I went to my first “leadership” class last night. Mike Ayers is the teacher and I’ll have him for the rest of the year. My first impressions of him are really good. There were lots of things he talked about last night that were powerful, but the main thing I wanted to share today was this: He defined a leader as “A person with character and competence to influence people to God-honoring objectives.” He went on to explain that sometimes your skills/competence can take you where your character can’t keep you. I thought this was a great explanation, ’cause I’ve certainly seen people get into positions where they couldn’t handle things and their character was compromised. Then, it’s a real mess. That’s why all those TV preachers end up having affairs and stealing money and stuff. I wonder if it can be the other way around? Can your character get you places that your skills can’t keep you? I only say this ’cause I’ve also witnessed people who have really great hearts, that simply don’t have the skills to lead. Anyway, we’re going to be studying a method of leadership that comes directly Jesus’ life. As he trained and led the disciples, we will learn to lead others.
I’m also excited about these classes because Mike is a church planter. Since that’s something I wanna be a part of someday, I think he’ll be a great guy to learn from. I hope I can have the chance to sit down with him and talk about it all sometime during this next year.
I always thought it was a bit prideful of Paul to write things like – “follow my example” (1 Cor 11:1) and “join with others in following my example” (Php 3:17). Anyway, he says things like this throughout Scripture and it always bothered me a little, but last night in our small group it came up again and I think I finally understood it. One of the guys explained that in those days they didn’t have the Bible (well, not as we know it) – most people couldn’t read the letters that they did have either. Jesus had already resurrected too, so there really was no way for someone to know how to live out their faith except in watching someone else do it. Paul was trying to live his life in such a way that others could look at him and know how to live as a Christian.
Just as a father tries to live as an example to his children, Paul was doing the same. The idea of following someone’s example was not a foreign concept for the Jews either – the whole rabbinical system was based upon “becoming” like the rabbi. Jesus Himself taught his followers to do as they had seen Him do. (John 13:15). Anyway, all this is to say that Paul wasn’t just a big headed guy, he was simply trying to teach others how to live out their faith, and he used the same technique as their culture had been accustomed to.
Yes – I spelled “fourth” wrong on purpose – you’ll understand later. (It’s a really bad pun – but I’m just that stupid.)
Are you growing the way you should?
An interesting thought came out in class last night. We were talking about 1 Corinthians. Dr. Loken explained that Paul had planted the church in Corinth 4 years prior to writing the book we know as 1 Corinthians. (It’s actually at least the second letter he sent to them. – Check 1 Cor 5:9) Anyway, in Chapter 3 Paul makes it clear that he is disappointed in the Christians there for not growing to maturity. He assumes that after 4 years, they should have a basic understanding of their faith and even be able to teach others by that time. If you read Hebrews 5:10-6:2 along side 1 Corinthians 3, you can see the kinds of things the writer of Hebrews thinks they should understand: (1) repentance/life change, (2) Faith/trusting God’s sovereignty, (3) Baptism/Holy Spirit’s indwelling, (4) Laying on of hands/healing (James 5), & (5) Resurrection/Judgement – heaven & hell. (Each of these can be found in Hebrews 6:1-2)
Anyway, this whole 4 year thing is interesting to me – think about it – Jesus was with the disciples about 4 years – Paul expects maturity in about 4 years – we send students to college for about 4 years hoping that they would have a basic understanding of their subjects. Dr. Loken suggested (I think appropriately) that if you were discipling someone for 20 years and they hadn’t grown enough to disciple others themselves, then something is wrong. He never suggested that we don’t need long-term accountability or deeper teachings – but in regards to these basic tenants of our faith – we should be able to teach them to someone else after about 4 years of discipleship. This is not a scriptural law or some hard-and-fast rule, but simply a guide which the Scriptures seems to point to as a basic benchmark.
As a youth minister who will have students in my ministry for about 6 years, this was especially interesting to me. I think I’m gonna begin working on a plan to make sure that these ideas are clear in each and every one of our students by the time they graduate. I’ll try to work with our childrens coordinator to begin this process during the time when our students are transitioning from childrens ministry into youth ministry. For us, that happens in a “confirmation” process.
Anyway, it was a fun class – which brought up quite a few ideas which were new to me.
I’ve been thinking alot about “comfort” lately. I’m not real sure why, but here are some of my thoughts:
Matt Redman wrote a song quite a few years ago with one line that really stuck out to me – “I’ve crafted myself a more comfortable cross.” When I first heard the song I thought about this guy I had seen when I was in college. He was one of those crazy preachers who traveled around yelling at people. He was yelling at all of us students between classes and asking if we were “saved.” etc. I think he meant well, but he wasn’t getting very far with most of the students. Anyway, he was carrying a cross and said he was traveling across the United States with his message. But here’s the interesting part: the cross he was carrying had wheels on it. Did Jesus’ cross have wheels? Were they there to help make the journey? I mean, you can’t really put wheels on your cross if you’re trying to be like Jesus – can you? Anyway, it was just like Matt Redman sung – a “more comfortable cross.”
I worked with a speaker named Jeremy Kingsley a few years ago. He had a strange practice I remembered as I’ve been thinking about comfort too. When the youth that I work with would go on trips, they’d always yell “shotgun!” to get the front seat. You know the game. Right?? Jeremy would yell before they even thought of it “I get back seat!!” Strange, huh?? But cool!! Jeremy is that kind of guy. He’s great at taking the normal things we do and making you think about them differently. Anyway, as he worked towards “discomfort,” he served the Lord and our youth.
I wonder how I have made my cross more comfortable? It’s true – I’m comfortable in the ways that I serve. We Christians are uncomfortable whenever we get out of of normal routines. We have our own Christian subculture that we’ve created so we can be comfortable all the time. I mean we have Christian music, Christian toys, Christian clothes, even Christian candy. I guess it’s important not to eat any of that secular candy. (By the way – Christian is a label that can only be used on people)
Anyway, where would Jesus be in all this? I’m pretty sure He got accused of hanging out with the sinners and the prostitutes. He even had fun and turned water to wine at a wedding. Why am I uncomfortable in these party situations? If Jesus was comfortable there, why am I on my guard when someone starts drinking around me or says a cuss word?
What if the cross I carried wasn’t supposed to be comfortable? What if I worked at being uncomfortable? What if I tried to hang out with people who make me uncomfortable? When it comes to money and what I give to the church, if I was uncomfortable, I’d probably be giving more to the Lord. If I wasn’t so concerned about my own comfort all the time, I bet I’d be a better husband and I’d do more things for my beautiful bride. If I worked to be uncomfortable, I’d probably do a lot more physical labor and help out my friends with things they needed done. If I worked to be uncomfortable, with the way I eat, I’d probably lose weight. If I was uncomfortable with the sin in my life, maybe I’d repent and be more spiritually healthy. If I was uncomfortable in the ways I serve the Lord, maybe I’d find myself serving in places I never imagined. (By the way, watch the movie “The Second Chance” someday.) Maybe I’d live in another town or country. Maybe I’d have a different job. Maybe I’d buy more things to give away and fewer things for myself. How much does my own “comfort” really drive my life? Probably more than I’d like to admit.
Anyway, you get the point. “Comfort” might just be right where Satan wants us. It’s when we’re uncomfortable, that we learn to lean on and trust in the Lord.
Prayer: Lord, I hesitate to even pray this prayer, ’cause I know it’s gonna mean changes for me, but I wanna be the man You’ve called me to be. So help me to step into uncomfortable situations more often. Help me to give myself away more often and teach me to seek comfort for others over comfort for myself. Lord, I don’t want to be comfortable in this world (well, admittedly, part of me does) because it’s not my home. I’m an alien here. As Andrew Peterson sings, my home is the “Far Country.”
Here are just a few thoughts about stuff God has been showing me lately. I’m not sure how it all fits together, but I’m gonna try to explain it here as best I can.
The story that sparked my thoughts was from Efrem Smith at Ichthus during the communion service. He talked about a tribe (I think in Africa) where they practice a coming of age ritual for boys. When they are about twelve they are expected to kill a lion in order to become a man! Since I teach a guys small group I wondered what I could do to help my guys “become men.” Anyway, here’s how the boys do it: (According to Efrem this practice is still in existence)
The bravest boy sneaks up on the lion while he sleeps and then runs to a certain place where 4 other boys are ready to attack the lion with spears and knives. When the lion is killed, the bravest boy (the one who woke the lion) cuts off the mane and wears it as a symbol of his bravery.
Efrem used this story to go on and talk about the “lion” (Satan) who prowls about seeking to steal, kill, and destroy us. He also spoke of the “lions” in our lives which attack us like addictions, bad habits, unhealthy relationships, etc.
My mind went somewhere else though – I was thinking that Efrem was talking about Satan attacking us, but his story was about these boys attacking him. Maybe that’s the difference in a boy and a man. Boys live life trying to prepare for when Satan attacks them, and men live planning their attack on the lion. It’s the difference in living life defensively or offensively. Another BIG difference is that boys get attacked by a lion they never see, but men (with this definition) CHOOSE THEIR LION. When they attack their lion they know where the resistance will come from.
As I look at different youth who I have watched grow up, I can see pretty clearly how this difference plays out in their lives. Here’s an example I heard this weekend: One of the speakers talked about a 20 year old girl who had gone on mission trip one summer when she was in High School. Now, at the age of 20 (no college) she is running an orphanage for over 50 children. She is living her life offensively. She knows that the lions (Satans) attacks will be on this ministry that she is putting her heart into, but she has also chosen that lion. She has “taken ground” for the kingdom of God. Now, take another girl who went on the same mission trip, who decides to go off to college. She too will fight a lion, but it will be on his ground. She too might very well “take ground” for the kingdom, but her attack will probably come in a way that she would never have expected – Satan will use a relationship to attack her, or maybe her professors will challenge her faith, who knows? – the point is – she doesn’t know where her attack will come or even what her “lion” looks like.
For men – God calls us to be warriors – to be “wild at heart” as one author puts it. I certainly have something in me that wants a “battle to fight” and an “adventure to live.” I wonder how I can live this way? How can I be offensive for God? Which “lion” will I choose? And who are the other 4 guys I should ask to help me in this fight? God show me. I need You.
I was listening to a sermon by Paris Reidhead called “Ten Shekels and a Shirt.” He explains how we Christians have become humanists without even recognizing it. By coming to Christ because of heaven or some promised “better life” we are coming to Him out of our own selfish desires. We are really only after what we can get out of God – this is humanism. He goes on to suggest that God is still God and still worthy of us giving our lives for even if there was no heaven. More simply – God deserves to receive the lives that He paid for on the cross regardless of anything we might get out of the deal.
As I reflect, I wonder if it’s possible? Is there any way to give Him all I am without expecting anything or does my humanity mess that up for me. I do believe He should have what He deserves, but can’t seem to give myself totally selflessly either. If there was no heaven or any kind of reward, I would hope that I could still serve Him wholeheartedly simply because He deserves it, but. . . .would I???? How can I love selflessly?? How can I give myself unconditionally??
Only by His Spirit. Only by His power.
Lord, help me to be yours.
This link will get you to sermonaudio.com. From there you can search by speaker (Paris Reidhead) and find the download for this sermon. (Ten Shekels and a Shirt)