Servant-leadership…but….

Jesus set the example of servant-leadership but be careful not to misunderstand what He intended. 

One particular disagreement repeatedly resurfaced among the early followers of Jesus. It was an argument (in their way of thinking) that related to leadership.

“Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.” (Luke 22:24). 

Jesus often challenged the thinking of His disciples concerning leadership. Consider His response to their dispute about greatness. 

“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:25-27).

Servant leadership 

Jesus modeled servant leadership. But this approach should never be used to empty leadership of authority. Neither Jesus, nor the apostles, exercised leadership as a “one-toned” role. The need for different tones and displays of authority is quite clear.

For example, the apostle Paul offered the Corinthians an option, “Do you desire that I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:21)

Those in church leadership are commanded to “preach the Word, reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction” (1 Tim. 4:2).

Paul wrote to Titus about certain men who were rebellious deceivers: “who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain.” Paul said, “Reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:10-13).

Later Paul exhorted Titus, “These things speak and exhort, reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that servant-leadership empties leadership of authority. Jesus is more concerned about the motives of the heart regarding leadership.

Jesus warned His disciples not to become “power-hungry” or “title chasers.” Referring to religious leaders, Jesus said…

“…they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:6-12). 

Be careful not to make more of Jesus’ words than intended.

Jesus obviously had no problem with positions of leadership. Nor did He insist that there be no leadership among His people. Instead He desired to teach His followers to resist the pride and egoism loved by many leaders.

Servant leadership is the model both required and exemplified by Jesus. Yet this does not mean that Jesus did not exercise authority. He did and sometimes firmly. And He expects the same from those He places in leadership over His people. This is equally evident in the lives of the Apostles.

Yet Jesus’ words, however, are a good reminder to be careful about elevating any man too highly. 

Reflection

“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work….Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work” (I Thessalonians 5:12-13).

“As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:1-5).

“For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right….Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king” (I Peter 2:13-14,17).

Steve Cornell

 

Posted in Leadership, Call to ministry, Elders, Pastors, Life of a pastor, Church Leadership, Calling, Emerging Leaders, Authority, elders in the Church | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Five resources on perspective, attitude and speech

Attitude is important in our relationships.

Check out five resources on perspective, attitude and speech. 

  1. Five life-controlling perspectives
  2. We are unworthy servants
  3. Are you a cantankerous Christian?
  4. Formula E429 could change your life!
  5. The love language of all good marriages

Steve Cornell

 

Posted in Attitude, attitudes of unity, Communication, Counseling, Love, Marriage, marriage problems, Relationships, Speech, Wisdom | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Six important resources for relationships

  1.  Forgiveness and Reconciliation
  2. 7 signs of true repentance
  3. When words cannot restore trust
  4. Instruments of godly sorrow
  5. Reconciled relationships matter to God
  6. Ten guidelines for reconciliation

Posted in Communication, Community, Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Relationships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Does the book of Proverbs promise too much?

Why are the Proverbs often misunderstood?

Wisdomforlife

Can the promises in the Old Testament book of Proverbs be taken seriously?  Someone suggested that, “many cannot take the book seriously because its promises seem removed from the harsh realities of their experiences.”

One proverb promises that, “He who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long life” (Proverbs 1:19). Others promise protection, prosperity, safety, life at ease, and health to those who choose a path of wisdom and obedience (Proverbs 1:32-33; 3:1-2, 7-8, 9-10). 

Do all who follow the path of wisdom enjoy these benefits? “The righteous” we are told, “is delivered from trouble, but the wicked takes his place” (Proverbs 11:8). Should we expect this for all righteous people? How would it apply to what we call heroes of faith noted in Hebrews 11?

A well-known proverb says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it”…

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A deeper look at the human need for change

Humans are not a people safe to themselves or to their environment.

Although there are notable examples of progress in human history, it is largely one of war and destruction. The earth given to us to inhabit is on the edge of potential destruction at our own hands.

I am not referring to a theory of global warming but to the horrific potential of nuclear global destruction. If this sounds apocalyptic to you, I suggest a little research. There are currently enough strategically placed nuclear weapons to destroy every major city in the northern hemisphere.

It’s sadly notable that the most progressive century of human history (the 20th) was also the most violent. Human capacity for violence and evil appears to be limitless.

Human beings have an “empirically demonstrable bias toward evil. We are both complicitous in and molested by the evil of our race. We both discover evil and invent it; we both ratify and extend it…. By disposition, practice, and habit, human beings let loose a great, rolling momentum of evil across generations” (Not The Way It’s Supposed to Be, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.).

All human beings live with an internal duality of good and evil. This is why our history is one of both heroism and terrorism. We are a people of love and war; of dignity and depravity. Heartwarming acts of benevolence and shockingly disturbing evil can come from the same person. Our nature itself is corrupted by an infectious and pervasive depravity.

But how can we name acts of evil and what solutions can we bring to the table?

Politics, Culture and Law as agents of change

Politics, culture and the role of law are agents of change that seem essential to our existence. These means offer limited solutions to some of our problems and offer the potential to promote human flourishing. But we have a deeper need that cannot be addressed through these agents of change.

Ontological and teleological change

These are big words but they’re important to understand. There is a need for a deeper level of change beyond the natural and external means provided through politics, culture and law.

We need an ontological change based on a teleological focus.

Ontological refers to a change to our being or nature. Teleological offers a future focus that provides hope to fuel change.

The teleological dimension is God’s provision of purpose and hope beyond the temporal world. It involves things that matter (at some level) to most rational people.

Laws, customs, culture and politics will not address the depth of the human problem. These external pressures are necessary (even divinely ordained) but not adequate. Making external adjustments by creating new laws or putting the “right” party in political office will not address our deepest needs.

Scripture reveals our need for an ontological transformation (a regeneration of our nature or a new heart). But we cannot produce this change in ourselves or in others (in fact, ontologically, our children inherited their problem from us, a corrupt nature). Parents cannot give their children a new nature. We ask them to consider matters of the “heart” but (in New Covenant terms) we cannot give them a new heart.

God said, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

Need for change

An example of this need for deeper (ontological) change would be King David’s confession of adultery. He acknowledged that his problem is far more than a matter of act and consequence. While confessing the wrong he had done, he said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). He acknowledged a very long history with sin far beyond his current actions. He confessed an inborn condition.

New Creation:

We need a recreation or new creation by the renewing of God through His Spirit (Titus 3:5) with the aim of restoring the image of God in us (II Corinthians 3:18). We need the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” “to make his light shine in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). We need to be reconciled to God to become a “new creation” in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).This is ontological change.

We receive this change as a gift from God based in His mercy and unmerited love. “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

This change is only a beginning but it comes with the “confidence that we will inherit eternal life” (Titus 3:7). This is the teleological focus that we desperately need in a world filled with suffering and death.

This also means that God’s gift in this life doesn’t erase or eradicate the fallen nature we battle against. Yet it changes the focal point for change from law to grace. “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4).

So then the change we need is ontological (“being” not just behavior). Just as this change is a gift from God, so the ability to grow in conformity to God’s image is the work of God. It requires a life of humble dependence through diligent application of the means God has provided by His Spirit.

The question Paul raised to the believers in Galatia is fitting: “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3).

While we actively engage in all the means of change available to us, I invite you to turn to God to acknowledge your need for His gift and for His grace to be conformed to His image.

Steve Cornell

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People in heaven prior to the resurrection

If a believer dies before the time of the resurrection of his body, will he exist in heaven as a disembodied spirit or will he be given a temporary body until the time of the resurrection of his body?

While we cannot be definitive about everything on this subject, it seems that we can be certain that the souls of believers who die before the resurrection enter into conscious fellowship with God in heaven. 

We can also be certain that their existence will be personal and identifiable. Further, they are not in a state of soul sleep as taught by some groups.

Sleep and death

Scripture refers to those who have died as “falling asleep” or “those who sleep,” but the expression is used of the body, not of the soul. And it is a metaphoric expression designed to communicate the temporary nature of bodily death (as sleep is only temporary; see, Matthew 9:24; 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; 5:10)

When Jesus spoke to His disciples about the death of Lazarus, He said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11).  We should notice that Jesus does not say, “The soul of Lazarus is sleeping,” nor, in fact, does any passage in Scripture say that the soul of a person is sleeping or unconscious (a statement that would be necessary to prove the doctrine of soul sleep).  

Rather Jesus simply says that Lazarus has fallen asleep. Then John explains, “Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead’” (John 11:12-13). Sleep is a metaphoric expression to teach that death is temporary.

Descriptions of people in heaven prior to the resurrection of the body

Luke 16:19-26 The story of the rich man and Lazarus

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

Hebrews 12:22-24

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

Revelation 6:9-11

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.”

Revelation 7:9-10

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

II Corinthians 5:1-8

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Matthew 22:31-32

But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Long after their physical deaths, Jesus spoke of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the “living.” We know that they are alive, in conscious fellowship with God and with all other inhabitants of heaven. (Note that the destiny of unbelievers will also be conscious existence: Matthew 25:41, 46).

What Jesus said in Matthew 22:31-32 also indicates that individual identity in heaven will be preserved (identity continuous with our earthly identity).  (See also Matthew 8:11 and Matthew 17:1-4 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Hope and comfort

We can celebrate victory over death through Jesus. He said, “Because I live you also will live” (John 14:19). He promised that, “… everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). 

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (I John 3:1-2).

Posted in Death, Fear of death, Gospel, Heaven, Resurrection | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Three approaches to communication and leadership

Sometimes relationships are difficult because we approach them with the wrong method of communication. In a recent series of sermons, we’ve been looking at three approaches to relationships or leadership. 

  1. Directive 
  2. Consultive 
  3. Free-Rein

Sometimes we’re not seeing the results we desire in relationships because we fail to recognize that different situations call for different approaches to communication and leadership. 

Maturity requires of us the ability to identify the best approach for each situation and to adjust our natural tendency so that we can use the most effective approach.

Take a few moments to look more closely at the three approaches. 

  1. Directive or Authoritative  the aim here is obedience. This approach is leader centered and commonly involves giving orders and directions. 

Advantages

  • Quick decision-making
  • Crisis situations; where there is immaturity, right answers needed; addresses indecisiveness
  • Might yield better results when quick decisions are necessary

Disadvantages

  • Centralizes in one person – the leader
  • encourages others to use less creativity and take less initiative
  • Fails to draw from the strengths of others
  • Doesn’t multiply through others
  1. Consultive – the aim here is commitment 

Decentralizes leadership and delegates decisions and authority. Leader makes a final decision after consultation with others. Could still involve limits within which people function.

Advantages

  • Recognizes value in others – encourages positive attitudes,
  • Reduces resistance to change
  • Exchanges ideas, improves job satisfaction and individual and group morale.
  • Shared ownership and responsibility
  • Follows the multiplication principle (Matthew 28:18-20)

Disadvantages

  • Time consuming and slower decision-making.
  • Could create problems when unwisely practiced
  • Requires more maturity from leaders and participants
  • Possibly opens a door to antagonistic people
  1. Free-reign – the aim here is initiative. This approach gives freedom and decision-making to others to operate as a group or individual independently. The leader uses this approach to allow free-flow of communication and he replaces authority with availability.

Advantages

  • Increases satisfaction and morale of others
  • Encourages initiative and ownership
  • Develops leadership in others

Disadvantages

  • Insufficient leadership
  • Insufficient guidance and support
  • Working at cross purposes – creating confusion, disunity and discouragement

Free-rein style is appropriate when others are well trained, knowledgeable, skilled. It is used with those who are self-motivated and prepared to take responsibility.

Application

Ask yourself which of the three is your natural or learned tendency. Once again, we must recognize that maturity often requires of us the ability to restrain our natural tendency when a different approach is necessary for reaching the best results. 

For example, parents of small children must be more directional with them. As children grow older, the consultive approach teaches them to become involved, responsible and committed to doing what is best. 

Three words

Use the three words below to help you when faced with different situations.

  1. Pause don’t react naturally
  1. Identify – the desired results
  1. Adjustyour response to produce the appropriate communication/leadership style

For a closer look at this through an audio series, see here and here

Scripture to relate – “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6).

Note – The categories above do not all originate from me but have been adapted from a number of different sources that have been widely used over the years. Please use this material as a discussion item with others.

Steve Cornell

 

Posted in Church Leadership, Communication, Community, Conflict, Counseling, Difficult people, Discernment, Disciple-making, Family life, Fellowship, Leadership, Marriage, Relationships, Small Group leaders, Speech, Teenagers, Wisdom | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment