Bill Campbell

Thoughts of Life and Ministry

AVOIDING THE NUISANCE OF NEGATIVITY

The failure of congregations to progress and move forward are numerous. Manifold. It would require numerous pages to describe the various reasons for congregational decline.

One major reason why congregations often fall into decline though stems from a most subtle and overlooked factor: abnormal negativity being in operation within a church fellowship. While negativity can emerge in any size fellowship, it will often occur in smaller congregations. With congregations that are more passive in their culture than they are active in ministry.

Certain members will begin to find fault with something that’s been said or not said; that’s been done or left undone. The supposed fault will be exaggerated. Blown out of proportion. Talked about to a point of exasperation. And like cancer it will grow like a rolling snow ball among a certain group who have been apprised of the supposed fault. The fault will then eventually be raised to a most unnecessary and highly elevated status.

Congregations fail to understand that such activities are highly dismantling. It damages a church on the inside. It nonetheless damages a church and its image among those on the outside. A church with negativity comes to inherit a reputation and image of being a fighting and feuding fellowship. People soon choose to avoid any connection with a church that’s like this. If I could portray its evil in the most effective way possible, I would refer to it as one of the, “sins of highly defective congregations.”

Problems like this need to be highlighted. Brought into the daylight. Exposed. But problems need solutions. Ways, that is, to avoid such a serious pitfall in congregational life. How may the evil of negativity be overcome?

  • By persons asking themselves, “am I part of the problem of negativity? In other words, have I fallen into this evil and subtle trap with others?”
  • By understanding that negativity is part of the devil’s strategy for disrupting a congregation’s unity.
  • By eliminating yourself from the circle of influencers who major in negativity.
  • By understanding that you are hurting the health and well-being of your congregation by being a  participant in negative messaging.
  • By recognizing and understanding that abnormal engagement in negativity is one of the “sins of highly defective churches.”
  • By acknowledging negativity as a growing problem in your life, and making a departure from it, along with asking for God’s forgiveness, as you seek a renewed pathway.
  • By planting positive seeds rather than negative seeds in the life of your congregation, as you develop a positive attitude with the use of your lips and life.

Negativity, I’m discovering, can easily become a lifestyle. A response to everything experienced. An ever developing attitude.  It can be initiated much easier than it can be eliminated. Only as we look to God for direction through Scripture and prayer, and come to see its evil in operation, are we able to make a departure from its evil ways.

I like the following words from an anonymous source: “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t go anywhere until you change it.”

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September 17, 2013 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Relationships, Service, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | Leave a comment

DEALING WITH DIOTREPHES

Are you aware of the four books in the New Testament that have only one chapter? If so, have you read them? Considered them closely? Pondered their message?

In past days I have not given much time or attention to these documents. In fact, I have largely ignored them. Brushed them aside. Why? Because I thought their size must indicate the unimportance of their content. It appeared the writers of the New Testament were including them to simply add further bulk to the existing New Testament material.

That was wrong on my part. Terribly wrong. A response I should not have taken. Because they have much vital  information for believers and the church. It is sad we have often missed the foregoing fact.

An example of their significance was brought home to me in III John 9-13. These verses of John the Apostle focus the reader’s attention on a church leader by the name of Diotrephes. He is mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament but here alone in these verses. He isn’t a good guy either. Rather, he is a notoriously bad guy.

Diotrephes is creating much division in the church. He is heavy-handed and iron-fisted. A dictator and controller of the first order. He has set himself on top in the church. Become the preeminent one. The one in charge. The CEO. It was either his way or the highway. A willingness to be under his thumb or be black-balled from the fellowship.

He obviously was rejecting the leadership function of John and any other appointed leaders in the church. No one had delegated him to this upper role. Named him as being the chief. Put him out front. He rather elevated himself. Diotrephes was rejecting and removing not only accepted and recognized church leaders in his first century setting, but anyone else who stood in the way of his dictatorial path.

I asked myself the question: Why was this information about Diotrephes included by John in his Letter? One general response is because it was an inspired writing that emanated from God Himself. But I think it is an intentional eye-opener for congregations in the first century and in the 21st century as well. Specifically, these individuals, like Diotrephes, will become a formidable problem with whom the local church will need to be aware of. A failure to recognize their presence will be a dam or roadblock to achieving the mission of the church.

In every congregation I have served there has been at least one, if not more, Diotrephes types. They can become a nightmare for pastoral leaders. More importantly, they can become the devil in disguise within the church. You can tolerate them, or confront them. Face them or let them go free. But their presence makes a smooth path in congregational life impossible.

John revealed in the tenth verse that he was not going to tolerate Diostrephes in his time, nor was he going to remain silent about the evil practices he was exercising in congregational life. If congregational leaders and the church as a whole is going to be a healthy fellowship in the 21st century, we cannot set idly by either. Always we need to be aware of a Diotrephes!!

In a forthcoming blog I will suggest some important ways to address and deal with Diotrephes types in your congregation. Always remember that followers of Christ must speak the truth in the spirit of Christian love, regardless of the problems that are present.

November 21, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Scripture, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | 1 Comment

GIVING ATTENTION TO THE AURA

I continue to preach, teach, and write in regard to church health. Not because I’ve assumed it as my job as a Christian leader. Nor is it because I derive some special joy in pointing the ills of congregations in our time. So, why then do I continue the ministry of church health?

Someone once taught me that NEED is the MOTHER of INVENTION. And there is a need to address the health issues of congregations today. Why? Because everywhere I go words are being directed at me about the concerns persons have with their stumbling congregations. What can we do? How can we become an attractive and influential fellowship once again? We’ve lost our glory days! Those times in which we were a joyful and excited fellowship. Now, we are aimed downhill and seem to be headed there on a fast track. These and many other comments have been shared and have troubled me to no end.

Allow me to also point out that the biblical writers shared my current concern. For they courageously addressed items that were destroying the health of congregations in their time. While these early writers and leaders shared a positive message of good news, they nonetheless followed this up with various items of deep concern about the health and well-being of their early congregations. Evidently the problems of the early church were reaching their ears.

A word that has gripped me of late is the word, aura. What does it mean? Imply? Or, what message does it give? For my purposes here I wish to define the word as having a certain air. A certain feeling. A certain awareness that something is amiss. Has gone wrong. It gives a rather negative sense that something just isn’t right.

When I move among established congregations I pick up rather quickly on this negative aura that has invaded many congregations. As I relate with the members I get a sense that something is stirring that isn’t good. There are some who have formed their own comfortable cliques, or, special groups; words and actions are demonstrated that reveal members are out of sorts with one another; negative criticism is encountered from some; gossip is heard; complaining is in the air; threats about leaving the church are uttered; playing the blame-game is on a rampage; and one feels worse after coming inside than he or she does in the outside world.

In one meeting with a congregations leadership I listened for two hours to the uttering of one gripe after another. When I was finally given a chance to speak I asked, “is there anything you can tell me about this church that’s positive?” Silence reigned for a few moments. And finally a few good points were shared. But the church was so full of negativities and conflicts, it was evident to me that it would be next to impossible for this church to get its head above water and become a healthy organism again.

As I was preparing today’s blog I read some alarming thoughts from Bill Easum. He indicated that when church guests enter a service, their antennas are up. Never think for one moment they do not read the unsettling state of affairs that often exist inside a troubled church. Easum then states: “You may think we’re being overly dramatic, but time after time we find unresolved conflict literally killing a church.” What is worse, congregations are tolerating this conflict, and do nothing about what is making them ill and signing their death warrant.

What is the message here? The problem isn’t the outside world. Rather, the problem is more often the church itself. And unless the abnormal conflict is addressed and dealt with responsibly, the graveyard may be the next step for a church!!

May 10, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Shepherds, The Devil, The Tongue | Leave a comment

BEHAVING LIKE A BELIEVER (Part Two)

Some responses to yesterday’s blog made me aware that I needed to return and offer some positive prescriptions for the behavior problem described there. What does a church do with those who are a source of behavior that threatens the witness and spiritual health of the church?

Generally, congregations have been guilty of ignoring these people. Thinking that addressing the issues will only make matters worse. Don’t rock the boat, they reason, and make things worse than they are now. While that sounds plausible, it only allows the problem to grow. Enlarge. Probably even to greatly increase in its intensity. It seems that many congregations are committed to having peace, even when disciplinary measures are necessary and clearly need to be taken.

What are the kinds of behavior problems that need to be addressed in congregations? Initially, there is the kind of negative behavior in process that I attempted to describe in yesterday’s blog. Outright negative criticism by some of others who do not measure up to their expectations. Others work under the surface. Behind closed doors. They spread poisonous gossip and create a rumor mill. Predictably, they will seek to disrupt the current equilibrium of a congregation. Another group will endeavor to utilize the power they’ve been able to establish over time in a church fellowship. Control of the existing system is their quest. In virtually every congregation some form of these problems are presently being played out.

The foregoing being true, how are these negative behaviors to be effectively addressed? Allow me to respond.

  • Before correction can be put in place, a church must be able to see the problems. See them clearly. Sometimes the problems are not seen and understood. At other times they are seen, but nothing is ever done to adequately address them.
  • Rather than addressing only issues of theology and doctrine today, congregations need to spend more significant time with ethical and behavioral issues. Why? Because the Scriptures are literally full of teachings on conduct and relationships. These are often ignored or sidestepped in preaching and teaching.
  • The problems revealed in this blog are areas where Elders/Shepherds in our congregations should be functioning. Where they should be taking care of the Lord’s flock. Guiding them and keeping them free of dis-functionality and dangerous spiritual health issues. In too many instances though church shepherds get “hung up” on meetings and conducting business, and they fail to minister “hands on” for the well-being of the flock.
  • When any believer sees disruptive and negative behavior in operation, he or she should responsibly step forward and address it. Do so, however, in the spirit of love and consideration, not with words that serve to condemn and alienate. Addressing negative issues is never a pleasant matter. But if they’re not addressed, further problems are always waiting in the wings. And when they are not addressed a believer is not functioning responsibly on behalf of his or her brethren.
  • I’m increasingly aware of the presence of small groups in our fellowships. They are excellent contexts for growing together. Becoming mature in Christ. Yet, many of these contexts today have become the hotbeds of controversy and congregational divisiveness. In order to be healthy fellowships, they will require leaders or facilitators who are gifted at directing the group into working together positively. They should not be settings where irritations, animosity and discord are allowed to grow and flourish.

I’m committed to helping experience healthy congregations. But doing so requires that we see our problems clearly before helpful and positive prescriptions can be followed. But you can be sure of the following: A healthy body is able to exist when our inner attitudes result in healthy outward actions.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Preaching, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Shepherds, Spirituality, The Tongue | Leave a comment

DISCOVERING THE REAL ENEMY

Allow me to share the primary enemy all congregations face today. Surprisingly, it is not the outside world. The non-churched population. The evil culture. Those groups which oppose and resist the Christian message. Yet, the church nonetheless wants to blame the world for its failures and lack of success.

But the outside world is not the primary enemy the church faces. Never has been. Never will be. The greatest enemy for the church is the church itself. “Do what? You’re blaming the church for the current ills that beset it?” Yes, I am.

You know why? For the following reason: what the church is will either serve to advances its mission, or, will hinder its efforts.

This brings to mind the comic strip character, Pogo. Remember him? Sometimes even a Pogo can serve to bring us to our senses. Help us through simple language to see ourselves as we really are. Offer insights that will catch us off guard and challenge our thinking and actions. Listen to Pogo’s counsel: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

Interesting statement, isn’t it? But in what sense is the church its greatest enemy? An important question to ask. One that calls for serious thought and reflection. So please note the following words: Your congregations has an aura. A distinctive air. An image. And what your church exudes to others will either be negative or positive; attractive or ugly; magnetic or repelling. In many established congregations their existing aura has turned off many in place of drawing them to God and His church.

This happens when congregations become known as fighters; gossipers; whiners; complainers; controllers; and yes, mean-sprited types that roam the church terrain like a watch dog. I’ve encountered them. So have you. Thus, when you question why congregations are unhealthy and non-growing the reason should immediately jump up before your eyes. Returning to Pogo once more, would you need to say of your church: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

Such a revelation is most difficult and painful for any guilty congregation to acknowledge, and then face. Are these troubled congregations able to go through a radical change? Experience healing? Can they eventually emerge as a turnaround church?

Why though do congregations become their own worst enemy? Turn as a snake on themselves? Those questions have often revolved around in my mind. I remember hearing Carl Ketcherside say: “There once was a time we claimed to love each other and talk about Jesus; and now we claim to love Jesus and talk about each other.”

Congregations have often become guilty of losing their way. Of forgetting their roots and reason for existence. Becoming selfish in place of selfless. Life is all about them, and not about HIM. But never think for one moment that the outside world fails to see this congregational enemy at work today. As a result, they want none of it. What they see isn’t about Jesus. Doesn’t represent HIM at all. Nor does it do anything for the sincere seeker.

A church like this is more frequently than not resisted. Ignored. Avoided like the plague. Why? Because it gives no clear indication of being a Christian assembly. A place where healing and life can be offered. Where hurting lives can be rescued. It has become a context where satanic bitterness and back-biting rule the day.

Jesus has taught us to pray in this manner: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 – NKJV). But my searching question is this one: “HOW CAN THERE BE HEAVEN ON EARTH WHEN HEAVEN HAS OFTEN BEEN REPLACED WITH HELL ON EARTH?”

April 12, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | Leave a comment

A TROUBLESOME CONTRAST

An amazing ongoing problem is the simultaneous presence and experience of both good and evil in the world.  For example: There are those who murder and those who save. Those who hate and those who love. Those who discourage and those who encourage. Those who spread negativity and those who bring joy. Those who take away and those who give. Those who spread ill will and those who multiply good will.

Why this puzzling contrast? This strange dilemma? Can it be changed? Stopped? Turned around? Experience the good permanently replacing the evil? See God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven?

Quite honestly, this problem has always been unacceptable to me. Something Unnecessary. For I am perpetually wanting to live in a world free of taint and terror. In a context where serenity and security replace sin and a soiled existence.

That wish, of course, is only a utopian dream. Something than can’t really happen. For this present age is ruled by the prince of darkness. The evil one. The one who attempts to bring death. Furthermore, Jesus has taught us that in this world we will encounter various tribulations and trials.

But the reality of good and evil, however, doesn’t end with its presence in the larger world. Sometimes this alarming contrast emerges even in congregations. Church fellowships. Those places where God’s Sovreignty is taught and proclaimed. Where light is expected to reign over darkness.

In what ways do good and evil often exist simultaneously in congregations? In the following ways:

  • When internal disunity is continuously disrupting the unity Jesus prayed would exist.
  • When private and selfish agendas emerge and replace the Savior’s agenda.
  • When the religious institution and its secondary concerns gets in the way of God’s kingdom rule.
  • When a congregations tainted reputation blocks their ability to be a transforming community presence.
  • When stagnation and legalism prevent Christians from being the salt and light Jesus intended and expected.
  • When the attitudes and dispositions of some congregational members serve to repel those on the outside from wanting to come inside.

A churchman informed me: “Bill, I’ve been in the church for some forty years, but I’ve only been a Christian for ten of those forty years!!” I am surprised that I did not pass out following this admission. But further reflection made me aware that I too could have once given the same testimony.

But one more question: Why is such a confession even necessary? Needed? Because it flows out of a blessed and unique day of awakening. A time in which great joy came forth and was birthed. For one was delivered from outer darkness and brought into the interior light. Belongs to the Divine Sovreign in place of the devil. Is now a disciple and not an embarassing  destructive element in congregational life.

Like my confessing friend, I no longer want to be a tare among the wheat. Be one who hurts more than helps. Hinders more than heals. Harms more than brings holiness. In the words of a memorable old hymn: “I have decided to follow Jesus; I have decided to follow Jesus; I have decided to follow Jesus; No turning back, no turning back.”

Will you join me in this glorious journey??

February 3, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Relationships, Salvation, Scripture, Service, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | Leave a comment

A LESSON IN RELATIONSHIPS

Holidays are times families get together. This is as it should be. For they get to share food. And they share stories. Stories about themselves. About other family members and friends. One hears of disappointments. Joys. Down the road goals. Great times are experienced when families come together.

But everything experienced is not positive. Enjoyable. Uplifting. For being close can create some negative words and actions. Through close connections over a concentrated period of time many undesirable negative attitudes can be unleashed. What starts well and is encouraging can end up in a lot of disappointment and discouragement. Getting together starts out the way it should. But it can end up with everyone leaving with a mixture of tainted   feelings.

What is true of the human family is nonetheless true of God’s family. The church can be the most wonderful context in which to experience life at its very best. But frequently in congregational life the good is replaced by the bad. Angry words are expressed. Actions that are evil are demonstrated. Attitudes develop that unravels relationships and destroys the unity.

How do I know these things? I am part of a human family. I am also part of the spiritual family. I’ve witnessed the up and down yo-yo like feelings that always seem to emerge in both contexts.

What causes the ruptures? The breaking apart? The disunity? The inability to experience a consistent and encouraging lifestyle together. Why is this disaster in operation? For the following reasons.

  • Because there is a battle going on between the flesh and the inner spirit. The flesh wants its way. And the inner spirit wants to encounter and enjoy a life of comradery. Working together. Being encouragers. Not discouragers.
  • Because the Devil is at work in all our relationships. God’s Spirit also  wants to be in our relationships. But we are over and over guilty of allowing the Devil to get the upper hand. He wishes to divide and destroy. Not create peace and unity among us.
  • Because we fail to appreciate the long range benefits of our unity. There is strength in unity. There is weakness in disunity. In unity our inner lives experience inexpressable joys. In discunity our inner lives experience inexpressable sadness and pain.

I’ve always noted and been impressed with the number of passages in Scripture that teach the importance of unity. Why are these passages present? They are present because disunity has scarred the human family from the beginning. Made both the church and the human family a disappointing experience.

Disunity and its agony is why Paul instructed two women at Philippi: “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).

Again Paul instructs that ” … above … all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:14-15).

I pray that we will learn and practice the important quality of unity in our human and spiritual relationships. It will fill our lives with the joy and peace that we all desperately need.

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Discipleship, God, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | Leave a comment

THE LESSONS I’VE LEARNED IN MINISTRY

Recently I was asked: “What would characterize your ministry if you were to start again? Would you do everything the same way? Or, would there be differences in the way you did ministry?” Some very good questions to ponder.

While I would do a number of things the same way, there would be some notable differences. Why? Because one learns best from the numerous failures experienced.

Here is my list:

  • If I were to start over I would work more diligently on my preaching and teaching. I would seek to understand the biblical text as well as the people among whom I served.
  • I would have a clear understanding of my abilities/gifts. Should my gifts not match the needs of a congregation calling me, I would decline the invitation to be their lead minister.
  • I would be greatly focused on balance in a church. For a church needs balance in five areas: outreach to the lost; training for those within the church; encouragment in both private and public worship; enlarging the fellowship opportunities; and equipping believers to function with their ministry gifts.
  • I would focus much more on Spiritual Formation and a great degree less on social activities and programs.
  • I would avoid the temptation to be a minister to “some” yet avoid “others.” Cliques have become an ever growing divisive issue in congregational life today.
  • I would expect that I and the church would be involved in disciple making. That we would be engaged first and foremost in developing fully committed followers of Christ Jesus.
  • I would cease the senseless attempt to keep “everyone” happy in a church. For that isn’t a lead minister’s purpose. Rather, I would be concerned with what pleases and honors God.
  • I would continue to journal daily. Record both my failures and successes. For one learns during both of these experiences.
  • I would refuse to serve a congregation, or continue to serve in a congregation, where there were private meetings being conducted. When these activities are in operation you can be assured the devil has his foot in the door. And that serious divisive issues are lying just ahead.
  • If I were to begin again as a lead minister I would only go to a church that expected me to call and dismiss staff members. A lead minister must have staff around him that are willing to function under his leadership. If they cannot function with him, they should not be in that congregation. Furthermore, congregations need ministerial staff with clearly understood gifts and functions.
  • I would expect that a biblical church would engage in fewer meetings, and involved with increasing opportunities to serve and minister.

These lessons that I’ve shared are not meant to be selfish pursuits. Attempts to insure a lead minister’s own ends. Rather, they are actions that serve to keep a church healthy and in mission toward those things that honor God.

October 1, 2011 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Preaching, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | Leave a comment

A CALL FOR PEACE

Increasingly I’m learning that having a healthy church in these present times is a rarity. It is no longer a given. Something that one can depend upon. For many church members seem to struggle with living together in a peaceable fashion.

In a conversation with a friend we were enjoying a nice time sharing. A nice time, that is, until he started talking  about his church. For the sunshine of conversation suddenly turned into the thunderstorm of sadness. He was in a congregation that was unable to experience peace and tranquility. Fussing, fighting and feuding, had come to be the leading characteristics of his fellowship. In one memorable heart wrenching response my friend asked: “Can’t people just simply get along in the church and work together peaceably?”

An important question. I’ve asked the question often myself in days now gone by. And others I’ve encountered have voiced the same urgent concern.

Jesus intended that His followers be persons of peace. Those who would live their lives apart from war and disruption. Those who would live in an exemplary fashion. For peace was the special gift that Jesus chose to give to His followers (see John 14:27). As a result we are to be “peacemakers” (see Matthew 5:9). Paul also taught the following: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Possessing this tranquil life of peace should lead to ” … being at peace among yourselves” (see I Thessalonians 5:13).

With the foregoing in mind, why is there still the glaring absence of peace in many congregations today? More importantly, how can we become fellowships where peace and tranquility dwell and reign? It will happen:

  • When each believer asks himself or herself the question: “Am I part of the problem, or part of the solution?”
  • When Christian love and not caustic legalism come to characterize the life of a congregation.
  • When we each one genuinely experience the inner contentment God wishes that we possess.
  • When our relationship with God and others replaces the dogmatic requirements we constantly are guilty of pushing.
  • When we are listening to God through Scripture, and are communicating with Him, as well, through prayer.
  • When we are working with our brothers and sisters in unison and not working in opposition to them.
  • When the church is about God and His wishes, and not about me and my wishes.
  • When we realize our fighting and feuding spirit is destroying our church, and is giving us a terrible name and witness in the community.
  • When we learn well that Christianity is as much about how we behave as it is about what we believe.

Pay close attention to these closing words of O. A. Battista: “True peace could come instantly to the world (and the church) if we all treated each other as though today was the last day of our lives—which it could very well be!”

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spirituality, The Tongue | Leave a comment

REGARDING THOSE WHO TEACH

Yesterday evening at our church I was participating in a study of the use of one’s tongue in chapter three of the Letter of James. The opening verse of this chapter immediately captured my attention and thought. I pondered it considerably. The verse reads: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).

Allow me to ask a few questions. Is this verse intending to discourage persons from teaching? Should most persons steer away from instructing others altogether? Should most individuals not even aspire to this function? Are those who teach really going to be held more accountable than others?

One gets the initial feeling from reading the verse that a fear factor is being expressed here strongly by James for those who would even dare attempt the effort to teach. In short, one had better avoid it, unless he or she is able to qualify as a “perfect” (“mature”) individual (see James 3:2). And who can reach this difficult level? Furthermore, who is able and authorized to measure one’s capability to be a teacher?

I believe James is endeavoring to achieve a number of important practical ends in this instruction. Among these practical ends are the following:

  • The ministry of Christian teaching should not be entered into thoughtlessly.
  • A teacher is only able to teach after being equipped to do so through timely preparation and experience. Vance Havner said: “To teach something you don’t know is like coming back from somewhere you haven’t been.”
  • No one should teach who is not first practicing and following in life what he or she is attempting to communicate in word. A failure in this area is where a teacher will “…receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
  • Those who teach need to gain some mastery and control over the use of their tongue. This only comes with time and maturity.
  • Teaching is not a ministry for those who have a strong ambition and wish to be actors. In other words, those who are always wanting to be out in front of others. To be perpetually noticed and applauded.
  • Teaching is not for those who talk more than they listen. Until persons have first heard God well and experienced what they have learned from Him and others, they are not ready to instruct anyone else.
  • Teachers who are not ready to teach actually hinder God’s work. Why? Because they do not educate, encourage and excite those they are instructing.
  • Inadequate teaching creates a serious growth and health problem from within the life of the church. I appreciate the on target words of Henrietta C. Mears: “Your pupils are not bowls to be filled, but torches to be lighted.”

I do not believe that James is discouraging others to teach. He is rather providing counsel about its seriousness. What more nobler and worthwhile desire can there be than that of teaching the riches of God’s Word? It is a ministry that will be blessed by only the rewards of eternity!!

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Salvation, Scripture, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality, Sunday School, The Tongue | Leave a comment