Rick and Gayle live in Wentzville MO. They have two sons, Seth and Zach and a daughter-in-law, Shannon and a grand daughter, Adara. Rick is an elder at Jubilee Church and is the Location Pastor of Jubilee Church in Wentzville & Washington, MO.
I love having people in our home. As a leader, I have found my home to be one of the best places for me to connect with those I lead. One of the things Jesus demonstrated for us is that true leadership is based on genuine relationship, and this is where my home comes into play. More than any place in the world, I am more myself in my own home than anywhere else. If I want people to sincerely connect with my wife and me, bringing them into our home is the best place for this to take place.
Not too long after entering our home people begin to see who my wife Gayle, and I really are. As they gaze at the pictures on the buffet they will see the significance family plays in our lives. As they see the numerous pictures of our grandkids, they will recognize the joy we have in being Grandparents at this particular stage of life. If they step into my office, they’ll quickly discover that I am a fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Because our home has an identity that says, “This is who Rick and Gayle are” people will learn more about us in a few hours in our home then they would in a year of casual Sunday morning conversations. It’s important that those I lead and work with know me, and that I know them.
When we first launched Jubilee’s St Charles Location, we purposely used our home as a means of introducing our Sunday morning guests to Jubilee. I was amazed to discover that for many of these people this was the first time they had ever been invited into a pastor’s home. Our simple invitation went a long way in helping to break down wrong thinking about leadership and to help foster a healthy understanding of biblical community.
When others sense you’re at ease in your surroundings, they tend to follow suit and become more relaxed themselves. It is this kind of atmosphere that provides the context for healthy relationships, which are key in leadership and team development.
There is little argument as to the significant need for theological training in the Church today. Leaders point to the increasing level of biblical illiteracy as a warrant for theological study. While knowing facts about the Bible is helpful, it is not the overall aim.
In Part 2 we noted that theological training will enlarge our vision of God, resulting in greater worship of God. Though there are countless other reasons to take on theological training, I’d like to address one final reason. Theological training provides us with the opportunity to become better writers, which in turn causes us to think more deeply.
Leaders are communicators, and I’m not just talking about preaching. In fact most of church leadership takes place outside the pulpit. The more effectively a leader can communicate, the more effective his/her leadership will be. We inspire people to follow Jesus, not just with our actions, but also with our words. Outside of reading, the greatest help in developing our verbal communication skills is writing.
Let’s face it writing is work. It takes time, energy and a whole lot of thinking to put your thoughts down on paper. It is this process that helps us grow as communicators and leaders. To be able to write well one has to think more deeply. And when one thinks more deeply, he/she leads more effectively.
In theological training you are forced to wrestle with topics and issues that cause you to think more deeply about life than what you may have ever thought before. Giving written expression to your thoughts causes you to examine them in a new light. For example, when writing an essay, you not only must state your argument in a clear and concise way, you must also support your argument. In other words, you are forced to ask yourself two very significant questions. 1) “What is it I believe?” and 2) “Why do I believe what I believe?”
Most people rarely take the time to consider such important questions. Writing, on the other hand forces the issue. And in so doing we are afforded the opportunity to think about God and his ways more deeply. Growing as a communicator and leader are just two of the many fruits theological training holds for those willing to accept its challenge.
In this post and the next, I will present a two of the more significant reasons why theological training is a helpful pursuit for followers of Jesus.
Ephesians 4 is God’s reply to the question “Why Church?” In Ephesians 4:7-10 we discover that every person who is a believer is also a gifted minister. The focus is on grace, as God gives every believer grace in a measure suited to His good purposes both for each Christian and for His church. This means as a follower of Christ, you are uniquely graced with Christ’s gift. You are not an “accident” in life or in the body of Christ.
What is grace? Grace means that God, in an act of self-motivated pure love toward you, has generated His favor on your behalf. This is God’s own sovereign act of giving and generosity. What effect did this grace have? This grace released you from the guilt and shame of sin and empowers you to live in a righteous way. This way of life would have been impossible without His gift of grace.
Paul says this amazing grace not only saves us, but also enables us to serve God’s purpose and His Church according to His will. Jesus also gives to each of us spiritual gifts for the effective ministry of the Church. We are not given these grace gifts because we deserve it, but according the measure that Christ decided to give us (verse 7).
Romans 12:6 states “we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” Jesus knows what your local church needs so he has bestowed upon you gifts for the benefit of everyone in your church. Every member is a minister who is ordained by the grace of God given to him or her. Our generous Father wants His gifted people to live in freedom from sin, and to express His love to a wounded world.
First and foremost, theological training will enlarge your vision of God, resulting in greater worship of God. The irony of this is that the fruit of theological training bears the stigma of intellectualism and boredom, while in reality, it produces just the opposite.
When our lives are confronted with majesty, beauty and power that is significantly beyond our own, we are captivated by awe; we cannot help it. It
Whether you believe it or not, each of us holds to a view of God, a theology if you will, that guides our lives. How we live our lives is rooted in what we believe about God. Consider this, if your view of God is rooted in Deism, most likely you will have little or no consideration of God in regard to the decisions you make on a daily basis. On the other hand, if you hold to the belief that God is sovereign, then everything that comes your way in life takes on added significance because of the role you believe God plays in your circumstances.
What happens however, if what you believe about God is not true? (Deism and Sovereignty cannot both be true.) This would mean that your life has been built on a lie, which would be one of the greatest tragedies any could suffer.
The problem is not that people are unsure of what they believe. How we live our lives shouts to the world what it is we believe. The problem is that most people are unsure of why they believe what they do. While some are able to deliver a stirring and passionate plea for what it is they believe, they grasp for support when questioned why they believe it to be so.
Most hold to a second-hand faith that they have adopted from people or events that have had a significant influence on their life. The problem with second-hand faith is that it is like a rowboat on the ocean of life; it is easily tossed about by the waves and current of the day. Faith that is real and sure keeps us grounded amidst the changing tide of cultural beliefs.
The need to develop a first-hand, experiential theology cannot be overstated. One of the most helpful ways to move in this direction is to commit to theological training.
There’s a word we typically don’t use in Christian circles and the word is “practice”. I think we do well to become more and more familiar with this word and its implications for us.
Why is it that in every other area of life we accept the fact that practice is a necessary element, but when it comes to following Jesus, we view practice with disdain? I’ve yet to meet a person who was able to play Beethoven’s Sonata #8 in C minor, the very first time they played a piano. We accept the fact that a person must practice, a lot, to get to the place where they are able to take on such a musical score. When it comes to spiritual matters however, something within us seems to think we should be instantly mature.
When we have little desire for prayer or the scriptures, our first impulse is to evaluate ourselves as coming up short in God’s eyes. We are wrought with impatience and frustration because of our lack of clarity when it comes to hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. Somewhere along the line we’ve equated the revelation of truth with full sanctification. And when our “Aha moments” don’t immediately translate into permanent life change, we’re left feeling like failures.
Like it or not, the author of Hebrews equates maturity with practice when he states in Hebrews 5:14, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
The ability to discern good and evil is not something that comes automatically at salvation. Maturity comes only through practice. Could it be that our appetites for God are weak because we have not consistently practiced sitting at His banquet table to enjoy His presence? Could it be that the voice of the Holy Spirit is unfamiliar to us because we have not practiced times of simply asking Him questions and waiting on Him to reply?
There’s no doubt that there could be a number of mitigating factors for the lack of spiritual development you may see present in your life. But before you evaluate yourself to be a failure, ask yourself this question, “Have I been practicing?”
Recently I tried to redeem my travel time by listening to a very well-known church planter describe the three biggest mistakes church planters often make when starting a new church plant. According to this man, Big Mistake Number Two is to begin without a worship leader. Because we are on our fourth worship leader in less than three years, I was not blessed by what he said. He then went on to say that if a church doesn’t break 100 in the first year, it most likely never will. Because we averaged 61 people last year, I was now contemplating throwing my iPod out the window. As I heard this guy say these things I replied aloud to myself, and anyone else on Interstate 64 who could hear me, “I do not believe that.”
I was greatly encouraged the very next morning as I came across Luke 8 in my Bible reading plan. In the first few verses of this wonderful chapter I was introduced to Jesus’ traveling team. “He took His twelve disciples with Him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and His disciples.” (Luke 8:1b-3) Wow, no skilled worship leader! I wonder how in the world Jesus did it. Didn’t He know He was making the second biggest mistake a church planter could make? I can just imagine the interview process. “So Mary Magdalene, you want to be a part of the team? Looking at your resume it says that you suffer from a variety of mental and psychological disorders, that your behavior is erratic at best, and that you are prone to fits of uncontrolled rage. Is there anything else I should know about you?” Obviously, Jesus didn’t get the memo on how to put together a team that could produce impact.
And yet, with these very unimpressive people Jesus changed the world forever. How in the name of Nelson Searcy did He do it? Very simply, God-transformed people are used by God to transform people. One of the primary ways the mission of God moves forward is through the God-glorifying lives of those of who have been miraculously transformed by the His power. I hope the next time I’m tempted to try and produce transformation within the hearts of those I lead, that I first consider the life of Mary Magdalene. I’m not the Great Transformer, only Jesus can fulfill that role. My role, like everyone else who has been transformed by Jesus, is to be a bridge that helps people to connect with Jesus. As this happens, Jesus transforms their lives by the power of His Holy Spirit. These transformed people then become additional bridges, who help to connect people with Jesus, expanding the Kingdom of God exponentially as it continues in the same way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in having effective church systems in place. Healthy churches have healthy functioning systems, and without them a church will indeed suffer. However, church systems will never produce transformation, they only help to manage the transformation process. God seems happy to use people, whose lives He has transformed, as a means of transforming others. It sounds like a great plan to me!
Biblical theology is messy; it has to be if it’s going to touch our lives in a significant way. Theology that doesn’t reside in the muck and mire of everyday life and thereby keeps itself unstained by life’s trials, isn’t biblical, and quite frankly never helpful.
Theology that springs forth out of the Bible fills us with questions, concerns and sometimes even headaches. But if we persist in faith and perseverance, we will invest the time and energy to think through truth that can often times be difficult. Trivializing truth produces trivial lives, while thinking deeply about truth produces deep lives.
In Acts 12:19 we are presented with truth that shakes our comfortable theology and lifestyle to its core. In Acts 12 we read that Herod has just killed James, one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples. The reaction he received from the Jews was so favorable, he sought to keep it going, so he imprisoned Peter, with the full intention of killing him as well.
God however, had other plans. On the very night that Peter was to meet his death, God sends an angel, who releases him from his captors. “Hallelujah, Peter has been miraculously set free!” The joyful refrain can be heard from the lips of Jesus’ followers all over Jerusalem the next day.
There are other sounds however, that are echoing from the mouths of others in Jerusalem, and it is not the sound of joy, but rather the pain of sorrow. Immediately after discovering Peter’s absence from prison, we read these words, “After Herod searched for him (Peter) and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death.”
One man is set free, while others, who were completely innocent, were ruthlessly murdered. While our souls scream, “It isn’t fair!” we look for someone to whom we can affix blame. But who really is to blame? Some would lay this sin ultimately at Herod’s feet. Doing so however, simply doesn’t go deep enough.
If we’re going to give God credit for Peter’s miraculous release, which we should well do, then we must also credit him with the consequences of the very same act. Make no mistake about it, the all-knowing God knew exactly what Herod would do, and yet He still set Peter free. The murderous deaths of Peter’s sentries lay at the feet of a loving God who is working all things out for His glory.
In so doing is God less glorious, or less loving? Not at all. Everything in life, including life itself, serves a purpose that is most glorious and most worthy; namely God’s glory. Sometimes this purpose is served in life, sometimes in death. The decision for which lies with the One who holds sovereign authority. But let’s remember that this Sovereign acts on behalf of that which is most worthy and most glorious (his glory). To not do so would deem him to be unrighteousness.
It’s difficult to find resolution with things that don’t fit our worldview. Biblical theology however operates out of a Kingdom worldview that can only be understood from a Kingdom perspective. It’s a messy thing, this biblical theology. But in the end it serves as a firm foundation upon which we can build our lives upon.
Why do I do what I do? It is such a reasonable question, and yet its answer plagues us like the great mysteries of old. If I only knew why I did what I did, then I might have some sort of control over my behavior. Why am I afraid? Why am I angry? Why am I depressed? Why am I passive?
Over the years I’ve been told to be careful about a number of things—girls who drink, smoke and chew; what I say; who I hang out with; what I look at; what I eat; what I don’t eat; what I drink; what I don’t drink…you get the picture. There’s only one person however, who has ever told me to be careful of what I listen to. In Mark 4:24 Jesus said, "Pay attention to what you hear.” Seems rather odd don’t you think? How can what we listen to have any bearing on how we live?
The context of Mark 4 is the Parable of the Sower. The seed, which represents the Word of God, fell among four different kinds of soils, which represent four different kinds of hearts. The problem in three of the soils however, is that the condition of the heart caused the Word of God to be unfruitful.
In the next paragraph Jesus gives us a clear indication of how these three hearts got to the place to where they produced unfruitfulness. Jesus said, “For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 In other words, the unfruitfulness was caused by something hidden within each heart.
The identity of each of these things may never be known, but what we do know is how they got there. Jesus tells us when he says, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." And he said to them, "Pay attention to what you hear.”
What we listen to will always work its way deep into our heart, eventually working its way out at the most unseemly of times. The psalmist notes this very thing when he states in Psalm 36:1, “Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all.”
Heart whisperers are everywhere; they’re at work, at home, in the church, on TV, in books and everywhere else we turn. The greatest of all Heart Whisperers is the Holy Spirit, of whom Jesus said, “…will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Why do I do what I do? It’s because of the condition of my heart, which has been shaped by what, and whom I’ve been listening to. Pay attention to The Heart Whisperer.
“Experience is a great teacher,” or so the saying goes. While there’s a great element of truth in this proverb, it isn’t the full story. Experience alone is a false teacher.
Experience tells me that my wife and I are incompatible. Experience tells me that my church is a mess and that it’s more likely to snow in Miami than it is for my church to grow. Experience tells me that God doesn’t answer my prayers. Experience tells me that God does not heal. Experience tells me that I am at times a slave to sin.
Experience alone can be a dangerous thing. Somewhere along the line experience must be joined with a standard of some kind, in order to discern what is really true. Truth cannot be perceived from experience alone. In Acts 11 we see a great example of experience being joined with the standard of God’s Word, resulting in a cultural shift of magnificent proportions.
In Acts 10, Luke records for us the story of the Gospel being preached by Peter to the Gentiles of Cornelius’ household. It took a miracle to get Peter to even set foot in Cornelius’ home, but once there, the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles as Peter was preaching, and they began to speak in tongues. The Jews who were present were shocked by this event.
After returning to Jerusalem, Peter recounts the story to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. He tells them of the vision that thrust him beyond his Jewish customs and caused him to arrive at Cornelius’ home. He then describes to them the experience of the Spirit being poured out on the Gentiles. In the middle of his story, Peter says, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'” The combination of Peter’s experience, and God’s Word, brought Peter and the church leaders to the earth-shaking conclusion that God had granted repentance to the Gentiles as well. Since then the Church has never been the same.
The joining of experience and God’s Word should cause us to rejoice greatly for two reasons. First, our experience is never enough to dictate truth to us. Never allow your experience alone to define truth for you. On it’s own, experience will lie and never give you the complete picture. This is great news in light of how difficult circumstances can sometimes be.
Second, the truth of God’s Word is meant to be experienced. Truth was never meant to take up permanent residence in our minds. Truth has an objective, which is to take root in our hearts and produce a lifestyle of obedience that brings honor and glory to the One being trusted; Jesus.
Safety, comfort and convenience have become the standards by which we, as Americans judge life. Unfortunately, nowhere is this more prevalent than in the western Church. When we are safe, comfortable and conveniences are readily available, we mistakenly equate this as evidence of God’s presence. In the same way, when life becomes dangerous, difficult and convenience is nowhere to be found, we mistakenly believe that God is mysteriously absent. It’s all so logical, yet so wrong.
In Genesis 39 our formulaic standard of measure is challenged through the experiences of Joseph. Here’s a man who did the right thing by spurning the adulterous advances of Potiphar’s wife, and yet ended up in prison. Let’s face it, if this happened to you and I, the dungeon walls would be reverberating with cries of, “God, where are you? Why have you done this to me? What did I do to deserve this?” All of which are responses that flow out of our self-centered perspective defined by safety, comfort and convenience.
It is in the midst of one of Joseph’s darkest times (and he had many), that the Bible breaks in with truth that sets us free from our me-centered philosophy of life. God tells us, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Gen. 39:21)
Joseph’s story is not primarily about Joseph, but rather God’s plan to save a nation. Joseph was one player in a much larger story that was being unfolded by God’s hands. Like fingernails on a chalkboard it grates on our mind to learn that it was necessary for Joseph to go to prison in order for God’s plans to be fulfilled.
When we define life based on safety, comfort and convenience, it’s a clear indication that we have selfishly made ourselves life’s central player. We are the story. Life is about us and no one else. If we learn anything from Joseph, we learn that life is primarily about God, not us. Which means that we exist for His purposes and not the other way around.
Embracing this concrete truth doesn’t alleviate pain and suffering from our existence. But rather it causes us to run to God in the midst of life’s pain and suffering, with the full expectation that we will find His helpful and comforting presence near.
Confluence is a place where the reformed, the charismatic, and the mission-minded converge to equip and serve the church to transform communities. Our authors are mostly leaders in the Newfrontiers family of churches. Read more.
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