Ministry Teamwork!

July 30th, 2014

One of the most important facets of local church growth and success is the embracing of teamwork. Great churches are those where a large group of people have covenanted together to play team ball. Sometimes we could make the call without the help of others. Sometimes we could save everyone the hassle and fly solo. Sometimes however, this is not the case. Being a good leader does not necessarily make us a great team player, even when we need to be. Some of the best leaders in the church whom I know personally are somewhat difficult to work with and for, and I would include myself in that assessment sometimes.

Are you a good team player? Do you have to be the big fish in a little pond, or are you willing to be a good team member, even if it means you are a little fish in a big pond? The size of the success you and I get to be a part of is dependent upon how well we can play on a team. What could we offer the people on our team that would help us accomplish the Lord’s mission together? I truly believe that some focused attention in a few areas will result in exponential fruit. So what should our team expect from us?

CHARACTER

Character matters so much in teamwork. Our talent and our charisma will only take us so far. We cannot be all talk; our character must be rock solid. Having character does not mean we are flawless. Character means we are faithful and dependable. We do not miss church. We do not take shortcuts. We can be counted on. Pastors and ministry leaders ought to model a way of life and a level of integrity worthy of being followed. That is such a serious responsibility. Character must be a measure of our success. Without godly character, we ultimately fail to honor God.

We should fervently want our lives to be lives without concealed cracks. I do not want to paint over flaws, hoping the cracks will never be exposed. The very idea that we would try to hide character flaws and secret sins proves that we often measure success by what people think about us rather than by what God thinks about us. This should hit us all very hard! Character is a life without concealed cracks.

CARE

People do not care what you know until they know that you care. This is so true in teamwork. With so much on our plates, we often do not show our love and support for others. Our tendency is to value excellence in our project over the needs of our team. Our tendency is to use people to get ministry done. The great temptation for those of us who are highly driven is to overlook the personal lives of the people on our teams and focus only on the contribution they make to the team. In so doing, we fail to love and care for them the way they deserve. The result just might be a wake of destruction left behind us, while we forge ahead to change the world for Jesus.

The best way we can show we care is to strive for accessibility. Accessibility is one of the key ways we can communicate care to our team members. Overcrowded agendas often mean leaders stay behind closed doors or stay booked with appointments much of the time. This makes us largely inaccessible to our co-workers. People need to know they can call us, email us, or get ahold of us, and that it will not be viewed as an interruption.

CLARITY

Nothing is more important to teamwork than clarity. We do not intend to, but we often focus on our vision to the crowd and neglect to reveal that vision to our team. We wrongly assume they just “get it.” Our team deserves clarity about both our vision and our expectations. How can I hit the target if I do not know what it is? Mapping out distinct goals and setting definitive deadlines gives everyone a clear understanding of what the expectations are.

CONVICTION

Passion and authority—these are the things Jesus brought to His team. To many, Christians are complainers and do not live or lead with conviction. We must be passionate about what we do. We need to let our team members know that we love them, the Lord, our church, and the task that is before us. They need to see us sitting on the edge of our seats in meetings and planning sessions as we discuss the mission and future direction of our ministry. I love legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi’s quote, “Either you get fired with enthusiasm or you will be fired with enthusiasm.” That will sure help our teamwork!

Ministry In A Hostile Culture!


July 16th, 2014

I Peter 2:12 “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

 
I Peter 2:15 “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:”

 
Many segments of our nation’s culture are growing ever more hostile and hateful toward Bible-believing Christians, and as this transpires we must take care to be proactive, as Christ was. We must be intentional Christians in this day of postmodern influences. If we are not proactive we will be reactive, falling into defensive or oppositional positions. History has taught us that such reactions to the culture only further isolate us and minimize our influence and impact for Christ. As the United States shifts into a more and more postmodern age, we must confront the reality that this is beginning to reshape legislation, institutions and the very moral fabric of America.

 
I fear that many Christians today do not know how little influence we really have on our culture, our communities and our very own children. Last Wednesday evening in our church, I started a short Bible study series entitled, “Why Millennials Are Walking Away from Church.” This is a phenomenon that is stretching across theological borders. While we are experiencing this in fundamental churches, it is an even greater epidemic in evangelical churches. I refuse to bemoan this reality and just get nasty in my disdain for this apparent falling away, and to an even greater extent, apostasy. We must recommit ourselves to “overcome this evil with good.”

 
How does God tell us to respond when the culture turns hostile toward us? He tells us to actively live such “honest” and “good” lives among the pagan culture around us that they cannot deny our “good works.” (I Peter 2:12 and 15) I like to call this Aggressive Authenticity. Without this engaged energy shaping our lives and ministries, we will continue to be marginalized by the hostile culture in which we minister.

 
When we send a missionary to an unreached people group in the interior of the Amazon or the highlands of Papua New Guinea, we understand that there is a process that must be followed. First, the missionary must lovingly show God’s goodness and love and begin building relationships, learning the language and reaching out and investing in individuals, especially tribal leaders. These are just a few of the ideas that are involved in penetrating a hostile culture. Everything the missionary is doing is both gospel based and gospel focused. That is why he is there; but to ignore the relationship building and trust establishing steps is to almost certainly guarantee failure.

 
As crazy as it may sound, building strong Bible-believing churches in today’s American culture is nearly the identical challenge. For too long, we in the American church have expected non-believers to behave like Christians in a moral and Biblical manner. However, as we are witnessing in almost every arena of American life, our Biblical, Christian values are becoming less and less common and unfortunately, even viewed with hostility. We cannot continue to hide our light under a bushel. Let me quote the Saviour in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

 
There must be a Revival of good and godly living among Christians again, as was mandated by the simple words of I Peter 2:12 and 15. Today’s shallow, libertarian believers cannot reclassify our “good works” as legalism. We must all re-evaluate the honesty and goodness of our lives among the pagan culture in which we find ourselves. The gospel still works (Romans 1:16)! Bible preaching is still the method of God’s choice to propagate our message (I Corinthians 1:21). But we must not let the Messenger hinder the Message.  While our position must be Biblical, our disposition must also be just as Biblical.

 
Do not be afraid of sinners; Jesus was not. He was “a friend of publicans and sinners.” Why is it that sinners are afraid of us, but they were not afraid of Jesus? Are we more holy and separated than He was? I think not. However, in my humble opinion, they could not resist His Aggressive Authenticity. He reached the heart before He changed the life. We too must climb down from our ivory palaces and engage the individuals we work around and live among with His grace and His goodness if we hope to have any impact on our degrading culture.

 
On the sobering morning of September 11, 2001, the world watched after two airplanes crashed into the twin towers in lower Manhattan. An army of firefighters and first responders began to enter the burning buildings as thousands were exiting. Their heroic actions brought a holy significance to the senseless tragedy. If there is any hope left for a Moral and Biblical Revival in our land, we who name the name of Christ must be the ones running into the burning building while everyone else is running out. We cannot give up on the crumbling culture all around us. We must go after the addict, the oppressed, the broken, the divorced, the abused, the derelict, the scared, the vilest of sinners, the young, the old, the confused and even the contrary without regard for ourselves. The gospel is the world’s only hope, but we must get out in the streets where sinners live if we hope to change the culture. We do not need to defend ourselves - we need to go after the lost. As our culture grows ever more hostile to Christianity, I think of how Charles Spurgeon described the controlled silence of Jesus during his crucifixion: “The anvil breaks a host of hammers by quietly bearing their blows.”

 
Jim Elliot went to a hostile culture in 1956. His blood ran into the river where his plane landed in Ecuador. Jesus Christ went into a hostile world, and His blood ran from the foot of the cross. As we go into a hostile culture with the gospel today, we too will bleed. This is the great reality from which most modern Christians shrink and begin looking for a new and an easier way to live the Christian life. There is no easier way! The Apostle Paul testified soberly in Acts 14:22: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”