At the moment playgrounds are open and outdoor gyms are not. The outdoor gym I have used is right next to a playground and I frankly don’t see the logic of closing the one and not the other. So it is a decision I personally do not like and don’t understand. Yet I have a great amount of sympathy with those who have to make judgment calls about things; they have to make decisions. It is easy to criticize those who make decisions. And yet judgment calls have to be made.
I feel as a general principle we should encourage those who are making decisions. We may not agree with the decisions they are making, but unless a clear principle is being breached and life endangered, it is only wholesome to support those making the judgment calls. It is all part of our honouring God to be supporting leadership.
Theodore Roosevelt said ‘In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing’. Obviously such a generalism has to be caveated. However, it is a good maxim. Decisions made mean a direction is set. No decision means no direction.
To undermine a decision maker by continually carping about their decisions even over the must trivial and nuanced of understandings is not wholesome. A decision maker needs to be encouraged in his task. So let us pray for and support our parents, fathers, teachers, church elders, politicians and bosses. When decision makers are encouraged they will be more inclined to prompt and beneficial decisions. A decision maker wearied by continual criticism means all under his influence are harmed.
So if you come across decision maker in your sphere of home, church, government or work who is poor at making decisions, it may be you who have contributed to this by your continual carping.
True leaders know how to be led. This phrase has hovered with me over many years. What is being referred to is the fact that a true leader knows how to appropriately respond when they are not in a situation of leading something. In such a situation the true leader knows that their call is to support and submit to the one leading.
There is a sense that this is counterintuitive because we think that a true leader must to be seen to be such by always dominating the situation. They prove their leadership by being seen always to be the one in control. This is a worldly way though, and not godly. One of the most astonishing phrases in scripture is in Luke 51a And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. Here is our Lord submitting to his parents as a youth. The ultimate Leader, our beloved Lord, is happy to be led.
The true leader submits because he understands leadership and how it is that organisations function best with the proper operating of leadership. He knows that if the leader is always being disrupted and undermined by those under him then the organisation will not flourish. Hence the elder of a church will know that in his teaching job he must support and submit to the head teacher in his school. In fact he will be the best at supporting them.
For a true leader to be be led will take a significant exercise of the self-control. This is particularly the case when he realises that the leadership he has to submit to has many short-comings. He may feel that he has to take-over in order to save the organisation. After all “he is a true leader”. However, he is more like to sabotage the organisation if he undermines the established leadership.
David was a man who had godly desires in his heart. He was a man who understood that to undermine leadership is a very serious thing. When David’s men urged him to finish off Saul. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Sam. 24:6). Now, by this time Saul was making a mess of being king. However, David would not undermine him. This is all the more striking when we realise that David is the true king.
We tend to think that a true leader is shown by their relentless tendency to dominate and impose their will. However, this may well be simply a demonstration of selfish indulgence which helps, neither themselves, nor others. And by way of consequence they harm the situation wherein they are seeking to dominate.
When we are looking for leaders in our churches we need to be savvy to this principle. A true leader knows how to be led.
If you have responsibility at a church event then make sure you are there in good time. You must remember that you are taking part in an event where we seek to honour the Lord. As such you should be there beforehand to make sure everything is in order. As churches we should cultivate the pursuit of excellence in all that we do. Our Lord deserves the best
Generally operate the ten-minute rule. That is make sure you are there at least ten minutes before the start of the service. Thereby there is time to check that everything is in order and all is set for the service / event to take place.
If you are On PA / audio make sure you are there to give everything a run through before the service. If you are playing the piano (or other instrument) make sure you know what music is needed and how everything is to be arranged.
I fear that we are often just too casual about our attitude to church. Nadab and Abihu were casual and they were consumed as a result. We read: Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord (Lev. 10:1-2). The warning stands; let us be thoughtful.
I last wrote some two weeks ago. Since then I have not been well. May well have had a mild dose of COVID 19. However, it has not been possible to get a test. I am now feeling stronger.
It has been a bizarre time with all the hiatus around appertaining to the transformation of our society through the restrictions that have gradually, but swiftly, changed how we interact with one another. This has had a significant impact upon us as a church.
As churches we are left with something of a tension. We do not want to give the impression that a virtual church conducted online is how it should be. It certainly is not. Church is meant to be lived out with real face-to-face community. However, neither do we want to give up in despair and say that there cannot be anything of church at this time. We do want to engage best with what is technologically available to facilitate fellowship and the functioning of the church.
We have been using ZOOM thus far as our main means of gathering. The advantage of this platform is that there can be interaction and there is a sense of us being together. Live-stream facilities seem to have a far better presentation, but less sense of community.
This is all a new voyage and there should be understanding within churches and between churches. I suggest that as long as four main guidelines are operative then, although we may be doing things differently, we will be on the right lines:
- we are seeking to operate according to the principles of scripture.
- we are seeking to do all to edify the people.
- we are seeking all for the glory of God.
- we are zealous in prayer.
It is good to feel somewhat brighter again. The last two weeks have been somewhat bewildering and a struggle. However, I look back to the keeping power of our God and thank Him for how He has led us as a church and family.
Our God is a communicating God. His revelation to us today is a sure word; it is the Bible. He is also a God of love who always acts to work good for His people. If you are a leader among God’s people you are called to represent this God to His people. In our lives as elders, people should see that we are people who communicate well and therein show our love for the people in the church.
So many churches degenerate into confusion as a result of bad communication. Often this takes the form of no communication; people refuse to interact. As a general rule we should be labouring as leaders so that people are interacting well in the church which we shepherd. We need to set an example with this.
We should respond to enquiries and requests for information promptly and courteously. We should seek to not confuse anyone or mess anyone around. If we have various communication platforms such as email, messenger etc., we should make sure that they are regularly checked so that we do not miss anything.
Failure to communicate in a healthy way leads to frustration among the people. They wonder why there has been no response. They are perhaps left to fester on an issue or wonder if they have done anything wrong. Through these means Satan can come in among the people of God and cause disruption.
With a little good organisation, care and attention we can make sure that we do allow the devil any inroads into the fellowship of God’s people.
In Ephesians 4:25-27 we read these words. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Here is a passage which most certainly has direct application to how we communicate together.
So fellow elders let us set a good example here. Let us be diligent in engaging with communicating with the people in our care whether that be personally or through the various electronic channels that we have nowadays.
People need to be ruled. When we choose to rule ourselves we inevitably lead ourselves astray because of our heart’s bias towards sin. We need a leader. The question then is who is that leader to be? There are two key figures in the Old Testament who God raised up to forward His purpose to have a people for Himself. The first is Abraham in who the people are formed and given a place to live (see Gen. 12:1-7). The second is David in whom the people find a ruler to lead them.
Interestingly we read in 1 Kings 8:16 ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there. But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ The leader whom God has set Himself to bring forward to lead His people was David. The Davidic Covenant which is adumbrated in 2 Samuel 7:1-17 is the cohering of God’s determination to give a ruler to His people.
David, although being the king Israel needed, is not the ultimate King. The ultimate King is our Lord Jesus who comes of Davids line and brings together in Himself everything which the Davidic covenant promised.
In essence in our Lord Jesus we find true and perfect leadership. It is shepherd king leadership. This is essentially what David was; he is the shepherd who becomes king. Interestingly, he was a shepherd before he became king. In our Lord Jesus we see the messianic One who is ruler of his people as “The Shepherd King”. This King is everything we need in a ruler; a leader who cares perfectly. Shepherds in Eastern lands lead from the front of course, and they lead their people into green pastures. Our leader, Jesus, is the true brave leader who provides us with the greenest of pastures for our souls.
This all leads us into what true leadership is meant to be. In all realms and particularly among God’s people, it is always shepherd-king leadership. As with David rulers are called to be shepherds before they are kings. There needs to be that caring tendency in their character which prevents them from abusive dominance. Diotrophes was a leader, but not a shepherd leader and He created a mess. John says: I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. (3 John 9-10)
In our homes and churches we need leaders formed after the likeness of David, but most particularly after the likeness of our Lord Jesus.
I attended the FIEC Leaders Conference at Torquay last week; 11th to 13th November. Here are some thoughts:
- Probably the best conference of this ilk that I have been to.
- Venue is very good. Added bonus of having swimming available which I availed myself of on each of the three days.
- Music was very good; led by Colin Webster and Phil Moore. The group gave every impression that they were worshippers themselves; rather than just being leaders in worship.
- I had the happy providence of sitting next to Colin Smith (one of the main speakers) and his wife, at the first session. He was so very warm and humble. Humility is a much undervalued grace. I have written about that here.
- The preaching from Colin Smith, John Stevens and Andy Prime was all high quality with much encouragement and edification in the four sessions they did between them.
- Colin Smith opening up the issue of prophet, priest and king as the motifs for shepherd leadership was really great.
- Ray Evans did a session on leadership stuff which was filled with much gold. Surely, he is a great gift to the church with the thinking he has distilled and practised on the issue of leadership. Get listening to him or reading his books if you want to be helped into godly church leadership.
- A seminar on Emotional Intelligence by Tom Fenning was very helpful. Similarly, Liam Garvie from Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh speaking small groups was a great help.
- Many great conversations with different ones. Thankful to the ones who were happy to stop and talk. Good conversations over the meals as well.
- At lunch on the last day I became aware that Paul Whalley (see here) who I was at school with, was there. Sorry I was not able to chat with him some more.
- Often I find these type of events pretty intimidating. I say this because you seem to be surrounded by so many people doing impressive things for the kingdom. I found it less intimidating this time I feel.
- Trevor Archer, the London Director, gave me some time to catch up with and assess my situation at Feltham which was helpful.
- Adrian Reynolds did most of the introducing. I think I prefer it when different ones of the main FIEC hierarchy do the leading. Although Adrian is pretty slick at doing it.
- The interview on the Tuesday evening when Andy Paterson interviewed Mark Dever did not really work. Both are great men, but it did not seem to flow or gel. Would have been better use of the time to have had either of them preaching. Interviews can be great and really helpful, but this one was not so (although there were snippets of great value).
- The main conference ended in a bit of a confusing way because post conference seminars were scheduled, but not mentioned at the end by Adrian, So rather than being left with a great sense of what had been preached by Andy Prime, I was left wondering what was going to happen next.
- So great to see so many under forties there; encouraging for the future and vitality of the church in the UK. The fact that there were around 950 there was pretty amazing as well.
We read theses words at the end of Esther concerning Mordecai: he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people (Esther 10:3b).
Let us consider some of the attributes of this man which made him such a great leader:
- In the believing community multitudes warmed to Mordecai. It does not say all warmed to him, but a vast majority did. True elders among God’s people can never expect universal acclamation. However, if he is not popular with the majority of the church then questions need to be asked as regards to the suitability of a man to be a leader.
- He was not seeking a position for himself, but seeking to use whatever position he had for the benefit of others. Those who are seeking to gain postilion for self-seeking gain should not be elders among God’s people.
- He was looking out for the welfare of God’s people. he wanted the best for them; he cared for them. Mordecai expended his energies in order that God’s people would prosper in the Lord’s ways.
- He spoke peace to God’s people. He was not set for harshness or division, but for harmony and peaceableness among God’s people. We must notice that this was for all the people even those it was not so easy to love. Speaking peace does not exclude speaking firmly, but it does prohibit nastiness.
In all these things we see shadows of our great true leader; our Lord Jesus. The ultimate One to seek the welfare of His people; the One above all others who speaks peace to all His people. The One who with overwhelming sacrificial love came to bless his people.
In the listing of the qualifications for elders we read he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil (1 Tim. 3:7). It is important that an elder has a good reputation among outsiders.
In view of this, I suggest, that it is a good practice, when considering someone for eldership, to do some investigation among outsiders who have awareness of the prospective elder. One good thing to do is to contact their employer and find out what that person’s view is of their charachter.
In doing this we are exercising due diligence to make sure that we are only recognising those as elders who fit the requirements of scripture.
We need to remember that leadership is a significant role on the church and that leadership effects the health of the church “big time”. God has given us the pro-forma for elders in scripture and we should make sure that we get those as elders who are aligned therewith.