MEN- 4 Common forms of Leadership among Christian Men

 

    In nearly 20 years of ministry and marriage, I have observed a lot of different forms of spiritual leadership among Christian men. At some point in the journey, even the most spiritual of men will embody each of these forms. Truth be told, I will embody each of these forms at various times every week! However, it should be our goal to strive toward greater leadership at the Lord equips and trains us for the calling He has set before us as men.
4 Common forms of Leadership among Christian Men
1. The Abdicated Leader- “I don’t want to lead.”
The word abdicate literally means “to renounces one’s throne.”  The throne carries honor, but it also carries responsibility.  Sadly, there are many men who abdicate their role as a leader because they do not want to carry the burden of leadership for their marriage and family.
Picture of the Problem- A Leadership Vacuum:  Wherever there is a vacuum, something will eventually fill the void.  The reality for many families is that where the man has abdicated his role, many women have had to step up as spiritual leaders in the home.  Even more devastating is how media, negative peer influences, other men, and even gangs can fill the void that a man who has abdicated his leadership leaves behind.
2. The Impotent Leader- “I don’t feel I can lead.”
This man wants to lead, but feels powerless to do so.  Perhaps a negative self-image, a lack of a role model, or a more domineering member of the family has made this man feel unable to fulfill his role as a spiritual leader.  
Picture of the Problem- A Leadership Doormat:  The impotent leader will quickly become the house doormat if he is not able to assume his leadership role.  This will ultimately cause him to disengage from the family and resign to let someone else lead.
3. The Ill-Equipped Leader“I don’t know how to lead.” 
This man wants to lead and feels empowered, but has not been equipped with the tools to lead his family spiritually and emotionally.  In this form, either the man or his marriage and family will be frustrated and may even run into conflict due to the inability to navigate the leadership dynamics skillfully.
Picture of the Solution- A Leadership GPS:  Men need the tools and equipping to be spiritual leaders.  Thankfully, God has given us the Scriptures, the church, and the perfect example in Jesus Christ.  One of the wisest things that a man can do as a spiritual leader is to enlist a mentor who can help guide him in his leadership journey.
4. The Spiritual Leader“I am ready, willing and able to lead.
The Spiritual leader is the man who is God-directed, Christ-empowered and Bible equipped in his leadership.  He is by no means perfect, but he leads from a heart of service, humility, confidence and courage.  The spiritual leader guides his family to grow closer to Christ, by first modeling it and second, charting a course to lead his family in the ways of the Lord.
    There is no perfect spiritual leader other than Jesus Christ.  All we can do is trust in the Lord and depend upon Him to motivate, empower and equip us for every step of the leadership journey.


MEN- 4 Characteristics of Spiritual Leadership at Home

 

     Men carry the blessed burden of spiritual leadership for their homes.  This is a daunting challenge that is only getting more complex in the culture we live in.  More than ever, we need to find our direction in the Word of God. This passage reveals four characteristics of men who are striving to be spiritual leaders at home…
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Ephesians 5:25-27

As men, we are called to be Spiritual Leaders who are…

  1. Christ-directed– Our model is Jesus. He is the one who both shows us and commands us to love our wives and families. Being a spiritual leader begins with being a Jesus follower.  We will only lead our wives and families spiritually as far as we are personally willing to go in our walk with Jesus.
  2. Selfless– As a leader, we put the needs and well-being of our wife and family ahead of our own.  When we make decisions and set the direction for our families, our focus is never on “what’s best for me?”  This might mean not playing as much golf (or video games, or whatever it is you like to play) so that you can be emotionally and spiritually present.  If it means changing diapers, helping with homework, cleaning dishes or doing whatever is needed to help your wife and family succeed, then do it.
  3. Sacrificial– To be selfless requires sacrifice. We must be willing to give up our own personal rights, give up our time, money and effort to lead our homes well.  As the spiritual leader, you demonstrate love and commitment more through the sacrificial gifts of time, attention and emotional energy than by lavish gifts that do not require much of you.
  4. Visionary– As spiritual leaders, we must lead our wife and family with a vision.  The vision that God has given us is that like Jesus, we might present our wife and family to Christ as “holy and without blemish.”  We must be casting vision to our wife and family that we desire to see them become all that Christ desires the church to become- “sanctified, cleansed, washed by the Word- in splendor, beautiful and holy.”  When we lead our family with a vision, it sets the priorities and clarifies the goals that we should have for our family.  With a Christ-directed vision, prioritizing our church involvement, spiritual practices, tithing, mission trips and other spiritual catalysts for growth becomes obvious and non-negotiable.  We know the “True North” that God has given us, and now we can lead our families to set sail and embark on a journey of faith together.
 


Lost Arts: What to do with the “How are you doing?” Question

 

3 Ways We Respond to the Question- “How are you doing?”

“Life right now… sucks.”  Ever felt that way?  Of course you have, because you are human.  We all find ourselves in those kind of seasons of life where we are so discouraged, beaten down or unhappy with the state of our lives that it is hard to know what to do.  Then, you go to church (unsure what good it might do) and someone asks you a seemingly innocuous question- “How are you doing?”  How do you respond?  I have found that there are…
3 Common Ways We Respond To The “How are you doing?” Question:
1.  Deflect and Pretend:  This is clearly the easiest, and therefore the most common.  Most of us when dealing with struggle will not open up about that struggle with others, finding it easier to put on a mask and pretend like everything is OK.  When we do this, we isolate ourselves from those around us and we convince ourselves that no one else understands or cares what we are going through.  This can lead to dark bouts with discouragement, doubt and even depression.  It can also unwittingly make us hypocrites, pretending to be one thing, while in actuality being something else.
2.  Dump and Puke:  This response is at the opposite end of the spectrum.  There are some that are so consumed with their problems and struggles that whenever someone asks them how they are doing, they tend to “dump” their depression and “puke” their problems on others.  As the descriptive imagery indicates, this is not a pretty picture.  While it is important that we feel able to share our struggles with others, we should be careful to not be so consumed with unloading all of our baggage on others that we become insensitive to the fact that they are carrying a load of their own.  
3.  Discuss and Pray:  This is the healthiest and holiest way to respond to the question- “How are you doing?”  When you discuss your struggles and problems with others, you give people an opportunity to listen and share.  The dialogue produces mutual understanding and deeper relationship as the “weakness” of vulnerability is the catalyst for the strength of the friendship.  Even more importantly, when those issues have been discussed and a shared understanding has been accomplished, there is no better place to take those burdens then to the foot of the cross in prayer.  When you pray together, you remind yourselves of this gospel truth- “I am not ‘OK’.”  Only in Jesus can we find healing, only in Jesus can we find forgiveness, only in Jesus can we find rest for our souls.  When we pray like this together with our brothers and sisters in Christ we find the we can be mutually strengthened, encouraged and inspired.
     At Essential, it is my prayer, that every Sunday, and all throughout the week, we will see our church family taking time to discuss and pray together.  When I look across the room after a service, it is my hope that I will see more and more organic groups of people sharing life together and coming together in prayer.  As I talk with our members and leaders, it is my prayer that more and more I will hear of our people getting together over coffee, or coming together in living rooms to share and pray together as the body of Christ.


More than YOU can handle: Hudson Taylor

 

God will OFTEN give you more than YOU can handle.

“We were so utterly burdened beyond our own strength that we despaired of life itself… that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8b,9b
    When reality hits, it hits hard.  The truth is, that in life, whether you are a Christian or not, there will be seasons in which you will be burdened beyond your own capacity and strength to handle the burden.  The saying,“God will never give you more than YOU can handle” is not helpful and not true.  When you are faced with unbearable pain and affliction, the worst thing you can do is to try to convince yourself that YOU are strong enough.  When you are faced with an overwhelming challenge or task, the last thing you should believe is that YOU are up to it.  This is, in fact, the opposite of the Gospel confession itself.  The correct understanding is this- “God will never give you more than HE can handle… and HE can raise the dead, HE can do all things, HE can do the impossible!”  So with God, no burden is too great, no obstacle is too big, no pain is too unbearable, no challenge is too difficult.  He is God and He is with you!

Hudson Taylor- 1865

    In 1865, the great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor recounted being faced with the incredible calling and burden to bring the Gospel to central China and he wondered before the Lord how God might lead him to such an overwhelming task.  He writes that while walking along a shore in Brighton, a thought from the Lord came as he wrote, “Why if we are obeying the Lord, the responsibility rests with Him, not with us! Thou, Lord, Thou shalt have all the burden! At thy bidding, as Thy servant I go forward, leaving results with Thee.” With this gospel perspective, Taylor surrendered his burden to the Lord and God used him to begin a Gospel work in China that resulted in the mighty spread of Gospel throughout China and around the world. Historian Ruth Tucker described the impact of Hudson Taylor’s life… 
“No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.”
    God will OFTEN give you more than YOU can handle.  He does this, so that you will not boast or depend on your own strength, but boast and depend upon His. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight,’ declares the Lord.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24


Why we Celebrate the First Fruits Offering at Essential Church

Magnify and Multiply logo cropped

Every year on our church’s anniversary, we conclude our worship service with a special offering called the First Fruits offering. Since this may be unfamiliar to many believers, we thought it may be helpful to share a little of the Biblical background and purpose of this one time annual offering. The First Fruits Offering is first introduced in Deuteronomy 26:1-11 as God was preparing the people for how they would respond with gratitude for entering into the promised land. In this passage we learn about the deeper meaning of the First Fruits Offering.

The First Fruits Offering is…

  1. A response to God’s gift of grace. (Deuteronomy 26:8-9)

Repeatedly throughout this passage the people recognize that it is the Lord who is giving them the land and leading them into the promised land. It is not a result of their works, but a gift of grace in response to their faith. We have received access to an even greater “promised land” in the gift of eternal life available to us by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

This offering is not given to earn God’s favor or appease God anger. Rather, it is a response to God’s love and grace. How a person responds to grace reveals how a person understands grace. A true understanding of grace reminds us that everything is a gift.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” James 1:17-18

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Every gift, our lives, our salvation, all that we have, and all that we are is only because of the grace of God in our lives. So our lives become a First Fruits offering back to God. When we consider all that God has done to bless and grow our church, we are amazed! Our response is to give back out of what God has so freely and graciously given.

  1. An offering of FIRST priority. (Deuteronomy 26:10)

            We give our FIRST, because God gave His FIRST and He is FIRST in our lives. God did not give us His leftovers, rather He gave us His only Son in Jesus Christ. He has given us His very best. Giving our first demonstrates faith, gratitude and worship. It is so much easier to give our leftovers. God is honored, and He honors those who choose to give Him their first and not just their last.

  1. An offering of joyful celebration. (Deuteronomy 26:11)

The First Fruits offering is for our family, our church and the world to: See, Celebrate and be Blessed.

God identifies that the offering brings a blessing to your “house.” When we give back to the Lord in joyful celebration our family is blessed and learns from us. The offering is also a blessing to the Church (Levites). It is a great blessing and responsibility for the people of God to care for and provide for the men and women of God who are entrusted with the spiritual care of their congregation. In the First Fruits offering, we support those missionaries around the nation and the world who like the Levites are fully dependent upon God’s people for their provision. The offering also is a blessing to the non-religious outsiders like the sojourners in the Old Testament. There are many today in our community and around the world who are dependent on the generosity of the people of God and through our tangible expression of compassion, they may become receptive to the Gospel. Even as God had blessed His people, He also desired that they too would be a blessing to the church and the world around them.

The Essential Church First Fruits offering is focused on blessing the church and the world around us through these three areas:

  1. Church Missions:  The first 25% of our First Fruits offering will go toward supporting and supplementing the cost of mission trips for Essential Church members.  The greater our giving, the greater our ability to help send out our members as missionaries around the world.
  2. Regional, National, and International Missions:  Each year, our denomination takes up special offerings for missions.  The Sylvia Wilson offering goes toward state and regional missions.  The Annie Armstrong missions offering goes toward North American missions.  The Lottie Moon offering goes toward International missions.  Rather than asking people to give 3 or more times per year, we have chosen to give our second 25% of our First Fruits offering towards these three areas.
  3. Special Church Projects:  As the church grows, this portion of the First Fruits offering will take on extra importance as it will serve as the means for doing things as a church that may be outside of the scope of the annual church budget. This year, will include the following (as we have the resources available):

* Assisting the SUMMERLINK internship program with the cost of summer lodging.

* Helping to send our Students (7-12th) to Summer Camp (Centrifuge in Turner, OR)

* Assisting Ying Zhang in her ministry with Bridges International

* Assisting Essential Church members with one-time foster/adoption expenses as the Lord leads.

* Purchasing equipment and other vision-oriented needs as the Lord leads.

Jesus is the True and Better First Fruits: (1 Corinthians 15:19-24)

Christ was resurrected on the day after the Passover- Which is the day of the first fruits offering. The First Fruits offering were a pledge, which indicated that the entire harvest was soon to follow. When Jesus was raised from the dead, it was God’s assurance to us that those who have put their faith in Christ will also be raised one day as part of that future harvest. First Fruits remind us of this powerful truth-The best is yet to come.

So, as we come to present this offering to the Lord, we come as a response to God’s grace, we come to demonstrate God is first, we come with joyful celebration and we come to honor the Lord, knowing that the best is yet to come! We believe in faith that God’s promises are true and that we can never out give God.

 “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10