Why Seeking Jesus Makes You a Better Leader

Years ago, a sweet lady in our church handed me a little slip of paper to encourage me on my journey. I unfolded it and it read:

God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called.

I’m not sure who said it originally, but I’ve heard and repeated it many times since.

And then, as I was re-reading J. Oswald Sanders’ classic work on Spiritual Leadership, I stumbled across this paragraph…

Often truly authoritative leadership falls on someone who years earlier dedicated themselves to practice the discipline of seeking first the kingdom of God. Then, as that person matures, God confers a leadership role, and the Spirit of God goes to work through him. When God’s searching eye finds a person qualified to lead, God anoints that person with the Holy Spirit and calls him or her to a special ministry.

I think the distinction we sometimes miss is that God welcomes everyone into his family, entirely by grace and on the basis of the blood of his Son, Jesus, without respect to any qualification in us. We’re all welcome – every last broken one of us.

But when it comes to leadership, God bestows influence and authority on those who have proven to be faithful stewards of smaller responsibilities.

In other words, leaders must be prepared.

But what does that mean? What kind of preparation is pre-requisite to being used mightily by God?

  • It’s not simply a matter of education – plenty of men and women with no formal education have changed the world.
  • It’s not simply a matter of time – the Apostle Paul preached days after his conversion (though he did then go to Arabia for three years of study under Jesus).
  • It’s not simply a matter of position – leadership is influence, with or without a title.

It’s a matter of having a heart fully surrendered to God.

Notice what Sanders points to as the sign of a person ready for God’s full anointing as a leader – “someone who years earlier dedicated themselves to practice the discipline of seeking first the kingdom of God.”

God raises up and blesses and anoints those for great impact on the world those who have sought the Kingdom of God first and foremost in their lives.

I’ve been guilty, at times, of building my own little kingdom. Without realizing it, a few steps in the wrong direction spiritually places us at the center of our own universe. There, our objective becomes building a life all about our comfort and accomplishments.

But when we realize and acknowledge that King Jesus alone belongs on the throne and as loyal subjects, our prime objective must become the ushering in of the Kingdom of Jesus all around us.

If you want to lead, seek more of Jesus. And seek more for Jesus – more souls in need of him and more glory for him.

Read more from Brandon.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why HOW You Preach Matters as Much as WHAT You Preach

No, this is not a post about the loss of our religious freedom – it’s a reflection on a quote I’ve looked at many times since I first wrote it down about nine years ago at a conference on preaching…

If you think the gathering of biblical facts and standing up with a Bible in your hand will automatically equip you to communicate well, you are desperately mistaken. It will not. You must work at being interesting. Boredom is a gross violation, being dull is a grave offense, and irrelevance is a disgrace to the gospel. Too often these three crimes go unpunished and we preachers are the criminals. ~ Charles Swindoll

In a previous pastorate, I began preaching through the entire Bible. I almost made it through 2 Samuel when we were called away to join the Saddleback Church staff, but we managed to grow both spiritually and numerically through those four years.

One of the biggest fears people had when we began that journey together was, “Aren’t some parts of the Bible boring?”

Yes and no.

Yes, parts of the Bible can be boring if we don’t read with discernment. But when we put ourselves in the shoes of people who lived during the times of which we’re reading about, then transport ourselves to our 2018 culture, God’s truth unveils itself in radically doable ways.

Still, Swindoll is right, we preachers must work at being interesting.

Here are some tips for doing just that…

Laugh A Little

One Pastor I know tells a joke every Sunday from the pulpit. I don’t recommend it for everybody, but there were two conditions present at his church when he arrived there: a prevailing spirit of negativity and discouragement, and his own comedic personality. For his congregation, laughter became therapeutic.

The joke-a-week may not always be the best approach, but do be willing to laugh, especially at yourself. It’s one of the most disarming things you can do. Your vulnerability and authenticity will definitely break down barriers between you and your listeners.

Make Eye Contact

Sounds basic, yet every week Pastors stand before their congregations and read manuscripts or stare over the heads of the crowd. Make eye contact with as many individuals as possible all around the room. You’ll be amazed at the personal connection and unspoken response that takes place.

Do Something Visual

Slides can become an enemy of interesting rather quickly, but if used creatively, provide a visual enhancement, especially with a video illustration. Just remember these tips…

  • Use slides sparingly
  • Feature only the few biggest points
  • No bullets! Just one point on one slide.
  • Keep the graphics consistent, preferably the sermon series graphics.

Going visual doesn’t even require a screen. You can offer a prop or an object lesson as long as it isn’t cheesy, and as long as you’re using them to illustrate truth rather than impress people.

I’ve played Jenga (with the inevitable crash at the end) to illustrate our attempt to build a life on our own efforts. We’ve handed out puzzle pieces during a sermon about finding our right spot to serve in God’s family.

I remember Pastor Jason Pettus eating (and giving everyone in the room) a small pack of m&m’s once as he talked about having both a ministry and a mission. And I heard that message a decade and a half ago, testifying to how “sticky” his point was.

Be Real and Authentic

I try to find ways I might be speaking in a minister’s tone and I weed it out of my public speaking. When chatting with a neighbor, you don’t point like a dog with one leg in the air, rock back and forth on your feet with a ministerial bounce, or take three syllables to mention the name of JEE-UH-ZUSSS!!

How would you share your message with just one person in the back of the room? Do that. Not once have I ever had a casual coffee conversation and said the words, “I submit to you today that… this coffee is pretty strong.”

And being real and authentic goes much deeper, too. Many pastors are afraid of being authentic because they fear that people will walk away or lose respect based on the pastor’s weaknesses, or knowing to many details.

Here are three things to remember about real, authentic preaching…

  1. You don’t have to be transparent with everyone about the details of your life – just a few close friends will do – but you can be authentic with everyone.
  2. The longer you lead without being authentic, the more you’ll begin to wonder who you really are. Inauthenticity always leads to burnout.
  3. Authenticity is a bridge builder. People draw nearer when we’re willing to be vulnerable.

Can being authentic get you in trouble? Yes. It got Jesus in trouble, often. But in the end, it’s always worth it.

Be as Honest as the Bible and as Compassionate as Jesus

Let me be clear – though I believe in being interesting, it’s most important to be biblical and forthright. You’re still fulfilling a prophetic role of forth-telling.

There seems to be a popular notion today among pastors that the more harsh a point is, the more biblical it must be. But we’re challenged to speak the truth in love, with a view toward redemption and restoration, not judgment and alienation. Our speech should be seasoned with grace.

Truth is interesting when it’s presented in raw form and Jesus modeled this principle. And in the end, sinners didn’t run away from him – they ran toward him.

Connect Their World to YourWorld

It’s great to know what David, Moses, and Paul did, but what should you and I do?

It’s important to understand the attributes of God, now how should I live in light of them?

Find the principles worth living in whatever passage you’re preaching from, and present them with urgency, passion, and a call to action.

Use Verbs

James told us to be “doers of the word and not hearers only.” In fact, most of us already know more than we’re doing.

Words are powerful, and they are the tools of our trade. Use powerful words that communicate a challenge to act.

Repent! Believe! Love! Serve! Give! Read! Share! Pray!

The Christian life is made up of verbs, so use them in your message, and as often as possible, use verbs as the very points of your message. Use active language, not passive language.

If you’ve read all of this with your spiritual arms folded in disgust thinking to yourself, “Well, we’re not here to entertain people!” then listen to this point – someone will.

To “entertain” means to hold someone’s attention.

I think it’s sinful to be unfaithful to Scripture in our preaching, but isn’t it also harmful to misrepresent such a dynamic, living and loving God by communicating to people that his book is boring?

Work at being interesting. The destinies of some might just be moved by it!

> Read more from Brandon.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

12 Ways to Connect with Your Community

Okay, content marketing might be a new term for you. Here’s a definition from Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Two Observations About the Church and Content Marketing

Let me make two observations about the relationship between the church and content marketing.

First, I believe that the church was the first great content marketing institution. How do I know? As I pointed out in my book, Rewired, the early church used papyrus for publishing, the Roman roads for traveling, and the Greek language (almost universally used for written communication) to get the Good News about Jesus out to the ends of the earth.

Then, the church used the printing press to distribute Bibles. The Bible was the first book printed, and is the most widely published book in history for a reason.

My second observation isn’t quite so positive… we’ve fallen behind.

Where once the church was innovative in finding new means of spreading the gospel, now we’re skeptical of technology, scared to engage the world around us, and our view of “secular” culture is flawed. Instead of creating culture, we’re hiding from it.

So I believe we ought to get back to our roots and become leaders in the field of content marketing, not to combat everything secular, but rather to influence the secular with sacred truth.

Two Big Truths We Need to Believe In

Let’s acknowledge two other big truths about content marketing and the church.

One, we have the world’s best content.

We’ve been handed the very revelation of God’s mind and heart in the form of the Bible, the written Word. It’s printed and bound in leather, sold in dozens of translations and study editions, and available in digital formats.

LifeChurch.tv has done an amazing, Kingdom-minded thing with the development of YouVersion, which puts the Bible into dozens of languages, socializes it, and spreads it all over the world. They don’t have the only Bible app (which is another positive), but they’ve done probably the most aggressive work in terms of marketing it.

We can do even better getting the word out about the Word. LifeChurch.tv and a handful of online Bible publishers can’t do it alone. We need to tell everybody about the availability of eternal truth.

But it isn’t just the Bible. We’ve preached hundreds of thousands of great sermons, produced amazingly creative videos, written tens of thousands of valuable books, and authored too many devotional works to count.

We have the content with which to fill the world with encouraging, life-saving truth.

Two, our message is worth marketing.

You wanna argue about whether the church should be in the “marketing” business or not? You’ll have to argue with someone else, cause I ain’t got time f’dat!

Every church leader I know is a marketer. And those who are opposed to “using marketing in the church” are usually some of the best at marketing their anti-marketing message.

Maybe we just need better jargon. Know what marketing really is?

Marketing is getting the word out

That’s it. It’s spreading the message. And I’m pretty sure we were commissioned to get the word out (marketing) about the truth and saving grace of Jesus (message).

So, how can the church do better with its content marketing? Here are a dozen from-the-hip ideas…

  • Use social media in supernaturally natural ways (point people to Jesus in natural, relational ways).
  • Remove the imaginary barrier between the sacred and the secular.
  • Don’t be awkwardly religious all the time.
  • Be personal. Share your life in pictures, videos, and status updates. Not everything, but some highlights.
  • Build friendships and relationships.
  • Sprinkle in divine truth.
  • Be funny in appropriate ways. Humor is relatable and Jesus-like.
  • Break your sermons into easily sharable portions – blog posts, tweets, images with quotes, etc.
  • Point back sometimes to ancient things – old hymns, creeds, and quotes from leaders already in heaven.
  • Demonstrate the relevance of Scripture to everyday issues and problems.
  • Get artistic. Use your creative gifts to adorn God’s truth in beautiful ways.
  • Tell stories of life change.

Oh, and get better at this.

Read great books about content marketing.

Attend events that educate about content marketing.

Get training in better communication skills.

Use widely available tools and resources.

Our message never changes. Ever. But our methods of marketing it will change with every generation. And this generation needs Jesus!

So let’s do this!

> Read more from Brandon.


 

To learn more about content marketing for your church, connect with an Auxano Navigator.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Nine Actions that Produce Lasting Growth

Spiritual disciplines… that phrase has such a strange ring to it. We think of “discipline” as correction, or perhaps as greuling hard work that never ends. It doesn’t usually have a positive connotation, unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Having said that, I believe that deep down, we all crave to become people of self-discipline. God put that desire in us to help us become more like Christ, which is his ultimate desire and purpose for everyone who follows his Son, Jesus.

I’ve loved and grown through the writings of Don WhitneyDallas WillardR. Kent HughesRichard Foster, and Chuck Swindoll, all of whom have written excellent books about the subject of spiritual disciplines.

They all have different lists. I’ve looked them over many times, but ultimately arrived at my own combination of spiritual disciplines I consider essential to spiritual growth for the Christian life. It isn’t comprehensive, but it’s fairly complete. I divide my list into three categories…

  1. Spiritual disciplines for my walk with God.
  2. Spiritual disciplines for my walk with other believers.
  3. Spiritual disciplines for my walk in the world.

These three overlapping circles really represent the realm in which believers live in this world while living an other-worldly life. And the nine disciplines, as I see them are…

Spiritual Disciplines for my Walk with God

  • Prayer – In prayer, we talk to God. And in prayer, we follow Jesus’ model which included praise, purpose, provision, pardon, people, protection.
  • Fasting – Fasting actually improves our discipline, and it’s highly appropriate when we’re praying over “drop your fork” sized moments in life.
  • Study – Reading the Bible is a great start, but study involves getting into the Word and getting the Word into your life through meditation and memorization as well.

Spiritual Disciplines for my Walk with Others

  • Worship – And while all of life can be worship, I’m referring more specifically to gathering corporately with God’s people to praise Jesus as a crowd.
  • Fellowship – And inside the crowd, we need a smaller group of people with whom we do life together for mutual encouragement and accountability and where we learn to live in love toward others.
  • Giving – If corporate worship matters greatly to me and the mission of the church is important, tithing and giving generously to support the body must become a discipline.

Spiritual Disciplines for my Walk in the World

  • Moderation – I use the word moderation to refer to a broad sense of self-control for our testimony’s sake. We can’t just eat, spend, drink, or party all we want to. There are limits. There is moderation.
  • Sharing – That is, telling others about Jesus and sharing our faith story. If sharing my faith isn’t a discipline to which I apply some intentional planning, it often won’t happen.
  • Caring – Living on mission and contributing to human flourishing, serving the needs of fellow human beings and becoming unselfish and more like Christ.

Again, my list doesn’t cover everything, but these three categories and these nine practices prepare the way for me to grow in my relationship with God and with others, both inside and outside the body of Christ.

What’s really important is that we understand that the disciplines aren’t intended to earn us any favor from God in and of themselves. Having gone to church and read our Bibles doesn’t make God love us more or like us better. These disciplines simply create the capacity in which God leads and teaches us, day by day, to fulfill his purposes for our lives.

This isn’t a checklist in which can find a path to self-sufficiency. Rather, it’s a guide to the practices that help us root our sufficiency entirely in the person of Jesus Christ.

The spiritual disciplines are relational, not transactional. Imagine if I said to my wife, “Honey, we’re supposed to talk and stuff – it’s on my list. So let’s spend thirty minutes talking so you’ll be happy with me.” I don’t think the conversation would flow well beyond that point. But because I love my wife and want to have an intimate relationship with her, we share times of conversation, and we’re purposeful about it, but those conversations naturally flow out of our mutual desire to know one another better.

Another big truth about the spiritual disciplines is that they definitely cost us energy and time, but the cost of not being disciplined is always greater than the momentary sacrifice of disciplining ourselves.

When I am disciplined in my eating, I give up some of the pleasure of tasting all the sugar and fat I want. But when I am not disciplined in my eating, I wind up with major health issues and hospital bills.

In the same vein, when I’m disciplined in my spiritual walk, I give up some time to read my Bible, my Sunday mornings to gather with my church family, some of my income as I pay my tithe and give my offerings. But when I’m not disciplined in my spiritual walk, I drift from God and experience the painfulness of that distance.

The disciplines are worth the cost of practicing them, both now and in eternity.

> Read more from Brandon


 

Download PDF

Tags: ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Discipleship >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Three Lessons for Broken Leaders

I am broken. I lead a community of broken people called a church. And we often say, unapologetically, that we are a community of the broken who have good news for the broken.

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t mean that we’re “broken” in the sense that we’re rendered useless by our imperfections. The opposite is actually true. We’re made more useful, and we discover our greatest purpose through our pain and suffering.

A. W. Tozer is often credited with a quote I’ve shared a few times myself,

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.

And without fail, every time I share it, I get pushback and it usually revolves around the idea that God would never hurt us, right? Isn’t his plan for our lives more along the lines of health, wealth, and prosperity?

But consider the context in which Tozer wrote his statement…

We tend to think of Christianity as a painless system by which we can escape the penalty of past sins and attain to heaven at last. The flaming desire to be rid of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes, maybe we shall. But for the most of us it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were present when the battle was joined.

The devil, things and people being what they are, it is necessary for God to use the hammer, the file and the furnace in His holy work of preparing a saint for true sainthood. It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.

~ A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous (p. 165).

So it isn’t that God causes evil to come into our lives for no purpose. Rather, it is that he uses the suffering we endure for our good, to prepare and shape our character so that we’re up to the task of leadership.

I happen to be a pastor who struggles with depression. And I’m not alone.

I’ve spent nearly a decade networking with pastors and church leaders all over the world and I never cease to be surprised at the number who, in private conversation, will divulge their own battles with depression and loneliness.

We’re supposed to be strong, right? We have to be the bold leader, the model of victory and spiritual triumph!!

But I’ve learned, after two decades in pastoral ministry, that the best leaders are the broken leaders.

They’ve been hurt and will be hurt more, and they experience God’s healing.

They suffer weakness, and they experience God’s strength.

We often have a certain picture of what depression looks like, but many who struggle do so in between all of the working and parenting and the rest of the busyness of life. Charles Spurgeon struggled with periodic depression while growing one of the greatest churches in Europe.

He led a school for aspiring ministry leaders and compiled the manuscripts of talks he had given to those students called Lectures to My Students, which includes a chapter entitled “The Minister’s Fainting Fits.”

He opens the chapter acknowledging that “Fits of depression overcome the most of us.” So again, you’re never alone in your brokenness – it’s more common than you will ever realize.

He continues…

Even under the economy of redemption it is most clear that we are to endure infirmities, otherwise there were no need of the promised Spirit to help us in them. It is of need be that we are sometimes in heaviness…

We have the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels, and if there be a flaw in the vessel here and there, let none wonder. Our work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression…

All mental work tends to weary and to depress, for much study is a weariness of the flesh; but ours is more than mental work–it is heart work, the labor of our inmost soul.

And in our common naivety, we often assume that depression is merely the result of sin, or of satanic attack. But Spurgeon points out something very important…

When at last a long-cherished desire is fulfilled, when God has been glorified greatly by our means, and a great triumph achieved, then we are apt to faint. It might be imagined that amid special favors our soul would soar to heights of ecstasy, and rejoice with joy unspeakable, but it is generally the reverse. The; Lord seldom exposes his warriors to the perils of exultation over victory; he knows that few of them can endure such a test, and therefore dashes their cup with bitterness.

In other words, depression often catches us off guard because it follows victory as much as it follows defeat.

That tendency to withdraw, to isolate, to allow the negative thoughts to override truth, can be the result of quite natural causes such as a backlash to the adrenaline rush of passionately preaching to a welcoming crowd or a natural imbalance in the chemicals in our brains.

When I hear a fellow Christian speak about depression as an issue of spiritual warfare that merely requires more faith and prayer, I always say Yes!!! AND… you should also talk to your doctor about possible physical causes and a counselor about the role of past traumatic experiences. Let’s approach the issue holistically.

In other words, sometimes depression can be the result of unconfessed sin. It can also be the result of our circumstances. It may sometimes be satanic oppression. It can simply be the natural low we experience after the emotional high of a victorious moment. And it can also be a physical issue on the same level as diabetes or chronic anemia.

Regardless of the cause, here are three huge lessons I’ve had to learn over the last few years.

Lesson #1: Denying our brokenness doesn’t work for long.

I spent at least a dozen years trying to be the best pastor I could be. I wanted to fit the role, lead well, and if I’m being honest, impress the church and keep everybody happy.

So I wore my suit and my smile and tried to do all the pastor things people expect the pastor to do.

And when criticism came or when conflict arose, I bottled it away so that I could later use it as an excuse to check out mentally and emotionally from real engagement with people.

When Angie and I moved to southern California where I joined the staff as a pastor at Saddleback Church, I was badly broken and I didn’t even know it.

Within the first couple of months of life in our new surroundings, various pressures brought my pain to the surface. Our marriage struggled under the weight of it until a couple of breaking points occurred.

We joined a small group that embraced us, helped us to finally open up about our issues, and encouraged us in our walk.

I also saw our staff counselor, who would provide counseling to any staff member in absolute confidence. Pastor Rick Warren encourages his staff members to seek out counseling without fear or shame, and for the first time, I told a fellow pastor about all of my deepest issues.

I’m convinced God moved us to southern California not simply to help Saddleback minister to leaders in the global church, but also because he wanted us to plant a church but knew I wasn’t ready on a spiritual and emotional level.

When we started Grace Hills Church, we weren’t perfect or completely healed from all of our hurts, but we were absolutely committed to not faking it anymore.

We would start a church as broken leaders, for broken people. It would be a safe place for people to come with their brokenness and find healing and restoration in the good news of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection!

Denying your brokenness can help you succeed… for a season. But if you want to thrive and become all that God has purposed for you to become, you’ll have to be broken.

Lesson #2: There is healing in the cross of Christ.

Is it possible for God to instantly and miraculously take away all of your brokenness?

Sure. Anything is possible with God. But it isn’t normative. And if you require complete and miraculous healing from God in order to be satisfied with him, you’ll miss out on the joy of coming to know his long, slow process of developing you into Christlike maturity.

Remember that Paul received something greater than a miraculous deliverance from his thorn in the flesh. He was privileged to learn through suffering that God’s grace is enough.

God works patiently with us, like a master artisan, re-shaping us into the masterpiece he knows we can be so that we can show to others the beauty of what his grace can accomplish.

Lesson #3: I lead best when I own my brokenness.

The world’s greatest influencers aren’t merely rich and famous. Those who have the most impact on any generation are leaders acquainted with suffering, who own their brokenness.

Spurgeon continued writing about how God uses our dark nights of the soul to develop us into the effective leaders he desires for us to be…

The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. Immersion in suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while his servant keepeth the sheep and waits in solitary awe. The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory. The raven is sent forth before the dove. The darkest hour of the night precedes the day-dawn…

Such mature men as some elderly preachers are, could scarcely have been produced if they had not been emptied from vessel to vessel, and made to see their own emptiness and the vanity of all things round about them.

I have a long way to go and a lot to learn. I’m in process, but I’m making progress by the grace of God as I come to understand that it isn’t my strength that brings success or influence. It is actually God’s strength, made perfect in my weaknesses that can profoundly affect the world around me.

To any leader reading this, my greatest encouragement would be to embrace your pain. Own your brokenness. And reach out – to your spouse, a mentor, a counselor, or a close friend.

Victory comes after our momentary defeats, and though grief lasts through the night, joy comes in the morning!

Read more from Brandon.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Six Responses to Mission Resistance

Every great movement of God invites a challenge from sinful people. I wrote about this recently in a post entitled How to Stop a Church from Growing, and Pastor Titus S. Olorunnisola, who is planting Bethel Gospel Centre near Melbourne, Australia, asked the magic question in the comments – how, then, do we handle the legalists?

In the case of the early Jerusalem church, the problem was complex. Non-Jewish people all over the region were coming to know Christ, but some very legalistic Jews known as the Judaizers were demanding that all of these new believers go through the rite of circumcision and keep the ceremonial law in order to be both Jewish and Christian.

Paul, Peter, James, and others were of the viewpoint that salvation for these newcomers was by grace alone through faith alone, but the vocal minority raised enough of an issue that the elders had to gather for a closed discussion. They finally emerged from this first church council with some wisdom for churches everywhere.

Their decision was rendered as follows:

“And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.” Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. (Acts 15:19-22 NLT)

As I walk through this passage, I think there is some key wisdom to be applied all these centuries later in a more modern context.

We are charged to defend not only the faith of the gospel, but also its fruit. That is, we must uphold the content of the gospel as well as protect its ability to reach new people. To claim to hold to an orthodox view of Scripture while allowing non-scriptural viewpoints to be interposed in our doctrine, resulting in the alienation of those who need Jesus most, isn’t faithfulness to the gospel.

Let me put it more practically. Our role as pastors is to protect the flock from wolves and from false teachers. But it’s also to remind our flock that there are sheep who haven’t joined the fold yet and we must do everything in our power to take the gospel to every last one of them.

There are battles that aren’t worth fighting. When it comes to our preferences over style and approach, we are called to make allowance for differences of opinion.

And then there are battles that absolutely are worth fighting. In fact, there are battles worth risking everything over. The vision, the mission, and the purposes of God for his people are worth being stubborn about. The cause of evangelism and the pathway to discipleship are well worth working for and defending from error.

But how? How do we handle the Judaizers and joysuckers and complainers who would rather keep their preferred religious systems to the detriment of evangelism? I think we handle people the way the early apostles did.

  1. Get godly counsel. The elders consult with one another. James probably could have handled it himself, but he chose to invite input from other godly leaders.
  2. Be bold in your calling. The elders stand with confidence, believing God had called them to lead through this particular moment with clarity and conviction.
  3. Stand with and for the lost. They made it clear that we should not make it any more difficult than it already naturally was for non-Jewish people to come to know Jesus.
  4. Show them what grace is like. Nobody got kicked out. Everyone was still welcome and the apostles set an example of grace for everyone to observe.
  5. Fight against anything that competes with discipleship. They kept the pathway clear and asked people to make voluntary sacrifices for the benefit of others.
  6. Point to Jesus. The pointed people back to the gospel – the good news that Jesus Christ alone saves by grace alone through faith alone.

So, when confronting legalists and traditionalists who would ultimately stand in the way of lost people coming into God’s family to protect their own preferences, always choose to stand on the side of the Great Commission and Great Commandment.

I often pray for God to give me the boldness of a lion. Granted, sometimes I choose to have the boldness of an angry chinchilla, but I’m a work in progress. I’m still learning to love everyone – even the legalists and traditionalists – while being mean about the vision.


Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about dealing with resistance to your vision and mission.


> Read more from Brandon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Write a Better Blog with These 21 Checkpoints

Are there elements that should pretty much always be included in every blog post? Yep. But it’s rare to find them all together in one, awesome post.

You don’t have to do all of these things every single time, but my own mental checklist that I run through as I’m writing, and before I hit “Publish” looks like this:

  1. Write a compelling title. Run it through CoSchedule’s headline analyzer?
  2. Use the first paragraph to motivate the reader to keep reading.
  3. Research some keywords to find out if anyone is actually searching for what I’m writing about.
  4. Include those keywords an appropriate number of times, especially in titles and headings.
  5. Include some bullet points.
  6. Include at least one image that looks good. Find them at Pexels.
  7. Assign a featured image and make sure it pops up in social posts. Debug if necessary.
  8. Include an average of two internal links to other posts within your blog.
  9. Include an average of two links to other relevant resources.
  10. Among those links, make one or two affiliate links.
  11. Pick an appropriate category or two.
  12. Add some relevant tags for cross-referencing purposes later on.
  13. Check the spelling.
  14. Evaluate the emotional impact of the post.
  15. Answer a question or solve a problem with the post.
  16. Be personal – use conversational language.
  17. Call the reader to act on what they’re reading in some small way.
  18. Post it to social media profiles, pages, groups, etc.
  19. Invite readers to connect and subscribe (not always within the post, but in the site design).
  20. Email your mailing list inviting them to check it out.
  21. Go back and re-evaluate the title one more time. After writing, is it still the best it can be?

As I said, this isn’t exhaustive. It’s just the list I run through as I write a post.

Read more from Brandon.


Talk with an Auxano Navigator about how your personal blogging can increase your church’s ministry influence.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Make Your Sunday Bulletin Simple AND Effective

How many announcements should you include in your church bulletin?

Pretty much… none.

My philosophy about church bulletins (i.e. worship folders, programs, brochures, handouts, etc.) has changed a lot over the years. A decade and a half ago, I wanted it to be as large and stuffed with information as possible. It was my way of thinking bigger than our church was at the time.

Now, I want our weekly bulletin to be as small as possible, with as few announcements as possible. In fact, here’s a photo of our current bulletin.

Bulletin161009

 

That’s it. NO actual “announcements” are included. At least, not the kind you’d normally think of. We print this on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of card stock, both sides, cut them in half, and hand them out. It’s a single half-sheet, sturdy enough to take notes on. And, we print one bulletin per sermon series and only change it during the series if something drastically changes and needs to be communicated.

Why is it so slim on information?

It’s all about who it’s for!

We print a Sunday bulletin with one person in mind – the guest. We want our guests to know that they belong, that we have next steps for them, that we don’t want their money and that we want them to know what to expect.

The weekend bulletin is really just an excuse to greet people with something printed. It offers the basic next steps, how to find out more, and how to stay in the loop.

We’re also very aware that every announcement is a “signal” that gets sent to the minds of those who are reading or listening. Our minds only have room for so many signals. So if you want people to remember two or three things, in particular, don’t tell them to remember five or eight or thirty things.

In fact, if you’ll notice, every piece of information in the bulletin actually has a short hyperlink that leads to an information page online that is mobile-friendly. Sometimes, that short link forwards to a Facebook Event so people can RSVP and share. Sometimes, it leads to a page of our website dedicated to a certain ministry. But our goal is to get people to engage with us online, beyond Sunday, so that we can communicate throughout the week with everyone.

So where do we announce stuff?

Here’s how we see it.

There are announcements that everyone needs to hear, and those are included in the bulletin, which everyone gets. Then, there are announcements only pertinent to regular attenders, which we communicate through various other means, including:

  • Our email list.
  • Our open Facebook group (not our main Facebook page).
  • Our mobile app (including one push notification per week).
  • Our website, especially the events page and the blog.
  • Some slides that cycle as people are coming in.
  • Our various Facebook “sub”-pages (men, women, students, kids, etc.).
  • Word-of-mouth, especially through small groups.

Does it work?

Not perfectly. Sometimes, someone is unaware of something happening. But we rarely hear about it. We’ve spent a long time creating a culture where people don’t expect to be spoon-fed and taken by the hand and personally led through every event.

We’re always learning and tweaking. I may have to scrap this blog post a few months from now when we flip our strategy on its head. But for now, we’re confident that growth is happening because we’re able to communicate the big signals to the many and the smaller signals to the few.


Learn more about effective communication with your Sunday bulletin by connecting with an Auxano Navigator.


> Read more from Brandon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

VRcurator — 12/13/17 6:23 am

Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!

Steve Elliott — 12/11/17 10:44 pm

The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

8 Truths from Timothy Around Leadership

If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, you can’t help but be drawn to the first and second letters of the Apostle Paul to his young apprentice, Timothy.

Every time I read through them, my heart burns within me and I’m taken back to those moments when I first began to serve and fulfill the calling God placed on my life to full-time ministry.

As I write this, I’m preparing to preach the “charge” in the ordination of an amazing young man who was once in the youth group of the church I led as Pastor, and now he’s being commissioned as the Youth Pastor in that same congregation.

There’s so much I want to tell him… things I learned early on, things I learned the hard way over the last twenty-one years of pastoral ministry, and things I’ve had to unlearn and relearn, framed with a better understanding of both truth and grace.

As I read again Paul’s letters to Timothy in preparation, I had to make difficult choices from among all of the words written to this young pastor in the ancient world. I finally narrowed it down to eight vital, unforgettable truths contained in a single passage in 2 Timothy 1:5-14…

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.

If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, never forget these eight vital words of instruction…

1. Lean into your calling and gifts.

Paul told Timothy to “fan into flames the spiritual gift” given to him from God (v. 6). This stirring, this fanning, is an intentional and active process. It isn’t passive. It’s a matter of self-encouragement, like King David in the cave country when all were ready to forsake him.

Leaning into your calling and gifts means you must develop yourself, practicing and exercising and learning daily. It means choosing to re-focus on the sovereignty of the One who called you and the One whose gifts you must steward well.

2. Choose to keep growing bolder.

There will be many moments when you find yourself in the tug-of-war between boldness and timidity. Always err on the side of boldness, especially when it comes to representing God’s truth and grace.

3. Be ready to suffer.

If you’re going to become the man or woman God wants you to be, you will have to walk through a fire. You’ll have to be broken.

Education is great. Experience is helpful, too. But when it comes to growing mature leaders, suffering is the pathway God has chosen to grow and mature us.

Samuel Chand says,

Making friends with your pain is part of leadership. Our pains tell us we’re moving in the right direction. New pains will always be a part of your life as you continue climbing the ladder to your destiny.

Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth

4. Live under grace.

Performance-based perfectionism is the typical pathway of a leader, but it’s an absolutely exhausting way to live. Paul says that God’s plan has always been to show grace to undeserving sinners through the cross on which Jesus died.

The problem is we are often saved by grace to a life of striving to keep God and others happy with our performance. But if it’s grace that saves us, then it’s grace that will sustain us.

5. Keep it about the gospel.

Occasionally someone will ask me when we’re going to get beyond the basics at Grace Hills and go deeper than “just the gospel all the time.” But it doesn’t actually get any deeper than the gospel. It’s the beginning and end of our cause for existence.

When you look back to the good news about the redemptive and victorious story of King Jesus, dying, rising, and reigning for eternity, you get all that you really need for life and leadership.

6. Commit it all to Jesus.

It’s a rather familiar verse in which Paul says, “I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.”

I remember hearing Dr. Laverne Butler speak on that verse and outlining it in this way…

  1. We know whom to confess – Jesus.
  2. We know what to commit – everything.
  3. We know when to collect – at his return.

7. Trust the Word.

When I was wrestling with the call to ministry, my father-in-law and pastor, Danny Kirk, gave me a book to read, and it would shape the course of my ministry to come. It was the autobiography of Dr. W. A. Criswell called Standing on the Promises.

That book, about a man who devoted his entire life to defending the truthfulness of Scripture, would help to set my own theological foundation going forward. The Bible is God’s book. It’s perfect, infallible, and entirely trustworthy.

That doesn’t mean I have all of the answers to every tough question about it. It simply means that when I don’t fully understand, I trust, and I believe that in the reading and preaching of God’s Word, there is a supernatural, life-changing power.

8. Walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ministry is exhausting. Preaching the Word is a delicate and tedious task, when approached correctly. And Paul often talked about bearing the heavy burden of the care of the church.

Without the power of the Holy Spirit, you’re already headed for burnout and exhaustion. But with his power comes the energy to keep going, to keep preaching, to keep serving, to keep building and organizing the church and raising up leaders.

The pathway to the power of the Spirit isn’t trying harder. It’s trusting more. It’s yielding. It’s surrender and submission.

This is ministry 101. Lean into your calling. Keep growing bolder. Be ready to suffer. Live under grace. Keep it about the gospel and commit it all to Jesus. Trust the Word and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How 30 Seconds Can Change the World

There are often crucial moments when we have an opportunity to be vision-casters with people, one-on-one. It may be a car ride making a visit, coffee with a fellow member, or a staff meeting with five extra minutes at the end. It begs the question, could I state my vision for my church if I only had a few floors to travel in an elevator with someone?

You see, vision is great, but it needs to be transferrable. Members of a church should be able to share their church’s vision with their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors, but they can only share a vision that has been concisely articulated from their leadership. And a vision isn’t “reaching people” or “glorifying God.” Those are eternal purposes, universal to every church. A vision (in an elevator speech format) would be more like…

We’re going to be a church that wraps our arms around the broken with an abundance of both truth and grace. We’ll have a multiplying network of small groups where people can really bear each other’s burdens. And we’ll gather in the middle of the marketplace for passionate worship and relevant teaching each week. The community will be better because we’re here – marriages will be fixed, education will improve, and people with all kinds of hurts, habits, and hang-ups will find healing and recovery in a new life with Jesus.

That’s my elevator pitch. What’s yours?

Read more from Brandon.


Learn more about Auxano’s Vision Clarity Process.

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Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.