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.
Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or Audible.
Former Assembly of God General Superintendent W.T. Gaston wrote an article of warning in 1953 that pastors and ministry leaders would do well to heed again today. This part especially caught my attention—
Gaston suggested, “If we are to have a future that is better or even comparable and worthy of our past, we will need to learn over again some of the lessons of yesterday.” One of the important lessons to rediscover, he wrote, was the importance of promoting “pure, undefiled” religion.
He recalled that many early 20th-century Pentecostal pioneers were bivocational ministers, that often met in homes or rented buildings, and that most were not very impressive by the standards of the surrounding culture. However, they did not need worldly goods and accolades in order for the Holy Spirit to accomplish great things through their lives and ministries.
Gaston wrote that he witnessed an “utter disregard for poverty or wealth or station in life” in the early Pentecostal movement. Yet “those rugged pioneers,” he noted, “had something that made them attractive and convincing.” The contrast between the attitudes of the world and the early Pentecostals was striking. According to Gaston, early believers were “completely satisfied without the world’s glittering tinsel, and content to be the objects of its scornful hatred.”
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.
All of these titles, flowcharts, and non-essential things that we are discussing, revamping, implementing, and measuring aren’t doing anything to liberate us, but they are keeping us focused on checking off meaningless boxes. We’re spending far too much valuable time and resources on keeping the machinery running, but we’re not correctly evaluating the outputs. We need to recalibrate our understanding of leadership: God’s leaders are servants. …
I believe that leaders of churches and nonprofit ministries will find the greatest freedom and enjoyment—and ultimately experience the full blessing of God—when they learn to view themselves as shepherd leaders. Jesus is our ultimate example: Our Good Shepherd showed us how to live out the lifestyle that pleases Him and glorifies our Heavenly Father.
I hope you will buy a copy of this book. And I invite you to also check out this video where I explain a little more what I hope this book will accomplish in all of our ministries.
Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple, Spotify, 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.
(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).
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.
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.
God Is The Great Worker
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)
God Himself is the Great Worker. He may use what laborers He pleases, but the increase comes only from Him. Brothers, you know it is so in natural things—the most skillful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate, grow, and ripen. … And in the spiritual farm it is even more so, for what can man do in this business? … We can tell out the truth of God, but to apply the truth to the heart and conscience is quite another thing. …
Well said our Lord, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). What is the effect of all this upon your minds? Briefly I would draw certain practical lessons out of this important truth of God. (1) The first is, if the whole farm of the church belongs exclusively to the great Master Worker and the laborers are worth nothing without Him, let this promote unity among all whom He employs. …
(2) Next, notice that this fact ennobles everybody who labors in God’s husbandry. …
(3) But lastly, how this should drive us to our knees! Since we are nothing without God, let us cry mightily to Him for help in this, our holy service!
There is nothing wrong about aspiring to a leadership position. The apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, “This is a trustworthy saying: ‘If someone aspires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position’” (1 Timothy 3:1 nlt). Yet this desire needs to be tempered by Jeremiah’s words to his scribe Baruch, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them” (Jeremiah 45:5). Taken together, a shepherd leader’s passion for greater leadership should be to gain greater things not for himself but for others.
Shepherd leaders need to remind themselves frequently of this simple statement: God chose me. The confidence comes from remembering “God chose.” If God has chosen me, then He has also equipped me. He foresaw the needs of this organization, and He has prepared me to step into this role for such a time as this. The humility comes from remembering “God chose me.” Who am I that God would think so highly of me? Of all the people on Earth that God could have placed here, why did He pick me? This confident humility will do two things for us: keep us confident to continue to lead when doubts or naysayers arise, and keep us humble to continue to serve people when pride or applause arises. (except from chapter 2 “Secure To Serve”)
David said, “…I had it in my heart to build a house as the place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord. … But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for My name…’” (1 Chronicles 28:2-3).
David’s son Solomon would later write about how we make plans in our hearts, but God directs all our steps (Proverbs 16:9, 19:21).
David not only had the desire to build this temple for God but he said the Holy Spirit gave him the plans (1 Chronicles 28:12, 19). As a result of this, David began amassing resources and organizing personnel. All of this David could then hand over to Solomon, the man who would build the house for the ark of the covenant of the Lord.
I am sure David felt a twinge of disappointment when God said “no.” Still, David continued to work the plan the Spirit had given him. Who knows how Solomon would have begun his reign as king if David hadn’t done all of this for him. Many of the plans God gives me will not be forme but for the following generations who will benefit from my diligence in those plans.
A mark of a godly leader is one who knows that obedience to God IS success.
In one of David’s psalms, he prays for success and for his heart’s desire to be fulfilled, but he also acknowledges God’s sovereignty over these things (Psalm 20). May I always keep in mind that obedience IS success. Success isn’t limited only to what I can see and measure during my lifetime.
This is part 53 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.
…As long as Uzziah sought the Lord, God gave him success. … But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall… (2 Chronicles 26:5, 16).
Success makes me more vulnerable to pride. Success can distract from the very One who gave me success. I am in danger of losing God’s blessings in the very moment I am enjoying God’s blessings.
Humility has to be an ongoing choice. That choice becomes harder as the successes become bigger or more frequent. But choosing pride in “my accomplishments” will undo all the previous successes.
The only way to keep these blessings is two words: IF ONLY. If only I will continue to remain humble before God and obedient to Him.
Uzziah, sadly, didn’t make that choice. His pride in God’s success led to his downfall.
His son Jotham learned this lesson. Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God (27:6).
I like the KJV of this verse that says, “Jotham grew powerful because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.”
Jotham was keenly aware that everything he did was seen by God. He was determined that everything he did would be pleasing in God’s sight. The word “before” in verse 6 means “in front” of or even “before the face.” Jotham didn’t live as though he might face God at the end of his life, but as though he was facing God at every moment of his life.
Notice two phrases in this sentence—grew powerful and walked steadfastly. They are directly tied to each other: Jotham became powerful only because he was determined to live righteously and humbly in God’s sight. The more powerful he became, the more he increased his commitment to live humbly before God’s face.
He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done, BUTunlikehim he did not enter the temple of the Lord (v. 2).
Jotham humbly prepared his ways before the Lord, and when God made him powerful Jotham re-committed to stay humble. Great choice!
I’ll say it again: The only way to keep God’s blessings on my initial humble choice is to continue to choose humility at every moment of success.
“The question, therefore, which each of us has to answer to his own conscience is, ‘Has it been the end of my ministry, has it been the desire of my heart to save the lost and guide the saved? Is this my aim in every sermon I preach, in every visit I pay? Is it under the influence of this feeling that I continually live and walk and speak? Is it for this I pray and toil and fast and weep? Is it for this I spend and am spent, counting it, next to the salvation of my own soul, my chiefest joy to be the instrument of saving others? Is it for this that I exist?’”
“It is not opinions that man needs: it is truth. It is not theology: it is God. It is not religion: it is Christ. It is not literature and science; but the knowledge of the free love of God in the gift of His only-begotten Son.”
“Our power in drawing men to Christ springs chiefly from the fullness of our personal joy in Him, and the nearness of our personal communion with Him.”
“Why so many meetings with our fellow men, yet so few meetings with God?”
“Our life has not been a lying-in-wait for the voice of God. ‘Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth,’ has not been the attitude of our souls, the guiding principle of our lives. Nearness to God, fellowship with God, waiting upon God, resting in God, have been too little the characteristic either of our private or our ministerial walk. Hence our example has been so powerless, our labors so unsuccessful, our sermons so meager, our whole ministry so fruitless and feeble.”
“It is easier to speak or write about revival than to set about it. There is so much rubbish to be swept out, so many self-raised hindrances to be dealt with, so many old habits to be overcome, so much sloth and easy-mindedness to be contended with, so much of ministerial routine to be broken through, and so much crucifixion, both of self and of the world, to be undergone. As Christ said of the unclean spirit which the disciples could not cast out, so we may say of these: ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’”
“These must be days of strenuous, ceaseless, persevering, and, if God bless us, successful toil. We shall labor till we are worn out and laid to rest.”
“It is unbelief that makes ministers handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes them ascend with so light a step ‘that awful place the pulpit,’ to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.”
As A Man Thinketh feels a lot like the biblical book of Proverbs, stimulating us to think about our habitual thought patterns. Check out my full book review by clicking here.
“As the plant springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them.”
“Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.”
“The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears; it reaches the height of its cherished aspirations; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires.”
“Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles. Men understand this law in the natural world, and work with it; but few understand it in the mental and moral world (though its operation there is just as simple and undeviating), and they, therefore, do not co-operate with it.”
“Blessedness, not material possessions, is the measure of right thought; wretchedness, not lack of material possessions, is the measure of wrong thought.”
“A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile.”
“Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystallizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstance.”
“They who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles, and self-pityings.”
“This is the royal road to self-control and true concentration of thought. Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting-point for future power and triumph.”
“The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg; and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities. Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not long remain so if you but perceive an Ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without.”