Leadership by Example (Nehemiah 3:1)

Leadership by Example (Nehemiah 3:1)

My dad had this rule growing up that he wouldn’t watch something on TV that we weren’t allowed to watch. It made it safe to watch TV in our house. I could wakeup at 10pm from a nightmare and run into the living-room without fear that there would be a different nightmare unfolding on TV. I took that for granted when I was a child, but realize that when my dad did something to intentionally put himself on my level for the sake of the family, he was leading by example. When I installed software and parental protections on my kids electronic devices I didn’t want them to see it as a punishment, but as a way of being diligent and so I installed the same stuff on all of our electronic devices. I wanted them to know that I wasn’t asking them to do something that I wasn’t also willing to do.

I think it’s great that when it comes to the record of how the wall was going to be rebuilt and strengthened that we find the high priest and the other priests mentioned first! They could have sat back and offered a prayer or thought of this kind of work as beneath them, but they chose instead to roll up their sleeves and not only build the wall, but lead the way in rebuilding the wall. This was leadership by example!

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. (Nehemiah 3:1 ESV)

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Far too often it is too easy to sit back and try and bark orders at folks. I remember one time I had a conversation with a young man about some frustration he had with his youth group. “They just aren’t telling others about Jesus like they are supposed to! It’s like they don’t even care!” He commented. Then I asked him, “Who did you tell about Jesus this week?” and he didn’t have an answer. That’s leadership from the rear and it’s not leadership it’s just whining and complaining about what other people should do. These priests didn’t have time to complain about who should fix the wall on their side of town because they were too busy fixing the wall themselves.

Too often in our churches and ministry organizations we hear people whine and complain rather than invest and lead. Imagine what your little corner of the world would look like if those who profess to be Christians were known for making a difference rather and lack of critical attitude. Take time today to evaluate your actions. Be sure your prayers for God to move don’t become complaints. Make sure you are ready to move as soon as God does.

Lead by example today! Don’t wait!

Does God Like Our Music? (The Object, Quality, & Background)

Worship Music

God is the Object of Music Offered as Worship

There is something distinctively different about the music in the Bible and the music in our culture and the difference is mainly the content of the songs. In order for a song to be a Biblical or Christian song is should come from the scriptures or be a response to God. Every song in the scriptures teaches us who God is, pleads for him to act, or celebrates what He has done. Even in the Song of Solomon you have the celebration of marriage which is an institution created by God.

The primary issue about songs in worship isn’t the style (hymns or Choruses) or even the type of instruments used or not used, at it’s foundation a song suitable for worship must have God as it’s object. Churches that divide between  contemporary and traditional miss authentic worship because they choose style over substance and divide the body over a non-essential. When we insert preference into the mix we have to ask, are we concerned with God’s preference or our own? The issue about what music should be sung for the purpose of worship is simply this… is it a response to God? does it teach truth about God? does it ask God to move? … in essence is it Godward?

The essence of worship places the value on the one being worshiped not the worshiper. When it comes to using songs in worship, the emotional benefits of a song are secondary to the truth of the song. Is should be noted that your emotions can be wrong and misleading. Not that emotion in worship is bad, but that songs must be evaluated for more than how they make you feel. Worship in song in often very emotional, but it should be emotional because of who God is, not because of how much you like the song.

Music Offered as Worship Should be Quality

Those who lead our churches in corporate worship should be quality driven folks. Everyone from the music minister down to the smallest child in the congregation should do their best to understand the music that they are singing in worship.

Take a look at some of the introductions to the Psalms (Psalm 4:1, 5:1, 6:1, 8:1, 9:1, 51:1).  There is a note to the choirmaster about the tune of the song. He should know the song and be familiar with how it is to be played. On some occasions there are notes as to which type of instruments are to be used. Then we also see that the songs have an author and sometimes even a background. The message is clear, “here is a song to be employed for worship. Play it in a specific way, with a specific instrument, according to the design of the author… don’t mess it up.

Today we have songs that were written to be played in arena’s full of people and those written for more intimate settings. It can be quite unsettling when a praise band sets up to play an arena song to a smaller coffee house type gathering. The band may love the song, but it’s not a fit for the size of the community they are leading. It would be helpful if modern worship leaders would include some suggestions on their songs to help others who want to use them.

It is a difficult job to lead a congregation in singing praise to God. Whoever leads looks for the right songs for the moment for the community they are leading. Musicians and vocalists take music home to practice (How do you offer your best to God without practice?). Then they get together to practice, work out any issues, harmonize, etc. Don’t be fooled, they don’t do all of this in order to pull of a flawless production, they do it to exercise their God given gifts and lead you and I in songs of worship so that we can worship God TOGETHER. They do it so that when we have an awesome encounter with a holy and righteous God we have a method and a mode to offer expressions of praise back to Him. They don’t do it just to show off their talents and gifts… They do it so YOU can JOIN THE SONG! It is not about who is on stage and who isn’t. It is about God, who has gifted and called individuals to lead his people in a response to him of authentic worship through song.

Music Offered as Worship has a Background

You can’t help but notice that when you read some of the Psalms that there is a historical background to the song (see Psalm 51:1 for an example). This provides a great template for worship leaders to share relevant background information about the songs we sing in corporate worship. Some great resources for this are the three volumes “Then My Soul Sings” by Robert Morgan.

Even more contemporary songs have background stories. A simple search of the song title, author and the words “background story” will often yield results. Bellow is a video of an interview with Matt Redman who shares the background on his song, “Heart of Worship.” Though it’s not as popular as it once was, it reveals that these songs don’t arise out or mechanical song writing studios, but often arise out of real life responses to God in current situations.

A worship leader doesn’t need to share the background to every song or even share a background every time they lead, but the background does go a long way toward helping the congregation know how this song is a response to God and the appropriate emotions and sentiments that the song carries. Knowing that Martin Luther wrote A Mighty Fortress is Our God in the midst of depression, illness and persecution can help the people in the congregation see how this song can be their response to God as well.

We’ll look more into music and song as an avenue for worshiping God as well as the benefits of singing to God together in the next post. Until then feel free to like this post, share it, comment below, and be sure to sign up to get new posts sent to you via e-mail (on the top right of this page).

 

Letters to Young Men: Why Accountability Groups Fail

letters to young menRemember that accountability group in college where everyone went around the room and confessed their sins? You knew what everyone’s struggles were and sometimes you suspected your buddy was lying to you, but you didn’t quite have the guts to call him out. So it all broke down and everyone was still living with the same struggles as before. When you tried accountability you thought it was the key to everything… I mean it works so well on paper, but after you tried it you realized you were still lying to your mom, looking up swimsuit models on the internet, and letting curse words slip at the same frequency as before… but now you also had to lie about it once a week.

Here is the truth. Peer based accountability groups seldom ever work. I know they never worked in my case. Do you know why?… are you ready for it?… wait… wait… ok… here it is… The guys my age (myself included) didn’t have a clue! That’s right there is no, count it, zero wisdom in a room full of idiots… so maybe that’s a bit harsh (since I was in the room and those other guys might read this blog post). How about this… “You can’t tell someone how to get to where you have never been.” Jesus put it this way when talking about the Pharisees, “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14 ESV)

The solution to this problem is actually quite simple though, you only need one person in the room who can see. Put someone in the room who isn’t an idiot and accountability might work (again I know this sounds harsh… but hang in there). Someone who has been around the corner can tell you how to get there (and doesn’t mind redirecting you when you blow it… because they actually know the next step)… That’s why there is value in having older mentors.

Do you want to be wise? Do you want to grow in your relationship with the Lord? Do you want to progress on the path of sanctification (be more holy)? Then find some godly older men to be your mentors!

When you are young you are looking for approval. It’s easy to hang with people your age because they are easier to impress. If you’re honest, part of you is a little bit threatened by hanging out with godly older men. I mean, after all… they aren’t talking theories anymore like you and your crew… they have actual battle scars (from real battles!) and war stories (from real wars!). But if you want first hand information on how to win the fight… these are the people you need to listen to (because they’ve been kicked in the teeth by the enemy and are still grinning!).

I was blessed early on to be mentored by several Godly men including my dad and my mom’s dad. I’ve served with two great pastors and sought out advice and wisdom from other great men along the way. There were times where I was intentionally the only idiot in a room full of wise guys because I needed their wisdom. My wife and I attended Sunday School Classes with older couples and intentionally befriended men and women who would invest in us. You see an idiot in a room full of idiots stays… get this… an idiot. But an idiot who will listen to wisdom from a wise guy… at least has a chance of becoming a wise guy.

Oh and one more reason you need to be mentored by someone older. You are looking for affirmation and you won’t find what you really need from your peers. But when an older guy affirms that you are on the right path, you are closer to becoming the confident young man God called you to be... so next time you feel the urge to get an accountability group together invite a godly older gentleman to the group and ask him to pour into you and ask him questions about whatever it is that causes you to struggle.

One word of caution: Not every older gentleman is wise about the same things. If you have financial goals pick a guy who seems to have his financial affairs in order. Unfortunately there are a lot of older men who spent too much time trying to impress their friends that they never picked up any wisdom along the way and they have little to share with you other than the testimony of wasted years. I pray you don’t become one of them.

Check into 1 Kings 12 to see a story about a guy who was more worried about impressing his peers than listening to the advisers his father appointed.

Discipleship 101: Be Teachable

So through the years God has blessed me to be able to be in a mentor/ coach/ lead/ disciple/ pastor or whatever the next buzz-word will be, several men.  For the first several years I didn’t recognize much of what was happening other than the guys who were hanging around me began asking great questions and I was able to teach from where I had been and what I knew to be true from God’s word.  These days I’m a little more intentional and I move forward with a larger game plan to develop and strengthen the gifts and talents that these men posses in the Lord.

Regi Campbell shares in his book Mentor Like Jesus that he generally picks the guys that he is going to mentor.  I tend to agree Regi’s line of thinking on this.  The disciple maker should choose the disciples.  For the longest time I didn’t know why I held this as a default position other than the fact that through the years I’ve rejected some folks who wanted my input and sought out others to influence.  Then it dawned on me… The guys I picked tended to have one quality in common… They were teachable.

Be Teachable

I learned a long time ago that not everyone who came to me for discipleship really wanted to grow.  Sometimes people sought me out for opportunity or endorsement; they didn’t always want to learn what I might have to teach.  As a pastor I know that my greatest work for the moment with these type people will not be actual discipleship, but in bringing them to a place of being teachable (which usually involves allowing them to fail repeatedly until they come to a place of frustration and through their frustration they overcome their pride enough to ask for help).

When Jesus called the first few disciples he said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  The key to becoming fishers of men was to follow Jesus in such a way that he could transform them.  In essence they had to be teachable.  If you were to ask me to teach you how to fold a paper airplane and I were to repeatedly demonstrate very basic folding patterns while talking about how airflow over a certain shape were to create lift, I would expect you to follow at least the very basic folding patterns even if all the talk about airflow went in one ear and out the other.  However, if you were unwilling even to follow my basic folding patterns and try to attempt your own very flawed designs with no regard to how airflow creates lift I would call you unteachable.  My best hope at that point would be to move on and teach those who are teachable and hope that after 1000’s of failed attempts to make your plane fly that you would come back for some help with at least the basic folds.

But what if you were teachable?  What if you came to me and I taught you paper folds while talking airflow and while at first you didn’t understand airflow you did understand the folds?  Then you tried some modifications to my design and some worked and some didn’t.  What if then as we talked through why some of your modifications failed and succeeded you all of the sudden grasp what I was saying about airflow and this information fuels modifications and changes that work?  Then I would say that you are teachable and soon you will be able to teach others.

So it is with discipleship.  The first thing you must do is be teachable.  If you are not teachable, all bets are off.  I can’t make you into anything.  I can’t help you succeed.  Your own pride will hang you before we ever get started.  You must be willing to listen.  You must be willing to learn.  You must be willing to attempt under supervision.  You must be willing to discuss failure as well as success.  You must be teachable.  To not be teachable is to not be transformed.

The truth is that to really be a disciple, you must be teachable.  Are you teachable?

Even as a leader I strive in my own life to fight pride and to be teachable.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

3 Keys to a Good Disciple Now Weekend (Part: 2)

The Leader

The second key to planning a great Disciple Now weekend is the leaders.  Once the theme is figured out, it is time to figure out who will be leading your small group bible studies in the homes.  I used to get college students from the local Christian University or BCM (Baptist Campus Ministries) group to help me out on this one.  However, as I have had opportunity to be a youth pastor in one church for an extended period of time, I have enjoyed having kids who have come through the program start leading small groups once they have hit college.  Its great for the younger students to see a student who has come all the way through the student ministry and its good for the leaders to be able to give something back to the group they came from.  On top of that, I get to test the kids who have been under my teaching and provide them with further opportunities for growth and experience.

Wherever you get your leaders, the key is that they exhibit a growing relationship with God.  At the end of the day you want someone who will reinforce what it looks like to grow and mature in a relationship with God.  I like the idea of college students because it gives your students a good role model for their next steps on the journey.

Even though I generally know my leaders before they come lead the Disciple Now weekend.  I generally like to sit down with them a month or two before the weekend and brief them on the Theme, the idea of what kids will be in their group, and the material they will be teaching through.  I also like to catch up and find out how things are progressing at school and what God is teaching them.
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