Category: Leadership Wisdom

Prepare the Preacher

My dad used to say, “It’s really important to prepare the sermon, but it’s even more important to prepare the preacher.”

I always agreed with him, but deep down, it was a bit of a struggle. Because I love words. I love the limitless ways we can use words to describe the wonders of God and to paint pictures of the inner workings of our hearts and souls. I love the power of verbal communication to draw people into the realm of thinking about the things that really matter in life.

I love God’s word: its fathomless depth, its unswerving honesty, its sovereign artistry, its perfect consistency, and its living authenticity.

And I love to use the words God has given us to point to the Living Word. I resonate deeply with the hymn writer who penned the words, “I love to tell the story.”

But when my focus becomes the teaching itself, I can easily love preaching and teaching more than I love the people I am teaching and preaching to. I can become more concerned with crafting a message than allowing God to craft my heart. I can be wholehearted in my commitment to biblical teaching but halfhearted in committing that teaching to prayer.

I am learning – once again – that my Dad was right.

In these past few months, I have been so impacted – and significantly changed – as I have meditated often on Jesus’ words in John 15. And I can’t help but notice that Jesus doesn’t say that the one who bears much fruit is the one who most accurately and eloquently describes His words. He says the one who will certainly bear much fruit is the one who lives in constant intimate connection with Him and in whom His words are at home and very much alive.

Oh, I still love words, and will continue to use them to their fullest potential. It’s important that we faithfully prepare the teaching. But the real promise of fruit is when God prepares the teacher. I’ll leave you with E.M. Bounds:

“It is not great talents nor great learning nor great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God – men always preaching by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives out of the pulpit. These men can mold a generation for God.”

  • Dave Carroll
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Leading Through Joyful Obedience

Our LCC Vision Statement reads, “To prayerfully advance Christ Kingdom through: evangelizing, teaching leadership development and building the community of God’s people for the Glory of God.” For this blog, I want to center my thoughts on the leadership development aspect, seen as the investing in and equipping of others for lives lived in Joyful Obedience.

Regardless of our station in life we are all called to lead – in the home, work or church. The results of our leadership efforts should be good works that puts on display, the reflected light of Jesus so that the Heavenly Father receives due glory from His children (Matthew  5:16).

As a businessman, I came to realize that true leadership had less to do with an org chart and more about how the person in leadership cares for the people following them. In business school I was taught the cutting-edge on worldly leadership. Yet in a practical sense, I learned more about leadership from the Bible than from my business textbooks. Jesus said, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20: 26b-28). Real leadership is about selfless sacrifice, which is much different than a ‘top-down’ control of worldly leadership.

Jesus said emphatically, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). No matter how weak and inconsistent our obedience, it is a reflection of our love for Jesus. Moments later, in John 15, Jesus spoke to the Christian’s relationship to Christ, alluding to a fullness of joy rooted in obeying Him. Just as Jesus abided in (obeyed) the Father and received joy; we in like manner following Christ, obeying His commands, receive the same joy.

Brethren, when we connect obedience to Christ and investing in others as a single fluent thought and activity, we will discover the starting point for Biblical Leadership – real leadership. In addition, as we obey Christ and equip others to do the same we experience a bit of heavenly delight on earth, the fullness of His joy.

  • Selby Brannon

Reading … an Indispensable Ingredient to Growth

If you made it past the title to begin reading this article … well done, you’ve already gone farther than most.  I can’t for the life of me figure out this obvious trend, not only in our culture but in the Church, of not wanting to read good books. In our quick-fix, entertain-me, passive society many see relaxing with a book as, well, anything but relaxing.  It takes too much work and it requires an engaged mind.  Hear this – I get it! I feel it often in my soul, and I love reading.  I’m tired at the end of the day and the draw of watching one of our recorded shows or vegging in front of the news is often way more attractive than picking up one of the books piling up on my nightstand. Alan Jacobs, a literature professor, rebuked me in his little book – The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction that not everything has to be weighty and deep, but to read for “whim” too.  He fights for people to enjoying reading, not just reading to learn.  That’s not bad advice – to grow we need both timeless truths and the joy that living in our creative Author’s story should inspire.  Here’s my two cents as to why you should read:

Enrichment

The literacy experts will tell you that children that were read to have a higher cognitive ability to process information and a richer vocabulary, thus a greater advantage in their educational pursuits.  Reading enriches our minds … and souls.  God revealed Himself in the Word and in words, so we’d be wise to not ignore print, words, words strung together in sentences, sentences strung together in paragraphs, and paragraphs strung together to build a context – the context to a story … God’s story and every other micro-story that has come after.  I think a pretty good argument can be made for one of God’s designs to enrich the lives of humans is through the written word.  That’s called growing.

Appreciation

Creativity is a beautiful gift from God and one that should never be surrendered by the Church to the secular culture.  Unbelievers can make beautiful art, play beautiful music, and write beautiful stories, but all of that reflects God’s stamp on their lives, whether they acknowledge it or not.  We should read to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and clarity of the human heart expressed in thoughtful words that tell a story, paint a picture, or evoke strong emotions.  A good tv show, movie, or theater production does this … but in reading you get to actively engage in it (work for it), and your mind gets to be the set-designer, director, and costume-creator.  It grows my imagination, creativity, and my joy.

Reflection 

This is where I love to read the great dead guys … theologians, pastors, and scholars who were way smarter than I’ll ever be.  It challenges me, stops me in my tracks, makes me think about God, me, the world.  I don’t ever understand all I’m reading, and I end up forgetting more than I retain, but I still grow.  I’m forced to reflect slowly on timeless truths that are life-changing.  I read, re-read, write in the margins, try to summarize in my journal, and prayerfully consider just what this means for my life … that’s all a good exercise for my growth.

I’ll never stop recommending books, referencing Tolkien scenes, or including thoughtful quotes in my sermons.  I want to grow, and I want you to grow … so pick up a book or two for your summer reading list.  Enjoy, be enriched, and reflect on who God is and what He’s done!

  • Mark Spansel

The Pressure to Look Just Right

Friends,

This will be the last Elder Blog until the fall ministry year starts back up.  It has been the desire of the Elders to be open and vulnerable, as well as directing and helpful in our drafting of these short little articles.  We hope it has been just that, and that we have served you in some way through these written words.  There is a such a pressure to look just right before one another …

In the world, the mantra is “be yourself”, but these days that sounds a lot more like be what the culture deems acceptable and is non-offensive to the post-modern, politically correct mindset. You and I have to fight the urge to slink into those places that don’t disrupt the status quo nor come out swinging.

In the church, it’s really easy to hear “be good and act right” even if that’s not being overtly said.  You rightly hear the commands of Scripture without a solid grasp on the story of Scripture and run to doing over being, working over resting.  We see the people around us that seem to “have it together” without slowing down enough to listen to their story.  We feel like we’re supposed to say a certain thing just right, respond in the churchy way, and not have needs. What is at the root of this?

It’s that in our souls, we simply want to “look just right”.  Nobody chooses chaos, ugly, and discouragement.  It’s not your fault – you inherited a corrupt nature from Adam that defaults to law, is hardwired for selfishness, and longs to fix.  But it also is your fault – you choose to hide, choose to trust yourself, and like being your own savior.  We can grasp the concept of grace, but fail to walk in it … and we can grasp the concept of obedience, but fail to rest in Christ’s obedience.  I hope you hear me being a broken record on these things because these are the pressures I feel, the tension of walking with the Lord in both the fear of His awesome holiness and as a beloved son cherished by my Heavenly Father.

God is at work in LCC, please keep walking and serving with us.  As Elders we are growing men who long to be used to help each of you grow more and more.  Thanks for your service to the Church this ministry year … we’ll see you Friday at the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner!

– Mark Spansel

Leadership in Ministry

God uses His people to proclaim His Word to those outside the household of faith and trust in Him.

Our task is to live and teach the truths of Christ, so that “outsiders” will desire to be “insiders” (The great commission). Ministry then, seeks to unite and equip His people to promote that common goal. Truly, this is an awesome, and rewarding task. As ministry leaders, we need the guidance and motivation of the Holy Spirit (God’s part) to provide direction and encouragement along the way. A great example of such leadership was Nehemiah.

– He had a love for God and His honor. This was the basis of his mission—to rebuild the walls.

– Survivors of captivity were in great distress and reproach. Jerusalem’s gates and walls were in ruin (Nehemiah 1:3). In ancient times the condition of the city wall was seen as an indication of the strength of the people’s gods. The ruined condition of the wall of Jerusalem reflected on Jehovah God’s Name.

– His response was confession, prayer and fasting (Ch. 1)

– He made plans and identified resources for his mission (Ch. 2)

– He encouraged participation in the rebuilding, according to the people’s skills and location in life (Ch. 3)

– He ran to prayer and encouragement in response to setbacks and discouragements (Ch. 4, esp. v 9-15)

– The result—mission/ministry accomplished. The wall finished in record time. God answered prayer and was honored. While the enemies heard and perceived “this work was done by our God” (Nehemiah 6:15-16).

Let us, as co-laborers for Christ, employ similar methods, practices and attitudes, so that our ministries may be motivated by His love and grace toward each of us. May His Kingdom be advanced, and our spiritual growth enhanced as we invest ourselves in His work, for His glory.

– Don Schoenwald

Being A Lamp For Christ

I like to think of myself as a calm, rational, even-tempered person. More importantly, I like to think that this is the face I show the outside world. The truth is something a little coarser and less attractive. I’m actually a prideful, controlling, situation manager, usually certain I’ve got a better idea than whatever other options might be already on the table, always ready to trust my own wisdom, not only over whoever else might be in the room, but God as well.

A closely related trait that I also work hard to keep under wraps is a big mouth. You see, when it comes down to it, there’s not much I don’t have an opinion on that I don’t want everyone to know. Pride is always pushing to get out, to show off, to have its way, to draw attention to its owner’s wonderfulness (which in this case, would be me.) It’s really no different than Adam and Eve desiring to wrestle God for His glory, is it?

As believers, we are called to congregate and to evangelize. We congregate to feed and bolster one another and to worship God together; it’s not God’s plan that we walk alone. We evangelize to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, to reflect God’s glory and share His grace with a fallen world. God’s calling requires us to be both sheep and shepherd, but prideful, arrogant, glory-seeking big-mouthery isn’t conducive to either. We can neither lead well nor follow well if we can’t keep quiet long enough to hear the gentle counsel of our Christian brothers and sisters or see their aching need. Only through Christ can we can hope to extinguish the selfish, prideful flame burning inside each of us.

I love the imagery evoked in Luke 11:33-35 where Luke compares faith to a lamp:
33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

Luke drives his lamp metaphor in two directions, describing the believer as a lamp lighting a room, but also describing our eyes as the lamp of our bodies, enlightening or darkening our souls depending on the choices we make. If our soul is lit with the love of Christ then not only are we saved, but we light the world for others. Conversely, our darkened souls not only doom our salvation but also fail to light the way for others.

In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Am I lamp for Jesus? Is my body a suitable home for the light that is our savior? Is His light shining through me and lighting the room so that others might find their way? I hope so… there’s just always this matter of getting my prideful self out of the way.

– Paul Burkholder

Ministry By Faith … Not Ministry Fixing

Because we understand the redeeming work Jesus has done for us, we give. Knowing and having tasted of the grace with which our Creator stooped down to rescue us from our heinous depravity, we serve others with grace. Our motivation to be servants, givers, and ministry leaders is nothing less than the Gospel grace we have received. We are not the creators of service, initiators of mercy, or inventors of ministry … God is. And God has already delivered the once for all message of redemption available to all mankind. We simply get to participate in this grand narrative of redemption, not as the main characters but as the supporting cast pointing people to the great protagonist – King Jesus!

So how does all that translate into loving people well in the context of ministry in the local church? That’s what this blog is all about, and what we are burdened as Elders to equip and encourage you in. And here’s the opening thought – Our goal in ministry is not controlling or managing people, but being used as instruments of the Spirit of God, the One who does the transforming.

We are all wired to DO. Even when we don’t feel like doing, we choose to do something other than what we should do. Be it sleep, worldly amusement, or sinful pleasures, we are created with wills that choose to do what we most desire. This poses a problem for people-ministry because if we aren’t controlled by the Spirit, we will simply tell people what to do, how to do it, and when to do it without any thought as to it being the Spirit of God who must compel their genuine obedience. When we manage people, they may look acceptable, and they may even appear to do the right thing, but it may all be a work of the flesh. So my ministry friends, be careful and wise as you shepherd people that you are not merely feeding their flesh as they aim to please you and jump through man-made hoops, but that the transformation of their life is birthed from a true delight to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

– Mark Spansel