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.

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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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A Box of Chocolates

7098_dtEvery year around the holidays my grandmother would purchase Russell Stover boxes of assorted chocolates.  Lots of them.  (Wow, just thinking about this makes my mouth water.)  Anyway, she always had the chocolates out for family and friends who happened to stop by for a visit.

Motivated, of course, to help my grandmother resist these tiny temptations I would eat as many as possible on every visit.  I had actually become so familiar with these delightful sweets that I could identify them by color, shape, swirl, or just looking at the edges.  Of course the very best way to identify them was to  gently press your finger into the bottom of each one.

Those chocolates were amazing!  (I had to beat my sister to the box in order to get the good ones.)  Some of them had soft creamy centers and some had hard candy centers.  Some had peanut butter, some had caramel, and some had toffee.  Some of them even had peanuts, almonds, or walnuts in the center.

Now let’s be honest here. That pretty well describes any local church family.  Some people are hard, some people are soft, and some people are just nuts covered in chocolate!

One of the key strengths of the Church is that we are not all identical.  Why do I say strength?  Because the watching world looks at this local group of drastically different individuals and marvels at our unity and the deep affection we have for one another (see John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4).

How is this unity amidst such diversity possible?  It is only possibly through the blood of Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul said, “For in Him [Jesus Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

Through the precious blood of Jesus Christ we now share the same heavenly Father (John 1:12-13), the same Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), the same Body (the Church; Ephesians 1:22-23), the same heavenly Destiny (Revelation 21:1–4), and we share the same holy Calling (1 Peter 1:16)!

  • Do you know God’s peace? Romans 3:10-23; 5:8; 6:10-11, 23; 10:9-10, 13
  • If you DO know God’s peace: Romans 12:18; Romans 14:19; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:3; Colossians 3:15; James 3:18

My prayer for Ukraine…

A week after 9/11 (2001) a small group of us spent two weeks in Kiev and Odessa Ukraine with Slavic Gospel Association.  It was… incredible.  (Though no-one prepared me for being greeted with “a holy kiss”…over and over and over…everywhere we went.)

The pastors we met were dedicated (and godly) men who love the Word, cherish the Son, exalt the Father and yearn for their friends and neighbors to come to Christ.  Whole communities came out for the 3-4 hour long services that often included 2-4 sermons.  People arrived early, quietly prepared their hearts before the service and tearfully sang with rapturous joy in their hearts.

We also visited orphanages full of children.  I will never forget the little boy Uri who approached me and in broken but clear English said, “My name is U-ri. Vhat is yours?”  I wish someone could have taken a picture of his expression when I said, “Clegguart” (pronounced clay-gert) … I was ready to adopt him on the spot (along with the rest of the children).

I often find myself praying for the pastors we met and the churches in which we ministered.  One in particular stands out in my mind. Outside of Odessa and down rough dirt roads (I’m being generous) and across several fields lay a tiny little village where church was held every week, in a garage.

Packed in like sardines and using a little Casio keyboard for accompaniment, we gathered for worship.  After the service we walked a short distance down the road to a pile of rocks (not finely crafted bricks – random rocks).  The enthusiasm and anticipation was almost unbelievable.  This was to be their new church building.  They were building, stone by stone, piece by piece, mostly with their bare hands, a church.

I don’t know the political ups and downs of the current situation in Ukraine.  I do know that God is still on His throne and the Gospel still saves.

My prayer for Ukraine: May God’s people be faithful, God’s Word be proclaimed, God’s Spirit be unleashed, God’s Son be exalted and God be glorified!

To my pastor friends in Ukraine… Remember: Preach the Word, love the people and trust the Lord!

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Praying for Pastors tonight…

pulpit_frontPraying tonight for those men who stand in the pulpit to give faithful exposition of the word of God… most of us will spend our lives in earthly anonymity.

That’s OK!

Tomorrow is Sunday. The Lord’s Day. The gathering of the brethren in order to feed on the word, to hear from the Lord, and to commune with one another. Most important of all they will gather in order to engage the heart, ready the mind, and prostrate the soul in worship of the living God.

Brothers: Preach so as to please God, not men!

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16)

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober- minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Additional Food For Thought:

Isaiah 6:1-8; 2 Timothy 2:1-7; 15; Revelation 4:10-11; 5:8-10; 7:11

What do you see? SHEEP!

Many people look at the people around them in their church and see:

often confused,

easily wandering,

mostly dirty, 

sometimes gullible,

always needing to be hand-fed,

SHEEP.

This is more like what I see…

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If all you see when you look at your brethren in Christ is their mistakes and missteps – then you are not looking at them as God looks at them; through the soul-cleansing blood of Christ.

From God’s perspective His children are clean, colorfully unique and on their way to heaven.  Not because of anything that we have done in order to earn heaven, but rather because of what God has done through His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (see Acts 4:12; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10; 1 John 5:10-13).

The Apostle Paul, speaking to and about the PEOPLE in Thessalonica, said: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not YOU? For YOU are our glory and joy.” 1 Thess. 2:19 (emphasis added)

Are you kidding me, Paul?  People should be our glory and joy?

Yes.

The only thing we can take with us into eternity are other sinners – by grace alone, through faith alone (see Ephesians 2:8-10).

For the time has come indeed…

“Ten Indictments Against the American Church,” by Paul Washer, is a long sermon that was preached on October 22, 2008 at a Conference in Atlanta, GA.  It is  a message that preachers and churches today desperately need to hear. . . again and again.

The Ten Indictments:

1. A practical denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.

2. An ignorance of God.

4. An ignorance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.3. A failure to address man’s malady.

5. An ignorance of the doctrine of regeneration.

6. An unbiblical gospel invitation.

7. Ignorance regarding the nature of the Church.

8. A lack of loving and compassionate Church discipline.

9. A silence on separation.

10. Lack of children being taught in the home.

May God stir His people with His Word, by His Spirit, because of His Son, for the glory of His name . . .

For the time [is come] that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if [it] first [begin] at us, what shall the end [be] of them that obey not the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17

You can download the free ebook here:

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Pastor: Man of God

A dear friend of mine and a man I considered a personal tutor, missionary Bob Cooper (now with the Lord), shared the following quote with me several years ago.

man praying Fling him into his office. Tear the “Office” sign from the door and nail on the sign, “Study.” Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the flock of lives of a superficial flock and a holy God.

Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through. And let him come out only when he’s bruised and beaten into being a blessing.

Shut his mouth forever spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever tripping lightly, over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley.

Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets.

Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God!

Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day -“Sir, we would see Jesus.”

When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day’s superficial problems, and manage the community’s weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can.

Command him not to come back until he’s read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he’s back against the wall of the Word.

And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left-God’s Word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.

And when he’s burned out by the flaming Word, when he’s consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he’s privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of the Word… and ere he died, he had become a man of God.”

(Author Unknown)

If those who hear me preach are more impressed with me than they are with Christ – I have failed.

Whether preaching, praying, singing, parenting, or fulfilling my role as a husband – God is the audience. So the only question that matters is: Is He pleased? If I do any of, or all of, those things for anyone else or anything less – then I am wasting my time and squandering the vapor that is my life.

Clegguart Mitchell