Soul Watchers

I share T.M. Moore’s heartbeat for the role of shepherd leaders in the Church today. I highly recommend that every pastor subscribe to the newsletters that are available through the Fellowship of Ailbe. 

A recent article called “Soul Watchers” really caught my attention. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite… 

Elders are called “overseers” and “shepherds” in their relationship to the congregations of the Lord (1 Peter 5:1-3). … Elders were charged with the responsibility of watching over the flocks of the Lord (Acts 20:28), preserving sound doctrine and right practice in the churches (Acts 15:1-6; Titus 1), and, in particular, keeping watch over the souls of God’s people (2 Corinthians 12:15; Hebrews 13:17). … 

The elders appointed to serve the churches of the New Testament were called to be shepherds, leading the Lord’s flocks into fuller realization of His Kingdom and promises. In fact, so vital were elders to the churches of the New Testament that Paul insisted that any church that didn’t have elders was to that extent not “in order” (Titus 1:3).

(Check out the bible verses T.M. references in this piece by clicking here.)

T.M. Moore wrote one of the endorsements for my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, and I recently appeared as a guest on his Ailbe Podcast.

Whose Ladder?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had a great time on the Ailbe Podcast with Rusty Rabon.

Rusty quotes a section from the chapter “The Wrong Ladder” in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter: 

God frequently picks people we would consider the least qualified. He sometimes has one in an unglamorous position for years, and sometimes He catapults somebody immediately to the top. Sometimes God will keep His hand-selected individual in a prominent leadership position until death, and sometimes He will remove that person to a place of obscurity after only a short time. God’s ladder of success is nothing like ours! 

We discuss the American cultural ladder and how that may or may not square with what we read on the pages of the Bible. I use the example from the life of Philip to make my point that we would be wise to not try to set up our own ladder of success. 

 I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is now available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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By His Stripes

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Have you ever heard this truism: The person with an experience is never at the mercy of the person with an argument? 

There are, sadly, many who deny the reality of God’s divine healing for today. They may say God healed in the past, but that age has passed, or they may simply deny all supernatural activity. I have the best reply to these skeptics or deniers—and you may have this same reply: God does heal today; I know this is true because He has healed me! 

Our truth statement about this says: “Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.” Let me break this down into three parts. 

(1) “Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel.” After that word “integral” I’d like to insert the word “indisputable.” When God does the miraculous, it is an undeniable proof of His love and power. A great story to prove this point is when Jesus healed a paralytic after He forgave him of his sins (Luke 5:17-26). 

Notice how the people responded: Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. This glory to God has always been the reason God performs miracles (see Mark 6:7-13; Acts 2:43; Acts 3:9-12). 

(2) “Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement.” I like to remember that the word atonement means “at-onement” and stands opposed to disease which I like to say as “dis-ease.” Sin is our ultimate dis-ease—the ultimate separator—so Jesus took care of both our spiritual dis-ease and our physical dis-ease when He died on the Cross for us, just as Isaiah prophesied. That’s why the New Testament also shows us salvation and healing frequently being linked together (Acts 10:38; 8:4-8). 

(3) “And is the privilege of all believers.” ALL believers, not just a select few and not just those who lived at the time of the first apostles. 

Divine healing has been—and always will be—an integral and indisputable part of the gospel precisely because it exalts God as THE Healer. 

Many people today still believe what the disciples of Jesus believed: Disease is a consequence of personal sin. In addressing this misunderstanding, Jesus said that disease was “so that the work of God might be displayed” in the life of the one about to be healed. He said something similar while at the graveside of Lazarus, before he raised that dead man back to life (John 9:1-38; 11:4-45). 

Sometimes God heals us now, but ALWAYS He heals us in our glorified bodies (2 Corinthians 12:9-10; 5:1-9; Revelation 21:4). Our patience and hope in our future, ultimate healing glorifies God in the present. 

By faith in Jesus we can claim that “by His stripes we have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). The verb tense Peter uses means we have been healed, we are being healed now, and we will be ultimately healed in Christ’s eternal presence. Whether we are healed here or not, we can live knowing that His healing power always brings Him glory and always draws people to Him, so don’t hesitate to keep on asking Him for His healing touch on your body and soul. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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People Of The Word

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Haggai appears on the historical scene for just five months, but what a bright light he shines! He is the first of three post-exilic prophets to encourage the Israelites who have returned to Jerusalem.

Before we talk about Haggai’s ministry, we need a brief grammar lesson. Specifically, let’s look at two prefixes: un- and non-. Both of them ultimately mean “not,” but there is a distinction that we need to consider when it comes to the Bible: 

    • unbiblical would mean something contrary to the teaching of the Bible 
    • non-biblical is something that may or may not be correct, but it’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible 

Let me give you an example from my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. Chris asked me whether I preferred the title senior pastor or lead pastor. This is a non-biblical issue; that is, it doesn’t really matter to me because neither of those titles are found in the Bible. Technically, the word pastor isn’t in the Bible either. The word that is usually translated “pastor” is really a herdsman or a shepherd. 

The problem is that if we put too much focus on non-biblical things, those things can end up becoming unbiblical pursuits. Like when Jesus took the Pharisees to task for their focus on traditions over Scripture (see Matthew 15:1-6). I wrote Shepherd Leadership mainly to get pastors and church leaders to spot non-biblical metrics which may have sneakily turned into unbiblical pursuits, so that they could return to pure biblical principles. In the Preface of my book, I wrote—

“My larger concern is that churches, parachurch organizations, and nonprofit ministries that are largely founded to fulfill a biblical mandate are straying from the simple, freeing truths found in the Bible. Or maybe I should say that they are adding things to their ministries that aren’t in the pages of Scripture. Whichever way you want to say it, the result is the same: We are using the wrong metrics to define ‘success’ for our ministries. I fear that in our focus on unbiblical practices, we are missing the joy of really doing ministry.”

Haggai calls God’s people to return to God’s Word. This is the second-shortest book in the Old Testament (at just 38 verses long), yet Haggai says something like “this is what God says” 28 times in these 38 verses! 

Haggai also records five times that God says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” This phrase literally means to take a strong hold on each thought and examine it intensely. This idea is always connected to a phrase like, “This is what the Lord Almighty says” (1:5, 7; 2:14-15, 17-18). In other words, we are to thoughtfully examine our lifestyle with God’s Word being THE standard of measurement. 

Paul made a similar connection in the New Testament: We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

Jesus did this too. When speaking to the religious leaders, He said, “You are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor God’s power” (Matthew 22:29). And even with His own disciples, He had to open their minds to see how the Scriptures pointed to Him and were fulfilled in Him (Luke 24:25-27, 44-45). 

Indeed, the phrase “it is written” is used 75 times in the New Testament! 

That’s why Haggai’s words still ring true to us today: “Give careful thought” to how you live in light of how God says you should be living. Christians need to…

  1. Hear the Word of God every day 
  2. Consider their lives in light of the Word of God
  3. Obey what the Word of God is saying to us 

(check out Acts 17:11; Psalm 139:23-24; 1 Samuel 15:22) 

We must become people of the Word of God or else we run the very real risk of letting our non-biblical decisions spiral downward into a sinful, unbiblical lifestyle that grieves the heart of God. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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4 Ministries Of Healthy Churches

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

In the Foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, Dick Brogden observes, “God plucked David from the sheepfold. God chose a sheep to be a shepherd. And though we all are stupid sheep, when God plucks us out of obscurity to serve others, we can have the humble confidence for as long as we are asked to lead that God has chosen us. That confidence both faithfully drives us to our knees and fearlessly propels us against our giants. It is good to be a sheep; it is good to be an under-shepherd. Just remember you are stupid, chosen by the Wise One, and as long as you serve as a shepherd, you and your flock will be safe.” 

How true it is that all of us are sheep. The role of the shepherd is to care for the sheep and create a healthy environment for them. The role of healthy sheep is to reproduce more sheep. In this, both shepherds and sheep are ministers—we all minister to those God has placed around us. 

God calls all Christians to be ministers. The Church is the sheepfold that equips us, but then we must go out to minister in a way that will bring lost sheep to a personal relationship with Jesus. 

Our foundational truth statement about church ministry says: A divinely called and scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord for the fourfold purpose of leading the Church in evangelism, worship, sanctification, and compassion. 

(1) Evangelism. When we looked at the foundational belief about the Church, we noted that it’s not either-or—evangelism or discipleship—but it’s both-and. Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known (Matthew 10:1, 7-8; 28:18-20). 

(2) Worship. We shouldn’t have the mindset of, “Let’s go to church to meet with God.” Instead, we need to live in a way where we are always abiding in God’s omnipresence. This worship-centric lifestyle empowers our evangelism, changes our hearts, and fuels our compassion (John 4:23-24; Romans 12:1; Acts 2:46-47). 

(3) Sanctification. Remember that we are all in-process of becoming saints (I like to remember this by calling it saint-ification). We need each other to do this, which is why God gives gifts to bring out Christ-like maturity in us (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16). 

(4) Compassion. Compassion is feeling turned into action. This opens the door for evangelism, creates more opportunities for worship, and matures Christians (Mark 6:34-37; Luke 10:33; Acts 2:45).  

Notice that each of these ministries are interdependent with all the other ministries. 

In a blog post nearly 10 years ago, I questioned: “How do we know if our church is successful?  The apostle Paul uses two words to help answer these questions: Quality and Faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3:13, 4:2). 

So here are two important questions we need to ask ourselves: (1) Am I doing quality work? (2) Am I faithfully doing my work? 

To help answer those questions, I like this thought from Leonard Sweet’s book I Am A Follower: “The most important metrics we must rely on, the crucial ‘deliverables’ we can present, must focus on the newly formed lives of the disciples we are making, the followers who are following Christ into a place of serving Him by serving others. The most important measure of our faithfulness to Christ must be the extent of transformation into the living image of Christ Himself. … The quantifiable fruit of our church is not found in the number of people we can gather on a weekly basis. What counts is what is happening in the lives of those who have gathered. 

These are questions we should all ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us: 

  • What is happening in my life? 
  • Am I telling others about Jesus? 
  • Am I worshipping God so consistently that everyone can see it? 
  • Am I maturating as a saint and am I helping other saints mature? 
  • Is my faith seen in my compassionate actions? 

Our individual answers to those questions will determine the success of our individual churches, which will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the global Church of Jesus Christ. I hope you will take some time to consider these questions for yourself. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Three Pictures Of The Church

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

When you’ve been at a church service have you ever asked yourself, “What are we doing here? What exactly is ‘church’? What are we supposed to be doing?”  

 Some people think church is saints going out to tell people about Jesus, and some people think church is saints coming together to hear about Jesus (see Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:18). I think this is an either-or trap. 

I think a better way of looking at this is “both-and” and “so that”: BOTH coming to a gathering of believers so that we can be equipped to go out AND going out to tell people about Jesus so that we can bring new disciples into the church. 

Our foundational truth statement says: The Church is the Body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of her great commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven. 

To help us see where we play a vital role in all of this, the Bible gives us three pictures of the church:

  1. A Body
  2. A Building
  3. A Bride

(see Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Ephesians 2:19-22; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:21-33)

All of these pictures speak of multiple parts making up one unified, healthy whole. Remove any part or any function, and the whole thing is diminished. All of these pictures also speak of intentionality. No one becomes healthy by accident, or builds a sound structure by accident, or enjoys a fulfilling marriage by accident. Health, soundness, and fulfillment all result from being intentional about our choices and interactions. 

I believe these three pictures also help us see what the church isn’t and is. 

  • A healthy church isn’t about numbers  
  • A healthy church isn’t about the day of the week that we meet
  • A healthy church isn’t about an “order of service” (there is no such thing listed in the New Testament!)
  • A healthy church is about Jesus being the focal point. As Jesus said, “I will build My Church.”   
  • A healthy church is about being intentional in everything we do 
  • A healthy church is about doing everything we can to glorify Jesus, both when we come together and when we go out into the world

(see Matthew 18:20; Romans 14:5; Matthew 16:18; Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Hebrews 10:23-25) 

The first Church in the New Testament showed us how they followed the example of Jesus. Before trying to fulfill the Great Commission of going into all the world, they first obeyed the directive from Jesus to stay in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. Then we see an intentionality, and an empowerment, and a complete reliance on the Holy Spirit in everything they undertook from that point on. 

(see Acts 1:8; 2:42-47; 4:29-35; 6:1-7; 8:4, 26; 10:19-20; 13:1-3; 15:1-29)  

It’s not about going to “my church” or going to “your church.” It’s about being the Church (with a capital “C”)—the Body of of Christ, the Building of Christ, the Bride of Christ. 

Bottom line:

Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known. 

This is a part of our ongoing series looking at our foundational truths. If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here.

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Simple Christianity

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

What does it mean to be a Christian? Or maybe I should ask it this way: what do Christians do to show that they are indeed a Christian?

Lots of people have come up with must-do and must-not-do lists, but is this the way Jesus lived? 

I love the simple summary of the life of Jesus that Peter gave: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Jesus was so overflowing with love and the Holy Spirit that He couldn’t help but make a difference wherever He went. 

It’s simple, but not easy. Look at how people lashed out at Jesus even while He was healing, teaching, loving, and forgiving. 

Or what about the simple description Jesus gave of an activity that brought applause from our Master: “You saw someone who was hungry and you fed him” (see Matthew 25:34-40). 

Simple, but not easy. Look at the logistical challenges in buying food, preparing it, and getting it to those who are indeed hungry. 

The churches of the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association are trying to live out this simple Christianity through a program called Hand2Hand. Nearly half of the students in our school district are eligible for free or reduced meals, which means they are having breakfast and lunch provided to them at school Monday through Friday. 

That also means that they are in need of food on the weekends. This is where Hand2Hand steps in. We provide healthy breakfast, snack, and dinner items for these students to eat during the weekend. 

It’s simple, but it’s not easy. 

We need lots of help—from food and financial donations, to shoppers, to shelf stockers, to small teams who prepare breakfast and snack packs, to larger teams who assemble the whole weekend’s supply, to those who deliver the food to the school buildings. There are so many places to get involved. 

If you live in West Michigan, would you please help us? We have set up a separate website to keep people updated on current food needs and volunteer opportunities. We also have a link for online financial gifts. If you would like to make a recurring donation, just $20 per month will provide healthy food for a student for the whole month. Whatever you can do with your time or financial support will be a blessing to so many! 

Let’s take advantage of this simple way to show the love of Jesus to these families in our community.

Changing Focus: Measuring The Right Things

I was recently interviewed on The Post Covid Church Podcast

In this episode, Stuart Kellogg and I discuss church leadership, my forthcoming book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, and even how church members can effectively talk to their pastor about some needed changes in their church. The episode is entitled Changing Focus: Measuring The Right Things and you can listen to it by clicking here. Stuart also provided a transcript of the entire interview—

Announcer

Welcome to the post COVID church podcast with your host, Stuart Kellogg.

Stuart Kellogg 0:12

Thank you for joining us. You know, since The Post Covid Church project is all about helping churches…our mission statement is Helping the church share more of the good news in the face of hostility, persecution and disinterest….Well, that can’t be done unless we spend a lot of time talking about leadership. Today, you’ll hear from a leader who’s focusing on helping churches to quit focusing on numbers, and start focusing on what matters.

Craig T. Owens is a pastor of Calvary Assembly of God in Cedar Springs, Michigan, the northern part of that northern state. He’s also worked in a variety of leadership positions in the for profit and nonprofit worlds.  It’s given him a great perspective on how to help The Post Covid Church regain its influence to, as we say, here, not just survive, but thrive. Craig is an accomplished blogger, podcaster and author. He’s also as I mentioned, a pastor.  We’ll be talking about what he’s learned and shared in his book, Shepherd Leadership, The Metrics That Really Matter. Craig and his wife, Betsy have three children. Welcome, Craig to The Post Covid Church Podcast.

Craig T. Owens

Thanks, Stuart. It’s great to be here with you.

Stuart:

Let’s jump right into the tough stuff. You say way, way too many pastors are measuring the wrong things. Please explain.

Craig

Yeah, you know, where this really kind of I guess started for me was when I have some well-meaning friends that would ask me, “You know, how are things going in your church?” And almost before I can answer their follow up question that is in their mind, I guess gauging whether I’m actually doing well or not was, ‘How many are you running on Sunday morning?” And I used to just answer that question. But then after a while, I began to say, “Alright, well, what if I said, 300?” And I get see him get really excited. And then I say, “What if I said, 20.” And they began to look a little confused. And so I said, “Well, let me clarify, what if I said, 300 that only show up on Sunday morning? And that’s it? I don’t see anything else happening the rest of the week. But what if I said 20, that not only showed up on Sunday morning, but throughout the entire week, I see them engaged, living out their faith actively involved. So you know, which would you rather have?” And they’re like, “Well, the 20.” And so I said, “So then why are you asking me? How many is showing up on Sunday morning? That is that the number that really matters? So are we counting the right things that we measuring the right things?” And you know, I just don’t really see when we go through the New Testament, I don’t see like, you know, Paul saying to us, “Hey, your church will be successful. If you’re growing at 7.5% per year in your attendance.” That’s never been the biblical metric for success.

Stuart

Well, is it because we’re in America, and that’s the American way, counting grow?

Craig  3:03

I think that’s part of it. And I think the other part and again, you know, when I wrote the book, I told my editor, I said, right up front, “Listen, check me on this, I don’t want to be on a soapbox sounding like I’m preaching at people, I want to help people.” And so I think a lot of this stuff, people were very well-intentioned. When we look at churches, and even parachurch nonprofit organizations, for the most part, the boards are made up of people from the corporate world. And so their natural mindset, the way that they think all of the time is in those quantifiable things that you can measure, they look at a bottom line, or they look at how many widgets or they look at, you know, they’re things that they can count. And so I think they’re well-intentioned, when they are then speaking to their pastor or the leader of their nonprofit organization and say, “Hey, show us what is how you’re being successful here.” And they’re almost forcing them to start counting things.

Stuart

Well, to use your example, you’re still counting by saying we have 30 who are engaged.  It’s just that you’re counting a different activity.

Craig  4:18

I use the words really, I’m looking for things that are more quality than I am quantity. I mean, quantity’s fine, but not by itself. You know, we could use the example of Philip in the book of Acts. He goes to Samaria and he is preaching there, people are getting saved. Demons are being cast out, people get healed.  And then God takes him from there, out into the wilderness. And at first, it appears to Philip he doesn’t even have a mission. It’s just get on this road that goes to Gaza through the desert. If we’re in worldly standards, you know, we would say Philip looks like he really took a step backwards. He went from a church if you will a congregation of hundreds to go where? But perhaps it was that maybe Philip’s way of talking to that Ethiopian official was the one guy that was going to be able to help him connect.

Here’s what I’m reading in the Old Testament scripture and connect that to Jesus. And so we wouldn’t say that that was a step backwards. That was where God needed Philip to go. But, you know, I, I think that sometimes we just go, well, it’s got to it, things have to keep moving up.  The dollars got to go up, the donors have to go up, the attendance has to go up. But toward what end? What are we trying to accomplish with that?

Stuart

As the church re-gathers now, should leaders start by rethinking their mission, how to impact the culture and make disciples and from that, the numbers will follow?

Craig

Yes. So I think that, especially for leaders of churches, and this is why I called the book Shepherd Leadership, because when you think in terms of a shepherd and a flock, shepherds don’t reproduce more sheep.  The role of the shepherd is to take the sheep to the place where there’s a healthy environment, help the sheep get healthy, so that they can reproduce. And so it’s not necessarily again about, “Okay, how many sheep do I have here?”  Well, you might have a whole bunch of them, and they’re unhealthy. So it’s, how healthy are the sheep? If there’s, if there’s lots of them, great. I’m not, you know, again, I don’t mean to be preaching at somebody and saying, “You should never have a large church or a large organization.” That’s, that’s not it. I’m just saying we shouldn’t say I’m successful, because it’s big. We want it to be really God-honoring healthy sheep-producing sheep.

Stuart  6:53

My guest, Craig T. Owens pastor, author, leadership, podcaster. And about to be published Shepherd Leadership, The Metrics That Really Matter.

George Barna, who has been studying the church for a generation plus, told me one big problem is that senior pastors get their jobs by being really good preachers and teachers, not because they’re great leaders. Do you agree? And if so, what should churches do?

Craig

Yeah, I totally agree. I’ve laughed with people about that before. I’m like, you know, we could spend like hours interviewing a potential pastor for a church. And really it comes down to how does he preach on Sunday? And so you’re like, “So you’re going to pick the way that he can speak publicly for 30 minutes?” Doesn’t necessarily, that’s not an indication of the the rest of the the week that he’s interacting with people.

You know, you had a previous guest on that was talking about in Ephesians, chapter four, that there are gifts that God gives to the church. And I paraphrase, so this will kind of dated but Dwight Eisenhower when he was President, he said, “If we ever think of the United States as one leader and 158 million followers, it wouldn’t be the United States.” I think the same thing in the church. If we think of it as just being one pastor, one minister, and then the rest of the congregation, t’s not really a healthy church.

I see myself as the shepherd. Yes, I minister to people, but my main goal, according to Ephesians, four, God, Jesus gave these gifts to the church to prepare the people to do the works of service, prepare them to minister. So really, my focus should be on, I want my whole congregation to be ministers. I don’t want them to just think of, “well, Craig Owens, is the minister here.” No, I’m not the minister. I’m one of the ministers. I might be the pastor the shepherd. But I’m not the only minister.

Stuart

So that means giving up control, delegating and finding talent in the pews.

Craig

Absolutely. Because I, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t do everything well.   There are some things that the people say, you know, just stop doing that. It’s not very good. And so then there’s other people that God has equipped them and gifted them and say, “Boy, this is right in your strength zone.” This is how you’re going to be a key part of the body of Christ by using your gifts to minister this way.

Stuart:

How can lay leaders or members best take the initiative and help a pastor be a better shepherd leader if the pastor isn’t, or isn’t open to change?

Craig:    9:40

Well, you know, that’s a tough one because I know that there are some pastors that have the mentality that they are the final authority in the church and they’re really not open to input from other people. So I have usually said to people, you know, they’re like, I think I need to leave my church or I want to help my pastor. Change something. And the bottom line is like for myself, I’m not going to change unless I want to change, if I’m open to wanting to change. And if I don’t have that kind of humility, or that posture, the words that other people speak aren’t going to do anything to me.

So I think that that has to be the first spot is that a senior pastor, any senior leader needs to be out among the people all the time and admit your mistakes, and let people know, “Hey, I was no good in this area. That’s why I’m reading this book, or why I’ve gotten a mentor.”  Those kind of things will send the signals, “Hey, I’m teachable. I’m open, I’m willing to hear what other people have to say to me.”   Or, as you mentioned, when a senior pastor gives up some of their authority when they take their hands off some things that sends a signal. So I’d say if somebody’s a leader, a lay leader in a church, and they’re not seeing those kind of things, I’d be really cautious about approaching because, you know, you might be stepping on some toes there. But if you hear those kind of statements coming from that pastor, that leader, then they probably are open to having further conversations.

Stuart

What are some success stories you’ve seen at organizations you’ve consulted with?

Craig

Well, you know, I’ll tell you one of the organizations I just recently worked with, it was really eye-opening for me was, I was seeing it was a pregnancy Resource Center. And I saw this huge disconnect between the staff and the board.  They were all friendly, they all got along, but you could just see that they weren’t on the same page. And as I just kind of sat back during one time, was just kind of observing.  I realized that all of the board members, were all business owners.

And so I spoke to him like this. I said, “You know, in your business, if you made a $10,000 investment in your company to buy a new piece of equipment, or hire somebody or something like that, you would be looking at at the end of your fiscal year, at the bottom line financially, how did that affect us?” And you know, they all kind of agreed with that. So I said, “But now as a board member here, if you go out and raise $10,000, for this pregnancy Resource Center, they’re going to spend all $10,000 there’s not going to be any money left over at the end. But how many women that were abortion-minded? Might they have convinced to keep their child? What value would you put on that life that was saved?” And they just really kind of were all speechless. And so I said, “So that’s where I think that the disconnect is, is you guys are raising money. And then you’re expecting to see something that you can, like, ‘Oh, hey, look at the bottom line.’ And you might not see that, but you do see a life that was saved? And can you put a value on that? Of course, you can’t. It’s, it’s priceless.”

And, and that organization since that time, what’s been amazing, is that when the board went out and started their fundraising efforts, again, they were a now with this total mindset of saying to the staff, “What can we do as we raise this money, so that you can better get the message out to women who are in that crisis place.” And so it was just that little shift of thinking on their part. And then I watched Unity as that that staff in that board then got on the same page, and realize what it was that they were actually working for is not just you know, paying off a mortgage, or, you know, having nicer furniture in there, or that sort of thing.  But it was creating a place where they could change people’s minds who were maybe leaning towards abortion to change the other way. So I think it’s never really been big changes. When I’ve consulted with people, it’s just dropping that one seed, how does it look? And then when people get it, because, as I said earlier, I think those board members, I think a lot of those people, everybody is well-intentioned. They just you just got to get maybe you’re speaking a slightly different accent. Let’s get everybody on the same page. And that’s what I love being able to do.

Stuart

Well, would an analogy in the church be “Christ said the mission is making disciples. So everything we do should be focused on doing that. making disciples.”

Craig 14:51

Yeah, I think that, you know, like I joked with one church, they were like, “Hey, do you have any ideas how to grow the church?” And I said, “Well, define grow for me.”   And they really couldn’t. So I said, I offered a very tongue-in-cheek suggestion I said, “You’re right here on the main road and you have a big marquee out front. So why don’t you put a sign up that says free $50 gift certificate for all first-time visitors, you should have the church packed on Sunday morning.”  And they all were like, “No, no.”   I said, “Oh, that’s not what you meant by grow. Okay, so now that we got that out of the way, you know, let’s focus: What does grow really mean?”

So even if it’s just one person, you know, can you move them to the next step in their leadership development, ultimately, having them become disciple makers themselves and raising up other disciple makers. That, that sounds like a better plan for grow than just, “let’s, you know, turn on the lights and do some really cool stuff that makes people come in and go, ooh, you have a lot of people there.” But are you moving them towards becoming disciple makers?

Stuart

And a key part of what you’re talking about is communication.

Craig

Yes, absolutely. Yep.

Stuart

Craig T. Owens has written Shepherd Leadership, The Metrics That Really Matter. Talk about how confident leaders can balance that confidence with humility.

Craig

I’ve really noticed that leaders tend to gravitate toward one pole or the other. The confident leader, you know, knows that God has a call on their life. I use a simple phrase, God chose me. So I would say, Okay, well, God’s the one who chose me. So I, I’m confident in that. But if that confidence is not balanced by humility, that leader can come across as so hard-charging, so focused on the goal that I think that sometimes people have a hard time approaching or getting around them for fear of, “Well, what if I get in the way am I am I going to get run over?” That would be I’d be the first to admit, that’s the way that I’m naturally wired. So I have to deliberately find ways to serve the servants, I have to find ways to do things that other people find distasteful.  To do whatever that is, you know, certainly serving alongside the church custodians or, you know, you’re just you’re finding your ways to make sure that you’re sending again, that message to everybody else, “Hey, it’s not like I’ve arrived on some level. And these other tasks are beneath me.” Now, if Jesus, who in John chapter 13, it says that he knew that God had placed everything under his power. So John 13 opens with us seeing that Jesus is the most powerful person and he knew it, and his very next action is to stoop down and begin to wash feet.

Did he want to do that? I don’t, you know, that’s not a very pleasant task. But he delighted in being able to serve those people that were around him. And so I think that if you find yourself being that overly confident leader, you know that you tend towards that poll, you’re really going to have to make the extra effort to add humility, to your confidence.

Stuart

You’re a blogger, podcaster writer, you’re also a pastor.  What gives you the greatest joy as a senior pastor?

Craig:

Well, that’s an easy one. I love when I can just sit back and just watch, especially like Sunday morning.   I’ve often joked, like when we kind of have a greeting time, or whatever, and people are going around, even like, the start at the beginning, when people are arriving. If If I didn’t go up front, or send somebody up front and say, “Let’s start now”, they would just keep going all morning. And I just listen in, you know, here’s somebody over here talking about, yeah, I’ve got this medical concern. I’m not sure what’s going on. And a couple people say, well, let’s pray. You know, somebody said, I just got foot surgery coming up. Can we help get to the store to get groceries for you?

You know, I just those are the kinds of conversations that I overhear, or when we’re out in the community, just watching the way that, you know, totally on their own, I watched our youth group, organize a time where they all got garbage bags, and they just went around the school campus and just started picking up all the trash that was around the school campus. That’s the most thrilling thing for me as a pastor to just say, you know, there it is, in a real simple, tangible way. They’re exhibiting the love of Jesus. They’re saying, “This is our community. We didn’t make the mess. We’re more than happy to clean it up, clean it up.” You know, there’s somebody that’s in need, we don’t need to, you know, “Let’s call the church office and organize what we’re right here. Let’s just take care of it. We’ll get meals to that person. We’ll pray for him. We’ll take them to a doctor’s office.” You know what, whatever it is I that is the biggest thrill for me.

Stuart  19:58

That sounds kind of biblical.

Craig

Yeah, just sounds like that Acts chapter 2, you know, when everybody’s together taking care of each other.

Stuart

What a time for that to happen. Thanks for sharing. How can folks find out more about you your ministry and creative work?

Craig:

craigtowens.com is my blog.  Just about every day I’m blogging, devotional thoughts or books I’m reading or different things like that. There’s a separate page on there that talks about that book.

And then I’m more than happy to I love dialoguing with people. My email is real simple. It’s just craig@craigtowens.com

Stuart

The contact information will be in the transcript of this podcast.  Just go to the website, www.thepostcovidchurch.com, click on the title, Changing Focus Measuring the Right Things. There it is. Thank you, Craig, for joining me today.

Craig

My pleasure.

Stuart

This is the 50th Post Covid Church episode. Thank you for taking part and listening. I’d love to hear from you. Ideas feedback, anything: stuart@thepostcovidchurch.org  I mentioned the website www.thepostcovidchurch.com  You can go there and find all the archive material from the last year. I so appreciate your support. I’m Stuart Kellogg.

Announcer

Thank you for listening to The Post Covid Church Podcast. You can find much more at The Post Covid Church group on Facebook or on the website, http://www.thepostcovidchurch.com

Ordinances Of The Church

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Many churches recognize a various numbers of ordinances within their worship services. The dictionary gives two definitions of the word ordinance that are helpful for us: (1) a rule to be followed, and (2) something believed to be ordained (or made holy). 

There are two ordinances that we celebrate: baptism in water and holy communion. 

Water Baptism

This wasn’t a practice invented by Christians, but teachers had been baptizing their students for years as an outward sign of followership. Not only did various members of the Israelite community come to John to be baptized, but even Jesus desired to be water baptized (Matthew 3:5-6, 13-17). 

Why would Jesus need to be baptized? Look at how Jesus replied to John, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires” (Matthew 3:15 NLT), or in the NIV: “to fulfill all righteousness.” 

Jesus came to be our High Priest. One of the requirements for the priest was “he must bathe himself in water before he puts” on the ceremonial robes that were to be worn in the tabernacle (Leviticus 16:4). Jesus also came to be our perfect sacrifice, so He needed to be like us in every single way. If Jesus wasn’t water baptized, not “all righteousness” would have been fulfilled. 

Jesus was also baptized as an example for us. We, too, are priests in God’s Kingdom that need to be washed for our priestly service (1 Peter 2:9; 3:20-21). 

Our foundational truth statement on this is: “The ordinance of baptism by immersion is commanded by the Scriptures. All who repent and believe on Christ as Savior and Lord are to be baptized. Thus they declare to the world that they have died with Christ and that they also have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life.” 

Jesus gave us this rule to follow for new Christians: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This is also what Peter announced to the new believers on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).  

Communion

Sometimes called The Last Supper or The Lord’s Supper, the Israelites had continued to celebrate the Passover (Exodus 12) with unleavened bread and wine—symbolizing the body and the blood of the sacrificial lamb which saved them from death. 

Our foundational truth statement on this is: “The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements—bread and the fruit of the vine—is the symbol expressing our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, a memorial of his suffering and death, and a prophecy of His second coming, and is enjoined on all believers ‘till He come!’” 

Jesus, while celebrating Passover with His disciples, showed how Passover had been pointing to His First and Second Advents (Luke 22:13-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 

Both of these ordinances have reminders in them of our new life in Christ:

  1. Water baptism is a one-time event, just as our justification (“just as if I’d never sinned”) is a one-time event. This looks back to what Jesus did on the Cross. 
  2. Communion is an ongoing celebration “until He comes,” just as our sanctification (“saint-ification”) is an ongoing process. This looks ahead to what Jesus will complete when we are glorified in Heaven. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can find the complete list by clicking here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Sent To Show Jesus To The World

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Sent To Show Jesus To The World

And the glory that You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (Jesus, in John 17:22-23)

     The essence and cause of the glory that the Father gave the Son was, first of all, that He endowed Him with the Holy Spirit. ‘God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand’ (John 3:34-35). The Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord in His baptism and abode upon Him so that in the power of the indwelling Spirit He lived, spoke, acted, and in all that He did, the Spirit of God was manifest. …  

     Now this glory, our Lord has given to all His disciples. Upon each true disciple, the Spirit of God rests according to his measure. If we have not the anointing to the fullest, it is either from lack of capacity or by reason of our own sin, for the Spirit of God is given to the saints—He dwells with us and will be in us always. My brothers and sisters, I would to God we realized this, that the glory of the Holy Spirit that was given to Christ is also given to us, so that it is ours to think, to feel, to speak, to act under His guiding influence and supernatural power! What are we apart from the Holy Spirit? How can we hope to convince even one man, much less the world, that God has sent His Son unless the Holy Spirit is with us? …  

     If men would see God, let them look at Jesus, for there is He to be seen! And with bated breath we add—let them look at Christ’s people, for there also is God revealed! It is the glory of the saints that they are the mirror of the divine character! … 

     Christ Jesus was sent to reveal the Father, sent to reclaim the wandering souls of men, sent to seek and to save the lost. And this is exactly what every true Christian is sent into the world to do. He is commissioned to reveal God in his every act and word. He is commissioned to win back rebellious hearts. He is commissioned to save the sons of men and bring them up out of the horrible pit into which their sins have cast them. …

     Jesus was the Son of God, and He overcame the world in the power of His Sonship. Now, this glory that the Father gave Him, He has given us, that we, too, may be accepted; that we, too, may have access; that we, too, may have prevalence in prayer; that we, too, may have the Spirit of Adoption; and that we, too, may trample upon sin and overcome the hosts of darkness. This is the glory that rests upon all the faithful!

From The Glory, Unity, And Triumph Of The Church

Jesus commissioned His followers to go into all the world as His witnesses, but He never intended for us to go in our own strength. As Spurgeon asked, “How can we hope to convince even one man, much less the world, that God has sent His Son unless the Holy Spirit is with us?” 

That’s why I always stress that Christians not be content with merely having received the salvation that comes with the forgiveness of their sins, but that they press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. It’s this empowerment that will allow us to be effective witnesses for Jesus.

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