Category Archives: Pastoral Leadership
I am not what some would call an animal lover. At the moment, I don’t have any domestic pets. But if I did, there are two standard rules I live by: 1. I do not allow them to sleep in my bed, and 2. When it comes to licking, my face is off-limits. But I do like them. My father and mother had two dogs during my adolescent years. Both were Cocker Spaniels. They were great family dogs. And my wife and I had a Toy Rat Terrier in the early years of our marriage. Now that we have a child the thought of getting another one has come up in conversation a few times. Because of this I have begun to pay a little more attention again to anything related to pets.
The other day while I was watching television, a PETCO commercial came on. To be honest, I don’t remember much about it, except the tagline. Take a look for yourself:
“What We Feed Them Matters.”
When I heard that tagline, the preacher in me took note. I said to myself, “There is an illustration in that.” As I began thinking about it, I immediately saw a connection between that PETCO commercial and our calling as pastors.
The Bible depicts us elders as being shepherds and the church as being sheep or a flock (Acts 20:28-30). As the Apostle Peter writes, we are called to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willing, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3).
Shepherding the flock of God entails a number of responsibilities. As Jeramie Rinne writes in Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus, “Elders manage, lead, admonish, and keep watch over members.” (p. 74) But central among these tasks is teaching; teaching the word of God (1 Timothy 3:2 – “able to teach”; also see 2 Timothy 4:1-2). Rinne affirms this assertion, “If elders shepherd Jesus’s sheep, then their most basic task is to feed the souls of church members from the Scriptures.” (p. 45)
But in teaching the word, we must commit to rightly handling it (2 Timothy 2:15). I have been in ministry long enough to know that everyone who is teaching the Bible ain’t teaching the Bible. It is important that we prayerfully strive to rightly interpret the word, or cut it straight. Our desire should be “to give instruction in sound doctrine.” (Titus 1:9) That word “sound” means healthy. Take note, brothers: healthy doctrine produces healthy disciples. So let’s, by God’s grace, feed them the pure, unadulterated word of God.
May the Lord Jesus’ command to Peter in John 21:17 be applied to our calling as pastors as well, “Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.‘” (emphasis mine)
What we feed them does indeed matter.
There I was getting out of my car – it was sometime this past week during my vacation on a blistering afternoon after having spent about two hours in the gym – heading into Albertson’s, a local grocery store, to pick up a few items for the house when this blog post idea hit me.
So I quickly grabbed my phone, entered my pass code, and selected the “Notes” app (I’ve learned to write things down when they come to me and not try to remember them until I get home to jot them down. A lot of ideas have been lost because of my failure to capture them in the moment. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t recall them later.).
By the time I finished running my quick errand and getting back into my car to head home, I noted five benefits for taking a break (i.e., a vacation) from local church ministry (this list is by no means exhaustive or even groundbreaking, but I pray it is helpful nonetheless).
Taking a break from ministry:
1. Recovers my physical and mental strength
Pretty obvious, I know. But you will be surprised – or maybe not – to know that many people come back to ministry work just as tired as they left because they didn’t truly use their vacation time to rest from the demands of ministry and to do things that would replenish their energy.
I must confess: this go around I slipped a bit and read and replied to emails. But I snapped out of it due in part to a loving reminder from one of my ministry leaders that I needed to stay away from email and enjoy my time off.
At about the midway point of my vacation, I started to get that “itch” of wanting to get back involved. Many of you know what I’m talking about because you too have felt it while on your break. But if we are to maximize our time away, we must prayerfully fight against that urge, and commit to doing things that will recharge our batteries, so that we can come back with full strength.
2. Reminds me that the church (and particularly my department: Christian Education) doesn’t revolve around me
As I was typing this point on my phone that day, it was as if the Holy Spirit just gently whispered to my soul: Remember it’s Jesus’ church, not yours or anybody else’s. He bought (with his own blood) and builds her (Acts 20:28; Matthew 16:18). He is the reason the church exists and continues to function.
This is such a life-giving, freeing, and loving truth! For our finite shoulders wouldn’t be able to bear the tremendous weight of responsibility to grow and sustain the church. We would be crushed to pieces!
What a wonderful, healthy dose of humility to our egos, which are predisposed to convincing us that the church (department, or ministry) wouldn’t make it or would be significantly hindered without us.
3. Reveals how well (or how poorly) I have equipped and empowered others for ministry
The effectiveness of the leadership development of our churches, departments, or ministries will likely be most clearly seen in our absence than in our presence. If the church, department, or ministry that we lead comes to a screeching halt when we are away, it is probably an indication that we haven’t done a good job of discipling others and deploying them in ministry.
If you come to discover that there are some gaping leadership holes in your church, department, or ministry, don’t see that as an utter failure. It is evidence of the grace of God in that He would allow you to see the holes, so that you can seek Him on how to fill them.
4. Recalibrates my soul towards Jesus as my life’s ultimate satisfaction, joy, and meaning
I’ve come to realize that over time I have a tendency to get off center of Jesus and begin to fundamentally derive my significance from ministry. Doing so is like becoming so fixated on the rays that we forget the Sun. The rays of ministry service and effectiveness are designed to direct our attention to the Son, The Lord Jesus, not away from Him. Simply put, Jesus is our life, not ministry.
Prayerfully stepping away momentarily from ministry made me even more keenly aware of my tendency to drift from Jesus and afforded me the space to sense the prompting of the Spirit to run back to him so that the idol of ministry that subtly tried to erect itself in my heart might once again be destroyed.
5. Reinvigorates my commitment to Jesus’ ministry
On one hand, taking a break from ministry reminds us that we are not indispensable. And yet on the other, it is a sweet joy to know that Jesus called us and the Holy Spirit has gifted us to serve His church. God doesn’t need us; He wants us! Our All-Sufficient, Sovereign God has determined that we would be valuable to Him and to His work in and through us, the church. What a staggering thought! May this revitalize our commitment to our Lord and His church.
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service…” (1 Timothy 1:12; ESV)
We are just a little over a month away from our conference season here at Antioch. In September, we are rolling out three conferences that we pray will be life-changing for all those in attendance:
Check out this promo video:
For more information (conference speakers and schedule) and to register, click here!
On Good Friday, I was blessed to have the opportunity to preach. One of my friends is assigned by his pastor the responsibility for putting this service together every year. For the last couple of years, he has put an interesting, yet biblical spin on this service. This year, the focus was on seven prayer requests of Jesus in John 17, the High Priestly prayer. I was given the task of preaching #7: A Prayer for Immortalization (John 17:24-26). It is quite a challenge to expound on God’s Word with such a tight time constraint (roughly 10 – 12 minutes). But I was grateful for the opportunity to serve.
And then there was Resurrection Sunday at Westside Baptist Church. I had been prayerfully anticipating this engagement for weeks. To summarize, the people were gracious and hospitable, the worship was biblical, Christ-centered, and energetic, and the fellowship was genuine. I preached on 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, 58 and entitled the sermon, “He Has Risen!” Below is the essence of what I shared at their 7:45 a.m. service. I pray it speaks to you even now. We are jumping to the tail end of my introduction.
“He Has Risen!”
Paul takes this idea of there being no resurrection of the dead in relationship to Jesus’ resurrection and hypothetically draws it out to its logical conclusions or consequences. Paul in essence says, to not believe in a resurrection from the dead is to not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, which in one way metaphorically rips the heart out of the chest of Christianity. However, with a stroke of the pen, beginning with a simple 3-letter conjunction, Paul turns this hypothetical case on its head. He turns it upside down. He writes: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (vs. 20). With this one verse, all the hypothetical logical negations are turned into positives. And so, for our remaining moments together, I want to show how the resurrection of Jesus affects six aspects of the Christian life that Paul mentions in this 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians.
1. Our preaching (vs. 14)
If Christ has not been raised then our preaching is in vain. But because he has risen, our preaching is relevant.
It is through the preaching of God’s Word that non-Christians are confronted with and convicted of their sinfulness, and are made cognizant of their need to turn from sin and trust our Risen Savior, the Lord Jesus, for forgiveness.
Paul says in Romans 10:14-15, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
It is also relevant to our lives as Christians. It is a means of grace that God uses to work His Word into the fabric of our hearts. Through the preaching of God’s Word, we are conformed into Jesus’ image, comforted in our trials and suffering, confirmed in our obedience to Jesus, and convicted, corrected, and challenged in regards to sin and holiness.
Because Jesus has risen, our preaching is relevant. So keep prayerfully, wisely, lovingly and courageously preaching the Good News to your non-Christian family members, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and among ourselves.
In a pluralistic, post-modern world that says there are many ways to God (if there is a God at all, they say) and that seeks to shame you for preaching such an exclusive, only-one-way-to-God Gospel, preach it anyhow. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16)
2. Our faith (vs. 14, 17)
If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is in vain, and we are still in our sins. But because he has risen, our faith is needed.
The resurrection of Jesus showed that the price He paid for our sins by offering his perfect life unto death on the cross was accepted by God, thus securing our right-standing before God: forever forgiven, accepted, adopted, redeemed, and justified. To say it more succinctly, Jesus’ death was the payment. His resurrection was the receipt. This is why Paul says that if Jesus has not been raised, our faith is futile (pointless, it doesn’t matter) and we are still in our sins.
But in order for that to be true in our lives, in order for Jesus’ payment for our sins to be accredited to our spiritual accounts, faith is needed, not our works.
“But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom. 4:23-25)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
3. Our representation of God (vs. 15)
If Christ has not been raised, then we have been found to be misrepresenting God. But because he has risen, our representation of God is true.
Through the resurrection, God the Father declared the Lord Jesus to be the Son of God. He is who he said he was, and he accomplished what he set out to do, which was to save us.
Hear the words of Paul that were divinely inspired by God, “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 1:3-4)
So, know that when we share the Good News of Jesus and the rightly divided Word of God, we are representing God correctly, even when the world disagrees with, ridicules, or condemns us for taking such a stand or position.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Rom. 8:31-34)
4. Our fellow Christians who have died (vs. 18)
If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. But because he has risen, their death is not final and our grief is bearable.
We are able to grieve over the death of our saved loved ones and friends with hope, knowing that our Risen Lord Jesus will reunite us one day.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:13-17)
5. Our hope (vs. 19, 20b)
If Christ has not been raised, then we are most to be pitied because we lived our lives with a false sense of hope in eternal life with God after death. But because he has risen, our hope is guaranteed.
To all of us who believe in Jesus: we have a living hope that we will live with him forever. His resurrection assures ours.
“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” (2 Cor. 4:13-14)
6. Our laboring (and living) for Jesus (vs. 58)
If Christ has not been raised, then our labor is in vain. But because he has risen, our labor for Jesus is valuable (and our living for Him is now possible).
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)
Today I met with my Christian Education leaders for the first of three ministry leadership development sessions I have planned for the year. I absolutely love these people. They are such a joy to be around. They encourage and inspire me, in ways they may never know, to be a better follower of Jesus and a pastor to His people.
For the first half of our meeting (we met today for two hours), we sang, prayed, ate, and fellowshipped. I also bought them Dave Kraft’s book, Mistakes Leaders Make, of which they read the first three chapters. I broke them up into their leadership teams and each ministry leader led their teams in reviewing and discussing each chapter.
For the second half, I reconvened them and spent about 45 minutes teaching on “Leadership and Jesus.” Here’s what I covered (I deleted the “Questions for Reflection” sections after each one so as to not make this post too long). I pray it will be helpful to you.
Leadership and Jesus
If our leadership – not to even mention our lives – is going to be faithful to and fruitful for God, we must follow God’s model of leadership. Here are five foundational characteristics that defined Jesus’ leadership when he was here on earth:
Jesus’ leadership was marked by prayerful communion with God the Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 9:18, 28; 11:1; John 17)
After successfully completing a major miraculous “project” of feeding 5,000+ people, Jesus goes up on a mountain by himself to pray (Matthew 14:22-23; Mark 6:45-46)
Feeling the weight of of his impending inexplicable and excruciating sin-bearing, wrath-absorbing sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus spent time in the garden of Gethsemane praying (Matthew 26:36-44; Mark 14:32-39; Luke 22:39-46)
Jesus prays all night before selecting 12 of his disciples to become Apostles (Luke 5:12-16)
Jesus prayed for Peter who would fail him by denying him (Luke 22:31-32)
We need not only to personally spend time in prayer, but we need to also model prayerfulness amongst our leadership teams. Our prayer times with each other need to be flavored with a sense of unhurried sincerity. This is not necessarily an appeal for you to pray long prayers. It has more to do with praying heartfelt prayers.
From the very outset of his life and ministry, Jesus was acutely aware of and fully dependent on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and guidance.
Jesus’ conception was supernaturally brought about by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35)
At Jesus’ baptism – the inauguration of his ministry – the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove (Matthew 3:16-17)
Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and was led by Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1)
Jesus casted out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:28)
Jesus’ ministry was empowered by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:17-19)
Everything about Jesus’ life and leadership was in sync with and informed by the Old Testament and soon-to-be-written New Testament.
Jesus lived his life according to the Old Testament. He perfectly fulfilled the Law of God. (Matthew 5:17)
Jesus used the Word (i.e., Old Testament) to successfully combat the temptations of the devil (Matthew 4:3-11)
Jesus endorsed John’s ministry before the crowd by quoting an Old Testament passage about him in Malachi 3:1 (Matthew 11:10)
Jesus referred to a passage in the book of Isaiah to describe the spiritual state of crowd and why he spoke to them in parables (Matthew 13:13-15)
Jesus committed the Scriptures to memory (Matt. 21:13, 16, 42; 22:29-32)
Jesus’ ministry was framed by the Scriptures (Luke 4:17-19)
The Gospel, i.e. his redemptive death on the cross for our sins and his resurrection from the dead, was central to and influenced Jesus’ ministry and leadership among the people. When you have a moment, just trace Jesus’ interactions with people throughout the Gospels. Here are just a few that I want to highlight:
How could God the Son, who became human, come into this sinful world and not condemn it? The Gospel (John 3:16-18)
How could the sinless Son of God offer forgiveness and accountability to a sinful woman who was caught in the act of adultery, instead of allowing her to be stoned to death according to the Law of Moses? The Gospel (John 8:1-11)
How could the righteous Son of God live among and even eat with unrighteous/self-righteous people, and not justifiably separate himself from us and leave us in spiritual darkness? The Gospel (Luke 7:36-39)
So too must the gospel be central to our lives and leadership. When it is, we and others will be able to tell because the culture or environment in our ministries and in our church at large will exude:
Grace – expressing undeserved loving kindness
Truth – embracing biblical standards and accountability
Forgiveness – erasing of intentional and unintentional sins and offenses committed
Repentance & Reconciliation – owning up to and turning from the sins committed against each other, & opening up our lives again and extending trust to the offender who has genuinely demonstrated fruits of repentance.
Love – doing good to others regardless of their actions towards us
Non-Judgmental – withholding prejudice and self-righteous judgment against others
Unity – realizing Jesus is the common denominator between us and accepting (i.e., not passing judgment or despising) each other and not fighting over personal opinions or preferences
How do we remain Gospel-centered? We must revel in it (1 Peter 1:3-6a) and remind ourselves of it (2 Timothy 2:8).
Jesus was clear on his mission, on his purpose for coming. He came to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). He was focused on the Father’s mission for his life, so much so that he would not allow people to derail him from it by accepting their attempt to make him an earthly king (John 6:15) or allow even one of his own disciples to dissuade him (Matthew 16:21-23).
Anything that we do as a church in general and as a department and ministry in particular should connect to and advance Jesus’ mission for us as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20. If not, then we shouldn’t commit energy or resources to it.
When David brought the ark of God to Jerusalem to place it in the tent that he had prepared (1 Chronicles 15:1), he instructed the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers to be singers and musicians in the procession (1 Chronicles 15:16ff) and to continue in that service regularly once the ark was set in place (1 Chronicles 16:4-7, 37-42; 25:1-7; this service continued during the 1st Temple under King Solomon, David’s son: 2 Chronicles 5:11-14). Among them was a Levite by the name of Asaph who was the chief musician or choirmaster. He was responsible for leading the singers and musicians in praise to God with and before God’s people. He was also a composer, writing twelve of the Psalms (Ps. 50, 73-83). His role was crucial to the preparedness of those involved in corporately leading God’s people in worship and to the veracity of the worship of God among the people of God. And so it is with those of you who are modern-day “choirmasters” (i.e., Worship Leaders/Directors, Ministers of Music, Praise Team Leaders, etc.).
As a pastor and as one who has been around church life since childhood, I want to take a moment and share some thoughts that will prayerfully help you to faithfully carry out your calling, foremost for the glory of God, and for the good of His people.
Pursue An Intimate Relationship With God
Your first priority ought to be to cultivate your own relationship with God through prayer, worship, bible study, and obedience.
If reading someone’s lyrics can give us an indication of a person’s heart and devotion, then Asaph was one who had an intimate relationship with God. He writes, after reflecting on the wicked and how they prosper, “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…But for me it is good to be near God; I have made The Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73:23-26, 28 – ESV)
What a travesty for you (or I as a pastor) to lead and exhort people to commune with God corporately, but to not do so as much personally. And, yes, it is possible to execute something in public that you are not experiencing in private. And for those who are in blatant, unrepentant sin, and who might be “playing church” or “straddling the fence,” although the previous statement is true, remember this: it is only a matter of time before what is going on in your soul showcases itself on the stage (of your life and ministry). So please make sure that your public duty flows from your personal devotion.
Participate In The Body Life Of Your Local Church
Asaph was a part of the people of God. He was in community with them. He was held to the same requirement of obeying God’s commands, both those in relationship to Himself and those in relationship to others. He was in community with a real group of people and committed to service in a particular location and context. Yes I know that Israel was a nation at this point in Old Testament History and was under the Old Covenant, and therefore is not an exact parallel to those of us who are under the New Covenant. Nevertheless, Asaph’s communal participation is instructive for us as the Church. You need to be committed to a local expression of the universal Church.
I know that there is some push back today regarding church membership. But I believe that it is a biblical concept that should be embraced rather than shunned by Christians. Let’s just do a brief fly-by, shall we?
If we traverse over into the New Testament, we are taught that there is only one body (i.e., the Church) of Jesus (Ephesians 4:4ff; cf. also Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18), which are all believers in all places at all times. And yet we must ask: how does this truth in principle work out in practice, in reality? This question is answered directly through what was demonstrated by the early church and implicitly through what was commanded by God through the writers of Scripture.
- As the Gospel of Jesus was proclaimed and people responded in repentance of sin and faith in Jesus, those believers banded together in their particular locales (identified as a church) essentially for the purpose of worshiping God, receiving the Apostle’s teaching, and fellowshiping with and serving each other (Acts 2:42-47; 11:19-26; 13:1; 14:20-22, 27; 15:36, 41; 16:1-5; 18:22).
- As the Church practically materialized into local churches – meeting in houses and other gathering points – Paul saw the need to appoint elders (overseers, pastors/shepherds-teachers) in every church (Acts 14:23; deacons were chosen not long after: Phil. 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13).
- God commands that members obey their leaders (Hebrews 13:17: although not specified as elders here, one would be hard-pressed to think that they are not in view, especially considering the fact that the terminology used to state the reason for the command closely resembles that of the responsibility of elders mentioned in other places in Scripture). The implication of this verse is that God expected this group of believers, to whom the author of Hebrews addressed, to identify themselves with and commit to a local church, which included placing themselves under a specific group of leaders/elders. If this was not the case, meaning, if God didn’t require them to be a part of a local church, then this command makes no sense and would therefore have been inapplicable.
Being an active member of a local church involves not only performing a function, but also participating in fellowship (i.e., sharing of life for the purpose of supporting and encouraging each other to live for Christ), worship (e.g., you and others need to stay for worship service and not leave to simply hangout in the foyer or outside, gossip, slander, or smoke, only to return for the invitational song or benediction.), stewardship (i.e., you need to give to honor God and support your church family), and discipleship (i.e., you need to engage in things that are going to help you grow in your relationship with God: Listening to the sermon, attending Bible Study classes/conferences/seminars, participating in Small Groups, etc.).
Prioritize Discipleship In Your Ministry
Please don’t forget the primary reason why the church exists is to bring glory to God through the making of disciples. That is not only the church’s mission; it is your mission as the worship leader as well.
A major part of disciple-making is teaching others to observe all that Jesus has commanded (Matthew 28:20). I currently serve as the Pastor of Christian Education at my church, so I love preaching and teaching, organizing bible study classes and tracks, writing curriculum, etc. But I will be the first to tell you that in some cases we have unfortunately restricted discipleship to a class, a program, or a department to the point where persons, like worship leaders, have been made to think that the work of discipleship doesn’t apply to them. This, my friend, is a grave error. Discipling others or helping other believers to grow in Jesus is the privilege and responsibility of every Christian.
So how can you be about discipleship in your ministry? Here are some suggestions (in no particular order):
- Forge relationships with choir/praise team members and prayerfully begin to look for ways to serve them.
- Reiterate to your choir or praise team the centrality of discipleship to your church in general and your ministry in particular.
- Schedule time for prayer and Bible reading/study and discussion (This can be over a solid Christian book study, the previous week’s sermon or Bible Study lesson, or a 10-minute lesson given by you or a pastor/preacher/teacher in your church).
- Meet with the leaders within your ministry and disciple them by reading Scripture together, praying and caring for them, spurring them on to good works, and then encourage them to do the same in the lives of those who they lead.
- Model a Christ-like life before them.
- Exercise loving correction of members as needed.
- Share how the Lord Jesus is growing you through not only your personal devotion, but through the care of other Christians at your church.
Pay Attention To The Lyrics
This implies that you as the leader need to have a solid working knowledge of the Scriptures, so that whether you are selecting songs or writing them, what ends up being sung will be sound. Read Psalm 78 and you will see that Asaph, as the chief musician or choirmaster, had a working knowledge of God’s acts in the history of his people, which informed the composition of this song. You would do well to follow his example.
Why does this matter? Because corporate worship – just like corporate prayer – is formative. Even though what you are doing is for and to God, people will listen to you and your choir and some of them will adopt ideas about God and life from the songs that you sing without ever passing them through the grid of Scripture. So please take this matter seriously and do due diligence in examining lyrics through the lens of Scripture. If you are not sure about the lyrics of a song, please seek the help of a pastor, ministry leader, or someone else who has a solid grasp on God’s Word.
Pray Fervently Before You All Minister In Song
If you want God to be glorified and the church to be edified in your singing during corporate worship, pray! Pray in preparation for rehearsal. Pray in rehearsal. Pray in vocal warm-ups before you go on stage or enter the choir section. Pray right before you get up to sing. Pray and trust the Holy Spirit to convict, strengthen, encourage, and comfort the hearts of God’s people through your singing. After all, nothing life-changing, soul-stirring, and awe-inducing will happen in and among us during worship without the work of the Holy Spirit.
Place Yourself Under The Oversight Of Your Leaders
Don’t be a rogue minister of music, director, etc.! In other words, don’t take liberties that haven’t been afforded to you. Abide by the culture and setup that has been established by the leadership. If you would like to add or change a dynamic related to your area to the order of service, pass it by your pastor first for review and/or approval.
If your pastor approaches you about editing a song or deleting it from the rotation due to something like bad theological content, please don’t get upset or complain. Submit. The goal is to present songs that communicate God’s truth as accurately as possible. Remember it is ultimately his responsibility to shepherd the flock, and one of the ways he is to do this is to care for the flock by guarding it against false and unhealthy teaching (Acts 20:28-30), which can be propagated through the medium of song.
When it comes to you leading the public gathering of the church for worship through singing, let this be your rule of thumb, “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up…But all things should be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:26, 40)
Perform Your Service In Love and Excellence
These two are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. You can have a heart for God and desire to sound good. You can adore God with all of your heart and strive to sing or play skillfully. Psalm 33:3 says, “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”
Is there a line between worship and entertainment? Sure. And we should guard against crossing over into the latter. One way to do so is to remember to do what Psalm 33:3 directs: Sing TO HIM a new song. As long as you sing (play) to Him and not them, you will remain on the worship side of the line. To say it another way, sing excellently to express your love for God and not to impress people.
Even with songs that are directed to people, you are to still sing them with the fundamental purpose of bringing glory to God through the exhortation of His people.
So, to the choirmasters: love deeply, lead diligently, and serve excellently for the glory of God in Christ and the good of all people.
This past Sunday I had the privilege to preach at our Impact Student Ministry worship service. As I expressed in my Sunday Reflections blog post a few days ago, I count it an honor to have the opportunity to invest in the next generation.
Coming out of that service, I began to reflect on my ministry experience with students throughout the years and what I have learned about preaching (and teaching) to them. I chose to publish it here on my blog with the hope that it will serve to equip, encourage, and confirm those who are involved in student ministry.
Preach the Word (i.e., The Bible in general and the Gospel in particular)
In the day and time in which we live where there is a low view of Scripture and preaching, we must remind ourselves of what Paul wrote to Timothy:
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquantied with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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 competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 3:14-4:4, ESV)
Our words, in and of themselves, have no power to save or grow our students spiritually; only the Gospel/Bible does that through the convicting and illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. So, no matter your style of communication, be committed to the exposition of Scripture.
Pray for the Holy Spirit’s Help
When you read of Paul’s ministry among the church at Corinth, it becomes quickly apparent that he was dependent on the Holy Spirit as he preached the Gospel of Jesus to them:
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:1-5, ESV)
If we wish to see students convicted and repent of sin, grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus, commit to Christian fellowship, serve in ministry according to their giftedness, and be emboldened to be on mission for Jesus, we must carry out our preaching ministry to them in prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Use the Bible
Here is what I mean: when we are preaching, it is good practice to have a physical copy of the Bible with us and to actually refer to it, rather than simply reading a passage, using it as a launching pad to fly us and our students into the galaxy of our own thoughts and viewpoints.
Trust me, I am in no way bemoaning the use of technology. My notes are on my iPad. But I also carry a Bible with me to the stage, pulpit, or front of the room because I realize that students not only learn from what they hear, but also from what they see.
Referring to the actual text of Scripture helps our students to understand that the authority in our preaching does not reside within ourselves, but rather within God and His Word. We are not progenitors but heralds of God’s message.
We need to not only be exegetes of the Scriptures, but of our students as well, so that we might meaningfully engage them in “their world.” We would do well to at least make ourselves aware of those things that in general mark or characterize their generation. Music, media (Television, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Social Cam, etc.), and movies are three of the major “icons” of adolescence that we should keep our eyes on.
This is not beyond biblical warrant. The classic text that many refer to when making this point for the need for cultural awareness and engagement is Acts 17:16-31 where Paul preaches to the Athenians, making reference to their [pagan] religious devotion and poets.
It is possible to engage culture without endorsing it.
Pay attention to your terminology
Preach to them in terms they can understand. Jesus was the master at this. When he spoke many of his parables to the crowds, he used common elements and terms (e.g., birds, trees, bread, door, shepherd/sheep, mountains, sower and seed, kingdom, etc.) to explain spiritual truths.
Is it okay to use theological terms in your sermon? Of course, but use them only when needed and be sure to define them in words they can grasp.
Remember, our goal is not to impress them or to simply express what we have learned in seminary or through our own study. Our goal is to see them progress in their relationship with and devotion to Jesus.
For the most part, strive to be clear and simple (simple is not the same as simplistic).
When I say creativity, I am not saying be gimmicky. To be creative, in the sense that I am using it, is to use whatever you might have at your disposal to keep your students attention (as far as it depends on you) and to relevantly communicate to them the points of your sermon that have been derived from the text of Scripture.
Here are some suggestions:
a. Switch up the presentation.
Preach a 1st person narrative sermon.
If you usually preach on the stage, try preaching from the floor.
Alliterate your sermon – where every point begins with the same letter.
Make your sermon into an acrostic – where each letter of a name is a point (or where your points form a name).
b. Use a flip chart or dry-erase board to write your sermon points on or project them on a screen via powerpoint.
c. Present an object lesson
d. Solicit interaction by asking questions or participation if you need to demonstrate something.
e. Show a movie clip or play a song
f. Incorporate a sketch (aka: skit) at the beginning, throughout, or at the end of your sermon
Whatever you do, make sure that your creativity is always subordinate to (and supports) Scripture and appropriate for your audience.
Share your life story
Your successes and your failures. Students need to know that you were not always the mature Christian that you are today. And yet they need to know more than anything that with God’s enabling grace living a life for His glory is possible.
On sharing your failures, I would admonish you to be careful of the tone you use when mentioning them. To recount them flippantly can give off the impression that we are at best trivializing them or at worst glorying them. So use discernment as to what to disclose and share it with a measure of sobriety.
Students are notorious for sniffing out inauthenticity or a copycat. So don’t try to preach just like your Senior Pastor or whoever else. By all means, learn from them, but don’t try to be them. You have your own unique personality and style that needs to come out in your preaching. Right away or over time, your students will come to appreciate you for being you. As they say, find your voice…and stick with it.
The first and greatest mistake, which in essence gives birth to all the other mistakes, is not allowing Jesus to have his rightful place in our life and ministry. We often start out well with him in the center, but over time the thrill of seeing him at work, the accolades from those we serve, the lasting fruit from our efforts, and the adoration and respect of our peers, mentors, and network of ministry friends gradually become more important than Jesus. Add to this mix our own sinful egos and selfish ambition (James 3:14) and we have a recipe for disaster. We often don’t see this mistake because our experience is like the proverbial frog in a pot of water. If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, he will jump out. But if you put him in a pot of cool water and then heat up the water gradually, a cold-blooded frog’s body will warm up as the water is warmed up, and he will sit quietly until he boils to death. Sin in our lives is often like slowly heating up the water. Our identity in and intimacy with Jesus slowly dissipates, and over time, the ministry begins to occupy center stage in our affections, time, and focus. It is all downhill from there in a leader’s life and ministry.
Mistakes Leaders Make by Dave Kraft (pg. 17-18)
It was in my High School years when I first started to hear about or should I say pay attention to and see the need for mentoring in ministry. I was called to preach at the age of 17 and came under the tutelage of my pastor as an Associate Minister of the First Baptist Church (Heflin Ln) in Austin, TX. This initial mentoring relationship would prove to be beneficial, catapulting my growth as a minister to greater levels. This is where I learned about things such as cultivating a personal relationship with God, sermon preparation and delivery, pulpit/ministerial etiquette and protocol (specifically in the Black Church Tradition), and the “Do’s and Don’ts” of leading corporate prayer time.
I said initial mentoring relationship because I soon came to discover that mentoring is not only needed at the beginning of ministry but throughout it as well. And so in College, God connected me to the church where I currently serve as the Assoc. Pastor of Christian Education: Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church (Dallas, TX). I was privileged to meet some great brothers who took me under their wings and began further developing me in my walk with Jesus and ministry to His church; men like, Rev. Melvin Barnes, Rev. Joe Colbert, Rev. Eddie Tolin, and Rev. Donald Perry. As God would see fit, He blessed me to have the opportunity to stay at the home of my Senior Pastor, Dr. Karry D. Wesley, for a couple of summers. To see his commitment to his wife and family, leadership in the home, personal spiritual disciplines and study habits, etc. was invaluable to my life and ministry. That was a unique and special time, one that I don’t take for granted, even now.
The reason for me mentioning all of this is two-fold: 1. To encourage all of my fellow Pastors and Assoc. Ministers to continue seeking mentorship under mature and seasoned Pastors and Ministers, and 2. To connect you with one such gentleman. His name is Dr. Willie O. Peterson.
The Lord Jesus providentially caused our paths to cross recently. Just in the short time that I have gotten to know him, he has been a tremendous blessing to me at this stage of ministry and season of life that I am in. Along with his seminary education and professorship (Dallas Theological Seminary), he possesses an enormous wealth of ministry, church planting, and pastoral knowledge and experience that I believe will benefit you.
Check out his blog here and prayerful consider availing yourself to his coaching ministry.
The topic of “Illegitimate Bishops” was the subject of discussion on Lexi Allen’s talk show program The Lexi Show. Given the proliferation of this title (and others like, apostle, Master prophet, etc.) and the confusion and abuse surrounding it, Lexi decided to bring in three well-known bishops to discuss the issue. After you view the video below, I highly recommend that you click on the link provided at the end of this post to read Thabiti Anyabwile’s thoughts on the matter. He gives a charitable review and some insightful observations on the segment as well as some needed comments on the subject at hand.
Bishop Mania and Confusion About Biblical Church Leadership by Thabiti Anyabwile.