Terry is based at Kings Church, in Kingston, UK and is the founder of Newfrontiers , our worldwide family of churches together on a mission to establish the kingdom of God by restoring the church, making disciples, training leaders and planting churches. He and his team serve nearly 700 churches worldwide.
A well-known Bible teacher, Terry speaks at conferences internationally and hosts the annual
‘Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer’s soul and they promote sanctification.’
This fascinating quote was recently sent to me by a friend from South Africa. It was initially expressed by John Flavel (1627 – 1691).
I first came across John Flavel decades ago when I read The Mystery of Providence. I found it such an edifying book, demonstrating God’s power over every circumstance. It stimulated my faith and helped settle me in my increasing confidence in a sovereign God full of tenderness, mercy and extraordinary attention to detail. Later, I bought the six-volume set of Banner of Truth, Works of John Flavel, which was full of Biblical truth and pastoral wisdom.
I was fascinated, therefore, to read of his emphasis on ‘ecstasy and delight’ and his argument that ‘they promote sanctification’.
Undoubtedly many would regard ‘ecstasy and delight’ as frivolous when considering the important matter of one’s sanctification. But John Flavel, like other insightful people such as Jonathan Edwards and the romantic poet John Donne, understood that if we do not find our deepest joys in God we look elsewhere and frustrate God’s great purpose to flood our inner being with His love.
When I was first converted out of a reckless kind of lifestyle I was surprised to discover that my contemporaries, the young people in the evangelical church that I had now joined, were manifestly bored. They endured church but ‘came alive’ when the meetings concluded, usually when beginning to talk about girls or perhaps their motorbikes, cars or the sports they pursued. No one seemed to be very excited about their experience of God. More enthusiasm was expressed when they ventured to discuss themes which bordered on the kind of lifestyle that I had just left behind. They seemed fascinated with borderline experiences of a world from which I had drunk fairly deeply. They clearly wondered if there was more fun ‘out there’ than in church life.
As a new Christian I began to learn the jargon that we had discovered ‘Life-with-a capital-“L”’. We proclaimed ‘Christ is the answer!’ but few among my contemporaries had found anything answering their need. As far as I could see, this was true of the whole youth group of maybe 70 young Christians. I tried to find my place amongst a group that used the language of fulfilment but who were manifestly unsatisfied.
How fascinating then to find the Puritan John Flavel insisting on ‘ecstasy and delight’ as ‘essential’ and arguing that they ‘promote sanctification’.
As Jonathan Edwards would have it, ‘God is glorified not only by His glory being seen but by it being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it.’ As a charismatic I can’t thank God enough for experiencing something of the love of God being poured out in my heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). As Douglas Moo says in his commentary on Romans, ‘The verb “pour out” connotes an abundant extravagant effusion’!
The Puritans have not found it easy to shake off their ‘bad Press’ as narrow, miserable deniers of pleasure, but enough from me! Let me give you the rest of the John Flavel quote:
‘Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer’s soul and they promote sanctification. We were not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration and the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God.
‘The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfilment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones. The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savouring the felt comforts of a Saviour’s presence.
‘When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers. By the enjoyment of the love of Christ in the heart of a believer, we mean an experience of the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us” (Rom. 5:5).’
Don’t you love ‘happy clappy’ Puritans? They knew a thing or two!
‘By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days’ Heb. 11:30
We must be strong and be strengthened, but there’s a trust element too. We must be strengthened by faith. Recently I was at a meeting where I was praying for people to be filled with the Spirit. Afterwards a girl came to me and said, ‘I’ve been filled with the Spirit but it doesn’t seem to have changed my life a lot.’ I thought that she was godly, zealous and very honest and I genuinely wanted to get some answers. I began to question why the gospel healings were so instructive.
Not only do they teach me God’s compassion and power, they also demonstrate how salvation gives us ability to do what can’t be done. What do I mean? Frequently Jesus operated in a crowd. People often watched to see if He’d heal on the Sabbath. In that context He told the man with the withered arm, ‘Stretch forth.’ He could have replied, ‘That’s a cruel thing to say to me because I can’t!’ It’s cruel, unless in the saying of the words there’s power. There’s power when Jesus says to you, ‘Be strong in the strength of God.’
Salvation power must come to meet us. Surely that’s what the healings and the miracles of the kingdom are all about. They demonstrate Jesus’ salvation. He gives you power to do what you couldn’t do. You may say, ‘I can’t walk away from pornography. I can’t do it. I’m locked in. ’Be loosed! ‘Yes I’m trying to be.’ No, no, ‘Be loosed. Be set free.’ Jesus saves doesn’t He?
He told the ten lepers, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priest.’ They could have said, ‘Why do that?’ But ‘as they went on their way they were made whole.’ ‘As they went on their way …’ You see, they walked into salvation, into a supernatural dimension. God didn’t find a lot of strong, extrovert people and say, ‘Be the light of the world.’ He came to weak people like you and me, some of us captivated by dark, evil habits, ruining other people’s lives. But He saved us. And He says, ‘You used to be darkness, now you’re light. Walk into the light.’ Come on, walk into it. It’s the miracle, the engagement place where the kingdom breaks in. When we believe Him we step into the freedom that he provides. We respond with active faith.
'Far more labours, far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death, five times I received from the Jews the 39 lashes, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep, frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from countrymen, dangers from Gentiles …' 2 Corinthians 11:23-26
You think, this guy might know a bit about pressure! ‘A day and a night in the deep’ is a verse I often recall when I have an extended delay at an airport. You can feel a bit vulnerable at times, but it’s nothing by comparison with the experiences of Paul. And he’s learned the secret of being content.
Unbelievers are under the impression that Christians are forced into morality, obey rules and go to church. If they really understood that we’d found the secret of being content they’d wonder where we got it. And they’d queue up outside our churches to find the secret for themselves. Paul’s great claim has been tested through the centuries, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’
It’s about fellowship and communion with Christ. Now we must distinguish between these two different things: first ‘being united with Him and declared righteous as a gift’ and second ‘enjoying communion with Him’. In his book, ‘Communion with the Triune God’, John Owen speaks about union and communion with Jesus.
First, he says that we are united with Jesus and have received his righteousness for ever and that this is the basis of our relationship with him. Our relationship is never based on how much we’ve enjoyed his fellowship. Sadly, many believers think that if they have a season of remoteness from God, he’s unhappy with them and they end up in condemnation. Jesus is our righteousness for eternity. God poured out his wrath on his Son and we escape. We never move from our righteousness in Christ. Even if we don’t have an extended time of fellowship with him, we can still say, ‘Thank you, Lord. You’re the same yesterday, today and for ever, my righteousness.’ That’s union with Christ.
Second, Owen says that once we have union with Christ, we go on to have communion with him. We talk to him and listen to his voice. We hear him through the Scriptures and sing praises to him for the sheer joy of knowing that he’s our God. This is how we get strengthened with might in our inner being. We have fellowship with Jesus.
Day after day we experience fear, battle, hurts, sickness, wounds, unkindness and perplexity. We didn’t expect what’s happened to us. How do we get through? ‘Well, pull yourself together!’ No! Our strength comes from Jesus. Isn’t He the Saviour? Doesn’t He save? Fellowship with Him!
Salvation is a huge thing. Jesus saved me back in the ‘50s and has been saving me daily ever since. One day he’ll save us when he presents us to himself in glory. But while we’re on earth things will go wrong. And then we’ll need to draw close to Jesus to be daily, continually, repeatedly saved.
‘I must take care to cultivate communion with Christ, for though that can never be the basis of my peace, mark that, yet it will be the channel of it.’ - C.H.Spurgeon
If you haven’t had amazing experiences of communion for a little while are you losing your peace? No, because the basis of peace doesn’t lie in communion with Christ, but in his righteousness. It’s by being justified by faith that you have peace with God. Communion with Christ will be the channel of peace, reflected in your enjoyment of him and his strength.
‘He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is perfected in weakness’ (2 Cor. 12:9)
We don’t gain strength like the stoics. They aren’t looking for anything outside themselves. Their focus is to keep going and not to show any weakness. If there’s a problem, they grin and bear it – indeed, if they acknowledge that it exists at all. Paul was no stoic. He had a weakness, a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. Paul did not put on a brave face. Three times he asked the Lord to take it away. I think that this refers to his engaging in fervent prayer, maybe with fasting. Clearly he wanted it off his back, but the Lord said to him, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for my strength is perfected in your weakness.’
Strength is perfected in weakness. What does that mean? ‘Hey, soldiers be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Come on pull yourself up.’ No. Paul is the one writing, the chief soldier. And what a soldier! He was crying out to God, asking him to get the thorn out of his life. Have you noticed – he doesn’t just state what God said about grace, strength and weakness, but begins with the words, ‘But he said to me…’? I’ve underlined that phrase in my Bible. Paul is strengthened because he knew what God had said to him. That’s why he could declare, ‘I’ll glory in my weakness! I’ll boast in it, so that the glory of God can rest upon me.’
So when you wonder if you can keep up with others and you feel that everyone else is more capable than you are, call on God and hear him say, ‘My strength is perfected in weakness. I love you. I called you. I chose you. I’ll strengthen you.’ Paul celebrated his weakness. This is the wonder of Christian strength. It’s not about pulling ourselves together but about hearing from God.
When Daniel was seeking God and fasting, one came to him and said, ‘O man of high esteem, don’t be afraid. Peace be with you. Take courage, be courageous’ (Dan. 10:19). As soon as he spoke, Daniel received strength and said, ‘You have strengthened me.’ If we keep saying to ourselves, ‘I must pull myself together’ we’ll have a nervous breakdown. But if we hear the words, My grace is sufficient’, we’ll go on for ever and ever.
Paul says, ‘I’ve learned the secret. I’m familiar with weakness. I’ve learned to be content’ (Phil. 4:12). This is interesting because here Paul uses a fairly well known technical phrase associated with initiation into one of the mystery religions. That phrase is: ‘I have learned the technique’. Paul borrows it and applies it to the secret of being content. Then he goes on to say, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’
We can be tempted to think that this verse about being able to do all things through Christ actually refers to amazing ministries, power and signs. We desperately need these things in the church, but Paul isn’t talking about them here. Rather, he’s focusing on coping with pressure. He’s learned to do all things through Christ. He’s gained strength by the Spirit within him.
This post was adapted from the 1st of three sermons on the Armour of God preached at Together on a Mission 2010 on Terry's blog.
‘Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you’ (1 Pet. 4:12)
Soldiers aren’t surprised when they have to engage in warfare. But I sense that sometimes we’re shocked when we hit difficult times. We think we’ve found the secret of happiness but we’ve also found a life in which we need to wear the armor every day! It’s rather like climbing into the boxing ring with Mike Tyson and complaining, ‘He hit me!’ You’re lucky he didn’t bite your ear off!
Sometimes it’s the sense of shock that throws us out of military motivation and into stagnation. The commentator Ben Witherington III tells us that Peter’s words, ‘Don’t be surprised’ are in the present continuous tense and could be expressed, ‘Stop being regularly surprised’.
We’re in a battle – in fact we’re in a historic battle – the battle of all battles, the coming in of the rule and kingdom of God. We’re invading nations and cultures with another culture. We’re saying that there’s another king called Jesus. It’s that mixture of warfare and peace that makes things strange. Dead soldiers come back from Afghanistan in coffins. The hearses that carry them drive down Wooten Bassett high street, past the supermarkets and cafes, and the surreal scene somehow doesn’t fit with normal life. In Afghanistan life and death is familiar territory. Here, it’s shocking.
The fiery arrows will come into all kinds of settings. They’ll fly into our domestic scene. Suddenly you’ll find them in your marriage. Wife, you’ll be saying, ‘When we fell in love I thought, “Wow, he’s so bright and unorthodox and such a great guy, there’s something about him, he’s so exciting.” But now I’m married to him, I’ve noticed how impulsive he is in dealing with our money.’ The bright and unorthodox has become irresponsible. Husband, maybe you’re thinking, ‘She was so together, so sharp, but now she’s swamping me with detail and everything has to be written down. We thought we loved one another, what’s happening?’ Suddenly you realise you’re being hit, your very marriage is under attack.
Maybe we’ve moved home to be involved in a church plant. Initially, it’s a small group and then someone gets sick and the group struggles. Don’t be shocked. It’s part of the battle.
It can also invade our place of work. Suddenly you get a new boss or the expectations of the firm alter. The change is unpleasant. Then we find that we’ve lost our job and after months of unemployment you think, ‘What’s going on here? Where’s God in all this?’
On the one hand, we mustn’t be shocked by the warfare, on the other hand, we mustn’t be frightened by it. Fear is one of Satan’s greatest weapons. Initially, it prevented Israel from getting into the Promised Land. The Israelites were afraid of their strong-looking enemies and decided that they couldn’t possibly defeat them.
People today hit this sort of thing. ‘I’ve been asked to take on this strategic role, but I’m not sure that I can fulfill it,’ they say. Fear grips them and then they hear a cunning Satanic voice which suggests that God is actually accusing them. It’s a deceitful wile of Satan’s to put you down and let fear dominate your heart. You end up feeling, ‘I can’t produce what God wants of me. I haven’t got what it takes.’ Fear cripples you and terrifies you into a sense of appalling inadequacy.
These days newly married couples are signing pre-nuptial agreements which state, ‘If this doesn’t work out, we’ll back out.’ What’s your exit strategy if this doesn’t work? When Field Marshall Montgomery went to North Africa he said, ‘Here we stay. There is no more retreat. We either win or we die. We’re not withdrawing from here.’
Soldier of Christ, don’t be shocked or frightened by thoughts of defeat. The Scriptures declare, ‘Come on, be strong in the Lord. Stand your ground.’ God expects us to be strong. That’s how it starts – with that morale. Have your head lifted. Get ready. Then he says, ‘Put on weaponry.’ We must put on armour from a positive perspective. First of all, let’s be strong.
This post was adapted from the 1st of three sermons on the Armour of God preached at Together on a Mission 2010
‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Eph. 6:10-11)
It’s tempting to hear a very different message from that of Paul, namely, ‘Come on, get your act together! Keep pressing on. Stand on your feet. What’s wrong with you? Shouldn’t you dare to be a Daniel or be another David?’ That’s not the message of grace. The gospel comes to us and declares, ‘Be strong in the Lord.’
A more accurate translation of this verse is ‘Be strengthened in the Lord and in the power of his might.’ We’re looking at a passive imperative similar to the one we find in Ephesians 5 where Paul says ‘Be filled with the Spirit.’ It’s easy to obey an active imperative like: ‘Be quiet’. But ‘be filled’ or ‘be strengthened’? How do you obey an imperative that’s passive? Scripture that give us keys to this.
‘Be still and know that I am God.’ - Psalm 46
It’s a real tonic to stumble on a command like this, particularly when you’re going through a tough patch. In the margin of the NASB it says ‘relax, cease striving’. In other words, ‘enough, stop’.
You can’t skip over those things, you need to let them pour into your inner being. How do we go the long journey? How did Moses keep going year in year out, decade in decade out? How did David keep going through the hounding of Saul with the heartbreak of Absalom? How do you do this? How did Paul do it? I think God just found some very strong people. No He didn’t! He found some people who discovered how to draw down the energy of God into their little lives.
Before we come to these pieces of armour, there’s the call, ‘Be strong!’ It’s possible to sidestep this command and charge for the armour. This can result in a rather defensive attitude: ‘Circle the wagons, hold the fort, watch out’. But Paul begins, ‘Be strong.’ Strength comes first. We’re called to have a good attitude or morale before we get into the battle.
You don’t play to your strengths without confidence. And here Paul is saying: ‘Now come on, I want you to have the kind of attitude that declares, ‘I’m strong’. Paul is reminding his readers that they’re not injured civilians but soldiers who have been equipped for warfare.
Isaiah declared, ‘Awake, awake, clothe yourselves in your strength O Zion. Clothe yourselves in your beautiful garments. Shake yourself from the dust. Rise up. Loose yourself from the chains around your neck’ (Is. 52:1,2). He was calling God’s people to recognise who they were. ‘Come on,’ he was urging. ‘God has called you. You’re his people. Don’t live in the dust; don’t live in chains. Shake them off.’
Paul echoes his words. He too is writing not to sinners, but to God’s people whom the New Testament describes as saints. It’s very important for us to understand that God calls us saints. Too often I meet with people who want to appeal to the fact that they feel that they’re pre-eminently sinners. They say things like: ‘I’m just one sinner telling another sinner how to find God’. The Lord disagrees. True, you were once far off, living in darkness, godlessness and hopelessness, but now you’ve been brought near to God and He’s made you into a new creation.
‘New creation’ is your new identity. You used to be darkness. Now you’re light in the Lord! That’s who you are! In Jesus’ estimation either you’re a bad tree producing bad fruit, or you’re a good tree producing good fruit. So many Christians think that they’re still a bad tree, trying to tie some fruit onto the branches, trying to do good things to make God happy. When you’re born again you have a new identity and new life flows from within.
Paul is writing to soldiers, people who are the light of the world, God’s blessing to the nations. He tells them that once they were nowhere with God, but that now they have a totally new nature. The people who were once nobodies have been transformed into a people who are the praise of God’s glory. ‘Be strong’ he says, ‘and be aware of exactly who you are.’
The book of Ephesians wasn’t written in the context of academic research but against the backdrop of hostility, conflict and battle. Paul wrote from prison, not as an academic, but a warrior. The great truths taught in the earlier chapters come alive in the setting of conflict. It could even be argued that the whole book is building up to the sixth chapter – the preparation for warfare. So Paul’s epistle finishes up more like a fighting manual ‘put on armour and get ready for the battle that’s ahead’.
It’s a strange business that the world comes at us from one of two angles. Sometimes it enforces conformity with an iron fist and sometimes it seduces with a delicate invitation. In Paul’s day Caesar ruled with an iron fist and the same is true in many nations today. But in the free west, people are often lured into a desire to be like others. The world wants to shape your thinking. You can become lazy, lustful, legalistic. All of these are manifestations of the flesh.
Satan is still a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.
Our battle is against the world, the flesh and the devil. We’re in conflict – and we need to know it. Paul writes to help us in the battle, to give us this word: ‘Be strong’. And that’s the phrase I want to concentrate on first. The armour comes later. We start with ‘Be strong’.
‘Be strong’ is a kind of transition word. When Moses is preparing Joshua to lead the next generation, he repeats again and again, ‘Joshua you must be strong’, ‘get strong and courageous’.
What does Moses know about strength? Well he’s been through a few experiences. He’s confronted Pharaoh. He’s led two million people through the wilderness; He’s seen a people turn against him. He watched as his sister challenged his authority and became leprous, and as the sons of Korah who followed suit were swallowed up by the ground beneath them. Moses has been through battle after battle. He’s carried the people all the way, and now he needs to encourage his successor. So he says, ‘Joshua, we’ve been through some battles to get this far, but there’s a land ahead of you; there’s a river to cross; there are cities walled up to heaven; there are giants in the land. If you’re going to carry God’s purposes further you must be strong’.
Look at David. His word to his son Solomon is: ‘Solomon now be strong and very courageous’. Why does he say this? Because Solomon’s leadership is going to be contested. He’ll have to go through battles as he establishes God’s temple and fulfills God’s plans for the nation.
What does David know about battles? Well he knew what it was like to have Saul’s spear hurled at him, to live as a fugitive, to hide in rocks and caves and to have his son, Absalom rebel against him. And now he turns to Solomon and says, ‘Now come on. If you’re going to get the next phase, you must be strong.’
The same exhortation is repeated when Paul encourages Timothy. ‘Be strong in the grace that’s in Christ Jesus,’ he says. Paul has the marks of Christ in his body – not stigmata (crucifixion wounds) but scars from his beatings, the battles he’s had to endure. ‘Timothy,’ he’s saying, ‘Get ready. Fierce wolves will move in. They’ll have itching ears for what they want to hear. All kinds of difficulties are on the horizon. You’ll have to fight for doctrine, so be absolutely clear about truth. Study, show yourself approved by God, a workman who correctly handles the Word so that you won’t be ashamed. Timothy get ready, you’re a next generation leader. Get ready for the battles.’
This is a very timely word for those of us who are talking about transition. The next generation needs strength. Much ground has been gained but there are battles ahead. Moses could say that, so could David and Paul. Here Paul is writing to the Ephesians from prison. What lies ahead? Nation after nation, continent after continent – the whole world. The battles are coming and the word to you is: ‘Be strong!’
This post was adapted from the 1st of three sermons on the Armour of God preached at Together on a Mission 2010 and was first published on Terry's Blog.
Like Jesus, we must be God-focussed, yet manifestly incarnational. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, not distanced from us. His first sign was performed not in the temple precinct (which would have been Satan’s preference) but at a wedding party! But notice that Jesus did not simply blend in at the party! Rather, when a crisis arose, he took over, calling men to faith and obedience, so that a miracle could be performed. Mary’s insightful ‘Whatever he says to you, do it’ opened the way for Jesus to rule and demonstrate God’s power and kindness, replacing their calamity with an outrageous overflow of wine.
Relevant to the situation, he met the need, and his disciples saw his glory. Christ was the answer to the wedding’s predicament. We often read such slogans as ‘Christ is the answer’, but he was able to answer the real question being asked at the time, not questions which the church thinks that the lost should be asking!
A couple years ago, we celebrated the first Brighton marathon. It meant that we could not use our church building on Sunday morning as thousands of runners swamped the city, but I was so delighted at our church’s response. Not only did several take part in the race, but as a church we supplied 300 stewards and embraced and endorsed the occasion, demonstrating that our logo In Brighton for Brighton works in practice. This led to effusive expressions of gratitude from the organisers. Our Good Friday Concert for Haiti drew hundreds of neighbours into our church building and kept us on the front-line in reaching locals with missional purpose.
A non-missional church misrepresents the true identity of the church. We are here to shed light into the darkness. Without the Holy Spirit’s presence and power there is no light, but to hide our light in self-sufficiency or charismatic introspection is to miss the point badly. We must retain intentional, focussed commitment to evangelism and relevance while at the same time wholeheartedly celebrating the Saviour in worship, eagerly anticipating a full manifestation of his presence.
Recently in Armenia, an injured karate enthusiast heard the church enthusiastically worshipping and came to investigate. Drawn by the praise, he stood enthralled at the back of the congregation and was in time to hear several testify to healings that they had experienced the previous day. As the meeting concluded he came forward and to his great delight was healed!
The church is great! Let’s go and plant more great churches to the glory of God.
Jesus commanded the Apostles to go and make disciples. They instinctively went and planted churches. Church life is the key to discipleship and creates an alternative culture where heavenly values can be formed on earth. Getting the church right is therefore a vital issue and one which should constantly stir and motivate us.
The purpose of Paul’s letters was not to teach theology but to mold behavior in and through churches that lived in the light of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and enthronement, and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is possible to be objectively orthodox, but fail to live the life that God wants. So, although we do not undervalue doctrine, we emphasise the kind of church life that good doctrine properly observed and embraced should produce.
It is virtually impossible to live the Christian life alone. It was always God’s purpose that we should work out our discipleship corporately. The good health of the local church is, therefore, imperative, and we have tried to develop local churches living inter-dependently and focussed on world mission.
It is important for the local church, cared for correctly by its own elders, to embrace its own autonomy. Free from denominational constraints, it must nevertheless be aware of its inter-dependence on other churches and the vital role of trans-local ministries working among the churches in ongoing relationship.
This lack of independence has helped to establish the strong ‘family feel’ associated with Newfrontiers. When recently in South Africa we met people from Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Dubai, the UK, Australia and the USA – just a sample of our Newfrontiers international community. Evan Rogers’ infectious worship-leading resulted in a surge of shared joy, soon followed by intense corporate intercession. Enjoying fun (ie rejoicing!) before the Lord doesn’t inhibit our ability to cry to him in zealous prayer together. Laughter and longing happily combine. Love, joy and zeal easily co-habit.
God-centredness must characterise our churches. So much modern religion is man-centred, celebrating man’s skills, insights and personality. Although church planters can by nature be entrepreneurs, seeing openings where others see only problems, they must beware the danger of self-sufficiency and overcome the tendency to despise team work, finishing up as loners. Even the most faith-filled leaders need close friends and companions. The powerfully anointed David was so encouraged by Jonathan and supported by phenomenally gifted lieutenants.
Check back soon for Part 2
This is the final post in Terry's series on leading through transition. Read all of them here.
In recent weeks I have visited churches in the midst of major transition. One church is aiming to prepare its people for multiplying its services so that in the near future they will become two congregations meeting at different times. Another church, outgrowing its present meeting place, is beginning to face the challenge of buying a building and the certainty of the cost reaching a seven figure bill.
When predictable routine dominates the scene, leadership requires little skill, but leadership is never more tested than in a time of transition! By definition a leader should have followers or he or she is no leader at all. As John Maxwell says, ‘He who thinks he leads and has no one following him is only taking a walk.’ You may have been appointed to a leadership role but this simply means that you are now in a context where the gift of leadership can be proven and manifested. Real leadership is demonstrated when people confidently follow.
Such a view of leadership is in contrast with what many expect in the modern church; pastors are often seem merely as Bible teachers who also attend to any problems that might arise in the flock. Their main goal is to discover the consensus or majority view of the people they lead and to facilitate it. This tends to make them followers rather than leaders!” Charles Simpson once described a man being dragged down the road by a large dog. He was asked, ‘Where are you taking that dog?’ and replied, ‘Wherever he wants to go!’
The Biblical view of leadership is in stark contrast. The Bible consistently shows God’s chosen leaders having encounters with Him and being commissioned by Him. Moses, Gideon and Jeremiah were reluctant to lead but their limitations were brushed aside by the overwhelming awareness of being apprehended by God for His sovereign purpose. With the call comes a commission or vision to be fulfilled. Paul’s testimony was that throughout his life he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19). He counted his life as of little value in order that he might fulfil the ministry that he had received from the Lord (Acts 20:24). King Saul, in contrast, testified, ‘I have sinned…because I feared the people and listened to their voice’ (1 Sam. 15:24).
When authentic leaders such as David, Nehemiah and Gideon devoted themselves to their calling, others were drawn to their vision. True leadership is the ability to obtain followers and a real leader is one that others gladly and confidently follow.
Leadership inevitably leads to tension in that it takes you into the future. In fact, a leader’s heart is already there. Leaders live in the tension between the present and the future. Abraham’s heart was gripped by a vision of the city of God which was so powerful that it forced him to leave Ur. As Abraham erected his tent in the desert we can imagine Sarah asking, ‘Where is this city that you claim to have seen?’ They were living in a tent because Abraham had seen a city!
Similarly, Moses was captivated by the certainty of a land flowing with milk and honey, but meanwhile two million people had to eat manna every day! At such times leadership comes under close scrutiny. Can I really trust these guys enough to follow them? When asking such questions, what are people really looking for?
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