Raising Up Leaders in the Church

How do churches raise up leaders who will take the baton and lead faithfully in the next generation?

After my first year of full-time pastoral ministry, this is something I’m wrestling with and seeking to do well. The call to leadership development is clear for leaders in the church: we are told to pass on the faith to others who can do likewise (2 Tim. 2:2) and equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). The power is in the people and the quicker pastors (like me!) realize this and live out of this core, the more faithful and effective the church will be.

While local churches have leaders who specialize in oversight, teaching, preaching, etc., it is clear that “ministry” is not only something that happens for 30-45 minutes on a Sunday morning with one guy talking at everyone else. Don’t get me wrong. I highly value preaching and aspire to be great at it. However, traditionally organized church has turned gospel ministry into a once-a-week event in which people come to listen to the “anointed” minister.

Think about Acts 8. After Stephen’s death a great persecution broke out. The believers scattered, but the apostles stayed in Jerusalem. And it was the scattered believers, the “laypeople” (gasp!) who preached the word wherever they went (v. 4). Now, not all Christians are called to be leaders in the church. However, all Christians are called to do the work of ministry in the church and outside the church.

In this helpful video below, Andy Davis, David Helm, and J.D. Greear discuss some of these ideas and how to raise up leaders in the local church.

What do you think? How can the church today raise up leaders and resist making ministry a one-man show?


A Prayer for Christians in Iraq

Arabic-NazareneMerciful Heavenly Father,

We do not know how to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq, but we trust that your Spirit prays for us in our weakness. So we cry, How long before you will judge and avenge the blood of your saints (Rev. 6:10)? How long shall the wicked exult (Ps. 94:3)? How long, O God, is the foe to scoff and the enemy to revile your name (Ps. 74:10)? Why, O LORD, do you stand far away; why do you hide yourself in times of trouble (Ps. 10:1)?”

Have mercy on our brothers and sisters and bring this evil violence to an end with justice. Protect your people and give them favor as they seek to flee from the terrorists. Help them to remember that you hear their cries for help (Ps. 5:1-2). For the blameless will not be put to shame in evil times, but the wicked will perish (Ps. 37:18-19). Assure them, by your Spirit, that they are your children and are loved and secure even when they walk in the valley of death (Ps. 23; Rom. 8:15-17). Help them to believe that they are blessed because they have suffered for righteousness’ sake (Matt. 5:10). Help them to be more satisfied in your steadfast love than they have ever been before (Ps. 90:14). Help them to remember that the sufferings of this world do not compare with their future glory (Rom. 8:19). Help them know that they can flee to you as their refuge and strong tower (Ps. 61:3). Help them remain faithful to you (James 1:12), endure to the end (Matt. 10:22), and rejoice that they are counted worthy to share in Christ’s suffering (Acts 5:41; Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:13). Help them to remember that here they have no lasting city and that they are headed for the city that is to come (Heb. 11:16; 13:14).

And Father, forgive and have mercy on those who may have recanted of their faith to avoid death, even though they may truly love you. Let them experience a Peter-like moment of repentance so that they might rise and feed your sheep and stand strong in the strength of your might (Eph. 6:10)

For us, Father, as Americans, we may feel guilty that we are not suffering in the same fashion. It may even be hard for us to pray for your vengeance. But that is only because we are not suffering. We are in an air-conditioned facility free from affliction or pressure or even the slightest bit of mocking. Soften our hearts and wreck us with compassion so we might suffer with our brothers and sisters and pray for them (Rom. 12:15). And prepare us for the day when this kind of persecution finds us, because we aren’t immune (1 Pet. 4:12).

But, you O God, aren’t immune either. On the the cross, your Son cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46). Because Jesus was forsaken on the cross, help our brothers and sisters know they do not need to fear being forsaken by you. For you will never abandon them (Ps. 16:10; Heb. 13:5). Would that promise empower them, and us, to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, just as you did (Matt. 5:44).

In times of trouble, truly you do not stand far away. Jesus, you are the strength of your people; you are the saving refuge of your anointed ones. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage. For our brothers and sisters in Iraq, be their shepherd and carry them forever (Ps. 28:8-9).

Come, Lord Jesus, come (Rev. 22:20)! Amen.

Note on the graphic above: The ISIS terrorists have been marking this symbol on the homes of Christians in Iraq. It’s the Arabic letter “N,” short for “followers of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Blog Note: Repeat Email Updates

Friends, if you are subscribed to my blog via email through Feedreader, you have probably gotten multiple email updates for the same blog posts in the last couple weeks. I apologize for that and I am working on the problem! In the meantime, if you want to change the way you receive updates, you can scroll all the way to the bottom of this page and click the “FOLLOW” button to receive email updates directly from WordPress.

If you are experiencing a problem with Feedreader, please drop a note in the comments or email me to let me know what blog(s) have repeatedly shown up in your inbox.

Thank you and I apologize for any inconvenience!

Roundup of Posts on Scripture Application Questions

Over the past several days, I wrote several posts about questions to ask to help with meditating on and praying Scripture. Ultimately, these questions help us to aid in heart-level application of Scripture. This is the only kind of application that will have lasting value. Now, these questions are not the only ones we should ask, but they are important ones. For quick reference, here are the links to those posts with a brief summary.

From General Principles to Christ’s Fulfillment

When we read the Scriptures, particularly the Old Testament, we often find a general principle that we want to immediately apply. For example, the Bible says, “Don’t lie.” So we put down the Scripture and “apply” this passage by saying, “Ok. I won’t lie.” Then we pray, “God help me not lie today.”

This is only a partial way to apply the Bible. If we just say, “The law says I need to be just, so I’m going to be just,” then we neglect that Christ fulfills the Scriptures and we make the Bible first about us, rather than about Jesus. We must switch the order! We must do the prior work of understanding how Christ fulfills it first. Only then can we go on to applying general principles. 

Take Leviticus 19:9-10 for example:

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

The general principle is obviously “don’t be greedy, be generous, etc.” (or something like that). This is right and God demands this of us. The New Testament reinforces it (Matt. 5:42; 1 Tim. 6:18). It would be a failure to apply this in a Christ-centered way for us to say, “Okay, I need to be generous, so I’ll go out and do that.”

We know that we must first understand how this testifies to Jesus (see John 5:39; Luke 24:24-27, 44). If not, then we simply make the passage about “what we must do” rather than first “what Christ has done.” This “gleaning” law in Leviticus is in the context of the Mosaic covenant. Israel failed to keep this law perfectly and, of course, the whole law perfectly. We have also failed to keep it. We have even failed our own personal and modern civil laws concerning generosity—no one is as generous as they should be. But not Jesus—he has fulfilled this individual rule, and the whole law, completely. Though Jesus did not have a literal field of his own to share with the poor, we know that Jesus, though he had the riches of heaven at his disposal, he left them and became poor that we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). As you may have heard before, “Jesus did not tithe his blood. He gave it all.”

Thus the principle (“be generous”) is seen most fully in Jesus who did not leave a little margin for the poor, but gave his whole life. He did not horde his harvest gleanings, but lost his inheritance on the cross so that we might be heirs with him. Only when we see Jesus doing this and worship him because of it, will we be generous people. Through the Spirit’s inner working, this fuels our desire and ability to become the generous people God wants us to be. 

So consider these questions to help move from general principles to Christ-centered application that fuels repentance, faith, and worship:

  • What’s the general principle?
  • What is the immediate context of this principle (time, location, covenant, etc.)?
  • How have I broken this too? What heart idol am I worshiping when I do this? (See last post.)
  • Does the New Testament reinforce or modify this principle?
  • How does Jesus uniquely fulfill this for me in a way I never could?
  • How does the Spirit empower me by grace to walk in obedience?

How would you phrase these questions? What ones would you add that have been helpful to you?