“For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice…”
(Zechariah 4:10 ESV)
As followers of Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ, we are far more influenced by our culture than we realize or care to admit. This is nowhere more apparent than it is in the life of the church and its ministry. Success is often measured in terms of size and numbers and immediate results rather than how decisions will impact the next generations. Budgets and baptisms are a measure of the the work of the church, but they are not the only or final measure.
The church and its leaders often fail to embrace the aspects of ministry that will touch and change the next generation for Christ. Biblical discipleship and investing in fathers and fathers to be requires time and patience. It requires a willingness and even a conscious decision to look beyond the immediate and stay committed to and focused on the priorities that will make a lasting impact on this and the next generation.
Pastors must make the time to spend with men and invest what God has done and is doing in their lives in those men. We must learn to ask appropriate questions, offer wise counsel, and pray fervently with and for men as they face the difficult and practical issues of personal growth and family leadership. There are no easy answers and seldom immediate results, and we must walk with young men, husbands, young fathers, older fathers, and grandfathers. We must experience with them their successes, their failures, their frustrations and joys. We must build trust and constantly communicate our passion for Christ, His Gospel, and Gospel-centered living. Passion for Christ is the key element. A vision for men and their descendants must be our pursuit in ministry. We must embrace what the LORD told the prophet Habakuk; “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakuk 2:4). Most of ministry requires a long-term perspective, and this is certainly true of touching the next generation. Embrace the day of small things, and invest in the vision of the generations to come: for the future of the Gospel and the glory of our great God.
I soon have an appointment with my Dentist who is a far piece away from my house. I always leave early, only to arrive on time and have to wait.
We spend so much of our lives waiting. As young parents, we utter the words “I can’t wait till he or she can walk, talk, get all their teeth, dress themselves, be potty trained…” The list continues to grow with each season of life.
Then, one day, we turn around and they are grown and have become adults so quickly. We ask, “Where did all the time go?”
But are we still guilty of saying, “I can’t wait until he or she…? Well, you know the rest.
As Christians, is this true of our lives? “My soul waits for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say more than they that watch for the morning.” (Psalm 130:6) Waiting can become frustrating as a believer and we can so easily loose hope.
Psalm 33:20 says that our soul should wait for the Lord. He is our help and our shield. When we are in that waiting room, we are not to do nothing or be idle. Lamentations 3:25 says, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him.”
Is our soul seeking Him in the midst of waiting? What are you waiting for in regards to your adult children? Trust, me (especially if you are the mom ☺) this is not an easy task. But it is a necessary task for our soul and our relationship with our adult children.
To quote my husband, Charles Cavanaugh, “Waiting on the Lord will sorely test the reality and measure of your commitment to Him. There is noting quite so trying as the silence and seeming inactivity of God.”
When we find ourselves in the waiting room of our lives, we are not to be passive, but we should be active – actively seeking the Lord, resting, watching, and ultimately trusting in the Lord. Galatians 5:5 says, “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”
We must exercise a confidence of a waiting soul. While most of us don’t like to wait, some of us have learned to make good of those times we have to. We may read a book or work with our modern technology. I encourage you, as you are sitting in that literal waiting room or that spiritual waiting room that is your soul, rehearse and mediate on this Word: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, besides thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4)
Spiritual leadership can be lonely. Those who risk all find a road marked with incredible pain and suffering. There are days when you simply want to give up. You think to yourself, “It can’t be worth it.” You invest in others, and it seems that no one cares. You feel you are the only one that remains faithful. YOU are all alone. [Don’t tell me you have not had these thoughts.]
The truth is, we have been promised pain and suffering. We know that the road will be marked with pain. Our God has been completely honest with what is in store. In John 16:33 our Lord tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world [ESV].”
First of all, let me point out that there is nothing wrong with lonely feelings or the heartfelt agony of being in pain – emotionally or physically. It is perfectly human and normal to know and feel this. In fact, embrace the pain and allow the loneliness to find its rest in the person of Christ.
Secondly, you are not alone and you do not have the corner on the market of faithfulness. Christ told His disciples – the ones who would lead the pioneering work of establishing the church – that he would never leave them nor forsake them. And it is no less true for the Christian leader today. The Bible gives examples of leaders who knew deep, heartfelt pain and loneliness. Elijah – a prophet of God – knew overwhelming despair after his defeat of the wicked prophets of Bale and subsequent fleeing from wicked Queen Jezebel [2Kinds 18&19]. So much so, that he even despaired of life. Paul – an apostle – spoke of a time in which he and his fellow laborers were so utterly burdened beyond strength that they despaired of life [2Cor. 1:8-11].
These men and women felt the heavy burden and difficulty of spiritual leadership. It was hard. Many times they felt they could not go on. But to endure, we must fix our eyes, as they did, on the prize of Christ [Phil 3:12:20, Ps.57:7], and we must lead others to do the same. We must daily remember to…
1. Know the promises of God [2Cor. 1:20]
3. Grow in the knowledge of God [Phil. 1:9-14]
4. Confess the sin of self-pity & pride [1John 1:9&10]
5. Remember God’s abundant grace & forgiveness [Ps. 136:1, Eph.2:8&9]
2. Focus on the mission at hand – the great commission [Mt28]
1. For the sake of the Gospel [Col. 1:23]
2. For the glory of our God [Heb. 13:20&21]
So, we will “take heart”. God has won the victory. We press on knowing that the battles we engage in are but skirmishes in a war that has already been decided. We know pain and loneliness so that we may know the triumph and glory of our risen King [Phil. 3:10].
It’s one thing to talk about vision and touching the next generation for Christ. It is quite another to see it happen. If we are convinced that men are important to lasting ministry, then how will that look in the life of the church. What’s a Pastor, or for that matter, a godly layman, to do to begin to make it happen?
There are practical things to get the ball rolling. While we cannot help but long for a church full of passionate men with a heart to be a spiritual leader, the reality is that in most churches it is not so. The place to begin is with the few ( or maybe one) you have. Jesus Himself had many followers, but He apparently spent the bulk of His time investing Himself in the twelve. In fact, He often said things that thinned out the crowds while using the same words to challenge His closest followers to a stronger commitment.
So whether you are in a very large church or a smaller congregation, there must be time for the few. One must never purposefully ignore any of the people of God. But to affect the next generation, the spiritual leader must invest himself in the few, (or even the one) who show any hint of passion for the gospel and gospel living. This may begin with setting aside a time to get together for prayer, but it certainly does not have to end there. It is, however, a good starting point for enlarging the vision of the spiritually minded and for sharing a burden for our children, our children’s children, and beyond.
Let us not be so short-sighted as to think such activity should only include fathers of young children with their lives out in front of them. This could, and even should, include married fathers to be, single men with a heart for God who may or may not have spiritual leadership at home, grandfathers and grandfathers to be. It may even be an older single man with no prospects for marriage but a genuine passion for Christ and His church. Hunger for God and Commitment to His truth, no matter how faint, are signs of spiritual maturity and the potential for a broad, gospel-centered kingdom vision. And no Pastor or spiritual leader can go wrong investing there (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Human beings where made to be in community – a relationship with their Creator and their fellow creatures.
We were not made to be alone. From the beginning of time, God instituted this reality when he said “its not good that the man should be alone.” [Genesis 2:18] So, He created woman for the man, and they were to meet the need for companionship and fellowship with one another. They were to multiply and spread that abroad. Since then, cultures have built their entire society around community. Only in the last fifty years have we moved away from the concept. Western culture has seen a huge shift in its way of living – moving to a more metropolitan way of life.
However, we have begun in the last ten years to see resurgence in the idea of our need for community. There has been something missing in our lives. We feel it. We miss it. We even long for it, though we are uncertain how to develop and maintain.
Even though the culture has moved away or lost its bearing on how to maintain community, this in no way permits the community of believers to move away from that which is biblical and necessary. Just a casual reading of the New Testament gives major hints to the need of believers structuring their lives around community with other believers – the local church.
But where do leaders come into the picture?
What is their role in promoting community?
Do they hold responsibility for its continuance?
We know the apostle Paul didn’t just speak about community. He built and fostered it. He took leadership. He was called to it. He established local churches [Acts]. He equipped pastors and lay leaders to continue building community and strengthen existing local churches [Timothy].
Biblical community is good because it promotes accountability, encouragement, and most importantly growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. It plays a major roll in our sanctification. Through the local body [community], we can be equipped and coalesce to spread the glorious Gospel of Jesus and fulfill the great commission [Matthew 28].
Leaders are not just a peripheral idea when it comes to the picture of community. They are the ones who are called to maintain, foster, and grow [not just numerically] the understanding, desire, and passion for its need. I believe that biblical and effective community rises and falls on leadership [read 1Timothy & 2 Timothy]. This is why scripture lays out clearly the qualifications of the elder/pastor because he is the one primarily responsible for the community’s vitality and continuance [1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-16]. He is the one who communicates and implements the biblical vision that every local church needs. He leads. That’s what he is called to do.
What about the average laymen?
Are we responsible in any way?
It’s quite simple really. No profound exposition needed. Support your leaders and take initiative in the vision they are communicating and seeking to implement [Hebrews 13:7&17-18]. Live and proclaim the gospel. Encourage others in the community to do so. Be the leader that leads from within. Come along side your brothers and sisters in a holy huddle and say, “let’s do this thing!” If you find yourself under leadership that is not doing its job, then prayerfully and humbly approach them. Work through it. If there is no recourse, then prayerfully seek biblical leadership elsewhere.
All of this may not be easy. Nothing good achieved was done with ease. But it’s scriptural. It’s right. You are called to this – layman and pastor alike – in your own and specific God ordained way.
Be not moved away,
Ahhh, this is February, the heart month. The month where love is celebrated. I have been thinking about how casually we use the word “love” in our vocabulary.
“I love to go shopping.” “I love chocolate,” “I love snow.” “I love __________”
You can fill in the blank. But the love I want us to think about and focus on is a deeper love – an unconditional love. The dictionary says “unconditional” means without conditions or reservations; absolute.
As parents, do we love our adult children unconditionally – setting no conditions on them or having any reservations about them, loving them absolutely?
Remember, dear parent, Christ has loved us unconditionally.
Jeremiah 31:3 says, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
When we were sinners without hope, Christ drew us unto himself and saved us. Christ dying in my place on the cross is ultimate love.
Ephesians 1:6-7 says, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
There is nothing we ever could do to earn this salvation – this is unconditional love towards us! No strings attached. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.”
Do we love others unconditionally? We must look at others and our children through the eyes of Christ.
As I reflect and meditate on this unconditional love of Christ towards me, I am challenged and pricked in my heart to keep this thought ever before me: “Lord, help me to love others, and especially my children, unconditionally – no reservations. Help me never to put conditions on my love for my children.”
I want to always have an open heart and love with an everlasting love.
So, this February, I will love the chocolate, enjoy the fun things this month will bring and I will reflect and sing:
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!
– S. Trevor Francis and Thomas J. Williams –
In His Unconditional Love,
Conviction is the fuel for strong and effective leadership. It’s what drives a person to live or die for what he believe and to lead others to do the same. However, when you lack belief in what you seek to communicate and accomplish…
• Fear seizes the day
• The vision will burn out
• You will quit
• There will be casualties
I am sure that you could, in your minds eye, come up with leaders – whether you know them personally or not – in whom you have seen this story play out first hand. I know for myself that I have seen and been under leaders who lacked the conviction to maintain their vision and therefore could not effectively communicate with and lead others. They had great ideas and maybe even some initial energy and passion that gave excitement to what they did. But, because they lacked conviction, that energy fizzled and the people they were leading…
• Lost hope and fell away
• Or discovered direction elsewhere
But why is this?
Why do leaders need conviction? And if they need conviction, how do they develop conviction so that it renders them unmovable?
Worldview is what drives the conviction of a leader or any individual.Your worldview will fuel your conviction. Al Mohler in his book ‘The Conviction to Lead’ expounds on the relationship between your worldview and conviction:
“Worldviews work by organizing ideas. At the most basic level of our thinking, every single one of us operates out of one unified understanding of the world. As [Thomas] Sowell says, these worldviews are the ‘silent shapers of our thoughts.’ You might even say that they are sets of ideas that make the world operational for us. If we did not believe these ideas, we would have no idea how to make sense of the world. We cannot rethink our basic understanding of reality every morning. Basic moral judgments are embedded within our worldview.”
Whether good or bad, your worldview will fuel your convictions – grounding you at the very core of your being. I believe without a shadow of doubt that a biblical worldview is eternally true. As I have stated, all people have a worldview. Assuming you’re a Christian and one who takes leadership in your sphere of influence, the question remains is whether your worldview biblical? Is it founded on an immoveable understanding of who God is within the realm of His written word or a God that you have imagined? It will determine what kind of leader you are. It will determine your ability sustain your vision. It will determine how you lead others. It will determine the rest of your life.
Be not moved away,