Discipleship Is an Investment—It's Not a Program

©Lightstock.com

©Lightstock.com

Making disciples is embedded in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19). It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command from Jesus.

But how does someone make disciples? The simple, perhaps the obvious answer, is to follow the example of Jesus. But what was the model He left for us to follow?

Plenty of books can be found on the subject. The time-tested classic is The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman but there are other solid options available today. Various curriculums for establishing a program for discipleship are also plentiful.

But Jesus’ approach was very simple and He didn’t give His first followers a guidebook for making disciples His way. The approach of Jesus was intentional and very personal, and He expected His disciples to make other disciples—I will make you fishers of men (Matt 4:19).

Jesus poured His life into the lives of His followers for about three years and this is what we see replicated in the Book of Acts through the first apostles. The apostle Paul extended this model as expressed in his exhortation to Timothy—

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim 2:1-2)

Jesus knew if He discipled people to be disciplemakers, leaders would emerge through the process of discipleship. This was His plan through the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-15; Acts 1:2).

Jesus was intentional and very personal and expected His disciples to make other disciples

Podcasts on discipleship and developing leaders

Pastor Bill Holdridge has recorded several podcasts related to discipleship and developing leaders. The most recent one was with a brother who discipled and mentored Bill—Pastor Cliff Stabler. It’s excellent and is a great example of the model Jesus left us, as Bill’s testimony makes clear.

The next one I’d recommend is a podcast with Pastor Paul Berry on raising up biblical elders. Again, it is excellent and something I would have benefited from when I started in my first pastorate.

The next two podcasts are with me (Trip) and complement the other two podcasts. The last two podcasts—but definitely not the least—are with Pastor Bob Claycamp on identifying future leaders and complement the podcast with Ptr Paul Berry.

We hope these are an encouragement and practical help for you. Give them a listen and let us know how they bless you! (See the links below!)


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What We Can Do to Reconnect Young People to Church

Photo by  Devin Avery  on  Unsplash

Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

Many Christian leaders are concerned about younger generations and their faith or lack thereof and for good reason. A bunch of research backs up this concern. Here are just a few reports—

Are we losing younger generations from church and the Christian faith? Yes, and we need to learn new ways to reconnect with young people.

The Calvary Chapel movement of churches was part of the Jesus People Movement of ‘60s and ‘70s. A major part of that movement were young people who were disenchanted with church, politics, and religion.

Just as then, the established church didn’t know how to reach many of us who were spiritual wanderers in those days. But God did and used many people from established churches who were willing to reach them in new ways.

In the two podcasts linked below, Pastor Bill interviews Pastor Bryan Newberry on what we as pastors can do to reach and reconnect with young people.

I’ve seen Pastor Bryan in action and have seen the fruit of his ministry, so check out these podcasts for his insights.

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Excellence in Ministry Begins with Us

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I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts on my drives to and from ministry assignments with Poimen Ministries. I’m sure I’m a bit biased but the content of our podcasts is excellent.

What is shared in these interviews are topics and insights I wish I’d had the benefit of hearing when starting out in ministry, especially the pastorate.

I mentioned a while back—too long ago I’m embarrassed to say—I’d be writing some blog posts featuring the topics covered in our podcasts. If you didn’t see that post, here’s a link to it— A Pastor Is More Than a Teacher

I may jump around a bit on the topics but wanted to start off with our first 3 podcasts on Excellence in Ministry with Pastor Al James.

3 Interviews with Pastor Al James

Pastor Al is more than a friend and team member of Poimen to me—he’s been a coach and mentor, especially in the area of pastoral transition. I reached out and relied on his counsel many times as I led my first official pastoral transition with Poimen.

I encourage you to listen to these podcasts in their sequence but whatever the order, I encourage you to listen and take in the excellent encouragements and insights Al shares with Pastor Bill in these podcasts.

I’ll include the titles and links below.

Happy listening and be blessed!


A Pastor is More than a Teacher

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

There’s more to being a pastor than teaching. Every pastor knows this. As pastors, we may know this at one level but what we know and how we handle our responsibilities are two different things.

And for good reason.

A senior/lead pastor needs to be somewhat like a Swiss Army knife.

You know those knives with all those extra gadget extensions like screw drivers, can openers, toothpicks, tweezers, and more with those bigger versions? Oh yeah, and a few different knife blades.

I remember seeing a magazine ad of someone who built a house with nothing but a Swiss Army knife. I remember thinking—why would you want to do that?

Sometimes, like on a Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, I can remember wondering something similar…Why do I do this? Am I really cut out for this? Am I really making a difference in people’s lives?

The average churchgoer doesn’t have a clear sense of all that a pastor does. Even those who are regular attendees and involved in some area of serving don’t really know or understand a pastor’s responsibilities.

I also know church staff members, including assistant pastors, don’t realize the pastor’s continuing responsibilities and workload, especially in smaller churches.

The work of a pastor

As I’ve shared with many church leaders and staff over the years, no one knows the weight of responsibility a senior/lead pastor bears on their shoulders than another senior/lead pastor.

It’s like parenthood. You can have many years of experience and a PhD in children’s education and development but it will never be the same as the reality of being a parent.

When our family was younger and I was pastoring the church we planted in Southern California, Susan and I were foster parents. It was a great experience for us and our family. Yeah, it was tough at times to keep all the plates spinning but it was good.

It was also a valuable time of preparation for what the Lord led us to do in the Philippines for almost 25 years.

Foster parenting was also a lot like pastoring.

Since I did both I could see some parallels. The biggest takeaway was the sense of responsibility we carried with the limited to nonexistent authority.

People only respect authority to a point and that point is different with everyone. Plus, certain limitations are imposed by law—civil and moral, as they should be.

So, why do I say there’s more to pastoring than teaching? Because it is easy to retreat to the study desk to work on messages when faced with the continuous demand of pastoral care and leadership.

For one thing, studying and preparing for messages seems a lot more spiritual and worth our time investment than dealing with all the responsibilities of a pastor, especially the mundane things.

Responsibilities like resolving conflicts, cleaning the sanctuary and setting up chairs, or listening to people tell you what they think you should do, teach on, care about, or how you should let them be in charge of some ministry.

Yeah, I’d rather study God’s Word, thank you!

Options

When I first sat down to write this, I had several things in mind about pastoral leadership beyond teaching ministry and the preparation needed for it. Things like administration, counseling, discipleship, equipping leaders, facilities, pastoral care, and so much more.

But that would be one long blogpost! So, I came up with another option.

Our vision statement at Poimen Ministries is—Strengthening pastors, to strengthen churches. Our goal is to strengthen pastors in ways we were strengthened by other pastors or in ways we wished we could have been strengthened to do the work God gave us.

Of course, we relied on God’s grace and guidance while pastoring but there were many things we learned the hard way. We want to shorten the learning curve of seeing new or different ways to lead God’s people.

We want to be a set of fresh eyes for fellow pastors. We believe we have an obligation to share what’s been poured into us by the Lord and other experienced pastors.

Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to come alongside a couple of pastors in tangible ways. This required me to do some commuting on weekends, which gave me the opportunity to listen to podcasts.

I mentioned this on my personal blog but this past couple of weekends I’ve listened to some of the great podcast content our director Pastor Bill Holdridge has recorded through interviews of other pastors.

In the next few blogposts, I’ll be highlighting some of the specific content of these podcasts and adding some further encouragements.

Until then…

How can we help you?

What are areas of pastoral ministry and leadership you’d like to know more about? Are there specific resources that would be helpful to you as a pastor?

We’d like to know! We want to strengthen pastors—that’s our calling.

So, let us know how we might be able to encourage or help you! Drop us an email or call us, or fill out our contact form online.

 

Resources

Click on the link– How we serve to see what we currently offer through our team of pastors

And check out our growing list of fresh podcasts hosted by Pastor Bill Holdridge– Strength for Today’s Pastor

3 Approaches to Cultural Shifts

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Culture’s fixed point—human nature

Culture is dynamic. Fluid. Fickle. Culture changes over time. Sometimes with extreme pendular swings. Popular culture is reflective of shared beliefs, values, and social norms.

Each swing of culture has its own trends like currents within an ocean or sea. These trends are movements within the larger cultural context.

People tend to respond in one of three general ways to pendular swings in culture — to reject, embrace, or engage each swing. Only one of these approaches is effective in bringing helpful change or productive dialogue.

These pendular swings have one fixed point — human nature.

Though these swings may be wide or wild extremes, it all pivots on self — our basic nature. Not our identity but our being — our innate essence which centers around self-preservation.

Cultural swings have one fixed point — human nature

On the surface, self-preservation makes sense. It’s expected. Natural. But when the self is corrupt or fragmented it’s not so good. At its basest level, self-preservation and self-preference are bound to be in conflict with others.

These conflicts disrupt whatever might be shared culturally and result in culture clashes.

These culture clashes are more noticeable in the cross-cultural situations global missionaries experience but also happen between and within sub-cultures — the smaller currents within the larger context.

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Rejection of Cultural Shifts

This is the preferred approach of those who oppose a culture shift, especially when it impacts them personally. It’s not just resistance but rejection — an unwillingness to accept or consider a cultural change.

It’s a defense of what was — an attempt to turn back the tide of change.

On the surface — to those who are opposing the change — it seems gallant and right. It takes on a sense of righteousness. And indeed, it may very well be a righteous stance.

Rejection of cultural shifts is an attempt to turn back the tide

It’s not hard to find exceptional examples of resistance to evil. The prophet Daniel and his three cohorts — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — refused to worship anyone else but their God — the Most-High God — the Living God(Dan 3:12–18, 26; 6:10–23, 26).

Their stand would cost them their lives but God intervened.

Lessons from history

But taking a righteous stand against evil requires a willingness to die for righteousness sake. And God doesn’t always intervene.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a modern day example of this. He was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who stood up to Nazism and paid for it with his life. His testimony is enlightening and relevant to resisting and rejecting an evil cultural and political trend.

Not all resistance and rejection of cultural change is so righteous or wise. The Jesus People Movement and the Charismatic Renewal of the mid-’60s and early 70’s — parallel moves of God’s Spirit in America — was resisted and condemned by the established churches of that time.

The resistance proved foolish and fruitless. It reminds me of what Gamaliel, the famous Jewish rabbi, warned Jewish leaders about contending with the followers of Jesus —

…if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God (Ac 5:39)

This serves as a lesson to consider when attempting to resist and reject present cultural trends.

Bonhoeffer’s resistance — as with others like him in the German Confessing Church — did not stem the tide of the evil wave of Nazism. Only a world war overcame it. And yet, the Nazi mindset and influence lives on.

The Jesus Movement and Charismatic Renewal did prevail and reshape the practice of Christianity during the cultural upheaval of the Sixties and Seventies.

It impacted American culture in a powerful way but sadly, this influence faded. What was once a powerful cultural influence morphed into the present common approach to culture.

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Embracing Cultural Shifts

The flip side of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the German Confessing Church’s resistance to Nazism is the German Christian movement. This movement was composed of fanatic Nazi Protestants — a politicized church movement devoid of the Spirit of God.

This movement embraced the political-cultural wave of Hitler’s Nazi regime. They reshaped theology to buttress their nationalistic beliefs and distorted the gospel and their portrayal of Christ into their own racist image.

Another spiritual movement in America during the Seventies and spilling into the Eighties was a hybrid smorgasbord of eastern religions and amenable philosophies.

This broad spiritual spectrum of quasi-religious groups became known as the New Age movement — a full embrace of the countercultural social revolution of the Sixties.

It epitomized what became known as the Me Generation of the Seventies.

A personal shift

Towards the end of 1969, I began to move out of my wanderings through what the emerging New Age offered in pursuit of Jesus. I became one of many in the Jesus People Movement of the Sixties and Seventies.

My wife and I — each on our own journey — came into a personal relationship with the Lord as we pursued our own relationship. I remember the day we married for a lot of reasons but especially since it marked my own departure from a time of darkness and wandering into the light of God’s kingdom (Col 1:13).

As the Seventies progressed, the difference between embracing and engaging culture became evident. The Me Generation fully embraced and typified the main attraction of the New Age movement — a mystical pursuit of self.

the New Age movement — a mystical pursuit of self

It’s ripple effect built to the current cultural wave — the I-Generation — young Gen-Xers, Millennials, and Gen-Z’s. Some may see it as the idealized-self but the idolized-self seems more apropos.

In too many ways, evangelical Christianity in America tends towards opposing or embracing the current cultural wave. Both approaches fail to have their intended effect.

Fighting culture wars is a losing battle and the if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them approach is futile and foolish. Does this seem too harsh of a judgment?

Consider this. Mere opposition and rejection of the cultural wave builds a wall neither side can or is willing to climb. Pursuing this approach results in the inability — perhaps unwillingness — to reach out to younger generations.

When well-intentioned Christians embrace the cultural flow of expressive individualism — the I-Generation — they stop being light and salt to the world (Matt 5:13–15).

Instead of influencing the culture for good, they get swallowed up with the cultural tide. This leads to a shallow, compromised, pseudo-Christian faith.

Engaging People within Cultural Shifts

Engaging people within the culture means we neither fight nor embrace the culture itself. The key is engaging people. Remember, culture is dynamic — it will change over time. It’s conceptual or theoretical.

People are people — our basic nature doesn’t change from generation to generation. Internal change only takes place when a person’s basic nature — their soul — is transformed with new life.

This is what Jesus referred to as new birth (John 3:3–8) — something God brings about by His Spirit touching our spirit — our nature. The Lord produces this spiritual transformation in us as we personally trust in Him and surrender our lives to Him.

Jesus the great engager

Jesus was a master at engaging people within their culture — whether they approached Him as friend or foe. He related to people without typical cultural filters. Even His primary followers had different backgrounds and livelihoods.

A classic example is Jesus engaging a woman of questionable character at Jacob’s well near Sychar in the region of Samaria. It was unexpected and culturally inappropriate for a Jewish man to engage a Samaritan woman in conversation.

Consider His disciples’ reaction as they return from a shopping excursion and find Jesus talking with this woman —

At that time his disciples returned. They were surprised that he was talking to a woman. But none of them asked him, “What do you want from her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” (John 4:27 GW)

As the story continues — and it’s a great story — Jesus uses this opportunity to train His disciples to follow His lead. He wanted them to see how and why He engaged people of different ethnicities and cultures (John 4:31–42).

When confronted by Jewish leaders about an adulteress caught in the act, which required stoning her according to Jewish Law—Jesus used the situation as an opportunity to display His discernment and wisdom (John 8:1–11).

Somehow Jesus convinces these leaders of their unworthiness to judge this woman —

When they persisted in asking him questions, he straightened up and said, “The person who is sinless should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he bent down again and continued writing on the ground.

One by one, beginning with the older men, the experts in Moses’ Teachings and Pharisees left. Jesus was left alone with the woman. (John 4:7–9 GW)

He doesn’t excuse or overlook the woman’s sin while showing her great mercy.

Then Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Where did they go? Has anyone condemned you?” The woman answered, “No one, sir.” Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you either. Go! From now on don’t sin.” (John 4:10–11 GW)

We also see how wisely and graciously Jesus engages people in His encounter with a rich young ruler. Jesus listens to him first and allows the young man to declare his moral goodness (Mark 10:17–27).

When Jesus tells the young man something difficult to accept, He shows compassion for the young man —

Jesus looked at him and loved him. He told him, “You’re still missing one thing. Sell everything you have. Give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then follow me!” (Mark 10:21 GW)

Examples abound of Jesus engaging a variety of people in unexpected ways throughout the Gospels. He shows us how we can engage people in gracious and respectful ways.

Photo by  Jake Ingle  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash

Reaching younger generations within a cultural shift

If the Evangelical church wants to reach younger generations with the gospel, it needs to engage younger people in dialogue, develop genuine relationships with them, and do this with respect and love — just as Jesus did.

Years ago, a friend of mine — a well-known career missionary — shared a message at a missions conference on the importance of dialoguing when sharing the gospel.

He used the example of Jesus as a young man in the Temple (Luke 2:41–49). My friend pointed out three things — Jesus sat among the teachers, He listenedto them, and asked questions.

If you or I want to engage people, we need to spend time with them, listening, asking and answering questions, and do so with humility.

A message to boomers

I’m a holdover from the Jesus People movement and a baby boomer — so I say this as a boomer to boomers — we need to do more listening than talking. We don’t know everything.

Even when we think we do, we need to follow the example and lead of Jesus — in the Temple, with the Samaritan woman, with the adulteress and her accusers, and the rich young ruler.

I believe dialogue was an important element of the fruitfulness and influence of the Jesus Movement. It was for me.

I remember many conversations with people who were patient and gracious with all of my questions. They helped me move past less fruitful conversations.

But I also remember when I was approached with prepared, one-way presentations of the gospel. When I realized these people weren’t interested in engaging me personally, it turned me off.

And then there was the time I was thrown out of a church because of my challenging questions. Needless to say, this hindered my acceptance of the gospel.

A monologue approach coming across as self-righteous or self-important didn’t work then and won’t be effective now. Personal engagement and humility are far more effective.

Personal engagement with humility is a simple yet effective way to approach cultural shifts


Leadership Transition—Jesus Style

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Here are 5 ways a true servant-leader begins and completes leadership transition. These are qualities and roles of leadership seen in Jesus, as He washes the disciples feet the night before His death on the cross (John 13:1-17).

We see how His example of confident yet humble leadership—servant leadership—prepares and makes the way for leadership transition. This is a follow up to a 2-part post on 8 Qualities of Servant Leadership—Part 1 / Part 2.

Some of these things I learned along the way in my own experiences with ministry transition but they became more clear when I stumbled upon them here in John 13. I’m sure more can be gleaned from Chapters 13 through 17 of John but this is a good start.

5 Ways of leadership transition—Jesus Style

Know the Way (verses 1, 3)

The Lord was confident in who He was as God’s Son. He knew where He came from and where He was going. He knew the way His disciples needed to go as leaders and He showed this by loving them to the very end in the fullest way.

Our confidence is not to be in ourselves nor our abilities, but in the Lord and who we are in Him. Every leader within God’s kingdom needs to be confident in their identity as a child of God. If we’re not, why should anyone put their confidence in our leadership?

Knowing the way is basic for us. The first step is to deny ourselves—our selfish nature—die to our self, and follow Jesus (Mt 16:24). It’s a way of faith guided by the Holy Spirit. The people we lead need to be confident that we know the way.

Walk the Way (verses 4-5)

By far, the most common and important element of true servant-leadership is being a living example. This is the picture we have of Jesus as He washes the disciples’ feet. Everything Jesus did was a model for all those who follow Him.

He showed them how to lead by how He walked through daily life—the way Jesus carried Himself in various situations and public settings, and how He interacted with people other than His followers.

We also see the impact of Jesus’ life example as a young man among leaders in the temple (Luke 2:46-47)—an essential element of His leadership even in His youth.

This example of walking the way was carried on by leaders such as Paul and Peter to those whom they led and mentored. This is central to God’s design for leadership.

Show the Way (verses 6-13)

Showing the way is simply an extension of walking the way but moves beyond example to help others see or know the way. How? By teaching and training in a relational and interactive manner.

Here in John 13, we see this of Jesus in His dialogue with Peter and then His instruction to all the disciples. This is not classroom or pulpit teaching but a relational discipleship process. We see Jesus do this often throughout the gospels.

In the early days of the Jesus Movement, this type of discipleship was common. It’s not today. It requires time and commitment because it’s intentional and relational. I believe this lack of interactive discipleship has weakened the church.

It’s resisted or avoided in many ways because of the distractions and insistent demand for people’s attention in our culture. Healthy leadership transition requires interactive leadership that shows the way.

Make a way (verses 14-15)

An important part of leadership is training up new leaders. Again, it is not a program but an intentional and relational process of discipleship. Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders.

The responsibility of leaders and mentors is making way for others to step up and into leadership roles. It may require creating opportunities for others to move forward in leadership or allow for innovation and creativity beyond existing leadership roles.

This requires a willingness to look beyond ourselves as leaders. Jesus had this vision from the beginning. It was always in mind in everything He said and did. Jesus knew His time on earth was short and that raising up leaders for the new church was essential.

Regardless of our leadership role we are responsible to raise others up who can take our place. Pastors don’t always have this in mind but they ought to because of unforeseen situations and knowing when to step away in later life-stages.

Step away (verses 16-17)

One of the more difficult roles of leadership is knowing when it’s time to move on or get out of the way. It’ s usually a matter of timing—the Lord’s timing not ours. For pastors, this timing can be difficult to know but it’s important to prayerfully consider it.

How a leader steps away is also important. If it’s done too quickly, it’s likely to fail. If it’s done awkwardly or too slowly, it’s difficult on everyone involved. Planning on a transition—choosing to step away—may not be something we want to do, but it’s wise.

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example, but other examples are Barnabas and Paul. Barnabas knew Saul (Paul) was gifted by God and called for the work in Antioch and beyond. Paul gave detailed exhortations and encouragements to both Timothy and Titus for handling and leading ministry transitions.

Stepping away requires self-denial on the leader’s part who steps away. The timing is difficult for those of us who are church-planters and founders of ministries. It’s a lot like letting go of our young adult children as they grow into their own lives.

5 Ways to transition leadership summarized—

So, for a healthy ministry transition—whether pastoral or ministries within or beyond the church—here are 5 ways Jesus demonstrated His transition of leadership.

  • Those we lead and mentor need to be confident we know the way.

  • Those who follow us need to see how we’ve walked the way if we expect them to lead as we do.

  • We need to provide an interactive and living example that shows the way for others under our leadership.

  • We need to look for and create opportunities for others to step into leadership as we make way for others to lead.

  • We need to be attentive to when and how to step away from our role as a leader or pastor.

If you’d like more information or guidance on pastoral transitions, please let us know. It’s what we do at Poimen Ministries!

8 Characteristics of A Servant Leader–part 2

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In a previous post, we looked at three characteristics of servant leadership as seen in the example of Jesus in the first five verses of John 13. This post is a follow-up that covers five more characteristics of servant leadership. These are drawn from John 13:6-17.

If you want a refresher on the first three characteristics of servant leadership, click on this link— 8 Characteristics of Servant Leadership.

4– Authority with Purpose (verses 6-9)

Authority is one of the most misunderstood and abused elements of leading others, regardless of circumstance—work, home, church, business, even within the military.

Webster’s definition—speaks of—power to influence or command—but also—freedom granted by one in authority.

When it comes to the role of authority as a servant leader within the Kingdom of God, Jesus is our prime example.

He received His authority from His Father. Those of us called to be leaders within God’s kingdom receive our authority from Jesus and Him alone. Not a government, nor a board, nor any ecclesiastical (church) authority.

Authority—as seen in the life and ministry of Jesus—is both a responsibility and a privilege.

It is a privilege extended to us by the Lord for His purposes and it carries a double responsibility. We are directly responsible to the Lord whenever exercising any authority within His kingdom, which includes any and all local churches. We are responsible for those Jesus gives us charge over.

Abuse of authority happens when a leader loses sight of this double-sided responsibility.

This is what we see of Jesus through His example in washing the disciples’ feet. Sometimes our authority over others needs to be set aside, just as we see Jesus setting aside His outer clothing to strip down to the level of a servant (verse 4).

At times, the Lord’s authority must be exercised for a purpose beyond the immediate situation. This is seen in Jesus’ dialog with Peter in verses 6-9. Jesus was washing the disciples' feet as an example but Peter didn’t understand this. So, Jesus exercised His authority as Messiah to make it clear Peter needed to allow Jesus to wash his feet.

Whatever authority the Lord extends to anyone is a gift because it has value and purpose beyond the person who bears it. It’s not ours to wield in whatever way we want. Its purpose is to bless and strengthen others. Authority in the role as a servant leader is not a position held or a role to play but leadership that guides others with a gentle strength.

Authority given by our Lord Jesus is both a responsibility and a privilege

5– Discernment and Restraint (verses 10-11)

When the Holy Spirit reveals things to us about others, we don’t have to reveal it to them. We need to use discretion. Discernment is too often lacking or neglected by many leaders, as well as learning to wait on the Lord. Patience isn’t just a virtue it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as believers (Gal 5:22).

In other words, discretion on our part as leaders means we need to exercise restraint. We don’t need to confront, defend, or warn someone unless the Holy Spirit directs us to do that after prayer and intercession. Otherwise, we may interfere with what the Lord wants to do in someone’s life.

Have you ever wondered why the Lord didn’t warn Judas about betraying Him and the consequences that would follow? In my younger years, I would have jumped into action. Actually, I did too often. I needed to learn the hard lesson that I don’t always know all there is to know (Pro 18:17).

So, why didn’t Jesus warn Judas? It was more than fulfillment of prophecy (John 13:18). Jesus knew the nature and character of His disciples. He knew Judas would betray Him sooner or later.

Discernment and restraint are essential for good leadership

6– Instruction by Example (verses 12-13)

Teaching is not all there is to instruction. Instruction must go beyond words. People need to see the truth illustrated by our leadership. Our life example is always louder than any preaching we do.

This is the basic responsibility of leadership and always has been. Instruction by example is the point of this short story only found in John’s gospel. It’s an unmistakable illustration of servant leadership.

When Jesus stripped down to the role of a servant, He knew it would not be understood (vss 4-5, 7).

When He finishes washing all the feet of the disciples, Jesus returns to the formal role of teacher and asks them, “Do you understand what I have done…?” He then reminds them who they say He is and confirms it. Was the lesson learned and passed on?

Peter, a recipient of Jesus’ physical example of servant leadership, makes it clear in his teaching to fellow leaders that we are to be examples to the people of God (1 Pet 5:1-4). In both of Paul’s epistles to Timothy and Titus, Paul puts great emphasis on the importance of life example.

Do we really understand what Jesus demonstrated by washing the disciples’ feet? Or has it only become an illustration or turned into a ceremony? Our responsibility is to give clear, simple instruction that people understand and visibly see at work in our lives.

Do we really understand what Jesus taught by His example of servant leadership?

7– Exhortation by Example (verses 14-15)

A well-known, obvious, and important element of good leaders—servant leaders—is to lead by example. This means we are to be a model of what is expected of those who follow our lead. On one hand, this is obvious. But as obvious as it may seem, it doesn’t always register with those we lead.

I remember one Sunday checking on the set up for a morning service—checking the thermostat, straightening chairs—with a young believer tagging along with a myriad of questions.

At one point he grabbed my arm and said, “Pastor, I’m trying to discuss important spiritual things with you!” I turned and responded, “Maybe if you help me with the set up I’ll have more time to talk.” But sadly, he walked away in frustration.

Jesus knew the disciples often discussed who was the most important among themselves and He knew His time with them was short. So, when Jesus finished washing the disciples' feet, He again took on His role as Rabbi-Teacher and told them what He expected of them.

It’s okay to have reasonable expectations of those we lead. Actually, it’s our responsibility as leaders.

People have expectations of their leaders, as they should. They expect us to lead! But we need to show them what we expect, then remind them of what we expect and make it clear how to do so. This is especially true when delegating responsibility and tasks, but also in any form of discipleship.

The apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).

Servant leaders need to be able to confidently say, “Do as I do. Follow my example, as I follow Jesus.” This echoes what Jesus said to the disciples as He sat down to instruct and explain to them why He washed their feet.

Can you confidently say—"Do as I do”—Follow my example as I follow Jesus?

8– Exhortation to Action (verses 16-17)

Most people do not want the responsibility of leadership. They are, as Jesus saw them, “sheep without a shepherd.” They need leadership and the obvious responsibility of leaders is to lead.

Just as Jesus does with the disciples in this story, we need to challenge people to put truth into action. This is not optional.

Yet, too often people are exhorted to make application of truth without understanding why. So, we as leaders need to follow the Lord’s example of explaining why a certain truth needs to be applied in life.

We cannot expect people to have integrity in their daily lives if they don’t have integrity in their spiritual life. Likewise, they need their leaders’ lives to exhibit what we expect of them. They need to see how our life matches what we teach and preach when we exhort them to follow our example.

It’s great to have biblical knowledge and a spiritual mindset and heart, but if it doesn’t translate into real life then it’s suspect. Real discipleship should result in actions that bring a changed life.

This is underscored by the Lord here in John 13 and also at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:24-27). Apostles John and James (the Lord’s brother) also confirm this (1 John 3:18; Jam 1:22). Whatever truth we hold to internally needs to be translated into action externally.

Leaders need to challenge God’s people to put the truth into life action as they follow our example

8 Characteristics of a Servant Leader

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In a previous post, I shared the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet as an example of servant leadership. As mentioned in that post, the idea of servant leadership has become more popular wherever leadership is discussed. However, transferring talk into action is always a challenge.

Knowing why we need to be servant leaders is answered by Jesus in John 13:12-17. But knowing how to do it—how to actually be a servant leader—is not always clear.

First of all, for pastors and leaders in churches it is fitting for us to be servant leaders because that’s how we see Jesus lead. This is reflected in what Jesus says about Himself and for His followers in Mark 10:43-45—

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

It is also the very nature of Jesus—

… and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart. (Matt 11:29)

But what if you aren’t a pastor or leader, at least not in a recognized sense?

All believers are leaders in some way in various roles in life. Wherever we have influence in people’s lives—whether among family or friends or at work—as believers, we are called to be examples and this is an important qualification for any leader.

Even within the church, whether we are recognized by others as people having influence, we are called to fulfill God’s purpose for our life within His church body (Eph 4:15-16).

Here are the first 3 of 8 characteristics of a servant leader, as seen in the leadership of Jesus in John 13:1-17.

1– Motivated by love (verse 1)

This is always our first priority. We are to be compelled by love to serve others with our leadership—not ambition, nor obligation.

We need to see people as Jesus saw them and love them as Jesus loved them. Jesus had compassion on people as “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). Jesus was compelled by His love for the Father. It was always His number one priority. But is it ours?

When Jesus “knew His hour had come,” it says Jesus already had loved His own and would now show them the fullness of His love. Who does this include? Those who seek and follow Him near and far, then and now, even those who've ignored Him and His love.

It says He “loved them to the end.” This is expressed in the well-known declaration found in John 3:16.

His all-important mission—the purpose of Jesus being sent to earth by the Father—would be completed through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

Are we as leaders compelled by the love we have for Jesus to serve as He served?

2– Humility based on confidence (verses 2-3)

If our confidence is based on anything else than our personal relationship with the Lord, it is a feeble confidence—empty of any spiritual authority. In fact, we need to be emptied of any confidence in ourselves so we become confident in Him alone.

Jesus had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. Jesus knew who He was, where He had come from, and why He came from heaven. Jesus willingly stripped Himself of His glory to fulfill His Father’s will.

His relationship with His Father, His mission, and His nature as a Son were His base of confidence—not His position as Messiah.

Godly confidence is relational. It can’t be gained by any other means—education, hard work, recognition, nor anything else—and no one but the Lord can confer it upon us.

Godly confidence is relational

John’s narrative in the first three verses are given as a backdrop to illustrate this simple lesson in servant leadership.

Because Jesus was the Son of God—His confidence based in His relationship with the Father—had freedom to stoop down as a servant to wash the disciples’ feet. It was intentional and relational.

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example… (John 13:14-15)

As leaders, our motivation for serving is love and our confidence to serve needs to be based on our relationship with the Lord.

3– Denial of self and giving ourselves to God first (verses 4-5)

The picture of Jesus stripping down to the role of a common servant, then stooping down to wash the disciples’ feet is an extraordinary display of servant leadership. It gives us a mental picture of the Son of God transformed into the servant of God (Phil 2:5-8).

It’s important to remember that in serving others we are not their servants but servants of God. This is the example of Jesus in John 13.

Jesus was denying Himself in this lowly act of service after submitting Himself to His Father’s will. This is something Jesus told the disciples often (John 4:34; 5:30) and later demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane in prayer (Matt 26:36-45).

If we claim to be followers of Jesus and leaders of His people, we need to keep in mind the most basic call of following Jesus as found in Matthew 16:24—

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

This is a basic foundation for leadership in the Kingdom of God—servant leadership.

If, we cannot look beyond ourselves—our own needs, desires, dreams—how can we hope to lead anyone beyond ourselves for or to the Lord?

Giving our self to the Lord first by denying and dying to our self prepares us to follow the example of Jesus in serving others.

When we do this, it will be seen in our relationship with others—our attitude towards others and how we treat others.

How do you treat people you interact with on a regular basis?

What is your attitude toward others when you serve them?

We’ll look at the other 5 characteristics of servant leadership in the next post. For now, pastors—what are your thoughts on these first 3 characteristics of servant leadership?

You can post comments here or on our FaceBook page where this post is found. Thanks!

A Strong Leader with a Servant's Heart

Core Values: Servant Leadership

A core value among Calvary Chapels is servant leadership. Admittedly, this depends on the personal commitment and resolve of each leader. There are folks in every church who want to put the pastor on a pedestal.

We live in a celebrity culture, Americans like to live vicariously through prestigious people they think are cool, hip, brave, beautiful, or spiritual. This attitude even exists in the church.

More and more pastors today actually pursue this celebrity status. They Tweet, and Post, and Instagram—not always because they have something to say, but because they have to say something if they’re going to build a following.

Often, they use social media as an attention-grabber, and many church members cooperate! By giving money to a favorite pastor, or by volunteering to help him succeed, they feel as if they share a piece of his perceived importance. It is the power of celebrity.

Celebrity or service?

I’ve often wondered why Church-goers give to support a pastor’s lavishness, even when they are so poor they don’t have two nickels to rub together. It’s because they dream of the same lifestyle as the pastor, and they feel closer to it through him. It is the people’s greed that fuels the greedy pastor.

Recently, there was a pastor in Atlanta who asked his congregation for $65 million to replace his private jet. What scared me, though, is when a friend of mine told me he had read the brochure the pastor gave to his church, and it made sense to him! He said, “The guy has global ministries. How else will the weary pastor get around?” I had a one-word answer for him… coach!

But, on occasion, I have actually thought about this myself. Have you ever sat down in the middle seat on a Delta flight, between the bearded lady and the Incredible Hulk? From that vantage point your focus can get blurred. No price is too high to escape the torture. You start thinking, “where is my private jet?”

In all seriousness, my point is this: pastors often find themselves in situations that cause them to lose perspective. Sometimes it’s the result of a friend telling them what a person of their “grand importance” truly deserves. Sometimes it can come from a painful circumstance they now have the wherewithal to avoid, since their church finally has a little money in the till.

Both prosperity and pain have a way of skewing our point-of-view and knocking a leader off the rails. Both extremes create a sense of entitlement. We start to think, “look at what the church owes me!” When that happens, an alarm should go off in a pastor’s head. We are headed for destruction! Sadly, many pastors never realize they have taken the bait, until it is too late.

Choosing to serve

When you find a pastor who lives humbly, and has a servant’s lifestyle, it is because he has chosen that path. Every pastor has a thousand justifications, and a thousand voices telling him that he deserves more. A true servant is a leader who makes the deliberate choice to die to himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus.

Realize, Calvary Chapels—along with most growing churches—are built around strong pastoral leadership. I am not ashamed of it—in fact, I believe it is biblical. Just scan the Bible and see how God gets His stuff done. He starts with a man… calls that man… then puts that man on hold until He breaks him of his self-sufficiency. God employs tough times to weld strength into his character. Then, at the appointed time, He fills that man with the dynamic of the Holy Spirit, and uses him mightily.

If you’ve been burned by a pastor who abused and misused his authority, I understand that strong individual leadership is not your preference. But this is how the Lord works! Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Samuel, David – none of these men were handled by a committee. Moses was nobody’s marionette.

The Old Testament heroes followed God, and God’s people followed them. And it continued into the New Testament. Peter on Pentecost Sunday, Philip in Samaria, James at the Council of Jerusalem, Paul with the Gentiles, the Elder John among the seven churches of Asia. Even in New Testament times God usually led through one man—not many men.

It seems to me, the critics of strong pastoral leadership are the folks who have known nothing else. Get burned by a pastor and suddenly the grass looks greener on the other side. But where the grass is greener, you should realize the water bill is higher. Swap the Calvary Chapel model of leadership for another form if you like, but eventually you get the invoice. As long as humans are involved, there will be problems with all forms of church leadership.

The truth is, when you talk church government, pick your poison. I am a former Baptist, and let me assure you there are very real problems with congregational rule – as there are with deacon boards, elder boards, and other pluralities of leadership. I have seen meanness from church people that would make your blood curdle. And if mean men are part of it, all a committee does is multiply the meanness.

Shortly after God called me into the ministry, I visited my former Baptist pastor for a little encouragement. He told me, “Sandy, pastoring a Baptist Church is like sitting on a keg of dynamite.” I appreciated the man’s candor, but his comment helped me decide I wanted to be a Calvary Chapel pastor! Who wants to serve God and have it blow up under you? Do you want to be a hireling and live to please people? I want to be a shepherd. I love and respect the sheep, but let me answer to God.

Don’t misunderstand, every pastor needs accountability. Only a fool leads in a vacuum. And I admit it is probably easier for a pastor to go off the deep-end than it is for an entire elder board, or congregation, to be led astray. But it is also easier for God to set a solitary heart on fire, and steer a sanctified mind, than it is to motivate a larger group.

The need for humility and maturity

I believe all pastors need to lead. As I see it, the biblical support for strong pastoral leadership is overwhelming. Yet there will always be some danger. All pastoral leadership rises or falls on the humility and maturity of the leader.

If a pastor has it in his heart to lord it over the flock—to manipulate and intimidate, to boss and to bully—his ministry will be a disaster. The safeguard to strong leadership is a pastor with a servant’s heart. Such a man realizes that with the privilege to lead, comes the responsibility of leadership.

There is a picture I carry in my mind that keeps me from losing perspective, and slipping into an entitlement mentality. It is Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. Walk through the front door of our house, and my wife, Kathy, has a bowl and a towel sitting on a table. Alongside it is a picture of that monumental moment when the Master of the Universe showed us what true greatness is all about and washed His disciples’ feet.

Jesus, Lord of Heaven and Earth, is entitled to be worshipped, yet in that moment, what He was owed never crossed His mind. And as He filled the bowl, knotted the towel, stooped to do the task of the most humble slave, He set an example for us. “As the Master, shall the servant be!” To be like Jesus, we need to find ways to knock the worldly dust off others, and become a blessing in tangible ways.

Listen to this paraphrase of Philippians 2, “Take His attitude. Jesus was equal with God, but demanded no special treatment. He was human like the rest of us. He kept a low profile, lived as a servant, humbled Himself and was obedient… until it cost Him His life.” That’s the picture I carry in my mind.

If you and I love Jesus, and want to be like Him, we will stoop to serve. Every Calvary Chapel should be led by servants. In the Church, the men who put our feet to marching should be the same men who stoop to wash them.

 

This was written by Pastor Sandy Adams, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain, and reposted with his permission. It was originally posted here— Core Values: Servant Leadership

Holy Spirit, "Pay attention, this is for you!"

When I was a young husband and father of two small children, I didn’t think seriously of the needs my family would have should I be taken home to be with the Lord.

After all, we are told the Lord would always provide. I think this gave me the excuse to avoid thinking of what would happen to my family if I was no longer here.

Before becoming a pastor, I served in teaching ministries for 20+ years, then 30+ years as a pastor. And now, I’ve been with Poimen Ministries for about 10 years.

Pay attention!

One day as I read through 1 Timothy and several years had passed in my role as husband and father, the Holy Spirit grabbed me by the collar and said, “This is for you, pay attention!”

I’m sure many of you have experienced this from time to time. You read and teach certain passages over and over with the intent of helping someone but forget we also need help and guidance.

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)

I had always taught this message with an emphasis on dead-beat dads. It was my wake-up call to them. I worked hard to provide my family with a home, clothing, food, and other necessities.

But that day, I realized providing for them extended beyond our final breath.

Several questions flooded my mind—

For how long? Will our church help them? How will they have money for daily expenses? How will they pay the mortgage? What would their life look like if I was no longer here?

I certainly didn’t want to be, in the eyes of the Lord, "worse than an unbeliever." As tight as finances were, I knew I needed to do something to provide for my family’s future because I knew at that moment, I wasn’t.

It began with investing in life insurance. I knew this step would provide the monetary resources my family would need if I was called to be with the Lord.

However, years later, I had other concerns about providing for my household, especially my wife. Our children were grown and living on their own, so I now had different concerns if I died.

I began to wonder, what care would my wife have from the church when I am gone? If she’s actively involved in a leadership role, say with women’s ministry, what transitional process will take place when the new pastor and his wife come in?

There is no “one answer fits all” solution. Your wife may not be in a leadership role, or the new pastor’s wife may not be interested in such a role and would be happy to have someone else lead.

Whatever the particulars, I didn't want my grieving wife, who has been so involved and serving alongside me, feeling like, “now what?”

What's a pastor to do?

I would counsel you as a pastor to talk about this with your wife and for the two of you to meet with your board to create a clear transitional process to avoid confusion and frustration in a time of grief.

This would provide a way to help your wife grieve, continue to serve in ministry if she feels called to do so, and avoid feeling like she’s in competition with someone new.

Now, during your tenure as a pastor such a process may never be needed. But just like car insurance, you may never use it but should the need arise, you’ll be glad you have it.

Poimen Ministries endorses and recommends a ministry called Pastors Legacy Plan to help pastors develop a well-rounded plan.

I encourage you to visit Pastors Legacy Plan as the first step in creating the legacy you desire as a means of providing for your wife and family, as the Lord expects.


Click on the link to find out more about Pastors Legacy Plan

Poimen Ministries is committed to strengthening pastors to strengthen churches.

We have a team of pastors with many years of experience who can assist senior/lead pastors with assessments, transitions, coaching, mentoring, and assisting with other areas of ministry.

If you'd like to know more how we can serve you, send us an email– strongerpastors@gmail.com

A Mystifying and Unexpected Event

Servant leadership. It’s talked about a lot in books, conferences, and social media by church leaders and business leaders too. But it’s not so common.

Talking about it and living it out are two entirely different things, as we all know. Sadly, the chasm between talk and action can be pretty wide.

Chapter 13 in the gospel of John opens with Jesus knowing His hour had come. It was the time of the Passover, a national festival and memorial.

It would be the last Passover Jesus would eat with His disciples but one He would fulfill prophetically to provide redemption for all humanity (Luke 22:15-16).

John’s narrative makes clear what is meant by His hour had come (John 13:1-3), which prefaces an unexpected and still misunderstood event—Jesus washing the disciples feet.

The first five verses paint a paradoxical picture—the Son of God—sent from heaven—stoops down to wash the feet of His closest followers.

A paradoxical picture

Picture this in your mind. They weren’t sitting at a table with chairs as we would today with separate place settings and silverware, they reclined around a low table and ate out of a common dish of food with their hands.

They were gathered in somewhat of a circle with their feet extended out and reclined on one side with one hand free for eating.

I’m sure there was some jockeying for position to sit closest to the Lord, as indicated from other insights in the gospels (Matt 20:20-28; Luke 22:24-27). Later in this story we find out John is next to Jesus and Peter is near John and Judas was also with them.

There was no question Jesus was the leader—their Rabbi and the hoped for Messiah. He addressed the issue of authority and the concept of servant leadership at other times, especially when He knew they argued about who was the greatest and most important as His followers.

Then He does something unexpected and mystifying. He gets up, strips off His outer garments, wraps a towel around His waist, pours water into a basin, begins to wash the feet of His disciples one by one, and dries their feet with the towel wrapped around His waist.

Have you ever pictured and thought about how this took place?

A protest and a gentle rebuke

What Jesus did was contrary to all the disciples were familiar with and knew about leadership. Their concept of leadership is what most people have in mind—authority, status, privilege, respect, and a host of other expectations. Pretty much how most of us think of leadership.

One thing that was not a mystery is what Jesus did.

Every one of the disciples knew the lowest of servants got the job of washing the feet of guests. And Jesus played the part well.

When He stripped down to His under garments, He looked like a lowly servant and gave them a prophetic preview of His appearance on the cross.

I imagine the disciples had a look of shock and felt mortified that their master stooped to such a lowly position as He washed their feet.

Finally, Peter couldn’t stand it any longer. When Jesus came to wash his feet Peter protests and refuses to allow the Lord to do so.

This was not unusual for Peter (Matt 16:22) and Jesus understood this. Jesus tried to gently push past Peter’s protest—

Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand." (John 13:7 ESV)

When Peter escalates his protest Jesus gently rebukes him—

Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." (John 13:8 ESV)

Peter quickly capitulates to Jesus. He realizes he would be excluded from relationship with Jesus and possibly the Kingdom of God.

But there’s far more going on here than that. This was a time of instruction for all of His disciples.

But what have we learned from it? More importantly, how have we put what we learned into practice?

What have we really learned from Jesus washing the disciples feet?

Shattered stereotypes

We tend to categorize and limit people according to how we see them—their roles, positions, possessions, appearance, even their words. Then we exalt or belittle them based on surface observations. It’s so natural we don’t realize it.

It’s so natural for us to exalt or belittle people based on surface observations and not realize it

I see this too often in how people treat or just ignore servers in a restaurant or sales people in a store, or talk to call center representatives. Sadly, I’ve also seen this in churches. Too many of us pastors take volunteers for granted and treat staff as if we’re a CEO in charge of a company.

People coming to church are often quick to exalt pastors and leaders while ignoring the volunteers that care for their children or keep the building and grounds clean and in order. None of this reflects the example and life of our Lord Jesus.

So, it’s no mystery why Jesus chose this approach to teach the disciples. He wanted to shatter the typical stereotypes we all have about leadership and service and who is or isn’t important.

One simple thing Jesus demonstrated by washing the disciples’ feet was servant leadership. Though He was the Messiah—their Rabbi and Master—He took on the appearance of a lowly servant as an example of the leadership He expected of them.

I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:15 ESV)

What’s your takeaway from all of this for yourself?

4 Ways to Lead Well

Leadership is influence. Many good authorities on leadership confirm this.

But is leadership just influence? I'd say it's a lot more than influence.

The question is—What kind of influence does a leader have?

Some leaders are authoritarian—almost tyrannical in their style and influence, while others use a more laid-back approach, even guru-like, as a mentor. And many leadership approaches fall somewhere in between those two.

True biblically sound leadership is more than a style or approach. True leaders and shepherds lead the way for others with confidence and humility. When done well, people follow them by following their example.

Example is essential

This is the third post in a series related to pastoral leadership. We've looked at three words essential to being a shepherd like Jesuslove, feed, and now lead.

As with the two previous posts, I'll use the four letters of lead as an acrostic—L-E-A-D.

What can be said about leading? A lot! And a lot's been written and spoken about how to lead. Most of what’s written is related to business environments and some of it is quite relevant. But a ministry—especially when pastoring a church—is not a business.

Our prime model for leadership is Jesus. He's the example for all believers wherever they may lead but especially for those of us who are pastors.

How did Jesus lead? He led with authority and humility and used various means to prepare His followers for leadership.

A major part of Jesus' leadership was His example. Not just as a sinless human but as a genuine one.

As a Son who followed His Father (John 4:34; 5:19). This is important to note because we need to be lead-able to be good leaders of others.

Our own life example is essential for leading as Jesus led others

4 Ways to lead well

L– Listen and Learn

Listening and hearing well is somewhat of a lost art. We all want others to listen to us but how good are we at listening to others?

Listening is a vital part of good leadership. Leaders need to listen and they need to hear what's being said by those they lead.

A missionary friend of mine pointed out how Jesus listened and even asked questions as a young man (Luke 2:46). I’m pretty sure He knew the answers back then but it reveals the respect He showed others.

Reading through all four gospels this is seen in how Jesus engaged in conversations with everyone.

Jesus was observant and heard what His followers talked about and even asked questions (Mark 9:33-37; Matt 16:13-15) to probe and prod them to think.

Listen well

Jesus didn't listen to look for a place to jump in with what He wanted to say. He listened then responded in a way that let others know He heard them.

If you're a leader, are you able to listen to others and hear what they have to say? If not, why should anyone listen to you?

It helped me pastor God's people when I started learning to spend more time listening than speaking.

I've learned a lot by listening to others, some of it good and some not so good. I try to hear their heart as well as their words. I also try to pay attention to what's not being said, as this can reveal much.

One more thought on all this. A good leader keeps learning from others even as we see in the example of the young Jesus in the temple. This is a sign of humility and openness.

When people see humility and openness in you and me—like what we see in Jesus—they’ll be more willing to follow our leadership.

If people see our willingness to listen and learn, they’re more willing to follow our lead

E– Educate and Equip

Education is often reduced to teaching and transferring knowledge. But a good education needs to be practical and useful for life. An academic education won't prepare God's people to serve in the church.

God gave leaders to the church body to equip them for service (Eph 4:11-16). I spoke about this previously when we looked at the word feed.

Jesus taught people more by example and dialoging with them than just talking at them.

Look at how Jesus equipped His followers—those chosen as apostles and those who chose to be His disciples. Yes, He taught them as He spoke to the crowds but also revealed things to them behind the scenes (Matt 13:10-17).

Hear, see, and do

Those who followed Jesus learned by watching Him, hearing Him, and being with Him. Those He equipped for ministry watched, learned, then were given opportunity to do what they learned from Him.

Perhaps you're familiar with Jesus sending out the twelve, found in Matthew 10 and Luke 9. Later, Jesus sends out others who followed Him—not His specially chosen apostles (Luke 10:1-3).

This is an important example for pastors—we who are shepherds of God’s people!

Teaching and training needs to be useful and productive, otherwise it's just knowledge. Nowadays we can get that on the internet.

We need to educate people for a specific purpose or purposes. This is the nature of equipping.

A simple question for any of us who lead is—Are we talking about truth or equipping people in the truth?

Are we talking about truth or equipping people in the truth?

A– Accept and Acknowledge

I've served in many different ministries over the past four decades or so, often at the bottom of the "food-chain," as some of my friends say. You name it, I've probably done it, from cleaning toilets to running a backhoe.

But my wife and I also served in several different leadership roles. Because of our own experience, we learned to accept people as they are not how we think they should be. Not everyone can do everything or has the same gifting (Rom 12:4).

We've had staff who didn't do well in certain things but excelled in others. This taught us to find the right place for each person within the ministry.

Acknowledged and appreciated

Everyone has a place and purpose within the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:14-25; Eph 4:16)

When a specific role needs to be filled, it's important to find the right person. Otherwise, they will be frustrated as will we (their leaders).

Accept people for who they are without unrealistic or unreasonable expectations of them.

When people feel valued, they do their work better and they're a lot happier doing it. They need to be acknowledged, noticed, and appreciated. This is especially true for those who serve in a volunteer capacity.

We all want to hear the Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt 25:21).

Everyone has a place and purpose within the Body of Christ

D– Disciple and Delegate

In a previous post, we looked at discipleship as a means of feeding God’s people, but here I'd like to see how it benefits the Kingdom of God as a whole.

Discipleship isn't just about knowing doctrine and how to live it out, there is a greater purpose. Yes, a good disciple is a disciple-maker but there's still more to it.

Jesus knew He was preparing the apostles to lead and establish the church—the Kingdom of God on earth.

Discipleship should involve doing. Yes, it's good to do life together but it's more important to have shared experiences.

By shared I mean a mutual participation on equal footing. How? Prayer, worship, serving others or any other activity where the leader isn't in charge of or overseeing the disciple. This helps create a shared trust of one another.

Delegation is not dumping

Delegation works best when trust exists. Not just dishing out responsibilities or tasks but entrusting it to others. Too often delegation is seen as dumping work off onto others. But wise delegation in ministry is an extension of discipleship.

Genuine discipleship sets the stage for reliable delegation. You come to trust those you disciple and they trust you. When trust exists, it's a lot easier to delegate a task or responsibility with confidence that it will be done well.

Early on in the Lord's training of His followers, He sends them out to do what they've seen Him do (Luke 9:1-6). He delegates ministry to them. He entrusted His authority to them along with responsibility.

Jesus shows us how discipleship done well leads to fruitful delegation. It includes authority with responsibility because of mutual trust.

Delegation works best when trust exists

Love, feed, lead

This is the last of four posts. Three posts looked at three primary elements of leading as Jesus led, based on His role as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

If these posts blessed you, please share them with others.

I hope they will be helpful for any leader within the Kingdom of God, whether you lead in a church or other ministry, or lead some other way.

Here are the other 3 posts from first to last—

People Need Leaders

A Shepherd’s Love

Feed My People!

Feed My People!

Feeding a baby or toddler can be a challenge. They still need to be fed much of the time but their self-will is in full bloom.

They can close their mouth and refuse to eat and they're often distracted by more interesting things. Most young toddlers want to feed themselves even though they haven't developed the dexterity to do it well.

It can be a challenging and messy process and it's only the beginning. Children are often finicky and picky eaters and hormonally challenged teens have odd eating habits.

Pastors and leaders also face challenges in feeding their flock, which can also get messy at times.

I shared about leading with a shepherd’s love in a previous post—the love we see in Jesus—our Good Shepherd.

This week we'll look at the second of the three words related to what I call grassroots leadership—love, feed, and lead. Again, we'll look at this word as an acrostic—F-E-E-D.

Keeping God's people well-fed

Just opening up the Bible and letting-it-rip (preach) isn't going to keep the people of God well-fed. There's more to it than that.

It's not just about preparation and presentation although they're important. Certain priorities need to impact our preparation for any ministry with God's Word and however we present it.

Let's look at four important priorities needed to keep God's people—His sheep, or anyone we lead or disciple—well-fed.

"F" stands for focus

What's the number one priority? Focus. Our focus always needs to be on Jesus in whatever ministry we do, and whatever capacity we lead (as a believer).

How do we do this?

First, each leader needs to be focused on Jesus not the people we lead nor on any ministry task. He is our Good Shepherd and we are His under-shepherds.

All ministry, even teaching in whatever form, is relational. It always needs to be connected to our relationship with Jesus.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14 NIV)

Our ministry and leadership also need to point to Jesus, in all we do. We are to follow His example, so others will follow our example of following Him.

Our ministry and leadership need to point to Jesus in all we do

"E" speaks of the need to examine God's Word

If we want to feed people with the truth, we need to understand it. We need to examine it well before we teach, preach, or share it in some other way.

We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is. Would you be surprised if I told you it's Jesus? It is!

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Many different methods are used for studying the Scriptures. I've used the inductive study process for more than forty years. It is a simple, systematic, and self-contained approach to Bible study, which is why it works well in any place in the world, within any culture or language.

Whatever method you use, be diligent in it. Keep examining the Scriptures so that your understanding moves from your mind to your heart. Then it will flow out of you in a natural way in whatever setting or circumstance you share the truth.

We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is—it's Jesus!

"E" also speaks of the need to explain well

Thankfully, I learned early in my call to the ministry the value of teaching the truth in a simple way. My general premise is this—if a child can understand and grasp what is taught, then it will be understandable for anyone.

This is an oversimplification but it's essentially true. If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone.

How can people feed on the truth of God if they don't understand it? This is obvious, but I find many preachers, teachers, bloggers, and others who don't make things simple for the average person.

Here are two simple ways to make God's Word hear-able and easy to grasp.

First, use stories and parables but learn to tell them rather than just read them.

The second way to make things simple works with stories—put the truth in your own words (IYOW). Telling stories and parables IYOW helps people connect well with the truth.

Sound heretical? Not hardly. Remember, the original version of the Bible was oral not written. The process of putting things IYOW requires processing the truth. It takes some practice but it's very doable and makes the truth more understandable.

If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone

"D" is for disciple

The Lord Jesus said we are to "make disciples... teaching them...." (Matt 28:19, 20). This was not a suggestion but a command. It's called the Great Commission.

Discipleship has become more popular over the past several years. Of course, as with other things, several approaches and methods are used but discipleship isn't just teaching and training.

Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational—a pouring into the lives of others what God has poured into you. Discipleship is a way of life and ought to be embedded in how we feed the Lord’s people.

Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge. Lecture style teaching may be the most common form of Bible teaching but it's the least effective. It's unidirectional and can be dull and difficult to understand for many people.

Like feeding a toddler, you can try pushing the food into their mouth but they can close their mouth or spit it out. There's a big difference between feeding people and equipping them to feed themselves.

Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge

Jesus—as always—is our example.

His primary method for establishing the church was to disciple twelve men. This included teaching, but much, much more. Eleven of those twelve, and thousands who followed them, were well-fed.

They continued in what Jesus began with them.

Here are some related posts you might find helpful—

Simple Not Simplistic

Teaching with Authority

How Did Jesus Teach?

3 Observations and Truths About Discipleship

Also—

I developed a simple guide for Inductive Bible Study along with a companion study journal set up for studying inductively and for tracking prayer requests and answers or personal journaling.

You can find these on my personal website on the "shop" page

When Jesus' Committed Followers Are Treated Badly

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:24-26)

Disciples of Jesus (aka His committed followers) are those who learn from Him. They also seek to remain close to Him in all of life, and are willing to take up the cross and deny self in the process.

It should be obvious: disciples are not above or greater than their teachers. Pastors and church leaders, by definition, are supposed to be His committed followers. We who are pastors are most certainly not above our Master and Lord Jesus. The best we can hope for is that we emulate Him and allow His life to live in us in such a way that the life we live looks like His life. This is our great goal: to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29).

Since disciples of Jesus are not above or greater than Him, it also stands to reason that we should not expect to be treated any better than He was treated. Remember that they blasphemed Him by calling Him “Beelzebub” (the lord of the flies … a Philistine deity).

If they blasphemed Jesus in such a horrible manner, we should not be surprised if the world speaks even more evil of us as His followers. And we should also not be surprised if people who attend the churches we pastor are also antagonistic and even destructive at times. We cannot expect to be given more respect than our Lord.

The reality is that believers all over the world are being persecuted, and believers in the U.S. are being increasingly marginalized. We have been pushed aside, considered irrelevent, even dangerous. But this is precisely what Jesus said would happen.

Our response: keep living the Christian life with passion and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Keep preaching Jesus.

And DO NOT FEAR THEM. Do not fear the world, or their opinion of us. Just keep trusting God, loving people, and being known for what we are for (Jesus and His Word), rather than for what we are against.

We know we don’t belong in the margins, but let us not live as though we are actually in them.

A Shepherd's Love

"Love makes the world go 'round," goes an old song. But does it? Really? You wouldn't know that from reading and hearing the news headlines and social media posts.

If love were to make the world go around, it would need to be something more substantial than romantic love to keep the world turning on its axis.

Some popular examples of a more substantial love are Mother Teresa with her work in India and St Francis of Assisi known for great love as expressed in his prayer.

But who was their role model? Jesus, of course. He is the personification of love—literally (John 1:1, 14; 3:16; 1 John 4:8).

Love, feed, lead

I talked about grassroots leadership in a previous post as an illustration of the style of leadership we see in Jesus and of three words that summarize the role of a pastor.

Those three words are—love, feed, and lead. These can apply to great leadership in all levels and roles but the focus of

Poimen Ministries

is primarily pastoral leadership.

In this post, I want to focus on the love of a shepherd in following the example of our Chief Shepherd, Jesus. I’ll use the four letters of this word as an acrostic to describe a shepherd’s love.

L-o-v-e

A lot's been said and written about this short, four-letter word but I want to look at each letter as it represents the leadership of Jesus and the love of a shepherd.

I won’t get into the four different words for love in koine Greek since that’s been covered many times by others. I want this to be of practical value—useful to anyone in a role of leadership but especially for pastors.

Here is a summary of the four qualities of a shepherd’s love for God’s people—

Love is the mark of a true leader in God’s kingdomWe’re called to be overseers of God’s people not lords over themPastors and leaders need to value and respect the people of GodGodly leaders empower, enable, and equip God’s people to serve the Lord

L–

I originally saw the words love, feed, and lead based in John 10:1-18, where Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd.

Jesus expresses what He means by being the Good Shepherd in verse 11—

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Of course, most of us immediately see this as Jesus’ reference to His sacrificial death on the cross. But there's more to it than that.

The most basic call of discipleship in Matthew 16:24 makes it clear we are to die to our self if we would follow Jesus. Jesus extends this idea to leadership when He tells the disciples—

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."(John 15:12-13)

"L" stands for love—the love Jesus demonstrated and called us to show—the love of a shepherd. Love is the mark of a great leader in God's kingdom—someone who is willing to lay down their life for Jesus and for others.

Love is the mark of a great leader in God's kingdom

O–

The love of God is spelled out for us in the well-known text of 1 Corinthians 13. It's also the natural product of the fruit of the Spirit in a believer (Gal 5:22, 23).

This type of love is also seen in the way Jesus called, led, and trained His followers. It wasn't by compelling or commanding them to obey but through humble leadership.

Jesus was a servant leader as He demonstrated on the night He was betrayed and challenged the disciples to lead the same way (John 13:12-17)

Jesus reminded the apostle Peter this when Jesus restored him after Peter had denied the Lord three times. (John 21:15-19). But Peter still questioned the Lord and was reminded that our first priority is to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus (John 21:20-22).

Peter passed this same lesson and admonition on to those he discipled as leaders. He exhorted them to "shepherd the flock of God..., not domineering over [them]..., but being examples to the flock." This is found in 1 Peter 5:1-5.

So the "O" stands for oversee. Godly leaders are not to be overbearing or domineering as lords. We are to care for and guide people as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, did with His followers.

Godly leaders are not to be overbearing or domineering as lords

V–

When a godly leader understands their power or authority is based in an unselfish love and oversight like that of Jesus, they value people.

Over the years, many churches have undervalued people, especially their volunteers and part-time staff. They undervalue them by taking them for granted which is a great disrespect for them and the Lord.

Too often I hear of people who get burned out serving in a church or ministry and are left hanging in the wind as others take their place. This should not be. Nor should this need to be explained.

We need to see people the way Jesus saw them, as sheep who need a shepherd (Matt 9:36). This is the heart of Jesus—hear what He says—

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”(Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

"V" is for value. Any smart leader at any level, but especially godly ones, will value people, especially those who volunteer their services.

Many churches have undervalued people by taking them for granted

E–

One of the simple ways to value people is by empowering and enabling them to do what they are to do. Many in roles of leadership think they need to keep people under control but this is not how we see Jesus leading people.

This brings us back to the earlier nature of the love we are to have as we lead people, a love that lays itself down for others.

Do we want others who serve under our leadership to succeed? Do we want them to do well? Then we need to find ways to empower and enable them to do so—that is what means to equip them for service in the Body of Christ.

This is to be a basic role of all leadership in the church, and it makes sense for any role of leadership. The apostle Paul tells us that God gave gifts so the leaders could empower and enable those they lead.

This is what we're told in Ephesians 4:11-13, and the result is enormous and beneficial to all and honors God in the process. As it says in verse 11—

for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ

"E" reminds us that good, godly leaders empower and enable God’s people—equipping them to serve the Lord within the church and beyond the walls of the church.

A simple way to value people is by empowering and enabling them to do things well—whatever their role is and however they are gifted by God.

Godly leaders empower and enable God’s people

A shepherd’s love

L-O-V-E—

An unselfish love concerned for the welfare of God’s peopleA love expressed by overseeing God’s people without being overbearingA love that values and respects people for who they are in God’s eyesA love that empowers, enables, and equips people to serve as God leads

This is the love of a shepherd for God’s people—following the example of Jesus our Chief and Good Shepherd.

Next I'll take a look at a shepherd’s responsibility to feed God’s people as God’s leaders in the Body of Christ.

This is more or less a continuation of some previous posts—

People need leaders

Be a Shepherd Not a Sheepdog

How Do We Follow the Example of Our Good Shepherd?

Calvary Chapel and the 'Moses Model'

Matthew 23:1-12– Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.

Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.

For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men.

They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.

They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.

And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The "Moses Model"

In the light of the concept of the so-called Moses model (a phrase sometimes used to describe Calvary Chapel leadership structure), it’s probably a good time to clarify what we mean by that terminology … or perhaps what we should mean by it.

In order to make such a clarification, it’s important to detail what the “Moses model” should never mean. After that, it is important to note what it can and should mean. In Matthew 23:1-12 Jesus exposed the version of the Moses model embraced by the scribes and Pharisees.

Clearly, their way was entirely unacceptable to Jesus, and must be wholly unacceptable to

any leader in any church. A pastor or lead/senior pastor who follows the Pharisaic pattern should either repent or resign.

Note that these men:

Put themselves in Moses’ seat. In other words, they elected themselves as judge and jury over God’s people. They acted on their own, apart from scripture, and without reference to the direction of God Himself.

Lived differently from their teaching. They said the right things, but lived the wrong way. Their

example was a very bad one.

Demanded much from others but were unwilling to do anything themselves. They were bosses, not servants. They led by pushing and driving people, not by example.

Did everything to be noticed by people. They were consumed by their lust for human approval.

They thought themselves as super spiritual, and wanted others to see them that way. They

loved to be referred to as rabbis and fathers. They were very fond of titles.

Distanced themselves from people. Rather than serving the people, they were the ones being

served.

They were not humble; they promoted and exalted themselves at every opportunity.

I’ve seen these kinds of leaders in action. There have been windows of time when I’ve been one of those leaders.

I will never forget jogging one time with a dear brother in our fellowship, a man who understands a lot about church life and leadership. He said to me in his (at times characteristically) coarse manner, “The Lord is doing some great things with this church, and will continue doing great things if you don’t screw it up!”

When I led from on top, pushing people, I did mess things up. Afterwards, repairs were always necessary.

New Covenant Leadership

Fast forward to the New Covenant. Under the New Covenant, Jesus was the quintessential servant. He specifically directed His leaders to follow His example (Matthew 20:25-28). Therefore when there is talk about the correct model for ministry and leadership, one must always start with Jesus.

The true version of any Moses model should be melded with what many have called the Jesus model. Under the Jesus model, the only surviving and applicable parts of the Old Covenant Moses model are found in the heart of Jethro’s counsel:

Exodus 18:19-23– “Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times.

Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.

If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

Looking closely at the original Moses model, we see that Moses was to be:

An intercessor for the people.A teacher of God’s Word, giving to them the whole counsel of God.A wise discerner of men, able to recognized giftedness and character. This would be essential for the purpose of putting others into leadership.One who delegates responsibility and authority according to one’s ability.

One way to measure what model a pastor is operating under is to look at the church org chart, if it has one.

A Pharisaical org chart will be a top down leadership flow, with the senior pastor at the top, and with everyone else as underlings. They exist to do his bidding.

A balanced org chart will have clear roles and authority, but will be much more flat. Each leader leads, and every leader serves. It’s all for one, and one for all. The leader exists to help and bless those working in his area of responsibility, for the purpose of glorifying Jesus Christ.

To summarize:

Calvary Chapel pastors and leaders should strive to emulate Jesus’ style of leadership, which was a servant-leader model. As they do so, they should add into the mix the principles Moses followed, principles he learned from his father in law.

If this is what a Calvary Chapel pastor means when he says he subscribes to the Moses model, he’s gotten it right…but only to the degree he has put Jesus’ teachings and example of leadership in the #1 position.

People Need Leaders

A good friend told me long ago, "People need leaders." I was a young pastor and he was a captain of firefighters. We were leaders in our respective fields and I was his pastor—and we mentored one another as fellow followers of Jesus.

His statement resonated in my heart as true. It reminded me of my responsibility in God's kingdom. Not just as a pastor, but as a follower of Jesus. Discipleship done the way Jesus did with the twelve apostles will naturally produce leaders.

An important characteristic of the Jesus People Movement was the importance of life example in leadership. I'm concerned this is a neglected emphasis today in all aspects of leadership, but especially in God's kingdom.

Life example is important for leadership in God's kingdom

Grassroots leadership

Look at the leadership of Jesus and what He endeavored to instill in His followers.

What was the key? Jesus was intentional about who He discipled and He did this through shared life—it was personal.

People were drawn to Him in a natural way. From the first to the last, people saw Him, heard Him, and could not ignore Him. Even those who opposed Him and later plotted to kill Him couldn't ignore Him.

So what was it about Jesus that drew people to Him? His design for leadership was to build from the ground up—a grassroots leadership. He set the example with His humility.

People saw Jesus and heard Him but could not ignore Him

Humble leadership

Jesus used no fanfare or clever strategy to draw more people. In fact, He often avoided big crowds of people and His teaching and expectations for following Him seemed to push people away from following (John 6:60-66).

This is so backward to what is popular and the prevailing mantra of more and bigger is better.

But that's not the way of Jesus. It's also not the way of great leadership, according to Jim Collins in his book, From Good to Great.

What set apart the companies that rose to greatness? One essential—humble leadership. In a business model, this means putting the company and your people above your self. This was the example of Jesus for the kingdom of God.

Humility is essential for great leadership and to lead like Jesus

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Leadership in God's kingdom involves following the example of Jesus. This is seen throughout the gospels but illustrated and explained in John 10 where Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Just as people need leaders—sheep need a shepherd—a shepherd they can trust.

Several years ago, I was asked what the basics were to pastoring and planting a church by a young missionary pastor in Thailand whom I mentor.

I came up with three words to summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead—based on John 10:1-18.

3 words can summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead

I'd like to unpack these three words related to the leadership of Jesus and pastoral leadership in additional posts. Hopefully, you'll see how they can apply to leadership at any level for anyone who is a follower of Jesus.

As a pastor and missionary overseas, I've found myself challenged by the unending demand and task of leading people in ministry. In the process of leading, I developed a basic list of ministry priorities and values.

Feel free to download that list here—

Be a Shepherd Not a Sheepdog

If Jesus—the Good Shepherd—is our prime example as a pastor or leader and the Bible is our primary guide, why is it so difficult to pastor God's people well? Be wary of those who say it's easy—it's not!

When pastors or leaders of God's people speak highly of their own pastoral prowess it makes me wonder…Are they following the example of Jesus or some ideal of their own? Do they reflect the nature and commitment of the Good Shepherd or some image they are convinced is best?

When the expectations of pastors are driven by business leadership guidelines and principles and a result-oriented culture, it won't line up with what we see in Jesus as the Good Shepherd nor what the Bible says.

Are you a shepherd or a sheepdog?

Let's start with why I’m making a distinction between a shepherd and a sheepdog. Both are invested in tending sheep but in different ways because they have different roles. I’ve seen myself function in both roles while pastoring and seen it in other pastors too.

Whether you’ve had formal education and training to be a pastor or more experienced-based training—a learning as you go approach—you’ve probably fulfilled the role of a sheepdog at times. I think we all tend to do so, especially when planting a church and trying to raise up new leaders.

In church planting, it seems the pastor needs to do most everything most of the time. Although some church plants or launches utilize a team approach with significant planning, a lot falls on the shoulders of the founding pastor.

Shouldering much of the responsibility as a pastor is to be expected but how this is handled individually depends on the person. We all handle things differently but when the responsibilities and work seem overwhelming it’s bound to affect our attitude and mood, which directly impacts the people we lead.

What’s the difference between a shepherd and a sheepdog?

As mentioned in a previous post, Jesus speaks of two important things about Himself as the Good Shepherd—He lays His life down for the sheep and He knows them personally and is known by them.

There is a personal commitment and connection between the Good Shepherd and His sheep, which includes all of us who are followers of Jesus. This is a basic characteristic for any of us to emulate who would be shepherds of God’s people.

The sheepdog, on the other hand, is faithful to the shepherd but doesn’t have the same level of relationship and responsibility as he does. The sheepdog isn’t a hireling (John 10:12-13) but is also not a shepherd. His or her relationship and role with the sheep is different than the shepherds.

The primary role of a sheepdog is to assist the shepherd. The sheepdog assists the shepherd with gathering and handling the sheep. This includes—gathering and guiding sheep while in the pasture and guiding them into a pen or enclosure as the shepherd directs and commands them.

The Good Shepherd has a personal commitment and connection with His sheep

The different relationships and roles of the shepherd and sheepdog

Consider a simple comparison of how a shepherd leads under the direction of Jesus the Chief Shepherd and how a sheepdog works under a shepherd.

Shepherd

Love and grace-based relationship to sheepLeads by going ahead of the sheepGuides sheep with his staffThe sheep know the shepherd’s voice and toneShepherd is committed as fellow-shepherd with the Chief Shepherd

Sheepdog

Sheep have a fear-based relationship to the sheepdogDrives or pushes the sheep from behindNips at the heels of the sheep and runs from side to side to handle themBarks and growls at the sheepCommitted to assisting the shepherd but has a lower position and role

If a leader takes on the characteristics of a sheepdog it’s not a personality change nor is it an all-or-nothing role change. However, it can become a habitual style of leadership.

It often starts in subtle ways as a reaction to unmet expectations of people or the pastor/leader’s own sense of urgency. It can also be an indirect reaction to pressures and expectations at home or some other source.

Don’t be a sheepdog!

When there’s a time crunch and much to be done, it’s easy to drift into the role and attitude of acting like a sheepdog rather than a shepherd towards people. That’s when we start barking out orders and nipping at people’s heels to get them moving.

Although this may be effective at first it’s not sustainable. People get weary of being barked and nipped at and driven to serve or commit to something. Churches and ministries are notorious for recruiting people to serve and expecting commitments from them that too often become one-way.

People will only put up with the sheepdog approach for a short time before they either ignore the sheepdog or snap back. Pastors and leaders are often surprised at this reaction because they're unaware of their contribution to it.

This approach results in resentment sooner or later and the ripple effect is discouragement in people’s hearts, which leads to disenchantment with serving the Lord, and often results in departures—people either back out of commitments or dropout and leave the church.

People only put up with the sheepdog approach for a short time before they react to it in some way

Some simple reminders

Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd and the Door to the sheepfold (John 10:7, 11, 14) and Peter calls Jesus the Chief Shepherd whom we are under as under-shepherds (1 Peter 5:4). Paul exhorted the elders to be shepherds of God’s flock—those whom Jesus purchased with His own blood—as overseers under the direction of the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28).

The church is the Lord’s not ours as shepherds. The people are His people—His sheep—under our care as shepherds and leaders. Again, God’s people are not our people nor is the church ours.

Even though we may speak of “our church” or “our people,” it’s understood we mean the church we’re called to pastor or the people we oversee.

A delicate balance exists between emulating Jesus’ relationship and commitment to His people and our relationship with Jesus as one of His followers. As pastors, we need to lead, love, and care for God’s people remembering we are fellow followers with them under the same Chief Shepherd.

Jesus was a model of this for us that fits any capacity of leadership. He spoke of submission to His Father and saying and doing what the Father gave Him to say and do. He also demonstrated what kind of leaders He expected as He washed the disciples' feet (John 13:4-5, 13-17)—servant-leaders.

How to keep from being a sheepdog

We need to keep a few basics in perspective to avoid the sheepdog approach to pastoring and leading God’s people. The simple reminders above are always a priority.

Also, as pastors, we need to remember why the Lord calls and gifts us to be pastors. As Paul pointed out, we are to be leaders who equip God’s people for service (Eph 4:11-12) to build up the Body of Christ. This is what Paul spoke of in the pastoral epistles (2 Tim 2:2)—basic discipleship as Jesus demonstrated.

We need to disciple people to whom we can delegate the various responsibilities of service involved with being a church body. Then we need to be an example to them to help them avoid becoming sheepdogs as they assist us in loving, caring, and leading God’s people.

Next post, I’ll share some more thoughts on following the example of our Good Shepherd Jesus.

How Do We Follow the Example of Our Good Shepherd?

What is your perception of the role and work of a pastor?

Considerable instruction and guidance are found in the Bible but pop culture also has a lot to say about it and a bit too much influence.

The Bible is the primary and obvious guide pastors and leaders ought to seek first. I think most do but expectations based on current trends and opinions compete with it in a strong way. Considerable instruction and guidance are found in the Bible but pop culture also has a lot to say about it and a bit too much influence.

When expectations of pastors are driven by business leadership guidelines and principles, and a result-oriented culture, the role and work of pastors are easily skewed.

The Bible and our prime example

Let's start with what we see in the Bible. The primary scripture references I lean on are found in the gospel of John chapter 10 and in the prophet Ezekiel chapter 34. Next to them would be the pastoral epistles— 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (for conflict resolution).

Guidance, instruction, and warnings are in all these references for what God expects of those who are called to be pastoral leaders. Pastoral leaders would include those assisting a pastor, senior or lead pastors, church planters, elders and heads of ministry—anyone in a place of overseeing or discipling God's people, the church.

The Lord has high expectations for those who oversee His people and serve as His shepherds. Yet, it's easy to feel the squeeze of the expectations of those we lead and even other pastors. But I’ll address that later.

Jesus—the Good Shepherd—is our prime example as a shepherd

Our prime example

Jesus is, of course, our prime example as a shepherd. In John 10, Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd twice (John 10:11, 14) and speaks of two distinctions—

The Good Shepherd lays His life down for the sheep— Jesus' example is for us to be a servant-leader more concerned for the welfare of our people than ourselves. This is also seen in Jesus' example of washing the disciples' feet (John 13:1-17) and when He says that He didn't come to be served but to serve and offer Himself as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).The Good Shepherd knows His sheep and is known by them— Jesus knows those who are His sheep—His true followers—and they know Him. He has a genuine relationship with them. In later verses, Jesus says His sheep hear and know His voice and follow Him (John 10:27). As pastors and leaders, we are to know God's people but more importantly, they ought to hear the Good Shepherd's voice through us.

How do we follow the Good Shepherd's example?

One of the difficult things to emulate of Jesus as a shepherd is His closeness of relationship with His people. It is not an overbearing closeness that leads to abusive control nor is it a familiar friendship that includes some but not all of God's people.

This is a lot like being foster parents who have a great responsibility but little real authority. My wife and I were foster parents for a season before we moved overseas for ministry. We had four of our own children and the typical responsibilities that go with planting and pastoring a church.

It was a great experience for our family and gave us the opportunity to share God's goodness and grace with many children and teens. It was also a vivid illustration for me of my role as pastor. We were temporary and surrogate parents for these children under the authority of the state of California just as I was under the authority of the Good Shepherd.

How do we follow Jesus' example as the Good Shepherd? It requires lots of continued prayer, humility, and a willingness to be corrected and guided by Him along the way.

How do we follow Jesus' example as the Good Shepherd?

The wrong example

At the beginning of John 10, Jesus tells a parable about shepherds and sheep but it's not understood by those who heard it(John 10:1-6). I’m not so sure we understand it any better in our present time and culture.

He speaks of a door or gate to the sheepfold and those who try to get in their own way. The shepherd who enters by the door knows His sheep and they know His voice. When He calls them by name they follow Him but won't follow a strange shepherd.

Following this parable, Jesus explains that He is the Door in one of the several "I am" statements He makes about Himself. Then He calls Himself the Good Shepherd who is contrasted with a "hireling"—a hired shepherd who doesn't have a relationship with the sheep nor a commitment to them.

When the hireling sees a wolf come he abandons the sheep and the sheep are either caught or scattered by the wolf. It's not too hard to understand this illustration. The wolf stands for the enemy of our souls and the hired shepherd is... well, sometimes he's you and me.

A portrait of the hireling or poor example as a shepherd is found in Ezekiel 34. It’s not pretty. The Lord goes on to say He will rescue His sheep and establish one shepherd over them—

I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them— My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. (Ezekiel 34:23 NKJV)

This looks forward to Jesus—the Son of David, the Messiah—coming as the Good Shepherd. Any true shepherd is to be like Him and submitted to Him.

Any true shepherd is to be like the Good Shepherd and submitted to Him

Let's be honest with ourselves

Any honest pastor will admit to thoughts of quitting the pastorate or moving on from one ministry to another. Some carry out those thoughts.

But most pastors I've known and worked alongside aren't hirelings. They love the Lord and God's people and they know they're called to the pastorate. It's not a job, it's their life calling.

But there's another way we emulate the hireling more than the Good Shepherd. We might not be a hireling but we sound and act more like a sheepdog than a shepherd. The role and work of a sheepdog are different than a shepherd, even their nature is different. I want to address that in another post.

Until then, here are a couple questions to consider—

How are you following the example of the Good Shepherd? Be honest with yourself and ask the Holy Spirit’s witness to guide you.

Do you mirror more of what Jesus says in John 10 or do you find yourself drifting into the attitude and actions of the shepherds of Ezekiel 34?

Teaching with Authority

Jesus taught with authority. The crowds and the disciples observed this and it astonished them. It was so different than what they were used to from the scribes—the experts in the Law—the highly educated scholars (Matt 7:28-29).

When Jesus completed His teaching compiled in the Sermon on the Mount—found in Chaps 5–7 of Matthew—He shared a parable about the wise and foolish builders (Matt 7:24-27). The simple truth of this parable is obvious since Jesus stated it—those who hear the teaching of Jesus and apply it are like a person who builds their house on a rock foundation.

What about those who hear His teachings but don’t apply them? They’re foolish! As with the metaphor in the parable—a solid foundation is essential for building a physical house. Likewise, a solid message or Bible study needs a firm foundation.

If Jesus laid aside His divine power and status when He became a man (Phil 2:6-8)—How was He able to teach with such authority that people, including His disciples, were astonished?

Where did Jesus gain His authority to teach?

True authority

It’s easy to assume Jesus had great authority when He taught because He was the Son of God. But that’s not what He says—He taught with the authority of the Father under the Father’s guidance and spoke words the Father gave Him (John 12:49-50).

This is what any follower of Jesus is called to do when gifted and called by God to preach and teach. But how can we teach with authority as Jesus did?

Is it possible for us to teach with authority as Jesus did?

It doesn’t come from hours of study, although our personal study is important. It comes from God—God’s Spirit dwelling in and upon us. This is what Jesus promised—

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:26)

Reliance upon the Holy Spirit is essential for preaching and teaching with true authority from God. He is the starting point for understanding God’s written word and gaining insight and direction for whatever message is to be preached or taught.

Reliance upon the Holy Spirit is essential.

John the apostle reminds us of this in his first epistle—

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (1 John 2:27—also see 1 John 2:20)

A firm foundation

As mentioned in a previous post, sound exposition requires solid exegesis—an accurate, faithful study of the Scripture text itself guided by the Holy Spirit. This is what’s needed as a foundation for any message—regardless of how it’s delivered.

Sound exposition requires solid exegesis as a foundation for any message.

The first step for preparing a message—after prayer—is our own exegetical study of the text to be preached or taught—a drawing out the truth from the text being studied. It’s helpful to have a basic understanding of hermeneutics but the guidance of the Holy Spirit is still key to gaining insight of any Scripture text.

Commentaries and other references are helpful for understanding cultural and historical and grammatical context, even for understanding the meaning of key words in their original language. But they shouldn’t be our first source of insight and study.

Our starting point

Our starting point needs to be our own reading and studying of a text guided by the Holy Spirit. Allow the Holy Spirit to be the primary interpreter of God’s Word.

Let the Holy Spirit be your primary interpreter of God’s Word.

A simple and practical approach to exegesis is possible using the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) approach. For me, IBS is a simple and practical way to apply basic hermeneutical principles for studying the Bible.

I learned this as a missionary in the Philippines and teaching leaders in other countries over the past 25 years. As a cross-cultural missionary, I learned how to teach in a simple way while leading students and leaders into a deeper understanding of the Scriptures. IBS as a primary means of exegesis has served me and many other pastors and missionaries well.

I believe IBS is more than adequate for pastors and teachers of local congregations since few of us teach seminary grads. Biblical exegesis can get quite intense and technical but the goal is , as Pastor Chuck Smith said, to “teach the Word of God simply.”

[See below for some links on hermeneutics and IBS]

Do we trust God and His Word?

The role of a pastor—a shepherd to God’s people—is challenging. How can we keep feeding God’s people with authority and authenticity? It’s not that easy to come up with something fresh and engaging week after week but that’s an important responsibility of a pastor. We’re also called to equip the people of God and oversee various aspects of the church’s ministry.

So, how much do we trust the Holy Spirit and God’s written word? This may seem a strange question to ponder but it needs to be answered if we want to teach with authority as Jesus did.

How much do we trust the Holy Spirit and God’s written word?

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is filled with important exhortations and truths. One of those bedrock declarations is—

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV

This sums up our primary means for doing the work of the ministry—pastoring God’s people.

But do we really believe this? Do we trust that the Scriptures are breathed out by God (literal meaning of the Greek)? Is God’s written word really trustworthy and sufficient? Yes!

But if we’re confident in this, then we need to back it up with action. We need to trust the truth of God’s Word and God’s Spirit dwelling in us to feed and lead God’s people.

Our primary example—Jesus

This is how Jesus prepared His disciples who were the first church! Even after His resurrection, He gave them a remedial review of the Scriptures and their need to wait for, receive, and live by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures

“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:44-45, 49 ESV)

One more exhortation from Paul—

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)

This is my desire and goal when I prepare a message to share with God’s people with true godly authority. My confidence isn’t in myself nor in others but in God’s written word and His Spirit dwelling in and empowering me.

It’s also my hope for pastors and teachers of God’s people throughout the Body of Christ.

Resources

Inductive Bible Study with Pastor Dan Finfrock

Hermeneutics with Pastor John Miller

Enduring Word commentary and helps with Pastor David Guzik

Inductive Bible Study, by Bauer and Traina

Inductive Bible Study Basics