“The Lord Always Before Me”

11 03 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

I recently read a blog post by a prominent leader in the evangelical world.  It was a post about “Rules of Thumb” for healthy churches.  The rules were all about the proper acreage for church property, the number of parking spaces per attendance, the maximum occupancy for buildings, maximum debt payment budgeted, and so on.  You get the picture.  It broke my heart.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image15608205I know this leader/blogger to be a godly man and a well-respected leader.  I absolutely do not question that.  To his credit, his own comments to that post state that he regrets using the words “healthy churches” in his title, as if these various metrics have anything to do with church health.  I respect that, and am so glad he made that correction.  I had actually written my own comment to the effect that he should have entitled the post “Ten Things You as a Church Leader Should NOT be Obsessing About”.  I refrained.  Maybe I shouldn’t have refrained.

Two observations here:

1. I believe our pastors and ministers and rectors and priests often do obsess about the wrong things…I believe church leaders today are easily swayed from “setting the Lord always before us”;

2.  I believe that is our own fault for allowing them, even encouraging them, to do that.

Don’t you think “I have set the Lord always before me” is a comment about focus?  I do.  I think it means always, always, always helping us stay focused on the Head of the church (Jesus) and what He desires and what Honors Him and what His kingdom requires.  I think it means, when the rest of the world is focused on money or buildings or programs or processes or legalities or metrics of one kind or another, or counting noses or measuring parking spaces, somebody somewhere in a leadership role is helping us stay focused on Jesus…helping us see all of these issues (and others) through the lens of scripture and through God’s eyes.  It means seeing EVERYTHING against the backdrop of the cross.  That is what spiritual leadership does.

It seriously breaks my heart to see so very many pastors and church leaders spending their precious energies and their sacred calling to gain the world’s wisdom about parking spaces and seat bottoms.  I think we should expect more from them…and as a leader myself, I think those whom I lead should expect more from me.  I think we should stop pressing our pastors to know those things and should start pressing them to press us!

When I teach the Principle of Focus in churches overseas, I am sorry to report that I have a seemingly endless supply of illustrations of LACK of focus from the church in America.  Sadly, that is our reputation.  Even more sadly, we have earned it.

But be encouraged…because, no matter how badly we fail, and no matter how out-of-whack our focus becomes, it is still His church…and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.  I am so glad for that!

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Focus…Trees: Leadership Focus that Jesus Values

4 02 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him,“You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.  Mark 12:32-34

Forest for the treesI believe the church has more than its share of leaders who cannot see the forest for the trees.  They get so distracted by the minutia, the petty, the theological fine points, they lose sight of the main thing.  I suspect you know a leader or two like that.  You may even BE a leader like that…but, if you are, you probably do not know it.  After all, what kind of leader would knowingly be like that?

The Pharisees and other teachers of the law in Jesus’ day were often that way.  They were so distracted by the complexities of their traditions and the fine points of the Mosaic law, they had virtually lost sight of the Spirit behind those laws.  Questions like, “What’s most important?” were particularly troublesome for them.

Jesus, on the other hand, seems to me to be a “big picture” kind of leader…at least in matters of theology.  He always had an eye on the things which matter most, and he had a way of embarrassing the institutional religious thinkers of his day in this regard.  He valued a theology which kept the main thing as the main thing.  I think that is what he saw in this particular teacher of the law in Mark 12.  This was a rare moment when Jesus actually commended one of those teachers, and it seems to me to be because this teacher was actually able to keep the details in perspective and to see the forest for the trees.

When I work with congregational conflict, I am never particularly surprised at how out of focus we church people are capable of becoming, how tunnel-visioned we get, particularly in matters of doctrine and theology.  We can get so zoomed in on the differences among us that we completely lose sight of the major worldview we have in common.  But I get particularly disappointed in shepherds among us who lose their focus on what is important, because they are who set the focus for the rest of us.  Show me a church which is overly focused on money and material possessions, and I will show you church leadership who is out of focus that way.  Show me a church who is overly focused on politics and I will show you church leadership who is leaning out of bounds in that same way.  In matters of focus, we truly are a “follow the leader” kind of people.

Leadership vision which allows discussion on the finer points but which maintains its focus on the larger points is a vision Jesus commends.  He saw it in this teacher of the law. He will acknowledge it in you as well.  Keep your eyes on the forest, pastor.  Always remind us and help us to see it.  There will always be plenty of people around to point out the individual trees.  You keep us focused on the major stuff.  Jesus will be pleased.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




The Truth About Spiritual Gifts

6 11 2012

Tuesday Re-mix -

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed… to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  1 Corinthians 12:1, 7

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I wish I could see exactly what the question was from the Corinthian church.  I mean, I wish I could know exactly how they reported their issue with spiritual gifts.  The mediator in me has watched Paul call out three of the four factions in that church in the first part of this letter (“I follow Paul”, “I follow Apollos”, and I follow Cephas”), and I wonder if the “I follow Jesus” faction was representative of the culprits here, because that is the way it comes across in so many of our church conflicts today where spiritual gifts are at issue.  Somebody is making a practice of doing something that is causing all kinds of havoc in the church, i.e., ripping the church apart, and their excuse is that “I am just exercising my spiritual gift…it is the Spirit of God Himself working through me…I am just following Jesus.”  I am troubled by that for several reasons, not the least of which is that spiritual gifts are ALL ABOUT UNITY and bringing the church together…not ripping it apart.

Despite Paul’s concern that we NOT be uninformed on this subject, I think we are.  Paul was kind of a “bullet point” communicator.  But he did not have the advantage of a word processor.  If he had, maybe he would have written his lesson on spiritual gifts more like this:

  • Spiritual gifts are not just abilities; they are the Spirit Himself.  The Spirit, you see, is the gift.  When the Spirit of God manifests Himself through a believer, i.e., “peeks out” at the rest of the church from inside a believer, we call that a “spiritual gift”.
  • Your spiritual gift is not for YOUR benefit at all…it is for the benefit of the church.  It is the Spirit of God working through you for the common good, “so that the body of Christ may be built up  until we all reach unity in the faith…”
  • Even though you should “desire” the greater gifts, you do not get to choose your gift…God does.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could tell God how He should manifest Himself through us?  Then again, wouldn’t that be scary?!
  • You may well have an opinion about what your gift is, but since it is a gift to the church and not to you, you probably do not see it as clearly as the church does.  I am always a little skeptical when someone tells me what his/her own spiritual gift is…I always listen a lot more closely when he/she talks to me about someone else’s spiritual gift.
  • If your “spiritual gift” is damaging your church (i.e., Christ’s church) or is dividing God’s people rather than bringing them together in unity, do you really think that is the Spirit doing that?  It may well be some perversion of a spiritual gift, or not a spiritual gift at all, but it is not likely the Spirit.
  • That God would manifest Himself through you differently than how He manifests Himself through me is not a bad thing…it is a good thing.  God’s idea of unity comes via diversity.  Strange but true!
  • Your spiritual gift, no matter what it is, can only be received by the church through the lens of personal relationships.  In other words, you may be the most gifted communicator of God’s Word alive today, but if the 9 people sitting in your Sunday School class do not know that you love them, then you have nothing to offer them…you are just a bunch of noise.
  • There are not just 5 spiritual gifts, or 9 spiritual gifts, or 14 spiritual gifts.  Be careful about numbering or categorizing or otherwise limiting the various ways God may choose to manifest Himself through a believer.  The lists of gifts mentioned in scripture are more likely illustrative, not exhaustive.

I am with Paul on this…I do not want to be uninformed when it comes to spiritual gifts.  These are some things I have learned so far, with the rest of a lifetime yet to go!  How about you?  What precious nuggets of truth have you learned about Spiritual gifts that the church today needs to recognize?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com







Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,691 other followers