As a result of Jesus being born, we are commanded to "Arise, shine; for your light has come” (Isaiah 60:1). “Arise, shine” is a good news command, and it is pure grace on the Lord's part. Jesus is the true light that enlightens every person. The reason we can arise and shine is because Christ has entered out lives and cast out all darkness. Jesus is the light that has entered the world but Jesus taught that we too are to be the light of the world.
We can arise and shine because we know Father is bringing everything under Christ and the days of darkness are limited. Even now we are the children of God and we have been given authority and power. We arise and shine because even now we receive His Kingdom and enjoy Righteousness, Peace and Joy. He has sent His Spirit to be in us, to help us, to lead us into truth, and to empower us in our mission.
We arise and shine because we are a people of destiny and purpose. Jesus calls us to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19-20).
I was in India in January 1999. Persecution upon Christians had broken out across the nation. When I arrived at the airport in Goa I was quickly ushered into a car and driven away. There was none of the usual Indian flowers and celebration when a guest arrives. Men who had disrupted one of our meetings and beaten the leaders with microphone stands had been looking for Westerners who preached Christianity.
There was a man named Graham Staines, a missionary in India for many years, ran a clinic for lepers and preached at a nearby church in Baripada, India. He had come under persecution. On January 23, 1999, Graham Staines and his family paid an awful price for their faith. Over 40 Hindu activists surrounded the Staines' Jeep and set it on fire, killing Graham and his two young sons, Philip and Timothy. This was only one tragic incident in a series of increasing anti-Christian violence by Hindu radicals.
At the funeral, which was attended by more than 1,000 people, Staines' widow, Gladys, and his daughter, Esther, spoke of forgiveness and peace. Rather than being overcome by grief, they bravely stood over his coffin and sang a hymn of hope: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives." They could go on because Christ lives.
We likely will not face an event like this but we will face trying situations. As we arise and shine, may we let our faith overwhelm our fears and be victorious.
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.
Paul wanted followership based on heart-felt conviction. He wanted people to follow him because deep down they really wanted to, not because they 'had to' or because 'Paul says we must do that'. He wanted them to follow him with 'a clear conscience' (2 Cor. 4:2; 2 Cor. 5:11). Here are some ways that leaders can help people follow with a clear conscience:
When a leader lacks conviction about a doctrine or strategy, followers catch the uncertain vibe and their conscience may begin to rebel.
When correcting the doctrine of the Galatians and Corinthians, Paul was very thorough. He contended and persuaded them with well-laid-out truth. Rather than rely on personality pull or bullying, he let truth do the heavy lifting to help them line up their consciences with what you wanted from them.
It is important to go beyond 'the elders and I have decided…' For example, when embarking on a new initiative such as planting a church, starting a new Sunday meeting, or purchasing property, present the vision to the people in a compelling and thorough manner. Talk them through how and why God seems to be leading you. Lay out the prophetic, logical, and situational factors. You want them to come out of that meeting persuaded within themselves that this is a good plan that they can back with a clear conscience.
Don't gloss over the concerns and difficulties that lie ahead. On the contrary, I usually find it best to pre-empt and honestly lay out the challenges up front. Three years ago when we embarked on an audacious land project, at a church meeting I invited everyone to shout out the potential pitfalls and fears concerning starting to raise millions of dollars. They threw them into the middle like hand-grenades … and we defused most of them. People were reassured.
Speaking your faith is essential, but also articulate that you are open to God's direction and leading at every stage of the initiative. It helps people to know that the leadership is pliable and constantly looking to God to confirm the direction you have embarked on.
If you have one of the foolish and controlling environments where to question the leadership is on par with 'rebellion' or 'challenging the Lord's anointed', then you and your church have serious problems! On the contrary, actively develop a culture where no question is too silly or faithless, and model being open to the advice of your people.
I have started two churches from absolute scratch. On both occasions I gathered a few friends and asked them to give me 'just three months' to help get the church started. I said, 'after three months we will know whether or not God is with us'. This cut-off point helped them commit with a clear conscience. And all of them ended up staying way beyond the three months!
As leaders we have an ace in the hole called 'my way or the highway' or 'please, just trust me on this one'. But I recommend you hold this back for when you really, really need it. Persuade, don't bulldoze.
As we begin to read the story of the church in the Book of Acts we find prophets among them. The first story involving prophets was at the young church in the city of Antioch. Here the message of Jesus had spread through the Gentile population of that city and a powerful church was started among them. A team of prophets came down from the church in Jerusalem to minister to them. One of these prophets, named Agabus, prophesied about a great famine that was coming. The outcome of this prophetic ministry was a dynamic outpouring of help for the Jewish background believers living in Judea who were suffering great poverty. (Acts 11:27-30)
The next time this church in Antioch is spoken about we find that prophets are now a part of the church’s leadership team. It is in this context that by the Holy Spirit prophetic revelation is given to send out Barnabas and Paul into the apostolic work God was calling them to. This was the launching of an incredible wave of church planting out from that church into other nations of the world. (Acts 13)
As churches multiplied among non-Jewish peoples in many different places, a controversy arose among some of the Christians with a Jewish background. They still were arguing that these non-Jewish believers should be called to submit themselves to Jewish laws and practices as a part of their commitment to Jesus. A council was called in the church at Jerusalem to settle this issue. There it was determined that it was not God’s plan for these new believers to have to take on Jewish religious laws and customs as a part of their commitment to follow Jesus. Some men where chosen to carry this instruction to the churches and make sure all understood clearly this foundational apostolic teaching. Barnabas and Paul, who were apostolic, were sent along with two prophets, Judas and Silas. So this important ministry among the churches was to be carried out by a team of apostles and prophets. (Acts 15:25-33)
It becomes clear that prophets had a vital role among the churches of the Book of Acts. These men were leaders. Paul says in the Ephesian letter that the Ascended Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry. (Eph. 4:11) Every church needs exposure to all these gifts Christ has given to his church in order to be fully equipped to fulfill the mission of Jesus and grow to full maturity as the people 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
Church leaders who operate in team regularly give authority and responsibility to others and avoid any sense of hierarchy in their daily practice. Team-led church leaders function as coaches: giving advice, equipping, training, and encouraging people in ministry.
This team approach is a return to the biblical leadership model of Jesus. The church began by being led by a servant-messiah who crossed the religious establishment to bring genuine faith back to the people. Paul's analogy of the church was “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:14-20). This model is highly effective in a postmodern world. You will not be given to hierarchal models of leadership based upon the New Testament model of the body. "The body is a bottom-up network based on cooperation, freedom, and the common good" (W.M. Easum, Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers). Easum writes, "individual members of the Body of Christ find their fulfillment, not as their ministry makes them feel good but when their ministry contributes to the health of the Body of Christ" (p. 45).
In the community of God's own Triune self, there’s no sense of domination hierarchy according to Miroslav Volf in After Our Likeness: The Church as The Image of the Trinity. Volf cannot find a connection between the communal nature of God and hierarchical systems.
So how does one formulate and build a team based church?
First: Begin with the team itself
Second: Everyone in the church is involved in a team-based approach
Third: Give yourself to structuring around team (not committees but teams)
Fourth: Create an enabling environment. (For example, you may change configurations of chairs in meetings…meet in a circle. Make sure elders are getting with with people.)
Fifth: Make team-building a lifestyle, not a technique. This lifestyle is not only in small groups but can be seen in other things, such as releasing gifts, letting others baptize new converts, and developing ministry teams in a variety of areas in church life.
Leadership is rooted in integrity. People will (rightly!) watch your lives, looking for consistency of words and actions. Honesty and truthfulness, demonstrated by promises kept and faithfulness in things small and great, will build credit into the leader’s account. People watch to see how you are with your wife and your children; how loyal you are to your friends; how prone to grumble or prove disloyal. Are you merely a charismatic showman or are you rooted in consistency and integrity? A true leader’s very behaviour expresses a personal set of values and beliefs that govern his life.
People want to see how you react when there are setbacks and delays in connection with your vision. Are you quick to abandon one project and take up another? Does short-term disappointment change your original intention? Does the cold wind of criticism take you off course? Can they trust you with their love, their time, their energy, their money? Will their own longings and vision be fulfilled if they follow you? Or are you here today and gone tomorrow?
Leadership never stops at words. Leaders must act. Are you professional exhorters who don’t actually get your hands dirty or are you leading from the front? People listen to your preaching, but they imitate your behaviour. If you call the church to prayer, are you at the heart of it, leading with faith and commitment, or do you find that other commitments prevent your actually being present?
When urging the church to raise large sums of money, do you see your task as simply to inspire people’s faith so that they give generously, or do you also give sacrificially? Leaders must be thoroughly identified with the matter in hand. King David not only exhorted the people to build a temple, he made it clear that he had poured his own financial resources into the vision (1 Chron. 29:3).
If urging people to be whole-hearted in worship, do you yourself draw near to God and become taken up with worship? Or are you still in pastoral administration mode, watching the people, not sensitive to the Holy Spirit? Worship leaders should personally get taken up with God and let those who wish to follow respond to their lead. Don’t focus on reluctant worshippers and try to bully them into worship!
When introducing a vital new development in church life such as the Alpha programme, leaders should not immediately delegate the task but get involved, or others will infer that this is not genuinely central to the church’s vision and allow it to stay on the margins. Gideon led from the front. His war cry was, ‘Watch me and do as I do.’ This is Biblical leadership.
Do you keep the promises that you make to your people? Careless, unkept promises undermine leadership strength and give birth to cynicism in the ranks. There is great power in the public promise of a true leader. Careless speech and promises that are easily abandoned undermine leadership.
-This blog was adapted from a post on Terry's website, www.terryvirgo.com.
As leaders ponder their vision and prayerfully dwell in the future, they must make decisions that will result in letting go of things that were previously important. You must discern what is no longer relevant and put it to death. This can be very costly. Who would have thought that God would require us to put the 28,000-attended Stoneleigh Bible Week to death? For a thing to be dead simply means that God does not want it any more.
Give space to creative thinkers. If you box in creative people you will do harm to their intuitive gift; but if you have the loyalty of creative thinkers in your ranks, give them room to move in their gift and thereby benefit from the fresh vision and the prophetic insight that they can bring. Revolutionary ideas can frighten other people, but as leaders you should prize those gifted with true prophetic insight, especially if they have the flair to bring breakthrough. Leaders should protect creative people from administrative norms that can easily crush them. True breakthrough is rarely the result of consensus and committee, so treasure and encourage, rather than frustrate and formalise, the genuinely gifted innovator.
Do not suppose that because you have already told them your vision once everybody has fully embraced it. Keep restating your vision in terms that people can fully understand and identify with. Give people time to make the vision their own. Help them to see why you are so excited about it and why you believe in it.
The reality is that those who follow do most of the work. They are all volunteers and they bring integrity to your dream. Without followers who actually bring your vision into being there will be no fulfilment. Much of your gifts of leadership, therefore, are to be used in serving those who follow you. Practically everything you accomplish happens through confident, loving teamwork.
In a time of transition your relationships are of crucial importance. Do the people that you serve really love and trust you? Do they know that you are for them, you believe in them, you thank God for them, and you will give grace to them?
Also, your leadership will inspire and motivate your people. Do not simply give out information about change but stir motivation. The people of God need to own what God wants to do. Deep in their hearts they want to fulfil the purpose of God. God gives the gift of leadership to motivate people into forward movement. Without motivational gifts the people can grow cold or weary. The spiritual gift of stimulating the faith of others is wonderful!
People want to know if they can fulfil their own heart’s desires by following you. They want to fulfil their personal destiny; your gifts of leadership can enable them.
When exhorting people to take fresh steps of faith into unknown territory the gift of leadership exhortation is of huge importance. This must not be confused with trying to bully unwilling people, but rather motivating through grace and vision.
At times of major transition it is important to communicate clearly why you want the church to take certain action. For instance, God may have spoken to you through prophecy and answered prayer, and developments may have already taken place which the leadership now needs to communicate to the flock. It is important that you make clear to the people what is solid fact, what is risk, what is faith, what is sacrifice. It is important to invite questions and not create an ethos that makes people afraid of questioning the leadership. Beware of creating a context where questions are clearly unwelcome and are regarded by leaders as signs of lack of submission.
As you move through a season of transition keep information flowing. Give progress reports and any redefinition of the detail of the vision.
The soil that nourishes relationships is trust. People grow and blossom in an environment of trust. On the flip side, people become cynical, critical and schismatic where there is distrust. Nothing can so nullify unity and growth in the church like suspicion. A leadership team must model trust. Trust among members of the team becomes a part of the local church culture.
How do you build trust in a church leadership team?
Building trust and true friendship takes time. It bore good fruit in Paul’s churches as he expresses his confidence and friendship in his letters (See Rom. 16:1-23 and Col. 4:7-18). As you labor together, take time to build trust.
When leading people into major transition don’t leave things open-ended; lead them into full participation. Give clear steps which they can take to demonstrate concrete ownership so that the church feels it is moving on together. You cannot advance on endless negotiation. At some point there must be public, corporate acceptance of a plan. Without well-defined goals and clear-cut steps which show people how they can be committed, you can run ahead unsure if they are fully following you.
Don’t be like the pacesetter that runs so far ahead of the runners that they don’t bother to keep up. They need to be able to keep up with you so that you are genuinely running together.
In times of transition negative responses often rise to the surface. At such times you must beware bravado. It is not smart to take the stance, ‘We told them. They didn’t like it, but we sure told them!’ I have sometimes heard leaders speak in this way and I am unimpressed – and so, I think, are their followers. Look at it through their eyes; you could be making them feel that change is their enemy, or even worse, you are!
Leaders need to demonstrate a level of vulnerability that attracts rather than repels. In such a setting fearful and uncertain followers begin to gain confidence. Bullying does not produce life. You can force cloning, but you cannot force genuine life in all its phases of experiment, mistakes, courage and discovery. Jesus was a magnificent leader, making space for failure while also urging to ever-greater success.
Change can bring fear, which can erupt in criticism. People can fear that the leaders have not thought through all that is involved. They may not have access to all the information available and have not themselves experienced the thrill of being in the leaders’ meetings when God spoke and made His will known.
Good leaders will take time to repeat the vision and the process in order to win the faint-hearted and reluctant, showing how other possibilities have been considered and why this decision was made. Don’t forget that change without some continuity leads to chaos.
Discouragement is a powerful, satanic weapon and one that must be overcome by leaders. Opposition can lead to serious discouragement. Don’t change course to avoid criticism or you will lose your way. Beware the danger of responding to the so-called ‘ground swell’ of opinion that is running against you.
Find out if opposition really exists and try to answer it honestly. Do not allow a ‘them and us’ mentality to develop. Always bring things to the light. If you discover a ‘leader of the opposition party’ try to bring light to him or her. Don’t regard them as your personal enemy nor try to discredit them. If someone is adopting a genuinely divisive stance, and is actively involved in seeking a following in the church, this must be addressed as such and resolved.
If you are truly guilty of error, don’t blame-shift or dodge the issue but take responsibility and apologise privately or publicly depending on the degree of seriousness. When in Brighton we discovered that the cost of our new building had suddenly escalated, I took a Sunday morning sermon to express my personal sense of vulnerability and responsibility in the matter. I brought the whole thing into the light and gave explanation for the changes and reasons for our still going forward. We were then able to proceed in peace.
Vision has been described as ‘a compelling picture of a preferable future that inspires us to perform’. Always be obedient to the vision that God has given you and with godly integrity lead the people that God has given you into His purposes.
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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