Pastoral Leadership

Humility & Anxiety in Christian Service

Philippians 2 is often called the Kenosis passage because it describes Jesus as emptying Himself. He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” The word kenosis means empty or nothing, and the idea is key to understanding and solving the issues of humility and anxiety in Christian ministry (See the recent How to Insult Your Pastor Creatively).

Near the beginning of this passage (Philippians 2:3), Paul says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” The word “rivalry” is “found before NT times only in Aristotle, where it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means” (BDAG). In this passage, Paul is considering the improper seeking of church office. The word “conceit,” better translated “vainglory” (KJV), is κενοδοξίαfrom κενός (nothing) and δόξα (glory). It is nothing-glory. Paul is concerned here with people seeking church office on the basis of nothing-glory.

We’ll look at the whole chapter to understand the difference between nothing-glory and real-glory. And in doing so, we’ll see humility and anxiety and how to deal with them in our ministries.

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Beware Objective Standards Where Only Subjective Ones Are Provided

Paul’s instructions to Timothy regarding the qualifications for leadership in the church (specifically for elders in 3:1-7) are vitally important. They are also not as simple as we might sometimes prefer. We generally prefer things to be neat and clean—objective and quantifiable. So it is not unusual to see the standards of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 received as a checklist which can be mindlessly applied as if black and white, requiring no judgment or wisdom.

However, Paul’s words are not intended to be received or applied in that manner. Instead, of the sixteen specific qualifications mentioned by Paul, all of them are decidedly subjective rather than objective. There is certainly one assumed qualification, that the elder be a he (tis, “anyone” in the masculine). That is the only objective characteristic described in the entire passage.

But as for the sixteen qualifications Paul lists, they are not so simple as is the gender issue.

Sixteen Qualifications

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The Anatomy of a Leader's Heart, Part 2

From Voice magazine, Mar/Apr 2016. Used by permission. Read Part 1.

Our Heart’s Treasures

The second chamber of our lead­ership heart pertains to our treasures. This chamber pulsates in rhythm with the previous one, our thoughts. Jesus, in the process of sculpting the heart of His disciples, said: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). Our hearts follow our treasures.

What exactly are treasures of the heart? A treasure is what we highly value. It is what we define as having great worth. It is what we pursue by virtue of declaration of its value. For example, what is the value of a $100 bill? The actual paper is worth pennies at best. The ultimate worth of the bill is determined by the declaration of the United State Treasury Department. Apart from their declaration, the worth of a $100 dollar bill is not worth any more than the paper upon which it is printed.

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The Anatomy of a Leader's Heart, Part 1

From Voice magazine, Mar/Apr 2016. Used by permission.

All ministry leadership ultimately involves spiritual work in hearts. It is doubtful that any ministry leader in our circles would deny or challenge that biblical reality. But as I have the blessing of serving ministry leaders here and abroad, it has been my observation that the proposition of ministry leadership being ultimately a spiritual work in the heart is too often mentally affirmed but functionally denied.

The key word is process. While a semi­nary student I well remember Prof. Hendricks repeatedly stating, “Process always determines product!” As a young and immature Christian, I had little idea at that time how pregnant that statement was with implication. If the process is natural, the product will be natural. If the pro­cess is spiritual the product will be spiritual.

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When Pastors Place Their Nose Where It Doesn’t Belong

Several decades ago as Jay Adams and men like him began writing on the topic of biblical counseling, conservative pastors gained a needed and necessary foothold in the area of the psyche (ψυχή), or care for the soul.

For a decade or so before the birth of what was called nouthetic counseling, conservative churchmen were buying the notion that you could not take the pastor anything dealing with the mind because he simply was not qualified. Thankfully, biblical counseling has restored the right appreciation for the pastor’s role of leadership in the area of mental, emotional and spiritual health vs. idea that only secular psychology can help in the various challenges of anthropology. 

A few years ago I noted in my book The Pyramid and the Box: The Decision-Making Process in a Local New Testament Church (Wipf & Stock, 2013), that I was seeing a couple of disturbing trends among ecclesiastical leaders, especially from my perspective as Western Coordinator for Institute of Biblical Leadership (IBL). Some pastors are self-deceived that they are something of a mediator of a theocracy, and in their mind, they are Theo!

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2000 Sermons, 25 Years - Some Observations (Part 2)

Having reached, by the grace of God, the milestone of 25 years of pastoral ministry and 2000+ sermons, I am writing here a few things I have learned along the way. The first post was things I have learned about preaching.

My pastoral ministry has included serving in three different churches over a 25 year period. In the first I served as a youth pastor for 4 years. I served in the second as the senior pastor for 9 1/2 years and have been senior pastor at my current church for 11 1/2 years. Here are some things I have learned about ministry and churches. There are many observations that I could make. These are some that stand out to me, with minimal explanation. Each paragraph is a separate observation, in no particular order.

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