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10 Commandments for Social Media

This article needs minimal introduction. Social media is ablaze right now and has been for some time. Rage is on the rise, wars are fought using words as ammunition, and aggressive debate takes its toll on even the most upbeat human souls.

How does a Christian resist the temptation to hurl verbal stones when it has become fashionable to do so? What stands in the way of us believing that launching insults and attacking others is akin to “fighting the good fight” of faith?

I find that the temptation to dive into the social media fray is ever-present, so during a recent vacation, I got off social media and prayed through some principles that I could use to redeem the use of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. While we all fail at using proper social media etiquette from time to time (I am guilty of this!), these “10 Commandments for Social Media” may prove especially helpful during turbulent days like the ones we are currently in. If anything, using them as a part of your regular posting protocols may keep you out of a few more kerfuffles and offer more peace of mind.

  1. Thou shalt post scripture passages

Whatever happened to the good ole’ fashioned days of “posting a Bible verse” on social media? Try this one out and consider posting daily from the word of God. You may even want to only post a Bible passage some days. Thankfully, several Christian leaders do this regularly.

  1. Thou shalt post biblically-rich articles

When is the last time you heard of someone changing the world with an angry tweet, slanderous tabloid fare, or trashy news? It doesn’t happen. But what does change hearts and minds? Biblically rich resources — even if they pack a bit of a (conviction-driven) punch from time to time. People need solid writing that is loaded with practical and biblical teaching. Nothing feeds hungry hearts better than God’s will from God’s word. Point people to Jesus in biblical ways and help them practically apply divine truths. That will change the world.

  1. Thou shalt post expository sermons

It might get more hits to share gossip, but what people need is the gospel and deep dives into the Scriptures. In the long run, the amount of encouragement and edification that occurs when we share gospel-centered sermons that walk people verse-by-verse through the Bible will long outlive anything else we share because the results are eternal. Share your favorite sermons, recommend faithful pastors, and watch God use your efforts to draw His people home.

  1. Thou shalt post edifying videos (or GIFs)

We are living in a “video” generation. Social media sites optimize posts that use video, people devour videos, and millions share videos. Believers who want to redeem social media can do so by posting biblically-rich videos that edify and encourage people. And remember, sometimes brevity is best. Not to be outdone, the GIF has been a revolutionary little tool for social media use. In my humble opinion, there is no one better at the “Christian” use of these than my Twitter friend, Garrett Kell (@pastorjgkell). He’s the GIF Pastor-Master and consistently edifies his followers by using videos (often funny) that illustrate serious and biblical truths.

  1. Thou shalt post God-glorifying quotes

Posting quotes is one of the best ways to share timeless truths and introduce people to influential theologians, pastors, and reliable sources. While you might think everyone will learn about Spurgeon by reading his pivotal 400+ page work, Lectures to My Students, it’s more likely that people will come to hear about him through Christian’s posting inspiring quotes. From voices of the past like J.C. Ryle, R.C. Sproul, G.K. Chesterton, Elisabeth Elliott, Corrie ten Boom, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Hudson Taylor, to faithful voices of today, quotes edify and educate.

  1. Thou shalt post doctrinally sound book recommendations

What an abundance of wisdom could be spread if we share what books have been impacting our growth? I think teaching people how to identify reliable books is akin like the old cliché that goes, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” You can share your opinion on a matter and trigger someone’s reaction, or you can share a book and change someone’s mind. Speaking of which, I’ve given you my opinion on this, so here are three books that will shape how you view and use social media: Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke, and The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch.

  1. Thou shalt post using gracious and mature speech (Colossians 4:5-6)

While there is nothing wrong with speaking the hard truth, the Bible is clear that a Christian must still use gracious speech even when hidden behind a screen. For all his “telling it like it is” to the Galatian and Corinthian Christians, the apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that love was essential in all his efforts (1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 1 Timothy 1:5). Far too often, people treat humans on the other side of social media debates as anything but human, and love is nowhere to be found. A simple question: would you speak and act the way you do online if you were in a group setting at church? With the way some of us operate, we would likely find our way into church discipline or out the door. Let Colossians 4:5-6 be a guiding lamp for the way you walk online.

  1. Thou shalt not engage in petty debate (Titus 3:9)

We’ve all done it. We’ve all regretted it. Petty debate is such an easy sinkhole to fall into online. Reject it, every time. Furthermore, let us never forget that many of the vain wranglers on Twitter and Facebook run monetized YouTube channels and websites. They have a machine — no, a monster — that they must feed. So, instead of making disciples in their local church, studying and teaching real people, and focusing on devotion to Christ and loving their family, they scour the online world looking for theological gnats to strain and molehills to turn into mountains. Back and forth they go, and they go, and they go. Ignore them. This isn’t to say that all “discernment bloggers” fit that picture or that you should never offer a gracious and explanatory response. Many people do a wonderful job equipping saints (Ephesians 4:12), speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:16), marking dangerous teachers (Romans 16:17-18), and refuting destructive doctrines (Titus 1:9). They expose evil deeds in very helpful ways (Ephesians 5:11). But consider putting a cap on how many responses you’ll offer before taking it offline with a phone call, or leaving it alone.

  1. Thou shalt not vent in haste on social media

Nothing good comes from online venting. Even if you’re frustrated, “prudence” is a trusted friend that helps even fools remain silent, and thus appear wise (Proverbs 17:28). If we made a dime for every time we should have kept our fingers holstered on social media but chose to vent in haste, we’d all be rich. Some basic tips here: 1) Don’t post late at night, 2) Don’t post when high on emotion, 3) Don’t post if you have second thoughts, and 4) Use #10.

  1. Thou shalt run questionable posts by accountability partners

On a “Top 5” list of temptations for social media users, you’d likely find the temptation to ignore a spouse, a pastor, a friend, or a co-worker who says, “Don’t post that!” or “Don’t say it like that.” Nearly every Tweet I ever regretted posting has been one that my wife or a mentor said, “You really should’ve held off on that one.” Pride says, “I’m fighting the fight here, people!” or “Someone’s got to say tell it like it is and that someone is me!” Unfortunately, pride is rarely (if ever) right. And perhaps someone does need to say “it.” But “it” probably needs an “edit” button.

I hope these help you in some way, shape, or form. Until Christ returns or Twitter gives us an edit button, may we all fight the “online” fight the right way — in a way that honors God.

6 Ways to Stifle Your Small Group

Small groups can be an incredible blessing, but they are not fail-proof. At times, churches “sell” small group involvement as the secret sauce to a thriving spiritual life; overflowing with friendships and community that fills hearts and saves marriages!

Don’t get me wrong. I love small groups. For six years I had the privilege of overseeing the small group ministry in our church and some of the most incredible testimonies came from small group participants. They are an excellent vehicle for discipleship.

Still, even when the bible is present and optimism is high, there are several ways to do the right thing the wrong way. Small groups are no exception.

Here are six ways you (or someone in your group) could be stifling the abundant potential waiting to be unlocked through your small group:

1. Say, “Here is what this passage means to me, what does it mean to you?”
This language stifles because it bypasses the very foundation of healthy small groups. Namely, the faithful interpretation of the bible based on the biblical author’s intent and the context a given passage is set in. Far too often, small group leaders share what a passage means “to them,” then they ask what it means, “to you.” After the circle of participants has fired off with their best take, one might think they were aiming at a moving target.

The truth is, those who do this are likely getting application and interpretation confused. The solution? First ask, “What does this passage mean. To the original audience. In proper context. Period.” Then ask, “How can I apply this to my life as someone living in the 21st century.” Over time, you’ll find personal opinions being outshone by God’s will through His word.

2. Let the single-issue-crusaders and dominant speakers run wild
Single-issue-crusaders are the people who always seem to veer the conversation into the same “pet topic” that they are passionate about. I’ve seen crusaders drive well-meaning small group attendees right out of a group and into a different church because they went unchecked; ruining deep discussions by constantly bringing up politics, personal drama, or spewing unvetted opinions about the same issue over and over. These passionate individuals have value, but they rarely achieve their full potential if allowed to go unchecked.

Dominant speakers can be a leader’s greatest asset. They talk when few are willing, their example encourages others to be open and honest, and they usually offer helpful wisdom. However, when they speak too much, it can stifle the entire group. It may be one of the hardest conversations you have in small group life, but single-issue-crusaders and dominant speakers need loving correction for the health of the whole.

3. Don’t show them how you came to understand a biblical truth
If you want to stifle a small group, keep all your bible study wisdom, interpretation tools, and trusted processes to yourself. That way, your group will depend on you like needy children and develop an attachment to you; requiring that you always be their feeder and leader. This will make you feel very important; fueling your ego as the “anointed source” of wisdom and leadership for the group.

What’s more? It will be a mask for your insecurity, inability to raise up others, and ultimately lead to your demise as a leader. Quite possibly, it could prove you were never a real leader in the first place.

Nobody benefits from this!

Set your group on fire by showing them how you’ve grown, how you’ve studied, and how you’ve learned to apply God’s word and live it out. Ask them questions. Lead them to helpful resources, buy them books, and send them articles. Help them cross reference, root out theological themes in a text, identify key phrases and terms, and apply it all to their own life. They aren’t “yours.” They are God’s. Steward them well and emulate Paul’s instructions to Timothy when he commanded, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1-2).

4. Undermine church leadership by teaching contradictory doctrinal views
Small groups can be sweet, but can quickly turn sour when leaders begin using their influence like Absalom did (2 Samuel 13-19). David’s son became infamous for his scandalous attempt to undermine his father’s throne. Under the deceitful veneer of being a good listener and a leader the people could trust, Absalom paid the ultimate price for his sinful pride.

The moral of this story is not that you will be slain if you undermine your church leaders (that’s a ridiculous scare-tactic some false teachers use!).

However, the lessons in the story about unity and integrity can still apply to us today.

As a leader who has been allowed to steward people, be loyal to qualified leaders and be sensitive to how God views discord (Proverbs 6:16:19). Small group leaders should be unified in doctrine and unified in practice with their church leaders; holding to the statement of faith that their church abides by. If you feel tempted to contradict, or you suddenly disagree with the church’s doctrinal convictions, don’t divide or sow discord amongst your small group. Leave humbly. Your reputation will follow you to the next church.

5. Be closed-minded and abrasive towards adding new people to the group
Closing groups or limiting their capacity is advisable in certain scenarios. Homes and locations are not limitless when it comes to space, and everyone can agree that consistency and trust can occur more rapidly if a small group is not a revolving door of flaky participants; jolting the groups dynamic with each sporadic entrance (or exit).

However, the “frozen chosen” mentality is deadly for group health, and more importantly, church health. This mentality sees new people as a threat, and expanding the reach of the group is seen as detrimental to comfort and familiarity. For groups like this, the idea that a new person or couple would disrupt the tight-knit group dynamic takes precedence over the command we have to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).

You don’t have to invite the entire neighborhood or make it hard to find seating in your home, but every believer should ask, “How can we give others the kind of community we’re experiencing?”

6. Resist the idea of “commissioning” potential leaders to start new groups
This final item on the list closely parallels #5 but focuses on stifling leadership development. Similar to being unwilling to invest in new people, a leader who refuses to release mature people will stifle group health and missional effectiveness. Some argue that small groups should endlessly divide and conquer; splitting in half at every turn and adding new people into those split groups. Others suggests different methods and argue that dividing groups is nonsensical. Whatever you choose as a method, the mindset must be the same. Commissioning new leaders to “strike out” and start new groups is a healthy way to duplicate and be faithful to the Great Commission.

Small groups don’t exist to merely give people a safe space, baked goods, and bible study. They exist to duplicate! If stewarded effectively, small groups should be reproducing mature, stable, honest, authentic, passionate, servant-leading disciples who in turn begin to lead others where they have been led.

When centered on faithfulness, unity, and the word of God, small groups can be a thriving vehicle for making disciples and deploying a new generation of leaders for the glory of God.

Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah

God has an ultimate agenda for His people that brings glory to His name and joy to their hearts. He doesn’t have to, but He most often uses human leaders to unravel His plans.

Much like today, there were leaders throughout the Bible who used their positions of power to abuse and exploit people for their own gain. And, much like today, there were leaders throughout the Bible who used their position as for good. Nehemiah is one of the most prominent examples of spiritual leadership that viewed authority as God-given privilege — a responsibility, really — not a mandated right. Nehemiah held a job as the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11), and later as governor (5:14), and used his position of influence to carry out God’s agenda. Warren Wiersbe’s strikes the heart of leadership challenges when he writes, “In our day of public scandals in almost every area of life…how refreshing it is to meet a man like Nehemiah who put serving the people ahead of gain for himself.”

Simply put: we need leaders like Nehemiah. He’s a model worth emulating and one that we should pay close attention to.

Here are five qualities that Nehemiah possessed, though the list could be much longer. As you read through, take notice that these are not things a leader is naturally born with. These are qualities that every leader in the body of Christ can strive for and obtain by the grace of God.

Nehemiah was a man of prayer

After learning about Jerusalem’s distress, Nehemiah’s response proves much about his leadership. He gave himself to “fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (1:4). Nehemiah was no priest but sought the Lord on behalf of the people with the priestly passion (1:5-11). When we come face-to-face with troubling circumstances, our first response says a great deal about our leadership aptitude. Do our knees hit the floor with a sense of ownership and confidence? Do our hearts break for those in bondage? A passionate prayer life is a mighty weapon in ministry.

Nehemiah was a prudent planner

Nehemiah has close access to the king and when an opportunity presented itself he was ready with an answer. When the king offered him the chance to make a request, he wasn’t at a loss for words. In fact, he prayed (of course!), then came to the king with clear plans for action and was shown favor by the king (2:1-9). How many times do we ask God for big things but our plans are nothing more than a meandering daydream? It’s been well said that goals without a deadline are just dreams. Nehemiah wasn’t praying for God to open doors for his barely-vetted idea. He was prudent, planned, and ready when the answer was, “Yes!”

Nehemiah was a confident motivator

When rallying the officials concerning the rebuilding of the wall, Nehemiah explained the dire situation, then called for progress! He motivated them by explaining the favor God had shown them in opening the doors for a rebuild (2:17-18). The result of his prayers, his plans, and call to action? “Then they said, ‘Let us arise and build.’ So they put their hands to the good work” (2:18). For all his ability to motivate, not everyone was impressed. In the face of opposition and ridicule, Nehemiah spilled the secret to his confidence declaring, “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build…” (2:20). His constant call was to “remember the Lord who is great and awesome” (4:14). Within the church today, leaders have the opportunity to motivate people to take on big challenges for the glory of God and the good of His people. Motivating them with divine confidence is critical to moving the ball downfield.

Nehemiah was focused on giving God glory

When the wall was completed, it wasn’t said the Nehemiah was the greatest in the land. He didn’t stand and testify of his strength, wisdom, and might. Nehemiah has continually testified about what God had done and the result was this: “And it came about when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (6:16). Now that is a leader who has created a culture of glorifying God!

Nehemiah was committed to obedience

At the end of the book of Nehemiah, we find that the devotion of the people and their obedience to God had faded. Nehemiah quickly stepped in and called for the people to remember the sins of Solomon (13:26) and turn in obedience to God. Ever the watchman on the wall and the defender of God’s commands, Nehemiah refused to back down when it came to pleasing God. As leaders, we can grow exhausted in our efforts to call people into obedience to God. Sometimes it may seem like all a leader is doing is policing people’s bad behavior. Yet, after all he’d faced, how was it that Nehemiah still found the strength to take on another course correcting challenge? He was serving an audience of One. In the end, he declared, “Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:31). A leader stays committed to even the hardest parts of our task by remembering Who we serve and why we serve Him. Nehemiah modeled what it means to obey God for the right reasons and stay focused on what matters most.

May a generation of Nehemiah’s stand tall in the midst of great challenges; determined to do great things for the glory of a great God.

Why Biblical Elders Are Vital to Church Health

Church leadership models always seem to be going through a type of cultural renovation. Trying to stay relevant, influential evangelicals try to innovate at every turn; trading in biblical roles like elder and deacon for newer, less biblically stringent leadership positions. Some churches avoid having elders altogether because of bad experiences or horror stories from others who warn, “Don’t have elders, they will control you!”  Other churches have senior pastors with their own agenda in mind who purposely manipulate the system to ensure that only “yes-men”make it into leadership. Still, there are churches who have yet to raise up elders or don’t know how. Whatever the scenario, biblical eldership is not always taken as seriously as it should be, and yet, it is incredibly vital to the health of a church.

Elders are important to the church because, first and foremost, they are the leaders that Christ has appointed to oversee His church. This is not mere suggestion – it is the biblical mandate. A church cannot be a fully healthy church without elders, and a church can most certainly not be a healthy church without qualified elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).  At the very least, there should be elders being raised up where there are no qualified elders yet. Elders are so important that one of Paul’s first apostolic decisions in the churches that he established was to appoint elders there (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).

Besides their biblically mandated presence in a church, there are several specific ways that elders are important to the vitality and health of a church.Here are are six to consider:

1. The church needs elders who are spiritually minded

Far too many elder boards are nothing more than a polity board when instead they should be pastoral. The church doesn’t need corporate shot-callers, it needs shepherds. True elders are ultimately put in their position by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), not by being golfing buddies with the senior pastor or a wealthy influencer in the church. The term elder, in the Bible, is reserved for spiritual men who shepherd the flock. The terms πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros), ποιμήν (poimen), and ἐπίσκοπος (episkopos) are all used to describe the same office in the New Testament. Overseers, pastors, shepherds, and elders are all operating as the same kind of servant leader(s) of the church. Therefore, elders are spiritual men who are spiritually minded. They aren’t concerned with holding a position of power, but rather, being a faithful steward of what Christ has entrusted them with.

2. The church needs elders who care for the people

Christ’s people needs care – period. From counseling, to comforting, to correcting, to concern, no body of believers should be without overseers who have a genuine care for their souls (Hebrews 13:17). One of the ways that care is continuous is in the prayer life of an elder. Elders take time to pray fervently for the people. While the people are working, battling sin, and facing another day of challenges, there ought to be elders who are spiritual men going to the throne room of God on behalf of the people. This by no means is to say that the church must have some sort of priestly mediator – for we have Christ and need no other. It is to simply say that shepherds should be praying for the flock; knowing that God uses the power of prayer to preserve people.

3. The church needs elders who model for the people

They don’t need to be perfect or on a pedestal, but elders should be joyfully modeling a commitment to Christ and holiness in their lives. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 lays out qualifications that all Christians should strive for, but specifically, it lays out qualifications that all elders must possess. In fact, one of the responsibilities of an elder is to set an example for the flock (1 Peter 5:3). Elders who are qualified prove to be helpful models for people who need encouragement, discipleship, and a real life example of how sanctification works! Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). That’s the kind of leadership the church needs from elders.

4. The church needs elders who support church discipline

Elders oversee church discipline and support a system of correction, purification, and restoration within the church.  This is a healthy ecosystem in that the elders are often appointed by those within the church based on their qualifications, then serve to support the church through discipline and oversight. What a model of humility by both the congregation and the elders! (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15; Titus 3:9-11).

5. The church needs elders who teach the Word

While all believers are to be teaching and admonishing one another (Colossians 3:16), elders are specifically called to the ministry of the word (1 Timothy 3:2) and charged with the task of preserving sound doctrine within the church (Acts 20:31; Titus 1:9). No church should ever have to suffer through the burden of not having gifted leaders who guide them in the Scriptures. Elders should be seen as essential to feeding the flock so much so that one of the primary emphasis in a local church is the raising up, and support of, biblical elders.

6. The church needs elders who protect them from deceivers

Elders are essential to a church because their ministry includes an emphasis on protecting the people by using the word to refute those who would harm them. Again, this is something that all Christians can do, but Christ has seen to it that there’s no question of who must do this. Even though people appoint and humbly follow their qualified leaders, it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who “makes” elders the overseers of the church (Acts 20:28) and demands they must protect the people. Elders stand against false doctrines, mark false teachers, and refuse to concede against any wolves that would prey on the flock (Acts 20:28-30; Romans 16:17-18).

Governance models within any given church may vary. Some will opt for elder led, some for congregationalism, and others will mix these two and find a type of balance. No matter the model, biblical elders are critical to the health of a church. Our goal should be to see Christ raise them up in our churches for the good of His people and glory of His name.

Recommended Reading:

Biblical Eldership By Alexander Strauch

The Masters Plan for the Church John MacArthur

Church Elders By Jeramie Rinne

Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology By John S. Hammett

5 Signs of a Dangerous Pastor

Trustworthy leadership is hard to find. Inside and outside Christianity, men and women with fancy letters behind their names are doing nasty things to innocent people – and children. It’s becoming more and more apparent that academic degrees (while important) and achievements (while admirable) are not the measure of success for a leader.

Integrity is.

I recently tweeted about the “5 signs of a dangerous pastor” and wanted to add some commentary to each of the 5 points in an effort to shed more light on this topic. While it’s understandable that an article like this is not an exciting read, there are people who need to read it. For those who are trying to discern whether or not to stay at their church, this is a huge deal. Just like lives are changed every day when people find faithful pastors who labor in Christ-exalting service, lives are changed for the better every time someone escapes the dangerous ones too. If just one family – no, one individual – is made more aware of what to look for in a church leader because of a list like this, it’s worth it all.

If you’re a pastor, this list is the mirror of conviction we can stand in front of; asking the Holy Spirit to expose where we’ve been compromising and trusting His power to set us straight. If you’re a church member who suddenly realizes this list fits the bill of your pastor – and has for a long time – buckle up. You may need to find a new church.

Here are the 5 signs:

  1. The Pastor Insulates Himself

This is the pastor who surrounds himself with a system of layers; making it nearly impossible to get valuable time with him. Still, he makes sure to appear personable and approachable in public settings. He insulates himself because he’s CEO-minded and deeply believes that the best way to grow the church is to be distant from the people. This pragmatic approach gives him a sort of “holy-aura” as he attempts to make himself a novelty to his followers. Like the Pope waving from an ivory tower in the Vatican City, the pastor who insulates himself can remain god-like in status while doing whatever he pleases out of sight. You won’t find him doing a whole lot of discipleship. This guy is the show-and-go type. You see him Sunday – then he’s gone!

  1. The Pastor is Threatened by Smart Individuals

This is the pastor who can’t stand educated and discerning people who ask tough questions. He will tolerate some question-asking because he’s smart enough to appear fair and tolerant. However, you won’t find men with a high degree of theological knowledge hanging around for very long. This threatens his pride. Instead of receiving constructive wisdom from those who may even be wiser, or being open to feedback from people within the congregation, he patronizes those with less experience and demeans those with less knowledge. This pastor draws influence and power from knowing more than others do – or appearing like he does. He maintains a long term following by drawing unsuspecting people he can manipulate.

  1. The Pastor Punishes Those Who Disagree

This is the pastor who creates a punitive culture within the church. This church becomes a place where it’s the dogmatic pastor’s way or the highway. Should you or anyone else even think about gently pointing out inconsistencies in the theological positions he holds, you run the risk of being privately shamed. Think about addressing something unbiblical or unethical within the church, and you run the risk of public retribution. For staff members, this means the loss of livelihood. For church members, this could mean the loss of reputation in the community as the pastor publically or privately paints an opponent in a negative light.

  1. The Pastor is Obsessed with His Own Vision

This pastor knows exactly what he wants and his will, ahem…I mean God’s will be done. You may hear this pastor say something like, “I started this church and this is how it’s going to be!” or “This is my church and no one is going to take it from me!” Those exclamatory statements may seem shocking but they are not uncommon. So is all “vision” bad? No. It’s actually beneficial when a leader has a plan for the future of a church but all a pastor needs to say about “his vision” is that his vision is to do what the Bible says to do. Unfortunately, many churches only hire people if they sign on to serve “Pastor Steven’s vision” (or Mark’s, Jim’s, and Greg’s). Guess what? The church has nothing to do with a man’s vision. It’s about Christ’s. No church growth book can change that, no advice from a pragmatic guru can change that, and no amount of pastoral kicking and screaming can change that. The church belongs to Jesus.

  1. The Pastor Twists the Bible to Fit His Own Rules

From elders who aren’t really biblical elders, to using money for whatever he deems noble and necessary, this pastor views stewardship and accountability systems as very fluid concepts. In other words, stewardship is really about what he wants to do vs. what he must manage on behalf of the church. Accountability, to this pastor, is about putting “yes” men in key positions. In most cases, this pastor will boast about his high level of accountability and adherence to Scriptural authority in order to appear trustworthy. He will claim them to be his deepest convictions until those things infringe on his decision making process, then the twisted game begins. Instead of admitting a mistake or facing the difficult pain of owning a poor decision, he twists (even ignores) the Bible to fit his own rules and make excuses for his decision making.

This kind of leadership is not the kind of leadership that Jesus had in mind when He promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18). If this is the kind of autocratic ruler that dominates your assembly week-in and week-out, run to safety – even if it means switching denominations for a while.

Recommended Resource: “9Marks of a Healthy Church” by Mark Dever

 

Private Lives Define Public Leaders

It was the great Puritan John Owen who said, “A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.”

What John Owen had right almost 400 years ago still rings true today. Christian leadership is a public service that begins with private worship. While every leader has unique, God-ordained passions and purposes, there is one common denominator that defines every leader in the same way: Who they are behind closed doors.

Who a leader is outside of the public eye is who they really are – no more, no less.

No matter how hard a leader may try, they can’t fake their private life. In fact, it can even be argued that there is no such thing as a private life at all, only a variety of environments in which a leader operates. God sees everything, a spouse knows them better than anyone next to God, and kids are quick to catch on when parents behave one way in public and another way at home. There’s no getting around the fact that who a leader is in their private life is where the rubber meets the road. A healthy private life means a healthy leader.

Many underestimate the powerful role that a leader’s private life plays in determining the success of their leadership. To take that even further, it’s safe to say that there is no real success in ministry unless the private life of a leader is healthy.

Truth and time go hand-in-hand so what will eventually begin to manifest in public is just the evidence of who a leader is in private.

Here are three private areas that will define a Christian leader, for better or worse:

  1. A Leader’s Private Devotion

A leader may pray eloquent prayers in public, and be able to rattle off quotes from Charles Spurgeon, but true spiritual leadership is ultimately defined by the private devotion that takes place when no one is around to “oooh” and “awe” at their spirituality. A leader’s job may be thriving, their friends may envy their oratorical abilities, and many people may even be swept up by their charisma – but all of that can be an empty shell if private devotion to Christ is not their highest priority. Know this, a leader will not stand the test of time who does not spend ample time on their knees and time in God’s word. Knowing the latest LifeWay research statistics and being articulate on topics like church-trends and growth strategies will prove useless if a leader is not proficient in prayer and the Scriptures. Christian leaders are not called to be experts on culture. They are called to be emulators of Christ.

  1. A Leader’s Private Marriage

Every Christian leader is happily married on Sunday morning. Men talk openly about being the head of the home and flex their spiritual muscles with Bible in hand. Women pick out the perfect outfit and smile with glee; reminiscent of a woman who had a flawless week “respecting hubby.” Her Instagram posts are confirmation of that. It’s the picture of public perfection! But is that always the real story? The way a leader’s “first ministry” operates throughout the week will define who they really are – not merely a Sunday (or social media) show. While a leader’s marriage should be progressing and growing in Christ – which will result in a good example publicly – faking perfection when things are falling apart is dangerous because it lacks the diligence God instructs Christian couples to have when it comes to working on their marriage. If a leader will not take the steps needed in order to nurture their marriage, they are no leader at all. A leader’s marriage must be marked by a deep sacrifice of self, a calendar with dates that match biblical convictions, honesty about weakness, confession of sin, and involvement of qualified church leaders or counseling when needed. A leader’s marriage may look good on the outside (and maybe it really is doing well), but how we live Ephesians 5:22-33 behind closed doors is what truly matters.

  1. A Leader’s Private Conversations

Leaders are constantly communicating both privately and publicly. This means that a lot of words come out that can’t be taken back. Prudence is crucial for every private conversation and taming the tongue is especially necessary in familiar environments where leaders are most comfortable. A leader who “lets it fly” is a disaster waiting to happen. Many leaders use crude language in the name of authenticity but are doing nothing more than creating a locker-room mentality within the church. Furthermore, many leaders use manipulative language with staff members for their own gain. This could be sexual, or it could be production driven – pitting them against each other to spark competition in the name of ministry advancement. This is not becoming of a true Christian leader, though it is how many churches run the business-side of church. Since when did Jesus promise to build His church through leadership styles reminiscent of corporate sharks and verbally aggressive CEO’s? When it comes to frustrations, a wise leader does not shame others. He replaces “venting” publicly (aka: gossip), with “vetting” (aka: prayer) privately with Jesus. Taking every attitude, thought, or frustration to Christ in prayer is the best way for a leader to control the tongue in conversations. Sometimes it’s best to just use the abbreviation: FHL. It means, “Few, honest, and loving”, and refers to the words we ought to use if we’re experiencing some tension in our day-to-day life. Ministry is tough and temptation is everywhere, but leaders have to learn to manage their mouth behind the scenes.

There are numerous more that could be added to this list but all will point to the same truth. A leader’s private life is make or break for their public leadership.

Sound like a tough task? It is. That’s why a leader must depend on God’s grace to be at work within their life above all else. It is a responsibility that should cause every pastor, elder, small group leader, deacon, teacher, parent, layman, or aspiring leader to remain humbly on their knees before God – begging that His power be at work in their prayer life, their marriage, and their mouth.


Verses for further study & reflection:

Devotion: Psalm 1; Ephesians 6:10-20; Colossians 2:6-8

Marriage: Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-25; 1 Peter 3:1-8;

Conversation: Proverbs 15:28; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; James 3