When You Fast

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:16-18)

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
(Matthew 9:14-15)

Someone at our congregation requested a lesson on fasting, so I am doing some studying on that. Fasting, as I’m sure many know is the abstaining from food or other things for a period of time. People do it for all kinds of reasons: dietary, emotional, spiritual, etc.

We see that in the Old Testament, the Jews were commanded by God to fast one day a year, on the day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). But for the Christian there is no command for us on when to fast or for how long to fast. However, as we can observe in the passages above, Jesus said there would be a time for His disciples to fast.

  • Jesus assumed we would fast. In Matthew 6, He says, “When you fast…,” and in Matthew 9 He said, “Then they will fast.” It’s clear that Jesus knew that fasting would be part of our walk with Him.
  • He gave us instructions on our attitude/heart as we fast. This is a very powerful and intimate thing a Christian does with God, but it can really be turned into an attention / glory seeking practice, as it did for many in Jesus’ day. Jesus would rather you have a full tummy and a humble heart, than an empty stomach and a vain, attention-seeking heart.
  • We can see that this is a private, individual decision between Jesus and me. There is no mandated time for Christians to fast, although we see Christians fasting in the New Testament. This is something you decide for you. Again, it’s between you and God only. Church leaders cannot decide this for you.
  • Another point to make is that we see the churches practicing fasting and prayer when it came time to appoint leaders for the churches. It doesn’t seem like it was mandated, but we see the brethren fasting and praying before putting people into certain places of authority. It shows the seriousness of the matter, doesn’t it?

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
(Acts 13:1-3)

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
(Acts 14:23)

This is a start. More will probably come later.

The Benefits of Reading Scripture Aloud

Here is a link to a great article on BibleGateway.com about the benefits of reading Scripture aloud.

Also, here is a link to a Bible Project video about the public reading of Scripture.

Below are several passages about the Scripture being read out loud, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. May this encourage us all today as families and churches to see the benefits of reading God’s word out loud.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
(1 Timothy 4:13)

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
(Nehemiah 8:1-3)

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.
(Joshua 8:34-35)

Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
(Deuteronomy 31:9-13)

“For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
(Acts 15:21)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
(Luke 4:16-17)

And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
(Colossians 4:16)

I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
(1 Thessalonians 5:27)

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
(Revelation 1:3)

All The Way My Savior Leads Me

The theme at our congregation this year is from a song by Fanny J Crosby, All The Way My Savior Leads Me.

Our focus this year here at our congregation is leadership:

Jesus’ leadership of us.

Our leadership of others.

Here are a few key passages on the leadership of Jesus:

  • Psalm 23 – This beloved and classic psalm tells us so much about the heart of God as our Shepherd and what His leadership/shepherdship is all about.
  • Ezekiel 34 – Because of the horribly selfish, domineering and aggressive leadership that existed at the time, God promised that one day He would be the shepherd. Specifically, the Son of David would come and be the One Shepherd over God’s people. He would seek the lost, bind up the wounded and feed the flock.
  • Isaiah 40:11 – The Messiah Jesus leads us like a gentle shepherd.
  • John 10 – Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He’s not for hire, He owns the sheep. Jesus the Good Shepherd has a close, intimate relationship with the sheep and they follow His voice. As the Good Shepherd, He lays down His life for the sheep. He doesn’t run when there is trouble, He protects the flock from thieves and wolves.
  • In several passages, Jesus is called the Great Shepherd, or the Chief Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25; 5:4; Hebrews 13:20). We are the flock of God, and Jesus is constantly watching out over our souls.

As we focus on these passages, God’s word forms a portrait what you and I are to be as leaders/shepherds today. Jesus’ leadership style is to be our leadership style. His heart is to be our heart. How He shepherds is how we are to shepherd.

This will affect our church leadership, our parenting, our behavior and attitude in the workplace and community. As we begin to see our relationship with others as a shepherd, then our whole attitude and focus will change. May God the Chief Shepherd transform our hearts into true shepherd’s hearts.

All the way my Savior leads me

The theme at our congregation this year is from a song by Fanny J Crosby, All the way my Savior leads me. She is one of my favorite hymn writers. Fanny Crosby was blind, and in most of her hymns you can see some reference to sight, seeing or vision. This song is no exception.
Today I want to share with you the lyrics to this song for your meditation.
All the way my Savior leads me
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy?
Who through life has been my guide
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort
Here by faith in Him to dwell
For I know whate’er befall me
Jesus doeth all things well
All the way my Savior leads me
Cheers each winding path I tread
Gives me grace for every trial
Feeds me with the living bread
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul a-thirst may be
Gushing from the rock before me
Lo! a spring joy I see
All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above
When my spirit, clothed immortal
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages
Jesus led me all the way.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Utility Player

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Utility Player

The person who does it all and doesn’t delegate. He tries to play all the positions. He may be pretty good at a lot of jobs, but others need to be doing those jobs.

The utility player in sports is the jack of all trades. You can put him or her at any position and they can be pretty good anywhere. There are those 5 talent people (see Matthew 25), who can do just about anything. Sometimes those guys get caught in trap of trying to have their hands in every pot in the church.

There are many reasons this happens:

There is the man who had to be the utility person by necessity and now it is hard to give up. That person may have at one time been put in a position where he had to do the lion’s share of the work or it wouldn’t have gotten accomplished. It may be a small church where very few people are even available to work. In that case you have to do a large percentage of the work. But as the church grows, or if you are with a different group with lots of hands ready to work, you need to let them work. There are times when someone had planned on doing a task for the church, but someone (who meant well) jumped in front of them and did the job before he or she could get to it. That is not helpful to building relationships. I’m sure the apostles could have done a great job in taking care of the widows, but it wasn’t their job. God wanted someone else to oversee care for the widows (Acts 6:1-7).

There is the man who doesn’t really want to have the hard and uncomfortable conversations with those who are not doing their share. It is much easier just to do the job than to train, mentor, rebuke, coach, talk, ask, etc. Helping other guys learn, understand and appreciate the need to do these great works for Jesus is a challenging work. When we keep doing jobs that others in the church can be doing, we are crippling them and hindering their growth. We are also hamstringing ourselves, because we become very ineffective and inefficient in our own work God wants us to do.

There is the man whose expectations are too high, and those who want to do the work don’t measure up to his standards. In some cases there are those who want to work, but they feel pushed out and disregarded by those who are doing the work. Those utility players tend to micromanage. If you are going to delegate, this means you may have to wait a little longer for a job to get finished, because your schedule is not theirs. It also means that they may do the job differently that you would have, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong necessarily.

There is a great example of this in Moses’ leadership style. Moses was a man who wanted to do it all, and his motives were pure. However, as he was advised by his father-in-law, he was going to wear himself out. It wasn’t good for the Israelites, either.

Meditate on this final passage:

The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.
(Exodus 18:13-27)

Distorted Leadership Models – The Sheriff

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Sheriff

Flashing the badge, he’s the rule enforcer.

No offense meant at all to our fine men and women in law enforcement – I have to make sure I say this. Those men and women are the finest, and they put their lives on the line everyday for us – Thank you!

The focus of this article is the distorted view of leadership that comes when someone slaps on the “elder” badge in the church and begins to think he is the Judge, Jury and Executioner. Without regard for mercy and tenderness, he rains down condemnation and judgment to the law breakers. He would never accept treatment like this for himself, but he does it to others. He’s all about the rules and enforcing the law, but not much about the grace, mercy and relationships.

This model of leadership is seen in the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day. They were keen on the rules, down to the minutest detail. The Scribes and Pharisees crossed every T and dotted every I, but what did they lack? Jesus said they did not have mercy (Matthew 9:10-13;12:1-14). He called them self-righteous hypocrites that did not do what they asked others to do (Matthew 23:1-4). They did not care for the lost, helpless and outcast, in fact they took advantage of sinners and widows (Luke 15). The broken state of others became an opportunity for them to gain more power over people (Mark 12:40).

It also makes me think of the heart of Jonah. Anna and the kids were reading about him as I was writing this, and I thought, “Wow, here’s Sheriff Jonah who wanted to ride into town and call out the condemnation, blow the whistle, lasso them all up and throw the people of Nineveh into God’s eternal jail. Jonah cared more for plants than he did people (Jonah 4). I think Jonah serves as a good example of the “sheriff” mindset.

Don’t get me wrong, rules do matter. Doctrine is from God, not from man, so we must stand for it in our churches (Romans 16:17-18). The elders/shepherds are to be sound in doctrine. They must be able to teach that doctrine, and are to have the courage to stand and fight for that doctrine (Acts 20:17-38; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:1-14).

But what we want to see out of our elders/shepherds is the whole picture, men who stand strong on the Word, but also have the merciful heart of God. If God was all about the rules, where would you and I be? Remember Jonah and the city of Nineveh?

Here are some character qualities of the elder/shepherd that balance out the “sheriffs” in us. Yes, be about the rules but remember this:

  • Live by example, show others how to live as God wants them to live (Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Peter 5:3).
  • Be gentle and patient, realizing that Satan has a hold on people. They need teaching and time, not death and destruction (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
  • Discern the needs of those you are leading. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Some need encouraged, others need their hands held, others need gentle correction, others need warnings. In order for a elder/shepherd to know the difference, he has to know the sheep. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of response.
  • Not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3:3).
  • You must not be arrogant or quick-tempered (Titus 1:7).
  • Realize you have to give an account to the Chief Shepherd for their souls (Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Peter 5:4).

As a final thought, why did the sinners come to Jesus and not to the Pharisees? Where did they find mercy and grace? Where did they find men who were only about enforcing the rules? Think about it? Are you a sheriff and a Jonah? Or are you more like Jesus offering mercy and grace? Who do people go to in your congregation for mercy, grace and acceptance?

Distorted Leadership Models – The CEO

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Distorted Leadership Models – The CEO

Instead of leading the church by being in others’ living rooms, he’s making decisions behind close doors in the boardroom.

Do you value the opinions and input of others, or does that threaten you? Do you get defensive and bump out your chest when others question your decisions? Are you the kind of person who sits down with others and reasons why a certain course should be followed? How do you handle it when others try to give their ideas? What is your response/reaction when people don’t like your decisions and plans?

How do you see the decision-making process as an elder? Do you value the input of the congregation and seek it regularly? Have you experienced being in a congregation where many of the Christians wonder what’s going on because they are not let in on the directions and decisions of the elders? I am not trying to say that the elders have to consult the congregation on every single decision, but the congregation should be asked and welcomed regularly to give their input. And when those members give their input, their input should actually be considered and valued.

The apostles modeled this leadership when it came to choosing the 7 men to oversee the care of widows:

“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:3-6)

The apostles modeled this leadership again when it came to choosing the men who would be messengers to the churches:

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers (Acts 15:22).

Here is some wisdom from Peter about being a shepherd leader, not a CEO boss-man.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
(1 Peter 5:1-4)

Did we see that? Not domineering over those in your charge. You are not the boss, Jesus is. If a man understands that in his life, it will show at home, at work and in the congregation. We have enough bosses in this world, we sure don’t need them in the churches! Jesus had to work on His disciples to understand this concept. James and John thought to be great in Jesus’ kingdom meant that they would get the best seats of authority. Jesus had an entirely different view.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:35-45)

Distorted Leadership Models – The Cowboy

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Cowboy

Cowboys drive cattle – Shepherds lead sheep

No offense meant to western fans and cowboys. What I’m talking about here is the mentality of the “John Wayne” kind of cowboy and the distorted view of a cowboy that is seen on film. Here is a video of a real Texas cowboy who loves his cattle and dearly loves what he does.

What we are dealing with here in this article is the concept of what is seen in a lot of westerns: a hollering, gun-blazing, whip-cracking driver on horseback who scares the death out of the cattle as they run from him. They do what he says, but there is no relationship.

I know from talking to a lot of folks over the years that they have seen this modeled in homes, in churches and at work. A person who is really good at driving an agenda, charging up the hill and commanding the troops. He gets the job done and accomplishes the mission, but fails to see the valuable relationships and tender hearts of those he is leading. You might ask those closest to you to see what kind of leader they view you as. Do they see you as a gentle shepherd or a whip-cracking, hollering cowboy driving cattle? Which type of leader do you want to lead you?

Please contrast that kind of leadership to the shepherding model seen in Scripture. Look at what a shepherd does for the sheep. what kind of relationship a shepherd has with sheep, and how that model keeps getting applied to leadership in the Bible. We cannot cover all these things in today’s short article, so please do your own studying. It wouldn’t hurt to spend some time around sheep. In fact, I know a brother who has served as an elder/shepherd who owns sheep; this brother’s advice is that no man should serve as an elder until he has spent valuable time around sheep. I tend to agree with him.

Here are a few random points about Biblical shepherding:

All of God’s leaders in Scripture are referred to as shepherds – from judges (2 Samuel 7:7) to kings (2 Samuel 5:2; 1 Kings 22:7; Isaiah 44:28) to prophets (Jeremiah 17:16; Zechariah 11:7) to priests (Jeremiah 23:1,11) to New Testament elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). This analogy was not only common to the people of that time, it is a fitting description of the work and relationship a leader has with his people.

From Genesis to Revelation, God is described as our Shepherd (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 78:70-72; Revelation 7:17). Read Psalm 23 as one fantastic example of what the Lord does for us as our Shepherd.

Sheep need a shepherd. Look at how many times in Scripture the phrase “sheep without a shepherd is used” (2 Chronicles 18:16; Ezekiel 34:5; Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 9:36). Without the shepherd who will guide them to living water and green grass? Without the shepherd, the sheep will wander and get lost. If there is no shepherd they are vulnerable to attack from predators. Again, look through the Scripture to see what a shepherd does for his sheep (knows, builds relationship with his voice, leads, feeds, guides, protects, corrects, comforts, carries, fights and dies for them, etc.).

Gentle shepherds are not wimps. Just because a man is a gentle shepherd does not mean he is weak and spineless. Sadly, our picture of a tough American male is someone like John Wayne. A real man is a cowboy who will just bust into the saloon with either his fists or his six-gun and everyone just does what he says. He doesn’t take any stuff from anyone. We don’t typically think “shepherd” as the model of a tough American male. Remember, men like Moses and David were shepherds, and they were far from wimps and pushovers. If you want to know for sure, just try to attack or steal a shepherd’s sheep. The shepherd has to watch for potential threats and be ready to stand and fight the wolves. He is no wimp.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
(Matthew 9:35-38)

Distorted Leadership Models – The Hired Hand

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Each day this week we will consider one of the following:

  • Hired hand – Just in it for what he gets out of it (money, power, or praise). This man is not truly invested as a shepherd is in his sheep.
  • Cowboy – The cowboy drives cattle, the shepherd leads sheep. There is a huge difference between a cowboy and a shepherd.
  • CEO – Instead of leading the church by being in others’ living rooms, he’s making decisions behind close doors in the boardroom.
  • Sheriff – Flashing the badge, he’s the rule enforcer.
  • Utility Player – The person who does it all and doesn’t delegate. The person who likes to play all the positions. He may be pretty good at a lot of jobs, but others need to be doing those jobs.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Hired Hand

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
(John 10:11-15)

The hired hand sees the wolf and flees, leaving the sheep without a protector. Why? There is nothing in it for him. He’s just there for a paycheck. He has no vested interest. Unlike the shepherd, he doesn’t know the sheep and he doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of each sheep. The shepherd sees the wolf, stays with the sheep, fights for the sheep and lays down his life for his sheep.

Look around at your congregation. Which men are the ones truly invested in the souls of the congregation? That’s your starting list of candidates for elders/shepherds! Then look to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 to see if they meet the other qualities. That’s where you start – are these men truly the type that care for souls? Are they the type of men who get in the trenches and get muddy and bloody for the souls of others? Or are they the kind of men that stand aloof or bail when it gets tough?

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
(Acts 20:28-31)

Do you see Paul in this above passage? Night and day for three years with tears! That’s a man who is not a hired hand. Here we see what Jesus is talking about. Paul made a special effort to meet with these Ephesian elders/shepherds (Acts 20:16-17). He wanted them to be forewarned and alert about what was coming to the flock.

His heart was for these elders to see the flock as he did. The flock of Ephesian souls was purchased by the precious blood of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit that appointed these men as overseers of this local body of believers. This local church had great value to the Chief Shepherd, and as shepherds these men were to have the same heart – the heart of God.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
(1 Peter 5:1-4)

What is the motive of a shepherd according to Peter?

Not of compulsion – it is to be done willingly. I changed my diet out of compulsion, it wasn’t a joy, it was a drudgery. I’ve had a root canal out of compulsion, I certainly didn’t tap dance into the dentist office! There are many things we do because we are forced to, but serving God’s people shouldn’t be one of them. Look around at your congregation, which men do things out of joy and kindness? I mean, if it is like pulling teeth to get a guy to do something, do you really want him to serve as a shepherd?

Not for shameful gain, but eagerly – It’s not about the money. It can never be about the money. The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), including making a corrupt church leader. A man who really loves the brethren will serve them for free. He does it eagerly, not for a paycheck.

But please let me follow that up with this. An elder can be paid to do this very important work (1 Timothy 5:17). I wish more elders were paid to do this incredibly valuable work. I’ve met a lot of elders who didn’t want to be paid because they were afraid of violating passages like John 10 and 1 Peter 5. They are concerned about becoming hired hands. It is clear that they are not in it for the money, and those are the kind of men we should consider paying to serve as shepherds/elders. A lot of churches have gotten locked into the traditional mindset of paying a local preacher, even a second preacher, and sending money oversees to other preachers, but do not seem to contemplate compensating their shepherds. Read 1 Timothy 5:17 with your congregation, and pray about this with your group.

More to come tomorrow, Lord willing.

Acts 6 – The Effect on Evangelism

We continue our in-depth look into Acts 6:1-7.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
(Acts 6:1-7)

The Effect on Evangelism

Here are two observations for today about getting everyone’s input.

The effect on reaching the lost. Verse 7 happened AFTER verses 1-6. It’s really hard to be effective reaching the lost when you have a dysfunctional local church. It often happens that we talk about how we need to evangelize the lost more. We’ve got to get out there and talk to the lost. Yes, that is absolutely right, but, did you see that there was a problem here in Jerusalem that had to be dealt with first? What happens in the Jerusalem church if these neglected widows continue to be neglected? What impact will that have on the community when they hear how the Jerusalem congregation is dealing with its own? You can see why verse 7 comes after verses 1-6. Sometimes we have to make some corrections/adjustments within so that we can be effective in reaching the community.

This was not a lifetime appointment. These seven men went on later to other responsibilities. Stephen and Philip both went on to preach. Philip went to Samaria later as a missionary and preached the word there. He then went on to Caesarea, where it seems he lived for quite a long time. They were appointed to oversee a need in the congregation, but later at least two of them went on to other responsibilities, specifically preaching the word.

When we appoint a man to a position in the congregation (preacher, elder, deacon) we should not assume this is a lifetime appointment. Maybe a man can only effectively serve as a shepherd for a few years, and for a few years he takes some time to do other things for God. It might be that we appoint a deacon to take on a certain task for which he is perfectly suited, but then later he will not have to serve in that role. That should be OK in our thinking.