Pride in Sharing the Gospel or, My Foolishness On Glorious Display

Recently I was sharing the gospel with a couple of church leaders at a church which was in pretty bad shape. Actually sharing is probably the wrong word, I was almost yelling to be perfectly honest. I had asked them their understanding of the gospel and they shared their explanation — all of which was correct, but completely lacking heart. FYI: if you can talk about how Jesus' death and resurrection affect your life without being moved by it, there is a good chance your church is in trouble.

Anyhow, there I am yelling that the gospel is supposed to be good news — the best news — not a drab story. Because its not about us, it's about how we can do absolutely nothing because it's already been done. I'm telling these pastors it's okay they feel like they aren't good enough because they genuinely aren't. But Christ is! And that's the good news. I rant for a while and I think what I said was encouraging.

So then I turn to my teammate and he looks at me and says, "That was awesome", and then I light up. "Man I'm good at preaching the gospel," I think! Oh my foolishness. I'm preaching the gospel one second, and truly believing it. Then the next second I'm denying it in my heart by thinking prideful thoughts. How can you (and by "you" clearly I mean "me") find pride in telling someone it's all about God instead of man?

There is no room for pride in the gospel, because the heart of the gospel message is our insufficiency. And the sufficiency of Christ alone.

I'm not sure I've been this embarrassed by anything I've done in ministry since I got a D in Gospels at seminary.

Thank goodness my foolishness is atoned for. Praise the Lord for the Gospel.

What Kind of Leadership Does It Take?

The other day in talking with a friend this discussion came up. It is admittedly a bit odd, but I wanted to write it down more for my own sake than anything.

Do you ever wonder about what kind of a leader it takes to do a certain thing? For example, and this is a terrible one, Saddam Hussein. Sometimes it seems like you just need a Saddam in order to run Iraq. No other kind of leader can do it. It has to be someone with an iron grip, and little or no morals. Does this mean you leave him in control just so things can stay somewhat under control (I recognize this is relative at best)?

Or what about the leader of our organization? Maybe our company has succeeded at mission as much as it has because we've had overpowering leaders. Maybe they were walking with the Lord but it was actually their faults or sins that lead to the growth we've seen, because the patterns they set in place allow for growth in numbers, but not necessarily success in the Lord's eyes.

What would you do if you were a leader of a large organization and you discovered that making changes in your organization to be more Christ-like meant that your organization would lose people? Shrink? Produce smaller numbers? Does the organization you work for have the balls to make such changes?

The real question boils down to what you or your organization are willing to sacrifice to be in Gods will.

I sometimes wonder if our organization is as "successful" as it is because it's not as holy as it could be.

Business vs. Ministry: Legacy

Steve Jobs passed away recently. Apparently what he left behind is the most valuable company in the world. I'm thankful for his impact. I love my iPhone. I love my Mac. And my Apple stock is the only thing on which I haven't lost money in the last 6 years. His legacy is his products. His legacy is the company. And his legacy is his fame. He will forever be known as one of the boldest, craziest, most driven leaders in history. He basically invented the personal computer, and then what will probably be the future (or demise) of the PC — the tablet.

But what should the legacy be of one who is in ministry? I'd argue that what we'd love to leave behind is one or two Timothys. Maybe a Titus. Our ministry may have minimal impact (in contrast to Apple), but would still have been of outrageous success if it produced one man who would seriously carry the torch for Christ. If we can be even a small part of raising up someone who will dramatically impact the Kingdom, it is a huge deal.

The thing which makes these two different from one another is who recognizes the legacy. For the businessman, he needs the world to recognize him. For the minister, if no one in the world ever knows his name or his impact, that is no big deal, as long as Christ knows what he's done.

The minister lives to glorify his Savior in eternity. The businessman live to be glorified themselves, preferrably before they die.

The legacy the businessman seeks is tangible. A product or an impact that can be seen and felt, and most importantly, recognized my man.
The legacy the minister seeks may not be tangible. It is a person or an impact that will be recognized by his Savior.

Business vs. Ministry: Leadership

Maybe the differences are obvious to you when it comes to leadership in the business and leadership in the church, but the books on our shelves in the local libraries and the books in our churches don't make it clear that people are aware of the distinction. What makes the two different?

In business you need a visionary leader who is driven and passionate about what he's doing. In ministry vision casting is great, passion is necessary, and leadership isn't inherently a dirty word, but the two look very different.

The businessman needs to rally others to his cause. He needs his whole company to catch a similar vision and get on board so they're all driven to the same thing. If people aren't on board with what the company is doing then they need to be pushed out the back door.

In ministry the leader needs to be rallying everyone to Christ. Casting vision for specific ministries is great, but when someone isn't on board they aren't pushed out the back door (or at least shouldn't be), but are instead encouraged to pursue their calling. Sometimes this means sending them elsewhere. The difference is someone engaged in ministry across town targeting the same people is not in opposition with us, in fact we're in this together. A leader in business draws people to himself and his vision. A leader in ministry releases, equips, and enables people to do what the Lord has gifted and called them to do.

I think of this quote:

"At present the military and economic might of Western nations is struggling to counter the threat of international terrorism. It is proving difficult to defeat an enemy made up of local cells working toward a common vision with high autonomy but shared values. They are flexible, responsive, opportunistic, influential, and effective. Together they seem to have an impact on our world far beyond what they would if they formed themselves into a structured, identifiable organization. Churches can and should adopt the same model with a greater impact as we 'wage peace' on the world." - Total Church by Chester and Timmis

Leaders can and should adopt the same model in the church. Ministry is about giving people large amounts of autonomy. Business is about drawing people together to be the biggest and best organization around.

The business leader leads from above. The ministry leader is a servant leader, he leads from below. The business leader's objective is to create confident, bold, self-sufficient leaders. The ministry leader's objective is to encourage humble, Christ-dependant, followers of the Lord.  He must share his life, sins, fears and weaknesses with those he shepherds so they can learn how to lead in weakness. The business man must hide his sins, fears, and weakness so his people can learn how to fearlessly, boldly lead.

"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. " - 1 Corinthians 1:27

"So the last will be first, and the first last.” - Matthew 20:16

Things are different in the Kingdom of God. They should therefore appear different.

Business vs. Ministry: Bottom Line vs. Obdience

This probably should have preceded the last post. But no one has ever accused me of being a great maker of plans, so here you go.

Business is about money. Any corner you can cut to earn more money without affecting your product or business you cut because the goal is money. Now admittedly there are exceptions to this (those who live for affecting change in an industry), but the majority of folks are doing business for the sake of earning money. Money is the bottom line.

Ministry can't nearly so easily be measured in numbers. The number of people in your squishy chairs on Sundays, or the number of people you've shared your faith with this week. What do they represent? Numbers. And that is all. I can't find anywhere in the Word where we're commanded to have the biggest ministry we can have, can you? But obedience is demanded throughout. And you know what's really difficult to measure? Obedience.

I think of the advice David gave to his son Solomon before his death, “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.” - 1 Kings 2:2-3

I encourage you to show yourself a man and live a life of obedience, rather than a life in pursuit of greater numbers. If you're in ministry, your life is not about the bottom line.

‘A God-Sized Vision’ and Billy Graham’s ‘Modesto Manifesto’ ➙

To be honest, I am scared to death of what ministry success can do to me.

Social Awkwardness and Sanctification — an Observation

A lot of social awkwardness is covered over by Christ-likeness slowly over time. Most holy men are not too swift too speak nor too slow to listen. And this alone solves the vast majority of social problems.

Gay Marriage and the Future of Human Sexuality ➙

In effect, if marriage is now understood as a lifelong sexual contract between any two adult human persons with no specification of gender, then the allowance of gay marriage renders allmarriages “gay marriages.” Given such a situation, were it not for the space afforded by canon law (namely, the possibility of church marriage) a resort to cohabitation - which has hitherto been understood as “common-law marriage” - would be the only logical path for clear-thinking Christians.

via Matt D. Invincible

The Christian Blogger's Dilemma

Option A: Write more and gain a bigger audience so as to affect more lives.


Option B: Write less and only about things you're genuinely impressed upon to write about, so as to affect fewer lives in a more substantial way.  

I'll let you guess which seems more kingdom-minded. 

The other problem is that sometimes you just feel like you should write. And sometimes you have no idea what will affect people and what won't; often it's the things that seem least significant which end up really having an impression on people.

What Will I Be Known For?

One of my favorite reasons for running is the inevitable delusions of grandeur. I always feel like I'm the fastest guy in the world. Or at least the best looking with a beard.

Today as I was almost home I thought about how some things had gone today and how much I enjoy casting vision with our team. Then I thought about how I'd really like my bosses to know I'm good at casting vision. And then I immediately was convicted.

What should we be known for? Being a visionary? A great leader? 

I'd like to be known as a lover of Christ who pointed others towards him. I like casting vision but I hope I'm not remembered as a visionary. I love to encourage people, but I hope I'm not remembered as an encourager. I want to be first and foremost a man who is ridiculously (to the point of embarrassment if needed) infatuated with his savior.

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Cor 10:31

It's for this that we live. Not vision casting, but the glory of God. Vision casting itself is not bad, but it should only ever be means to an end, not the end itself.

"So that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'" - 1 Cor 1:31

Imagining what I'll be known for is really just boasting to myself about how awesome I am. Which is pretty lame (pathetic/embarrassing/shameful) for a worthless sinner to be doing at all. I hope if ever I boast, even if in my head, it'll be about my love for Christ.

I hope if ever I'm known (and I wrestle if it's even possible for me to be known and keep my head on straight — hint: it's probably not), it'll be as a person who was ridiculously infatuated with his savior, and as one who sought the glory of God.

Business vs. Ministry: Man-Hours vs. Prayer

I have a few colleagues who have degrees in business management, and as good as they are at running meetings sometimes, I'm also impressed with how much they can miss about what makes ministry different from business. I want to spend a few posts highlighting the difference between two — particularly as it relates to methodology. I admittedly have a very limited (at best) understanding of business practices, and so most of this is mere inference or pulled from what I have heard my friends suggest.

This first post I want to talk about man-hours. I have read enough online to know that it is not an infallable maxim that more man-hours means greater productivity. Even the business world has recognized that tired people are ineffective people. Some people work crazy hours and get nothing done and some few hours and accomplish much. However at some point there is a real basic understanding that what you're doing in the business world is dependant on the work of man. Therefore more man-hours = more productivity.

Ministry is very different. It is still true that some are more effective with their time than others, however it never boils down to what you're doing being dependant on man. In fact it boils down to the fact that what you're hoping to accomplish is absolutely dependant on God. You can, like in the business world, increase man-hours and notice a change in output. But numbers are never the goal of ministry. Obedience is. Doing the will of God is the point of ministry.

You may see X number of new believers (or church members, or whatever you do), and with increased man hours X+100 new believers, but numbers do not say anything about what you're doing. Some of the most faithful people of all time may have seen very little fruit, but nonetheless faithfully labored exactly where the Lord wanted them to. Obedience is difficult to measure.

In ministry the only thing that you can add more of (and even this only to a point) and see a direct relationship with your rate of success is prayer. More prayer will produce greater results. And not because we control God and His will when we pray. But rather because prayer makes us submit to God. In prayer we are declaring our dependance on Him and what He is doing, prayer makes us obedient to the Lord's will.

By setting aside more time to pray we essentially tell the Lord, "What we're doing is worthless with you." And in doing so, we are simply proclaiming the truth to ourselves — I assure you this is no surprise to Him. In tuning in the heart of the Lord we are much more likely to do the things he would have us do. This means minstering to the right people, and in the right ways. Unholy people do not make holy disciples. Passionate followers of Christ make others in to passionate followers of Christ.

I say there is a point where this no longer holds up. And that is when you pray all day and do nothing else. I'm not arguing that the Lord cannot use that. After all, true missionary work is done on our knees (James Fraser), but at some point we need to be hands and feet as well. However this, in my opinion, is really a mute point. I seirously doubt anyone who spends serious time in true prayer can avoid being convicted of his need to get out and do the will of the Lord.

Business: More man-hours will yield more productivity.
Ministry: More man-hours will not yield more worthwhile productivity (though it may increase numbers). More prayer will yield obedience, which means more of God's work being done.

After Birth Abortion Article and the Value of Life

This article about after-birth abortion was making its rounds on Twitter and Facebook recently. The abstract states:
Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus' health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.
Now what's particularly interesting about this is really this article makes the same argument a Christian does. And that is: nothing miraculous happens to the baby (i.e. its becoming a human) simply because it passes out of the the womb and in to the world.

The conclusion drawn is the same as the Christians. They argue, there really is no moral difference in killing a baby right after it is born than there is in killing one right before it's born.

We agree.

The difference is in the conclusion drawn, the article states there is therefore certain circumstances where it would be appropriate to kill the baby just after birth. Medical Ethics have finally agreed with us. If life has no value then killing is really of no consequence. There is also no point (post conception) where a life inherently gains value and is therefore more valuable than it was previously.

The difference is in how we live out this value. If there is no point at which the baby gains value then killing should never be morally wrong. The writer of this article thus does not live out his worldview if he is ever opposed to murder.

But the Christian believes that life, because it is a unique creation of God, has an inherent value. Therefore, if killing is ever wrong, the conclusion can be carried backwards that it is always wrong. Even when still in the womb.

Fascinating how blind we are apart from Christ. Shockingly fascinating. Although I almost find myself wondering if the writer of this article was a Christian and was going for shock value to make his point. Well played if so.