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May 2010

When church leadership "falls," pt 1

In the book of Ephesians it says that one of the roles of leadership in the church is to prepare the church in general for the work of the ministry.

Ephesians 4:11-13
11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

That's a lot of responsibility and many leaders work hard at trying to help the body become mature and to be prepared for all types of service. One of the things we don't often get prepared for is what to do when leadership falls. We might get "prepared" for what to do if a leader "falls" or there is hypocrisy in another church, but what about when it is in your own?

Earlier in Ephesians these church leaders are described as gifts to men. And in Corinthians it says:

1 Corinthians 3:21b-23
All things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

The concept of leaders being gifts and belonging to God's people indicates that there is an accountability on our part when it comes to how we treat and view leaders. This accountability extends to all things as noted in Corinthians, but for now I'm going to focus on how it extends to leadership. Often we are taught a church concept that has the leaders as "shepherds" and the church members as "sheep." The problem with this picture is that we often give it a very simplistic interpretation. Sheep are supposed to follow, to go where they are told. But the sheep of God's pasture are men. And when men have a simplistic "follow" mentality for a while then find out the one they followed (and were corrected by) is wrong or has broken his own rules there is usually resentment, anger, and division.

So let's try a different approach. The sheep of God's pasture are men. All of us are called by God and graced to be in his pasture. Each of us is graced to be effective in doing works of service so that the body may be built up. We are not given this grace because we earn it, it is a gift. And some of the men in this pasture are graced to be leaders, to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Not because they earned it. Rather because they were chosen to live a life of service to God's people to help them live a life of service that the entire body (leaders and everyone, everyone in God's pasture) may become mature in Christ.

There is an accountability here that works both ways. Leaders must give an account of their service and the results of that service. We must also give an account of our service and our results as well. And we all must give an account of our service (and results) to each other. To pray for each other, to hold each other in higher esteem than ourselves, to forgive each other, to love each other, and as a result to bring the body of Christ to maturity. If we get our foundation right there will be more of this type of behavior and less resentment, anger, and division when problems occur.

It is important that everyone in God's pasture understand what God is doing at any given time and understand the types of service they are accountable for at that time. One of the things my apostle has always done is teach everyone in our church that each of us can be exactly what he is; can do the same types of ministry, can touch people the same way, can serve God the same way. He does not want us to act or live like "dumb sheep." It is important for everyone to grow in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. So the next few posts will include some examples of different ways God works with leaders, including when they "fall", so we can increase our understanding, our knowledge, and hopefully our wisdom.

Security in Being a Son and a Servant pt 3

The clearer we see that we are sons of the living God, the more we realize we need to live as servants.

Philippians 2:1-11
1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
 6Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
 7but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
 8And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!
 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
      and gave him the name that is above every name,
 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.

Verse 7 mentions taking the very nature of a servant, or a slave. Paul did this. You often see him introduce himself as a bond-servant of the LORD. He humbled himself before God and took on the form of a servant.

Luke 17:7-10
 7"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? 8Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? 9Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "

In verse 10 it says our attitude should be that "we are unworthy servants." The word "unworthy" means to have no worth, to be useless, of no effect, empty and hollow. In Philippians 2:7 the word "nothing" means to be useless, good for nothing. This is important. In Luke 17 Jesus wasn't telling us that we should think we are unworthy or worthless. He was saying that he had taken the very nature of an unworthy, worthless, and useless servant and he was commanding us to follow him in taking on that nature.

Our flesh is really offended by this. The worldly way of reasoning has problems with this. But this is how Jesus submitted to the Father. This is often a struggle for us. We can tell ourselves that we are servants, but just let someone who has authority over us in this world treat us like a worthless, good for nothing servant and see what what kind of feelings rise up. We might do okay as a servant (at least in our own minds) as long as we feel appreciated, as long as someone kills a fatted calf for us. As long as someone celebrates our service. But a mature son has to learn to be a servant without getting a fatted calf. A mature son has to learn to become of no reputation, or to become useless, and take on the form of a useless servant.

Jesus knew that his Father was with him always. And he knew that everything under his Father's authority was under his authority as well. We need to let this knowledge grow and mature in us.

Luke 15:31
 31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 

1 Corinthians 3:21b-23
All things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

All things are yours. Know that, settle it in your heart. Know that you will always be with your Father in heaven. Then let it all go. Take up your cross daily. Let go of the ring and robe and fatted calf.

Be a servant.

Security in Being a Son and a Servant pt 2

This continues from part 1 which goes through the story of what is commonly called "The Prodigal Son." Actually, it would be far more accurate to say it is a story about a Father with two sons. The point in all of this story is the Father's heart towards his sons. In understanding the Father's heart we find security.

The first son had squandered all his Father had worked hard for and given him. He failed in what he had set out to do. Yet when he returned home in repentance (with a different way of thinking) his Father only rejoiced to see him and called for a great celebration. The celebration wasn't because of the repentance. It was because the son had returned home. The repentance the son returned home with was one of shame, but the repentance (or different way of thinking) the Father wanted the son to have was one of security; being fully aware that he was his Father's son. So he declared him as his son and called for a celebration. The celebration was important in restoring the security as well as being a time of great joy.

But as we grow in service the celebrations are no longer needed. We move from sonship and celebrations to service and hearing our Father's voice. 

Luke 15
28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his Father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his Father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.

In saying this the older brother was ignoring all the things he had done with his Father, all the trust the Father had shown in him over the years; everything the Father had done for him. He was expressing his feelings by focusing on whether or not his Father had any celebrations for him. And the fact is the Father probably had not had any celebrations for the older son. Celebrations are not for the older sons, they are not for those who are mature. Relationship is.

 31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.

When we mature in God it is hearing his voice and word that gives us security. It is knowing that our relationship is secure because the Father says it is. It is knowing that all we have worked for is still ours simply because our Father says that all things are ours.

We will finish this up in part 3; continuing to look at how our maturity in being a son enables us to be a servant.