Missions: God is Worthy

GlobeIt has been reported that twelve hundred missionaries quit every year. Just let that sink in for a moment.

1,200 missionaries quit every 12 months.

Let’s back up in our thinking for a moment. Why do we engage in missions? We know that Jesus commissioned the Church to “go into all the world” and we certainly want to honor and obey His instruction. So, some people pack up and move to another place on the planet and some people stay, send support, and pray. Why?

God is worthy.

Missionaries are just like you and me. They are not super-heros, super-human, or super-christian. They have bills to pay, health issues, and their own unique family struggles. They have spiritual needs, physical needs, emotional needs, and fellowship needs.

Missionaries spend themselves learning a new language, a new culture, raising support, seeking appropriate training, and traveling (a lot). They have to figure out an entry strategy, base of operations, cross-cultural communication, and how to raise a family in a foreign environment. Ultimately they say “good bye” to their extended family and go where they typically don’t even have friends. Why?

God is worthy.

I do not know why so many missionaries quit every year. I imagine the reasons are as numerous as the people involved. Mission work is hard. It is challenging. It is dangerous. It will hurt. And for any number of real reasons, some will quit.

What I do know is that we can make a real difference. We have an obligation and opportunity to pray, support, and offer shepherding care (love) to our missionaries. Yes they need money. Yes they need intercessory prayer. They also need personal support, a listening ear, and a kind word. They need us to care about them, their children, and even (without condemnation) how they are coping with temptations, stress, or burnout.

My prayer is that our missionaries will feel more than “at home” at SCBC. My prayer is that they will feel safe, loved, nurtured, and edified. I pray we take our responsibility for them and to them seriously. To be perfectly honest, I don’t want any of our missionaries to become a statistic. Why?

God is worthy.

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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

 

Overwhelmed is a good word.

6675771445_c81ce29198_zOverwhelmed is a good word.

A little over a year ago my sweet wife and I had no idea what was coming.  In many ways I am glad that we did not know.  To this day there are things that I am quite certain we will not understand any time soon.  And that’s ok.

Today we find ourselves in awe of the ways in which God works in our lives.

Overwhelmed is a good word.

We have been overwhelmed by things outside of our “control.” Our recent memories are actually filled with words like concern, confusion, and at times… crushed.  I’m not sure that he realizes it, but our oldest son Nathan was great encouragement to our family when he said, “Even hard things are a matter of perspective… Where do we keep our focus?  On the difficulty or on the Lord?”

Overwhelmed is a good word.

Those overwhelming things have actually been the way God has been preparing us for major unexpected change.  When you finally recognize that God is in control (and not you) it is overwhelming to see His hand of providence, His unfolding purpose, and His plan for your life.

Did I mention that we are in awe of the ways in which God works in our lives?

We were not looking, we were not asking, and indeed we did not even realize that God was preparing us for a whole new chapter in our life.  Until now.  I have been asked and I have accepted the call to come and serve as the senior pastor of the South County Bible Church in south St. Louis County Missouri.

Overwhelmed is a good word.

We (our whole family) are excited about this new adventure.  We are thankful for the rich history and godly men who have served at SCBC.  We are eager to work with the team that God has in place and continues to build there.  We are overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord, the grandeur of God, and the opportunity to serve Him.

 

“Overwhelmed” By Big Daddy Weave

I see the work of Your Hands

Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God

All that You are is so overwhelming

I hear the sound of Your Voice

All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise oh God

All that You are is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You

Captivated by Your beauty

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I know the power of Your Cross

Forgiven and free forever You’ll be my God

And all that You’ve done is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You

In the Glory of Your Presence

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

And God I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

You are Beautiful, You are Beautiful

Oh God, there is no one more Beautiful

You are Beautiful, God you are the most Beautiful

You are Wonderful, You are Wonderful

Oh God, there is no one more Wonderful

You are Wonderful, God You are the most Wonderful

You are Glorious, You are Glorious

Oh God, there is no one more Glorious

You are Glorious, God you are the most Glorious

I delight myself in You

In the Glory of Your Presence

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

And God I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

There is no one more Beautiful

You are the most Beautiful

Songwriters: YOLANDA YVETTE ADAMS, RYAN KENT BELCHER, RODNEY L. EAST, ERROL W. JR. MCCALLA, MARCUS ECBY

I am a minister.

preacher-black-and-white-silhouetteMy challenge is big.  My vision is clear.  My desire is strong.  My influence is eternal.  My impact is critical.  My values are solid.  My faith is tough.  My mission is urgent.  My purpose is unmistakable.  My direction is forward.  My heart is genuine.  My strength is supernatural.  My reward is promised.

And my God is real.

I refuse to be dismayed, disengaged, disgruntled, discouraged, or distracted.  Neither will I look back, stand back, fall back, go back or sit back.  I do not need applause, flattery, adulation, prestige, stature or veneration.  I have no time for business as usual, mediocre standards, small thinking, normal expectations, average results, ordinary ideas, petty disputes or low vision.  I will not give up, give in, bail out, lie down, turn over, quit or surrender.

I am a minister.  That is what I do.

 Author Unknown

Got Issues?

no whiningIt just so happens that I was standing in the perfect position to overhear myself talking the other day.  What I heard was shocking!  I still can’t believe it.  It sounded just like, gulp, whining!  Whining?  Me?  Whining? Yes.  What’s worse I was whining about something from a situation so long ago, I’m certain few if any of the people involved would even remember it.  Incredibly I discovered myself indulging in our modern self-justifying rabble of: “You must excuse my current sour attitude.  My personal issues provide me with a much needed pass on responsibility.”

Is this not the attitude that so many people have today?  We find it easy to complain, easy to express self-pity, easy to self-justify.  So many people today see their life as full of loss, hurt, or betrayal that they honestly believe they have the right to whine.  Like some kind of spiritual entitlement that says, “You don’t get to hold me accountable because someone hurt me.”  It’s amazing how many people are held prisoner by the memory of those who may (or may not) have sinned against them.  What’s more incredible are how many people who sincerely believe that their issue(s) free them from fulfilling basic personal duties.

It should be no surprise that the antidote for our narcissistic sour-grapes is not personal therapy.  What is needed most is sound Theology.  Seriously, what makes more sense to you, focusing time and attention on you and your own “issues”?  Or concentrating on something, Someone, who is Himself far greater than you?  I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the single most theologically sound reasoning that I can offer.  Whether you have experienced mom-issues, dad-issues, sibling issues, financial issues, abuse issues, neglect issues, whatever your issues, past or even present.  The single most theologically sound response I can muster is this:  So what?  Get in line.

My lovely wife and I have seven wonderful little children.  We would not trade any of them for anything in the world.  I’ve seen firsthand that each one of our children, adorable as they are, was born just like every other human being on the planet.  They are selfish, mean, depraved little sinners.  My point is this: people do dumb things because people are sinners.  It’s in their very nature to do dumb.  Whenever we do dumb things, others are affected and others feel the impact of our sin.  In other words, you and I can cause others to have personal “issues” as well.  (If you are uncertain at this point, just ask your wife or your kids.)

What we need most is a good healthy dose of humility.  You are a sinner.  I am a sinner.  Was it not for the grace of God we would be utterly consumed with our own selfish desires and eagerly satisfying our fleshly lusts.  And every time we do that, other people feel the devastating effects.  Remember Achan?

Let’s be brutally honest here, it is time for Christian people to realize that there is no place for a victim mentality in the church.  Our circumstances, however hard they may be, do not compare to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and the wrath He bore there.  The cross of Christ forever stands at the center of all things crying out: “We are all guilty.”  “We are all bad people.”  “Get over yourself.”  “You can do nothing to improve you or others.”  But “God, in Christ, can!”

Remember friends, it is the preaching of the cross that is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).  When your emotions need to be reminded of what you know is true – preach the Gospel to your own heart!  Don’t allow your heart to feed the Me-Monster.  Don’t listen to the wisdom of the world (which is foolishness).  Unleash the power of God in your own life.  Like David remind your emotions of what you know is true (Psalm 27).  Get over yourself and confess with Paul, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, (or issue, or church member, or whatever) shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 italics added).

(Originally published in a recent edition of IFCA NEWS)

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

Stick with your work

keep-calm-and-do-your-work-186Stick with your work.
Do not flinch because the lion roars.
Do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs.
Do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits.

Do your work.

Let liars lie.
Let sectarians quarrel.
Let critics malign.
Let enemies accuse.
Let the devil do his worst.

See to it nothing hinders you from fulfilling with joy the work God has given you.

He has not commanded you to be admired or esteemed.
He has never bidden you defend your character.
He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood (about yourself) which Satan’s or God’s servants may start to peddle, or to track down every rumor that threatens your reputation.

If you do these things, you will do nothing else.
You will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord.

Keep at your work.
Let your aim be as steady as a star.

You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted,
slandered, wounded and rejected,
misunderstood, or assigned impure motives.
You may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends,
and despised and rejected of men.

But see to it with steadfast determination,
with unfaltering zeal,
that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being
until at last you can say:
“I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.”

Anonymous