Identifying the kingdom characteristics of a healthy church
There is much discussion about identifying and articulating the culture of our individual local churches. Amid countless innovative trends and strategies, we have to keep a strong grip on the fact that we are carrying out one central mission. Jesus, the head of the church, preached the kingdom of heaven.
As we carry out our mission of building the church He began, there is a “kingdom culture” that must be protected. I love what strategist and author Sam Chand says: “Toxic culture will eat great vision for lunch!” Any senior leader whose great vision has been hijacked by bad attitudes, practices or motives can attest to the fact that a crucial responsibility of leaders is to be guardians of the culture of the ministries we lead.
Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. — Revelation 2:10
Faithfulness is not a word we hear often these days. Sometimes we hear it at retirement parties: "After twenty-five years of faithful service, we give you this gold watch." Or we use it to describe our dog: "My dog may be old and ugly, but he's faithful." The word is employed to describe the most famous geyser in America, Old Faithful, at Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful is not the biggest geyser in America. And it's not the most powerful geyser in America. What makes it famous is its faithfulness! It's like clockwork. Dependable. People appreciate constancy, even in a geyser.
It's not easy to find someone who can be counted on. One who will be faithful to the end. One who is dependable through thick and thin. The fact is that not everyone who volunteers actually comes through. Not everyone who says they will perform a task actually does it. Not everyone who makes a commitment can be counted on.
Faithfulness is not just a religious duty that we employ on Sundays or when we are supposed to be Christian. When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember that God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a dependable and reliable accountant or teacher or parent or engineer. Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us.
In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery.
"Your Majesty," said Prior Richard, "Do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king."
"I understand," said Henry. "The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you."
"Then I will tell you what to do," said Prior Richard. "Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you." (Steve Brown, Key Biscayne, Florida)
Not bad counsel. Go forth and do likewise faithfully.
The shepherds saw a babe in a manger. The wise men, arriving later, also saw a young child. But the one who emerged from Mary’s womb that cold winter night in Bethlehem of Judea was much more than what was discernible with human eyes.
He was God. The sacred record is clear: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’
Being a pastor is a fulfilling privilege--but it can be demanding, too. Here's what every pastor wishes his sheep knew about their shepherd.
I just want to go to a place where nobody knows us!" my wife, Kelly, lamented. As I looked into her tender eyes, I identified with her frustration. A myriad of interruptions had sidetracked us from the date we had planned.
First we had to extinguish a rumor that our marriage was in trouble. Then we discovered that the new Igloo cooler we had loaned to a friend from church the week before would not be coming back. Next we had to explain to our two boys why they had gotten in trouble for playing on the church platform when other children hadn't.
And just when we were about to leave on our night out, the phone rang. Expecting a family member, I picked it up--only to find a talkative saint instead. Not just any saint, but a needy one who could not be put off.
God is increasingly bringing His government upon the earth to quicken mankind toward His image and intentions. It is time to assess and discuss the complex aspect of human behavior from a Kingdom perspective.
I pray we ask the Lord often to reveal to us what needs to be known—that which may be hidden—and help us to receive it and implement it in our lives for His glory. He desires us to be free and empowers us to act against the very nature of self.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is the redemptive manner in which God intends for His will to be accomplished in the earth. This, in itself, should alert us to the misappropriation of prevailing messages of the “preparing us for Heaven” Gospel. Yes, thankfully, Heaven is in the mix, but the place called Heaven is for later, while the work of spreading Heaven on earth is present and ongoing.
At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. — Luke 6:13
A popular business book states that effective organizations get the right people on the bus, meaning the right people in places of leadership. When the right people are in the strategic roles, the company can ascend to any height. But, if the wrong people are on the bus, the organization is doomed to flounder regardless of the vision, values, strategies, marketing, and management of the leadership.
Putting the right people in the right place at the right time is a critical need for an effective leader. Select the right people, and churches, business, and organizations thrive. Select the wrong people, and the door swings open for problems that stifle growth and productivity and hurt credibility.
The concern of Jesus was not about programs or structure or organization but about people. Jesus selected his disciples before he ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public. People were to be his method of reaching the world. It was just that simple.
No evidence of haste is apparent in Jesus' selection process, only determination. Initially one might wonder if Jesus selected the right people for the right job. They lacked the professional training, academic training, and sophistication of their day. One might wonder how Jesus could ever use them. They were not the kind of people one would expect to turn the world upside down. But as it turned out, these men became the leaders of the early church. Their influence can be felt throughout the pages of history. Jesus got the right people on the bus.
As a leader you would do well to select people that display these qualities:
Calling–They are motivated by something deep within themselves, not by the accomplishments of outward adornments.
Character–They possess a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn't succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority.
Commitment–They display spiritual authenticity over time.
Compatibility–They show a job fit, a relational fit, a skill fit, and a passion fit.
Contribution–They function as a part of a team.
Coachability–They are trainable and teachable.
Get the right people on the bus, and it makes all the difference in the world.