Posts Tagged 'leadership'

Snapshots from Mark: Properness of Power

Snapshots from Mark: Properness of Power Sermon Audio Here

Mark 10:35-45

I watched a CAPTIVATING mini-series on History Channel, The Men Who Built America. One of the conflicts described the competition for bringing electricity to the American people. Which standard would be used? Direct Current (DC) or Alternating Current (AC)? I found it telling that the men involved in trying to bring power to the masses used their own personal power to bring about THEIR will. Their choices were less about what was good for the people, and more about what was best for THEM.

How Does Power Work in God’s Kingdom?

The Process of Preparation ~ Mark 10:35-40

  • 35/36 admission: how often do WE do this same thing? Try to take advantage of our relationship with Jesus to get Him to do what WE want?
  • 37 they want power; no ifs ands or buts
  • 38 Jesus response ISN’T AUTOMATICALLY “no”; instead, He asks if they’ve counted the cost
  • 39 they haven’t
  • 40 “fitness, and not influence, decides…it consists of service, and he who serves most is greatest, a greatness already determined by the service, and not to be changed by any personal equation.” (International Critical Commentary on Mark, pg. 201, Ezra Gould) THOUGHT: the places are prepared for the people… AND the people are prepared for the places. Both the Master AND the servant are at work here.

The Inverse of Authority ~ Mark 10:41-45

  • 41/42 Were the disciples mad because of what James & John did… or because they didn’t think of it first? Jesus sets them straight about authority
  • 43/44 servant=deacon/waiter vs doulos/slave; servant implies freedom to choose (you may serve, or not); SLAVE means exactly that, even with all it’s ugly-to-us history. A SLAVE has no choice to serve, because they are OWNED by the master
  • 45 Jesus sets the example: HE gave up His right to be Master to show us how to be Slaves for God. John 15:15 – Jesus elevates us from Slave to Friend… but we do not lose our doulos status.

Remember our Job passage? Where were you, O human, when God put the universe together?

Answer: we were NOT. We had no power, no ability, no authority… no EXISTENCE. The bottom line: If Jesus is your Lord, YOU are His SLAVE. Time to ask ourselves: are we serving Christ, or our idea of Christ? James & John wanted power and influence, but they didn’t know the cost. The ACTUAL cost? ALL of you, ALL the time.

Christ Is Our King

Christ Is Our King Sermon Audio Here

Ephesians 1:15-23

It’s Christ the King Sunday, the newest day in the liturgical year. It was first added in 1925 in response to increasing secularization movements worldwide, but in particular to the plight of Mexican Christians who were being told by their government that only their government was due ultimate allegiance. The Church in Mexico remained faithful, holding public parades throughout the land (with significant governmental pushback!) proclaiming “Cristo Rey!,” “Christ is King!” {gratefully borrowed from the Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church}

The Benefits Of Belonging In The Kingdom:

To Know The Father, We Know Christ ~ Ephesians 1:15-19a

  • 15 this reason=they have guaranteed salvation
  • 16 if we fully knew what Christ has done for us, we’d be overcome with thankfulness
  • 17 spirit=NOT H.S., but “breath/inspiration” to know the FATHER better
  • 18/19 we MAY know called hope, rich inheritance, & great power

To See The Kingdom, We Show Christ ~ Ephesians 1:19b-23

  • 20 God put Jesus in the highest position
  • 21 Christ surpasses comparison of power and authority
  • 22 Christ rules over ALL; Head of the Church
  • 23 a head can’t function without a body; a body can’t function without a head

We are Christ’s local presence: if the world would see Jesus, they’ll see Him (or not) THROUGH US.

Epiphany: Unraveling the Riddle of Readiness

Epiphany: Unraveling the Riddle of Readiness Sermon Audio Here

1 Cor.3:1-9

The current snowy weather has certainly changed how we prepare to begin a journey. What might have been a quick trip to the supermarket is starting to resemble something from Scott of the Antarctic…

How Do We Get Ready for Wisdom?

Don’t Get Stuck in the World ~ 1 Cor.3:1-4

  • v1 follow up from 1 Cor 2:14-16, distinction between the person living according to the Spirit, or according to the world; Corinthians are living by the world’s standards
  • v2 the world can’t digest God’s wisdom as a whole; if we are caught up in that system, we can’t either
  • v3 indications one is caught in the flesh? They act like the world, with argumentative attitudes
  • v4 They even take spiritual leaders and reduce them to rallying slogans

Focus On Who’s Really At Work ~ 1 Cor.3:5-9

  • v5 simply, God does the spiritual work; we just help as God chooses
  • v6/7 we do different tasks, but God gives the growth
  • v8 God notices our specific help; we’ll be rewarded eventually (that’s another sermon)
  • v9 notice that the Corinthians are not counted among the workers (they’re too worldly); they are the recipients of God’s work, not the co-laborers

Deut 30:19-20a ~ This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

God chooses us for Salvation; We choose to live IN that Salvation, by responding to His Love, listening to His Word, and walking in His Way.

Epiphany: Uniting In Leadership

Epiphany: Uniting In Leadership Sermon Audio Here

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

The Corinthian church faced a challenge: they wanted to define themselves by what leader they were willing to follow. But what if everyone didn’t pick the same leader…

What Shows The World That We Are ONE In Christ?

We Speak the Same Truth ~ 1 Cor.1:10-12

  • v10 “all agree”=all speak the same;
  • “may be perfectly united”=tricky combo verb: it means you SHOULD BE prepared TOGETHER
  • v11/12 the quarrels undermine that goal; seeking leadership outside of Christ is NOT going to send the Gospel message to the watching world

We Show the Same Proof ~ 1 Cor.1:13-18

  • v13/16 Paul deemphasizes baptism: it’s a rite of obedience, not an act of spiritual registration
  • v17 the Gospel isn’t about the perfect words to say; it’s the power of the Cross to change a life: THAT is Good News!
  • v18 Message of the Cross is DEATH TO SELF – of course that’s foolish to those who are dying– why would they want to speed up the process? But to those of us who have accepted Christ’s work in place of our own, our debts have been all canceled out – we have been set free by God’s power!

Isaiah 9:2 ~ “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

We, who have seen the light of the Cross, must demonstrate what difference Christ has made in us. THAT is the unity that the dark world needs so desperately to see.

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.

Thoughts on the NACCC

This is a portion of a letter that I wrote to another church; they are considering becoming a part of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, the group to which my congregation belongs. I thought that some of my readers might enjoy these thoughts about the NA…
To give you a bit of background on my personal journey: I wasn’t raised with any kind of faith, became a follower of Jesus when I was 17, and got involved with various different groups of Christians, each contributing something to my development as a follower of Christ.
1) the Christian /Church of Christ emphasized living out their faith in response to the Word. 
2) the Foursquare church emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit. 
3) the Swedish Baptist church taught me to work through the text of Scripture line-by-line.
4) the Evangelical Free church taught me the importance of family in faith formation.
5) the Church of God, Anderson taught me the perils of power as a substitute for obedience.
6) the Presbyterian church showed me that a purposeful, thoughtful Christian life was possible.
7) the NACCC brought me full circle, reinforcing Jesus as the Head of the Church.
What I’ve learned about the NACCC is that the use of power and authority isn’t a preferred method to be the people of God. 
Our congregation was originally a German Congregational church (that denomination used to be around about 100 years ago), and they placed great emphasis on personal piety, communal experience of faith, and practical service to Christ. Then, in the 1950’s when the UCC was started, we joined that group. However, we discovered that over time, the UCC placed more and more emphasis on hierarchical structure, and the controls that go with it (especially in regards to what was considered to be “acceptable theology”). That was not at all who we are as a church; and so, our congregation left the UCC in 2003.
The NACCC is an association of fellowship, not an organization of control. We have churches in our national fellowship who are far more theologically liberal than we are… and we have churches that are much more conservative. Where we stand on various issues is *not* the determining factor of our organization. We come together to fellowship with one another as we each follow Christ as the Head of the church. There is no denominational control, no edicts from on high, no memos from the Central Office that tell us what we must do, or how we must do it.
This allows our little congregation to focus on its mission of following Jesus the best way it knows how, and we still can get together with other churches who are doing the same thing if not in the same way.
Personally, I consider it a strength when I’m able to be in a room with 100 other ministers, knowing full well that I’d probably disagree with them on various points of doctrine– but still having sweet fellowship because we recognize the Lord is in our midst, and it is the Spirit which allows us to experience the bond of unity while living with methods of diversity.
To close — I’m a BIG fan of the NACCC. It’s not restrictive on in matters of theology (we don’t make our ministers sign theological creeds like the CCCC), and it’s not dictative on matters of social conscience (like the “still speaking” campaign of the UCC). At the risk of sounding like a fairy tale, it’s “just right”.
Grace and peace to you as you seek to follow the Lord’s leading!
Keep Following Jesus,

Pulpit Resource, Vol. 40

I just received my first issue of Pulpit Resource. I thought it might be a good idea to create a little index for myself (and others) of what each volume covers. This is not intended to violate any copyright: all content of the magazine is held by its respective owners. I’m merely reposting the table of contents for ease of use.

Pulpit Resource, Vol. 40, No. 3 – Year B – July, August, September 2012

Page   Subject / Date / Scripture Reference

5 Easter Laughter — in July
July 1. 2012 ~ Mark 5:21-43

9 Power in Weakness
July 8, 2012 ~ 2 Corinthians 12:2-10

13 Salvation
July 15, 2012 ~ Ephesians 1:3—14

17 Christian Education
Ju1y 22, 2012 ~ Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

21 Wideness of Mercy
July 29, 2012 ~ Ephesians 3:14-21

25 Jesus = Bread of Life
August 5, 2012 ~ John 6:24-35

29 Eternal Life
August 12, 2012 ~ John 6:35, 41-51

33 Preparing for the Funeral
August 19, 2012 ~ John 6:51-58

37 The Joy of Self-forgetfulness in Christ
August 26, 2012 ~ John 6:56-69

41 The Lover
September 2, 2012 ~ Song of Solomon 2:8-13

45 Expect a Miracle
September 9, 2012 ~ Mark 7:24-37

49 A Savior Different Than We Expected
September 16, 2012 ~ Mark 8:27-38

53 Jesus, the Crucified Lover
September 23, 2012 ~ Mark 9:30-37

57 Unspectacular Faithfulness
September 30, 2012 ~ Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22



Leadership thoughts

I was asked a question about leadership, and I thought I’d share my response:

I think that a person who desires to function as a pastor must above all be authentic. Jesus didn’t put on airs, or pretend that he was something that he was not. His teaching and his example changed the world because of who he was as a person. (This is not to deny His divinity; I’m merely making a point that Jesus was the ultimate example of authenticity.)

Therefore, I feel it is crucial for anyone in leadership to be transparent as to who they are, and as to how God is dealing with them. Honestly, I would love to be like the apostle John, and spend time just being the disciple that Jesus loved, and loving him in return. However, I realize that I am far more like Peter; headstrong, speaking as he thinks, prone to make mistakes. But look at how Jesus treated Peter: once he had helped Peter move beyond his past mistakes (“Do you love Me?”), Jesus placed Peter in a position as a leader.

Not because Peter was always right, or was consistently on-the-ball, but because Peter was dedicated to being as much like Jesus as it was possible for him as Peter. He still made mistakes even after having been placed in leadership, but Peter’s willingness to be used by Christ changed the world. And that’s what I want for my life as well; to change the world, to be a part of the Kingdom of God.

KFJ – Ed

Pastor Ed Backell

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