Charles and Daniel continue their discussion in part 2 of how leadership will shape the future of the church. What is the vision that guides church leadership? What legacy are they leaving?
How is it that I have been traveling on missions trips for 10 years and I still learn something new every trip I make? You would think after all this time I would be an old pro at traveling.
My excitement for leaving the country this summer cannot be overstated. I looked forward to seeing friends I made last year, reliving old experiences and making new memories. I always assume God is going to teach me something on the trip, maybe through the kids we work with or on our team from the US. God had other plans this year and my training began early when I was denied an exit from the US due to my passport being three months shy of expiration. Long story, but I spent three extra days in Miami trying to get a new passport. My biggest question was, “Why God?!” followed by many exclamation marks. I know God does things for a reason but this seemed absurd.
I still don’t know for sure why God had me stay in Florida three extra days and miss traveling with my team and some of the early experiences. I’ve thought of many different possible reasons, what else can you do when you are sitting for eight hours in the National Passport Agency, but the most important reason is trust. Trusting God is not something I do well. I like to fix things myself or at least live in the illusion that I am handling things. This time God didn’t leave me room to “fix it” on my own, as if I could, He walked me through this experience and showed Himself strong. I was one of the last people to get my passport and, just as I got it and ran out of the agency, gratefulness that I can’t describe filled my heart. I believe God kept me in Florida three extra days, not just to show me He was in control but to show me He loves me enough to put me in situations where I have to learn trust. My preparation is more important to God than my own comfort or happiness. (Shout out to the awesome Forman family for taking care of everything I needed during my extended stay.)
The first week in Ecuador is spent in the Capitol City of Quito. Our team taught at the church Iglesia Inaquito in the morning with kids, who for the most part go to church with their families and have the benefit of a spiritual influence in their lives. Those of us who were returning reunited with translators and kids we had met the year before. It was refreshing to see so many familiar faces and to be hugged over and over again by kids that remembered us or just wanted a hug.
In the evenings we did the same VBS style program we had in the morning with kids on the outskirts of the city. These children do not all have the benefit of good influences in their lives and you could tell they were hungry for attention and listened closer than the morning crowd. These kids needed more love and our team showed it to them.
The end of the week brought goodbyes, which are always tough, but we knew we would see some of these kids at a camp where we would work two weeks later. The weekend brought some sightseeing and a well-deserved 12 hour vacation. We took the team to a mountain town where we stayed at a very nice hostel owned by native Ecuadorians. Shopping was in order and some sleep. The latter doesn’t happen so easily with a team as full of energy as ours.
One 6-7 hour bus ride later found us beginning week two in Esmeraldas, a coastal city with 48% unemployment. Approaching this city I felt a need for the gospel to be spread and for God’s Spirit to work. Our days were spent in the schools and at a local orphanage that our host, Pastor Louis, has developed relationships with. Pastor Louis and his wife are the sweetest couple and their love for their city is evident. The temperature is hot and humid on the coast compared to Quito where the average high was 65 degrees during the day. Many showers were taken throughout the day as we went to and from our hotel to regroup for each trip. So much could be said of our trip to Esmeraldas. We visited a little area called Roca Fuerte one of the days we were there. I must say this was a highlight of the trip for me. This small town has very little Christian influence and its occupants are very poor. The children are blessed to have a pastor from the church in Esmeraldas come and work with them throughout the week. We visited last year and it was a blessing to see the progress he has made. They are building a school house to begin teaching these children. There were between 250 – 300 children by the time we ended our program, many of them without shoes or adequate clothing. Tears fill my eyes remembering their faces and the way they clung to us as we tried to leave. Many of our teams had 25-30 kids on them which can get crazy, especially if you are a game team!
We visited an orphanage one of the days and it was definitely another highlight. Last year I met a little boy there who had eight brothers and sisters all orphaned since they were very young. He and one sister were the only two who had somehow made it to this orphanage. Many of the kids come and go so I knew seeing him would be iffy. But, he was there and we were reunited with laughing and making hand motions (the price of not speaking each other’s language). When we were preparing to leave he looked at me and said, “When will I see you again?” I smiled choking back tears and confessed that I did not know. But, I told him I would come back even if it took another year.
During the evening I was tasked with leading the youth program. I was less prepared than I would like to have been. But the amazing thing is that God worked through my lack of preparation and my hesitation. These young people listened and responded to each speaker that shared from our team. I am grateful for Elizabeth Fox, Danny, John and Daniel (my brother) who each brought from their hearts a message to these youth. The message of the gospel went to them and I pray it finds its mark!
The last week we traveled to Same Beach for my favorite part of the trip, camp week! We are reunited with many friends from the first week in Quito. This year we did a world cup theme and the kids loved it. I believe it is most Ecuadorian kids dream to one day play professional soccer. Camp is special because we spend all day and night with the kids. They are split into teams and win points together throughout the week that will add up to 1st through 3rd place awards at the end of the week. What a year at camp! We had kids ask how to know Jesus and truly saw their hearts change. During line up (which is always fun, I blew a whistle and mayhem would ensue) Ashley Dickson, one of our team leaders, came running over crying. She said that Denise, one of the little boys on her team, had trusted Christ for salvation. In perspective, this little boy was a trouble-maker and not the one you would go to for laughs during the week. We had to work with him one on one, on more than one occasion. But he spent time with Sammy our translator and asked so many questions about God. But to hear him say the words “Jesús está en mi corazón” (Jesus is in my heart) brought a smile to my heart and caused me to thank God for using this team in the lives of these kids.
Goodbyes to best friends are the hardest things in the world, especially not knowing if you will meet again. Our team, energetic group that they were, invested so much love into the kids. When we returned I was asked by the dad of one of our team members to tell him one thing that stuck out to me about this trip. I told him I have never worked with a team where everyone gave 110% of their heart and passion to the kids. It was a blessing and so refreshing to be a part of Ecuador 2014. I have left out so many stories and parts of this trip that I could tell but for the sake of length I will close. I hope you have made it this far in my writings. If you are still reading this I would have you know that God is doing amazing things in Ecuador. I know He is working around the world but I haven’t been to every part of the world so for now I will tell you about Ecuador. Something happened to me the first time I went and a piece of my heart will always be there. I love the people, the food and the culture. Most of all I love that God chooses to take broken vessels that leave the comfort of their homes, go to share, teach and affect the lives of people in other countries and find their lives forever changed.
I am grateful for Pastor Benjamin and Rosita his wife who have become such close family! (My Ecuadorean family.) We would never make it without them. I miss so many, especially little Melany who became such a close friend last year. Being reunited with her was another highlight of my trip! I know I will go back and I look forward to continuing to be a small part of what God is doing in the world for His Glory! Oh yes! You should take a short term missions trip, it WILL change your life.
Do you worry? Do you fret? Do you contemplate the future and wonder with concern as to how it will play out? Do you wonder and ask “why” as you face people and circumstances beyond your control which often have adverse effects on you life and the life of your loved ones? Do you even react in anger to injustice, incompetence, and insidious plans and actions of sinful men and women who seemingly carry out their designs with little or no hindrance?
The things that occupy our thoughts, monopolize our emotions, and give direction (at least in a temporal sense) to our lives are many and varied and often seem arbitrary and grossly unfair. Yet, most of us who follow Christ believe that God is in control of our lives. We may be a bit confused by the seeming inconsistency of it all, nevertheless we believe that God loves us, cares for us, and in some sense watches over the affairs of our lives.
But the Biblical concept of providence is more than a benign belief that God, as a loving grandfather, cares and watches out for us. Providence teaches us that our God is at work in all the matters that comprise the details of our lives and that our good and His glory are sure. It was so in the death of His Son. “Him, having been delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” (Acts 2:23) No more wicked and unjust event ever occurred than the crucifixion of our Lord. But it was God’s will carried out by wicked men. And no event better illustrates God’s providential dealings with mankind and, more particularly, His own. Literally nothing is left to chance. All things are working together for our good and God’s glory; not independently but interconnected by the wise and powerful hand of God.
Our worries and concerns may be natural responses to our limited knowledge of the events and eventualities that are sure to come our way, but they do not have to dominate the life of the man or woman in Christ. For we know that our God is never surprised or worried. He is never caught off guard, nor is He at a loss for what to do. He does not respond or react. He governs and rules. And He is pleased to do so in such a way that will bring the most good to His child and the most glory to Himself… always.
If our leadership is not strong, where will our churches be in 20 years? Leaders lead the way. They set the example. They give the vision. Join Charles and Daniel as the discuss how leadership will affect the future of the church…
There are some days I really enjoy my work. I am a care-giver for a man in my area four days a week for three hours a day. He has neuropathy, and the circulation in his feet and legs is really bad. So every day I sit at the end of his chair and massage his feet and legs. Usually he reads his newspaper as I work on his feet.
But this was Monday, and the local paper doesn’t run on Monday. As I was massaging his feet, somehow the conversation moved to WWII. He served as a Marine in the Pacific. I was so honored to sit at his feet and bring him some comfort. He fought for my freedom.
I asked him; “Were you fearful?” His response was so interesting to me.”When I first joined, I was seventeen, and I was fearful. I had never been away from the small town where I grew up, and I didn’t know what lay ahead of me. But when you have been in the battle a while, your fear changes. You become more comfortable. This can be dangerous, because you can let your guard down.” I so enjoyed that afternoon, because I came away with this thought. I began to take this man’s battle experience and make an analogy to our spiritual battles as Christians; especially in my own life. As young new Christians, we can struggle and be fearful, because we do not know what lies before us. In our walk with Christ, we grow and become familiar with the Word of God, and our life experiences are seasoned with God’s grace.
I have, in my lifetime, gone through the battles, been in the trenches, and the waves have covered me. By God’s grace, I am learning to trust Him in the battles. But I totally understand the statement this man made; “You can become too comfortable in the battle.” It is possible to become too comfortable with sin, with our spiritual enemies, to forget we are in the battle. In my spiritual battles, I can be too comfortable and allow my trust in The Lord to cause me much grief and regret. So I am reminded that I must stay focused and be on guard, for the enemy wants to distract us from the real purpose of who we are in Christ.
“And He said, Hear all Judah, and King Jehoshaphat; Thus say the LORD unto you: be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
2 Chronicles 2:15
The battle is not mine, but God’s. What a comforting thought! “For you have girded me with strength unto the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” (Psalm 18:39). So my encouragement to you and to me is don’t get comfortable in the everyday battle of life. Stay guarded, and your fear will never change but be focused on a powerful God Who gives us the strength. Follow the encouragement of John Piper to keep a “warfare mentality”. As the old hymn says:
Onward, Christian soldiers; Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!
Christ the royal Master, Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, See His banner go!
At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers, On to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver At the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, Loud your anthems raise!
Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus Going on before!
Is there really any difference between a pastor, elder, or bishop? So many different denominations and each ones says there way of leadership is right. What is the biblical model? Maybe the scriptures are speaking to all three…join Charles and Daniel as they expound on 1 Peter 5:1-5…
Scripture offers the serious-minded Christian some daunting challenges as he follows Christ: none more so than the command; “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) How can we hope to obey such a command? Is this not more than we can hope for?
Holiness, like so many Biblical concepts, is often misunderstood. Many believe that holiness is achievable through human effort. Try as hard as you can and hope you make it. Any form of this is not just frustrating. It is contrary to the Gospel. Others are prone to lapse into a form of antinomianism that basically says;”Since you can’t, don’t try.” These are rather general and simple statements but are enough to lead us to three Biblical observations.
I. Holiness Is a Matter of God-given Position.
Jesus made it clear that our righteousness must exceed that demonstrated by the Scribes and the Pharisees. That was a human kind of righteousness and holiness, and this is not what God demands.
But what God demands He gives. Positional sanctification is the believer’s in Christ. The writer of Hebrews tells us that by the will of God;”we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”(Hebrews 10:10) Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was to;”those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” (1 Corinthians 1:2) (See also Ephesians 4:24, Hebrews 2:11 and 10:14) The words holy, sanctify, and saints are related in the original and refer to the believer having been set apart for God’s purposes.
II. Holiness Is a God-given Priority.
While the believer is positionally holy by God’s grace, holiness is not something we can take for granted. In Hebrews 12:14 we are commanded to “pursue holiness, without which no one will see The Lord.” If one cannot see The Lord without holiness that makes holiness a priority for each of us. Peter reiterates this in 1 Peter 1:15, “For as He who has called you is holy, so be holy in all of life.” Holiness is both an eternal and earthly priority. We are to make our calling and election sure, and we are to be sure that our priority on earth is holiness. Which leads us to our last Biblical observation.
III.Holiness Is a God-given Pursuit.
The command is clear: “…pursue holiness…” Just as our positional holiness is by grace, so our pursuit of holiness is by grace. Nevertheless, we are still to pursue it. We are in constant pursuit of holiness. We are to keep on pursuing or continuously pursue holiness. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God Who is at work in you to both will and do His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12,13)
We are also in blessed pursuit of holiness. Why blessed? Because,”it is God Who is at work in you…” Hebrews 12:10 tells us that our God is working in us and on us, “that we may be partakers of His holiness.” So holiness is not something that happens from the outside in but from the inside out. Christ our hope of glory is also our hope of holiness. Holiness is as much or more inward as outward. And as we live with the eyes of our hearts on eternity with Christ, we grow in holiness and Christlikeness. (1 John 3:2,3) This is Christian living. This is true discipleship.
When it comes to church leadership, the eldership plays the main role biblically. But what role does the deaconship play? Are they a decision making body or a service sector of the church? Their roles are many times determined by tradition. But what is the biblical role…join Charles and Daniel as the explore the biblical basis for this issue.
When I was growing up, there were times as a child when my unnecessary behavior would force my Southern Mom to say, “When are you gonna grow up?!” I confess there must have been times when as a Mom, in the frustration of dealing with the behavior of my children, I have said, “When are you gonna grow up?!” But as the years have flown by and training has taken place, by God’s grace, my sons have grown up. As I have kept up on social media this month, I have gotten to see much of what my sons have been doing as they have ministered to children and adults in Ecuador. What a joy to watch them interact with these people; to give themselves to others. Moms, we invest a lot of our time and ourselves into our children, don’t we.
I sometimes come to the conclusion as I am doing self-evaluation that I did not do enough or I could have done it differently. True confessions of a mom: “I was not perfect”! 🙂 “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
That kind of joy has been so real this past month. 3 John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth.” Blessings, oh unspeakable, when your children walk in the truth and want to give themselves to spreading the truth of the Gospel to others.
The fact that I trust in a perfect Savior frees my soul to relax and trust in Him. After all, it is only the grace of God that carries any of us through life. Moms, we must not focus on ourselves but always trust the sovereign hand of God in the lives of our children. Destiny is a powerful word in the English language. It means “1. the seemingly inevitable or necessary succession of events: 2. what will necessarily happen to any person or thing.” But, praise the Lord, my destiny and my children’s destiny are in His hands.
But here is another way I would like to propose as a positive note to the saying, “When are you gonna grow up?!” If you were to look at the silly skits, characters, and costumes of my two sons, you might question their maturity! 🙂 But they have grown in wisdom and stature and I trust in their Savior. They have become men, yet their hearts are still young and vibrant. To watch them give that out to children is so rewarding to this mom’s heart. In a sense, I never want them to grow up and out of that kind of heart.
Yes, I have seen a lot of years now, and I never want to “grow up” in the sense of losing that heart for God; laughter, genuine love for others, not staying old and stale in mind and heart.
Lamentations 3:22-24 says, “It is because of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” And 5:21 says, “Turn us unto You, O LORD and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.”
So if my Mother were still alive, I would have to say to her in my Southern voice; “No, Mom, I am never gonna grow up; at least not in my heart and soul.”