Becoming “Gospel-Men”

A refreshing challenge for men from Tullian Tchividjian:

The best way to tell how well the Gospel is gaining traction in a local church is the kind of men it produces. So here are some questions I asked myself this morning before God and I’m asking you to do the same:

Do you rejoice in position, power, accomplishments, entitlement, control, degrees, knowledge, status, authority, numbers, and rank? Or do you rejoice in service, mercy, sacrifice, pastoral care, love, prayer, prudence, grace, relationships, and repentance? Are you proud or humble? Do you put others before yourself? Do you find your daily security and significance in your own accomplishments or in Christ’s accomplishment for you? Do you seek first place or last place? Do you boast on yourself or on Christ? Do you talk about yourself a lot? Are you prone to envy and do you get defensive easily? Do you weep with those who weep? Do you love people and look for opportunities to serve and shepherd them? Do you revel in self-confidence or self-sacrifice? Do you have people in your life that you confess specific instances of sin? Do the people in your life find it easy to correct you?

I know these are tough questions to ask yourself but honest answers to these questions will tell you how well you grasp the Gospel and how qualified you are to lead this church. The Bible demands that we be Gospel-men. And since his security and significance is in Christ, a real Gospel-man is not afraid of questions like this.

Furthermore, we all have blind spots. So I charge you to ask your wives and children to answer these questions about you. If that charge makes you feel uncomfortable than it’s a sure sign that you need to grow in your grasp of the gospel–like I do!

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Leading vs. Serving

Steve Williamson has written a provocative article for the Worldview Church Website titled “Is Leadership A Healthy Christian Aim?” Readers of this blog will recognize that the article is a combination and further expansion on similar thoughts Steve has posted on this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

  • ‘Lead’ connotes a superior position rather than a servant posture
  • ‘Lead’ connotes ‘conquest’ rather than ‘submission’
  • ‘Lead’ connotes success as ‘number of followers’ or ‘size of influence’ rather than success as ‘faithfulness’
  • ‘Lead’ focuses on ‘what you have’ (to offer) rather than on ‘Who’ or ‘what’ has you
  • ‘Lead’ connotes ‘be’ or ‘do’ some great thing rather than ‘belong to’ or ‘participate’ in God’s great thing
  • ‘Lead’ lends itself more to an “it’s about me” paradigm than “it’s about you” thinking

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Christian Leaders Or Christ’s Servants?

In a previous post I put forth the question, Is Leadership A Healthy Christian Aim? I argued that “serve” not “lead” is the overwhelming Biblical ideal for the believer.  Yet “serve” is trampled in the Christian marketplace by the ever-pervasive call and challenge to become, to shape, or to produce “leaders.”Well, Steven,” one might contend, “of course we mean, ‘servant leaders.”

Then why not just call them servants?

Words are important.  With them, we codify thought, shape perception, and engender action.  Professor Richard F. Taflinger explains:

Each word has two definitions, the denotative and the connotative. The denotative meaning is basically the dictionary meaning, the one that almost anyone can understand who speaks or desires to speak the language.  However, of greater importance, particularly in advertising, is the connotative definition, the definition each individual conjures up in their mind in response to hearing or reading the word . . . Why is this difference between the denotative and connotative definitions of words of such importance? It is because the greatest impact of words comes from using the connotative meanings to affect the audience’s emotional response.

When the call to lead or to produce leaders is heralded, are we conscious of the connotative definition in the minds of our hearers . . . even when we nuance “leader” with “servant” as in “servant-leadership?”  Are we OK with the following connotations?

  • ‘Lead’ connotes a superior position rather than a servant posture
  • ‘Lead’ connotes ‘conquest’ rather than ‘submission’
  • ‘Lead’ connotes success as ‘number of followers’ or ‘size of influence’ rather than success as ‘faithfulness’
  • ‘Lead’ focuses on ‘what you have’ (to offer) rather than on ‘Who’ or ‘what’ has you
  • ‘Lead’ connotes ‘be’ or ‘do’ some great thing rather than ‘belong to’ or ‘participate’ in God’s great thing
  • ‘Lead’ lends itself more to an “it’s about me” paradigm than  “it’s about you” thinking

What are we teaching our people, especially the young, when we call them to be leaders?

Tim Keller writes in Counterfeit Gods:

Modern society . . . puts great pressure on individuals to prove their worth through personal achievement.  It is not enough to be a good citizen or family member.  You must win, be on top, to show you are the best . . . David Brooks’ book On Paradise Drive describes what he calls ‘the professionalization of childhood.’  From the earliest of years, an alliance of parents and schools creates a pressure cooker of competition, designed to produce students who excel in everything . . . the family has become the nursery where the craving for success is first cultivated. (p. 79)

Are we unintentionally but no less responsibly contributing to the idol of success?  Why not just call ourselves servants? The apostles seemed quite content with that:

  • Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (Ro. 1.1)
  • For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Cor. 4.5)
  • Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1.1)
  • Just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant (Col. 1.7)
  • If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 4:6)
  • Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant (Heb. 3.5)
  • James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (Jas. 1.1)

Oh God.  Captivate us with You that we may be small and rejoice that we know you and are honored just to be in the service of the King.

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When Church Growth Is Dangerous

Church growth that is not inspired by Christ’s power to transform lives is dangerous. Ultimately, I believe, it will prove to be as displeasing to the Head of the church as numerical stagnation.  The congregation that is secularized and adds secularized members to its rolls is simply confirming itself in its indifference to the will of the Lord.

To find warnings about this acute danger, perhaps we need to look to writers like Richard Lovelace more than to church growth thinkers.  Lovelace says the following:

. . . Pastors gradually settle down and lose interest in being change agents in the church. An unconscious conspiracy arises between their flesh and that of their congregations.  It becomes tacitly understood that the laity will give pastors special honor in the exercise of their gifts, if the pastors will agree to leave their congregations’ pre-Christian lifestyles undisturbed and do not call for the mobilization of lay gifts for the work of the kingdom.  Pastors are permitted to become ministerial superstars. Their pride is fed and their congregations are permitted to remain herds of sheep in which each has cheerfully turned to his own way (Dynamics of Spiritual Life, 207).

The point is that both church members and church leaders gradually lose zeal for becoming “change agents” because of corporate evils in the local church and because of personal evils in themselves.

~ Jack Miller in Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, page 18-19.

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