When issues arise in any community of people whether that be in a family, office or church (or wherever) then there is a pressing need to resolve those issues. Very often if the issues are not resolved then they will fester in the community and suck much needed life-blood away from the group.
I am suggesting that there is a five stage approach that needs to be adopted:
Consider: Gather together all the information. Speak with relevant peoples. Consult those who may have specialist expertise regarding the issue. Talk things through with the other people who are responsible (e.e. elders in church). And as you do so be praying to the Lord for His undertaking in all this.
Decide: There comes a point when a decision needs to be taken so that there can be a resolution of the matter and a moving forward. Sometimes that will take a length of time, at other times it will be quite swift. Generally that depends on the magnitude of the issues involved.
Communicate: Inform all those who need to know what is happening. This is a key element in the process. Lack of communication can lead to all kinds of confusion and frustration about what is happening. Discretion as to the detail of the message and extent of who is told is needed, But full clear and open communication will save an organisation from lots of energy needlessly wasted.
Implement: Put into operation what you have decided upon. Inform all those who are involved in putting the strategy in place about what is required.
Monitor: There is a sense that the matter having been dealt with it can now be left and the organisation can move on effectively and productively. However, the arrangements implemented as a result of the decision should be monitored so that any improvements, that are necessary, are introduced and set in place.
In Hebrews 13:17 we read: Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
It is easy for elders to concentrate on how the church should be submitting to their authority. However, the key injunction to the elders of the church in this verse is for them to be watching over the flock. This is a relentless work for a shepherd to be involved in. Sheep are prone to wander and stray. Sheep easily head off in harmful directions. Elders should be always lovingly watching for those in the congregation; the sheep in their care.
There should be no favoritism; all should be equally cared for. There are some sheep we warm to more than others, but all should have our loving attention. Some cause us more trouble than others, but still all should be loved. The quieter ones, who can so easily be ignored, should know they are cared for too.
Also we should be remembering what our goal is. It is not to produce a bunch of compliant individuals whom we control. Rather it is to see their spiritual progress. We long to present everyone perfect in Christ. In Colossians 1: 28-29 we see Paul’s heart which should be our heart He (Christ Jesus) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. We, like Paul, should long and labour so that no spiritual harm comes to the sheep in our care.
The godly sheep will warm to this care because they know we are demonstrating their Lord to them. Others who do not have a heart for God will resist it. But whatever the response we must continue to labour for our Master among those sheep He has given us as a stewardship.
What are we doing when we bring the Word of the Lord before people? What response are we wanting from the people? The ministry motivation of the apostle Paul is instructive in seeking to answer those questions. In Colossians 1:28-29 we read:-
He (Christ) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Paul is thinking of a day when everyone he has ministered to appears before God. His desire on that day is that all will be perfect, or fully mature, in Christ. So Paul is not preaching for popularity or temporal results; he is preaching, labouring and ministering for eternal results. He sees people as eternal beings and their value to God, others, and even themselves, will be found when they are growing in Christ Jesus and for His glory.
Paul would, therefore, be preaching to root out all that would hinder growth in Christ, Accordingly, he would deal with sin; he would have a sin exposing and repentance urging ministry; and so should we. Moreover, he would have a Christ directing ministry. He would be preaching to people so as they would have faith in Christ and to rely on Him and Him alone.
So Paul would not be preaching to get lifestyle change or outward conformity. He would be preaching to get lives which matter for eternity. And so should we.
Today I want to counterbalance the post from last Thursday (see here) which dealt with the issue of elders keeping their focus. I am addressing here the issue of the need for the elders at times to make sure that they do not avoid getting involved in a pressing task.
In Nehemiah 3 we see a wall being built. This wall was essential for the effective operating of the city of Jerusalem. Moreover, if the people of God were going to start effectively to function as the people of God again they needed this wall. So as we look at Nehemiah 3 we see that all were involved in contributing their part to make sure that the wall was built.
It is interesting that the first involvement was with Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate (Neh. 3:1). The leaders led the way to indicate that this was something all needed to be involved in. And interestingly there is a gentle hint of condemnation concerning the nobles of the Tekoites who would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors (Neh. 3:5b). They thought themselves of too high a station in the community to lower themselves to working for building foremen.
So what do we learn:
- There are times when there is necessary works to be done among the people of God for the benefit of God’s church. In such a situation all, including the leaders need to be involved.
- The leaders need to take the lead in being involved in these tasks.
- The leaders need humility to submit to others who are perhaps more familiar with building work. Pompous refusal to submit to others with appropriate gifts and expertise is not golly.
- We need to consider the comparison to last Thursday’s post. There are times to delegate and times to get involved. It takes wisdom to know which one to do and when.
- Even when there are necessary jobs to be done elders need to retain tehir focus on prayer and the Word. These are, after all, at the heart of our calling.
If you are an elder in a church you need to keep your focus. The apostles in Acts 6:4, by way of example, indicate to us what our focus is to be upon when they say that they will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ Acts 6:1-7 indicates how a problem in the church was resolved. In resolving the matter, though, the apostles insisted that they had to keep their focus on the priorities for their ministry. Prayer and the ministry of the Word had to be be focused upon if they were to function for the good of the church.
This is equivalently applicable today for the elders of every church who have been granted oversight of God’s church in their specific locality. To be deflected from this focus is to lead us away form our calling. The church needs leaders who give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.
So every day i should be setting myself to keep my focus on prayer and the bringing of the Word into the church. And if you are an elder this should be your focus every day.
If you are not an elder you should be working and praying and ministering to make sure that the leaders of your church are able to retain their focus. If the elders are distracted then the spiritual health of the church and your spiritual health will be affected.
Paul says this to the Corinthians:
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also (2 Cor. 6:11-13).
Paul and Timothy (see 2 Cor. 1:1) have set an example to the Corinthians in their personal relationship with them. They have opened their hearts; they have not held back in sharing themselves with the Corinthians. In this they have shown themselves to be leaders in affection. They have indicated that true fellowship between believers is only known when there is a willingness to be open with one another.
Paul expresses his concern that the example of himself and Timothy has not been reciprocated by the Corinthians. So what are we to make of this:
- Openness and sharing of affection should be exemplified by church leaders. Secretiveness and arms-length dealings should be shunned if you are a church leader.
- In sharing our lives we are mimicking our God who shared in the most grand and potent way. He sent his Son into the World. Through the incarnation we know that our God is a sharing God.
- Normal Christianity is a giving and sharing open-hearted affair. Being just a church-attender is foreign to the faith of our God. True Christianity is about shared lives.
- We are all different. Some of us share in different ways to others. Some of us are naturally more open and some of us are more secretive. Whichever one we are, we need to know that holding back form one-another is not an option.
It is worth noting that in the following verse Paul goes on to address the issue of our contact with unbelievers. It is as if through this juxtaposition he is asserting what a contrast there should be in our dealing with believers and unbelievers. Godly separation is to mark our relationships with unbelievers; godly immersion should mark our relationships with believers.
Truly it should be that we outwork the exhortation of our Lord, in respect of our relationships with fellow-Christians to By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (John 13:35).
Life is full of decisions.
So I want to think about some issues in making decisions. These things particularly apply in making the biggest decisions of life but are appropriate for all decisions.
- Don’t make a decision too hastily. Make sure you:-
Get Thinking Properly: Consider the matter. Don’t just make a knee-jerk decision. Always fight to get time so you can think.
Get Praying: Bring the whole matter before the Lord.
Get the Information: Make sure that you have all the necessary information in order to make a reasoned decision.
Get Consulting: Speak to all the people you need to. If it is a joint decision make sure all those making the decision have the information. In providing information to others, be careful that you provide enough so that they are fully informed not too much otherwise they will be overwhelmed.
2. Don’t act too slowly. If you do:
- You may miss an opportunity.
- You may cause much frustration to a lot of interested parties who just want a decision.
- You may end up wasting a whole lot of time on something that should have been “done and dusted” long ago.
3. When you have made a decision:
- Inform all relevant parties of the decision and give reasons if necessary.
- Act on the decision. A decision not acted on is equivalent to making no decision at all.
- Pray that all will move forward for God’s glory.
- And if things don’t work out well, make sure you learn so that you are better equipped for the next time you have to make a decision.