Categories
Christian Living

Three Main Leadership Styles

Be Open to How God Wants to Lead Us

A minister once told me there are three ways to lead people. Some lead from above, others lead from the front, and still more lead from within. God can lead us in the same way. Consider these three leadership styles.

Lead From Above

Leaders who lead from above are a distance from those they lead. They give direction and expect people to follow through and do as they say. They lead through their words. Some do this positively and with encouragement. Others make demands and issue threats.

Rulers of kingdoms and CEOs of companies use this leadership style. For kings and queens, their position allows it. For corporate presidents, the scope of their company requires it. In churches, the sermon during the Sunday morning service is an example of a pastor leading from above.

Father God also leads from above. A prime example is Exodus 19:9 when God wanted to speak directly to the people. Though it’s not his fault, this didn’t work out.

The thought of God speaking to them so terrified them that they begged Moses to act as their intermediary (Exodus 20:19). Even so, God did lead from above, albeit through a liaison—as he did throughout the Old Testament timeline.

Today God continues to lead from above through the Bible.

Lead From the Front

Other leaders do so in front of their people. They want to be closer to their charges. They lead by example, and their people follow them.

This leadership style works well in smaller organizations (though some leaders will still choose to lead from above, keeping a distance between them and their employees or volunteers).

Aside from companies, teachers on a class trip lead in front of their pupils. It’s also a common way of training employees or instructing students, letting them learn by the example of their instructor.

Jesus led his disciples and admirers from the front. They followed him and watched what he did. He often urged listeners and those who sought his direction to “follow me” (Luke 9:23, as well as many other places). This was his call to action.

Though Jesus isn’t physically with us today to lead in front of us, we can still follow him as his disciples and learn about him and what he did through the Bible in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Holy Spirit helps us in this (John 14:26), which brings us to the final leadership style.

Lead From Within

The third leadership style is to lead from within. These leaders don’t position themselves over the group, keeping a distance from them. They also don’t lead from the front, expecting people to follow. Instead, they immerse themselves into the group and lead from within the midst of it.

Though the distinction between leading from the front and leading from within often blurs, with leaders migrating between the two techniques, usually one predominates.

Leading from within often occurs in business startups and service organizations. In these cases, leaders work side-by-side with their employees or volunteers. They teach and encourage as they work.

The Holy Spirit leads from within. We see this exemplified in a literal sense when the church works to settle the controversy about the need for circumcision. Their conclusion was a group consensus in which the Holy Spirit played a key role (Acts 15:28).

The Holy Spirit also leads from within in a figurative sense, from within us. We see this later in the book of Acts when the Holy Spirit keeps Paul from preaching in Asia (Acts 16:6).

May we embrace all three of God’s leadership styles and learn from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

God’s Leadership Styles

Just as people can have three leadership styles: leading from above, leading from the front, and leading from within, so does God. Though these overlap, we see God the Father leading from above, God the Son leading from the front, and God the Spirit leading from within.

May we embrace all three of God’s leadership styles and learn from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Visiting Churches

Church Discipline

The sprawling facility provides an impressive view from a distance. Their larger, new building suggests a thriving, dynamic community. But our experience there does not align this this, but the teaching about church discipline really connects with me.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #46

1. Yet no one responds to Candy’s phone messages or emails, so she can’t confirm the service time listed on their website. As we pull up, doubt forms. Only a few cars sit in their large parking lot. Are we here at the wrong time? 

How can you better respond to those who contact your church?

2. During worship, heavily orchestrated background tracks reverberate through the sanctuary. I can’t push past the overproduced, resounding boom. It distracts me from the words and blocks my worship

How can you best help people worship God?

3. The pastor tells the congregation to open their Bibles and follow along as he reads. The verses don’t appear on the screens. With our version not matching his, it’s disconcerting. I feel marginalized and excluded. 

What changes do you need to make to help guests feel included?

4. The minister is a gifted communicator. I appreciate his teaching about church discipline. He makes some great points. and he soon wins me over. He says that we cannot judge the lost, but we do need to judge ourselves. 

Are you wrongly judgmental? What needs to change?

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Visiting Churches

High Expectations and Great Disappointment

I’ve heard a great deal about the minister and this church. I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. I have high expectations.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #42

1. Inside we weave through a throng of people, but no one acknowledges us. We’re invisible. Do they even care about newcomers, or are they too big to notice? 

How much do your actions show you care about visitors?

2. The service is a copy of a church we attended thirty-five years ago. Then it was exciting. Now it’s tired. I’m painfully disappointed. 

What do you need to change in your service to stay fresh and relevant?

3. We learn that doctrine is important to them. Though the teaching seems grounded in scripture, the minister makes divisive claims not found in the text, which he delivers with dogmatic passion. 

Does your doctrine divide the church of Jesus or unify it? What needs to change?

4. In his sermon, the minister criticizes “heretical charismatic ministers.” Though he might be referring to specific charismatic teachers, I infer he thinks all charismatic leaders are heretics. It’s human nature to vilify what we don’t understand. 

How can you better embrace people who hold different views than you?

My high expectations for this church led to great disappointment. But even if I had lowered my expectations, my disappointment would still have been high.

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Seek Positive Influences

Be Careful Who You Invite into Your Life

Who influences you? Who are the people that guide your decisions and inform your perspectives? We must be careful who we let into this most critical mental space of our lives, for if we are unwise in who we let shape our sensibilities, we risk letting others guide us down the wrong path. That’s why we must seek positive influences.

You may have heard the thought-provoking quote, often attributed to Jim Rohn, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The corollary to this is “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” My take on this concept is, “Who you hang out with will shape who you become.”

The Ripple Effect

If we’re influenced by the five people closest to us, then we must acknowledge that each one of them faces the impact of the five people closest to them. That means we’re directly affected by five people and indirectly affected, albeit not to the same degree, by twenty-five more, some of whom we may not even know.

Allow this ripple of interpersonal impact to expand one more level and we find 125 more who influence the people who influence the people who influence us. If this seems far-fetched, studies confirm a connection.

While some may quibble with the details, few will dismiss the impact that others have on our lives, be it positive influences or negative. We must be careful who we let in, who we keep at a distance, and who we need to avoid.

This doesn’t mean we should ignore people with struggles or who focus on what is contrary to our life’s mission, but we should exercise restraint and how much access we provide to them.

Scrutinize Who Impacts Your Life

This is one reason I stopped listening to the news and scaled way back on social media. Read more about this in my post on toxic environments. There’s so much negativity in both these destinations, which I don’t want in my life. I’m wise to push those influences aside.

That’s why we should look for who we can invite into our life. We can start by considering people with traits we respect. Beyond that we should evaluate our entertainment choices: the books we read, the shows we watch, and the places we go.

Who influences you spiritually? Does anything need to change? Click To Tweet

This idea of influence also applies to the church we attend. Are the people there uplifting, or do they pull us down? If we leave church discouraged or need time to mentally decompress from the experience, we may be better off to seek an alternate Sunday destination.

Beyond church, who influences you spiritually? Does anything need to change? May we surround ourselves with those who present us with positive influences.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

We Must Rethink Sunday School

We Must Rethink Sunday School

Reform Sunday School as an Education Service to Your Community

It may be strange to see Sunday school on this list of things we must change for our churches, but we should carefully reexamine it. Do you know the original mission of this Sunday program?

It was to teach poor children how to read. And the church used the most accessible book to them, the Bible. It was a pleasant side effect that in teaching children to read, this Sunday educational program also taught them about God through the Bible.

By the time public schools came into existence and took over this job of teaching children how to read, Sunday school had become entrenched in churches. Instead of realizing they had accomplished their objective and shutting it down, they shifted its focus to teach the church’s children about God.

It didn’t matter that this was the parent’s responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, Proverbs 22:6, and Ephesians 6:4). Though parents can supplement their efforts with other resources, let’s not depend on Sunday school to be one of them.

English as a Second Language

We could use this as justification for shutting down our Sunday schools, but a better approach might be to reform this practice from the internal program that it has become back into a service effort to help those in our community, just as was the original intent.

One example that would apply in many areas in the United States is to look at teaching English as a second language (ESL). Though many ESL programs already exist, they don’t reach everyone. Beyond ESL classes, meeting any unmet community educational need would fit nicely.

Regardless, the church should reform their Sunday school practice to address needs in their community.

Parents should resume their biblical role to tell their children about Jesus. They are the primary spiritual educators of their children. This removes the need for Sunday school, which we can re-envision as a program to help those in our community.

Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about Christian unity and loving others.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

The Four Parts of the Great Commission

Explore Jesus’s Parting Words

A few weeks ago we looked at Jesus’s final instructions as found in each of the Bible’s four biographies of him. Melding these together, we came up with three steps. First is to follow Jesus, second is to wait for Holy Spirit power, and three is to go and tell others.

Looking specifically at Matthews record of Jesus’s words in Matthew 28:19-20, we have the passage many people call the Great Commission. In this we have four action verbs.

Go: Step One of the Great Commission

Jesus tells his disciples they are to go. This is the opposite of stay. But staying is exactly what they do. They stay in Jerusalem—as initially commanded—waiting for the Holy Spirit. But once the Holy Spirit shows up, they continue to stay.

It isn’t until a wave of persecution sweeps through the church in Jerusalem that Jesus’s followers scatter. Finally, this forces them to go, as Jesus instructed.

Matthew doesn’t record where they are to go, other than everywhere. Luke, however, gives more details in the beginning of his writing in the book of Acts (Acts 1:8).

There Jesus says that under Holy Spirit power he wants his followers to tell others about him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the rest of the world. (Again, notice that being filled with the Holy Spirit proceeds the going phase.)

From these four locations we can interpret four areas of ministry. Jerusalem, which is where we live; Judea, which is our own people group; Samaria represents other people who live nearby; and the ends of the earth mean everyone else.

Make Disciples: Step Two of the Great Commission

As Jesus’s followers go on their missionary journeys, they are to make disciples. He doesn’t say to make converts, though the implied prerequisite for discipleship is following Jesus. Instead he says to make disciples.

Conversion is a onetime effort. We make the decision to follow Jesus in an instant, but discipleship takes a lifetime. Too often the focus today is getting people to say “yes” to Jesus.

Evangelists track their number of salvation decisions, but they seldom talk about the difficult follow-up work of making disciples. In fact, they often convert people and then leave, with no discipleship work whatsoever—abandoning their converts and letting them flounder.

Since Jesus doesn’t talk about conversion—even though it’s implied in making disciples—we can wisely surmise that Jesus cares much more about disciples than decisions.

Jesus cares much more about disciples then decisions. Click To Tweet

Baptize: Step Three of the Great Commission

For our third action word we read baptize. This is phase one of making disciples. Notice that baptism doesn’t come before the instruction to make disciples, but after it. It’s the first aspect of making disciples, not a prerequisite for discipleship.

Some people, however, place baptism ahead of discipleship, often stopping at baptism and never making any effort to disciple the people they baptize. This brings us to the fourth word in the Great Commission.

Teach: Step Four of the Great Commission

The fourth action step in the Great Commission is to teach. Like the word baptize, teach is part of making disciples. It’s phase two of the discipleship process. And though baptism is a onetime action, teaching is ongoing. Teaching is the long-term effort of making disciples.

There are other aspects of teaching, which Jesus doesn’t detail in this passage, but we can infer from his actions we read about in the Bible. After teaching comes application, in which the disciples go out and do the things they learned about.

We see this when Jesus’s disciples baptize others (John 4:1-2), heal others (Matthew 10:1, Mark 6:7), and point others to Jesus (Luke 10:1).

In these last two instances, they must go. This takes us full circle, implying that the final step of discipleship is to go and repeat the process.

From Jesus’s charge in the Great Commission, he wants his followers to go everywhere, make disciples, baptize, and teach them.

How does this apply to us today?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 26-28, and today’s post is on Matthew 28:19-20.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

How Does the Old Testament Law Fit Our New Testament Faith?

The Old Testament Law Gets Us Started and Points Us to Jesus

Why is the Old Testament Law in the Bible? How is it relevant for us today? Many followers of Jesus ignore the Law they read in the Old Testament, and a few people pick which parts of it they want to follow and dismiss the rest.

As for me, I’m searching for a way to connect the Old Testament Law with my faith and make sense of it without being weighed down by it.

Courtesy of Matthew, we know that Jesus came to fulfill the Law but not eliminate it (Matthew 5:17). In addition, Paul writes that the Law of the Old Testament served as our “guardian” until Jesus came (Galatians 3:24). Does this mean we can get rid of the Old Testament Law? Not so fast.

The word guardian is interesting. Let’s dig into it. In considering some fifty translations of the Bible for this verse, Guardian occurs in 17 of them. Here are some of the words used in other versions:

  • tutor (12 times),
  • schoolmaster (7),
  • disciplinarian (7),
  • custodian (4),
  • “in charge of us” (4),
  • teacher (3),
  • guide (3),
  • governess (2),
  • trainer (1),
  • chaperone (1),
  • babysitter (1),
  • child-conductor (1),
  • master (1), and
  • gateway (1).

And just to be thorough, we have:

  • pedagogue (1),
  • under-master (1), and
  • “watching over us” (1).
  • Finally, the Message says, “we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law,” that is, the Old Testament Law.
We shouldn’t view the Old Testament law as wrong or as irrelevant, but it is incomplete. Click To Tweet

Education and the Old Testament Law

Let’s consider the theme of education (tutor, schoolmaster, teacher, guide, trainer, and more). In elementary school I learned the basics from my teachers. In junior high and high school, we built upon our basic education to more fully understand our lessons.

In college we expanded our understanding further. Then later still, our life lessons built upon all our formal education.

What my elementary school teachers taught me wasn’t wrong, but it was incomplete. The same goes for high school and college. Even now, I continue to build upon my initial levels of education as I grasp for a deeper understanding of the basics I once learned.

This same concept applies to most of the other words that the various translations use for this verse.

In the same token, we shouldn’t view the Old Testament Law as wrong or irrelevant, but it is incomplete. We must build upon it. The Law moves us forward in our faith in Jesus. Then, as we mature, our understanding transcends into something more, something much more.

It’s as if the Old Testament Law gets us started and points us in the right direction. Then Jesus furthers our education by building upon it. The Law isn’t something we should ignore, nor is it the goal. The Law is the beginning, and Jesus is the end.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

We Must Teach Sound Doctrine

When we talk to others about God it’s critical we teach sound doctrine

Paul writes a letter of instruction to his protégé Titus. In it he devotes a lengthy section instructing Titus about how to teach others. Paul opens this passage with the simple direction that Titus must teach whatever’s appropriate for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).

I like this phrase, “sound doctrine.” The concept of having a healthy foundation for our faith should guide the things we tell others when we talk about God.

Sound Doctrine

This idea of having a worthy creed implies that there is a basis for it. The Bible is certainly our primary source for our doctrine. We find further guidance in this by the direction of the Holy Spirit and in considering what others have to say about the Bible.

If we say something contrary to what we find in the Word of God or how the Holy Spirit directs us, this isn’t a doctrine that’s sound.

Unsound Doctrine

If we consider sound doctrine, the opposite might be unsound doctrine. What does this entail? Unsound doctrine includes things that aren’t in the Bible, notions we make up or sound good.

Our unexamined customs, practices, and traditions could fall under the category of unsound doctrine. We should avoid it.

Sound Heresy

Another opposite of sound doctrine might be sound heresy. What is sound heresy? It’s things that sound good, but aren’t. Sometimes this is people misquoting Scripture.

For example, “The Good Lord helps them who helps themselves,” isn’t in the Bible, but many people think it is. It is, in fact, sound heresy, because people believe it even when they shouldn’t.

Another example of sound heresy comes from preachers who say things with such passion and so frequently, that we accept their words as truth even if those things aren’t supported by the Bible. We feel good about these ideas, but they aren’t relevant; they’re just sound heresy.

We must seek to hold onto a sound doctrine. Click To Tweet

Instead we must seek to hold onto a sound doctrine, rejecting shallow doctrine as well as sound heresy. We should be like the people in Berea who check to see if Paul’s words are supported by what Scripture says (Acts 17:11).

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Titus 1-3, and today’s post is on Titus 2:1.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

For Many Christians, It’s Time To Grow Up

One of the reasons we learn about God is so we can teach others

In the letter written to the Hebrew people who follow Jesus, there’s a short phrase that’s easy to skip over. The author, who I suspect is Paul, criticizes the people he’s writing to. He says they should be at a point in their faith journey where they can teach others.

Instead they are content to be taught. They’re drinking milk, but they should have moved on to solid food.

Notice that the writer doesn’t call out specific people. He makes a general statement to all who receive his letter. That’s everyone. In our Christian society today, most people remain content to have someone teach them.

They seldom take time to teach others about God, their faith, and their faith Journey.

Our churches today are filled with people who crave milk. Even though they are mature enough to eat solid food, they haven’t grown enough to take that step. Instead they’re content to suck milk from a bottle.

This is to their shame and to our shame. We expect others to teach us, when we should be doing the teaching ourselves.

We expect others to teach us, when we should be doing the teaching ourselves. Click To Tweet

Teaching can take several forms. It might be standing before a group and giving a lesson. It might be sitting in a circle and sharing what God is doing in our life. Or maybe it’s one-on-one interaction when we encourage a friend to move forward in their faith and to make Godly decisions.

Some people delude themselves by claiming they’re not ready to teach. But I think most simply find it’s the most comfortable thing to do. They prefer to go to church and sit passively in their pews so that someone else can give them milk to drink.

Instead we should adopt a new attitude. We should realize we have insights, knowledge, and experiences that can help others. Everyone knows something that will benefit the people we talk to. We need to share what we know.

Likewise everyone we encounter knows something that we don’t. We must be ready to hear what they have to say and learn from them.

Our job is to grow in our faith, and then to teach others. It’s time to start doing that.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 5-7, and today’s post is on Hebrews 5:12.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Save

Categories
Christian Living

Welcome Back to School

Celebrate Your Teachers Who Impacted Your Life

As kids and college students head back to school this fall, I recall many of the teachers who worked hard to educate me. I learned something useful from every one of them, even the few who probably shouldn’t have been teaching any more.

Most, however, were amazing teachers, while a few standouts helped shape me into who I am today.

My training from these educational superstars went beyond the textbook and surpassed the curriculum learning objectives. Their instruction transcended the lesson plan and offered up valuable life lessons.

Thank You, Teachers

Mrs. Frank established a good foundation for my subsequent teachers to build upon.

Miss Robinson instilled in me a thirst for learning.

Mrs. Wedel inspired me to reach high, that I was more than I realized.

Mr. Binder taught me science, but his big life lessons came as my track coach.

Professor Britten guided me in living fully by merging knowledge, work, faith, and family into one holistic understanding.

My list of honorable mentions is a lengthy one, comprised of longsuffering educators who toiled to give children a better chance at tomorrow. Though not always appreciative of their efforts, and occasionally disrespectful, we learned nonetheless, sometimes in spite of ourselves.

We complained about homework, grumbled over unannounced quizzes, and struggled to study when other things beckoned more loudly. They persisted, and we benefited.

Thank you teachers everywhere. You have the most important job of all—even if you seldom hear it.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Exit mobile version