KEY: Leadership isn’t about causing people to feel comfortable, it’s about taking them into their God-designed destiny.
• Tim Jack’s God’s Field Needing Wise Leaders
• Dr Murray Capill’s Winsome Preaching
• Dr Ed Delph’s Four Strategic Questions That Leaders Need to Answer…Now!
• Dick Hardy’s Does Your Church Board Follow the 18 Rules of Engagement?
• Brian Nixon’s Mind Matters: Atheism and Agnosticism
GOD’S FIELD NEEDING WISE LEADERS
Tim Jack, Apostolic Church Australia National Leadership Team, shares a leadership principle…
Wheat and weeds. One is cultivated and one grows, seemingly, by itself.
Jesus used parables to introduce the kingdom of God to people who had seen more religion than was good for anyone. See Matthew 13 for example.
The kingdom of God exists in the hearts of those in whom it had been planted. The evidence of the kingdom is revealed in faith-born action.
The kingdom, like wheat, is cultivated
It is the intentional work of God who uses his people to …
• Pick (reap)
… the kingdom which he himself oversees.
In the midst of the evidence of the kingdom’s presence, Jesus told of an enemy who deliberately sowed weeds in the wheat field.
This enemy – Satan – according to Jesus’ parable, is as intentional as the wheat farmer. Each has a plan. Each works to accomplish his plan. One for good; the other for evil.
Jesus’ answer to this challenge
His remedy for the farmer’s dilemma was to wait for time will reveal the nature of the harvest. Of course, small green shoots are delicate and the removal of one could damage the other. At immaturity, these shoots are not easily distinguishable and the hasty farmer may, in his enthusiasm to destroy the bad, destroy the good as well. At maturity, each can be seen for what it really is.
So wait, Jesus said. Let maturity reveal the nature of each.
This is wisdom, par excellence. Leaders are appointed to care for a ‘field.’ Invariably, each field has good and bad co-existing, growing side by side.
Weeds start because of the intentional action of the enemy!
• Weeds do not necessarily exist because the leader is poor at his craft, inexperienced or unskilled.
• Leaders must possess wisdom and confidence to wait until the true nature of what grows is evident.
• Over-enthusiastic leaders can address ‘weeds’ too early before their true nature is revealed.
• Lazy leaders address weeds too late, long after the weeds have had the opportunity to sow a second generation of seed, allowing a small problem to grow exponentially.
Leaders of churches care for a field, God’s field. Leaders…work the field wisely. Work the field well. Learn when to act. Learn how to wait.
Tim Jack, Apostolic Church Australia National Leadership Team, is moving into the next God-prepared exciting opportunity for his own ministry! News and links – email@example.com / mobile: 0412 277 918
Dr Murray Capill points out great qualities of Bible-centred, Christ-centred preachers…
There is often a quality in the best of preaching that is well described by the word ‘winsome.’
Winsome preaching is …
• Engaging. It is also…
• Attractive – has a certain attractiveness to it
• Involving – draws the listener in
• Persuasive – rather than coercing, it persuades
• Inspirational – rather than berating, it inspires
• Easy-to-listen-to – even when the subject matter is hard to understand, or take
• Appealing – the preached word appeals
• Irresistible – yes, it can even be irresistible.
What is it that makes some preaching winsome? What made Jesus’ preaching like this, so that the crowds heard him gladly? What enables a preacher to put difficult truths in an engaging way? What is it that differentiates this kind of preaching from other sermons that are, to be honest, sheer hard work from beginning to end?
These questions are not so easy to answer. That is partly because in good preaching there is always a quality that defies analysis. We ought to expect that if preaching is the Spirit-enabled proclamation of God’s word.
Ultimately what makes preaching winsome is the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit brings biblical truths home to people’s hearts in a compelling and gripping way. He is able to…
• Make truth lodge and settle where otherwise it would be resisted.
• Excite in hearers an interest in and desire for the truth where once they had no biblical appetite at all.
• Take the ordinary words of an ordinary preacher and make them sweeter than honey.
As the Holy Spirit ministers in this way there are things a preacher may do to aid or hinder the process. I’ll suggest four things that aid winsomeness in preaching. Preaching is more winsome when…
1. The tone is that of loving persuasion
In winsome preaching there is a certain urgency and intensity, but it is shaped by love for those listening. The tone of the preaching is not strident, dominant, authoritarian or bombastic. Rather, the tone is caring while forceful and gentle while authoritative.
This is no preaching performance but the earnest talk of a real friend. The preacher is felt to be someone who cares about us, understands us, respects us and values us. He is not distant and remote but personable and real. He is not odd and awkward but warm and gracious. He is not high and mighty but humble and approachable. He is, at one and the same time, a herald proclaiming the truth, a shepherd caring for the sheep, and one of the sheep who knows that he himself is readily inclined to go astray and needs the word of grace as much as any he preaches to.
Such preaching combines warmth and forcefulness, authority and personableness. They are winning and winsome combinations.
2. It connects engagingly to our world today
One key way winsome preachers do this is by using contemporary, real-life pictures and stories of the truth. Jesus was the master of this. His parables were often hard-hitting, but they packaged powerful truths in familiar imagery. He drew from everyday life – the farm, fishing, weddings, losing and finding things, wild and diligent children, and so on. His were not ‘professional’ illustrations that made the crowds amazed at how clever the illustration was or displayed uncommon knowledge of history, science or biography. His were real illustrations from situations the crowd could relate to.
Preachers who lace their messages with anecdotes and illustrations from everyday life and who help their people see truth in ordinary circumstances tend to be winsome.
3. The preacher has the ability to use words well
Preaching is usually only winsome when it is fresh and understandable. If the message is shrouded in long sentences, complex vocabulary, unclear or convoluted structures, or hackneyed clichés, it is unlikely to draw listeners in.
If it is rattled off too fast or lumbers along too slowly, if it is cluttered with ums and ahs, if it is delivered in a monotone or shouted at the top of the preacher’s voice, then it is much harder to listen. Preachers need some gift of communication to preach winsomely.
But J C Ryle, in his brilliant essay on Simplicity in Preaching, correctly observes that ‘it is an extremely difficult thing to write simple, clear, perspicuous, and forcible English.’
That is something all preachers need to work at. Some, however, have to their advantage a voice that is naturally easy, even pleasant, to listen to (and so I have to fight the temptation to be envious of Welsh preachers with their lilting accent that makes any message sound charming!)
4. The final skill of the winsome preacher that I want to mention is simplicity
Some preachers have the gift of making simple things complicated. That is not winsome! How much easier it is to listen to a preacher who can make the complicated simple. The real skill, however, is to do so without being simplistic.
Simple and simplistic are two very different things. Simplistic preaching trivialises great truths, reducing them to something less than they are and underrate their significance.
True simplicity, by contrast, shows a truth in all its richness but does so with clarity, with an economy of words, with seeming effortlessness, and usually with the aid of illustrations, anecdotes and a clear, uncomplicated structure. We ought not to underrate the profundity of true simplicity.
Winsome preaching needs to be accepted, of course!
There may well be other ingredients that combine to make for winsome preaching. Of course the danger of preaching winsomely or listening to a winsome preacher is that we come to love the sound of good preaching more than the truths preached.
The Lord said of Ezekiel’s preaching, ‘to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice’ (Eze. 33:32).
Some preachers want to be winsome for their own reputation and some hearers like to listen to engaging preaching without ever desiring to be changed by it. But these failings should not deter preachers from seeking to communicate God’s word as engagingly as possible.
Preachers should work hard at presenting biblical truth well. And hearers of the word should pray for those who preach, asking God to give them the gifts that make hearing God’s word a joy and pleading that the Holy Spirit would make his word winsome to even the hardest of heart.
Dr Murray Capill is principal, Reformed Theological College, Geelong and author of excellent Preaching with Spiritual Vigour and The Heart is the Target. RTC also operates SOLA Ministry College. Links: firstname.lastname@example.org / Int+ 613 5244 2955 / www.rtc.edu.au.
See also this month’s Opinion article by Dr Murray – Evangelistic Preaching
FOUR STRATEGIC QUESTIONS THAT LEADERS NEED TO ANSWER…NOW!
Ed Delph shares another thought-provoker…
Leadership is amazing. You can’t quite define it or grasp it. There is no set shape or size to leadership. People of all colours, genders, backgrounds, personality types and education levels end up being good leaders. Trying to make a formula for leadership is like a greased pig, the more you try and hold it, the more it slips away.
The ‘It’ factor
Bob Ehrlich says it perfectly. ‘I don’t know what leadership is. You can’t touch it. You can’t feel it. It’s not tangible. But I do know this. You recognise it when you see it.’
Leadership can be innate or internal. It’s a gift or capacity that is given by God or one’s natural talent. Some are born with it. Leadership often is more nature than nurture. But good leadership can also be a matter of competency. We can learn about it, study it and develop it.
The most effective leaders generally have both the capacity and the competency to lead. They have that ‘it’ factor. However, leaders with natural capacity will be limited without developing their competency. They might be a better natural leader than most with little education, study, and the like, but they will never be their best without increasing their competency though education, skills and the like.
A few years ago, I heard Pastor Alan Platt, leader of Doxa Deo churches worldwide and the best leader I have ever met, speaking about a competency issue. He called it Four Strategic Questions that Leaders Need to Answer.
Learn from his message. It will unleash your leadership capacity by becoming more competent. Tiger Woods was effective for years because he maximised his natural capacity or ability by increasing his competency by study, practice, and hard work.
The first question is…Who is my master?
In other words, whose voice are we listening too? Many listen to the voice of money? Money calls and they answer. Others listen to the voice of power, the need for acceptance or the search for significance. Others listen to the voice of rejection, hurt or offence. Wrong voice!
Every leader will be a follower to the voice he or she hears. Competing voices are not completing voices. As a Christian, I try to listen to God through wisdom and God’s word. I try to follow the leader of all leaders…Jesus Christ.
Who and what is your master?
The second question is this…What is my mission?
In other words, what have we been assigned to do? What is our sweet-spot? Mark Twain once said that the two greatest days of our lives are the day we were born and the day we discovered why? What is your mission or purpose? The best potential is lost if we don’t define the route. Hope is not a strategy.
Build your life around your purpose.
The third question is…Who are my men or women?
In other words, who is my team? Why? Teamwork makes the dream work. We all need somebody but not just anybody. We need …
• VRPs…Very Resourceful People
Like the apostle Paul who will help us to be a great leader. VRP’s aim us at excellence and greatness. We need VIP’s…Very Important People like Barnabas who are friends in adversity.
All leaders need someone to pick them up when they are down.
• VTPs…Very Teachable People
Like Timothy who we can invest our life into and carry on after we are carried off. Timothys realise mentors are bridges to tomorrow.
They are family, not employees.
• VNP’s…Very Nice People
Who are friends to us. They are people at church or the community.
They are folks that are just fun to be around.
The last question is…What is your message?
Define your message in clear language that everyone can understand. My message is simple. Cities and communities need what the church brings to the table in order to reduce societal problems. Those in church need to understand that they are here because the city is here. Each one needs the other. When you know your mission and your message life gets much more focused.
There you go. Apply it. As you increase your leadership competency, you unleash your leadership capacity.
Dr Ed Delph is president of Nationstrategy, an organisation with the strategy of envisioning and empowering today’s leaders in the church to be some of tomorrow’s leaders in the community. Links: email@example.com / http://www.nationstrategy.com
DOES YOUR CHURCH BOARD FOLLOW THE 18 RULES OF ENGAGEMENT?
Dick Hardy, pastoral leadership consultant, asks the above …
More than likely, there are ways to improve the pastor-board relations at the church…
… at least that’s how it is with nearly every church we work with — even in the best of church boards.
In a lot of ways, it’s because there’s not a significant amount of resource available on the dynamics among church boards and the role of board members.
That’s why we created Church Boardsmanship: The 18 Rules of Engagement.
Does your board currently understand their role?
In this free, brand new guide we explore the roles and responsibilities of church board members and lead pastors. Click http://thehardygroup.org/church-boards/
We believe these 18 rules of engagement will facilitate open dialogue with lead pastors and board members… ultimately creating greater unity with this high-value group of leaders and the church as a whole!
Dick Hardy is president of The Hardy Group, an executive consulting firm for senior pastors and churches. Link: firstname.lastname@example.org
MIND MATTERS: ATHEISM AND AGNOSTICISM
Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service, writes…
‘We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.’
This quote is by Dr Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and one of the leading figures of what has been termed, ‘New Atheism.’
The quote is interesting on two fronts…
• It owns up to the fact that people (the ‘we’ in the quote) cannot disprove God’s existence.
• It seems to equate God to mythical lore and human fabrication (exactly his intention).
Dawkins is correct in his understanding of the first statement – ‘we cannot…disprove God,’ and misinformed on the second: Most of the world’s notion of God far transcends a supernatural being similar to the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster.’
Atheism – not a new position
Dawkins is opposed to the idea that there is a God or a supreme being. Belief systems such as his leads to a position called atheism.
According to the Pew Research Center, 2.4% of the population consider themselves atheist. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/23/5-facts-about-atheists/). The Pew study also reveals that most atheists tend to be men (67%) and younger (38% are between the ages of 18-29).
The position of atheism is not new. The Sophist (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sophists/) in ancient Greece questioned whether the gods were real, as did many in the Roman Empire, including Lucretius (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/atheism/history/ancient.shtml) (99BC-55BC).
Even biblical writers recognised that there were atheists. King David writes in Psalm 14:1, ‘The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”’
The word atheism is derived from two Greek words: ‘a’ meaning, without; and theism, meaning, ‘god’ hence ‘Without-god.’
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/atheism) rightly defines atheism as both disbelief and a doctrine.
Atheism and agnosticism
The atheist is one who feels that there are empirical reasons to believe that God does not exist (usually through the sciences).
This definition is different from a similar belief, agnosticism (Greek: ‘no knowledge’), which teaches that God – if there is one – is unknowable and undiscoverable.
Theoretically, the agnostic is unsure about God’s existence, whereas the atheist believes that there is no God.
According to Dr Norman Geisler (left), there are two forms of agnosticism: ‘the weak form holds that God is unknown…the stronger form…claims that God cannot be known’ (Big Book of Apologetics, Baker Books).
Likewise, Geisler points out that there are various forms of atheism:
• Traditional (metaphysical: there never was, is, or will be a God)
• Dialectical (God died – literally or figuratively)
• Semantical (God-talk is dead and meaningless)
• Conceptual (there may be a God, but he is hidden from view)
• Practical (God may exist, but we should live as if he did not).
When all analysis is complete, agnosticism and atheism fall into self-defeating assertions. As Geisler states concerning agnosticism, ‘One who knows something about reality cannot affirm in the same breath that all of reality is unknowable.’ By making the statement that ‘there is no god,’ atheist or agnostics are making a truth claim.
But, if we can’t know (agnosticism) or think we know without a standard (atheism), how do we know if what the person is claiming is true? We don’t. There is no standard by which to judge it. The statement fails; it is a self-defeating. Think of it this way: if a person knows that I can’t know, then how do they know? You get my point; it’s circular, and ultimately futile.
Winfried Corduan (author of several books, including No Doubt About It: The Case for Christianity) puts it this way concerning agnosticism: ‘Thus agnosticism pivots on a contradiction by having to maintain that at one and the same time it is both possible and impossible to know something about God.’
In short, both atheism and agnosticism are self-refuting; one cannot ‘meaningfully affirm that something is not and be totally devoid of a knowledge of the something (Big Book of Apologetics).’
With worldviews void of absolutes – be it God or truth – a person ‘assumes knowledge of reality in order to deny all knowledge of reality.’
Geisler summarises the dilemma as follows, ‘There is simply no way short of omniscience that one can make such sweeping and categorical statements about reality…Hence total agnosticism is only self-defeating. Only an omniscient mind could be totally agnostic and finite men do not possess omniscience.’
Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Ph). Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon