Woman to Woman: Dec 18, 2020

by Paulette Stamper

It’s no secret that followers of Jesus face battles of many kinds. It’s been said that a Christian is always in one of three places: coming out of a battle, enduring a battle, or heading into a battle. I might argue that we could be in all three places simultaneously because sometimes we are fighting more than one battle at a time! We know that James admonishes us to consider it “pure joy” when we face trials of many kinds. How exactly do we do that? Because we don’t extract joy from the battle itself, so, where does a sense of joy come from when we are in the heat of a battle? I believe our joy comes from what our faith produces in the battle. 

Consider Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, mentioned by the author of Hebrews in chapter 11. We are told that through faith, “they…

Conquered kingdoms
Administered justice
Gained what was promised
Shut the mouths of lions
Quenched raging fire
Escaped the edge of the sword
Gained strength in weakness
BECAME MIGHTY IN BATTLE (this is my favorite!) and
Put foreign armies to flight.”

That’s one pretty awesome list – and it all occurred in battle. 

We don’t consider the battle itself as “pure joy,” but rather, what we gain in the battle. Who doesn’t want to be a part of the army that conquers kingdoms, administers justice, and shuts the mouths of lions? If we believe this is what we will gain, then we will undoubtedly experience joy – in the battle.

Be Encouraged – The 3 Rs

by Gary Johnson

Friends,

As we bring a close to a tough 2020, the teacher in me recalls “the three Rs” we learned years ago in school: ‘readin’, ‘rightin’ and ‘rithmetic’.  But, whether we serve as elders or ministers, we need to pursue a different set of three Rs in 2021: reach, realize and remember.

Reach

Every day, every person reaches for something.  We reach for the phone when it rings and for food when we are hungry.  Reaching is both an intentional and natural action.  Similarly, leaders of the local church need to intentionally reach as a natural part of their skills.  This is particularly true in the way a leader thinks.  To move the church forward, we must think forward.

Case in point, are we thinking only about December?  It is easy for us to be mentally consumed at this time of year with places to go, people to see and things to do.  It is common for leaders to shift into neutral during the holiday season, when it is essential for us to mentally reach past December 25 into the new year.  Elders and staff need to be thinking about what lies on the leadership schedule in January.  For example, are you planning a leadership winter retreat?  If not, put Saturday, January 16 (9am-noon eastern) on your calendar.  Along with CFR (Christin Financial Resources), e2 is live-streaming an elders’ conference called Jump Start! Charging Up Ministry that Moves.  We will explore the four areas of ministry that are essential for building momentum in the local church: 1) evangelism, 2) discipleship, 3) the next generation, and 4) developing leaders.

Paul had a mindset to reach forward: “This one thing I do; forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…” (Phil. 3:13-14).  Paul’s mind was set on that which awaited him eternally.  Like Paul, when we think forward, we have every greater likelihood of moving forward.  Intentionally reach for what’s next as you lead the church.

Realize

You and I need to face facts. We must realize that we can only take people as far as we ourselves have gone.  Are we developing as leaders, increasing our skills, deepening our walk with the Lord?  Are we growing increasingly like Jesus, yielding to His sovereignty over us?

Before being martyred, Peter penned this final thought: “But grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).  The final comment to flow from Peter’s pen prior to his death was not a suggestion, but a commandment!  He told us to continue growing, maturing, transforming into the likeness of Jesus.  We must realize that we cannot offer grace to others if we do not “grow in grace.”  We must realize that we cannot help others “grow in knowing” unless we, ourselves, are growing in Him.

Case in point: what’s your leadership development plan, both as an individual and as a team?  I coach elder teams to put words up on the board that describe their team on December 31 of the following year.  From those words, compose a short paragraph that describes the team on the last day of the next year.  This is your preferred future and becoming that kind of a team does not happen naturally, but only intentionally.  To experience transformation requires self-leadership.  How can we lead the church if we are not leading ourselves?

If you would like some help with this, send me an email so that we can start a conversation.  It is our first priority and greatest passion to coach elder teams to win against the kingdom of darkness.  Remember, those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (1 Cor. 4:2).  We have been given the trust of the local church for which we will be held accountable.  Realize we must grow spiritually if those we lead will become like Christ.

Remember

Think about these phrases: “Out of sight – out of mind.”  “How quickly we forget.”  We know and speak these phrases because they describe reality.  As 2020 comes to a close, we must look back and remember the many ways God enabled us to not only survive, but also to thrive in one of the most challenging years of ministry.

King David knew challenging seasons of leadership, yet he still wrote: “Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise His holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits” (Ps. 103:1-2).  Remember the many conspicuous moments when God’s presence was intense and encouraging.  After all, one of His many names is Immanuel – God with us.  He has promised never to leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).  As well, remember God’s promises.  Everything written in the past has been written to teach us, that through endurance and the encouragement of Scripture, we have hope (Rom. 15:4)!

When we were in school years ago, we may have let as lesson or two go in one ear and out the other.  Friends, we are still students.  As Christ followers, we are life-long learners, and we must take to heart the three Rs of a leader for 2021: reach, realize and remember.  Be a doer of the Word, and not a mere hearer (James 1:22).  It’s been a tough year.  If you are exhausted and could use an encouraging, helpful word, give us a call or drop us a note.  Let us be a “Barnabas” to you, for we are “brothers of encouragement” at e2.

Lead well.

Woman to Woman: Dec 11, 2020

by Paulette Stamper 

“How long will you be paralyzed by indecision? If the LORD is the true God, then follow him, but if Baal is, follow him!” 1 Kings 18:21

God uniquely blessed Israel to make his name known throughout the earth. God promised the land to Abraham’s descendants, brought them out of bondage in Egypt, and poured out his blessings on both the people and the land. However, God’s chosen people quickly forgot about their God, turning their affections and attention to the pagan gods of the nations surrounding them. In quite the dramatic showdown, the prophet Elijah boldly confronted them, declaring the time for choosing sides had arrived. No longer could they claim to follow the God of Israel while practicing pagan worship. Either they had to declare allegiance to the one true God or drop the pretense and make a public declaration that Baal was their god. It wasn’t exactly a “Discover Your Best Life Now” feel-good type of sermon, but man did it fuel the fire for change in Israel…literally!

Our nation is similar to Israel in many ways. We have the freedom to worship the true God, and we are abundantly blessed. However, there are many Christians who are “paralyzed by indecision.” They honor God with their lips but have hearts that are far from him (Isaiah 29:13). What we desperately need in this hour of history are men and women of God who will stand in the spirit of Elijah, boldly declaring the truth of God’s word, and admonishing those who claim the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to throw off the spirit of lukewarm Christianity and be either hot or cold. Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines and watch the moral decline of our great nation. Now is the time for the sons and daughters of the Most High God to take our positions as mighty warriors, confronting the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms with the mightiest weapon available to us – the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God!

Let’s not shrink away from the battlefield. Now more than ever, the world needs bold warriors like Elijah willing to declare the truth with courage, passion, accuracy, and zeal. Will you answer the call to take a stand like Elijah?

Woman to Woman: Dec 4, 2020

by Paulette Stamper

This morning on my prayer walk, I looked down at all the leaves I still need to rake, and I noticed some of  the exposed roots of a tree that Jake and I planted when we moved to this house about 14 years ago. When we brought it home, it was small enough to fit in my Jeep. Now it’s a giant weeping willow tree with a massive root system. I heard the Spirit whisper to me – your roots are like this tree. You were in the process of deep spiritual growth when you moved here, and you made the deliberate choice to continue to grow – now your spiritual roots are like the roots of this tree – strong, powerful, and steady. Roots like this take time and effort. Keep cultivating and tending to your roots, and your faith will be far-reaching and long-lasting, just like this tree.

A seed doesn’t grow into a fully mature tree with a vast root system overnight. Growth takes time. A lot of time. We live in a culture that has programmed us to want and expect immediate results. Don’t fall into that trap when it comes to your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Take time each day to cultivate your love for him. Take time each day to read his word. The best relationships in our lives are the ones we have taken the time and effort into cultivating. Do you want to be a strong, tall tree with a massive root system that can withstand any storm? Then commit to the growth process, every. single. day.

Blessed is the one who finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night. He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. Psalm 1:2-3

Be Encouraged – In Small Groups (Pt 2)

by Bill Altman 

Google the word leadership and you will get more than 6.5 billion results.  I’m not sure how that’s possible, but it seems there are as many definitions of leadership as there are books, articles or podcasts on the topic.  We’re familiar with some of them.  John Maxwell’s motto is: leadership is influence.  Steve Jobs described leadership as innovation.

In the Bible, leadership is most often defined by the role of the shepherd.

Last week, I advocated for small groups as the best way church can provide adequate shepherding care.  Loving one another and lifting each other up through life’s challenges happens instinctively when people are gathered in groups.  Today, I want to share several other shepherding functions that small group leaders can learn to fulfill with careful modeling, training and coaching.

In the ancient world, shepherds had many responsibilities.  Item number one on their job description was to feed the flock.  A shepherd may move their herd three or four times a day to make sure that the sheep eat the right amount and the right variety of vegetation.  He must be mindful of nearby sources of clean water.  Care must be taken to prevent overgrazing in one area. 

In his excellent book, While Shepherds Watch their Flocks, Timothy Laniak describes shepherds as scouts, always seeking to lead their flocks to better sources of provision and protection.  In the same way, small group leaders can be trained to know what kind of “pastures” (studies, experiences, conversations) will bring about healthy growth.  They pay attention to their members’ life stories and scout out, through prayer and listening, what their next spiritual steps might be.

That spiritual step will always involve obedience to our Good Shepherd.  Jesus said in John 10 that He calls His sheep by name and leads them.  In response, the sheep follow Him because they know His voice.  Small group leaders are strategically placed to help their group take steps of obedience. 

We train our leaders to divide their group meetings into three equal sections:  Look Back, Look Up, and Look Ahead.  As you can guess, looking up is the Bible discussion.  And that is followed by looking ahead, where everyone is encouraged to share how they will obey and with whom they will share what they have learned.  We pray for one another and ask God to help us follow through.  When we meet the following week, we begin by looking back and sharing how things went.  These conversations and loving accountability are nearly impossible in the context of weekend gatherings.  But with training and practice, they can happen very naturally in small groups.

Finally, shepherds gather the scattered.  In Ezekiel 34, our Divine Shepherd promises to “seek the lost, bring back the strays, bandage the injured, and strengthen the weak” sheep.  Jesus saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd and longed to gather them to Himself.  In Luke 15, He is the shepherd who leaves the 99 safe sheep to search for the one who is lost and in danger. 

There are many ways a person can become lost.  They may drift away.  They may become discouraged and walk away.  Or they can be lured away from the flock by temptation from the enemy.  If they are only connected to the large gathering, it may be a long time before anyone notices that they are in danger.  But when they are connected to a much smaller flock, their shepherd-leader can go after them before they have wandered far.  Something as simple as an invitation to coffee when the leader senses a change in a person’s engagement or attendance can prevent a person from becoming scattered and lost in the first place.

Leader, you are a shepherd who does the messy work of caring for people.  This is what our Good Shepherd has called us to do. When He invited those first shepherds-in-training to follow Him, He gathered them into a small group to love, feed, train and correct them.  And He sent them out to train others to do the same.  We can do no better than to gather those God has entrusted to us into groups led by well-trained and well-coached shepherd-leaders.  The health and safety of the flock depends on it!