Leadership Qualifications: Balancing Tensions

May, 2012

Churches are usually mindful of the biblical qualifications for spiritual leaders in the church found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Since leaders live in a world of tension, here are some balances which might be helpful when looking for people to serve.

Is this person recognized as...

  1. Godly but human? Their walk with God is self-evident yet they have an honest and approachable style.
  2. Visionary but compassionate? They blend a passion for building a shared vision and gently help others grow into it.
  3. Leading but following? They are good leaders because they know how follow well.
  4. Resourceful but dependent on God? They blend faith and works doing what they can but give the glory to God.
  5. Decisive but listening? They can make a bold decision but willing leave bias at the door to honestly consider the expressions of others.
  6. Active but empowering? They model faithful participation in the ministry, stewardship and service with a passion to release others to do the same.
  7. Seeking unity but allowing conflict? They realize that honest and gracious debate can build stronger relationships, unity and ownership.
  8. Responsible but accountable? They take responsibility for a project but are open to questions and accountability.
  9. Measuring success but accepting of intangibles? They desire systems that lead to success but recognize realities which cannot be measured or expected.
  10. Mature but growing? They have an unquenchable desire to know and honor God in new and fresh ways.

Remember! No one is perfect.

Which tensions could you add to the list?

Passing Your Torch!

February,  2012

Passing Your Torch!

The reason that you are a believer in Christ is that someone passed the torch of faith to you.  It is in your hands now, so what are you going to do with it?  Give it away or burn your fingers? 

The Apostle Paul desperately wanted to place the mantle of Christian leadership on Timothy before he was executed by Nero.  In his last letter (2 Timothy 2:1-7), he mentions two things that are eternal:  people and God’s Word.  Timothy’s role was to connect the two so that the Christian message passes down and spreads through the ages.

Paul used three metaphors which comprise various tests for faithful believers wishing to share the message.  The soldier reminds us to be loyal and make our Lord’s command to tell others a priority.  Likewise, the athlete must keep the rules just as we must shape our lives by God’s Word to be a testimony to others.  And the farmer stretches us to work hard at the task.  The vast majority of people who believe do so from the influence of a Christian family member or friend.  Are you working to do your part?

If you have not been involved in helping others, you probably feel guilty or don’t know where to start.  It has been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.  Let’s start a discussion of what those first steps could look like.  After reviewing the simple steps I have listed below, respond by listing some of your own.  Now don’t laugh… 

1.  Don’t hide your Bible.  As you read the Scriptures or journal, leave it out for people to see.  This could tweak      their imagination and may even motivate them to snoop.

2.  Go viral.  Pass along meaningful spiritual information that you see on the internet.  Look for material that is       marked by grace and briefly share how it helped you.

3.  Waggle your tongue.  When those special moments arise, share a brief and humble word about what you are        learning on your spiritual journey and the ways God is helping you change.  You may not get an immediate        response, but people listen more than you think.  Please don’t preach because I need my job!

4.  Brag about godly people you meet.  Humility is revealed when we exalt others.  Your compliments will help        people glimpse grace in action.

5.  Decorate with magazines and books.  Why do we tend to read more magazines when we are visiting the in-       laws?  Duh!  Place some appealing Christian reading on your coffee table to shake up the boredom of your          visitors.  They may catch God’s vision without you saying a word.

6.  Vacation with a purpose.  Invite the grandchildren to take a trip with you so they can see your Christian                values in motion.  Watch for the Lord to open a window for some wonderful conversations.

7.  Write down your story.  Since one day they will rummage through your things looking for valuables, leave        them a treasure worth more than gold-the story of your journey with the Lord.  Many will read it and                      someone  special will treasure it!

8.  Pray big time.  Did you know that God cares for their souls even more than you do?

Just imagine the multiplication for the kingdom of God if we all passed our torches to those we love.  Enter your suggestions below and keep the fire going!



Click below to share your ideas on how we can pass the torch!

Christmas Family Gifting

November, 2011

Opening Christmas presents hasn’t changed much in decades.  A child gives a blank stare when he opens socks thinking it is a toy, a teenager refuses to be seen wearing “that” and someone always compares the price of their present to the one they received.  By the time Christmas Day is over and interest in your gifts wane, you start to wonder why you went to all the work and expense.

Even when we receive a great gift, the satisfaction may be short lived.  Deep inside we know that there must be something more.  Is the glitter a substitute for the things people really need and want?

If you recall, our gifting flows from God’s gift of Jesus.  The words of the angel to Joseph tell it all, he will save his people from their sins.  God’s gift had a specific purpose, to remove the barrier which existed between God and his creation.  He gave a Gift which met the deepest craving in our souls with forgiveness and grace.

Before driving to the store this season, consider going to your knees first.  Review with the Lord the needs or barriers unique to each family member and seek His wisdom for what they need from you.  Don’t be surprised if you receive some heavenly nudges.

Do they need more compliments, some time alone to chat, understanding with a misunderstanding, fewer suggestions, babysitting for a relaxing trip, periodic notes of encouragement, forgiveness for a deep pain, acceptance of their uniqueness or a bold act of loving grace which only you can provide?  Deep inside you may know what to give but struggle with the price.  Push your fears aside, wrap it up and give it away.

Aren’t you glad that God’s Gift was more generous and gracious than we deserve?  His Gift changed the world and yours might do the same.  Just imagine the expression on their faces when your gift is unwrapped!

Your response:  Click below and share your thoughts about family gifting.

Empowering Communities

August 2011

Can we really change people?  If the truth were known, genuine transformation is driven from within.  Eventually, people will resist our controlling pressure and follow their inner empowerment.  Thankfully, churches have a God-given resource--the Body of Christ.

Your church is a community containing God’s power to shape lives.  When believers work in groups, they share truth, discover new choices and sense accountability.  The Lord uses the influence of a community to touch the deep passions of a soul and create a fresh wind of empowerment to love God and serve people.

Just think how . . . 

  • Worship services prompt people to focus on God for an hour a week. 
  • Small groups or classes motivate many to study the Bible.
  • Mission trips re-align the hearts of youth and adults.
  • Benevolent ministries release the desire to care.

      Groups help people do things they may not do on their own.


Want to unleash God’s power of community?

  1. Shape ministries around empowering communities, not individuals.
  2. Learn from other churches that mobilize groups.
  3. Measure your success by the number of communities created.
  4. Celebrate the ways God empowers your people.


                                            Life gets better together!



Click below and record your reflections:  How have you seen a small group bring change or empowerment in your life? 

Spiritual Friendships

April 18, 2011  


Why do some friendships seem so boring?  You work at staying in touch but wonder why you do.  The conversations tend to be so repetitive that you can anticipate what the person is going to say.  You long for something more.

Sadly, even Christians suffer from this malady.  Our allegiance to the Lord seems invisible even in these close relationships.  We look like observers rather than participants in each other’s lives.  Have we forgotten that the Lord meant for the ordinary human connection to become a wonderful conduit of grace to everyone involved? 

A wise person once told me that you should view people in one of two ways.  Either they bring a spiritual mentoring influence to your life or you bring one to theirs.  When we engage with people outside of this matrix, friendships can become unhealthy.  But, if we see God placing people in our lives for his purposes, it changes everything. 

Just think how frustrating life would be without the example and influence of other believers to guide you in your personal journey.  If you turn around, you will discover someone needing you to blow some wind into their sails.  This simplicity is God’s way of empowering us to face and champion the challenges of life. 

As summer takes us on travels or brings family and friends our way, engage people with God’s purposes in mind.  Relate with a sense of mission which realizes that you have so much to learn or give away.  Enjoy your time with friends and discover the reason Jesus was rarely alone.


Click below and record your reflections:   What do you think a spiritual friendship could look like?    




Irresistible Grace

It has often been said that people desire God but are unsure about the church.  I once heard a preacher joke that people who drive by a church on Sunday mornings and don’t go in are simply holding their noses and saying “pew.”  Obviously, the decline in church attendance tells us that the problem is much more serious.

How often have you chatted with non-attendees and heard comments like these?  I can fight at home…They preach against my sins but not theirs…The world is hurting and they don’t get it.

Most of us have witnessed the power struggles, bumped into the ever present control freaks and wilted under the laborious process of getting things done through church bureaucracy.  Too many frustrated believers respond by staying home or not getting involved.

On the other hand, there are many churches which are thriving.  What do they know that some have forgotten? 

First, they have aligned their work with a compelling biblical vision which releases the passion and sacrificial spirit in people.  They envision a mountain worth climbing that both glorifies God and helps others.  Do people see your church aimlessly going through the motions or locking arms toward a dream worthy of the Lord? 

Second, healthy churches have developed systems which empower vision, not conflict or control.  Even though people with the same sinful natures attend all churches, some have developed systems which don’t fuel these natures.  Instead of gathering to vote on who gets to make the decisions and how the money is spent, what would transform in our congregations if we met to pray, dream of community outreach and ways to serve the poor.  Quite frankly, many of our church systems are designed to deflate the vision.  Which new ways of doing church life could provide freedom for your leaders to lead and release the congregation like a might army doing God’s work? 

Third, love and grace becomes the air these churches breathe.  They work at becoming a community of grace where everyone has the opportunity to be accepted, loved and empowered.  This fragrance is irresistible to new people.  Their grand vision and systems minimize the impact of people who are controlling, bitter and habitually critical.  The wind of the Spirit creates a city set on a hill. 

Fourth, these congregations have discovered the model of Jesus to serve rather than being served.  Their passion for ministry cannot be contained by church walls.  People maximize their sphere of influence to share the good news and help the hurting.  The community knows that these churches exist because they see their footprints of passion and sacrifice everywhere.  Does your community know anything about your church apart from the building? 

As I write these words and sense their vitality in some wonderful congregations, I can’t help but wonder why too many resist the vision.  Maybe the answer is found in answering a simple question, “Whom do we worship?”  


Your Reflections:  Click the box below and share your thoughts!





The Spirit of Christmas

I love Charles Dickens but…Ho, Ho, Ho…I don’t fear the Spirit of Christmas.  Yes, I am one of those sappy people who can’t resist watching A Christmas Carol every season.  It always grabs my emotions, but something inside of me imagines the real difference the Spirit of Christmas could bring to people like you and me. 

Who doesn’t want to change something in their past?  Thankfully, that is the stuff of the Spirit.  In the beginning, the Spirit of God hovered over creation to make a perfect world.  Later, he overshadowed Mary so that the Son of God was born to restore the world we ruined.  This one and only Spirit can be trusted to re-create the past for us all. 

If we trust the Spirit’s renewal, the future becomes less scary.  Looking down the road ahead can make us anxious or controlling, but the Spirit brings confidence.  In Ephesians, the Holy Spirit is described as God’s deposit in us guaranteeing our inheritance and redemption in eternity.  The fact of his presence in our lives is God’s pledge that all his promises will come true one day.  When fears overwhelm you to doubt, let the Spirit’s presence in you be a reminder that the best is yet to come.  You would not have the Spirit if God has given up on you. 

Even more exciting is that life happens in the present, and we are not alone.  On the night before he died, Jesus promised the Spirit who would guide us into all truth and tell about the future.  This change agent came at Pentecost to indwell, convict, teach, guide and empower us to enjoy life and overcome its challenges.  Our Lord knew we need help and could not succeed alone.  But, do we depend on that God-given resource? 

Just knowing about the Spirit doesn’t do it.  We tap into his power by saturating ourselves with the Scriptures.  After all, he is the ultimate author who gave these words to reveal God’s person and will to us.  Therefore, our reading must go beyond knowledge to a deeper level of dependence.  When you open the Bible, sense his presence and listen to the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.  You will enjoy insight and empowerment beyond your dreams. 

How could we fear the Spirit of Christmas when he removes all fears?  He alone makes sense out of the past and future while fueling us with enablement today.  Your surprise Christmas gift might just be sitting on your shelf.  Grab a cozy chair, open your Bible and listen as you discover the exciting joy of walking in the Spirit.  Then, get up and go create your own movie!



Your reflections?   Click the box below and let us hear from you. 

More of Us than Them

 September 2010                    

The task appears impossible.  Whenever media tell a story about the poor or disenfranchised in our communities, it looks overwhelming as if we are using band aids to cure an epidemic.  Even Jesus told us that we would always have the poor among us. 

We may never lick the problem, but can’t some progress happen?  After all, most of us have a desire to bless these folks in some way.  I find myself driving by such a home or person and thinking that something could be done.  Maybe, that is the problem. 

Is thinking about the problem a form of self-justification for failure to get involved?  I can give a token gift to an organization that feeds the hungry and then feel good casually mentioning it while dining out with friends.  Church mission conferences let me celebrate the sacrifices of others without ever doing it myself.  I serve on the boards of two organizations committed to serving the hurting, RUSH Initiative and Safe Harbor.  Both struggle to recruit volunteers. 

The good news is that the numbers are on our side.  There are more of us that can help than those who are hurting.  If every person of faith showed the love of God to just one person or family, we could make a giant leap toward a solution. 

We have proven that the shotgun approach has fundamental weaknesses.  Oh, our holiday escapades into poor neighborhoods, government programs and mission trips have been used to help some people, but the need is growing not shrinking. 

I have some dear friends in Atlanta who adopt an international student most years.  They find ways to share meals, holidays and their very lives.  They have made a difference but discovered that the joy surpassed the work and sacrifice.  Imagine how our communities would change if the majority did this for the minority-the poor! 

You may be thinking that the solution is more mind boggling than the problem.  This adoption idea may even sound crazy.  If not this, what?  If we opened our eyes to the people in our daily paths, we would see faces asking for more than a handout. 

If you want to make a new friend, you better hurry.  Those cold winter nights are coming soon.


Your comments I like www.rushinititative.org and www.thesafeharbor.org.  Whom would you recommend?   


Dogmatize and Do-gooders

April 6, 2010  

 One of the things that has impressed me as I write the daily editions of the Jesus Passages for my website is the simplicity of the Lord’s message.  What he requires of us is to simply believe in who he is and then do what he says.  But, then I go to the bookstore or church.

 What I read or hear layers my Christian walk with concepts and theological debates which make me feel inadequate to really understand or follow Jesus.  Quite frankly, it takes the wind out of my sails.  Dogmatic people get in my face to burden me with ideas about how sovereign God really is, to what extent does my choice to believe matter, is my salvation really secure, does my baptism experience count, or should I wave my hands or be one of the frozen chosen.

 These friends take a biblical concept and then overwhelm me with what every writer from their perspective has said about it through the centuries.  How could so many smart people be wrong?  After reading their laborious arguments, it is hard to remember what Jesus actually said.

If you go to the dictionary you will discover that dogmatism involves asserting an opinion as though it were fact.  My fellowship with dogmatic people is often determined by my agreement with their strong views about Jesus’ teaching rather than Jesus himself.  Must our bond depend on which translation of the Bible I read or the length of time I believe it took him to create the world?  What amuses me the most is their intensity about the sins of others but their blindness to their own.

Don’t get me wrong about the Bible and theology.  I realize that some concepts have been revealed that are somewhat difficult to fully comprehend.  My question is this:  should we always filter the words of Jesus through men like Paul and other thinkers or should we let Jesus speak for himself.  If we interpreted the Apostles by Jesus, their theologies may not be so complex.  I am not trying to tinker with inspiration, just asking you to think about your priorities.  Like the existence of time and space outside of creation, there are topics we may never understand until we see Jesus.  He simply desires obedience.

When I read Jesus, his dogmatism captures my imagination.  He wants me to obey all his words, help the poor, sacrifice for the suffering, tithe, share the gospel, turn the cheek, stop judging others and so much more.  That is far easier to understand than some debates I hear but it doesn’t get as much press.  Just think how different our world would be if we were dogmatic about his priorities.  It might help us better understand and unify around those areas we contest.  I guess it is easier to debate concepts than to get my hands dirty.

I noticed another curious thing in the dictionary when I looked up dogmatize.  It is immediately followed by the word, do-gooder.  Do you think God has a great sense of humor or what?



Your CommentsClick the box below and let us hear from you.  OK, you can be dogmatic!    


The Love Bug

February 2, 2010

Beware!  The season is here for the little critters to arrive.  Their cousins gravitate to a warm light bulb, but these guys swarm when love is in the air.  February rocks with a magical day which brings out the annual infestation of the irritable love bug. 

People commonly mistake the love bug for the real thing.  The confusion may be self-deception since we mistakenly think we need what the love bug has to offer.  It sucks us in with frothy words and exaggerated feelings just before delivering the big sting. 

No, the love bug is not your ex-whatever:  spouse, boss or former best friend, even though these targets are tempting.  When you see one you will know it.  If surprised by one, it would be wise not to swat too hard since they are usually discovered in your mirror. 

The love bug always sees its reflection perfectly ignoring the blemishes.  Standing at the right angle hides the layers of fleshly motivation which accumulate over the years.  Dimming the lights can make the wrinkles of lust, greed or status appear to fade.  Before long the love bug is convinced that its love is all about others when in reality it only loves to get something it needs. 

That is why the love bug has a short life span.  People see it as a pest and will do anything to drive the menace away.  Its external beauty is quickly forgotten after the sting.  Selfish toxins are released which hurt so badly that people hope they never see another love bug again. 

If stung, thankfully, there is an antidote that will stop the infection.  The catch is it must be administered regularly.  It comes from the Great Physician… 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. 
And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself. 
All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

The remedy is obvious, change your focus to love God and love others.  Loving God is more than a feeling.  It begins with trust and grows daily through obedience to his words.  Applying God’s truth to every person and situation in life will break the back of the infection.  Toxins must be replaced with truth. 

The second ingredient will overwhelm the disease.  It’s a very rare treatment overlooked by most—love others as yourself.  The power in this ingredient is self-evident and overwhelms the user with a reminder of God’s grace to them.  The infection is rendered impotent as selfishness is replaced with generosity. 

Unfortunately, too many people still suffer and long for the day when the love bug is exterminated once and for all.  Research indicates that progress is being made and that the big breakthrough may be nearer than we think.  Until then, administer the antidote religiously and enjoy the healing it will bring.


Your Comments:
            What suggestions do you have for people suffering from the love bug? 


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