A few years ago, our local church’s women’s ministry team hosted
an outdoor dinner party. We wanted to gather the women who were already
investing in the life of another woman in the church and talk about how we
could equip other women to do the same.
We dragged tables and low chairs out into a grassy pasture,
strung lights, and ate barbeque with all the country “sides.” Of the twenty
women present, ten were college-aged to thirty-something and ten were forty and
As women began to spill out onto the pasture and make their way
to the tables, there were college women and young professionals; newlyweds,
wives, and young moms; empty nesters and grandmas; singles and widows. And as
the bread was passed and drinks were refilled over the course of the night, we saw
something happen across the table. Biblical mentoring was organically unfolding
with each course just as God designed it in Titus 2:3-5:
Older women likewise are
to . . . teach what is good, and so train the young women . . . that the Word
of God may not be reviled.
After dinner, the older women waved goodbye as the younger women
volunteered to clean up. As conversation flowed around the kitchen and onto the
couches, we began talking about how much we needed, and wanted, older women in
our lives after such a refreshing night. While we all craved community with
women our own age, there was something missing that we couldn’t get from our peers.
So, for the older women in the faith, consider these four
reasons why we as younger women want, and need, you in our lives.
Your presence gives us a strong
model of biblical femininity. With
each new wave of secular feminism, and as each new generation of women
redefines what womanhood is, young women need older sisters in Christ in their
local church to speak honestly and boldly about what the Bible has to say about
biblical womanhood. If young followers of Christ are to become deeply rooted in
God’s Word and begin putting on the clothing of righteousness (Colossians
3:12–17), then they want more from you than a hug or a quick “hello” in the
church restroom. They need your consistent presence in their lives outside of
the bible study classroom. And as you share life with them, the biblical models
of singleness, marriage, and motherhood are on display.
Your testimony gives us a
tangible model of God’s faithfulness. Katie
and Kerri are two sisters who have walked, and are walking, a hard road of
suffering. They lost their mother at an early age to a despicable terminal
illness. When my mother was diagnosed with the same disease their mother had, I
reached out to them. Whether it was time spent sharing over guacamole and
chips, time on the phone after a crisis point, or just a quick Facebook
message, their testimony of faithfully walking with God through similar trials
strengthened me. Also, every conversation of transparency pointed me to God’s
faithfulness, not only in their lives but also in my own. When you invest in
the life of a younger sister in Christ, you tangibly show them the power of the
living and active Word of God. Outside of sharing the gospel, there is no
richer gift you can give someone.
Your stories give us the
freedom to live by grace and not perfection. Especially for the
millennial and generations following, living in the victorious shadows of the
costly grace of God is not the message our world, including their peers, is
sharing. Rather, cloaked under the disguise of solidarity, women regularly face
the struggle of comparison and the pursuit of perfection. However, when the
women of the local church begin to walk in transparency with one another, it
gives the generations following confidence and freedom to walk in the same way.
Share your stories of crises, addictions, struggles, mundane days, and
victorious battles, because in your weakness they see God’s strength.
Your wisdom gives us an
unwavering path to follow.
As you seek and follow Christ, the younger generations are watching you. Young
women need you to invite them into your homes, sit down and share a meal with
them, open the Bible with them on your couch, and talk about the deep,
wonderful, good things of God and His Word. As you have hidden that Word in
your heart over the years, as the pages of your Bible are now etched on your
heart, help these younger believers to apply those truths to their lives.
Sharing wisdom coupled with accountability and trust is a life-giving formula.
Are you investing in the life of someone spiritually younger
than you? Know that the young women in your church want, and need, you to be.
Start by looking around you in the ways you are already serving. Invite one
younger lady, or ten, out to dinner and begin there. I imagine you’ll discover
what we did under that big, open sky in that grassy pasture: when older women
teach what is good, groves of young women rejoice and come back for more.
Leaders lead their constituents somewhere different from
where they are already. Thus, the essence of leadership is change.
Consequently, leaders must understand the change process and how change is
The Process of Change
A typical pattern of events occurs from the beginning of a
change to the end. Kurt Lewin, a researcher and social psychologist, divided
the change process into three distinct phases:
Unfreezing phase. People come to
realize that the old ways of doing things are no longer appropriate and that
change is needed. This recognition may occur as a result of an obvious crisis
or from the leaders’ efforts to describe threats or opportunities not yet
apparent to most people in the organization. An organizational “catharsis” of
some kind is often necessary before the shell of complacency and self-righteousness
is broken open and prejudices against major change removed.
Changing phase. People look for new
ways of doing things and select an appropriate and promising approach.
Refreezing phase. The new approach
is implemented and it becomes established.
All three phases are necessary for successful change. Moving
too quickly through the stages can endanger the success of a change effort. If
a leader attempts to move directly to the changing phase without first
unfreezing the attitudes of his constituents, he is likely to meet with apathy
at best and strong, organized resistance at worst. A lack of prayer, systematic
diagnosis and problem solving in the changing phase will result in a weak
change plan. And a lack of attention to consensus building and maintenance of
enthusiasm in the third stage may result in the change being reversed soon
after it is implemented.
This metaphor of unfreezing, changing and refreezing is
useful in that it illuminates the distinct phases of the change process.
Nevertheless, one should not overlook the fact that the status quo is not a
static affair (as the image of “freezing” may lead us to believe) but a living
and dynamic process. The status quo in an organization is “quasi-stationary” –
like a river that continuously moves but still keeps a recognizable form. In
leading change, the organizational structures, the people themselves and the
outside world all need to be considered in their complex and dynamic interplay
with each other.
How Change is
Now that we know what change looks like, how do we achieve
Change is achieved by two types of fundamental actions:
Increasing the driving forces toward change. For
example, by setting forth vision or by increasing incentives, etc.
Reducing the restraining forces that create
resistance to change. For example, by reducing fear of failure or economic
loss, or by converting or removing opponents, etc.
If the restraining forces are weak, it may be sufficient
merely to increase the positive, driving forces. However, when restraining
forces are strong, a dual approach is usually best. Unless restraining forces
can be reduced, an increase in driving forces will create an intense conflict
over the change, and continuing resistance will make it more difficult to
complete the unfreezing phase.
Using Someone Else’s
There are many generic change strategies for either attitude
change or role change. In the business world, some examples include downsizing,
delayering, self-managed teams, quality circles and incentive plans. Popular
strategies come and go in every organizational context.
However, a common mistake is for a leader to implement one
of these change strategies without a careful and prayerful diagnosis of the
particular problems and opportunities facing his own organization. A single
generic strategy is not likely to solve an organization’s problems by itself,
and it may make them worse.
Before initiating major changes, leaders must be clear about
the nature of the problem or the opportunity and the objectives of the intended
Just as in the treatment of a physical illness, the first
step is a careful diagnosis to determine what is wrong with the patient. The
organizational diagnosis can be conducted by the top leadership team, by
outside consultants, or by a team composed of representatives of the various
key stakeholders in the organization. To succeed, of course, the procedure must
be submitted to the will and purposes of God, and it must be bathed in prayer.
After the diagnosis is completed, an appropriate change strategy
can then be prayerfully designed with complementary changes in roles and
The Change Strategy
There are two basic ways to introduce change in an
organization: change people or change roles. Leaders must understand these two
dimensions of change.
people. This approach assumes that new attitudes or skills will cause
behavior to change. Skills can be changed with training programs, and attitudes
can be changed by persuasive appeals or by team building interventions. Prayer,
of course, is the Christian leader’s most potent way to bring change in
people’s hearts when that change is in line with God’s will. “Converts” become
change agents themselves and transmit the vision to other people in the
roles. This approach assumes that when new roles require people to act in a
different way, they will change their attitudes to be consistent with their new
behavior. Roles can be changed by redesigning jobs to include different
activities and responsibilities, by reorganizing the workflow, by modifying
authority relationships, and by changing the criteria and procedures for the
evaluation of work.
Either approach can succeed or fail depending on how it is
implemented, as well as the circumstances surrounding it. Often the best strategy
will be to use them together in a mutually supportive way, making efforts to
change attitudes and skills to support new roles. This will minimize resistance
and give change the best chance of success.
As we’ve said before, any change procedure must be submitted
to the will and purposes of God, and it must be bathed in prayer. But
understanding the need, process, and reaction to change will help guide you and
your organization through.
most commonly heard of the biblical models for Christian leadership is servant
leadership. Christians commonly use this phrase, especially in relation to
vocational ministry work. We are encouraged to be servants and serve others as
Christ did. While this is correct, this is only one of four models taught over
the years. I have found that one of those other models ‒ steward leadership ‒ encompasses
our biblical calling more fully.
term “servant leader” originally came in the 1970’s. Robert Greenleaf published
an essay titled “The Servant as Leader,” and it was there that he coined this
phrase. It is the most frequently used out of the four models of leadership in
which we are encouraged to lead by serving others. This idea pulls leaders back
to working side-by-side with the people below them rather than leading afar
from the top tier.
leadership, on the other hand, came into use in 1987 by Dr. Robert Clinton, and
functions as a more complete model for biblical leadership. From the beginning,
God gave man the task of “having dominion” over the earth. (Gen 1:26) God
tasked Adam and Eve with the duty of caring for His creation. Man has the
innate responsibility of managing what has been given by God. A servant may in
rare cases obtain the right of managing his or her owner’s possession, though
that is not usual. The norm is the servant accomplishes tasks and assists the
other person. Stewards gain more responsibility and authority to make decisions
concerning the belongings of the owner.
New Testament also expounds on the idea of steward leadership. In Matthew
25:14-30 Jesus tells the parable of the talents. Two men are put in charge of a
portion of their owner’s talents. One turns around and hides the money, afraid
of his master, while the other invests and doubles the money. In this parable,
we have the perfect example of steward leadership. Both men had the
responsibility of managing the owner’s possessions. They had authority of how to
use those talents, a privilege that a servant does not necessarily have. The
good steward led by taking charge of his position and, by that, doubling the
possessions of the master. By telling this parable, Jesus showed the value of
leading as a steward.
addition, there is a difference in the motivation between
the two models. Think about it for a second. A servant typically has no choice
in the way to serve his or her master. There are tasks that need to be done and
the servant does them. Granted, he or she has a choice over the attitude with
which they do it as well as the quality of the work. Nevertheless, the duties
and expectations generally stop there. A steward, on the other hand, not only
serves and manages, but additionally can catch the vision. To best manage
another’s property, the steward must understand the owner’s goals and visions.
Only then can the steward truly accomplish the task of stewardship.
talking about sharing the vision, we must start with the example of Christ. As
Jesus paid the debt for us, He set His eyes on “the joy set before Him,” (Heb.
12:2) that of Heaven and residing at the Father’s right hand. As He did that
Himself, He also spent His lifetime teaching His followers the vision of the
Father. Even when He left the Earth, His parting words were tasking His
followers with the Great Commission. Here, in Matthew 28:19-20, we are told
… make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of Holy
Spirit, teaching them to observe all that (He) has commanded (us).
writes after this that we are to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for
which God has called (us) heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Therefore, as stewards
being tasked with the Great Commission, we have the capability to catch sight
of the vision for our lives given first by God.
conclusion, while there is nothing inaccurate with the servant leader model,
capturing and acting upon the idea of steward leadership opens more avenues to
better lead and live for God. It allows us to have a level of authority and
responsibility while also puts us in the mindset of catching the Kingdom vision
‒ the end goal.
am broken. I lead a community of broken people called a church. And we
often say, unapologetically, that we are a community of the broken
who have good news for the broken.
misunderstand. I don’t mean that we’re “broken” in the sense that we’re
rendered useless by our imperfections. The opposite is actually true. We’re
made more useful,
and we discover our greatest purpose through our pain and suffering.
A. W. Tozer is often credited with a quote I’ve shared a few times
It is doubtful whether God can
bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.
without fail, every time I share it, I get pushback and it usually revolves
around the idea that God would never hurt us, right? Isn’t His plan
for our lives more along the lines of health, wealth, and prosperity?
consider the context in
which Tozer wrote his statement …
tend to think of Christianity as a painless system by which we can escape the
penalty of past sins and attain to heaven at last. The flaming desire to be rid
of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not
often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father
and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through
the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes, maybe we shall. But for the most of us
it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence
of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have
fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were
present when the battle was joined.
The devil, things and people being what they
are, it is necessary for God to use the hammer, the file and the furnace in His
holy work of preparing a saint for true sainthood. It is
doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply. (A. W.
Root of the Righteous)
it isn’t that God causes evil to come into our lives for no purpose. Rather, it
is that he uses the
suffering we endure for our good, to prepare and shape our character so that
we’re up to the task of leadership.
I happen to be a pastor who struggles with depression. And I’m not
I’ve spent nearly a decade networking with pastors and church
leaders all over the world and I never cease to be surprised at the number who,
in private conversation, will divulge their own battles with depression and
We’re supposed to be strong, right? We have to be the bold leader,
the model of victory and spiritual triumph!!
I’ve learned, after two decades in pastoral ministry, that the best leaders are the broken
been hurt and will be hurt more, and they experience God’s healing.
suffer weakness, and they experience God’s strength.
often have a certain picture of what depression looks like, but many who struggle do
so in between all of the working and parenting and the rest of the busyness of
life. Charles Spurgeon struggled with periodic depression while growing one of
the greatest churches in Europe.
led a school for aspiring ministry leaders and compiled the manuscripts of
talks he had given to those students called Lectures to My Students, which
includes a chapter entitled “The Minister’s Fainting Fits.”
opens the chapter acknowledging that “Fits of depression overcome the most of us.” So
again, you’re never alone in your brokenness – it’s more common than you will
He continues …
under the economy of redemption it is most clear that we are to endure
infirmities, otherwise there were no need of the promised Spirit to help us in
them. It is of need be that we are sometimes in heaviness …
have the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels, and if there be a flaw in
the vessel here and there, let none wonder. Our work, when earnestly
undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression …
mental work tends to weary and to depress, for much study is a weariness of the
flesh; but ours is more than mental work – it is heart work, the labor of our
And in our common naivety, we often assume that depression is
merely the result of sin, or of satanic attack. But Spurgeon points out
something very important …
at last a long-cherished desire is fulfilled, when God has been glorified
greatly by our means, and a great triumph achieved, then we are apt to faint.
It might be imagined that amid special favors our soul would soar to heights of
ecstasy, and rejoice with joy unspeakable, but it is generally the reverse. The
Lord seldom exposes His warriors to the perils of exultation over victory; He
knows that few of them can endure such a test, and therefore dashes their cup
other words, depression often catches us off guard because it follows victory as
much as it follows defeat.
That tendency to withdraw, to isolate, to allow the negative
thoughts to override truth, can be the result of quite natural causes such as a
backlash to the adrenaline rush of passionately preaching to a welcoming crowd
or a natural imbalance in the chemicals in our brains.
I hear a fellow Christian speak about depression as an issue of spiritual
warfare that merely requires more faith and prayer, I always say Yes!!! AND … you should also
talk to your doctor about possible physical causes and a counselor about the
role of past traumatic experiences. Let’s approach the issue
In other words, sometimes depression can be the result of
unconfessed sin. It can also be the result of our circumstances. It may
sometimes be satanic oppression. It can simply be the natural low we experience
after the emotional high of a victorious moment. And it can also be a physical
issue on the same level as diabetes or chronic anemia.
Regardless of the cause, here are three huge lessons I’ve had to
learn over the last few years.
Lesson #1: Denying our brokenness doesn’t work for long.
I spent at least a dozen years trying to be the best pastor I
could be. I wanted to fit the role, lead well, and if I’m being honest, impress
the church and keep everybody happy.
So I wore my suit and my smile and tried to do all the pastor
things people expect the pastor to do.
And when criticism came or when conflict arose, I bottled it away
so that I could later use it as an excuse to check out mentally and emotionally
from real engagement with people.
When Angie and I moved to southern California where I joined the
staff as a pastor at Saddleback Church, I was badly broken and I didn’t even
Within the first couple of months of life in our new surroundings,
various pressures brought my pain to the surface. Our marriage struggled under
the weight of it until a couple of breaking points occurred.
We joined a small group that embraced us, helped us to finally
open up about our issues, and encouraged us in our walk.
I also saw our staff counselor, who would provide counseling to
any staff member in absolute confidence. Pastor Rick Warren encourages his
staff members to seek out counseling without fear or shame, and for the first
time, I told a fellow pastor about all of my deepest issues.
I’m convinced God moved us to southern California not simply to
help Saddleback minister to leaders in the global church, but also because he
wanted us to plant a church but knew I wasn’t ready on a spiritual and
we started Grace Hills Church, we weren’t perfect or completely healed from all
of our hurts, but we were absolutely committed to not faking it anymore.
We would start a church as broken leaders, for broken
people. It would be a safe place for people to come with their brokenness and
find healing and restoration in the good news of Jesus’ death, burial, and
Denying your brokenness can help you succeed … for a season. But
if you want to thrive and become all that God has purposed for you to become,
you’ll have to be broken.
Lesson #2: There is healing in the cross of Christ.
Is it possible for God to instantly and miraculously take away all
of your brokenness?
Anything is possible with God. But it isn’t normative. And if you require complete
and miraculous healing from God in order to be satisfied with Him, you’ll miss
out on the joy of coming to know His long, slow process of developing you into
Remember that Paul received something greater than a miraculous deliverance from his thorn in the flesh. He was privileged to learn through suffering that God’s grace is enough.
God works patiently with us, like a master artisan, re-shaping us
into the masterpiece He knows we can be so that we can show to others the
beauty of what His grace can accomplish.
Lesson #3: I lead best when I own my brokenness.
The world’s greatest influencers aren’t merely rich and famous.
Those who have the most impact on any generation are leaders acquainted with
suffering, who own their brokenness.
Spurgeon continued writing about how God uses our dark nights of
the soul to develop us into the effective leaders he desires for us to be …
scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. Immersion in
suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite
for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while His
servant keepeth the sheep and waits in solitary awe. The wilderness is the way
to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for
victory. The raven is sent forth before the dove. The darkest hour of the night
precedes the day-dawn …
mature men as some elderly preachers are, could scarcely have been produced if
they had not been emptied from vessel to vessel, and made to see their own
emptiness and the vanity of all things round about them.
have a long way to go and a lot to learn. I’m in process, but I’m making
progress by the grace of God as I come to understand that it isn’t my strength that
brings success or influence. It is actually God’s strength, made perfect in
my weaknesses that can profoundly affect the world around me.
To any leader reading this, my greatest encouragement would be to
embrace your pain. Own your brokenness. And reach out – to your spouse, a
mentor, a counselor, or a close friend.
comes after our
momentary defeats, and though grief lasts through the night, joy comes in the
In this article, I will endeavor to establish a theological foundation for spiritual formation that transforms the character, and results in greater influence.
To change the church culture for such results, leaders must seek personal as well as corporate spiritual growth that goes deep. The early American pilgrims knew that God needs our affections in order to be our strongest influence amidst the temptations of life. Just like the pilgrims of old, we need help from on high to be faithful Jesus followers — daily grace that keeps us on the path that leads to vibrant life, freely flowing living water, and spiritual fruit!
Spiritual formation that results in greater spiritual health (i.e. greater intimacy with God), and resulting spiritual fruitfulness is a key feature in the Lord’s Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). This passage clearly shows that evangelism is merely an early step in the development of obedient disciples of Jesus Christ. However, the more comprehensive objective has been devastatingly neglected in most churches in developed countries especially, and is reflected in decreasing societal influence and a corresponding declining “spiritual birthrate.”
Effective spiritual formation must include both leaders and followers, and affect the heart and hands as well as the head. Leaders must be appropriately committed to their own ongoing growth as they seek to disciple others.
This will take more than lectures. So many jokes have been made about pastors’ lectures putting listeners to sleep; it is not necessary here to repeat them to make the point. Church systems that effectively develop the emotional health and ethical character of disciples are needed. Relational networks must develop organically to supplement doctrinal teaching that most often seeks to affect the cognition of learners exclusively.
Like any good communicator, the Apostle Paul thought about the underlying assumptions, values, and knowledge base of his hearer when he wrote to his protégé Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NKJV). This verse emphasizes the priority to develop the comprehensive spiritual discernment necessary to determine what is the source of demonstrated power and how to deal with it/respond to it.
A younger leader in the Early Church, Timothy, whose mother was Jewish, had considerable exposure to the Hebrew Scriptures from his mother and grandmother. From a formative age he was very familiar with the Jewish worldview, largely shaped by his forefathers’ time in the wilderness, with God leading the way with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. Early in his life, Timothy also learned how the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River at flood stage into the Promised Land on dry ground as God showed them his miraculous providence. Timothy could be exhorted to “fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim.1:6 NIV). He was familiar with spiritual power. What he most needed was safe boundaries for that power. Hence, Paul’s exhortation to him to develop ability in the comprehensive discernment that comes from a thorough knowledge of God’s written Word.
As any missionary who has worked in an animistic culture can tell you, there are sources of spiritual power other than the Spirit of God. For example, on the eastern side of the main island in Okinawa, there is a “college” for “yutas,” the shamans of the Okinawa islands, who are known for levitating objects and other “counterfeit miracles” (2 Thess. 2:9). People in many such cultures expect manifestations of spiritual power on a daily basis. Almighty God often seems to like to show up in such contexts, and show Himself supreme. Timothy needed the knowledge of God to touch his head as well as his heart and hands — so that he might stand against the deception of darkness, and cooperate with the Light in his historical cultural context. When Paul exhorted Timothy to “imitate me,” he included Timothy’s — and our — “hands” (actions) in the realm of areas needing attention in spiritual formation (1 Cor. 4:16). Paul’s rejoinders to diligent study of the Word, and life on life imitation are good words of reminder to some who might be so enamored with signs from God that they are tempted to neglect these important areas of discipleship.
In contrast, when Luke wrote about Paul’s encounter at the Areopagus, he states, “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21 NIV).
Today, there are many seminaries that devote themselves exclusively to the discussion of theological ideas. While this is important to refine future ministers’ theology, Paul’s admonishment to the believers in close proximity to the Greek theological debaters are important to note, and included these: “And my speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5 NKJV), and “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20 NIV).
American Evangelicals, perhaps more than any other segment of Protestant Christianity have subscribed to Enlightenment thought in their understanding of faith and the Church. The result is a lot of talking about God, but increasing biblical illiteracy and a Church that has diminishing influence in an increasingly post-Christian culture. Scholar Charles Kraft notes that the signs of “Enlightenment Christianity” are:
A pervasive rationalism devoid of spiritual power
Doing things “decently and in order” (to an extreme)
Centering our church meetings on a lecture (with little or no exhortation)
Downplaying the value of experience
A tendency to think of God’s Word only as something written
The approach to evangelism and missions is primarily a matter of knowledge and technique
A tendency to think of medicine and doctors before we think of God (as Healer)
Secular social programs devoid of a connection to references to God’s grace
When leaders lean too heavily on the power of our intellects — or ability to shape the intellects of our followers — believers often lose the faith to believe God for miraculous healing, or other signs of his awesome power and grace. Many churches use a stopwatch to keep everything “on time” and “in order,” and in so doing leave very little opportunity for God’s Spirit to intervene and provide “demonstrations of the Spirit’s power” that strengthen the faith of believers.
Along with an overemphasis on cognitive disciple development, many churches exhibit a culture of distrust regarding spiritual experience. Jesus’ own ministry often focused on rewriting the spiritual assumptions and scriptural interpretations of God’s people (John 5:39-47). We must stand ready to be corrected in our theology as we encounter the living God through His Spirit. Of course, the Spirit will never contradict the written Word of God, but He may contradict our interpretation of a particular portion of the written Word.
Exercises such as “lectio divina,” listening with the ears of the heart, Bible study that incorporates silence, meditation, listening, and recitation of Scripture in addition to just reading and analyzing helps “reprogram” believers who have unconsciously come to believe that spiritual growth occurs through the gnostic hearing of some special knowledge.
The prayer journaling method outlined in scholar Sarah Young’s books is also helpful in enabling the unaccustomed to “hearing God’s voice” for many spiritual formation practices. Reflecting on the previous day, waiting on God to reveal burdens to release and sins to confess, and then journaling the result can deepen one’s fellowship with God and free him or her to follow Christ more closely. This is spiritual formation that affects the ethical, emotional, and relational development of disciples resulting in greater spiritual health — intimacy with God.
Henry Blackaby, a Southern Baptist minister, states that “when Christians begin to experience God and join Him in His work, outside observers no longer see what a group of dedicated people can do but they see what only Almighty God can do.” As long as a servant of the Most High God has a solid base of Scripture knowledge for an interpretive grid, spiritual experience is nothing to fear, but rather something to welcome and be alert to, when God graciously intervenes. This is an important principle in holistic spiritual formation.
Now I will address specific areas of spiritual formation that touch on emotional and relational formation, and Christian ethical formation. Spiritual formation is always the purview of Jesus Christ Himself. We get into trouble and make very little progress when we seek to grow in Christ’s image via techniques and methods devoid of submitted prayer that engages the active involvement of the Holy Spirit.
For the emotional formation to continue, closer day-to-day friendship with God is called for. A wonderful exercise is to seek to be mindful of God moment by moment. A friend or lover lives to be in the presence of the beloved. As Christ’s younger siblings, we can derive great joy and help in “sitting on Papa’s knee,” learning to walk step-by-step, hand in hand. As we draw closer to God, He will begin to show us some of His work in our immediate vicinity. This constitutes an invitation to join Him in His work, and as we do so, we come to know Him ever more intimately (Rom. 12:1-2).
Such experiences deepen our emotional bond with our Heavenly Father, and result in fruitful experiences that give us further assurance of our worth (Luke 14:34-35), and manifest the glory of God to a desperate world. As we grow closer and closer to our Lord, His love begins to “crowd out our emotional wounds.” Truly He can begin to make “the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” God can rewrite “the hard drive of my heart” with His truth that sets me free (John 6:31-31, 36). It’s a wonderful thing to see the defeating attitudes and habitual responses go by the wayside as Christ sets His beloved free. This is a lifelong process that will be greatly facilitated by interactive prayer and intentional mindfulness of God’s presence as we go about our days.
Close community with appropriate transparency in a church can be a fertile ground for nurturing growth in spiritual health that results in synergistic power for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
 Wilson, Michael L. Exponential Culture: Believer Transformation, Disciple Multiplication. P. 66. (2014)
 Kraft, Charles H. Christianity with Power. P. 41ff. (1989) (adapted)
 Peterson, Eugene H. Eat This Book: a conversation in the art of spiritual reading. (2006)
 Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling: Enjoying peace in his presence. (2011)
 Wilson, Michael L. Exponential Culture: Believer Transformation, Disciple Multiplication. (2014)
 Blackaby, Henry, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King. Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Pp. 163, 218. (2008)
 Wilson, Michael L. Exponential Culture: Believer Transformation, Disciple Multiplication (2014)
Can you imagine if on the day my granddaughter was born, her father Stephen began assigning her chores: “OK Charis, listen up and listen tight. First thing, change your diaper. Milk is in the fridge and bottles are in the cupboard. After your bottle, you can start by cleaning up the living room, then cutting the grass. And after that you can go out to the North 40 and fix the fence.” (I’ve always wished I had a North 40 to send my kids out to fix the fence on).
Which do you think more about: all you “have to do” for God or all He does for you?
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)
Psalm 23 begins with God. The Lord of the Universe has taken upon Himself the task of being the Shepherd of His sheep. Because of who He is, we shall not want.
The Psalm is a catalog of all the ways our Great Shepherd Jesus cares for us. It begins with the Shepherd making His sheep lie down in lush green pastures beside still, soothing waters.
The sheep aren’t running around worrying about where their next meal is coming from – they are lying down in green pastures. The Psalm doesn’t start with action, it starts with rest. Christianity isn’t so much about what we do for God, it is about all God does for us.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
When Jesus was hanging on the Cross He was stripped of all comfort, deprived of every good thing – “for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9).
Jesus provides us with every spiritual blessing: forgiveness of sins, adoption as His children, eternal glory. He adorns us with His own righteousness. He lavishes us with gifts: His Word, His Spirit, and fellow believers. He heaps on us treasures of wisdom, joy and strength. He showers upon us each day’s “manna” – each day’s supply of grace and mercy.
Today, rather than focusing on all we “have to do” for God, let’s thank Him for all He does for us.
Pause and Reflect
Take ten minutes in His presence to thank God for all that He has provided for you and all that He is doing for you that you cannot do for yourself. You might find yourself lost in thanksgiving for more than the ten minutes, and you will be carried through the entire day with a grateful heart.
This is part 1 in a series on organizational change. Part 2 will be published on May 21st.
Most people prefer stability and predictability in their lives and ministries. Consequently, proposed change causes stress for most people. This is why when faced with changes to the status quo, people usually resist at first. Moreover, their resistance will often continue and sometimes increase, until they are able to recognize that the benefits of the proposed change outweigh the accompanying stress and potential pain.
Efforts to implement
change are more likely to succeed if a leader understands the many possible reasons
for resistance to change.
Lack of trust.
Distrust of the people who propose change will cause resistance to it. Even
when there is no obvious threat, a change may be resisted if people imagine
there are hidden and ominous implications that will only later become apparent.
Furthermore, mutual distrust may encourage a leader to be secretive about the
reasons for change (and even about the change itself), thereby increasing
suspicion and resistance.
The perception that change is not necessary. Without an obvious need for change, people will
resist it. If the current way of doing things has been successful in the past,
and there is no clear evidence of serious problems, people will resist change.
an organization has become very successful, its greatest strengths can become
its greatest weaknesses by encouraging complacency and pride. The very best
times can become the most dangerous. Fortified by a sense of invulnerability,
the organization can become blind to its own need for significant reassessment
and change. Unfortunately, the signs of a developing problem are usually
unclear in the early stages, and it is easy for people to ignore, discount or
The perception that change is not possible. Even when everyone acknowledges the problem, the
proposed change will still be resisted if it seems unlikely to succeed; and
making a change that is radically different from anything done previously will
usually appear very difficult – if not impossible – to most people. Furthermore,
the failure of earlier change attempts creates cynicism and makes people
doubtful whether the next attempt will succeed either. With cynical people,
leaders rarely achieve successful change.
Even if a change will obviously benefit the organization, it will likely be
resisted by people who would suffer personal loss of income, benefits, job
security or seniority. This is one of the major reasons why technological
change is commonly resisted, in spite of its frequently obvious benefits. Moreover,
prior downsizing and layoffs raise anxiety and increase resistance to new
proposals, regardless of the actual threat.
Relatively high costs. All change involves some cost. Familiar routines
must be changed, creating inconveniences and requiring more effort. Certain
freedoms may be lost. Resources are necessary to implement change, and
resources already invested in doing things the traditional way will be lost.
Moreover, performance invariably suffers during the transition period as the
new ways are learned and procedures debugged. Consequently, if it is not
possible to accurately estimate these costs in relation to the benefits of the
proposed change, there will be resistance.
Fear of personal failure. Some changes make expertise obsolete and require
learning new ways of doing things. Many people will be reluctant to trade
knowledge and skills they have mastered for new ones that may be too difficult
to learn. Thus, proposed change will be more acceptable if it includes ample
provision for training people in the new ways of doing things.
Loss of status or power. Major organizational changes invariably result in
some shift of power and status for certain individuals and groups. New
strategies often require expertise that is not possessed by some of the people
currently enjoying high status as problem solvers. Those who are threatened
with a loss of status and power will frequently oppose the change – even when
it is obviously beneficial for the organization.
Threats to values and ideals. Threats to a person’s values will arouse strong
emotions that fuel resistance to change. Moreover, if the values are embedded
in a strong organizational culture, then resistance will be widespread and not
Resentment of interference. Most people do not want to be controlled by others,
and attempts to manipulate them or force change will elicit resentment and
hostility. Unless people acknowledge the need for change and perceive they have
a choice in determining how to change, they will resist it.
The Importance of Working with Resistance
Leaders must develop the
proper attitude toward resistance to change and recognize that it is not
necessarily the simple result of ignorance, inflexibility, weakness of
character, or rebellion. It can be the normal defensive response of people who
want to protect what they know and possess, as well as their own sense of
Indeed, sometimes the
voice of resistance can serve as a signal that there are ways in which the
change effort should be modified or improved. In this way, listening to those
who initially resist can prevent us from taking untimely or foolish actions.
Rather than viewing
resistance as an obstacle to beat down or circumvent, it is frequently more
realistic and advantageous to see it as intellectual and emotional energy that
can be redirected to improve change, once the opponents have been converted to
than launching into lengthy self-justifications at the first sign of
resistance, leaders should listen carefully, actively seeking out people’s
thoughts and reactions to the proposed changes. The more that people are
provided the opportunity to give input into the change process, the more they
will be on board.
One of the leader’s
primary instruments of change is prayerthat
God will open the hearts of the people to embrace His purposes. We must
recognize that people are not the enemies – Satan is the enemy (Eph. 6:10-12).
Showing respect toward
those who resist builds stronger relationships, not only improving the change
at hand by putting the leader in a place where he can hear ideas for
improvement of his proposal, but also providing a stronger relational base for
future changes (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
should recognize that they have already worked through the personal trauma and
pain of the proposed change and its implications long before they even initially
present it to their constituents. Because of this, it is sometimes easy for
leaders to “jump to beginnings.” Of course, this is never so easy for others
who have not wrestled with the idea for as long and who are not personally as
inclined to change in the first place.
Finally, leaders must
realize that, just as it takes miles to turn a large ship at sea, it often
takes years to implement significant change in a large organization. Dramatic
moments of “revolutionary” transformation are only a small part of it.
Organizational change is longer and subtler than can be managed by a single
leader. It is generated from the insights of many people working to improve the
whole, and it accumulates over long periods. To lead change effectively,
leaders must be committed to the long haul; God is!
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good
work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil.
After glimpsing pain in my neighbor’s eyes my curiosity was stoked. That moment has led us to five years of immersion into the lives of those in closest proximity to us. We immersed ourselves in the rhythms and relationships of our neighborhood. We anticipated some great opportunities, but we didn’t anticipate training our kids to be missionaries.
Most parenting training is fear-based. It’s focused on what to keep our kids away from. We want to immerse our kids in a vision bigger than stress, consumption and self. Some parents might think we’re crazy, or at least think we have too much on our plates. We wouldn’t go back and change a thing.
Here are the four consequences of training our kids for mission through immersion …
We have immersed them continually in the mission of God. They are ministry partners with Julie and me as we serve, bless, pray and participate in God’s global mission unfolding locally. We serve those we are in proximity to as a family.
Our family actually knows our neighbors and we love them. Our kids are growing up around neighbors who have also become friends woven into their lives. They have inter-generational relationships. We are part of a community, not just a neighborhood.
My kids have gotten to experience beauty and brokenness. Once you’re in proximity you can’t hide pain and dysfunction, but you also can’t hide beauty. They have gotten to experience hospitality, generosity, cuss words, divorce, pain and community. They have gotten to taste, see, smell, feel and hear the Gospel in tangible ways.
Our home has shifted from a refuge from ministry to a hub for ministry. I’m a pastor, my kids are pastor’s kids. Our home could easily turn into a refuge from the perils of ministry. Instead, we want it to be a hub for ministry where life, grace and love spills forth into others’ lives. We want them to learn to practice welcoming the sojourner in and welcoming the wanderer.
Parenting is a beautiful space for immersion-style mission training. Don’t miss the opportunity. Many times your kids will “get it” more than you will. Invite them into a bigger vision for their lives, localize their view of ministry and arm them to bless others. My kids have hugged people closer to the Kingdom of God than my wife and I ever have.
Imagine the following scene. You take your car into a repair shop because it is not running well. After a thorough check your mechanic tells you that your engine is damaged and will need a complete overhaul, which will be expensive and take a great deal of time. You respond by suggesting that perhaps if you clean the windows, put more air in the tires, and hang an air freshener on the rear-view mirror, the problem will go away. Your mechanic insists the problem is much deeper and more substantial, but you respond with confidence that if you just get the car washed and replace the wiper blades, it will run just fine.
The attempt to fix a major engine problem with only superficial changes makes no sense. Neither does simply trying a few “proven” techniques or attempting to emulate a list of leadership traits in order to become better leaders. The shortcoming of so many leadership books is that they start with what effective leaders do and then assume that if everyone does the same things they, too, will be successful.
What they miss is that leaders are effective primarily because of who they are.
Leadership in the kingdom of God is an “inside-out” process. God prepares his people to be leaders in His kingdom by changing their hearts, their attitudes, and their views of themselves first. Only as we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ are we the clay in His hands to be shaped and formed into the leaders He will use to build His kingdom.
I have been advocating that when it comes to studying leadership, we need to start by “docking the ship.” That is, we need to look at the leader not just at the practice of leadership. Throughout Scripture God shaped the hearts of men and women in preparation for their service as leaders. Moses awaited God’s call in Midian, Joseph endured in prison, David spent years on the run from Saul, Elijah hid under a broom bush, Paul spent three years in Arabia and so on. Each had to be prepared internally and spiritually before they could lead powerfully and faithfully.
If we are God’s children then we are on a journey of transformation. Moment by moment we are being guided by the Spirit along the path of Christ-likeness. I see this process in terms of our call to be faithful stewards of every area of our lives. To be a steward means to acknowledge that everything belongs to God, our relationship with God, our self-identity and worth, our relationship with our neighbor and everything in the created world around us. God also owns our time, our occupation, our ministry, our marriage, our business, our reputation, our safety, our security and our future. We own nothing, ever, for even an instant. We may pretend that we are owners, but we can only play at it. We can waste our time and damage our ministry by grasping at control and trying to pretend that we own what we can only steward carefully and faithfully for the One, true rightful Owner.
As God’s people we are called to be faithful stewards in a world of would-be owners. We are called to be free from the bondage of ownership and live lightly with the things of this world. We are on a journey of submission and obedience that results in deep peace and absolute joy.
As stewards on this journey of faithfulness, when we are called to positions of leadership, we will lead and serve in ways that set people free. Not because we use some leadership techniques or try to emulate the traits of other leaders, but because God is at work changing our hearts. Before we are called to lead, we are commanded to live as stewards. As we become more faithful stewards we will lead others on the same journey. As steward-leaders who are being changed from the inside out, we will be usable by God to bring true transformation to His people through us. What a blessing it is to experience in our own hearts the true freedom of being an obedient, faithful steward. What incredible joy it is to be used by God to set His people free that they might experience the same. That is your calling and your privilege as a leader in the kingdom of God.
So let me ask you, are you a steward or do you see yourself as an owner of your ministry, your church, your congregation, your business, your career, your identity? If you sense in your spirit an ownership attitude, then it is time to repent, to let go, to submit everything back to the God who owns it all anyway. It is time to humble yourself before God and take up the mantle of the faithful steward. It is time to be set free, believing that, If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)