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The Comforting Church (via Christina Fox)

True Gospel comfort is meant to be shared.
From Christina Fox at the Gospel Coalition:

This story of gospel comfort in 2 Corinthians reminds us that we’re all united to Christ, and that when he is at work in one of us, it affects all of us. God’s grace multiplies as it works through the life of a local church.
The comfort God gives, however, isn’t for us alone. We can’t hoard it. The ways the gospel has changed us must be shared; the truth of who Christ is and what he has done must be voiced.
Based on this truth, the comfort we give to one another in the church isn’t the “you can do it” and “everything will be okay” comfort of the world. No, this comfort is honest about sin and its effects. It doesn’t sugarcoat or wish things away. Instead, it seeks hope and help outside of our own strength and in the only One who can save. It’s grounded in the glad news of who Christ is and what he descended to do.
What does such comfort look like in the church?

  • When the Spirit helps us put sin to death, we share that joy with other believers so they too can rejoice in the gospel’s power at work.
  • When we’ve endured a season in which God met us in our pain, we share it with other believers so they too can see God’s faithfulness.
  • When God provides what we need in the eleventh hour, we share that joy so others can know that God is Jehovah-Jireh, our provider.

When God strengthens us in weakness, when he heals and brings redemption, when he teaches us through discipline—in all these ways and more—we share that comfort for another’s spiritual good.
May our friendships in the church be unique. May they be marked by gospel comfort. And just as Paul, Titus, and the Corinthians experienced God’s comfort, may the gospel come full circle in our own churches as we witness and testify together to what our King has done.


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Rejoicing In Revival Whereever It Happens (via Nicolas Alford)

Nicolas Alford writes about three unhelpful reactions that Christians can have to revivals.
When God sends revival to a church other than the one we belong to there is a strong temptation to not recognise what is happening as being the fruit of the work of God’s Holy Spirit.
An excerpt.

When we assign to apparent revival in other quarters a “broad way” condemnation because of the various ways they aren’t like us and therefore aren’t faithful to God’s Word and therefore couldn’t possibly be enjoying his blessing while we aren’t, don’t we betray the cynical elitism in our hearts?
Let’s not do that. When our Christian brothers and sisters in other denominational contexts see real blessing from God on their labors, let’s not let our various disagreements with them over doctrine and practice prevent us from recognizing the true work of God in their midst. Let’s not betray a belief that if God isn’t blessing us (or those most incredibly like us) whatever we are seeing must be a mere mirage of revival. Being different from us doesn’t put another group beyond the reach of God’s blessing anymore than it puts them beyond the reach of His grace. This of course doesn’t apply to those who hold to outright heretical views–I’m not talking about that. But not all doctrinal disagreements are heretical. There are a multitude of second tier issues which Christians will always disagree on. Are we really ready to say that those who we disagree with over Baptism, or the exact role of the Law, or the precise nature of the Spiritual gifts or many other issues we rightly make distinctions over are so far gone that we can’t grant to them the genuine blessing and favor of the Lord? Do we really want to say with our dismissive attitudes that we are the only ones who are deserving of His favor?


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The Privelege Of Praying For Each Other (via Scotty Smith)

Scotty Smith leads us in prayer, giving thanks for the blessing of praying for others.

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. 1 Sam.12:23
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Heb. 4:16

Lord Jesus, with freedom, needs, and friends, we run to the occupied throne of grace today. No one understands our messes and meets us in our weaknesses like you. You are, indeed, a most wonderful, merciful Savior.
We pray for friends serving you in different contexts and cultures around the world—missionaries, teachers, and others. May the gospel be sweet and grace sufficient, encouragement palpable and hope fresh. Quicken our spirits by your Spirit to pray for these faithful, often weary, conduits of the gospel. We don’t see them often but don’t let us forget them for a moment.
We pray for parents nearing the end of their strength, patience, and wits. Few stories have the power to multiply our heartaches than when kids choose to live without boundaries, or without a heart, for you. Lord of resurrection power, reveal yourself, to those who seem allergic to your grace and love.
Jesus, we pray for friends who still affirm the gospel, but who feel (and live) like strangers to your reality and riches. Whatever the genesis of their spiritual crisis, come close Jesus. Renew, restore, and refresh our friends, we pray. Show us how to offer presence without pressure. If confrontation is necessary, may your kindness lead them to repentance.
Jesus, we pray for friends with health struggles, at-work worries, and/or relational challenges. Give us listening hearts, words from above, and non-spin hope for them.
Lastly, Jesus, we pray for ourselves. You know where we struggle the most and trust you the least. You know our prayer-fueling relationships and our most powerful temptations, our persistent fears and nagging weaknesses. Grant us the mercy, grace, and wisdom we need today. So very Amen we pray, in your loving and strong name.


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Six Reminders On The Importance Of Pastoral Leadership (via Erik Reed)

Erik Reed developed a six item list to remind himself of the importance of pastoral leadership.
I’m conscious of building in preparation for those who will follow after me; and know that my role gets me a certain amount of trust and influence but only time and relationship will nurture deep trust and influence, so these two really stood out to me.

Remember the short life span of my leadership opportunity.
Someone is going to replace me. I am pastoring someone else’s future church. While recognizing this is sobering and humbling, it also motivating to lead well and courageously while I have the opportunity. I need to lead recognizing that I am a steward of something bigger than me.
Remember that my position gives me a seat at the table, but my actions determine the extent of my influence.
I am the Lead Pastor at The Journey Church. This gives me a seat at the table on leadership discussions and decisions. I have built in authority because of my position. But my position does not determine my influence, my actions do. This leads me to focus on what I do instead of where I am on the org chart. The most influential people are not always the ones with the most authoritative positions.

Read the whole post at Lifeway Pastors.

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Seven Reasons Why Church Is Difficult For Those Touched By Mental Illness (via Stephen Grcevich)

Church is meant to be the one place on earth where people can come just as themselves and feel welcome and at home.
But it’s not always the case.
I found these seven reasons provided by Stephen Grcevich to make sense.
It’s helpful to read what is obvious when made plain, but is so easy to forget in practice.
Some of these are focused on parents whose children have a mental illness, others are relevant to people who are enduring various conditions whatever their age.

A couple of examples:

Anxiety: One in 15 American adults experience social anxiety disorder—a condition resulting in significant fear and distress in situations where their words or actions may be exposed to the scrutiny of others. How many social interactions might a first-time visitor to a weekend worship service need to navigate at your church? Persons with agoraphobia frequently experience intense fear, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, excessive perspiration, and nausea in public places where their ability to leave unobtrusively is limited. How might they feel if there are no seats available near an exit at a worship service, or if a well-meaning usher directs them to a middle seat near the front of the church?

Expectations for self-discipline: The Bible clearly equates self-control with spiritual maturity. Most mental health conditions can negatively impact executive functioning—the cognitive capacities through which we establish priorities, plan for the future, manage time, delay gratification, and exercise conscious control over our thoughts, words, and actions. When children struggle with self-control in the absence of obvious signs of disability, we’re often quick to make assumptions about their parents. One mother in describing her family’s experience in looking for a church with two school-age boys with ADHD observed that, “People in the church think they can tell when a disability ends and bad parenting begins.”

Read the whole article here.

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Leading And Managing (via Leadership Freak)

Dan Rockwell provides some helpful insight about the qualities of leaders and managers.
Pastoral ministry isn’t either of these, but it does involve aspects of each.
An observation in general is that those who carry out management roles well can often find themselves in leadership roles without having the needed skills to do that role well.
An observation about churches is that people with leadership capacities can find themselves being expected to carry out management functions without having the aptitudes to perform that role well.
Personally I feel the management functions are more natural to me than the leadership functions.
It’s a constant struggle.

From Dan Rockwell:

Manager or leader:
John Kotter’s book, “That’s Not How We Do it Here!” is a fable that addresses tension between the divergent functions of management and leadership. The following lists are inspired by his work.

You’re managing when you:

  1. Plan and budget.
  2. Solve day-to-day problems.
  3. Track processes and measure results.
  4. Hire, fire, and concern yourself with job descriptions.

You’re leading when you:

  1. Set direction.
  2. Align people.
  3. Inspire.
  4. Seize opportunities.

Insights from Warren Bennis:
“Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.”

  1. You’re managing when you concern yourself with how and when questions.
  2. You’re leading when you concern yourself with what and why questions.

Over-led organizations end up chaotic.
Over-managed organizations end up bureaucratic.

Read more insights at Leadership Freak.

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Barriers To Becoming A Simple Church (via Thom Rainer)

Through the beginning of the year Thom Rainer has been posting about churches becoming simple or zero sum.
In practice this involves concluding groups and activities that no longer have a vital purpose.
Put another way: if the church was starting fresh which groups activities would they actually start because they’re needed or serve a purpose?
It is meant to differentiate from effort invested in mission purpose and effort invested in that which exists only to be maintained.
Here he lists five reasons why this process of evaluation doesn’t take place.

  1. Traditionalism. We do the same things we’ve always done because we’ve always done them that way before. If that sounds redundant, it is. We just can’t get out of our boxes of comfort and false security.
  2. Lack of clear vision. We pile on program after program and meeting after meeting because we have no clear plan or vision. A good vision will lead the church to say “yes” or “no” in a healthy fashion.
  3. Fear. Many leaders fear the consequences of even suggesting the elimination of some programs, ministries, or activities. I know of no simple church without courageous leaders.
  4. Coasting. This barrier is similar to fear. Some leaders don’t want to rock the boat. They just want to hang on to their jobs or their peaceful existence. But the courageous leader is never a coasting leader.
  5. Failure to evaluate. I have encouraged churches to consider a zero-based ministry every year. Ask the question: What ministries, programs, and meetings would we have if we had a clean slate? How would it look differently than our current schedule? Too many churches are eager to add but fearful to subtract.

Read the whole post at Rainer’s site, and then look for related posts on the subject.