Ministry Leadership Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:23:45 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 7 Reasons Why Church Leaders Should Practice Fasting

Fasting—not our favorite topic. We don't usually like to talk about not eating.

In fact, nobody talked to me about fasting when I was a young believer. I didn't learn about this spiritual discipline until I was already a local church pastor.

I've since learned that my experience is not unusual among evangelicals. The fact that many of us have never emphasized fasting, though, is not positive. Here are some reasons why church leaders ought to be fasting:

1. The Bible assumes believers will fast. The early church fasted before sending out missionaries (Acts 13:1-3) and before appointing elders (Acts 14:23). Jesus expected His disciples to fast after He returned to the Father (Matt. 9:14-17), just as much as He expected them to give and pray (Matt. 6:2-7, 16-17). Leaders must lead the way in being obedient in this discipline.

2. Fasting requires us to focus on God's kingdom. The kingdom of God is already here (Luke 11:20), but also yet to come (Luke 22:18). We fast while we wait for the bridegroom to return for His bride, and doing so requires us to focus on His kingdom—not ours. Fasting might well show us that we are building our own kingdom.

3. Fasting leads to us to slow down and reflect. Leadership usually means activity and busyness. Always there is something else to complete, somebody to visit, the next meeting to conduct, another book to read. Often left behind is our private, personal, intimate walk with God. Fasting is one means to redirect our attention to Him.

4. Fasting calls us to consider our deepest longings. We do not fast to "get stuff" from God; we fast because we want God Himself more than anything else. Fasting exposes whether we truly believe encountering the eternal One is more significant than the temporary satisfaction of food (and sin, for that matter). It forces us to determine what we really live for.

5. Fasting reveals who we really are. It was John Piper who taught me this truth. When hunger consumes us during fasting, we sometimes find ourselves grumpy, short-tempered, anxious, or faithless. To state it a better way, fasting brings to light our true self. Most of the time, repentance becomes the next necessary step.

6. Fasting reminds us that we are not simply spiritual beings. God created us as spiritual and physical beings, but we tend to focus on caring for our spiritual side. We often ignore our physical well being, thus also ignoring the truth that we are wholly created in the image of God. Fasting calls us to a faith that affects our entire being.

7. Fasting is a reminder we are not as strong as we think we are. Leaders are often by nature tough, persistent, and resilient. Fasting, however, quickly reveals our limitations. Even a short fast uncovers our struggle to deny self; a longer fast reminds us we are finite beings who die without nourishment. All our knowledge, training, and experience mean nothing when the body has no sustenance.

If you're a church leader who has not fasted for some time, consider these questions:

  • If the Bible assumes our fasting, should I at least pray about it?
  • Do I need private, focused time with God?
  • Am I willing to examine what I'm really living for?
  • Am I open to bringing to light my true self—and then repenting as needed—through fasting?
  • Do I emphasize my spiritual being to the neglect of my physical being?
  • Do I consider myself strong?

Here's the bottom line: fasting is a spiritual discipline that calls us to slow down, seek God, confess sin, deny self, and embrace weakness. It reveals whether the kingdom we are living for—and longing for—is God's or ours. Any Christian leader must answer this question.

What lessons have you learned about fasting? What suggestions do you have for leaders who have not fasted regularly?

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Chuck Lawless ) Fasting Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
5 Ways to Excel in Your Ministry and Leadership

God is more concerned with your progress than your perfect performance. The very nature of discipleship is progressive. God's purpose is that you become more and more like His Son, Jesus, and He will use your entire life to work that process out.

As ministry leaders, we are not exceptions. We are examples. If we aren't growing and challenging ourselves to move to the next level, personally and professionally, we can't lead a congregation or a team to do so.

Excellence, in and of itself, isn't a core value at our church. We'd rather launch things imperfectly than wait for perfect conditions, which never really arrive. Having said that, excelling or growing and improving is another matter.

While we don't have to have reached perfection to serve God, we must be willing to grow. Some pastors and leaders excel and grow, while others don't. What makes the difference? The Bible mentions at least five factors that cause us to excel...

1. People who excel work with enthusiasm. Emerson once said "Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm." Regardless of whether the job is big or small, give it your best. Great performers give their best effort, no matter what the size of the audience. The Bible says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" (Col. 3:23).

2. People who excel sharpen their skills. They never stop developing, growing, learning or improving. Eccl. 10:10 says, "If the ax is dull, and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success." It takes more than desire to excel; it takes skill. Remember—you're never wasting time when you are sharpening your "ax".

3. People who excel keep their word. They are reliable. They can be counted on to do what they say they'll do. So they excel because people of integrity are rare in our society. "Everyone talks about how loyal and faithful he is, but just try to find someone who really is!" (Prov. 20:6, GNT) Reliability trumps talent in the long run every time.

4. People who excel maintain a positive attitude. Even under pressure or change or unrealistic demands, they don't allow themselves to become negative. Complainers never excel at anything except complaining. "Do everything without grumbling or arguing ... then you will shine among them like stars in the sky" (Phil. 2:14-15). And remember "If the boss is angry with you, don't quit! A quiet spirit will quiet his bad temper!" (Eccl. 10:4 TLB)

5. People who excel do more than is expected. This is a secret that every successful leader has discovered. You'll never excel by only doing what is required—the bare minimum. Jesus said, "If anybody forces you to go a mile with him, do more, go two miles with him" (Matt. 5:41, Ph).

Oscar Hammerstein told that story of seeing the top of the head of the Statue of Liberty up close from a helicopter. What impressed him was the incredible detail the artist had sculpted on an area of the statue that the artist never expected anyone to see. The artist had no idea man would someday fly above his statue.

When you are tempted to cut corners and think, "No one will ever know," remember God is looking down and sees everything you do. Give it your best this week!

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren ) Personal Character Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
7 of the Most Amazing Things Jesus Ever Said

Somewhere around the house I have an old book with the wonderful title of 657 of the Best Things Ever Said. It would not surprise you to know most of them are silly.

As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, doubtless it's true that the "best things ever said" is also arbitrary—with one exception.

Literally hundreds of millions of people across this world agree with the judgment of those early Galileans that "No one ever spoke like Jesus."

Our Lord spoke a solid one thousand mind-boggling things never heard before on Planet Earth, all of them surprising and wonderful and memorable. And, let's be honest, many who heard Jesus also found His words provocative, offensive, and even blasphemous.

When Jesus stood to preach, no one was bored.

May I direct your attention to Matthew chapter 11, verses 21 through 30?  These seven words from Him are as amazing as anything He said.

Matthew 11 is pure gold. A mother lode, for sure. This treasure trove deserves far more attention than it has usually received.

Confession: Working on this over the past week, I have repeatedly cried out in my heart, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it" (Psalm 139:6).

True enough. I'm so out of my depth here. When we finish, we will have but touched the hem of His garment; this is so rich.

And yet, let's give it a try anyway, while admitting that there is far more to any of this than our finite minds can comprehend.  If the Lord's people see through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12), it's no stretch to say that we write through a glass darkly too.  In the words of Paul, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Rom. 11:33).

Now, on to Matthew chapter 11, the last third.

1. "It will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you" (referring to the hard-hearted citizens of Capernaum, and just before that, the unresponsive population of Chorazin and Bethsaida)" (Matt. 11:21-24). The Lord's audience must have been outraged by this. The very idea that wicked Sodom will fare better at the throne of judgment than they! But, there it is.

Some people are going to have it tougher at judgment than others in the same way that some will receive a greater Heavenly reward than others.

I would never have thought of that. We did not make it up. Jesus said it.

In 1 Cor. 3:11-15, Paul spoke of Christians whose works are "wood, hay and stubble," rather than the more imperishable "gold, silver, and precious stones." Perhaps they never grew beyond carnality or were caught up in a cult and spread falsehood from door to door. Whatever the reason for their unworthy works, Paul says, "If any man's work is burned up (in judgment when "it is to be revealed with fire"), he shall suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." Clearly, there are degrees of reward in Heaven with some people entering glory, as we say, "by the skin of their teeth."

My understanding of the principle that comes to play here is: What you did with what you had. Those given only slivers of light but who served God well are the champions of faith. Likewise, those who had it all and became hypocrites and deceivers and abusers are destined for the lowest regions of hell. The inimitable Leonard Ravenhill made this point in a book titled Sodom Had No Bible.

Heaven's champions are those who served God consistently while enduring the greatest opposition, while carrying the heaviest burdens, while persevering to the end.

The implications of this are enormous.

2. "At that time Jesus said, 'I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and have revealed them to infants" (Matt. 11:25). The intelligentsia in the audience was offended.

I imagine, as the Lord spoke, some people were shaking their heads, refusing to believe Him even before the words left His mouth. Every pastor knows the feeling. You preach your hardest to get across some wonderful insight from Scripture and some close-minded hearers reject the teaching without even considering it.

I can imagine some Mensa member wondering why Scripture seems like so much foolishness to him. With his unparalleled intellect, certainly he should be able to figure out God, if such a Being actually exists, and the mysteries of the universe should unfold before his scrutiny. To his everlasting consternation the living God has made them off limits to him and has given them to the children. Imagine the very idea.

On numerous occasions, Jesus said, "Except you humble yourself and become as a little child, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (See Matt. 18:16 and Luke 18:16). People unwilling to do this will miss out on the greatest wonders of the universe. No one will get to heaven by his own efforts. No one will arrive at the gates of glory boasting about having figured out God and circumventing the cross.

In Bethlehem, the entrance to the Church of the Nativity was partially bricked in during the Middle Ages (to keep enemies from riding their camels inside, we're told) so that one has to bow to enter.  That's a great metaphor for the eternal life.

The implications and applications of the Lord withholding His truth from the self important while freely revealing it to the humble are enormous.

3. "Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight" (Matt. 11:26). Why did God set things up so that the Nobel Prize winner has to struggle to get to faith and the childlike walk right in? Jesus gave us the only answer that makes sense.

"He wanted to." Not very theological, is it?

Some things God does simply because doing so pleased Him. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believeAll authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (1 Cor. 1:21, KJV). A lot of people would like to change this. They don't like sermons and have little use for a system that centers around preaching. Tough cookies (said with a smile). We're not given a choice in this.

We self-important earthlings who set ourselves up as Divine Advisors will just have to deal with this. It's how things are. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6).

Ps. 115:3 states it unequivocably: "Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases."

God has His plans and He knows what they are. I do not. I will trust Him or be forever frustrated.

4.  "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father ... " (Matt. 11:27). Just before delivering the Great Commission commanding disciples to take the gospel to the world and make additional disciples, Jesus announced, "All authority in Heaven and earth has been handed over to me" (Matt. 28:18). He's in charge.

He has the right to issue commands to God's people.

How the religious authorities must have become enraged over this! The Lord Jesus is clearly acting in the place of the Almighty. He forgives sin, gives new interpretations of Scripture, and points to Himself as the Savior and the coming Judge. He is either a usurper of the first degree or the Son of God in the flesh.

The epistles enlarge on this truth in numerous places. This one is mind-boggling: "(Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created ... all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything" (Col. 1:15-18). And this: "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority" (Col. 2:9-10).

Jesus is Lord. He's in charge.

There are no areas of life on earth in which this truth does not pertain. Jesus is Lord of all.

5. "No one knows the Son except the Father ... " (Matt. 11:27). This one must have driven His hearers up the wall. The nerve of Jesus; who does He think He is? We know Him. He's the carpenter of Galilee. (They should wait. It gets worse).

The full identity of Jesus—His being all God and all man in His earthly body—eludes us. It did then and it does now. And yet, scholars of every generation try to figure Him out.

"Who is this man?" the crowds wondered as they listened to Jesus teach and saw Him work.  "Never man spake like this man."

Jesus Christ was the Son of Joseph, carpenter of Nazareth, and the Son of God. He was Son of Man and Son of David.  He was Mary's Son and Mary's Lord and Savior.

Good luck trying to figure all that out.

What are the implications of this?  They are enormous; far reaching, life changing.

6. "Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matthew 11:27).

This may be the most enraging thing the scribes and Pharisees heard from this itinerant rabbi of Galilee. (The word "know" here is epignosko and means "full knowledge," not just a passing acquaintance).

What I find delightful and more than a little humorous is the sheer gall of this. Imagine saying, "No one knows God except me and the people I introduce to Him." And then you turn around and say, "I am very humble."  But that is precisely what Jesus did. Both realities are there.

What are the implications of Jesus being the only One who knows the Father and thus the sole access to Him? In John 14:6, He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

Clearly, if you want to go to God (and thus Heaven), you'd better come to Jesus. He is the door. And that is where the self-important know-it-alls stumble, at the idea of Jesus being all of this.

He is indeed. Jesus is Lord. It's all about Jesus. Take Him out of your religious faith and you end up with a bunch of pretty nonsense. The Apostle John said, "The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:17-18).

7.  "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my load is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). Come to Me. I will give you rest. Learn from Me. My yoke. My burden.

It's all about Jesus. Do not miss this.

We must not divorce this wonderful invitation from all that went before. Only after realizing that all authority in Heaven and earth is in the hands of Jesus, and that He alone knows the Heavenly Father and is the sole access to God, only then do we see the significance of "Come to me."

It was not a foregone conclusion that the Savior, the Lord Christ, once on Earth and doing His thing would be available, approachable and kind. If there is only one God in the universe, nothing says He had to be good.  He could have been the worst tyrant imaginable, toying with mankind as playthings, acting like a spoiled brat who delights in torturing his pets. (That, btw, is the precise charge militant atheists hurl toward Him. But it's just so much foolishness. They read one another and feed off each other's anger.)

God is love.

Heaven is available. Salvation is free. And we are invited in.

To the leper who, against all regulations, ran to Jesus and fell down before Him, saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean," our Lord said, "I am willing." (Mark 1:40-41)

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a willing Savior.  Rejoice!

The only precondition to knowing Him and receiving Heaven's blessings is humbling ourselves and becoming as children.

Since we are indeed humble and childlike in the face of all the mysteries of this universe, the puzzle is why this is such an ordeal to many of us.

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel, and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Joe McKeever ) Preaching Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
10 Lessons Learned From the Resignation of Mark Driscoll

This week I learned that Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, resigned from leading his church. While those involved with him denied he was disqualified for ministry, the overseeing board of Mars Hill concluded Driscoll had "been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner," but had "never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership."

My heart goes out to Mark, his family, the Mars Hill church, and to all those negatively affected by this situation. I hope and pray Mark and his wife have someone they trust who will minister to them and love them back to their divine calling and destiny.

It is very interesting to me that, in the past several years, other well known evangelical pastors in the Reformed camp have stepped aside for similar reasons (C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace for arrogance, and John Piper took a leave of absence from the pulpit because of pride and to work on his marriage). This indicates a new and important trend in leadership expectation since, in the past, well-known ministerial leaders would only step down for the scandalous sins of adultery, financial fraud and other so-called "big sins."

I have followed the story of the challenges related to Mark's leadership style since it broke several months ago, and the following are important lessons we can all learn from his unfortunate situation.

1) There is less tolerance for a top-down leadership style in today's culture.

Today's culture is much more egalitarian than the previous generation. In the past decades, most churches and people would sneeze at the charges laid against Mark Driscoll—but not so anymore. God-glorifying leadership has to go beyond a one-man autocratic leadership style to one who leads through empowering teams around him to accomplish the mission. Strong, secure leaders are not afraid of pushback from other inner-circle leaders, and they enjoy having others involved in the creative process of vision, problem solving and execution. 

2) There is much more scrutiny today because of social media.

In past decades, Mark Driscoll would probably still be the pastor of Mars Hill. What helped take him down was the vast social-media enterprise that elucidated many of his remarks and retorts from his opposition on the blogosphere. Right or wrong, everybody in the pew has a voice now, and they can say whatever they want about their pastor, the sermons, the church and others on Facebook, Twitter and other social-media platforms. The result is, every leader is now living with the most scrutiny than ever before in human history—and it will only get more intense as time goes on! (Which is why every leader should have a social media task force to deal with unwarranted and negative things said about them on the Internet.)

3) Love is more important then achievement and results.

First Corinthians 13 teaches us, the greatest of all attributes is love! God is not impressed with what we accomplish as much as He is interested in why and how we do the things we do. When we objectify the people in our church to get the results we want we are de-humanizing them and are missing the point—even if we seem to get great short-term results!

4) All executive leaders and lead pastors need both internal and external accountability.

It seems as though there was nobody in the group of elders of Mars Hill with a strong enough voice to stop Mark from his abusive leadership style (which he has acknowledged in public). When the internal structure of accountability fails and/or if an elder cannot stop their leader from deleterious behavior—then said elder should have an outside overseer to go confront their lead pastor. There always has to be several layers of recourse in an organizational infrastructure to deal with malfeasance or toxicity in the corporate culture and/or leader.

5) The church often elevates gifted people who are not emotionally mature

Over and over again I see Christian churches and organizations elevating people who are emotionally broken and immature people—merely because they have great charisma or preaching or singing ability. All of us have to grapple with the fact that at times our talent can outpace our level of spiritual formation and character. Not every popular preacher is an emotionally healthy and mature Christ follower.

6) When we do not build on character and integrity, our foundation is sand.

We need to build our life upon the foundation of character and integrity—not our gifts and talent. Jesus speaks about the "be attitudes" before He calls us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:1-16). A life built upon gifts and talents without commensurate integrity and character will not finish well; it is a train wreck waiting to happen!

7) There are no shortcuts to success.

One of the things Driscoll was accused of was the way Mars Hill used its vast mailing list to purchase a newly released book he authored (supposedly) from church members to ensure that said book would make the New York Times best-seller list. While what they did was not illegal, it was not ethical in regard to the biblical ethic according to some critics. Consequently, Mark repented of this and took the NY Times best-seller status off of his bio.

8) Know who your true friends are before the crisis hits

Too often leaders hit a wall, lose their influence and find out they have few friends who will stand with them and help restore them. One important lesson here is to identify leaders and friends who love you for who you are and do not need or desire your influence and power. These are the only ones who will love you unconditionally if the day comes when you are in a vulnerable place. Woe to the one who falls and has no one to pick him up! (Eccl. 4:10)

9) Leaders need to prioritize spiritual formation in the midst of a busy schedule

One of the ways the enemy gets us to fall is to get us so immersed in the "Lord's work" that we neglect our walk with the Lord. There are times when I am so busy I know I am doing violence to my soul! When we do not have a sacred rhythm in their life with times of regular Sabbath and renewal, we are not allowing God to have space in our life to bring inner transformation. This will eventually lead to burnout and a career crash.

10) It is not how you start but how you finish that matters most 

Many young leaders have started out well with amazing church growth and popularity. Consequently, thousands of other young leaders are enamored and begin to emulate them and model their life, ministry and doctrine. I have learned a long time ago that we can never judge the ministry or mettle of a man until "they go through the fire." Jesus told us that only those who build their house on the Rock will be able to stand once the storms and fiery trials of life hit (Matt. 7:24-27).

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Visit him at

]]> (Joseph Mattera) Ministry Leadership Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Pastors of Houston, Shout It From the Rooftops This Sunday

In an outrageous act of overreach that the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) rightly branded "an inquisition" and a "witch hunt," the city of Houston has demanded that certain pastors preaching on themes relating to homosexuality and gender identity turn their sermons over to the government for inspection.

So much for the idea that electing a lesbian activist for mayor would have no negative consequences on the religious freedoms of the people of Houston. So much for gay-activist "tolerance."

It was bad enough when Mayor Annise Parker undermined the will of the state by campaigning nationally for the redefinition of marriage when the people of Texas had declared in overwhelming fashion that they did not want marriage redefined.

And it was bad enough when she began to refer to her partner as the "first lady." (What does that make Mayor Parker?)

But it went beyond bad when Parker made clear that getting an LGBT ordinance passed in Houston was an "intensely personal" thing to her. Yes, she said, "The debate is about me. ... It's not academic. It is my life that is being discussed."

What happened to her being an elected official who was put in office to serve the people? What of the massive outpouring of calls to other elected officials protesting the bill?

As the Rev. Max Miller of the Baptist Ministers Association of Houston and Vicinity stated in response to Parker's public comments, "One thing we did hear: It's personal. You cannot represent the people of this city on a personal matter."

Or, as expressed by conservative City Councilman Michael Kubosh, also responding directly to Parker in the same public meeting, "I know you say it's about you, but, mayor, this is really about all of us. It's not really about you; it's about everybody here."

At the heart of the opposition to the bill was concern expressed over the transgender bathroom ordinance. This would allow anyone who identified as transgender to use the bathroom of their choice, regardless of their biological sex, thereby ignoring the rights of a multitude of women and men who would find this a real intrusion.

As noted by Steve Riggle, senior pastor of Grace Community Church and an Executive Committee member of the Houston Area Pastor Council (HAPC), "Forcing women in particular using city facilities to be subjected to cross-dressing men invading their privacy is beyond the pale and offensive to every standard of decency."

The bill also would open the door to potential sexual predators who could use this ordinance as a guise for their perversion.

Unfortunately, Parker was able to push the bill through, despite the opposition, also succeeding in having a petition thrown out that challenged the bill. (It appears that the petition was wrongly rejected as well.)

Now, in a ridiculous attempt to retaliate against those pastors and bully them, Parker's office is demanding that these Christian leaders turn over their sermon texts relating to homosexuality and transgender issues. Pastor Riggle was even "ordered to hand over 'all communications with members of your congregation' regarding the non-discrimination law."

For good reason, the ADF stated that the mayor's actions were "overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious," and they should be flatly rejected for those very reasons. As the ADF explained, "the city is illegitimately demanding that the pastors ... turn over their constitutionally protected sermons and other communications simply so the city can see if the pastors have ever opposed or criticized the city."

In light of this egregious example of gay-activist bullying—the very kind that I and others have documented for years now—I urge every pastor in the city of Houston to address the issues of homosexuality and transgenderism this Sunday, announcing this for the entire world to hear but at the same time, refusing to obey the unrighteous decree of Mayor Parker's office to turn your sermons over for government scrutiny. (This should be done respectfully, in the spirit of Acts 4:19-20; 5:28-29.)

I also urge every congregational member in Houston to tell your pastors that you are standing with them, encouraging them to stand up for what is right in the face of bullying and intimidation.

To my fellow leaders in Houston and around America, let's seize this moment and use it for the glory of God, preaching His love for all people and His real interest in those who identify as LGBT while at the same time proclaiming that His ways are best, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and that gender distinctives are not to be discarded or despised.

You have been given a unique opportunity in American history. Now is your time to shine boldly, publicly and without shame.

We are all standing with you.

Michael Brown is the author of Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

]]> (Michael Brown) Culture Thu, 16 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Pastors to Houston Mayor: Don't Mess With Texas Pulpits

Christians across the nation are mobilizing to defend a group of Houston pastors who were ordered by the city to turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender-identity issues or Houston's mayor. Their message is simple: Don't Mess with Texas Preachers.

Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, is one of the five ministers who received a subpoena. He said he will not be intimidated by Annise Parker, who is the city's first openly lesbian mayor, nor will he comply with the city's demands.

"My answer to that is: 'Bring it on,'" he said.

Houston's city attorney issued the subpoenas in a response to a lawsuit filed related to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (H.E.R.O.), the city's new non-discrimination ordinance, also known as the "Bathroom Bill."

The new law, which has yet to take effect, would (among other things) allow men who identify as women to use the restrooms of their choice—and vice versa. Opponents launched a petition drive to put the issue on the ballot. 

However, the city threw out the petitions claiming there were not enough legitimate signatures. Opponents then filed a lawsuit, which led the city to issue the subpoenas. 

Ironically, none of the five subpoenaed pastors are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Welch told me pastors across the Lone Star State are mobilizing and in the very near future they plan to hold a "Don't Mess with Texas Pulpit Sunday" event.

"We are dealing with bullies used to getting away with abuse of power," Welch said. "We called their bluff on this."

But City Attorney David Feldman told me that doesn't matter. He said in an interview Tuesday that the five pastors were actively involved in leading the fight against the Bathroom Bill and launching the petition drive.

"They are not party plaintiffs but they certainly appeared before council repeatedly regarding the ordinance and the petition," Feldman told me.

The city attorney defended the decision to issue the subpoenas.

"This petition was organized at the churches," he said. "That's where the organizing drive took place. That's where rallies were held. That's where signing parties were held."

Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission told me the city needs to mind its own business.

"The government has absolutely no reason to bully congregations who are speaking out about what they believe," he said. "It's none of the government's business."

Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm specializing in religious cases, is representing the pastors. They accused City Hall of going on a fishing expedition. 

"City council members are supposed to be public servants, not 'Big Brother' overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge," ADF attorney Erik Stanley said. "This is designed to intimidate pastors.

Attorney Feldman denied that was the case.

"I'm just doing my job," he said. "I don't have any issues with these pastors. What I'm doing is defending a lawsuit that was brought against us."

Moore said he could not believe the city had taken such drastic steps.

"It didn't sound like something that would happen in America," he told me. "It is shocking in its audacity and it is buffoonish in its strategy. I can't imagine who in City Hall thought this was a good idea."

And that brings us back to Attorney Feldman—who dutifully took full responsibility and said the mayor had absolutely nothing to do with the subpoenas. He said she was never informed.

So at what point was Mayor Parker informed that her administration had declared war on the fine Christian pastors of the nation's fourth largest city?

"When you guys broke the story," he said.

I'm not sure what's harder to believe—that the mayor wasn't involved or that she reads my column.

Moore called the Houston incident a case of "legal bullying" and addressed it in a recent blog posting:

"The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and we will. But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever."

Ultimately, this is not about gays or lesbians or a Bathroom Bill. This is about the U.S. Constitution. This is about religious liberty.

This is about a group of pastors refusing to comply with the demands of the government. And they do so at the risk of being held in contempt of court.

Heaven forbid that happens. But if it does, I for one will gladly fly to Houston with a toothbrush in hand and join these brave men of God—behind bars.

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is God Less America.

]]> (Todd Starnes) Culture Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Radical Left Fully Tips Its Hand in Houston

As reported Tuesday, the city of Houston has issued subpoenas for several pastors to hand over all their sermons regarding homosexuality, gender identity or Mayor Annise Parker.

The far-left has now finally fully tipped their hand. Years ago when it came to laws related to human sexuality and marriage equality, they told us they did not want government in their bedroom, all under the guise of tolerance and diversity. Now, once these activists are in power they have shown what they really have been after. They want the government to be in the bathroom and in the churches across America: in the bathroom because Houston's non-discrimination ordinance allows for men to use the ladies' bathroom and vice versa; in the church because they are now trying to intimidate pastors regarding the preaching of sermons that disagree with their values and agenda.

Essentially the radical left has shown they are the true bullies and their past quest for a diverse culture was a lie since they are intolerant of divergent views. This radical agenda goes in line with the present administration that utilized the IRS to target conservative groups. Their totalitarian plan all along has been to preach tolerance until they had enough time to get in power. 

Every religious leader in America should be concerned about these new developments. Every pulpit should denounce this ordinance and action this weekend. This is now going to be remembered as the "ground zero" for religious liberty in America. If this law is upheld in Houston, it is time for the "freedom revolution" to take place.

We are rapidly moving into the next phase of the Civil Rights Movement, which is for religious liberty. In the same way the Civil Rights Movement of the twentieth century with Dr. King required acts of civil disobedience to get forward motion, this new movement will require nothing less than the same sacrifice from the clergy and religious people from every town and hamlet in the nation.

This is now going to be a big test for Joel Osteen and other "seeker-friendly" voices like him. Will Osteen stand with his brothers and sisters in Houston, where his megachurch is located? It is also a huge test for all pastors in America who have remained silent on social issues. If they continue to remain silent, the abridgment of free speech will soon come to every pulpit. Not only that, cities across America will also penalize biblical churches with revocation of tax exempt status, fines, use of zoning laws to limit the purchasing of property, and the denial of certificate of occupancy status.

The crisis we are now in is the fault of the "seeker-friendly" evangelical movement that attempts to preach the gospel while compromising their core convictions as it relates to culture. Pastor Steve Riggle, one of the Houston pastors subpoenaed, has proven that you can stand for biblical values and still have a megachurch in a liberal city.

True believers desire the truth. They are sick and tired of a watered-down application of the gospel. Christians are called to love every person irrespective of their lifestyle or religious beliefs. (See my article "It's Time to Rewrite the Race, Religion and Gay Narrative.") Christians are called to serve their cities and lead the world in compassionate ministry. But like Jesus, they are also called to testify to the truth before secular kings (John 18:36-37), which is why Jesus was crucified.

May every believer in America wake up and begin the "Freedom Revolution". The peace and prosperity of the world is depending upon us. This is not just an issue related to religious liberty, but has to do with the freedom to express one's beliefs. This is the most out-in-the-open, egregious attack on liberty in recent memory. Those who have been elected to uphold the Constitution are now trampling upon the liberties they have been entrusted to protect.

If this act of tyranny is not mentioned from the pulpit this Sunday, then chances are that no form of government abuse will ever be mentioned.

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, New York.

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Culture Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
How to Overcome Roadblocks in Your Senior Pastor Succession Plan

Most succession plans fail. It's not because the plan was bad; it's most often because of an expectation for the process to go exactly like the written plan indicated.

That never happens. Life happens! When "life happens," the assumption is that the plan was flawed, the deal is over (abandoned), and the players scramble to grab for scraps at the table.

Before I go further, I want to applaud any written succession plan for the senior pastor of a long-tenured church, especially large churches. Most churches never produce one at all. Then the pastor resigns, or for some other reason leaves, and the church begins to scramble—and often scatter.

I've read or listened to a number of succession plans from large churches. Candidly, I've never been exposed to a plan that seemed dumb or doomed from the start. The plans are well thought through, intelligent and executed by well-intentioned Christian leaders.

So why do most seem to break down? I have observed three primary reasons:

1. A power struggle. The war stories we have all heard about succession plans blowing up usually involve a power struggle of some kind. First, it's not wise to assume all power struggles come from ego, pride or desire to control. Power struggles can be found among the best of leaders. Leaders who are passionate about their work and what they believe to be best for the organization can easily find themselves caught in a battle of authority.

Either way—from good motives or not-so-pure motives—when human emotion mixes in with purpose, "in the name of the church," the results can be explosive. A willingness to lean into mutual voluntary submission is a great first step to overcome power struggles.

2. A relational breakdown. Power struggles almost always lead to the deterioration of relationships. This isn't the only cause for a breakdown; there is a wide variety of possibilities from lack of trust to fear and insecurity. Among the list of possibilities, poor communication is usually in the center of the mix.

Both communication extremes are common. One extreme is a lack of communication, and the other is toxic communication that leads to misunderstanding. The curious thing is that in both cases, talking is the solution! But honest and productive conversation may require a mediator if the relationship has broken down too far.

3. Unmet expectations. Expectations that are not fulfilled compose a significant element of the relational failures I mentioned in the previous point. But this is such a significant issue that I'm listing it on its own for emphasis. James 4:1-2 tells us that we fight with each other because we don't get what we want. This is pretty basic and yet very true. The variations in the story are limitless, and when people, even good Christian leaders, don't get what they believe was promised or possibly what they have earned, justice buttons get pushed and previously well-laid plans are blown to little pieces.

You can see the connectivity from power struggles to relational breakdowns and unmet expectations. If you know to look for these and do your best to prevent them up front, you will be ahead of the game!

Succession plans do work. A good friend, Bob Taylor, co-founder of Taylor Guitars based out of El Cajon, California, (near San Diego) did a brilliant job in naming his heir apparent master guitar designer and builder. Andy Powers is now working side by side with Bob walking out the transition.

Bob thought long and deep, kept the plan simple, wrote it down, and put it into action. It's working brilliantly. Succession plans work in churches too, but we need more success stories. The following thoughts are not meant to be a plan for you, but a guideline to help you establish your own plan that works:

A. Determine your philosophy. It's important to make sure the board and key leaders agree on what they believe about a pastoral transition. Success starts there! There are at least four main schools of thought. (Not in any order.) First, the majority of the church leaders don't believe a succession plan is needed. Second, the current pastor should select, train and install the next pastor. Third, the board and or denominational leaders should select the next pastor. Fourth, the congregation must hear the prospective pastor preach, and then they vote.

There are combinations of these that lean to more mystical and some that lean toward more structural processes. It matters that you agree on your approach (Don't assume that all the key leaders agree).

B. Is the pastor ready to leave? This point is tricky, it's complicated, and it gets very personal. Very few leaders know when it's time to leave. Most of us just can't see it. We all want to be of value for as long as possible. Since most can't see it, we must depend on a few honest insiders who come alongside and talk truth about timing. Done right, this is a gift. Unfortunately, it's all too often done in hallways and secret board meetings. What could have been a wonderful and celebrated transition turns into a divided congregation and a pastor who is hurt. Give the process a little more time. Don't rush it. Talk honestly, and make sure everyone is ready.

C. The actual transition key. It's rare that the former senior pastor is the real problem, and it's rare that the new senior pastor is actually the problem. It's the gap between the two that causes the issue. It's not unlike two runners in an Olympic relay race.

Both runners are world-class, but the entire race can be won or lost in the handing off of the baton. So often that's where the trouble begins. It's imperative that this part of the plan is written clearly and succinctly. It should cover the following points: 

Who is in authority? How are decisions made? Who is the primary communicator from the platform?

D. Allow the plan to breathe. The end goal is not for the plan to be perfectly executed; the goal is for the transition to work! Give the Holy Spirit room to move. You may need to make slight adjustments to timelines, financial plans or ministry agreements after the transition. I'm not suggesting wholesale changes, but you would be amazed how much oxygen you get from a little compromise (mutual voluntary submission).

E. Pray! Ultimately, the best plans written and executed by the best people still need much prayer. Ask God for His covering and blessing! Seek His wisdom throughout the process. It makes all the difference.

I pray the best transition for you—if and when the time comes.

Dan Reiland is Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Dan Reiland) Administration Wed, 15 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
To the Pastor Considering an Extramarital Affair

This post is from a friend of mine, Dr. Jennifer Degler. Jennifer pulls no punches. But she's a difference-maker in the kingdom. I'm thankful for her influence. She writes:

Dear Pastor,

If you are a pastor considering or engaging in an affair, may I offer you points to ponder from a psychologist who has been honored to work with hurting people on all sides of an affair?

1. The biggest lie you are telling yourself is, "I am attracted to my affair partner because of things that are wrong with my spouse."

Here's the truth: "I am attracted to my affair partner because of things that are wrong in me." An affair will not fix what's wrong with you. Having an emotional or sexual affair is using another person as a pain reliever. They are your oxycodone, your drug of choice. You are using him or her as a distraction from your brokenness.

The bottom line: An affair is using another person in the worst way and calling it love.

2. You are thinking like a narcissist if you believe things like, "The importance of my ministry should earn me a pass on church discipline or making apologies" or "I don't need to step down from leadership" or "Exceptions should be made for me" or even "I am entitled to this affair."

Bottom line: You are not that special. None of us is.

3. Your affair or "inappropriate relationship" (the latest euphemism) will come out eventually. Don't fool yourself; it's going to be uncovered and made public. Thanks to social media, thousands of people will know within days.

Bottom line: Anyone who Googles your name will find your affair on the first page of search results.

4. When your secret is exposed, your family, friends, staff and church members will feel violated, and those who have deeper emotional wounds from an alcoholic, abusive, self-absorbed, or absent parent or spouse will be affected in ways you can't even imagine.

The current betrayal and abandonment they feel in reaction to your actions will stir up old hurts. They had grown to trust you as their pastor, to believe they had finally found a truly good man or woman who loved them too much to lie. Your affair will leave them reeling.

Best-case scenario: They share their emotional upheaval with caring friends and a counselor. Their church pulls together to provide support for many months.

More common scenario: They deal with their emotional upheaval by either 1) checking out (shutting down emotionally, withdrawing from others, or leaving the organized church, perhaps forever) or 2) acting out (self-destructive behaviors like drinking or eating too much, diving into unwise relationships, etc.).

Bottom line: Your affair will shipwreck wounded people who already struggle to keep afloat emotionally.

5. There is hope for the minister who's had an affair. It starts with confessing to your spouse, trusted friends, an elder board or personnel committee, and then cutting off all contact with your affair partner.

In the weeks (and consequences) to follow, you may regret confessing when you see the devastation in your family and ministry. You will spend precious time and money on counseling that you may doubt can help you. You will wonder if God can make you whole. You may hate yourself.

It will be the most awful time of your life. But you will also feel relief when you have nothing to hide.

Your dedication to recovery will help you regain the respect of your children and friends. With tremendous work, your marriage can heal. People will move on to other gossip. You will someday like yourself again.

Bottom line: If you will go through the firestorm ignited when a pastor admits an affair, you will see God bring beauty from the ashes of your life.

There is hope for you, pastor.

Jennifer Degler, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Personal Character Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Unintentional Pharisees: Revealing and Redeeming the Hypocrite Within

If you're like me, you hate Pharisees. Jesus didn't have much use for them either ... and of course, I want to be like Jesus!

Also, let's be honest, few things are more fulfilling than sending out a tweet about a case of hypocrisy in a Pharisee.

These days Pharisees take to social media and gladly point out the shortcomings of others. It has never been easier for a Pharisee to gain a following. The more argumentative and harsh the tone expressed, the more appealing Pharisees are to the judgmental masses.

Pharisees are an easy target, and I don't mind drawing a bead because I see the spiritual damage that grows in the culture of legalism.

No pastor or church leader likes to see the spirit of judgmentalism in others. In fact, Pharisees seem to be the only ones who like themselves. But this is a blind spot in our own lives, too. Pharisaical attitudes are often revealed through difficult situations.

Rarely does a disciple of Jesus see a spirit of judgment and legalism in him or herself.

In other words, it is easy to spot a Pharisee, unless, of course, you are looking in the mirror.

So how do we discover and deal with the Pharisee inside us?

Revealing the Pharisee

Soon after coming to Christ, I was discipled by a guy named Steve. Steve gave me a book. As I recall, it was the first Christian book I read. The book was The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

As a teen, you can imagine that I found the book quite challenging. I didn't understand it all, but I especially didn't understand how you can be a Christian and not take it seriously.

I wondered about others who called themselves Christians, "So, you believe a man was totally dead on Friday, and then on Sunday ... He's more alive than He had been on Thursday! But that doesn't change everything about what you value and how you live?"

The reality is that the Pharisaical spirit often hides in fields of high expectations.

I noticed a significant disconnect between belief and lifestyle among many who claimed to be Christians. As I began to follow Christ, I started noticing that not all believers love the Lord with the passion and intensity I thought I had—or thought they should have.

This became a source of frustration to me.

Along the way I would start a Bible study while in high school, but it sometimes seemed that no one was as committed to it as I was. By college, I was a youth pastor, and still felt more committed to the process than everyone else. This frustration continued into pastoral ministry.

As I moved into roles where I trained other pastors, I found that I was not alone in my frustration. Many pastors feel the same way.

The reality is that the Pharisaical spirit often hides in fields of high expectations, and we pastors are often the source of those expectations.

As pastors and church leaders in general, we are often disappointed with the spiritual journey of many people in our care. We don't understand why they don't take the faith as seriously as we do. We often get to thinking that they do not truly want to grow in Christ.

"Why? Why was no one else as committed as I was?" we utter in frustration.

At this point we must stop, look in the mirror, and ask ourselves, "Wait ... Why was I putting myself above others, wondering why they weren't measuring up to my standard of passion and intensity in discipleship?"

High Expectations of Judgmentalism

So how can we know when high expectation becomes judgmentalism?

Part of the issue with pastors is that we have followed God into this crazy high-requirement thing called ministry. That proves how serious we are about our commitment, right?

High commitment is measured in our life by what we are willing to give up in pursuing Christ. We throw ourselves passionately into the task. And we see the call to discipleship not just for a select few, but we imagine a world where all believers would sacrifice everything to advance the Kingdom.

But in my situation, there was an aspect that could be traced to damage in my own heart and soul.

Pharisees Get Bitter

I found myself becoming religiously bitter and started looking down on others who didn't "measure up." It grew to the point where I would even verbalize the frustration eating away at my soul.

"Man, I don't get this. You're not walking with the Lord. Here I am walking with the Lord. Why don't you get serious about living the life?"

At least that's how I would articulate it when I was younger.

Perhaps by the time I got older I only thought it, because I was smart enough to not say it out loud.

But I still felt it.

Passion and its Problem

Passion in us often leads to our disappointment in others. Disappointment leads to frustration. Frustration leads to anger. Anger is expressed in an attitude of spiritual superiority and leaning hard on others.

And along the way, without even recognizing it, a disciple becomes a Pharisee.

The challenge is to recognize the connection and avoid the downside of the passion. The connection is clear: People of passion wonder why other people are not as passionate. It happens in every area of life. However, in the Christian life, the downside is that we can often become judgmental of those who lack our degree of passion.

Redeeming the Pharisee

I wonder how Jesus dealt with the issue—seeing the lack of commitment so evident among His disciples. Perhaps that is the answer. After all, while we are comparing ourselves to others, we need to remember that none of us measures up to Jesus.

And no one expects us to.

That's the key: Jesus gives us grace and calls us to grace, and that's the answer to the problem of phariseeism in my heart.

Along the way, without even recognizing it, a disciple becomes a Pharisee.

Passion is good; becoming pharisaical is not good.

Grace extends to those who struggle, who are not as serious as they should be, and who don't measure up. If we see who they are in Christ, rather than who we wish they were as growing Christians, it changes our view.

Furthermore, we need to recognize that growth takes time. Maturity is not the seed, it is the harvest, and it is a journey. But we tend to forget that.

Different Kind of Pharisee

I have been a vocal critic of the Pharisees in Scripture, as well as those among us today. I probably will still do that when appropriate.

But what has surprised me is how my own pharisaical attitudes are just as real and often unrecognized in my own life.

May I ... and may we ... show grace to those on the way, regardless of who people are in Christ, where they are on the path, and the progress they are making.

Let me encourage you to read Larry Osborne's book, Accidental Pharisees, which helped inspire this post and does a better and more thorough job exploring the issues.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ed Stetzer ) Personal Character Tue, 14 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
12 Characteristics of the New Apostolic Leaders

The so-called Apostolic Reformation since the mid-1990s signaled the end of identifying Christian movements merely by denominations. With that, there was a new emphasis on visionary leaders in the body of Christ known to function with the five-fold ministry gift of the apostle (Eph. 4:11).

These apostolic leaders have had a demand upon them to evolve and improve in regard to best practices, emotional maturity and leadership style.

The following are 12 of the characteristics of the new apostolic profile:

1. They integrate the message of integrity with the message of kingdom influence. These new apostolic leaders celebrate the Christ-like characteristics of simplicity, humility and personal transformation—not merely cultural engagement and societal transformation. In light of the leadership scandals of the past three decades, they realize that we cannot have the latter without the former.

2. They are ecumenical and collaborate with the church. They do not espouse the old-world Protestant or Catholic divide. The cultural wars against religious freedom have forced the body of Christ to come together, and these leaders are among those advocating for greater collaboration between different expressions of the church without compromising their distinctive theological beliefs. This collaboration also includes forging new partnerships with intentional ethnic diversity.

3. They do not focus on ecclesial titles. Unlike many of the leaders in the past, these new apostolic leaders do not depend upon the title of "apostle" or any other ecclesial title to validate or identify their ministry. They believe the fruit of their ministry and influence speaks louder than mere titles.

4. They espouse apostolic government with an egalitarian spirit. The book of Acts and the epistles clearly give models of local churches that are under the oversight of apostolic leadership. However, a closer reading of these narratives reveals that New Testament apostles urged church leaders to adopt an egalitarian approach replete with a servant's heart, humility and self-sacrifice. A top-down autocratic leadership approach in which apostles impose their will on the congregations was not the biblical norm. Even in a crisis, Paul pleaded with the leaders to do the right thing and remove the immoral person among them (1 Cor. 5).

Jesus said that the Roman leadership approach of lording it over their subjects was not the way of the kingdom (Mark 10:42-45). He said that the greatest leaders are the ones who serve. The new apostolic leaders are going to move more away from the heavy-handed style of past generations to more of an egalitarian approach with a bottom-up strategy that employs teams to accomplish kingdom purposes.

5. They identify with both church and marketplace leaders. The new apostolic leader understands that the kingdom of God engages both marketplace and ecclesial leadership. Consequently, they partner with marketplace leaders with an apostolic call to society who are committed to seeing kingdom influence. (In general, these marketplace leaders do not need any ecclesial titles to be effective.)

For example, the early church leadership of Antioch (Acts 13:1-2) involved a businessman with real estate (Barnabas, refer also to Acts 4:36-37) and a politician (Manaen), not just a career religious leader (Paul).

Contemporary apostolic leadership has to be sophisticated enough to understand that ecclesial leadership alone is not enough to bring lasting change to both church and culture.

6. They are committed to developing kingdom relationships. The new apostolic leader understands that the Kingdom of God is built upon relationships and not only ministry. Hence, they focus much of their time building into key kingdom relationships through informal settings that encourage the development of friendships.

7. They are not event-driven but process-driven. Apostolic leaders by and large are weary of conferences. They realize that big events take a lot of money, time and effort but often do not produce lasting fruit. They are more prone to investing their time in smaller but more strategic gatherings that create space for dialogue, fellowship, prayer and strategy instead of monologues that come with the typical conference format.

8. They are statesmen who can collaborate with those who disagree with them. The new apostolic leaders are rooted enough in their calling that they are able to integrate on a high level with those of other faiths, ideological and political persuasions, from both the left and the right. They are not stuck in a Christian ghetto where everyone thinks and talks the same. They realize that the world needs their influence and leadership if it will have a chance to experience the kingdom. These leaders function as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

9. They are comfortable with both secular and sacred vernacular. The new apostolic leader is just as conversant with the lingua franca of the secular world as they are the church world. They not only study the Bible but news sources such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Economist, etc. so they can understand the secular world that most influential people live in. The apostolic leader of the present and future will be just as comfortable speaking with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company as he would be speaking with an ecclesial leader.

10. They are entrepreneurs with a kingdom agenda rather than a consumerist agenda. The new apostolic leader will be creative enough to be financially prosperous but holy enough to steward their resources for the sake of the kingdom. Instead of leveraging their wealth for opulent lifestyles, they live reasonably and responsibly in the fear of the Lord.

11. They have a broader view of cultural engagement than the previous generation. The early 20th century saw the shift from the fundamentalist movement of non-cultural engagement to the evangelical movement of the Christian right with political engagement. The new apostolic leader will have broad interests involving the proper stewardship of creation, human rights, empowering the poor, creating NGOs that serve communities, educational strategies, global initiatives to aid developing nations, micro-financing, sustainable economic policies for nations, and efforts at reconciliation between warring factions. These will not trump, but be in addition to, their engagement regarding religious liberty, marriage and the sanctity of life.

12. They are focused on equipping the next generation. The new apostolic leader will have a multi-generational approach that equips younger leaders to be more effective than the previous generation. This includes intentionally integrating young leaders into their decision-making process, as well as major ministry initiatives. This also involves creating opportunity for them to be creative, to make mistakes, and grow as well as preparing them to lead in the marketplace and/or to develop their own networks or organizations.

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, New York.

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Ministry Leadership Fri, 10 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
The Pastor's Wife: The Most Vulnerable Person in Your Church

We're all vulnerable.

Everyone who walks in the church door can be helped or hurt by what happens during the following hour or more. Whether saint or sinner, preacher or pew-sitter, old-timer or newcomer, child or geezer, everyone is vulnerable and should be treated respectfully, faithfully, carefully.

However, no one in the church family is more vulnerable than the pastor's wife.

She is the key figure in the life of the pastor and plays the biggest role in his success or failure. (Note: I am fully aware that in some churches the pastor is a woman. In such cases, what follows would hardly pertain to her household.)

And yet, many churches treat her as an unpaid employee, an uncalled assistant pastor, an always-available office volunteer, a biblical expert and a psychological whiz.

She is almost always a reliable helper as well as an under-appreciated servant.

You might not think so, but she is the most vulnerable person in the building. That is to say, she is the single most likely person to become the victim of malicious gossip, sneaky innuendo, impossible expectations and pastoral frustrations.

The pastor's wife can be hurt in a hundred ways—through attacks on her husband, her children, herself. Her pain is magnified by one great reality: She cannot fight back.

She cannot give a certain member a piece of her mind for criticizing the pastor's children, cannot straighten out the deacon who is making life miserable for her husband, cannot stand up to the finance committee who, once again, failed to approve a needed pay raise, or the building and grounds committee that postponed repair work on the pastorium—often called a parsonage, if your church provides one.

She has to take it in silence most of the time.

It takes the best Christian in the church to be a pastor's wife and pull it off. And that's the problem: In most cases, she's pretty much the same kind of Christian as everyone else. When the enemy attacks, she bleeds.

The pastor's wife has no say-so in how the church is run and receives no pay, yet she has a lot to do with whether her husband gets called to that church and succeeds once he arrives.

That's why I counsel pastors to include with their resume a photo of their family. The search committee will want to see the entire family, particularly the pastor's wife, and will try to envision whether they would "fit" in "our" church.

The pastor's wife occupies no official position, was not the object of a church vote, and gives no regular reports to the congregation on anything. And yet, no one person in the church is more influential in making the pastor a success—or a resounding failure—than her.

She is the object of a world of expectations:

  • She is expected to dress modestly and attractively, well enough but not overly ornate.
  • She is expected to be the perfect mother, raising disciplined children who are models of well-behaved offspring for the other families, to be her husband's biggest supporter and prayer warrior, and to attend all the church functions faithfully and, of course, bring a great casserole on potluck night.
  • Since her husband is subject to being called away from home at all hours, she is expected to understand this and have worked it out with the Lord from the time of her marriage—if not from the moment of her salvation—and to have no problem with it. If she complains about his being called out, she can expect no sympathy from the members. If she does voice her frustrations, what she hears is, "This is why we pay him the big salary," and "Well, you married a preacher; what did you expect?"
  • She is expected to run her household well on the limited funds the church can pay and keep her family looking like a million bucks.

And those are just for starters.

The pastor's children likewise suffer in silence as they share their daddy with hundreds of church members, each of whom feel they own a piece of him, and can do little about it. (But that's another article.)

Here is what we owe the pastor's wife:

1. We owe her the right to be herself. She is our sister in Christ and accountable to Him.

My wife was blessed to have followed pastors' wives who cut their own path. So, in some churches, Margaret taught Sunday School and came to the women's missionary meetings. In other churches, she directed the drama team and ran television cameras. A few times, she held weekday jobs while raising three pretty terrific kids.

And, as far as I know, the churches were always supportive and understanding. We were blessed.

Allow the pastor's wife to serve in whatever areas she's gifted in. Allow her to try different things and to grow. But do not put your expectations on her, if at all possible.

Do not try to tell her how to raise her children. Do not try to get to her husband through her with your messages or (ahem) helpful suggestions.

2. We owe her our love and gratitude. She has a one-of-a-kind role in the congregation, which makes her essential to the church's well-being.

Recently, as I was finishing a weekend of ministry at a church in central Alabama and about to drive the 300 miles back home, a member said, "Please thank your wife for sharing you with us this weekend. I know your leaving is hard on her."

How sensitive—and how true, I thought. That person had no idea that my wife underwent surgery two weeks earlier and I had been her nurse ever since, and that in my absence, my son and his family were taking care of her, and that I was now about to rush home to relieve them.

Church members have no clue—and no way of knowing—regarding the pressures inside the pastor's family and should not investigate to find out.

What they should do is love the wife and children and show them appreciation at every opportunity.

3. We owe her our love and prayers. While the Father alone knows her heart, the pastor may be the only human who knows her burdens.

Pray for her by name on a regular basis. Then, leave it to the Lord to answer those prayers however He chooses.

If we believe that the Living God is our Lord and Savior and that He hears our prayers, we should be lifting to Him those whose lives are given in service for Him.

Ask the Father for His protection upon the pastor's wife and children—for their health, for their safety from all harm, and for Him to shield them from evil people.

Pray for His provisions for all their needs, and for the church to do well in providing for them.

Pray for the pastor's relationship with his wife. If their private life is healthy, the congregation's shepherd is far better prepared for everything he will be asked to do.

4. We owe her our responsible care. What does she need?

Do they need a babysitter for a date night? Do they need some finances for an upcoming trip? If they are attending the state assembly or the annual meeting of the denomination, are the funds provided by the church budget adequate, or do they need more? Is the wife going with the pastor? (She should be encouraged to do so, if possible.)

Ask the Holy Spirit what the pastor's wife (and/or the pastor's entire family) needs, and if it's something you can do or provide, do it. If it's too huge, rally the troops.

5. We owe it to the pastor and his wife to speak up. Sometimes, they need a friend to take their side. If your pastor's wife has a ministry in the church, look for people to criticize her for: a) dominating others, b) neglecting her home, or c) running the whole show. To some, she cannot do anything right.

You be the one to voice appreciation for her talents and abilities, her love for the Lord, and her particular skills that make this ministry work.

Imagine yourself standing in a church business meeting to mention something the pastor's wife did that blessed someone, that made a difference, that glorified the Lord.

Imagine yourself planning in advance what you will say, asking the moderator (who is frequently the pastor) for a moment for "a personal privilege" without telling him in advance. 

And, imagine yourself informing a couple of your best friends what you are planning to do, so they can be prepared to stand up "spontaneously" and begin the ovation (Hey, sometimes our people have to be taught to do these things).

The typical reaction most church members give when someone is criticizing the pastor's wife is silence. But you speak up. Take up for her.

Praise God for her willingness to get involved, to not sit at home in silence, but to support her husband and bless the church.

6. We owe them protection for the pastor's days off and vacations. After my third pastorate, I joined the staff of the great First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, and quickly made an outstanding discovery. The personnel policies stipulated that the church office would be closed on Saturdays and the ministers were expected to enjoy the day with their families.

Furthermore, when the church gave a minister several weeks of vacation, it was understood at least two full weeks of it would be spent with the family in rest and recreation and not in ministry somewhere. As one who took off-days reluctantly and would not allow myself to relax and rest during vacations, I needed this to be spelled out in official policy.

When a pastor is being interviewed for the position and when he is new, he should make plain that his off-days are sacred. The ministerial and office staffs can see that he is protected.

The lay leadership can make sure the congregation knows this time is just as holy to the Lord as the time he spends in the office, hospitals or even the pulpit.

7. We owe them the same thing we owe the Lord: faithful obedience to Christ. Pastors will tell you in a heartbeat that the best gift anyone can give them is just to live the Christian life faithfully. When our members do that—when they live like Jesus and strive to know Him better, to love one another, to pray and give and serve—ten thousand problems in relationships disappear.

Finally, a word to the pastor's wife ...

It's my observation that most wives of ministers feel inadequate. They want to do the right thing, to manage their households well and support their husbands, keep a clean house, sometimes accompany him on his ministries, and such, but there are only so many hours in a day and so much strength in this young woman. She feels guilty for being tired and worries that she is inadequate.

The Apostle Paul may have had pastors' wives in mind when he said, "Not that we are adequate to think anything of ourselves, but our adequacy is of God" (2 Cor. 3:5).

We are inadequate. None of us is worthy or capable of this incredible calling from God.

We must abide in Him, or nothing about our lives will go right.

One thing more, pastor's wife: Find other wives of ministers and encourage them. The young ones in particular have a hard time of it, with the children, the young husband, the demanding congregation and sometimes, Lord help us, even an outside job.

Invite a couple of these women for tea or coffee. Have no agenda other than getting to know one another. See what happens. 

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel, and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

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]]> (Joe McKeever ) Women in Leadership Fri, 10 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400