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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

For the shepherds have become dull-hearted,

And have not sought the Lord

Jeremiah 10:21 (NKJV)

I want to circle back to Jeremiah 3:15 and help someone understand the complexity of what God says there in comparison to what we see here. Look at this week’s Bible study outline and see how it fits in, too. When we were in chapter 3 of Jeremiah, much of our attention was placed on the whoredom of Israel and Judah. However, it is in that same chapter where God promises to provided shepherds “according to My own heart.” But what is this that we’re seeing here where God is calling His own shepherds “senseless?”

God points out the lack of responsibility among the shepherds of God’s people. He even says: “The shepherds are senseless.” God shows that the shepherds lack of leadership left Him with no choice but to remove these shepherds and recover His sheep as in Jeremiah 31:10.

But He said that He would provide us shepherds, right?

When comparing Jeremiah 10:21 and Jeremiah 3:15, the problem that emerges comes in the form of contextual confusion. Keep in mind that Jeremiah 3:15 is a providential promise of God to Israel based on the conditional repentance of the “faithless children” in verse 14. Think in terms of prophecy. He says it in chapter 3, but that does not mean that He will fulfill that prophetic promise immediately. Failing to connect the dots right here will have you left with your mental wheels spinning out of control trying to figure out why God failed His flock. Like I said, think in terms of prophecy rather than immediate actions by God. Jeremiah 3:15 is an eventuality, while Jeremiah 10:21 is the status of the conditions as they stand at that moment. That’s the difference. That’s where we see the prophecy in comparison to the revelation of the current circumstances.

We’ll cover more about this on Wednesday at 11 AM as we dig into chapter 10.

You will find plenty of debate on the topic of shepherding God’s flock. Some will deem that it is the whole counsel of God or nothing at all except a compromised message. Countless interpretations use the contents in various contexts and plenty of communication has left numerous congregations in confusion. In essence, consider the role of the shepherd. Modern day Christians tend to mix and match many of the roles in the Old and New Testaments. We need to end the confusion and work with some sense of clarity on these concepts in order to clearly hear and accept God’s message through His Word with confidence.

I pray that you grasp the fact that we can mistakenly mislead others with our own misinterpretations.

#JeremiahJourney

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Discovering More Clarity with My Calling

In business, you set up and maintain a business identity.

It speaks to who you are and what you do. It becomes your brand. And it is how others come to know your business.

Ministry is similar, but there is a subtle difference between the two.

Firstly, the ministry calling is based on God giving you your marching orders. He usually pricks the heart of the believer for a cause or concern that invokes compassion or conviction, causing the believer to follow the leading of the Lord and His Spirit in that given direction.

Secondly, the ministry calling evolves over time. After one’s initial calling, God reveals more along the way. Greater clarity on the big picture is provided along the way during the journey.

My journey started around 2005 with an idea that would eventually take the form of Life Path Ministries & Services in 2008. It include Bible Stories & Beyond (Bible lessons and activities), All Men Edified Now (A.M.E.N.) (a monthly small group Bible study), and Operation Reach Out (evangelism and outreach). I added a weekly newsletter, self-published books of poetry and ministry guidance, and Bible study activities for A.M.E.N. over the course of several years.

I was content with what I was doing for God. I was confident that I was in the right place and on the right track.

Comfort Zones Cloud Clarity

Comfort zones can become dangerous places for anyone with a calling from God. That’s a particular place where business and ministry are truly similar. The amount of overlap is difficult to determine by degrees, but they at the least run parallel to one another once you get into the danger of comfort zones.

I knew what was doing in both ministry and business. I was struggling with completing my degree between Organizational Leadership at Chapman and Business Administration at Azusa Pacific. I knew how to do the work. I knew that the work was both important and critical. I even knew that the Lord had more in store for both myself and the ministry.

I was in a strange place. I was in an unknown zone. People applauded my work and what I was doing in the name of the Lord, but I felt an uneasy tension or frustration of the unknown lying ahead. I was engaged in what Keith Haney points out as motivating others like Jesus, but I had no name for it.

The evidence of the work was visible with tangible results, but I struggled with pinpointing what exactly it was that I was doing. Let me clarify that to say I struggled with what to call it. I was stumped with how to categorize it. I didn’t know what box to check when describing it.

Was it a ministry like Prison Fellowship, Salvation Army or YMCA? Was it a para-church ministry like Focus on the Family or 700 Club? What was this thing that I was doing?

I could not articulate it with clarity or with confidence if asked.

It took me over 12 years to realize . . .

I am in the inspiration business.

I am a preacher, rooted in a steep biblical basis of study and interpretation. I am a teacher and facilitator, focused on making tangible life connections for those with whom I study and lead. I am an evangelist, fired up with a passion for both those who the Lord calls “the least of these” and “sheep without a shepherd” similar to other street ministry efforts across the country.

I am in the inspiration business.

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Audio clip from Coffee & Chat with Rev Bruce Episode #4

When we talk about community leadership, Christians can tend to shy away or step up. There’s usually no middle of the road when it comes to Christian leaders actively engaging in community leadership. Usually, it is one extreme or the other.

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds – Proverbs 27:23

For those who choose to get involved in community leadership, the challenge can be the lack of focus or attention to the flock. There are plenty of life hacks for getting a work-life balance, but that was not the case for two pastors that I have studied over the years.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King struggled as the pastor of his flock. Not that King was not cut out for the position of a pastor but he also led the SCLC and was on the front lines of boycotts and other strategic activities related to what we have come to know as the Civil Rights Movement. While King was fundraising for SCLC and its efforts throughout the South, what condition did he leave Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery?

The challenge is real when Christian leaders evolve into community leaders, even national leaders. Unless you have a dynamic system in place within your church, you will struggle to lead in both areas. Know the condition of your flock. In a mega church era, do not get to the place as a shepherd where you do not recognize your own sheep or their condition. Make it a point to stay in touch and on top of what is happening with your folks.

Daddy King recognized the pressure and struggle that his son faced. He implored his son to give up Dexter Avenue and return home to Atlanta to continue his work with the SCLC and maintain his ministry ties under Daddy King’s leadership at Ebenezer. Without the shift, we may not have known the iconic orator and leader from the Civil Rights Movement.

Adam Clayton Powell

Famous People: Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Biography by [Letitia]

https://amzn.to/2NTrxT9 https://amzn.to/2VNVsRc

No one epitomizes the consummate community and church leader like Adam Clayton Powell. Pastor of Harlem’s famous Abyssinian Baptist Church, Adam Clayton Powell became a city council member, community leader, and a U.S. Congressman. Powell fought hard against racial segregation and introduced landmark civil rights legislation.

Standing at a slim 6’4”, Powell was an imposing figure in the pulpit as well as the congressional floor. Yet, Powell had an appetite for controversy and was never known to shy away from a challenge. His persona was often the fodder for headlines and scandal pages, leaving the congregation of 14,000 members to wonder where their leader’s focus lied from time to time.

Politics and civic leadership have a place in the Christian realm. We just have to manage the amount of attention other things receive instead of the church. If you do not know the condition of your flock, as the shepherd, check yourself and see what you need to do to get that balance back.

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And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.
– Mark 6:31-32

Sometimes you have to get away.  At times, you would be better off to simply leave your current location and get some time away from everyone and everything else.  You just might need some alone time with God in a different venue.

It doesn’t mean that you cannot come back.  You just need to get away to get better and go forward.

Look at the disciples.  They had just done some miraculous work in the name of the Lord.  Earlier in that chapter, the Twelve were sent out to remove unclean spirits and share the Good News (see verses 7-9).  Upon their return, Jesus listened as they gave firsthand accounts of their work done in His name.  Yet, after hearing this, Jesus instructs them to Go away and get some rest in a “deserted place.”

We need to see how the Lord wants us working but not worn out by the work.  Burning out may be biblical because we can see it at different instances in the Bible but so is blasphemy and idolatry.  Yet, there are things that we should just do to get better such as resting from our labor.

Do you recall the biblical incident when the disciples could not help the desperate father and his demon-possessed son? Jesus shared that this kind required prayer and fasting for it to come out of the person.  We cannot fast on an empty stomach nor could we pray effectively for others with hunger growling in our bellies.  Our human frailty remind us of our own limits.  We need a rest to revive ourselves for further work.  We need to appreciate the time away as more than a vacation.  We need to see it as a means of recharging ourselves.

As we go further in ministry, we will come to recognize the importance of rest in our work.  At some point, we just have to get away.

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The basis of life is people and how they relate to each other.
John C. Maxwell, Be a People Person
Early on, when I started managing, I found myself in a mess. John Maxwell and Peter Drucker became my best friends to rely upon in those early days. Be a People Person certainly got my attention and helped me understand how to effectively work on myself in order to effectively lead and manage teams of people and deliver results. I learned a lot through the book and shared much of what I learned with others who struggled to survive the responsibility of management.
My experience has taught me a few certainties. One certainty that I have learned about management, whether it is for-profit or nonprofit, is that management can be a mess. It can become a mess if you let it. The management mess can be by decision or de facto. However, once it becomes a mess, it takes some serious work to untangle it all.
Typically, the management mess comes down to two major factors: people and paperwork. The people person may not be the most organized person so they lose as much credibility as paperwork. The pencil-pusher and policy-upholder may know the manual upside down and inside out, but they may leave a lot to be desired when it comes to relating to others. You have to know your strengths and work on your weaknesses. If you only work within your strength, you will always have a lop-sided performance. You will do what you love and avoid what you don’t do well. There’s no escaping what it requires to become effective.
Here’s a short list of management titles that I have found useful:
  • Covey, Stephen, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
  • Blanchard, Ken and Spencer Johnson, The One Minute Manager
  • Drucker, Peter, The Effective Executive
  • Briner, Bob, The Management Methods of Jesus
  • Burkett, Larry, Business by the Book

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Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.-1 Corinthians 11:1

Paul outlines the dynamics of discipleship that most church leaders should take today. He doesn’t offer a do-as-I-say-not as-I-do leadership credo. He simply shares truth with a church that had numerous internal struggles a way for getting on the right track and simply following another follower of Christ. Such an approach echoes much of what Jesus shared after offering the parable of the Good Samaritan when He stated: “Go and do likewise.”

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, Go and do likewise.”

Church leaders have to see themselves leading others down the right path of Christian living. Just as Paul shared, an example of faithful Christian living should be provided to the Christian newcomer in the form of a living, breathing believer who can mentor others as the embark on their personal journey with Jesus. Every pastoral leader should have a body of people he has trained and taught for leadership roles that may or may not fit into the church’s organizational chart. If you can’t find anyone you have taught and trained for leadership, then your first move may be to pray to the Lord for insight and ideas on how to identify and start training others for future leadership roles. Here is where vision serves as a key ingredient. You’ll have to see where you want to go and design a pathway for getting there.

Paul demonstrates another key component of discipleship. Discipleship is personal. You have to be willing to allow someone to examine you up close and personal as you seek to disciple them. They’ll hear you more as they come to know and understand you more. They need to know that you are still flesh and blood behind all of that saintly speaking and righteous rhetoric.

Don’t expect to be perfect. Try with all your might, but don’t simply expect it. We are all imperfect people privileged to be working on God’s perfect plan. The journey is worth telling others because they can look forward with hope to the joy that they will experience when their Bible students get a grasp of their weekly small group lesson on righteous redemption or when the man who struggled with his identity in Christ becomes at peace with striving to be more like Him. Discipleship is exactly that; a journey that you have agreed to go on with someone else as you serve as their tour guide. Yep. That’s what it is.

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From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.- John 6:66 (NIV)

37Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.- Acts 15:37-38 (NIV)

 

The Gospel of John gives us a rare account of many of Jesus’ disciples parting ways with the Master.  Imagine that! Some people who had heard His message and had seen His miracles decided that enough was enough, and then walked with the Lord no longer.  Wow! Now consider this.  If people did that to the Lord, the Messiah, the Master, the Christ, what do you think they’ll do when you try to lead them further and farther?

It happens in ministry.  There are other biblical examples, too.  John Mark started out with Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey as told in Acts 12:25, but he was also at the center of a disagreement between both missionaries in Acts 15:36-41 due to his premature departure on the previous journey.  It happens and we seem lost about what to do about it.  We tend to take it personal when someone walks out on us, but it’s not about us.

The message we are called to carry throughout the world isn’t about resistance or revolt.  The message that we are to carry forth is truly about redemption and restoration. John Mark, also called Mark, found forgiveness and favor as evidenced in the Word.  Yes, you have to read the whole story.  It resembles our rebellion and return to God as He offers us reconciliation, redemption and restoration.  Look what it says about Mark by both Paul and Peter:

  • Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:11 (NIV)
  • She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.- 1 Peter 5:13 (NIV)

When others walk out on you, get busy praying on your knees.  Pray that the Lord continues to supply and sustain you and your ministry in their absence.  Pray for God to reveal whether you need to replace the person or not.  Pray that God strengthens the one who walks away so that he or she may become more useful to God in the near future.  Pray that your heart remains open for reconciliation and restoration with that brother or sister.

14“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.– Matthew 6:14-15 (NASB)

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No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.- John 15:15 (NKJV)

The biblical example of keeping people in the loop comes directly from Jesus Christ.  He was deliberate in how He shared with His disciples His departure from earth.  Beyond sharing that his departure was inevitable and nearing, Jesus shared words of comfort with His disciples.  In essence, Jesus offered assurance to His disciples by keeping them in the loop.  He involved His disciples as friends, not simply as servants, because He made His plans known to themAs leaders, we should take something from the Lord’s example.  We need to keep people informed so that they will stay involved.  Informed people are usually involved people.  Do you want to see what happens to stop people from getting involved? The best way to kill involvement is to stop the flow of information.  Get into the practice of informing people in various ways through a wide variety of means.

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Early in my years when I started working at the church, I was exposed to a book that has helped me for years.  Larry Burkett’s Business by the Book filled my head and heart with ideas and insights into running a business as a steward of the kingdom of God.  I have shared the book with many people over the years, even my wife as she launched her own law practice.  If you are a Christian leading   ministry, working for a church or running a businesss of any size, I suggest that you find a copy of this book.  It can serve as a serious guide for your walk as a business professional and leader.  You will not be disappointed.

Other Bible-Based Business Titles include:

Business Proverbs, Steve Marr

The Path,  Laurie Beth Jones

The Management Methods of Jesus, Bob Briner

Using Your Money Wisely, Larry Burkett

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