Called to Servant Leadership

This past Sunday Rev. Al Phillips, Director of the Greenville Baptist Association, preached my installation service from 1Peter 5.1-4 and 1Timothy 5.17-21. It was a humbling time to be with the people God has been gathering together at Christ the Redeemer to celebrate what he has done and to be soberly charged together. One of the things I made mention of at the beginning of the service is the beauty that everything does not depend on the pastor of a church. Once this happens, then the healthy of the church has been compromised. Indeed, the call of the church is to individually make disciples of all nations, tongues, and tribes. It is essential that the work of the ministry not be relegated to those being paid or only to the leaders.

What is more, after the sermon it is important to note that there are two charges given (both at the bottom of this post). The emphasis for the pastor lay in the equipping the saints for service. The emphasis for the congregation lay in the proclamation and making of disciples.

In his message, Al gave several admonishments that I relay to you

Charges to Matt

Walk closely with God

It is imperative that I walk with God and keep in step with his Spirit as he leads. It is important for me not to merely hear from God for the benefit of the church (though that is key), but more importantly, to hear from God for the benefit of my own soul.

Lead courageously

It is easy to let things coast. It is easy to gravitate toward comfort. Redeemer needs me to take risks and press us to step out of our comfort zones.

Feed God’s people

Not only am I to model what it looks like to walk with God in humility, but I am to feed God’s people from God’s Word. This is the sustenance by which his people will grow and be nourished spiritually.

Equip the saints for the work of ministry

Following Paul’s words in Ephesians 4.11, pastor-teachers are intended to equip God’s people to do the ministry. The vitality of the church is not up to the pastor alone. He plays a part in leading, but the actual labor is done by the congregation of being salt and light in their communities.

Charges to the Congregation

Follow

This is not a blind following. Rather it is to maintain a disposition of following as the Spirit leads through Matt and the leadership of Redeemer. Too often Satan gets a foothold in a church and divides the congregation into camps due to petty arguing and compromising and contentiousness and preferences and not thinking the best about each other–and specifically looking askance at the leadership as though they are power-hungry or just don’t get it. Imputing motives that are not there. The congregation needs to follow and encourage the leadership to take steps of faith.

Hold leadership Accountable

It is vital to the health of a church to be able to admonish and help its leadership to follow closely to the Lord. If something is not in accord with Scripture, it behooves the congregation to talk with the leadership. This ought to be done in a way that does not divide the church. But it needs to be done in humility and in love–knowing that the leadership are disciples on the way (always learning and always growing) as well.

Care for your pastor

Stemming from 1Timothy 5.17 and the reference to double-honor, it is important for the congregation to bless its pastor and leadership generously. Instead of keeping them “just trusting God” without taking care of their needs is analogous to driving an oxen team so hard they collapse under the stress. This care does not only equate to finances, but also to the spiritual nurturing of the pastor and his family.

Do your part

The church is the Body of Christ. Each person is vital to the health of the life of the church. If a foot is injured or is lame or refuses to walk, the rest of the body suffers and is not able to do their part. Each of us are integrally connected to each other and need each other to fulfill the individual call of God in our lives.

Give your pastor the freedom to fail

Matt is going to fail you. He is not your Savior. He is not perfect. He will let you down, just as you will let him down. This is inherent to what it means to be part of a family and community.

Charge to the Pastor

Leader: Before God and this assembly of His people here today, I charge you to seek the Lord daily with your whole heart, to shepherd the flock of God that is among you, leading, serving, feeding, protecting and caring for the people of God, and equipping the saints for service, to live a blameless life that will model Jesus before a watching world and to glorify God in all you are and do. Will you here today promise to fulfill this charge by the grace of God?

Candidate: I promise to fulfill this charge by the grace of God and in answer to His call.

Charge to the Congregation

Leader: Before God and His witnesses here today, I charge you to seek the Lord daily with your whole heart, to follow the leadership of your pastor, to grow together in doctrine, unity and faith, to respect and provide for your pastor, and to work together as a body to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and to make disciples of all nations until Jesus returns in glory. Will you here today promise to fulfill this charge by the grace of God?

Congregation: We promise to fulfill this charge by the grace of God and in answer to His call.

Shingles on a Church

Or you could title this “What makes me sick.”

I drove by a rather large church building this week that was having it’s roof shingles redone. Now it’s fine that this church have its property maintained…maybe it got a new roof from a hail storm. Who knows? What I do know is that this church is dying. No amount of sprucing up is going to bring it back to life. That is, unless there is a concerted effort on the church to be the church. To be loving its neighbors as individuals.

We are a breaking point in the church in the United States. 

There has been a seismic shift in what the church is and does. When so many of a previous generation believe that if you have the right program and if you have savvy marketing and if you have a really good music ministry, then people will come. Granted, having these things does attract people. But they do not a disciple of Jesus make. Rather, this exacerbates the consumeristic culture so indicative of our society. The church becomes a series of goods and services. What differentiates one church from another is wrapped in music genres and preaching styles and the cool or traditional outfits of the congregation.

All the while, the world merely needs faithful men and women to love them as them.

Church: Gone are the days of people coming to your free event. Gone are the days of people coming to your service because they ought to. They don’t need hip music or relevant sermon series or an authentic greeting team with magnets and other wares.

What our world needs now are disciples of Jesus who lay down their lives for others. Who act and talk and think differently. Not in the weird Christian way we’ve always done it–with our particular phrases or strained attempts to make every conversation an awkward Gospel conversation. Rather, we need disciples who think and talk and drip with the Gospel of grace. Giving with nothing in return. Loving with no strings attached. Struggling. Weeping. Laughing. Enjoying the gift that is life. Please be who God has made you to be rather than bending to fit into the constrained mold you are told to conform to–rather than into the glorious and quirky and beautiful person God has made you to be…with your own passions and loves and perspectives.

By all means, fix your building. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that a new paint job will remedy the crumbling buttress of faithful and mundane taking up crosses and following Jesus.

“The Time is at Hand to Leave and Cleave”

Yesterday I preached on the allegiances the Gospel of Jesus challenges us with from Mark 1.10-20. While there may be times that Christ’s call to us may be an utterly radical call to hop on a plane and give the rest of our lives in service on the mission field, more often the call to radical discipleship is in the everyday stuff of life. This season of Epiphany we have been focusing on the fact that God is everywhere and is always revealing himself. The task is for us to have eyes to see his work. This doesn’t just happen, but we need to train our minds, hearts, eyes, ears, noses, tongues, and hands to feel and experience his presence–as we live and move and have our being in him (Acts 17.28).

Yesterday we considered that Christ’s call to a new allegiance is more often a reappropriation and reorientation of our lives–a line which he draws in the sand and bids us to step over that line, turn around and see the grandeur of the ocean.

The Allegiance of Livelihood

When Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, notice that he did not say to these fishermen, “Follow me and I make you become makers of tents and tabernacles…or stonemasons…or anything other than what you’ve known all your life.” Have you considered that God has placed within you, indeed, knit you together, with gifts and talents and passions that he wants you to use in reference to him in the service of others. We minimize our lives and worlds when we strive for our own building up. But when we use these passions and desires for the service of others, we have the opportunity to see God’s glory and our joy multiplied. Don’t shirk the person he has made you to be. Don’t run from the things you love to do because it seems harder. Rather, challenge yourself to re-purpose your loves and passions in service to others, and thereby seeing God’s face more clearly.

The Allegiance of Family

The family in the Ancient Near East determined much of who you are–your profession and your very existence. We get a glimpse of how Jesus reconfigures and challenges the identity and covenantal headship of the nuclear family when he says that those who do the will of his Heavenly Father are his mother and brothers and sisters (Mark 3.31-35). In this, Jesus reorients and challenges the notion that family determines your life. What is more, he is calling his people to a new family based upon faith and apprenticeship to him. To follow him and learn from him.

We long for our children to know Jesus. We believe that parents are the primary disciples in their children’s lives. But we still affirm the call of Jesus to each of our children to repent and believe to be a child of the family of faith.

This reconfiguring of the family can also be seen in the way the Apostle Paul challenges this notion of having to be married and have children to be complete. Not only was he single all his life, and laser-focused on doing what pleased the Father, but our Savior Jesus was single. This challenges the popular notion, and shuts the mouths of those who would ask a single person, “When are you going to get married” or to the married couple, “When are you going to have children.” Relationships and children are gifts and are good. But they are not the definition of wholeness.

The Allegiance of Self

At root of both of the explicit allegiances is the implicit challenge to the gravitational pull of allegiance to our self. Our desire to gather around us “yes men” who merely affirm what we want to be true. Jesus’ first words of public ministry were words of power, words of stark harshness, words of utter grace. Grace in that he offers us freedom from the slavery to our self and our passions. He offers us freedom to experience his world and see him in his world…once we turn from our navel-gazing to see the vastness of his love. Not just at one moment in time, but verily at all points in our existence. If we will have eyes to see.

His call to repent does not come from a call to shape up or ship out. Rather, it stems from his having conquered Satan in the place of judgment and of human weakness and frail and failure–the wilderness.

Consider these questions to guide you in your application of this passage into your life:

1. Your skills at fishing were never meant solely for you. They were intended for and are made even greater when used in the service of others. How has God gifted you? What do you find you are most excited about?

2. How can you make the family of Christ more of a priority in your life? What areas of welcoming others into your life and being open to being known is God calling you to?

3. What allegiances is God challenging you to question and forsake?

 

What I Left Out: John 1.43-51

Inevitably, much of my study for sermons is left out because the point of preaching is not mere information download, but a point of transformation. I hope to write consistently on those things I have to leave out for the sake of time and out of love for my hearers. Perhaps if you find you have more time to consider what is said on Sunday and to apply God’s Word to your life, these posts will aid in some way.

Here’s the message from Sunday:

“Known and Found”

God Knows. He Sees. He Cares.

This phrase was what God Ashley and me through a very dark time in our lives. We weren’t struggling maritally as much as we were left reeling from some very bad decisions people made for us. It was really easy to think we were drifting in darkness and needed to figure things out for ourselves.

 

Observe the Why.

We’re not given the reason why Jesus decided to go into Galilee. At least not explicitly. We see in the verse, though, he had intention to going into Galilee. He went to find Philip. The calling of Philip is not built up as much as the Andrew and Peter. And it’s definitely not built up as much as the calling of Nathanael. It’s almost as if Jesus makes a bee-line to Galilee just to say these two words to Philip. There is no deliberation or looking around. Philip just obeys.

 

The “Behold!” is for You

But then, he invites us in this text to see as he sees. V.48: Before Philip called you, while you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” I beheld you. And as the readers of this text, we are invited to see. Do you see it? V. 47: “Behold, an Israelite…” We are told to look at this true Israelite who is coming into the fold. We are told that “Behold! I am at work in the everyday.” When Jesus says, “Behold.” It is not merely exclamatory for his hearers but us the readers of the text.

A True Jacobite

It ought not get lost on us that Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” after wrestling with the angel of God. Such wrestling would characterize God’s people for the remainder of their sojourn in the Promised Land>Exile>Return>Spiritual Exile. And so it continues to characterize all those who are truly Abraham’s children–wrestling and being injured by God. It is the case for all true seekers that we must be wounded in order to be made whole.

And so when Jesus behold Nathanael and declares him a true Israelite, it is a call to all of us to be seekers and to seek God in the everyday stuff of life. The majority of our lives are lived in the plains and the plain of life. It is here in our sojourn that we must strain to see God’s mighty acts.

What about you? What stands out most to you in this passage and about our need to see God in the everyday stuff of life?