How to serve God in the midst of Opposition

This week I picked up Andy Davis’s new book on Church Revitalization and was going to write a blog in reflection on one of the chapters that I found thought provoking, however it seems Dr. Davis beat me to the punch in his own article this morning. For that reason I will let him do the talking and I’ll make a quick note at the end.

10 Reasons to Be Humble Toward Opponents

Andrew Davis / April 24, 2017

Gospel Coalition Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Andy Davis’s new book, Revitalize: Biblical Keys to Helping Your Church Come Alive Again. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017. Used by permission.

From elementary school (when I had my last schoolyard “fight,” which I lost) until I became senior pastor of First Baptist Church Durham, I had no human enemies. Yet within 18 months of beginning my ministry at this church, I had dozens who at least wanted me fired, perhaps sued, and, it seems, possibly (based on facial expressions) dead. That experience was shocking to me. My ministry and convictions had earned me many enemies.

God doesn’t will for us to give in for an instant on issues of biblical truth. It’s not humilty but self-serving cowardice that causes us to back down from doctrinal attacks. We must fight like lions for the truth of the gospel—the souls of our hearers are at stake.

I think it’s unlikely for a work of church revitalization to go on without overcoming significant human opposition. But God commands us to be humble toward our opponents, entrusting ourselves to him. This is among the greatest displays of grace. And it’ll be instrumental in transforming your church.

As personal conduct goes, I believe there are at least 10 reasons we should be humble toward our opponents.

  1. Because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Pet. 5:5). 

God detests pride in any form, and if church revitalizers are more zealous for their own agenda than God’s glory, he will fight them as much as he will fight the nominal Christians at that church.

But God gives grace to the humble. So humble yourself, and God will lift you up.

  1. Because we are sinners too.

Every church leader, no matter how godly, is a sinner saved by grace. We all deserve eternal condemnation. How are we different from those who oppose us? Is there any sin we see in our opponents that we are incapable of? “Who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7)

Meditating on God’s grace in your own life should destroy any arrogance you may feel toward others.

  1. Because God is motivated to fight for those who don’t fight for themselves.

In this way, we’ll be following the example of Jesus Christ and how he treated his enemies: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23).

In entrusting ourselves to him who judges justly, we’re forsaking the right to defend ourselves. God’s wisdom and power in defending those falsely attacked when serving him are beyond our calculation. And God will use our humble suffering to advance his purposes in the church.

  1. Because Paul was willing to trade his salvation to rescue his enemies.

In Romans 9:1–4, the apostle Paul made a stunning claim—that, if possible, he was willing to trade his salvation and spend eternity in hell if it would result in the salvation of his Jewish enemies. He had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart concerning their spiritual condition.

Paul is a great role model for any leader in church revitalization. His Jewish enemies were hunting him down to kill him. Ours are doing far less. We should see our opponents in light of eternity—and yearn to win them over to Jesus.

  1. You can’t tell the wheat from the weeds.

In Christ’s parable about the wheat and the weeds, the mixed nature of the world—sons of God and sons of the Devil—could not be remedied before the end of the age. The servants offered to pull up the weeds; the master said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them” (Matt. 13:29).

This indicates that before the end of the age, we won’t always be able to tell the difference between wheat and weeds. Paul, the greatest servant of Christ who’s ever lived, was initially the most vicious persecutor of Christians on earth. God’s grace can win any person at any time. Today’s hate-filled enemy may be tomorrow’s zealous co-laborer. And it is “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) that God will use to win them.

  1. You aren’t the issue; God’s glory is.

When we pridefully rise up to defend our honor, we act as though that’s more important than the glory of God in the revitalization of a church for whom Christ shed his blood.

  1. A humble response to attacks will motivate church members to join you.

If you respond to mean-spirited attacks in like manner, it will be obvious to everyone you’re no different from your enemies. But if you are filled with the Spirit, speaking only scriptural truths and seeking repentance and reconciliation with every person, quiet observers will be strongly motivated to come to your aid in the church revitalization process.

  1. Your enemies may be right . . . about something.

It’s exceptionally humble to listen to your adversaries with the conviction they have something worth listening to. While we may disagree about the most fundamental issues having to do with the gospel or the scriptural principles of healthy church life, they may have a valid perspective God wants you to heed regarding some key aspect of the issues or of your own demeanor or performance. God can speak anytime through anyone.

For example, God enabled wicked Caiaphas to prophesy accurately about Christ (John 11:49–52). If God can speak through someone like Caiaphas, he can speak to a church leader in the midst of difficult revitalization work.

If some enemy comes to you after a particularly challenging meeting and says you were rude or you misrepresented his position or you did not follow Robert’s Rules of Order or you did something else he doesn’t approve of, be humble, take the input, and repent wherever you can.

  1. Humility will adorn the gospel for outsiders to see.

We never know who is watching us as we carry on our work of revitalization. And the world is watching the church all the time to see if we practice what we preach. Titus 2:10 says Christians can “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” by how we act.

If you’re genuinely humble while dealing with in-church opposition, the Lord will at some point make it obvious to the community and use you to bring some lost person to Christ.

  1. Suffering well grows you in Christlikeness.

Never forget that the ministry God gives us is as much a part of our own salvation process as it is a part of the salvation of others. Our sanctification is far from over, and God uses bitter trials to conform us to the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ. This is why Romans 5:3 says that “suffering produces endurance.” We need to be thankful for our enemies, because God is using them to shape our souls for his glory.

The Original Article can be found at the Gospel Coalition website: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/10-reasons-humble-toward-opponents

-As Pastors and as leaders in general we all have critics and for most of us it is probably one of the hardest parts of the job. We think everything is going great and then the voices begin. This short series of 10 points derived from Dr. Davis tenth chapter reminded me, along with Mark 11:27-12:12 which I preached this past week, that we are but tenants in God’s Garden called to watch over and tend to the vines and when the time comes give them to God, both the one who praise you and critic you are under your care so love them well, and remember they are all in God’s hands.

 

 

Advertisements

Why I Put More Weight on Some Doctrines than Others

David Crabb once said: “A Bible-balanced ministry will aim to say what the Bible says, in the way it says it, to the degree it says it.”

I find this statement to be very life-giving, and leadership directing for pastors.  Why?  Because as a pastor people accuse me placing more weight on certain doctrines than others found in Scripture.  Is this true?  Absolutely!  I do this because the Bible does it too.  Let me explain.

The Bible places weight on doctrine, therefore all doctrines are very important not only to the life of the individual believer but to the life of the local church.  But while the Bible places weight on doctrine, it does not place equal weight on all doctrines.  Let me give you the best example.  

In every book of the Bible, the main character is Jesus.  Every Scripture somehow foresee’s Him, preview’s Him, explicitly proclaims Him, or reflects on Him.  The whole of the Scripture proclaims Jesus as Lord, the King who is coming, has come, and the One who’ll come again.  Therefore, the Bible places the major weight on the gospel of Jesus Christ because all of the Bible points to it and reflects upon it.  Does the Bible place an equal amount of weight on doctrines such as end times, baptism, communion, prayer, preaching, spiritual gifts, or church discipline?  No, not at all, BUT it does not mean these lesser doctrines are not important it just means they’re not as important as the main doctrine.

Back to David Crabb’s word of wisdom: “A Bible-balanced ministry will aim to say what the Bible says, in the way it says it, to the degree it says it.”  This means a healthy ministry will place the most weight on the things the Bible places the most weight on – the gospel.  If an undue amount of weight is given to other things besides the main thing, a church will eventually grow into something other than a Christian church.  The same is true for the individual Christian.  If we personally place more weight on certain things, weight the Bible does not place on these things, we will grow un-balanced, and will eventually lose sight of the major things.

Can we find the major things in Scripture? Yes. All that is included in the historic Apostles Creed are the major things in Scripture. Let’s place heavy weight on the majors and place lesser weight on the minors, important as they remain.

Are you in a healthy church?  I hope so.

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

Many people define pastoral leadership in terms of business liking the pastor to the CEO and the elders as the executive team.  Is this right to do so?  Yes and no but mainly no.  What do I mean?

Yes, there are certain similarities in a CEO and a pastor.  They lead the whole thing and are paid to do so.  Yes, there are certain similarities in elders and the lead executive committee in a fortune 500 company.  They lead alongside the CEO and pastor, and while the executives are paid to do so, elders are not usually.  The similarities end here, and to go further is to go into dangerous waters.

No, we should not make correlations between these parties at all.  Why?  As pastors, as elders, brothers we are not professionals.  Hear me say what I am saying here.  We are not to be the “professional Christians” among our churches, as if we are the only ones who are given the time and money to do our Christian living.  We are paid to pray, study, live godly lives, share the gospel at home and abroad, etc.  John Piper says this best in his devotional, “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.”  Here is the main summary:

We are fools for Christ’s sake.  But professionals are wise.  We are weak.  But professionals are strong.  Professionals are held in honor.  We are in disrepute.  We do not try to secure a professional lifestyle, but we are ready to hunger and thirst and be ill-clad and homeless.  When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.  Or have we?

CEO’s and their leadership teams rule and govern with much pride, we pastors and elders lead by serving.  How many CEO’s serve those around them?  I’m sure there are some who do, but it is not the norm.  Who showed us the difference here between these two types of leadership?  Jesus.  Remember He came “to serve and not to be served.”

Brothers, imitate your Lord.  We are not professionals.

Leaders Ought to Lead Out of Weakness

So many things about Biblical leadership is opposite what you’ll find today’s leadership books and popular guru’s teaching.  They say things about pride, being confident that you can what you need to, don’t show weakness or people will attack you.  A Christian leader is nothing like this.

Biblical leadership is to do one thing very confidently, lead out of weakness.  It would be pride and arrogant for a pastor to lead out of self-esteem and inner confidence.  Biblical leaders ought to put their own weakness on display and lead out of that.  What?  Yes.  An effective leader, elder or pastor alike, must lead out of weakness by being willing to show your own failings and shortcomings for a number of reasons:

First, it is reality.  Pastors and elders are not perfect people.  We are weak, needy, sinful, and fail just as much, if not more, as every other person in the church does.  This is a fact.  No pastor or elder should ever be put up onto a pedestal for their people.  Only Jesus can hold such a position, and no man ought to.

Second, it is exemplary.  Pastor and elders who lead out of weakness and their own need of Christ are examples for the flock. How so?  When we sin, we repent, and trust in Jesus to forgive and give us power to live in light of the cross.  This happens a million times a year for most people, and for leaders the same is true.  But if the people of a church never see their leaders actually confess sin and repent publicly, do they see a needy man in dire need of God’s grace?  They ought to.

Third, it guards from pride.  Ministering to others out of a sense of your own weakness and need causes one to be continually reminded of their own lack of ability to lead well, and God’s omnipotent strength to lead best.  He is God, we are not.  He saves people, we do not.  He is King, we are not.

When someone does not lead out of a sense of their weakness or need for Christ, you see someone growing in love with power, self, and image.  The cross keeps leaders from such foolishness.  May it keep you as well.

New Home, New Church, New Job, & the Final Mark of Healthy Churches

Last week you may have noticed I put a bit of a news blurb up on the blog about a new season our family is moving into.  We’ve moved to New Port Richey, Florida!  Why?  I’ve accepted the call to be the next pastor of SonRise Community Church. It is a glorious thing to join and be apart of and be called to do.  We’re excited, hopeful, and expectant to see God move in mighty ways here.  Holly and Jack are adjusting very well already and though all these hopeful things are rising within us, we do feel a bit of home-sickness as we left behind family and friends from Georgia.  But we are thankful that God always takes care of us no matter where we are, the past has proven it and so we have hope for the future.  Pray for us!

This leads me to begin our last and final mark of all healthy churches – leadership.  It is very timely that in a season where I am moving into pastoral leadership we find ourselves discussing this very thing in our 9Marks series.  So what is leadership, why is it important, who should lead, and what ought to guide leaders?

The first and foremost thing to say about leadership is simple and brief.

The Bible teaches that each local church should be led by a plurality of godly, qualified men called elders.  These “elders” do not have to be old men, but godly men who are called to lead.  Ephesians 4:11-12 states these elders are gifts from God to His church.  The Apostle Paul lays out certain qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  These things are present in the Bible to show us that leaders are to show the people what the Christian life is supposed to be lived like.  They are not perfect men, but exemplary men, who live an example for others both in victory and repentance.  Texts which give evidence that this is the case, that a plurality of elders in one local church is the norm are: Acts 14:23Acts 20:171 Timothy 4:141 Timothy 5:17, and James 5:14.

Elders are to do the following, at least:

Mark Dever puts it clearly: “The bottom line? Biblical church leadership is important because without it, God’s people are like sheep without shepherds.”

Mistakes Leaders Make

From Westminster Bookstore:

9781433532498mYou Don’t Have to Learn This the Hard Way…

Anyone involved in leadership knows that it’s tough and mistakes are bound to happen. But some mistakes are more costly than others and can result in the end of effectiveness, the loss of important relationships, and disqualification from ministry.

Using the story of a fictitious church team to demonstrate the problems, principles, and practice of finding solutions, leadership expert Dave Kraft uncovers the top 10 critical mistakes leaders make and shows you how to avoid them so you can have ministry and relationships that last.

About the Author:

Dave Kraft served with the Navigators for thirty-eight years before becoming a pastor at Mars Hill Church in 2005. Currently Kraft is one of the pastors at Mars Hill Orange County where he coaches the next generation of leaders. He is also a life and leadership coach with Ministry Coaching International (MCI). Kraft’s first book, Leaders Who Last, was published in 2010. He and his Wife Susan have been married for 43 years and have four adult children and seven grandchildren.