Woman to Woman: Jan 22, 2021; What’s on Your Feet?

by Paulette Stamper 

Based on Ephesians 6, our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Scripture tells us that our battle is against powers and spiritual forces of evil. We have been given battle armor that protects us from our head to our feet. There’s one piece of armor in particular that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind recently – “…your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15 NIV).

Like many of you, I’m watching as our nation seems to be unraveling at the seams. Our current climate can be described as anything but peaceful. What a great opportunity for those of us who have fitted our feet with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace! The world around us may be going crazy, but we don’t have to go crazy with it. In fact, we have been entrusted with the transforming power of the gospel of peace, and we are charged to take it to a world desperate for it.

We have two choices.

We can either slip into the despair, panic, and unrest of the world, OR we can march boldly into it by fearlessly declaring the gospel. Allow me to point out the obvious – we can’t take the gospel of peace to others if we don’t have it ourselves. If we are in Christ Jesus, peace is a gift to us no matter our life circumstances. We need to claim our promised peace! We need to fix our eyes on Jesus! Now is the time to repent of the sin in our lives and return to God with our whole hearts! Now is not the time to shrink back in fear but rather, to march boldly into the darkness carrying with us the only light that has the power to save – the gospel of peace!

What’s on your feet?

The Leader and Risk

by Jeff Faull 

As a leader you have probably all heard these oft quoted risk numbers:

  • Do NOT ride in automobiles: they cause 20% of all fatal accidents.
  • Do NOT stay home: 17% of all accidents occur in the home.
  • Do NOT walk on the streets or sidewalks: 14% of all accidents happen to pedestrians.
  • Do NOT travel by air, rail or water: 6% of all accidents happen on these.
  • ONLY … 001% of all deaths occur in worship services in church, and these are related to previous physical disorders. Hence, the safest place in the world for you to be is church!

Some risks were more obvious than others. Scripture refers to Barnabas and Paul as men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And it’s not just the Apostles who lived boldly. Epaphroditus is described similarly: “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” Paul said Aquila and Prisca risked their own necks for him. This is a reoccurring theme in the New Testament. The original church exploded and continued in growth and maturity in an atmosphere and culture of peril and persecution.

Fast forward two millennia to the contemporary church, especially in America. Our inclination to remove all risk in our insulated and padded church bubbles stands in stark contrast to our spiritual predecessors and even our spiritual contemporaries in other locations. Our safety-conscious, risk-averse, self-protection mindset has seeped into the way we see everything and has distorted our understanding of the very nature, definition and practice of our faith.

Imagine a risk-free Hebrews eleven, a risk-free exodus, risk-free Great Flood and ark, a risk-free Temple or Tabernacle build. Imagine the stories of Abraham, Moses, Noah, David, Mary, Elizabeth, Peter, Paul, Deborah, Amram, or Jochabed as risk-free. The parable of the talents is not risk-free. The prodigal son’s return and his father’s welcome were not risk-free. The Creation of humanity was not risk-free. Leaving the boats and nets and the tax table were not risk-free. Following Jesus demands risk. “Safety-first” may be a great mantra for the construction site, the school room or factory floor but it doesn’t play well in the kingdom of God.

Consider your risk tolerance for leadership. Spiritually speaking, are you a person who tries to eliminate, or at least minimize, any element of risk in your life? Do you hold your cards close to your vest and refuse to take any unnecessary chances in life? Are you like the servant who was afraid and hid his talent in the earth, and when he gave it back it was not acceptable? Do you know what it means to lose your life to save it? Those of us who try to eliminate every risk from our lives often operate out of a fear and protection mentality instead of purpose.

I can identify with that. My mind automatically wants to minimize and manage risk. I sometimes think in terms of “what if” and worst-case scenarios. I have to make myself go on a mission trip to Africa or a fishing trip to Canada or a shopping trip to Indianapolis. Worse, I had to force myself to let my kids go and take risks.

One day in our Saturday morning Bible study, our leader posed the question, “Are you a risk-taker or a play-it-safer?” I’m afraid I knew the answer to that one. But even though I’m wired that way, I know intellectually that it is better to take some risks and live life to the fullest rather than living in protection mode all the time. If that is true physically it is an even deeper truth spiritually.

Does that resonate with you at all? Can you feel for Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night? Can you identify with the servant who protected his talent by burial? Can you sympathize with the disciples who stayed in the boat? Do you feel for the rich young ruler who wanted to keep a chunk for his retirement? Can you understand the mentality of the Pharisees who were comfortable with their religious systems? Do you have a soft spot for the secret disciple Joseph of Arimathea? Do find yourself subconsciously defending the inaction of the priest and Levite who walked by on the other side of the road or the parents of the blind man who didn’t want to lose standing in the synagogue?

Max Lucado wrote, “Fear doesn’t want you to make the journey to the mountain.  If he can rattle you enough, fear will persuade you to take your eyes off the peaks and settle for a dull existence in the flatlands.” 

As Martin Luther King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  In other words, our lives end when we refuse to risk for anything.

In their book Ten Steps for Church Growth, Donald McGavran and Win Arn said, New life and growth are more likely to be experienced when a church is willing to risks and move from the known to the unknown.  Such a move, however, is threatening.  Not all … are willing to assume risk.  Such fear of failure has laid to rest many attainable goals and buried many magnificent visions.”  

Dr. Arn told of a personal experience he once had, where some people he was working with invited him to try a trapeze they had been using as a prop.  Amazingly, he took them up on their offer. He climbed up, grabbed the bar, and swung out into the air.  Here is how he related his thoughts about the whole experience: 

Flying through the air, I made three important discoveries:  First, you can’t hold on to one bar while grasping for the other.  You must let both hands go and leap! Second, it’s frightening and threatening to let go of your security.  Third, you don’t have forever to make up your mind.

Recently I sat down with a financial advisor and took what he called a risk tolerance assessment. The results confirmed what he and I both already knew. I’m way too cautious in my approach. A spiritual risk tolerance assessment will surely be even more revealing. What does God want us to risk?

  • Our own vision of a “successful” church for His plan of a real church.
  • Our own individual and family security for His promise of true security.
  • Our own version of “proper” spirituality and doctrine for His unfettered declaration of truth.
  • Our own definition of a meaningful existence for His description of abundant life.
  • Our own carefully crafted public image for the image of His Son.
  • Our own sense of purpose and accomplishment for His ultimate purpose.

What we will find in our contemplation is that He wants us to be willing to risk that which we treasure most.

Woman to Woman: Jan 15, 2021

When the exiles returned to Jerusalem after seventy years in exile, they rebuilt the temple the Babylonians had destroyed. During the rebuilding process, those in opposition approached them and offered their help, posing as God-worshippers themselves. However, the leaders recognized their scheme and would not allow it. Their enemies then showed their true colors and responded by turning up the heat. 

Then the peoples around them set out to discouragethe people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans…  Ezra 4:4-5

When you and I set out to do what the Lord has called us to do, we can be sure that the enemy will do his best to discourage us, make us afraid, work against us, and frustrate us at every turn. If we keep this in mind, we won’t be surprised when we see the enemy’s fiery arrows start flying. If we keep this in mind, we will armor up before we step one foot in the direction of obedience. If we keep this in mind, we will be prepared. And if we keep this in mind, we will be faithful to complete what the Lord has entrusted and called us to do. 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  1 Peter 4:12 

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

by David Roadcup 

A youth minister was golfing with a member of the congregation who owned an insurance company.  As they golfed, the insurance agent asked if the youth minister had life insurance coverage being that he was married and had a child.  The youth minister confessed that he did not. They continued to discuss the issue throughout the match.  The topic came up between them several weeks later at dinner.  They, again, discussed the issue.  A week later, the insurance agent went to the youth minister’s office and presented him with a new life insurance policy.  A serious problem arose as the youth minister, in his mind, had not requested a policy from this gentleman’s company.  The insurance agent definitely thought they had agreed to initiate the $25,000 policy that he had suggested.  A serious breach arose between the youth minister and the insurance agent, and it eventually included the elders who were brought into the situation.

What happened in this scenario?  We have two good men whose friendship was hurt because of miscommunication.  A lack of communication can be a major problem when it comes to leadership in the church.  Leaders must understand that clear, continuous, effective communication is one of the keys to a staff and elder team working together.  It is also critical to the leadership team in terms of staying connected to the congregation.  It is actually the life’s blood of the process of accomplishing ministry as a leadership team. 

What are important issues to remember when thinking about communication within the leadership team of a church?  Here are just a few:       

  1. COMMUNICATE PROACTIVELY. Good communication does not take place on its own.  It takes effort and forethought to keep the lines of communication open.  It should be a focus of our working relationship.  It is the primary responsibility of the lead minister and the lead elder to make sure quality communication is taking place.  Being constantly aware of our need to foster clear communication is vital to our work!
  2. COMMUNICATE CLEARLY. Precision is important when fostering communication. Communicating facts, dates, times, details, and other pertinent information accurately is essential.  We make sure people have the right information.  Never assume anything!  Assuming will always create problems and misunderstandings, introducing stressful situations.  Make every effort to communicate as clearly as possible. 
  3. COMMUNICATE CONTINOUSLY. Quality communication must happen on a regular basis.  Information concerning issues, events, planning, and people should happen frequently.  Remember the principle that someone must hear something seven times before it’s committed to memory.  
  4. COMMUNICATE WITH AN ATTITUDE OF GRACE AND PROPRIETY. When we communicate, we always have a tone of fraternity and partnership. Our communication, like our speech, should be “seasoned with salt.”  A cardinal rule should be noted at this point; If there is ever a problem situation or difficult issue facing a leader, this should never be dealt with through email or any other e-type form of communication or by leaving a voice message on someone’s phone messaging system. (I had a superior at one ministry who would fire off offensive notes or emails instead of walking down the hall and discussing difficult situations.)  Always handle difficult issues face to face and with grace. 
  5. COMMUNICATE THROUGH VARIOUS MEDIA: 
    1. Make phone calls.
    2. At formal meetings, verbally and visually (i.e., PowerPoint and/or handouts) cover important items efficiently.
    3. Send emails regularly. Great communication can be fostered by the lead minister sending out a brief email of “bullet-point items” biweekly or monthly to the elders, letting them know the highlights of staff activities, upcoming plans, matters on his mind and other pertinent information. This communication does not have to be long or greatly detailed. It is just another “touch” to keep the lines open among the leadership. It is simply another way to foster good communication among leaders.  I served on a board of directors who hired a new president for the ministry which we served. The new president was a very good leader with great ideas, which he instituted. We ran into a problem when we, as board members, began hearing about major plans and programs being developed from outside sources away from the ministry.  We asked our new president to construct a “bullet sheet” at the end of each month and email it to us.  Problem solved!  Questioning and misunderstandings were all put to rest through improved communication. 
    4. Group texts also provide quick and clear touches between individuals or groups.
    5. Sometimes, conversation over coffee at a local coffee shop can clear the air and promote understanding and clarity.

The key to communication among leaders is to proactivity, deliberately, make it happen with clarity, in a spirit of grace, through multiple delivery systems.  Remember, friends, a lack of communication can diminish our mutual understanding of each other – which will become the devil’s playground. Let’s defeat him by working together to share in the work of good communication for effective ministry. 

More Than Savior

by Jim Estep

Christmas is past.  By now many of us have removed the lights, disposed of the Christmas cards, packed away all the ornaments and even the tree, and we have also returned the nativity set to the attic.

We love Christmas.  We love the image of Jesus as an innocent babe lying in a manger.  We sing songs around this season emphasizing His nativity, His advent.  We celebrate the savior!

We all love the image of Jesus as a baby; we all want a Savior.  But all too often that’s all we want.  Just keep Jesus as my Savior, as the babe in a manger.  But Jesus is far more than our Savior!

If we don’t let Jesus grow up, if we keep Him a baby, then He cannot grow in our own lives today.  If we just keep Jesus a baby, our faith will remain infantile.

We cannot treat Jesus like a life ring.  Life rings are important; they are life savers. They hang on the wall just waiting to be put into use.  Someone needs assistance, you take it off the wall, hold onto the rope, throw the ring into the water, they grab it, and you can pull them to safety, avoiding disaster, tragedy, and loss.

But what do we do with the life ring when it’s done its service?  After it has saved a life, what becomes of it?  We simply place it back on the wall, hang it back where we found it, and go on with life – at least until we need to use it again, confident it will be waiting there for us when we are in need.

Like the life ring, we love Jesus as Savior and cherish His arrival at Christmas. When we are in need, trouble, fallen and broken, we cry out, “Jesus save us;” He is, after all, Savior.  But, once we are saved, what do we do with Him?

We put him back in His place, back in His manger, just like hanging a life ring back on the wall.  Jesus has served His purpose, we think, and we don’t call upon Him until we need Him again.  We let Him be the savior, but that’s all we want Him to be.

The smaller we keep Jesus, the less influence He can have on our lives.  When we don’t let our understanding and appreciation of Jesus grow, then He doesn’t grow within us and our faith-life never matures, never grows.  The smaller Jesus is in your life, the smaller your faithfulness.

Jesus is meant to be far more than Savior!  Jesus is both Savior and King.  When confronting the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter proclaimed, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

Jesus is more than Savior. Jesus is our Prophet (Heb. 1:1-2). In light of our limited knowledge, He is our light (John 8:12). He is our Priest (1 Cor. 1:23-24, 30-31).  And never forget, as our King, He rules (1 Cor. 15:28)

Jesus became so much more than a babe in the manger. He grew up, and He must become more to each and every one of us personally in our lives every day; He must be more than just an infant; after all, Jesus lived a sinless life and gave His life so that those who surrender to Him will live eternally.  He must be both Savior and Lord to us.

Making Jesus More in 2021!

Can you imagine what the local church would be like if every believer would commit to spending one hour in the Word and prayer with Jesus, one hour worshipping Jesus, and one hour serving Jesus each week?  What if that was just the start, that time every week would increase and Jesus would become all the more to us?  Remember, as elders we first lead by example.  Paul challenged the Corinthian Christians: “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).  Can we challenge the people we serve and lead with the same challenge?  As elders, do we increasingly know Jesus both as Savior and Lord of our lives?

Just think what December 31, 2021 will be like if every one of us surrenders to the Lordship of Jesus Christ from January 1, 2021!  Jesus is no longer in the manger and He certainly is no longer on a cross.  He is reigning as King over all kings and Lord of lords!  Only when we submit to His reign over us can we hope to…lead well.