filial love,

with holy boldness;

He is my Mediator, Brother, Interpreter,

Branch, Daysman, Lamb;

him I glorify, in him I am set on high.

Crowns to give I have none,

but what thou hast given I return,

content to feel that everything is mine

when it is thine,

and the more fully mine when I have yielded it

to thee.

Let me live wholly to my Savior,

free from distractions,

from carking care,

from hinderances to the pursuit of the narrow way.

I am pardoned through the blood of Jesus –

give me a new sense of it,

continue to pardon me by it,

may I come every day to the fountain,

and every day be washed anew,

that I may worship thee always

in spirit and truth.

 

~ The Valley of Vision ~

The Incomparable Christ

2154-shepherd-silhouette-220w-tn-jpgMore than nineteen hundred years ago, there was a Man born contrary to the laws of life. This Man lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity. He did not travel extensively. Only once did He cross the boundary of the country in which He lived; that was during His exile in childhood.

He possessed neither wealth nor influence. His relatives were inconspicuous and had neither training nor formal education.

In infancy He startled a king; in childhood He puzzled doctors; in manhood He ruled the course of nature, walked upon the waves as pavement, and hushed the sea to sleep.

He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His service.

He never wrote a book, and yet perhaps all the libraries of the world could not hold the books that have been written about Him.

He never wrote a song, and yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined.

He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students.

He never marshaled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun; and yet no leader ever had more volunteers who have, under His orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without a shot fired.

He never practiced psychiatry, and yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and near.

Once each week multitudes congregate at worshiping assemblies to pay homage and respect to Him.

The names of the past, proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of the past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have come and gone. But the name of this Man multiplies more and more.

Though time has spread nineteen hundred years between the people of this generation and the mockers at His crucifixion, He still lives. 498838448_1280x720His enemies could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him.

He stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory, proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, as the risen, personal Christ, our Lord and Savior.

 

(Quoted by Ray Stedman, the author of this article is unknown)

The Spring

5981072921_85f00f6334_zHere is the spring where waters flow, 

To quench our heart of sin:

Here is the tree where truth doth grow,

To lead our lives therein:

Here is the judge that stints the strife,

When men’s devices fail:

Here is the bread that feeds the life

That death cannot assail.

The tidings of salvation dear,

Comes to our ears from hence:

The fortress of our faith is here,

And shield of our defense.

Then be not like the swine that hath

A pearl at his desire,

And takes more pleasure from the trough

And wallowing in the mire.

Read not this book in any case,

But with a single eye:

Read not but first desire God’s grace,

To understand thereby.

Pray still in faith with this respect,

To bear good fruit therein,

That knowledge may bring this effect,

To mortify thy sin.

Then happy you shall be in all your life,

What so to you befalls:

Yes, double happy you shall be,

When God by death you calls.

~ From the first Bible printed in Scotland, 1576~

My Old Bible

old_bible“Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears,
Yet more precious than gold
Is this Book worn and old,
That can shatter and scatter my fears.

This old Book is my guide,
’Tis a friend by my side,
It will lighten and brighten my way;
And each promise I find
Soothes and gladdens the mind,
As I read it and heed it each day.

To this Book I will cling,
Of its worth I will sing,
Though great losses and crosses be mine;
For I cannot despair,
Though surrounded by care,
While possessing this blessing Divine.”

~ Don Jennings

The wisdom of John Wayne

ed-clark-actor-john-wayne-as-marine-sgt-platoon-leader-in-scene-from-the-movie-sands-of-iwo-jima“Life is tough,

but it’s even tougher if your stupid.”

~ John Wayne (Sands of Iwo Jima)

“How Long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”

Proverbs 1:22

Praise & Thanksgiving

sing-praise-thanksgiving-550x320“O My God,

Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, my heart admires, adores, loves, thee, for my little vessel is as full as it can be, and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with thee

  • ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
  • ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
  • ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created, for adorning it, sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;

  • for the body thou hast given me,
  • for preserving its strength and vigor,
  • for providing senses to enjoy delights,
  • for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
  • for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
  • for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
  • for a full table and overflowing cup,
  • for appetite, taste, sweetness,
  • for social joys of relatives and friends,
  • for ability to serve others,
  • for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
  • for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
  • for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
  • for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
  • for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.”

~ The Valley of Vision

Blessed & Challenged

931210_617913124887606_615344544_nWhen Jenny and I were first married we had all kinds of ideas, goals, and plans. After twenty years I am so glad that God is in control and not us! Among our various conversations during the first few years was something like this: “So. When we are ready to have children, how many do you think we should have?” And the response, “Oh, I don’t know…definitely three, maybe four.” (As though it were entirely up to us rather than God; see Psalm 127:3 & 139:13-14.)

Thinking back I can’t help but cringe at our brazen audacity (that’s a nice way of saying self-centered, self-serving, thinking). At the same time, it is equally wonderful to think back and recognize God’s patience with us and amazing grace extended to us!

Today? Well, today we have the joy of seeing God’s manifest blessings in our home. Each one is totally unique and individually an absolute treasure. Nathan is a poet. Jordan is an athlete. Hannah is a voracious reader. Josiah is a hard-working cowboy. Lydia is gentle and sweet and tender and sometimes not gentle. Grace is an aspiring princess. And Caleb is beginning to reveal a very complex (and fun) personality.

To top it all off, God has blessed me with a beautiful, wonderful, long-suffering, spirit-filled, Christ-exalting, God-honoring wife whom I adore, favor, and love passionately! Oh wait…I was talking about the kids.

Anyway. I wanted to share a couple quotes that really blessed and really challenged me today:

“In the family, life is brought not only to our doorstep, but into our kitchens, bedrooms, and dens. In the family, life is happening all around us, and it begs to be questioned, evaluated, interpreted, and discussed. There is no more consistent, pregnant, dynamic forum for instruction about life than the family, because that is exactly what God designed the family to be, a learning community.” ~ Paul David Tripp

“An ideal Christian home ought to be a place where love rules. It ought to be beautiful, bright, joyous, full of tenderness and affection, a place in which all are growing happier and holier each day. There should never be any discord, any wrangling, any angry words or bitter feelings. The home-life should be a harmonious song without one marring note, day after day. The home, no matter how humble it is, how plain, how small – should be the dearest spot on the earth to each member of the family. It should be made so happy a place, and so full of life, that no matter where one may wander in after years, in any of the ends of the earth – his home should still hold its invisible cords of influence about him, and should ever draw resistless upon his heart. It ought to be the one spot in all the earth, to which he would turn first, when in trouble or in danger. It should be his refuge, in every trial and grief.” ~ J.R. Miller (1882)

Thus saith the Lord ~ J. Gresham Machen

Image“A prophet was a man to whom God had directly spoken, who appealed to no external authority, but said simply, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ There are those who claim to be such prophets today. But few of us, I think, will be inclined to accept their claims. True prophecy, in the supernatural, biblical sense does not exist today; like other miracles it has ceased. Why it has ceased we may not perhaps be able to say; the ways of God with men in the Christian religion constitute not a scheme that we can work out according to principles of our own, but, as Chesterton says, for us at least, a story, a romance, full of strange, unexpected things. Perhaps, indeed, we may see a little way at this point into the purposes of God, we may perhaps understand a little of the reason why prophecy has ceased. There is a wonderful completeness in the revelation that the Bible contains. We have in the Bible an account of the great presuppositions that should underlie all our thinking — the righteousness and holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. And then we have an account of the way in which God saved man once for all by the redeeming work of Christ. That redeeming work was not partial but complete. It needs to be applied, indeed, by the Holy Spirit; but the redemption that is to be applied was accomplished once for all by Christ. It is hard to see, therefore, what need there is of supernatural revelation until that great day when the Lord shall come again to usher in His kingdom in final power.

But although no fresh supernatural revelation is given in the present age, it would be a great mistake to disparage the dispensation under which we are living. That dispensation is the dispensation of the Holy Spirit: even the absence of new revelations is itself in one sense a mark of glory; it is an indication of the wondrous completeness of God’s initial gift to His church. In Old Testament times there was prophecy, because then God’s redemptive plan was still in the process of unfolding; but we are the heirs of the ages and have the Saviour Himself. Only one great act remains in the drama of redemption — the mighty catastrophic coming of our Lord in glory.

Meanwhile we have the Holy Spirit, and we have the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments that the Holy Spirit uses. Much mischief has been wrought in the church by false notions of ‘the witness of the Spirit’; it has sometimes been supposed that the Holy Spirit makes us independent of the Bible. Just the opposite is the case. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. He does not contradict in one generation what He has said in another. He does not contradict the Scriptures that He himself has given. On the contrary, what He really does is to make the words of Scripture glow with a heavenly light and burn in the hearts of men. Those Scriptures are placed in your hands. You may not say with the prophets of old: ‘God has spoken directly and independently to me; I appeal to no external authority; when I speak it is “Thus saith the Lord.”’ But you can do something else. You can mount your pulpit stairs; open reverently the Bible on the desk; pray to the gracious Spirit to make plain the words that He has spoken; and so unfold to needy people the Word of God.

Do you think that that is a low function? Do you think that it involves a slavish kind of dependence on a book? Do you think that it means that advance and freedom are to be checked? The history of the church should be the answer. Again and again history has shown that the Bible, when accepted in the very highest sense as the Word of God, does not stifle life but gives life birth; does not enslave men, but sets them free. Those who talk about emancipating themselves from the slavish doctrine of what they call ‘verbal’ inspiration are not really emancipating themselves from a tyranny, but they are tearing up the charter upon which all human liberty depends.

And so, after all, you can say in a high, true sense, as you draw upon the rich store of revelation in the Bible: ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ If you accept the Bible as the Word of God you will have one qualification of a preacher. Whatever be the limitations of your gifts, you will at least have a message. You will be, in one respect at least, unlike most persons who love to talk in public at the present time; you will have one qualification of a speaker— you will at least have something to say.”

God is God

And the pain falls like a curtain
On the things I once called certain
And I have to say the words I fear the most
I just don’t know

And the questions without answers
Come and paralyze the dancer
So I stand here on the stage afraid to move
Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must
On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust

God is God and I am not

I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

And the sky begins to thunder
And I’m filled with awe and wonder
‘Til the only burning question that remains
Is who am I

Can I form a single mountain
Take the stars in hand and count them
Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me
He is first and last before all that has been
Beyond all that will pass

God is God and I am not

I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge
How unsearchable for to Him and through Him and from Him are all things

So let us worship before the throne
Of the One who is worthy of worship alone

~ Steven Curtis Chapman