Rest

by Rick Grover 

I need a little niksen in my life, and I bet you do, too. And, no, that’s not a misspelling of “Nixon,” thank you very much.

Niksen is a Dutch word for doing nothing. It’s when you take a conscious stand against busyness and let your brain rest and recover. According to Olga Mecking in “The Case for Doing Nothing,” niksen “literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, and better at coming up with creative ideas” (The New York Times, April 29, 2019).

It’s hard to do nothing, because our brains and bodies are always doing something, even when we sleep. Psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee likens niksen to a car whose engine is running, but it isn’t going anywhere (idem). You set aside time where you have no plan other than to be. With burnout, anxiety disorders and stress-related diseases on the rise, intentional idleness might not be such a bad idea.

Sometimes we need to sit idly so we can think actively … and pray. But the idol of busyness keeps our thinking and praying at a minimum. We believe our busyness is a symbol of our status: the busier I am, the more important I must be. We want to prove our self-worth by the measurement of activity.

Nonsense. The busier I am may only prove I lack discipline and time management.

Not long ago, I gave our church elders a proposal for me to take a sabbatical. After looking through it, they responded with one critique: “Your proposal is too busy. We don’t want you coming back from your sabbatical more tired than before you left. You need to cut it back and build in times to rest.” Basically, they told me I needed to include niksen. I did, and they approved my sabbatical. And I am forever grateful for that gift of grace and that nudge for niksen.

Now, I’m trying to live that on a weekly basis. I’m trying to set aside one day every week for a sabbath. Shabbat, the Hebrew word for sabbath, means to cease, rest, desist. Or, as the Dutch would say, shabbat means niksen. I’m also trying to do a better job of implementing niksen on a daily basis, where I build into my schedule regular breaks. Studies have actually shown that regular breaks increase work performance and productivity (https://doi.org/10.1038/nn864).

Whether you are a minister or an elder, you need to set an example that rest is just as important as serving. If you try to lead from a tired soul, you will burn out, give out, and fall out from the role God has given you.  

I hope you will give yourself permission to take time each day to let your brain rest and recover and a day each week to exhale the stress and inhale the rest. Put down your smart phone, close your laptop, turn off the TV, and idly sit so that you can actively pray.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Jesus, Matthew 11:28, NIV).

Staying Mentally Sharp

by David Roadcup 

I have a small collection of pocketknives.  One of the things about using a knife for any purpose is the need to keep the blade sharp.  Whether a hunting knife, kitchen knife, or even a chain saw, the tool is effective only if it is sharp.
 
As elders serve at their posts, one issue to keep in mind is the need to grow and flourish in mental development.  Staying fresh in this area will provide new ideas and quality information to make us as effective as possible at our posts as church leaders.
 
Staying sharp mentally can be accomplished in the following ways:

  1. Stay in the Word of God on a regular basis. 

Filling our minds and hearts with Scripture on a daily basis feeds us spiritually.  It will also keep us continually focused on the right things.  Being in the Word will remind us about who we are and what our task is.

  1. Read good content. 

Reading valuable books, newsletters and articles on leadership, spiritual development, church growth, cultural trends and other important topics is vital to an elder staying sharp.  There are now more good books on church leadership generally and eldership specifically than ever before.  Information on growing healthy churches is available by the proverbial truckload.  Online articles, e-books, blogs, podcasts and other helpful sources of information are available to leaders in amazing abundance.  As leaders, “keeping our wells full” when it comes to reading is critical.  We grow when we read.  I have served with elders who did not like to read.  This is understandable.  I would encourage those who do not find reading enjoyable to consider various audio books as an alternative – books on media (tapes, CD) or purely virtually (such as Amazon’s subsidiary Audible).  Even though some leaders may not find reading pleasurable, I would encourage them to read anyway.  It is such a great way to stay sharp, find encouragement and stay on the leading edge when it comes to leadership.

  1. Attend helpful conventions and conferences.

There are several excellent meetings that would benefit someone who is leading as an elder.  Here are just a few:

  • Exponential (March 2020 in Orlando)
  • The Global Leadership Summit (August 2020, virtually)
  • Spire (October 2019, Orlando)
  • Catalyst (October 2019, Atlanta)
  • International Conference on Missions / “ICOM” (November 2019, Kansas City)
  1. Annual Elders’ or Elder-and-Staff Retreats 

Retreats are valuable and can produce excellent results!  Getting away from our normal environment, taking time from our routine and having the chance to plan, focus on critical issues and discuss solutions are some of the positive outcomes when Christian leaders gather in a retreat setting.
 
Jim, Gary and I all lead elder retreats as part of our ministry through e2.  In these retreats, the spirit and enthusiasm is high as brothers meet to fellowship, learn and to pray together.  We discuss topics such as “The Growing Spiritual Life of the Elder,” “Leading Effective Change” and “How to Handle Conflict in the Church.”  We facilitate exercises for leaders that strengthen relationships between elders and staff.  We make time for intercessory prayer together and fellowship around the table as we share meals and conversation.  It is an excellent experience together as the Lord meets us there with His blessing.
 
Keeping our edge sharp and staying informed through involving ourselves in the above ways will make us more effective in serving our Chief Shepherd.  God bless you as you continue to grow and serve! 

Memory Makers

by Terry Stine 

Forty-four years ago, six men signed my Ordination Certificate.  These were men who had influenced my life, who had disciplined me spiritually and physically as I grew up in the church where they served as elders and spiritual leaders.
 
One man was an executive in the construction industry.  He looked at the church through the eyes of a man who was used to making decisions that initiated change. 
 
Another was a corporate executive who preached when needed and taught classes to Jr. and Sr. high boys.
 
The minister of my home church was also an elder and he encouraged young people to go into ministry.  He took us to Bible college campus activities and gave me opportunities to preach while I was still in high school.
 
I remember how another signer, who as a financial consultant, used his gifts to serve the church.  He helped people in the church in such a soft-hearted way.  Money was a tool for God, not a goal for gain.  He made sure the congregation gave significant scholarships to young men and women who wanted to go to Bible college.
 
The signature of the minister that I was serving under as a new youth minister reminds me of his practical help in my life.  He had been a Bible college professor, started churches, and took time to help me through my first wedding and funeral.  He gave the “charge” for my ordination.
 
Finally, one signer is a long-time friend who grew up in the church with me, and had accepted the call to minister there after he graduated from college.  His life also gives testimony of godly elders who had known us personally, and had invested in our lives.
 
These men took time to exhibit the qualities that Paul wrote to Timothy about in II Timothy 4:2.  They were prepared to correct, admonish, exhort with encouragement and patience, with careful instruction from the Word.
 
They all had worldly skill sets that could have been dominant in their eldership.  Instead, they allowed their spiritual calling as elders to be dominant and allowed their worldly skill sets to be used in secondary ways.  Instead of thinking like COOs, CFOs and CEOs, they were ministering simply as elders.  Most of these men also took night classes at St. Louis Christian College to increase their biblical knowledge to lead as biblical leaders.
 
Jewish elders in the Old Testament were older men and respected for their spiritual wisdom.  They were instrumental for the preservation of life with God in the covenant community.  When Paul appointed elders in the new churches that he planted the purpose was the same.  That is the reason Paul emphasized the qualities that should already be exhibited by those selected to spiritually protect and guide the local congregation.  
 
Paul shared with Timothy and Titus the qualities that elders should exhibit.  These lists of practical actions and attitudes would allow these men to be models of mature Christians in action and thinking.  They were to be memory makers. 

Some of the men who signed my Ordination Certificate have passed away.  Others moved and are in various congregations across the United States.  What they did as elders, how they exhibited the love of Christ through teaching and example, made an impact on me.  My ministry during the past forty-seven years has influenced many people in several countries to accept Christ.  The memories of those who shaped me live on in lives that they personally never knew.
 
What memories are you making as a biblical elder today that will reach around the world and through the years for Christ? 

Road Trip

by Jeff Stone 

Do you remember when, as a child, your school would load up the students onto buses and go visit a museum or some other destination of educational value?  The location change from the familiar classroom setting seemed to stir excitement and generate fresh learning.  Just as that experience energized your class, a road trip can accomplish the same synergy for your elders.
 
Periodically, our team of elders leaves our familiar conference room and takes our meeting time together on the road.  We’ve gone to conferences, men’s events, visited Bible colleges, supported area revivals, and have concluded that different surroundings stimulate new perspectives.  Often while en route, we enjoy a meal together and the conversation riding together while in the vehicles is most productive.  Perhaps the greatest value we’ve discovered from taking a road trip is simply the value of spending time together as a team.
 
The elders at my previous church in Dublin, Ohio received a prayer request from a new Christian man, deeply concerned about his sister’s diagnosis of an aggressive cancer.  Not content simply to add her to the prayer list, we piled into two cars after a work day, drove 2 ½ hours to where she lived, and prayed fervently with her and her husband.  Twelve years later, Tracy is still living and she, her husband, and her brother remain eternally grateful to those elders who went on a prayer road trip.
 
The Bright elders had learned of a faithful minister who was abruptly let go from the church he served in a far-away state.  We prayed for him in our elders’ meeting and collected a love offering of $300 to provide some assistance to his family.  We continued to pray for God to provide him a new place to do ministry.  We rejoiced when God relocated him to our state, to a church within an hour from where our epicenter of intercessory prayer had occurred.  After he settled into his new role, we went on an elders’ road trip to attend on a Sunday morning where he was leading worship, after which he was able to meet and personally express his thanks to some brothers who had helped to “hold his arms up” (Exodus 17:9-13).
 
More recently, the elders at Bright went on a road trip to attend Gary Johnson’s final service as the Lead Minister at Indian Creek.  Gary has been an e2 coach to our church and we wanted to be there to support and encourage him as he completed thirty years at the Creek and would begin the next day to pour his total efforts into the global impact of e2.  We were blessed by worshiping together as a team and were nourished by the entire service.  Spending those hours traveling and worshiping together with each other was enriching to all of us.
 
Do you see the solid benefits that await your team of elders when you begin to add this dimension to your meetings and experience the advantages of periodically taking road trips together?  Let me challenge you to try to incorporate a road trip into your team’s plan in the very near future.  The variety will break the mundane “Meeting Merry Go Round” and unleash God’s Spirit to work through your elders via some new opportunities.
 
I’d love to hear about a road trip that your elders have taken!  Happy Highways!

They Have Names

by Barry Cameron 

 

Someone once said, “The church is not a HOTEL for saints, but a HOSPITAL for sinners.”  Unfortunately, even those who work in a hospital often forget why they’re there.
 
In the movie Patch Adams, (which is based on a true story), Robin Williams played a medical student (Patch) who cares more about people than procedures and protocol.  He heads out on a number of experiments to prove his point that people want to be cared for; and when they are, they’ll get better.
 
In one of the more moving scenes, a group of medical students is following a medical professor on his rounds.  They walk up on a woman in a hospital gown lying on a gurney in the hallway.  The professor looks at his clipboard and says, “Here we have a juvenile onset diabetic with poor circulation and diabetic neuropathy. As you can see, these are diabetic ulcers with lymphedema and evidence of gangrene.  Questions?”
 
One of the students asks, “Any osteomyelitis?”
 
“None apparent,” the professor says, “although not definitive treatment.  To stabilize the blood sugar, consider antibiotics, possibly amputation.”
 
The woman lies there, obviously embarrassed and confused as this group of future doctors stares and openly discusses her problems in front of everyone.
 
All of a sudden someone asks, “What’s her name?”  There’s an uncomfortable pause as if something is happening that shouldn’t be happening.  The group of third-year medical students back away to reveal the questioner. “I was just wondering the patient’s name,” Patch (Robin Williams) says.
 
Caught completely off guard, the professor hurriedly struggles to find the patient’s name on his clipboard.  Finally he finds it, and with obvious embarrassment says, “Marjorie.” 

“Hi, Marjorie,” Patch says, with a warm smile.
 
“Hi,” Marjorie replies, lifting her head, revealing her own smile of unconcealed surprise and appreciation.
 
The flustered professor tries to regroup and says, “Yes, thank you.  Let’s move on,” and the group walks on down the hall.
 
Patch Adams was trying to get the faculty and his fellow students to see that people matter and the difference it would make if people were treated with kindness, respect and yes, even love.
 
We need to see that in the church, too! People matter to God, and they need to matter to us.  Have you ever stopped to consider the thousands of names in the Bible, many of which we can’t even pronounce?  Ever wonder why they’re there?  Because people matter to God.  They have names.
 
Everyone who attends church has a name, too, and we need to care enough about them to find out what it is.  I’m not suggesting that any of us know everyone’s name.  In many congregations, that would be virtually impossible.  What I am saying is everyone needs to be known by someone, and that is easily attainable.
 
Name tags help, and we should use more of them in as many settings as we can.  But the most effective method is simply to ask, “What’s your name?”  Every person who attends a church service or activity ought to have the privilege of hearing someone say their name … every time they come.  It’s true, “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  And it begins with caring enough to know their name.
 
We need to commit ourselves to making sure our church is a place where people matter more than programs, procedures or protocol.  After all, what could be worse than lying in a hospital gown on a gurney in a hallway somewhere with people talking about you and your problems?  How about being in a church where no one knows your name and no one really cares?
 
Let’s make it our goal to be a church where people know they matter. Let’s communicate loud and clear to everyone who comes: You matter to God and you matter to us!
 
When we do, like Patch Adams, we’ll make ’em smile.

Once Bitten, Twice … Repeat

by Jared Johnson

“There are no Lone Ranger Christians.” 

“Community is messy.” 

Yes.  We know.  But don’t we all, at least sometimes, hole up and avoid others?  Don’t we, even as church leaders, sometimes choose isolation?   We’re in the people business! 

I’m sympathetic.  Just temperamentally, it’s easy for me to clam up verbally and withdraw emotionally.  And even if you’re an extrovert, who, in today’s cultural climate, could be blamed for withdrawing or avoiding at least a little bit?  

I just finished a book titled So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (author Jon Ronson).  Really – just the fact such a book exists shows our dysfunction.  It’s a worthwhile read, and similarly, if you haven’t looked up Dr Brene Brown’s sociological work on shame please do so.  She has interviews and TED Talks on YouTube and has written several books. 

In our default climate of outrage (real or fake) and divisiveness and fault-finding, might it be wise to just not engage?  Perhaps.  But at least within the Body/Bride of Jesus, as Paul told us in 1 Cor. 12.31, “there is a better way;” in fact, multiple translations express that verse as “the most excellent way.”  And I expect we all know how thoroughly Paul then goes on to explain love in 1 Corinthians 13.  

I heard many times over the years from multiple preachers and teachers that “there are 59 ‘one-anothers’ in the New Testament.”  I asked a couple times where they got that factoid, and the answer was “a commentary by … oh, I don’t remember.”  So I looked.  

One of the more well-known is in John 13: “Here’s a new command: Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you love each other” (vs 34, more or less).  The Greek word usually translated “each other” and “one another” is ah-lay-lown.  There are fully 100 uses of it in the New Testament.  A number of those are irrelevant to living in a faith community, or even negative.  (Matthew 24.10 and John 4.33 are a couple good examples.)  Click here for our list of 55 community-related uses

Still: one hundred times.  It’s quite a theme.  “If it’s repeated, it’s important.” 

No doubt many of you have heard sermons on many of these commands (many are commands), or even preached them yourselves: 

  • Love each other; delight in honoring each other.  (Rom. 12.10)
  • Owe nothing to anyone – except the debt to keep loving one another.  (Rom. 13.8)
  • Make allowance for each other’s faults.  (Col. 3.13)
  • Think of ways to motivate one another to love and good work.  (Heb. 10.24)

All the individual statements and commands are challenging enough.  But taken as a whole, the message can’t be clearer: be with people!  As a quite comfortable introvert who would rather people-watch than people-engage, that confronts me.  There are no Lone Ranger Christians.  Sigh.  Ok.  

Living in community gets messy, even painful.  Who wants that?

  • Fool me once – shame on you.  Fool me twice – shame on me.
  • Once bitten, twice shy. 

The world’s way is withdrawal, protecting ourselves, separating from and walling off those who “rub us the wrong way;” we “get out of Dodge.” 

But… “God’s way is perfect.”  (Both 2 Sam. 22.31 and Ps. 18.30 in part.)  

“Share each other’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of [Jesus],” (Gal. 6.2).  We can’t get “shy” after taking a blow.  “’How often should I forgive someone – seven times?’  ‘Nope.  77 times.’”  (Matt. 18.21-22) 

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.  …you will be treated as you treat others.  The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”  (Matthew 6.14-15, 7.2 NLT)  

It will hurt.  So be it.  If Paul could persevere through the litany he enumerates in 2 Corinthians 11 for the sake of people – even difficult people – I can stick it out through the trivialities people throw at me.  

Rather than “once bitten, twice shy,” let’s remember a phrase we sometimes see posted by a sink.  God expects us to stay with people.  He would tell us: “lather, rinse, repeat.”

Agents of Joy

by Ken Idleman 

Hebrews 13:17 admonishes us as churchmen and churchwomen: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.  Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (emphasis added).  Church leadership should be a joy!  Christians can inspire joy in their congregational leaders and they, in turn, will eagerly follow such leaders.  I have heard it said that, “People won’t follow negative leadership anywhere.”  I take it that the converse is true that, “People will follow positive leadership anywhere.”

It was back in 1994 that I was personally impacted by a new book, Happiness Is A Choice, co-authored by Christian psychologists Frank Minirth and Paul Meier.  I think I had always believed the assertion implied in the book title, but I had never read anything in print that actually documented and developed the idea.  John Ortberg writes, “We will not understand God until we understand this about him: God is the happiest being in the universe.”

Joy is foundational to God’s character.  Joy is God’s eternal destiny of choice for each of us.  Jesus told his friends that his aim was that they should be filled with joy, but not just any kind of joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11, emphasis added).  The problem with people, according to Jesus, is not that they are too happy, but that we are not happy enough, and that we are not happy as he would make us.

Lewis Smedes puts it this way: “To miss out on joy is to miss out on the reason for your existence.”  C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”  The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).  The Bible puts joy in the non-optional category.  Joy is a command.  Joylessness is a sin, one that professed religious people are particularly prone to indulge in.  It is the sin most tolerated in the church.

Church leaders: we lead by example.  Let’s set this example well.

Pray with me… Father God, Your Word speaks of a ‘joy that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.’  We pray for that joy to show itself in our lives, in the moments when we are front and center and the moments when we are backstage, in our shining moments and in our unguarded moments.  We pray for this grace of joy… the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives that will attract others to the Lord of Joy, Jesus… in His name we pray, amen.

Want it My Way

by Dick Wamsley 

If you go into a Starbucks today and consider the milk options, number of shots, various syrups, and the choice of whip or no-whip, you have over 87,000 combinations, all customized to your own individual needs – or whims.  That feeds the consumer mentality: “I want it my way.”  We live in a consumer culture, which is a shift from a few decades back when we were a producer culture.  We are now buyers and hoarders and users.  That’s how our economy keeps growing.

Paul writes to his son-in-faith, Timothy, in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 (ESV), “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”  Paul advises Timothy that the greatest gains come through “godliness with contentment,” not through consuming.  That requires a daily renewal of commitment to your priorities as a Christian leader and making a conscious decision that the accumulation of things is not going to be the priority of your life.  

In his book The Good and Beautiful Life, James Bryan Smith reports that neurologists once scanned the brains of people of faith as they recalled and re-experienced the times they felt close to God, either in prayer, worship, or solitude.  Then they exposed the same people to stained glass, the smell of incense, icons, and other religious images that connected people to God.  The same specific area of the brain, called the “caudate nucleus,” lit up in all of these people when they felt connected to God.

The neurologists then tested another group, but this time exposed them to material possessions.  When they showed images of products that were tied to “cool” brands, the exact same area of the brain lit up.  The neuroscientists discovered that people who bought certain items experienced the same sensations as those who had deep religious experiences (The Good and Beautiful Life, pp. 163-164).  Maybe that’s why Paul says to be content with the simpler things.

Contentment is also preferred when you recognize the uncertainty of riches.  Later in 1 Timothy 6, Paul writes, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (verse 17). 

Riches are deceptive.  They portray themselves as bringing a sense of security, but they are in fact very unstable.  A recession, government intervention, an unpredictable stock market, lawsuits, health problems any of these can wipe out a lifetime of accumulated wealth in short order.  Even what we call “Social Security” isn’t.  As someone wrote, “Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation – a passport to everywhere but heaven.”

It is imperative that leaders in the church guard themselves against the idol of consumerism.  I echo what Paul said to Timothy after he warned him of the love of money, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things.  Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11). Those who do will be less likely to want “my way,” and more likely to desire God’s way. 

More Prayer = Shorter Meetings

by Randy Boltinghouse 

Our elder leadership team meets twenty times over the course of a year, typically twice a month for two hours.  During the first hour of our meeting, we pray over each of the prayer requests made from the previous Sunday’s communication cards.  Furthermore, all of us have the same daily devotional book which we read between meetings then share on the evenings we meet.  A rotational schedule assigns each elder the opportunity to lead both the devotion and prayer time.  After praying, sharing scripture, and reflecting on the devotions, it’s been an hour, leaving an hour for congregational matters.  Our meetings consistently end at the two-hour mark.  
 
We have a policy governance system which delineates the responsibilities of the elder leadership team, the senior minister, values, vision, limitations, etc.  Policy governance streamlines what decisions need to be made and by whom.  When needed, we have spirited discussion over necessary issues.  All decisions are by consensus.  Our policy governance serves as “good bones” supplying structure, discipline, and an operational unity that results in leadership alignment.
 
That said, I don’t believe it’s enough to have “good bones.”  We need an environment of spiritual nutrition and brotherly warmth entrusted to God and His Word.  Paul wrote about this in his parting words to the Ephesian elders: “I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).  A proper understanding of biblical eldership involves shepherds who, when they gather, do so to consume the Word, seek to be built up by it, and then strive to remind each other from it that in Christ they are heirs with the saints of all God has promised.  How can any meeting of the elders go wrong when such a spirit dominates the room?  

I’m convinced that prioritizing prayer and the ministry of the Word are what keeps our meetings unified, efficient, on schedule, and spiritually nourishing for each elder.  One of my priorities as senior minister is not only to encourage each elder toward the work of the Lord but to see that the Lord’s work nourishes each elder.  Starting each meeting with prayer, Bible reading, devotions, and spiritual reflections ensures unity, love, and a brotherly affection among the shepherds of the flock.  Our elders tell each other that our meetings are a highlight of the week; a spiritually enriching small group time.  Sometimes the agenda changes in the meeting itself because one of the elders (or the senior minister!) has a heavy heart, needing conversation time and prayer.  What that means is that the other elders will rise from their seats and surround the one in need, praying fervently with the laying on of hands.  This does not mean we do not have difficult conversations.  Nor does this mean we won’t process through differing points of view.  It means that the difficult conversations situate themselves in a larger context of loving, truthful, prayerful Christian unity.  It means that differences are discussed in a gospel tone of grace and truth.  Such unity spreads out through the congregation, contagiously affecting the church family.  Christ-honoring elderships lead to Christ-honoring congregations.  

When our elders meet, we don’t come representing the interests of the church.  We come foremost to represent the interests of our Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  We come to build one another up in Him.  Our brotherly unity touches the entire church family.  If your meetings are consistently running more than two hours, they’re probably too long.  So if you want richer, more effective meetings, pray more. 

God’s Grace to Make Decisions

by Dick Wamsley 

I was beginning my eighth year as Dean of Students and Professor of Pastoral Care at Nebraska Christian College.  The college was in the first phase of a leadership transition.  The President and Academic Dean had both been there over 30 years and were scheduled to retire at the end of that academic year.  Three years earlier, I was asked by the trustees to consider accepting either of those two administrative positions, so I committed to be the Academic Dean.  But at their September meeting, the trustees approached me to reconsider my decision and apply for the President’s position.  I did not see myself as president material, which was why I did not pursue it earlier. 

At the same time, I was completing coursework toward the Doctor of Ministry degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  I was enrolled in the class “The Decision Making Process, Systems and the Planning Cycle.”  It required that I complete a project in my ministry that applied what I had learned in the classroom.  So I decided my project would be to discern the will of God for this ministry decision. 

What I experienced from that project not only changed the course of my role at the college – I accepted the presidency – it awakened me to how God was just waiting to extend His grace at a time when I was focusing more on my perceived weaknesses than His grace to enable me to lead the college as its president.  If I had walked away from the trustees’ challenge because I focused only on my perceived weaknesses, I would have failed to experience the grace of God. 

Like me, you may have always believed that God bestows His grace at His discretion and not at our request, and in some respects that is true.  But there may also be times when He expects us – in fact waits for us – to seek from Him the grace He has already reserved for us. 

The Apostle Paul talks about God’s all-sufficient grace in 2 Corinthians 12.  Speaking of his “thorn in the flesh” he wrote, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” (2 Cor. 12:8-9, ESV).  The writer of Hebrews goes a step further:  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). 

One of the actions I took while seeking God’s will concerning my role with NCC was to ask three friends, who knew me well and my giftedness for ministry, to devote some quality time to pray concerning the specific guidance I was seeking from God.  I provided each of them with a list of reasons I had prepared for accepting either position.  After a prescribed period of time, they were to report back to me their own conclusions as God had directed in their prayers. 

Those conclusions were a key to the confidence I had in approaching God’s throne of grace for help in a critical time for me, and in making the decision to accept the call by the trustees to become the college’s fourth president.  Now some might consider that kind of approach to prayer too bold, maybe even a bit presumptuous.  But I considered it “drawing near to the throne of grace,” taking action to seek God’s grace in a time of need. 

When you or your group of elders are faced with having to make some tough decisions, instead of first seeking human resources that will help you “stand on your own two feet,” drop to your knees seeking God’s all-sufficient grace.