Month: May 2009

Serving Redefined

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 43-45 NIV

Serving is not natural for humans. We prefer to be preferred. We are born as helpless beings that need constant attention and care. Parents meet all our needs, photograph us more than presidents, and come running anytime they hear but a whimper. As we grow older, most of us believe we are the center of the universe and everyone else is paying rent.

It was no different with the 12 disciples. They were always clamoring for status and position. They wanted the choice seats at dinner, and to stand right next to Jesus as the crowds cheered him. Mark records the above conversation and with three verses, Jesus shatters the paradigms that had become cemented in their thinking.

Notice they were not scolded for wanting to be great or desiring to be first. In other conversations, Jesus encouraged them to lay up treasure in heaven and to do good works.  The disciples, like many of us today, were focused on what they could get from God and others and not what they could do for God and others.

This is completely counter-cultural because society tells us to get ahead at all costs and to promote ourselves at every opportunity. Instead, we are expected to do good things for people we may not like and expect nothing in return until we get to heaven.  The problem is heaven seems so distant and we want instant returns on our investment. This is why most people talk about serving but never become servants.

I have met true servants and I want to be one someday. Right now, I wrestle with selfishness, ego, narcissism, and an addiction to comfort. However, I am allowing the Holy Spirit to change my heart and I invite you on the journey with me. Servants can change the world but there are so few of them right now.

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Diminishment, Discouragement and Distractions

What keeps a leader from moving forward with the plans and designs God has given them? What are the forces that neutralize a leader? What schemes has the enemy devised to prevent leaders from leading churches, companies and families to the Promised Land?

I don’t have all the answers and I am no leadership expert, but I am experienced. More importantly, I am determined to learn from my experiences.  In the past 20 months, I have walked through transition, trauma, attacks, and victories. I have also discovered new levels of demonic attacks and subsequently, new degrees of God’s power.

Every leader who is a Christ follower is a target of the enemy. If leaders stop leading, the enemy wins and the Kingdom of God stops advancing.  The three strategies most often used against Godly leaders are diminishment, discouragement and distractions.

Diminishment

Diminishment is the overwhelming feeling that everything around us is weakening, being reduced in strength, shrinking and becoming cheapened. The enemy uses trivial evidence to convince us that our momentum is a façade and in fact, we are losing ground.  The truth is every healthy organism experiences loss. Our bodies shed millions of dead skin cells every day and are designed to eliminate waste. Our hair falls out while new hair grows in it is place – at least for most of us.

The enemy wishes to focus all of our attention on these losses while hiding our eyes from the remarkable growth that is also happening.  Leaders must be aware of everything that is happening around them but not become fixated on just the losses. Make sure there are people around you that point out both the losses and the wins. Keep a balanced outlook and you will not fall into the trap of diminishment.

Discouragement

If you are stuck in the dungeon of diminishment, you will then fall prey to a much deadlier foe – discouragement. This is when we have lost all courage and all hope. We simply stop dreaming and stop trying because the challenge seems impossible and the risks too dangerous. It seems the air has left your sails, never to return.

Throughout Scripture we see leaders who battled discouragement. Moses was discouraged because he led a rebellious and stubborn people. Joshua was discouraged because the walls of the cities were thick and guarded by giants. The disciples were discouraged because their leader had been murdered. But in each case, these leaders turned their hearts toward heaven, confessed their discouragement and suddenly a new wind of heaven filled their sails so they could move forward. It seems that God likes leaders who admit their human weakness and declare their absolute dependence on Him.

Distractions

If the enemy cannot convince us of diminishment or lead us into discouragement, he will try to distract us. He will try to convince us to do good things instead of God things. Recently, I became aware of a huge distraction in my life. I tried to do a good thing for the right reasons, but it caused me harm and hurt. I realized that I had become distracted by something that seemed noble, but in reality, it was a snare.

This requires leaders to be really alert and discerning. We must remember our primary purpose, and remind ourselves to stay the course and not divert off the main path. We must stop giving so much time to meaningless mental conversations about people we were not called to lead or problems that we were never called to solve. Our emotional tanks will be emptied if we continue with the distractions and that is not how God designed for us to live.

Leaders must lead and the enemy must be exposed. Go forward fellow leaders. Take those who are assigned to you to the green pastures God has prepared for all of us. Do not believe in diminishment, do not be discouraged and refuse to be distracted.

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Power and Purpose

Power and Purpose

I spent a few days in northwest Wales this past week exploring the idea of a church plant. This region of the UK once had a number of flourishing churches and was a world leader for evangelism. In fact, the Welsh Revival of 1903 had a profound influence on the Azusa Street outpouring in Los Angeles which ignited the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements that many of us are a part of today. Sadly, most of the Welsh churches today are either closed or dying and the leaders are greatly discouraged.

From what I witnessed on my visit to Wales, it seems the church lost ground when it stopped praying for the power of the Holy Spirit and ignored its purpose of pursuing the lost. If a church loses these two ideas, death is certain.  These simple truths propelled the First Century church from an illegal group of ragtag Christ followers to a powerful cultural force that changed the world. Notice what happened in Acts 2 in the very first moments of the first church. The Holy Spirit baptized the believers with power and thousands of people were saved on the first day the church ever existed.

In Wales, the church became too formal and refused to change its ideology to reach a 20th Century Welsh culture that was going through radical cultural shifts caused by two world wars.  The church became obsessed with chapels and steeples instead of people. The church’s theology did not emphasize prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit or a passionate pursuit of the lost. Therefore, the church lost its relevance and now the only ones attending are a few committed followers, most over the age of 60. If substantial changes are not made soon, the Welsh church could become extinct.

However, I sense something new and fresh is about to happen in Wales. There is a group of young leaders and mature visionaries who are leading a movement to plant life-giving churches throughout the land. They are committed to power and purpose and, therefore, I believe they will succeed.  They are realizing that stagnant days call for radical action and fierce faith. 

The church in America must learn from what happened in Wales or we will repeat the mistakes and find ourselves irrelevant and powerless.  I am leading New Life back to the fuel source – passionate prayer that brings power from heaven and a focus on the lost and hurting.  We cannot change what has happened in Wales, but we can pray for the fire to be reignited and for our own hearts to remain ablaze.

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