This generation

First and foremost, being a Christian is about following. We are followers of Christ. That means we learn how Christ lived his life and fashion ours after him.

People often identify Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Do we realize the distinctiveness of each of those titles? Throw me a life raft and I’ll affirm you saved me. You may even become my hero. Chances are, though, I won’t try to shape my entire life as an imitation of yours.

But that’s part of what it means to call Jesus “Lord.” It’s easier to affirm the savior part of who Jesus is to us. Now, we’re saved for heaven. It’s that Lord part that trips us up every day. If Christ is our Lord, then we must follow.

And as we follow Christ, we also lead others.

Maybe you’re a church leader. That can be in an official capacity or not. Has your church ever voted on you to be a leader? Does your church have people who don’t need the titles? I’ve known saints who never served on a committee who were the ones people looked to for wisdom and insight. (To me, that’s a great reminder to not get so caught up in leadership models.)

My point is, we all lead in some manner.

Now, let’s look at a seemingly harsh encounter between Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 17. Jesus took three disciples up the mountain to experience the Transfiguration. When they descended, a crowd awaited them. A man, a father knelt before Jesus. He wanted our Lord to heal his son. As it turns out, the father had asked the disciples to do it before. They were unable.

The first response of Jesus to this news is, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?”

Ouch.

Can you imagine being a disciple at that moment? Why was Jesus so harsh to them? Part of the answer could be in additional reading.

In Matthew, there are several times Jesus references this childish, adulterous, evil and perverse generation. That makes sense when you consider part of Matthew’s overall backdrop. Matthew picks up the stance Jesus took against the religious establishment. They, after all, are the ones leading this generation. This speaks to the many confrontations Jesus has with the Pharisees, for example.

So, it could be, in this encounter, that Jesus rebuked the religious leaders and not his disciples. Or, if he was speaking to his followers, he may have been hinting to them to not follow the way of the religious leaders.

Their way is not a way of faith. It is about control and power. Their leadership doesn’t follow anything faithfully, only that which brings benefit to themselves.

As you and I lead, in whatever capacity, how will we do so? Leading with faith means you follow the guidance and wisdom of the Spirit. You also submit to the lordship of Jesus.

Think of all the generations mentioned in Matthew 1, the genealogy of Jesus. Now consider what we know about the salvation and lordship of Jesus. If you or your church leaders lead in any way that quells either of those two characteristics of Jesus to anyone, you become a replica of the generation Jesus addressed.

Stay blessed…john

Something a Pharisee might say

If you were a Pharisee, it would have been your responsibility to question Jesus.

You are, after all, a teacher of all things religious. If some man came around proclaiming to be God’s anointed, which many men did, the rest of us would trust your judgment. We’d wonder what you had to say about his claims.

That’s what the Pharisees did. Think of Nicodemus seeking out Jesus to talk to him. Some of the questions we know Pharisees asked Jesus are legitimate. After a while, though, what we see happening is that they decided to not believe him. Their inquiries morphed into holy ambushes.

By the time we get to John 8, Jesus has done much to demonstrate his belief that God his Father sent him to the world. Jesus offered signs pointing to his identity and the Pharisees chose to either ignore them or reject them altogether.

That’s not what we want to do, right?

We have recognized that Jesus is the Christ. That’s why we worship and follow him–not just go to a worship service and call ourselves Christians.

Now, allow me to make a turn here. It may feel unrelated, but I promise it’s not. Trust me.

Actually, don’t merely trust me. Listen to what I’m saying. Pray and reflect upon what ideas I’m offering to you. Compare what you hear from me with what we read in scripture.

There have been too many instances of pastors making the testimony of Jesus their own.

In John 8, the Pharisees want a witness to testify on behalf of Jesus. According to Jesus, he doesn’t have one and doesn’t need one. He’s his own witness. Actually, not only do I testify on my behalf, but God does, too. You can’t see God, but he’s testifying right now for me.

More and more, we are learning about pastors, propped up by large money-producing ministries, taking advantage of their position. There’s an entire industry built like this. And there are many others who forego their integrity for the chance to enjoy such ministry success.

In part, they’ve used this Jesus-like stance. Essentially, it goes like this: I am called by God. Don’t question me. That’s kin to questioning God. I speak for God and who are you to question me?

Does that sound like something some Pharisees might say?

The results of all this are disastrous. It is sin. The gravest issue is the hurt and abuse people experience as a result. Then there’s the church’s witness to consider.

How do we avoid all this?

I read a tweet that said, “Want to know if you have a healthy pastor? Disagree with them.”

I’m not asking you to be contrary. That’s not a helpful attitude. 

But let’s hold ourselves accountable to one another. Let’s continually ask if our decisions, our ideas, our attitudes and our worship are truly rooted and pointing to Jesus.

Stay blessed…john

Whose rules?

COVID forced our clergy convocation online again this year. I do miss gathering with my colleagues. As a United Methodist pastor myself, these other pastors are my church. They are the people I see year in and year out as we serve our conference together.

I’ve known many of them since before I became a pastor.

I value worshiping and learning with them.

This year’s convocation centered on Susan Beaumont’s book titled How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going. This is an affirming book for me.

Although I didn’t appreciate having to sit through another online meeting, especially one that lasted several hours on two different day, Beaumont’s presentation was helpful.

It’s about learning to lead the church through uncertain times. That sounds too cliche. There’s more to it than that, but I hadn’t planned to unpack everything here.

One point she brought up today was Robert’s Rules of Order. She didn’t address it as an overarching theme; I don’t know if it’s in her book. Her comment was something about why church leadership holds on so tightly to Robert’s Rules.

Thank you!

I recall my first administrative council meeting at a church. Ever since that day, I’ve wondered why we’re married to that discernment process like we are. To me, there’s less discernment happening and more politics at play.
There are other forms of discernment. I’m not suggesting we read entrails again. And I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t use Robert’s Rules at all.

But we are better suited at changing the world with the way of Christ, not Robert.

Stay blessed…john