The most difficult place for any Christian pastor to serve may be next to a military base.
The greatest opportunity any pastor might have in a long lifetime may be serving next to a military base.
As the Apostle Paul said, “... a wide door for effective service opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (I Cor. 16:9, NASB).
Jim and Patsy told their story to some of us not long ago. I have never forgotten their testimony and want to continue lifting them to the Lord.
Background: They are from the U.S. and pastor a church near an American military base somewhere overseas. They’ve been there two years.
Why do you want to make disciples? Have you ever asked yourself that question?
As followers of Christ, we should be focused on making disciples. But if we don’t do it with the right motives, we are simply wasting our time. Worse yet, we could be doing more harm than good. If God cared only about outward appearances and our participation in religious activities, then any effort toward ministry would please Him. The Pharisees would have been heroes of the faith.
After all, they were continuously engaged in ministry: They vigorously pursued outward demonstrations of godliness; they made sure the people around them kept themselves holy; and they diligently taught the law of God. And yet Jesus’ harshest words in Scripture were always reserved for these religious overachievers.
We all find ourselves in the position of “leading up” at some point in our lives. Whether it’s in the workplace or where we volunteer, we all have an opportunity to lead our leaders.
There are times when I’ve led my leaders well and times I have not. Here are three critical steps I’ve learned to take in order to lead up with success.
1. Meeting before the meeting. I watched this play out in a scenario I’ve been walking through. It’s brilliant. Have a ‘meeting before the meeting.’ If you’re leading into a challenging topic with leadership, it serves you well to make a quick connection in advance, letting the other person know what the meeting is about. No details. Just a quick overview that gives them something to digest. A brief snippet that sets the stage for the conversation. This puts your leader in a proactive posture rather than a reactive posture.
Call it intuition, call it instinct, but there’s a nagging sense in me that says “church is messy.” To be clear, what I mean by that is simply “untidy,” not perfect, can be disorderly. Even as a young man I was always suspicious of things that looked too tidy, too perfect—too sanitized, too "Stepford Wives."
Think Corinth, then Ephesus and Sardis, and you know that church is not perfect. That’s the reason young people get turned off by church. Self-righteousness, which projects an unreal piety that covers up mistakes—or worse, pretends to not make any—is nothing more than hypocrisy. Like preachers who call out errors in others, but have secret lives.
Herein lies the importance of discipleship, of life exchange, of being real, of acknowledging that while we are sinners, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is capable of transforming us into saints. Discipleship that speaks of a journey of ever-increasing trust blooms into faith as we encounter Christ’s love each day.
Consider 2 Timothy 3:1-5. It’s a pretty powerful and prophetic scripture:
“But realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self … boastful, arrogant, revilers … ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited... Avoid such men as these.”
Veteran Christian workers get this a lot. People tell you of a conversation they had with you years, or even decades ago, in which you either said the magic words that changed their lives or came out with something that infuriated them back then, and continues to bug them to this day.
You don’t remember any of it.
I’ve been in church all my life. Along the way, I’ve seen and learned a lot. Almost all the insight I have into church has come by experience.
I have observed, for example, that paradigms can often shape a church’s culture. A paradigm, in simple terms, is a mind-set—a way of thinking. In this case, it's a collective mind-set of the church, often programmed into the church’s culture.
If the church is unhealthy, part of the reason could be because it has some wrong paradigms. In that case, it will almost always need a paradigm shift in order to be a healthier church again.
Recently, I’ve been thinking of some of the paradigms that impact a church. I’ll look at some of the negative ones in this post, and in another post I'll share some of the positive paradigms that can impact a church.
Here are 10 dangerous church paradigms: