Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

Leadership Thoughts: Isaiah 57


Devotion: Isaiah 57:14-19

14And it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”

15For this is what the high and lofty One says– he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

16I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me– the breath of man that I have created.

17I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways.

18I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him,

19creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD. “And I will heal them.”

These verses followed the passage in Isaiah that we looked at last week in the sermon. I was given a new-to-me set of commentaries from Pastor Joe, and was reading through the Isaiah volume, and was encouraged by what I read about chapter 57, as Isaiah tries to prepare God’s people for the time of salvation. Here’s what I found for us as leaders in our congregation:

  • Verse 14: “Build up; remove obstacles” – one of the challenges that we have as servant leaders in a congregational setting is to build up those who are already here, and to remove roadblocks that might prevent new people from joining us.

  • Verse 15: “high/holy & low/humble” – God’s perfect holiness is not something that we need to strive to attain; He’s already there. He works with us just as we are, and He is the one that shapes us.

  • Verse 16/17: God wants to *not* be angry, but when we cling to our sin instead of Him, we leave Him no choice; we cannot choose to flaunt our sin before a holy God without consequence.

  • Verse 18: And even so, God *actively* looks for ways to heal us; God-our-restorer uses broken people to minister to other broken people!

  • Verse 19: Changed lives result in praise to God; we who are being reconciled will see it in others. Watch for that praise that accompanies change, and encourage them.

BookSneeze Review: “Beyond Talent” by John Maxwell

Let me preface this review by saying that I really appreciate John Maxwell’s writing. I think his choice to treat the topic leadership as a subject worthy of sustained study is beneficial.

That being said, his book “Beyond Talent” really fell flat for me. I’ve read better from Maxwell, and had a fairly high expectation of this book.

The themes dealt with in the book seem a bit contrived:
Belief lifts your talent.
Initiative activates your talent.
Focus directs your talent.
Preparation positions your talent.
Practice sharpens your talent.
Perseverance sustains your talent.
Character protects your talent… etc.

On the one hand, I’m not sure I could do any better in dealing with subject matter. On the other hand, the book seemed to give short shrift to each of the sections. Gripping hand, I think that this book would be better reworked as a source material for managers of very talented performers, where they might need some occasionaly refocusing from an informed manager. This book would work well for that.

Preaching Schedule 2012

Hello, everyone. It’s just about the beginning of a new year, and one of the things I try to do is to plan out a year’s worth of sermons in advance. That way, I know generally what Scriptures I’ll be reading and what topics I’ll be preaching about…

With that in mind, here’s the schedule for 2012. It’s not set in stone, of course: as life happens, various changes might need to be made. However, it should be, for the most part, helpful if you’d like to read ahead and prepare along with me. We’re going to take our first month of January, and look at our Church Covenant. Next, we’ll work through the book of John; and finally, we’ll look at the book of Daniel.

2012 Preaching Schedule:

01/01/12 Galatians 4:4-7 Christmas: Your Response To Your Gifts
01/08/12 Romans 10:9-13 Church Covenant – WHO we are in Christ
01/15/12 Hebrews 10:24-25 Church Covenant – HOW we live in Christ
01/22/12 Ephesians 4:7-13 Church Covenant – WHAT we do in Christ
01/29/12 Romans 8:5-9 Church Covenant – WHY we are in Christ
02/05/12 John 1:1-18 The Living Word: Became Flesh (1:1-18)
02/12/12 John 1:19-34 The Living Word: John the Baptist’s Testimony (1:19-34)
02/19/12 John 1:35-42 The Living Word: Following the Master (1:35-42)
02/26/12 John 1:43-51 The Living Word: Hearing and Responding
03/04/12 John 2:1-11 The Living Word: A Change of Nature
03/11/12 John 2:13-22 The Living Word: Cleansing the Temple
03/18/12 John 3:14-21 The Living Word: Teaching the Teacher
03/25/12 John 3:22-36 The Living Word: The Incredible Shrinking Man
04/01/12 John 4:1-42, 12:12-16 The Living Word: Different Understandings, Different Responses
04/08/12 John 20:1-18 The Living Word: Alive Forevermore!
04/15/12 John 5:1-47 The Living Word: Revealing the Mission
04/22/12 John 6:1-71 The Living Word: The Bread of Life
04/29/12 John 7:1-53 The Living Word: Festival Questions
05/13/12 John 8:1-59 The Living Word: Children of Abraham
05/20/12 John 9:1-41 The Living Word: Did You See That?
05/27/12 John 10:1-21 The Living Word: The Good Shepherd
06/03/12 John 10:22-42 The Living Word: The Unpopular Answer
06/10/12 John 11:1-57 The Living Word: Lazarus, Come Forth!
06/17/12 John 12:1-36 The Living Word: Blinding Extravagance
07/01/12 John 13:1-17 The Living Word: The Third Sacrament?
07/08/12 John 13:18-38 The Living Word: Preparing for the Worst
07/15/12 John 14:1-14 The Living Word: Comfort in the Midst of Sorrow
07/29/12 John 14:15-30 The Living Word: The Only Way
08/12/12 John 15:1-27 The Living Word: Abiding = Thriving
08/19/12 John 16:1-33 The Living Word: GPS – God’s Positioning Spirit
08/26/12 John 17:1-26 The Living Word: He Prays For Us
09/02/12 John 18:1-40 The Living Word: Betrayal and Arrest
09/09/12 John 19:1-27 The Living Word: Turning Shame to Sign
09/16/12 John 19:28-42 The Living Word: The Darkest Day
09/23/12 John 20:19-31 The Living Word: The Best News Ever
09/30/12 John 21:1-25 The Living Word: Our Turn
10/07/12 Daniel 1:1-21 Daniel: Friends in High Places
10/14/12 Daniel 2:1-3:30 Daniel: Kings, Dreams, and Decrees
10/21/12 Daniel 4:1-5:31 Daniel: Downfall Foretold
10/28/12 Daniel 6:1-7:28 Daniel: Deliverance and the Four Beasts
11/04/12 Daniel 8:1-9:27 Daniel: Do You See What I See?
11/11/12 Daniel 10:1-21 Daniel: Things To Come
11/18/12 Daniel 11:1-45 Daniel: Neighbors and the AntiChrist
11/25/12 Daniel 12:1-13 Daniel: When All Is Said And Done
12/02/12 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 Advent 1C
12/09/12 Philippians 1:3-11 Advent 2C
12/16/12 Philippians 4:4-7 Advent 3C
12/23/12 Hebrews 10:5-10 Advent 4C
12/24/12 Titus 2:11-14 Christmas Eve
12/30/12 Colossians 3:12-17 Christmas 1

That should certainly help in worship planning, in personal Bible study, and generally, in being ready throughout the year to interact with the Word.

KFJ – Pastor Ed

And now, the news…

I find myself in the odd position of needing to write my final “goodbye” newsletter article for one church, and my initial “hello” article for another. I have been thinking a lot about finishing well at Snohomish, and starting well at Warden. In doing so, I’ve been spending a lot of time in 2 Timothy. Paul’s words to his disciple are filled with instructions and warnings; remembrances of past wisdom, and hopeful words for the future.

I want to have words like that for Snohomish Presbyterian and for Warden Community. So, I take as my pattern the words from 2 Timothy. I’ve been sharing with the Snohomish youth group insights from the first two chapters of this book, and my closing sermon will be from 2 Timothy 4. In this article, I’d like to draw your attention to chapter 3. I believe there are some concepts that both churches need to hear, and I’d like to share them.

Paul writes that some people “will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!”

Whenever we find others (or indeed, ourselves) focusing more on outward forms of entertainment and pleasure instead of the inward work of the Holy Spirit, we need to be very careful. This shows us the first concept to remember:

Watch Out for those who love pleasure over God.

Paul warns that those people (pleasure-lovers) won’t make much progress in God’s Kingdom… and I don’t know about you, but life is too short to waste it on things that won’t matter in the long run.

Paul then tells us about the difficulties he has had in following Christ: “Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured!” This brings to light the second concept we must remember:

Suffering is a part of the Godly life.

If anyone tells you that following God entitles you to a life free from pain, they are lying. A wise theologian once said, “Life is pain; anyone who says different is selling something.” (Actually, that’s from The Princess Bride by William Goldman, but it’s a wise statement, nonetheless.)

In spite of how difficult life can be as we live out God’s Kingdom, Paul encourages Timothy (and us) to keep going: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed….” This shows us Paul’s heart for Timothy, and my heart for you all:

Continue in the Truth of God’s Word

I’d like to draw your attention to the New Living Translation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

Let God speak to you through the Word of the Lord. Don’t just read the Word – let the Word read YOU, and continue to change you into what God desires for your life. It’s a long term process, and God who began that work will be faithful to complete it. To my church family in Snohomish, I say that I am blessed to have been a part of that process in your lives. To my church family in Warden, I say that I am honored that I will partner with you in seeing this process happen.

Until that day when we all stand in the presence of Christ…

Keep Following Jesus.

Pastor Ed Backell

I signed my contract

I signed (digitally) my contract /terms-of-call with Warden Community Church today.

This is huge. I’m hard pressed to express what’s going on inside me at this moment. I’ve known for a long while that I love to preach, and that I love doing the research needed to craft an informed sermon. As much as I’ve loved doing youth ministry (because it fits my quirky personality), there is nothing that compares with sharing insights from God’s Word, and seeing people “get it”. Sometimes they “get it” for the first time, and that’s especially powerful. I’ve always loved seeing that “a-ha” moment on young faces; what an honor that I’ll have to be able to see it (if God grants it) on the faces of the congregation at large.

Here’s an odd thing to me: I think Jami has known a LOT longer than I have that I was pulpit-bound. She’s been teasing me, telling me I’m a reformer for years… to which I would usually reply, “Shut up!” with a grin / grimace on my face.

But as usual, she’s right. Again. (If she reads this blog entry, I’m toast!)

My wife, the prophetess Jami, has been trying to prepare me for a LONG time that God was calling me to the senior pastorate. I am so thankful for her patience with me… and GOD’s patience with me… in how long it has taken for me to be willing to actually step in to the senior pastorate. I remember reading something from Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, from years and years ago: “If you’re a youth pastor, quit your job and plant a church!”

I didn’t want to hear it then… but now?

Well, let’s just say that God’s faithfulness is directly tied to God’s longsuffering in this case. And if God can lead Balaam to truth through a talking donkey… using me as a senior pastor isn’t that much of a stretch…

KFJ – Ed

A New Chapter Begins…

Dear Church Family,

It is with mixed emotions that I submit my resignation as your Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries. God has led me to an opportunity to serve as the Senior Pastor of Warden Community Church in Warden, Washington. My last Sunday with you all will be the last Sunday in April, and my last day in the church office will be April 30. I will be ordained on the 15th of May at the Warden church, and begin my ministry there on May 16th.

Words are hard to come by to fully describe the joy, pleasure and blessing that serving with this wonderful church family has been for me and my family. It has been an incredible joy to help lead the Youth and Children’s Ministries here at First Presbyterian Church of Snohomish. I will truly miss the children, the teens and their families as I leave behind the challenges and joys of being a youth pastor and move into new challenges as a senior pastor.

First Presbyterian Church has been an incredible blessing to me and my family. God has used this church in our lives, and I feel especially encouraged after hearing so many of your comments to me personally whenever I preach.

I can’t begin to thank Pastors Ann and Charlie enough for their collegial spirit, leadership, love and guidance over the last four years. First Presbyterian Church is truly blessed to have them as Pastors – I pray that you will never take them for granted and will continue to lift up them both in prayer daily. In addition to our pastors, Snohomish is blessed with a wonderful group of servants who serve in so many capacities. It has been my pleasure to serve with them, to be challenged by them and to rejoice with them.

I simply cannot say “thank you” enough to you all for your love, prayers, support, encouragement and willingness to follow where God led us over the last four years. I have no doubt that God will continue to do incredible things in the lives of our children and youth. I look forward to hearing of how these students will continue to live as grace-filled people as a part of the Body of Christ.

We will continue to pray for our Snohomish church family and ask that you continue to pray for us as we all seek to honor the Lord with our lives.

In His Service,
Ed Backell

(This was the resignation letter I have just submitted to the church in Snohomish. Special thanks to Jeff Wells, whose resignation letter served as a template when I could not find the words.)

“Political” thoughts

The context: this is a conversation that I’m having with some friends on Facebook. I’ll leave their names out of it, but I thought that it was an important enough topic to capture for this blog.

Disclaimer: I am do not consider myself a member of either major political party, so if you’re hoping to paint me as an Elephant or a Donkey, you’re in the wrong part of the zoo (which is an apt way to describe our political system in America).

These posts were made as comments to an anti-Obama thread on Facebook:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all people, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

1 Timothy 2:1-2

If you disagree with Obama, PRAY for him….

(brought to you by someone who didn’t vote for him, either…)

Ed, I agree and have. Some people actually pray TO him, while guys like us pray FOR him. 😀 However, for me at least, It’s difficult to pray for him being he is such an authoritarian (arrogant) holding a position that requires much humility to be an effective leader. (from Friend #1, male)

I do pray for Barrack Hussian Obama.. Just like I’m sure that many people prayed for dictators like Adolf Hitler. United States Presidents are elected to lead and serve our Country, they are not Kings! Many came to America to get away from that Control, and to have freedom. But this President is working overtime to take our freedom away!!
I say we take courage, and make our voices heard!!
If you don’t stand for something.. you will fall for anything (from Friend #2, female)

Friend #1, I understand, really I do. We need to remember that it’s easy to pray for people you like; it’s more difficult to pray for those who have hurt you. Jesus raised the bar (“pray for your enemies, and lift up those who persecute you”); will we take Him at his word, or just say, “Lord, that’s too difficult. Can’t I just poke fun at him instead?”

Something else to think about: Mr. Obama, by his own admission, is a follower of Christ. Are you treating him the way you’d want to be treated by people who might disagree with you? Would Jesus do what we’re doing?

Ed, that’s all good. The problem I have with O is his radical nature. He has proven himself to believe contrary to our nation’s founding and governing documents when it comes down to individual Liberty and free markets. Therefore, he is a tyrant.

He was indoctrinated by Marxist ideals, in his own words, “spreading the wealth around is good for everybody”. But, It’s no longer “charity” when it’s coerced. Instead of applauding private charity he will continue to mandate it with more entitlements to redistribute the wealth for “social justice”.

Also, the last church he attended (for 20 years) taught Black Liberation Theology, which is a radical philosophy rooted in hating white people. That’s institutional racism. Just check out author David Cone, his book is touted by his former friend and Rev. Jeremiah Wright. You know, the controversial Rev. that O threw under the bus. Before that he did the same to his “white” grandma and his neighbor Bill Ayers. Ayers is known as the former leader of a domestic terrorist organization called the Weather Underground. All my neighbors carry similar credentials (LOL), check his out: …

The facade that O puts up is sickening, he claimed he would “create jobs” which is impossible for any gov’t. He claimed he would unite this country. His agenda has done everything opposite. I doubt his sincerity on almost any political issue. Despite all that, I know, he deserves prayer especially given his position. My prayer is that he stops pushing such radical reform that will surely cause our nation financial ruin and potential calamity. However, if this nation falls because of him, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. 😉 (from Friend #1)

Friend #1, I certainly don’t disagree with your political viewpoint. Like I said, I didn’t vote for him either.

But that’s not really the point. If you sincerely believe that Mr. Obama is misled/misleading, then pray for him SINCERELY. Pray that the Lord would make God’s grace evident in Mr. Obama’s life. Pray that he and his family would find a good church (I understand they’ve been having quite a bit of difficulty finding one). Pray that the Spirit would be Mr. Obama’s teacher, that his heart would become soft to the plight of all of those under his rule, not just those who he thinks he can affect. And pray that Mr. Obama would be open to the same kind of personal change in his own life for which he so strongly campaigned for as a candidate. And pray all of this without rancor, spite, malice, or a desire to see him fail.
Pray all of this IN ADDITION to the political action steps that you desire to take; so that your good (taking steps to warn people of an agenda with which you disagree) may not be of evil spoken (make sure that your heart condition isn’t bitter as you pray for those in power who are against for what you stand).
Just some thoughts.

Ed, very well said! I hear ya, obviously it’s just a very difficult line for me to walk. (from Friend #1)

well, If Obama was a , and I quote “C-h-r-i-s-t-i-a-n” !
Why did He pray with the Muslims on the day that National Day of Prayer was downplayed at the Whitehouse? This is just one of many things , that will disprove that he is a Christian. He has had a year to find a good Christian Church!!! .. Maybe you could do some research Ed, and Help Him find one!… just a suggestion.. Peace  (from Friend #2, who then posted this link:

Friend #2, if I had the opportunity, I would certainly pray with a Muslim. And I am most definitely a follower of Jesus. After all, we, as Christians, are specifically mentioned in the Koran. (We’re referred to as “the People of the Book”, and we’re supposed to be treated as brothers and sisters in faith, not as infidels.)

The US was certainly founded as a Christian nation. If we are supposed to be a nation of people who follow Jesus, then we really need to LOOK at how Jesus treated people who were not part of the nation of Israel.

Did Jesus refuse to talk to the Samaritan woman? No, He shared God’s grace….
Did Jesus refuse to bless the Syria-Phonecian woman? No, He shared God’s grace.
Did Jesus refuse to minister to the Roman centurion? No; He not only shared God’s grace, but lifted up the Roman as an example of faith to His Jewish listeners.

As far as doing research to find a good church for a president, it has less to do with finding one that has theology and programs that would minister to the Obama family, and more to do with a church that is willing to put up with the headache of dealing with massive security issues every week just so the President could show up.

Since I don’t live in THAT Washington (I live here in the GREEN Washington, the one that God loves!), I’d not be a logical choice to appropriately help choose a church for the Obama family.

As a minister, all I can say to that family is that it would be better for them as a family to attend, even with as much of a pain as it would be to everyone involved, than it would be for them to consistently stay home. By neglecting to worship with his wife and children, Mr. Obama is teaching his family that faith is “a private thing”… but faith in God is precisely what is needed most at levels of leadership. Especially at the levels at which the Obama family must live.
Grace and Peace to you as well, Friend #2.

– – –

I somehow doubt that this conversation is finished, but I thought it was interesting enough to share. I’ve edited out the names of those who wrote.

Pastor Ed Backell

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