Show offs

Luke 20:45-21:4

Beware of religious show offs. That’s not exactly how Jesus put it. That’s just how I interpret it.

We’ve all probably known a few before. They’ve been with us forever. We read of God’s anger against them in many Old Testament passages. They were there with Jesus and some may sit close to you in worship every week.

But why do we need to beware of them?

Jesus spoke to his disciples loud enough for everyone to hear. So, this is something he wanted everyone to understand. Chances are, he affirmed what people already knew. I mean, you can tell when someone has that kind of holier-than-thou attitude, right? They’re not usually quiet or reserved about it. They not only want the respect and acknowledgement for who they are and what they’ve done, they let you know it.

Again, what’s the danger?

Can’t we let people be who they are? I think so. But Jesus is talking about religious leaders. These were people who had direct influence over the religious life of other people. And they used that position to benefit themselves. To upkeep a particular way of life and power structure. The argument should be made they also kept others in their place. So, even if it’s far less than ideal, I’m okay with giving people space to be who and what they are. We all need to experience God’s grace as we are today. But we cannot let leaders abuse or take advantage of others. What I’m less comfortable with is allowing leadership to carry on with such a posture.

This is where we need to beware most.

Religious show offs do not make faithful shepherds. They’re too preoccupied by what they’re getting out of the service. Whether we like to admit it or not, we follow leaders. Where these leaders take us is not where God wants us to be.

What is admirable is how you treat the poor. The attitude you have about them. The way you interact with those with far less than you. Faithful leaders do not put up with or endure relationships with the poor among them. They cherish them. In their leading, they step over the societal lines that demean their humanity. That’s where Jesus went.

That’s where I want to go, too.

Stay blessed…john

My dream team

1 Chronicles 12:16-22
I once wrote about my ministry dream team.

By that time, I had served a handful of churches as a full-time pastor. In each of those congregations there were faithful, spirit-led saints of God. They blessed me in many ways. I had thought if I had a chance to do some new form of ministry, I would want all these people with me.

In that group were people of prayer and people of action. No, I didn’t include them because of what I could convince them to do. It wasn’t that I thought they could do a great job with some project. I trusted their bent toward prayer and communion and compassion. They’re my dream team because there’s no telling what kind of ministry they would pursue!

Then it hit me.

Jesus didn’t need a dream team. In fact, it feels like he chose people to be his disciples everyone else would’ve picked last. If at all. Yes, they blundered their way through ministry. But I’m a believer today because of them. You are, too.

Churches and pastors do this, if we’re not careful. I’ve read many times the encouragement of large-church pastors. They say to imagine the person you want to come to your church. Picture that person. Give them a name. Then preach and reach out to that person. Before long, you’ll fill your church with people like that.

But do you see the potential issue? That sounds more like target marketing than it does reaching out. I’m all for marketing as a tool to help communicate the good news of Jesus. The temptation, though, it to use it to build our own ministries.

As a result, we surround ourselves with people who look and sound a lot like us. Not only do we build echo chambers, we might also be using people to get the ministry we desire.

1 Chronicles 12 is an example of David’s army growing. The text says “from day to day people kept coming to David to help him until their was a great army, like an army of God” (1 Chronicles 12:22). Notice David didn’t choose them. David accepted them (vs 18).

There’s our reflection for today.

Who do we ignore when we look for who we think is best to have with us? I thank God for saints who know their spiritual gifts and use them for God’s glory. But we don’t need a dream team. If God needed one, I wouldn’t be called up. What we need is to be open to the Spirit’s leading. Whom God brings to us is who we need.

Stay blessed…john

Lead on

Numbers 27:12-23
It’s the fundamental leadership question: Are leaders born or are leaders made?

How you answer may influence your leadership development. If leaders are born, then innate skills shape your abilities and even your drive. If leaders are made, then there’s hope for us all. Studies show the answer leans more to the made side. That people learn to lead. So, we can all pick up ideas and strategies that help us lead well.

After all, most of us have had to lead in some fashion. Our first thought is to our careers, but what about our volunteer work? Our families? And, of course, church ministry?

I haven’t read too many leadership books lately. Excluding the last one, which blew me away, they all started sounding the same. No, I’m not suggesting I’ve learned everything about being a leader. Nor am I hoping you believe I’m great leadership material right now. Please do not take it to mean we should stop learning how to become more faithful leaders.

What I’ve felt is we, as the church, overdid leadership.

That’s all we wanted to talk about. We shaped all the problems of the church through the lens of leadership. That is, we had a leadership problem. So, attend this seminar and follow this leadership guru. Read this book and send all your volunteers to our next workshop. Read leadership into every Bible story you can. I’d be fine if I could go the rest of my life without hearing another pastor use the term “servant leadership.”

I’m not convinced ours is a leadership problem. We’ve thrown every effort into leadership development and we’re still struggling. Do we really think we’re waiting for the right people at the right time to finally get it? Leadership development without revival is nothing short of foolish building on sand.

Can leaders lead us to revival? Sure. But not by focusing on leadership. We can see this when God chose Joshua to succeed Moses. First, let’s recognize the spirit of Moses. He doesn’t fight with God, hoping to change God’s mind about him entering the promised land. He wants to make sure his people have someone faithful over them. Did he learn that?

According to the NIV, God chooses Joshua because he has “the spirit of leadership.” Deuteronomy says it was the “spirit of wisdom” (Deuteronomy 34:9).

I don’t see Joshua full of ambitious goals. He isn’t hoping to overtake Moses or position himself as the people’s choice. I see Joshua being led himself. Led by his trust in God. Led by his desire to be faithful.

Yes, we can all learn something about leadership as we serve together. We should. But our priority needs to be our walk with God. If we aren’t asking God to lead us, where are we leading each other?

Stay blessed…john