Are you and your church known for your negatives or positives?

 

If so, what will you accomplish, or what will be your focus? 

A true Christian leader who is called by God will always point others to Christ and His fold, not to themselves, because, it is God’s power that leads¾not the ways or trends of the world. We will have the desire to learn, develop, and implement the skills of good leadership and gladly take the risk in doing so. The essential framework and prime purposes in building a healthy church are to glorify Christ, to worship and enjoy Him, and not to please our comforts or ideas. We are to shine before Him by knowing Him, by holding His truth, and by growing in Him so we can make Him known in a dark world! 

Jesus gathers us together as a church to be with one another for mutual support and protection. How can you be more careful not to follow bad shepherds and those who would hurt you? 

The Church is the body of believers whose duty it is to shine the Light of our Lord as a witness for Him. His character is the Light we follow and proclaim. Christ is the Priest, Head, Lord, and Prime Shepherd of the Church. He is the object of and reason for our gathering and functioning. It is all about Him, not about us as leaders; we merely point to Him! This is how God’s Glory descended into the Tabernacle of old and today into our churches. Our purpose now is to point to His glory, as the Church is the light of the world. Christ is the pattern we follow and emulate and the future for our lives. Proclaiming the Church as a lamp stand is saying the Church is significant as the true place of reverence to God, and Christianity is the true practice of Judaism (Gen. 1:3; Ex. 25:31-40; 1 Kings 7:49; Zech. 4:2; Matt. 5:14-16; 18:20; 28:20; John 1:4-5; 8:12; 14:18; Acts 26:13; Eph. 1:10; 5:8-13; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 1:4-5; Rev. 1:9-20; 2:9; 3:9). 

What does it mean to you to shine before God? How does holding His truth help you shine and make Him known in a dark world? How is your light shining before others?  

Here are some more questions to seek in prayer: As a leader, how do you connect, inspire and equip? How would others characterize you as such? What do you need to learn and overcome to be better for our Lord’s glory? Keep in mind that we all need renovation and renewal; I know I do!  

Does Jesus control your church?

Or, do you or others think you do? 

What characterizes leadership in the church? It follows pretty much the same concepts as those stated above with the addition of being godly, faithful, and Fruitful for our Lord’s glory. The best example is found in John, chapter ten, where Jesus is called our “Good Shepherd” (See the Bible study on this passage at www.intothyword.organd preach on it!). The Christian Leader is a Shepherd, the person whose job it was to guard and care for the sheep—in this case, indicating God’s people. Just as the actual sheepherder who owned the sheep had a vested interest in them and would do all it took to protect them, as his family’s livelihood depended on them, God anoints such leaders for His people. In contrast, a hired person had no vested interest and as soon as danger would come, they would scram (Gen. 31:39; Num. 27:15-23; 1 Sam. 17:34-37; 2 Sam. 5:2; Psalm 78:71-72; Isa. 63:11; Jer. 3:15; Ezek. 34:1-24; John 10:1-21). 

The question is, are you a sheep under His care or one that is out on the lamb (pun intended),on the run? 

Although the comparison is not meant to be condescending, nor are we ever to be arrogant, we are called sheep because they are notoriously stupid animals and need a good, caring leader. They can’t survive on their own; they show us that without God, we are just like them. They are totally dependent upon their caregiver, the shepherd. A sheep that gets out and lives on its own will starve or eat poisonous plants because it will not go where the gppd food is. It will hurt itself by rubbing itself to death on a tree or falling down and breaking its leg or falling off a cliff. Sheep need constant care and attention and the sheep that skips out on that care will die. As shepherds, we are the ones who are to graciously shield those for whom we are responsible, even laying our life on the line against predators and rustlers, which today indicate false teachers and egomaniac leaders.(Psalm 77:20; 78:52; 100:3). 

We shepherd others through our relationship with Jesus Christ! Why do we have a responsibility to be watchful and aware of people who would fleece and hurt the people in our churches? How can we do this better? 

We have life, joyful abundance, the personal favor of God and real fellowship with Him, a purpose and meaning for our daily lives, and eternal life to come. For us to be in the safety of His sheepfold, the “pen” for our faith, we not only need to be in Christ, but we also have to obey Him. This will be the result of our intimate relationship with Him. We know Him; He knows us, and we do what He says. We follow His example as we lead others for and to Him. We are concerned with what concerns Him, and we act accordingly. Like sheep, we cannot lead ourselves or others without being forever lost and unfed. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are the sheep (1 Sam. 17:34-36; John 2:19; 3: 1-16; 6:51).

What is the condition of your church?

 

God is in unity and in perfect love, He calls us to be so in community to identity with His purpose, plan, and call to have a proper concept of God and work collectively as a church as we are the body of Christ. To do so, we must increase in faith and thinking so Christ is all and working in and through us all (John 14:10; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; 12:25; Gal. 5:20; Eph. 4:12-16). 

Is there a posture of prayer? With the focus upon God and His way and concerns (Psalm 121:1; 123:1; 123:1; Matt. 26:39; Mark 7:34; John 11:41).   

The key to a successful Christian life, ministry, and church is prayer. There is no way around it (Psalm 2:7; John 12:41; Philip. 2:11). 

Is there “Complete unity?” God calls us as leaders of His Church to carry out His plans and accomplish His mission of reproducing communities of Christ-formed authentic disciples. We do this by equipping our people to know and teach Christ’s redemptive reign as missionaries sent by God, to be real and visibly live and proclaim Christ’s Kingdom to the world.  

Love and unity is the model we are to use to show God’s love to the world, because our unity has an evangelistic intention and example!  

Our infighting and often bitter divisions destroy churches and create an extreme bad witness. When we do not, our un-forgiveness becomes malice and actually grieves the Holy Spirit! We should be clear on this. A healthy Christian is one who puts aside the malicious traits of an evil, sinful nature, and embraces others in love. What comes out of love is the release of our feelings of betrayal and hurt. The Christian is called to model kindness, love, empathy, and compassion; out of these, forgiveness will flow. God wants us to get with it, to wake up, and seize the wonders and opportunities He gives us. An unforgiving attitude, and its ugly rotten fruits, will choke us off from His wonders (John 13:34-35; 15:13-17; 17:1-26; Gal. 5:22; Phil. 1:23; 1 Thess. 4:17; 1 John 2:10; 3:14-16)!  

We pass on the example of our relationship to Christ as His display. When we act in good character and live rightly as His representatives, we prove His name. When we act in the flesh, we prove the world and show our disobedience and disrespect, even profaning His Name. The call to make every effort indicates that we are to pay close attention to Christ and take the spiritual initiative and be productive with our faith and lives! Always be willing to acknowledge the difference between what is counterfeit and what is true Truth and be willing to repent and seek forgiveness when you are wrong! True Christianity and its practice never retires or becomes counter-productive (John 16:33; 21:18-19; 1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Pet. 1:12-21). 

God hates unfaithfulness, betrayal, treachery, disloyalty, deceit, disobedience, faithlessness, contempt and evil, and pride and dysfunction—which is treason against our Holy Lord. Thus, He deals more harshly with those who are apostate—who know the Truth and yet reject it or fight against Him—more than with those who are pagans and fight against Him, as He justly should (Psalm 41:9; Matt. 26:25; Luke 9:5; 10:11; John 13:18) 

We have to see the glorious position that is given to us by what Christ has done for us. Then, we will see the joy (James 1:2-4) and then the hope (Heb. 6:18-19) that we have. God’s purity gives us who are not pure an undeserved gift of grace by His love. This is given even though our sinful nature is very much alive and in play. Then, we see that our Lord God is pure and we are sin. However, we have to also see that what we may think is love is not; the will of our hearts may think that we can do as we please since we are in Christ, but that definition of love is simply wrong. This is not love; it is annoying noise, a form of relativism, perhaps even evil. Such thinking and behavior equal a life that is meaningless and produces little to no fruit or real, effectual love.

 

What is Leadership?

 

Leadership is not a science and cannot be thoroughly defined, because it is more of an art and is dependent on people and situations. However, there are key characteristics that we can define. It does not happen just as a gift or a talent; if a person has a natural ability, he or she still must learn what it is and means. Additionally, a person who has no natural ability can still rise to the occasion as so many in history have.

 

A basic description of leadership is the duty and call of the person who is in charge to take charge with courage and character, and to risk leading his/her people where they need to go and how they need to be led.

It is a position that seeks vision, opportunities, and needs and then motivates others to get it done through the resources, talents, and time they can contribute. It points toward a reliable and trustworthy pathfinder to the road that others can follow by example and instruction. It is the ability to initiate, empower, equip, and train, but it does not stop there, because a good leader also prepares his/her people by his/her example as he/she guides, inspires, supports, influences, and positively challenges the team for the mission or task at hand. It will be obvious that the person is meant to be there if they accomplish this by enhancing the quality of the mission’s direction by mature control of the individuals and/or the organization as a whole. It is not about personality or charisma; it is more about being a positive and motivating “coach” who loves what he/she does so that people feel cared for and inspired to step up and move forward for mutual benefit and positive goals and outcomes. 

 

All churches will have fighting and squabbling!



We are all in some process of sanctification and growth and we are not perfect—or called to be so. The question is, are we on the right road that delivers the fruit or are we just stationed at the fruit-stand and not restocking it? A prime purpose of the Church supposedly is to show and give out the Fruit, but many of us find ourselves empty. Are we making the effort to pick out the rotten fruit and throw it away? If you want to be successful in life, church, and ministry, you need to get this point: we are to be fruit makers. The primary purpose of doing church is not to just please ourselves, but to glorify and serve our Living God. Our lives as Christians are about how we live out His work and honor our Lord; we can best do this by applying our faith and growth in Him to display and give out this Fruit in our church relationships.

Having trouble? Take heart! Christ is the One who changes us and forms our Fruit. All we do is affectionately and in gratitude respond by faith and commit to His precepts. This requires our continual commitment to prevent our bad behaviors or body language from discouraging others from Christ and His Church.

Remember, Christianity is not just the proclamation of the Gospel; it is also the example of the Gospel! The action from your faith will reflect our Lord and either build or destroy your church! Consider this; the fruits and character that we have been given freely cost dearly; they are not cheap. Jesus Christ bought them and then brought them for and to us, for our betterment and to His glory. We must not take for granted what cost Him so much!

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

What is in the Way of our Fruit Production?

When we become a Christian either by birth in a Christian family (to slowly understand Who and What Christ is and over time make a commitment to Him) or through evangelism as an adult (a quick response when ones realizes their sin and need for grace and then commits to Christ), a time must come when the reality of who we are in Christ hits home in power and conviction. The black, dirty slime of our minds has to completely change to the new, golden anointing oil of His Fruit, love, and precepts. This will transform us into practical applications of His will in His church. But, our faith just does not come about on its own; something wondrous must take place within us to transform us so we can trust. This is what the Holy Spirit is doing in our Fruit of the Spirit production and cultivation. In other words, we must become the people of God in order to be capable and willing to do the work of God.

Keep in mind this Fruit is mutual; it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us motivated, especially in the leadership of the church and the common places of personal life! This is how the Christian life is to be practical and outgoing—not sedentary and inclusive.

Since God saved us, we in turn are compelled to show our response, to work in Christ’s behalf, to be His agents, powered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel message, even in our own church. This will allow us to have discipline and restraint with obedience to God and others. We must refuse to let distractions derail or remove us from His will and plan so we will not be held back with what Christ called us to do (Prov. 16:32; 25:28; Rom 13:12-14; 1 Cor. 6:12; 9:25-27; Col. 3:16; 1Thess. 5: 22; Titus 2:12; Heb. 12:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-7).

This is why we at ITW and FASICLD are embarking on this new research project to see if our churches are truly displaying Christ or building temples unto themselves. Are we fruitful vines or thorn-bushes? This is entitled, The Fruit of the Spirit as a Biblical Mandate versus Actual Practice in American Churches. The initial results are not good; in fact, they are an abysmal testimony to failure resulting from not taking our lead from God, but seeking to be led from ourselves. Thus, in our wake is left a diseased-ridden and dysfunctional church; if we do not turn around, we will fail beyond measure.

Questions to ponder:

We are called to stretch and grow beyond what we think we can do! Remember, our Lord offers His encouragement for all those who are in Him to grow in Him!

What does it take for you to have a greater desire and ability to grow, practice, and apply your faith?

What does it mean to you to make every conceivable effort to put into practice your faith and fruit? How is this necessary for your life?

What have you received from Christ that drives your life? What is in the way? What are you going to do about it?

 

Remember, Christ is our Empowerment and our Example!

Is your Thinking Right? Are your Behaviors are Right?

Good theology is our right thinking of God’s precepts, including the knowledge of His Fruit. Our mind and thinking must be based on Christ and Scripture through which the Spirit guides us (2 Cor. 4:18; 1 John 2:17). If not, our culture and the pleasures of life will sweep us away from God’s best for us. This is our Christian life and purpose! This is the boot camp and the army is our duty in application. Yet, it is the least thing considered by the average Christian’s pursuit, especially those who never take ownership of their faith, who grew up in a church considering it as cultural and a duty rather than devotion and lifestyle. Thus, our churches become fruit-stands that have no fruit in them, just a shell of a building without His real substance, impact, and power penetrating. The danger is for the Christian to sit in a pew, learn all that he/she can, and take comfort in that knowledge, but never do anything with it. This creates the church that refuses to evangelize or reach others, or display Christ by their words and deeds. The Christian that refuses to share his/her faith usually is one who is not growing in that faith. Thus, faith and Fruit may be miserly trickled out on Sunday but no display or model of Christ is present on Monday. Be aware that you will be harshly judged; you are no better than the Pharisees! The proof test is do you use people, or serve them? Do you just gather information, or do you apply it (Hos.6:6; Mica. 6:6-8; Matt. 12 9-14; 23; James 1:21-27)?

In Romans 12: 1-2, we are called as church folks to passionately pursue God’s will, and that is to think rightly of His precepts. By doing so, we can make our faith real so it impacts others around us. This is what a collection of Christians is called to and should do to build a healthy, well-balanced church that glorifies Christ. The simple way we can do this is to see our lives as extensions of God’s grace and hands, so we are willing and able to be lined up to Him and be better used by Him. We are called to be a living sacrifice, which means we are to be living, growing, and performing Fruit agents of God. We are not alone in this essential matter. As Christians, we are transformed completely by the Spirit; this includes all we are and all that we are to do—our will, our plans, and our opportunities (2 Cor. 3:18). We cannot do this unless we give our selfish will and pride and past hurts over to Him (John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil. 3:1-14)!

The incentive for us to surrender to Christ is that His Way is better than ours! He gave us a gift we cannot fathom, let alone earn the gift of grace and eternal life, so why would we not seek to please our Living Loving Lord?

When we are growing in Christ, we will be displaying Christ—our “reasonable service” as church leaders! Then we will have real ripe and pleasing Fruit; God’s will is for us to be willing and able to please and serve Him. This is accomplished when we are on guard so that the distractions of the sinful life will not entice, motivate, or divert us from Him and His plan for us! The call is simple: be willing to allow God to transform you rather than the world; simple? Yes, but it takes diligent effort and the trust we have in Christ to succeed as a church and as individual people of faith! When we do this, our thinking, attitude, and mindset will change and then impact all that we do in life.