I don't understand how a Pastor can say that he desires to lead according to a New Testament pattern, but yet bails on calling the church to regular times of corporate prayer. When you read the books of Acts, if they weren't busy selling all their possessions to minister to the poor, preaching the gospel boldly, having dinner at each other's homes, or being thrown in jail, they were having a prayer meeting. They were prayer dependent because they were God dependent.
The same could be said for Jesus…he was always praying. Early in the morning (Mark 1:35); late in the evening (Mt 14:23); at his baptism (Luke 3:21); choosing the twelve (Luke 6:12); at the transfiguration (Luke 9:28); before and after ministering to others (Mark 6:46); before and after miracles (Luke 5:16); before the cross (Mt 26:36) and on the cross (Mark 15:34). He prayed for children (Mt 19:13), for Peter (Luke 22:32), for his friends (Luke 17:9) and for those who hated Him (Luke 23:34). Jesus not only commanded prayer, but he modeled it. He was always praying!
However, if that's not enough evidence to convince you to have a regular prayer meeting, here's another reason…it will help you cast vision better. In my experience, prayer meetings are the best place to cast vision and here's why. When you preach vision, you might get some sort of immediate response from people, but many will forget it once Monday rolls around. But here's the beauty of casting vision during a prayer meeting: people have to immediately process it not just in their mind, but their hearts. Moreover, if you encourage participation like we do at Jubilee Church, you're asking them to own it by praying it out aloud. So, it's one thing to preach into sharing the gospel with their neighbor, but the vision bucket gets a lot fuller when you ask them to go ahead and pray for their neighbor. It's one thing to encourage people to have a heart for the nations, but it takes on new meaning for your people when you ask them to pray for the nations…it just sinks deeper in their hearts.
Bonus track: Not only are prayer meetings a great place to cast vision, but they are also a great place to determine how envisioned your people are. Prayer is the language of desire. People pray not from the mind, but the heart. What people pray is what's really important to them. You can gauge whether or not people are getting the vision of the church by the passion level in their prayers.
This is #8 in a series of blogs by PJ on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It deals with the gift of workings of miracles, or miraculous powers (1 Corinthians 12:10). You can view the others by clicking here.
It is the special ability that God gives to certain people to be regularly used by him to perform powerful acts that alter the ordinary course of nature. It seems that a miracle concerning health is synonymous with the gift of healing.
If we exclude miracles to do with healing the human body, then these other miracles are not as prevalent today as maybe they should be. I think that situations that fall within this gift include miraculous provision of food and finance, and taking authority over weather (e.g. breaking a drought, rebuking a hurricane).
Workers of miracles need to be full of compassion for the person/people and full of a sense of God’s authority.
Step out in faith! Go for it! If you sense this is a gift that you have in embryonic form, then eagerly desire it by regularly asking God for more of it, learn from people who have this gift, and be alert to opportunities to use it.
This blog was originally published on the GodFirst Blog.
Bill Hybels had said this about communicating vision. "Years of experience have shown me that…even after casting the most compelling vision some people will respond, 'Bill, we really like here better than there.' The first play is not to make 'there' sound phenomenal; the first play is to make 'here' sound horrific and intolerable. You must build a strong case for why we cannot stay put and why that will be disastrous."
Here's the good news and bad news about where you are at as a church…the people you have at the moment like where you've led it. They like the size, the feel, the ministries, how you run your services, your preaching…you name it, they like or they wouldn't be there. So why would this be bad news? This is bad news because it means that they are probably unconvinced that anything should change and without change, progress is impossible. As the leader, you have to be the champion for change, which means you must never get comfortable with where things are at. You must train your disposition to be unsettled with the status quo.
Here are a few ways to fight against the status quo:
1) Create standards and set goals - the apostle Paul was very intentional about what he was doing. He had a prize in mind and he disciplined himself to get there (1 Cor 9:24-27)
2) Be humble: Invite input into your life - When you read verses like Philippians 3:12, you get the sense with Paul that if anyone walked up to him and said, "Paul, I think you could get more out of your walk with Christ if you adjusted a few degrees to the left" he would have gladly taken that counsel. Paul was not focused on past success, but future progress. (Phil 3:13-14)
3) Be intentional about progress (1 Tim 4:15).
4) Watch your life as well as your doctrine (1 Tim 4:16).
We have been exploring the need for discipleship in the context of community. You can view the previous posts by clicking here.
We train our Community Group leaders to listen to people’s responses to these questions. Much of disciple making is about listening. We need to know where people are in the process so we can, by God’s grace, help move them forward. Again, Jesus heard the disciples arguing over who was the greatest, and then he responded with an astonishing demonstration of foot washing. I love good expository preaching, but we need to be aware of the fact that it’s only a piece of the disciple making process.
Based on people’s responses we see them in certain stages.
1. Spiritually unborn – Unbelievers, question God’s existence, question whether they need forgiveness, etc…
2. Spiritual infant – Excited to be alive in Christ, terrible theology, selfish, rely heavily on others, etc…
3. Spiritual children – Excited to be alive in Christ too, starting to develop a good Theology, still make big messes, still selfish, etc…
4. Spiritual young adult – Developing a solid Theology, serving others, not necessarily reproducing on purpose.
5. Spiritual parents – Good Theology, serve others, reproduce on purpose.
Please hear this, we don’t outwardly label people. “Oh Jimmy, that’s because you’re a spiritual infant.” No, never! In fact, these aren’t labels at all. One person could be selfish with their finances, but generous with their time. Another could be excellent at serving others, but have a terrible theology. It’s very hard to put people in just one category, so we don’t. It’s just a simple tool, to remind disciple makers what the next step is.
In the past year I came across an 18 minute video by Simon Sinek that has totally revolutionized my approach to preaching, doing announcements, sending emails, leading staff meetings…basically any opportunity to cast vision. We have embedded that talk at the bottom of this post.
What Simon points out is that people join you not because of what your product is, but because they believe what you believe. Therefore, it's important that you start with the why before you go to what or how.
For example, if you're looking to cast vision for small groups in your church. Instead of saying something like, "Just wanted to let everyone know that at Jubilee Church we meet in small groups of 10-15 people all throughout the metro area for the purpose of growing in Christ, building relationships and serving others. If you want to join one, signs up start today." It's better to say, "At Jubilee, we believe life is a team sport and that we weren't meant to do life alone. That's why we meet in groups of 10-15 people all throughout the metro area…"
I would encourage you to take a moment before you preach your next sermon, write your next bulletin announcement, or lead your next staff or volunteer meeting, that you first clearly articulate why you are doing whatever it is that you're doing and make sure it connects with your overall vision or values. Sometimes in that process of stating the why, you might even find out your doing the wrong things!
I have often said it’s all about making disciples, but when it came right down to it, I was hoping it was happening in my church rather than being intentional about it happening in my church. What’s the plan? How do we bring people along in the discipleship process? "Uh, I don’t know, but it’s important!" Doesn’t make any sense does it? Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we should buy a curriculum and have people fill in the workbook; I’m talking about being intentional about doing life on life.
My church does it through our Community Groups. We are a new church trying to implement this plan, it’s messy and we’re having to contend for it, but we are seeing the fruit. The first year of our groups consist of telling the story of redemptive history. Believers need to know God story, know their place in God’s story, know that it’s not a story about them, and know that God is saying something about himself through their lives. We ask simple questions at the end of each story. Who is God? What did God do? Who are we? What do we do? They are not always formed the same, but essentially that’s what the questions are getting at.
The second year we tell 32 stories from the life and ministry of Jesus. We ask questions like, what do we learn about Jesus?, what is Jesus teaching his disciples?, what is Jesus teaching you?, and how can you make disciples like Jesus did?
The third year is 30 stories from Acts. Again asking questions about what the Holy Spirit was doing, what the disciples did, and how can we be disciples who make disciples?
We didn’t invent any of this. One of our elders was trained by J.O. Terry and influenced by Avery Willis, both on the front line of what’s called Chronological Bible Storying, which is a strategy for making disciples who make disciples in oral cultures. If you want to learn more about CBS, you can read posts from Sam Poe by clicking here.
For a long time, casting vision seemed elusive to me. At every conference, I would hear about the importance of vision and could define it, but actually knowing the process of casting vision was more guesswork than anything. Over the years, I've stumbled on a few things by watching others and through trial and error that have helped me to clarify what it takes to cast vision effectively.
When it comes to expressing the importance of personal passion in communicating vision, John Wesley said it best when he described his approach to the pulpit, "I set myself on fire, they come to watch me burn." If you are not burning with something, you will not be convincing or attract followers. So let's explore that for a second. What are you passionate about? Is being a pastor for you about a job or a calling? How do you view the people in your church and in your community? Do you see them as hurting and helpless? Is there compassion? Does the glory of the Lord consume you? What is it?
Bill Hybels calls finding your passion your "Popeye moment." In other words, what is it in the world that you see and say, "I can't stands it and I can't stands it no more?" What can't you stand? Is it the poor not begin fed? Is it a lost soul damned for all eternity? Is it a broken marriage? For King David it was an uncircumcised Philistine giant that defied the armies of the Living God (1 Samuel 17:26). For Nehemiah, it was the broken down walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:2-3). Hybels calls this having a "Holy Discontent" that compels you to action. The leader will draw others into what he is truly passionate about.
Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:15 to operate in such a way that people see progress. I think whatever you say your vision is, you have to relentlessly pursue to achieve success or die trying. People need to see that you're committed and are not just doing a sales job. I believe if the cause is noble and you're committed, you will be effective in casting vision.
I don’t know of a church that is saying they are saturated with leaders. Every church I know of is saying they need more leaders! If we only had more leaders we could ___________! I don’t disagree with this desire, but I’m not sure we understand how this is going to happen.
I think that many church leaders are expecting Captain America to walk through their doors one Sunday and say, “How can I help?” I’ve certainly been guilty of this. But as Rick Pitino once said, “Larry Bird ain’t walking through those doors!” (Any Celtics fans out there?) In fact, those that seem to drop straight from heaven can actually hurt you more than they can help you. Here’s why I believe this is true, they are trying to lead before becoming disciples of Jesus.
Jesus set out to make disciples, people who bear his image. He dealt with this when James and John asked to sit at his left and right hand (Mark 10:35-45) and when the disciples argued over who would be the greatest (Luke 9:46-56). Jesus’ solution was to show them what discipleship looked like. Our failure can be to tell people what it looks like, or write about what it looks like. Jesus knew the heart. He knew that these men suffered from the age-old sin of pride and that if left to themselves they would miss the discipleship dinghy in hopes of jumping on the leadership cruise liner. First things first, don’t skip a step. Know why you are doing what you are doing. Next thing we know Jesus was in a posture of the lowest servant washing their feet! Ah, we get it now.
And then he let the disciples play in the game. For instance, when Jesus fed the 5,000. He gave the bread and fish to the disciples to distribute. You can imagine them pulling off tiny portions of bread to distribute, but when the bread continued to be plentiful, they pulled off huge chunks. Who saw the miracle up close? The servants. Those who were asked to serve food to those in need. Jesus was making a point, if you want to see the miracle, be a servant. He could have told them stories, and at times he did, but he got them off the bench and into the game.
I am convinced that many of our leadership needs can be met by the sorry looking souls sitting in the seats on Sunday. It just takes some work. I am allowed to be ‘Reformed’ and still use the word ‘work’, right? After all discipleship is a process; a process of creating opportunity to serve, to lead, to succeed, and most importantly, to fail. Like Jesus, we need to create safe environments for people to do the stuff.
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.
Everyone should of course be gradually increasing in wisdom and experience, and some people seem to live life so wisely that we could say that they operate in this gift all the time. However, this gift is the special ability to solve problems and know how to proceed in tricky situations. It is a ‘breakthrough’ gift making a way where there seems to be no way. It may come as an impression, thought, audible voice, picture, vision or dream.
As it is a revelation gift, she will need to know Jesus well and be someone who practices the presence of God. She will usually be a sensible, insightful and practical person who lives a wise life herself.
This was originally published on the GodFirst blog.
People with this gift can make excellent leaders, advisers and counselors. If you sense this is a gift that you have in embryonic form, then eagerly desire it by regularly asking God for more of it, learn from people who have this gift, and be alert to opportunities to use it.
Beware not using it – when you see a situation, speak into it. Don’t deprive the body of your wisdom from God. But equally, don’t get resentful or pushy if your wisdom is either not asked for or not heeded.
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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