Alone

Was there a time that someone helped me when I needed it the most?
I have truly been positively influenced by numerous people over the years. In every church that I have served there have been people who have gone above and beyond in supporting me, embracing my family, and allowing me to just be me. There were times in Moses Lake where certain individuals invested their own time and resources in remodeling our apartment. Others dropped off groceries. Still others went above and beyond at the birth of our first two children through visitation, meals, and gifts. Then there are the last three years at Maltby. I am always amazed and overwhelmed at their outpouring of love that I receive (whether it be a note slipped in my box, a pastor’s appreciation offering, or just an uplifting conversation over dinner).

You really do not know what you have until it is gone. I will never forget my first day of high school . . . traumatizing enough for anyone but made even worse by the fact that I had just moved into a whole new district and was thus forced to make new friends. I met a guy in my second period class who seemed to be a good guy. We were really excited about lunch – open campus (we could go anywhere our Freshman feet could take us in the allotted thirty-five minutes). There was only one obstacle: The Hill. This was where all of the upperclassmen hung out anxiously awaiting any unsuspecting freshmen. Initiation time.

We made it to the Tastee-Freeze in one piece. This was probably the worst thing that could have ever happened to us for two distinct reasons. First, Tastee-Freeze is a heart attack waiting to happen. Second, overconfidence makes you sloppy and will only lead to making mistakes. Neither of us saw them coming. They cornered us against a tree . . . and brought out the duct tape. We were finished. I don’t know how it happened exactly, but I do know that my “friend” escaped. He ran. He did not run for help. He just ran away. He left. I was all alone. Now it was just me . . . and the giants . . . and the duct tape. I did what every fifteen year old boy would do in my position . . . I laughed. This was too much to take. My friend abandoned me. I guess the laughing was not what they were expecting. They taped my wrists, got half way done with my ankles, and just left. The irony is that they later found my “friend” and ended up throwing him in the dumpster. Poetic justice. Our friendship never survived that day.

How do we treat the pastors who have devoted themselves to us?
There is nothing worse than being left alone when we need someone at our side. Sometimes pastoring can be lonely. Recently I had the privilege and honor to speak at a Sunday Morning Gathering at my former church. I was able to share the following message with some of my closest friends. I did not pick this topic so that I could gain favor or finances. I did not choose this subject because of certain conversations or any recent event. In fact, this church has done a fabulous job of taking care of their lead pastor (he has been there for nearly a decade). They have always shown honor and appreciation to him and his wife. My hope was just to encourage them to maintain and mature that prevalent attitude amongst them.

Every pastor experiences moments of attack and/or abandonment at times. The statistics are quite staggering . . .

  • 70% claim to not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor
  • 95% do not regularly pray with their spouses
  • 80% spend less than fifteen minutes a day in prayer
  • 70% study bible only when they are preparing for messages
  • 1,500 leave the ministry every month (claiming exhaustion, corruption, or conflict)
  • 80% feel unqualified or discouraged
  • 50% would leave if they had any other means of making a living
  • 90% claim the greatest challenge is dealing with difficult people (worship leaders, associate pastors, or board members)

This is really nothing new. Even the Apostle Paul needed prayer (asking for it no less than five different times in five different letters). He had a special place in his heart for the people of Ephesus. The church was positioned in a place of great impact. The region, modern-day Turkey, was central in commercial and religious matters. Sure the church was imperfect but aren’t they all? The people were trying to figure out how to unite both the Jews and and the Gentiles. They were constantly being tempted to worship Artemis (the god of the hunt and fertility). I can think of a whole lot of churches who are trying to love each other in spite of their differences. I can name a whole lot of communities where people are chasing something . . . and many of them are looking for someone to love.

Likewise, things were not going so well for Paul. He was under house arrest (again – but this time in Rome). He probably felt a bit overwhelmed with the present situation and even questioned if he could really carry on this mission being left all by himself. Here is what we can learn . . . Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Being a Christian without prayer is no more possible than living without breathing.” I would add, if you would allow me, being the church without praying for your pastor is no more possible either.

Paul wrote from prison, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:18-20).

Speaking in the context of spiritual warfare and striving for healthy relationships, Paul reminded the believers to be alert on all occasions (both in preparation in life and in actual engagement with the enemy). He spoke of the importance of being in constant connection with the Holy Spirit. Imagine, he was an apostle and author of nearly half of the New Testament, and yet he understood the importance of having an attitude of dependency and humility. How much more do we need that same perspective? How much more do our pastors and leaders need such attributes?

He then asked the church to remember him in prayer – that he would be given the right words at the right time. He understood that he was an ambassador in chains – that he was liberated from sin in order to serve the cause of Christ. He was entrusted with the opportunity to declare that Jesus was Lord before the Roman authorities. Too often, in our culture, saying “Jesus is Lord” is a catch-phrase or a cute bumper sticker. For Paul and his peers, this phrase was a declaration of allegiance. He was a part of a Kingdom when every one else was forced to participate in an Empire. Paul needed supernatural courage and confidence to be relentless as a messenger of the good news – to be frank and uninhibited in his openness in speech (both with truth and with love).

How can you specifically pray for your pastoral team?
If an apostle and hero of the faith needed prayer, how much more does our leadership? Join me in praying for his integrity. Our hope should be that he always enjoys a strong and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray that he always has good health (spiritually, mentally, socially, and physically). Let’s do everything in our power to keep the unity of the church. Discuss all differences in private and celebrate his strengths in public. Our motive must never to be right but to do right – bringing resolution to the conflict and reconciliation in all relationships.

Pray for his family. Respect the complex role of his spouse. Too often she cannot win. Either she is accused of doing far too much or far too little. Understand that she has been appointed director of different ministries for different seasons for different reasons. Accept and affirm the place of his children. Allow and encourage them to take time for their family. Allow each child the opportunity to be who they are rather than what you expect them to be.

Pray for his ministry. Our hope is that our leaders speak with clarity and courage. Pray that he has the dream of enlisting a church to reconcile the world. There is an entire city outside the four walls of your church who are waiting for the Answer. If only they would admit that they have lived as rebels? If only they would believe that Jesus offers them forgiveness? If only they would commit to trust and obey his leadership instead of their own ideas?

Can you envision a church of people walking together with God and what they could accomplish together? Christ followers who expose people to God’s love, enjoy other believers, equip them in their faith, who experience the ministry, and exalt God with their lives . . . people being the church! I have had the honor to work with many incredible men and women who want to see Christ’s kingdom come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

How can we continue to show support to our pastoral team?
I am sad to say that many churches that Paul helped plant did not come around him when he needed them the most. One of last letters, if not his very last, tells the story of a man who was largely abandoned by those he had invested his life into. This was his final arrest . . . this time in a dungeon . . . and this time by an Emperor who wanted him and his movement to be silenced in the worst way. You can read more about his struggle in 2 Timothy 4:9-18. There were only a handful of men and women who would support Paul in his darkest hour (Luke, Tychicus, and Timothy were among them).

I am quite confident that my church and yours will not do that to the leaders that we have been given. Pray for your pastors, ministry directors, and board members. Write letters of support and encouragement. Make sure they know that they are not alone . . . and then be willing to partner with them on the mission of connecting your world to the love and life of Jesus Christ.

Alone

Garden

I would highly recommend Michael Abbate’s Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life, and Our World. I was fortunate enough to receive a couple of copies in a special pre-release (I gave the additional copy to one of our interns). This book is available at TextBooksRUs.com for under $8.00 a piece. You can learn more, or even purchase a copy of the book, at Random House’s website (http://www.randomhouse.com/gm/results.pperl?title_subtitle_auth_isbn=gardening+eden).

David once sang God’s praises by proclaiming, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-9, NIV).
The author wrote, “We strive to be liberal in love, conservative with resources” (Abbate, 217). The environment should not be a political issue – but one of worship to our God. We have been entrusted with his creation – we have been given dominion (not domination). This world is not about me, it is not about more, and it is not about now. I appreciate the author’s biblical instruction and practical ideas. He does not approach the subject as an environmentalist (who often focus too much attention on the art and can resort to blaming others) but instead as a conservationist (who focuses on the Artist and thus takes responsibility personally). My hope is that the church would join in celebrating Earth Day – not in honor of the dirt that we walk on but instead by using this day to remind others of our Creator and his gift to us.
Official Description: Before the snake, the apple, and the Ten Commandments, God created a garden, placed humans in it, and told them to take care of it. “Spiritual environmentalism” did not start out as an oxymoron—it was an invitation. Yet today, many believe God’s original job description for humankind has been replaced by other worthier pursuits. So when did this simple instruction become so controversial? How does one sort through all the mixed messages? Is making the world a healthier place for the next generation really a responsibility—or even possible? Gardening Eden is a new understanding of how the spiritual dimensions of life can find expression and renewal through caring for our incredible planet. Empowering, simple, and never polemical, Michael Abbaté outlines the Bible’s clear spiritual benefits of caring for creation, exploring new motivations and inspired ideas, and revealing the power of our basic connection to all people and living things through the growing interest in spiritual environmentalism. Green living is no longer a fad—simple lifestyle solutions are now available to everyone. Gardening Eden shows readers how this shift transforms not only our world, but their very souls as they’re drawn into deeper harmony with the Creator. This book invites them to discover the powerful spiritual satisfaction of heeding the call to save our world.
Official Biography: A nationally recognized expert in “green” development strategies, Mike Abbaté is a founder of GreenWorks, an award-winning landscape architecture design firm. He frequently speaks to students and leaders about practical ways to minimize the impact of building and landscape design on natural resources. Abbaté’s work has been featured in national magazines such as Metropolis and Landscape Architecture and in many local newspapers and trade publications. He and his wife, Vicki, have two adult daughters and live near Portland, Oregon.
Garden

Seventy-Two

If I could accomplish anything in the world, what would it be?
Some crazy people have some crazy goals. Just take a look at some of the Guinness World Records. Robert Wadlow holds the record as the world’s tallest man – standing at an amazing 8’11”. Now, I know that he did not have to do anything in order to receive that title, but what about others in the record books? The most pierced woman is Elaine Davidson (720 self-made holes on her body). Ken Edwards ate thirty-six cockroaches on March 5, 2001 (thirty-six!). David Huxley once pulled an aircraft weighing 184 tons all by himself. Ashrita Furhman set the world record by walking eighty-one miles all the while balancing a milk bottle on his head. Why? Over 15,000 elementary school children got together in Canada to make snow angels all on the same day. At least they learned teamwork.

My father knew a coworker who so badly wanted to see his name written in the book (this was before the Internet had taken off so all the records were still in print) that he was willing to share a sleeping back with over one hundred snakes for an extended amount of time. The irony of the situation was that within two weeks the record had already been broken and by the time that the latest edition was printed, he was not even in the top ten and therefore was never listed. You have to admire his determination. However, what would his life had looked if he would have devoted his time, energy, and resources in helping others instead of just helping himself?

What keeps us from attempting the difficult? From making a difference? What do we settle for instead?
Some of us just plain believe that the odds are stacked against us and we end up surrendering to our fear (the task is just not doable). Others of us choose to give into the obstacles and oppositions ahead (seeing that the mission is just not worth all of the sacrifice). The majority of us love the safe and predictable life that we have – content with all of the power, position, and prosperity (convincing ourselves that the task is no longer needed).

We are not alone. The first century Hebrews had lost sight of the mission (they were originally chosen to be blessed in order to be a blessing). However, the five hundred years of oppression and four hundred years of silence had sucked all vision and purpose that they once had. Enter Jesus who devoted his ministry to caring for the untouchables, the unlovables, and the unlikelies. His mission was to seek and to save that which was lost. He called the crowds back to loving God and loving others. The masses grew and grew . . . until, that is, he invited them to participate in his mission themselves. They were okay as long as he performed miracles like healing the sick and feeding the thousands. However, once he started to tell them to give up their comfortable living and secret sins, they quickly came up with excuses and sought the nearest exit strategy. They wanted change without being the change themselves.

Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.
Jesus needed seventy-two people who were willing and ready to represent him. The bible says, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road'” (Luke 10:1-4).

Jesus appointed seventy-two people to follow him by going out into the surrounding region. It is very important that the Gospel writer referred to Jesus as Lord in this passage. This was a common title used for landowners (those that controlled everything – all power and all possessions). These seventy-two individuals recognized that Jesus was in control and therefore they were willing to lay everything down for his cause. This term of ‘Lord’ was later used in the Roman Empire as a way of declaring allegiance to their Emperor (Cesar is Lord!). People were instructed to enter the temple, offer their sacrifice, and declare their loyalty to the king. Christians chose to go into the temple at mandatory worship times and declare, “Jesus is Lord!” Their penalty was prison at best and lion pits at worst. We twenty-first Western Christians have it so easy and yet do so little.

Jesus’ heart was to send out messengers that represented and reflected him. He gave no restrictions (all ages, genders, classes, and races were invited to be a part of his Kingdom). Some scholars believe that he chose seventy-two to parallel the number of known nations at the time. The message was loud and clear – all nations can be reconnected to their Creator.

He also sent them out in groups of two. He knew that being about the mission took community. Teamwork provides companionship, protection, and even an adds a sense of credibility. The journey of following Christ was never meant to be taken alone. These ambassadors of sorts were commissioned to influence several different campuses and cities. Just look to the example of Paul who wherever he went made it a habit of taking others with him (whether it be Barnabus, Luke, or Timothy).

Jesus’ words had a sense of urgency to them. He understood that the harvest was plentiful (he saw the opportunity when everyone else saw nothing but obstacles). Think about all of the people that you come into contact with who need to respond to the grace of God. If only they would come to a place of admitting that they have rebelled, believe in Christ’s death and resurrection, and thus commit to follow his leadership. Jesus is still looking for an adequate amount of workers (but are we available?).

He was honest with them by warning them of upcoming difficulties and distractions (but “Go!” anyways). They warned to be on the lookout for potential enemies and ready to face opposition (rejection and persecution) and obstacles (letting go of their reputation and comfort). To make matters much worse, he even limited them to what they could bring along for the ride. He did this in order to increase their vulnerability and humility. This assured their consistent devotion and dependency upon him.

How can you begin connecting your generation to the love of Christ? I am looking forward to the next four weeks at Merge. We will be calling an entire generation to be about the mission. Each and every one of us can truly connect our generation through compassion/kindness (putting others above ourselves), connection/friendship (seeing others as people and not mere projects), conversation/story (sharing where we have been and where we are going), and prayer/empowerment (relying upon the Holy Spirit and not on our own abilities).

How can we respond to the challenge of being a part of transformed lives?
We at Merge, the students of Maltby Christian Assembly, are launching into what we call 6K6. Each student can be about the mission by inviting six people to our church in the next six weeks (whether it be a worship gathering on Sunday or Wednesday). There are also special events such Insomnia: All-Niter 2009 or Silver Lake Summer Camps.

Along with the invitations, we must be about giving to the global mission. Our youth ministry, working together, can also give $6000 to Speed the Light in the next six weeks (providing transportation and technology for missionaries like the Galbreaths of Japan). Imagine a nation where only two in every one thousand are Christ followers. We can help purchase their family a van that will better facilitate them in accomplishing personal evangelism and children’s ministries. Each and every one us would have to sacrifice $80 for the mission over a month and a half (some leaders can do much more than that). This is not about prosperity but about purpose. We not are about giving so that we can get. We should give because Christ’s mission matters more to us than our money. Seventy-two going out and giving much for the cause of Christ.

Seventy-Two

Servant

I recently completed a reading critique of a book by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges titled, Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time. Here are a few of my observations:

What is the author’s main purpose in writing this book?
The authors’ main purpose in writing this book was to design “a tool to help [leaders] take God beyond the spiritual compartment of [their] private spiritual life and to give him free reign in all [their] daily actions and relationships, especially [their] leadership roles” (Blanchard and Hodges, xiv). Too many followers of Christ are content with gaining more understanding and not allowing that information to translate into a transformed perspective, accomplishment, or lifestyle. In other words, leaders cannot afford to compartmentalize their faith. Character and credibility demand that one be holistic in his message and methods. The way one treats his body will affect the way he challenges his organization which will in turn affect the way he mentors his own family. Too many disciples of Christ have deceived themselves into believing that they could control an area of their life and thus have avoided bringing that area under submission to Jesus. The Scriptures challenge the reader to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

List two items of information this book provided of which you were not previously aware.
The authors’ instruction concerning the head of a servant leader was extraordinarily helpful information. The section’s emphasis was upon Jesus’ personal purpose in life and ministry (Blanchard and Hodges, 106-110). They warned against the “tyranny of the ‘or’” and challenged one to instead embrace the perception of “both/and.” Whatever vision a leader chooses to cast and implement, he must be sure that the direction will not only accomplish the desired goal but that it will simultaneously develop people along the way. Leaders can and should enjoy the results and the relationships (influence and integrity). Sometimes the focus tends to be on how best to send people instead of how best to serve them. Though Jesus did commission his first followers to go out and make other disciples, he also assured them that he would be with them until the end of the age (and even went as far as to empower them with the Holy Spirit). The natural tendency is to become so focused upon the sermon, strategy, or schedule that the people are lost in the process. One must be intentional in his relationships – acknowledging and responding to their stories, struggles, and dreams.

Another item of instruction that was appreciated was the teaching on the hands of a servant leader – specifically on transitioning one’s attention from the call to the commission. A pastor must be purposeful in evaluating the leadership pipeline, commonly referred to as a discipleship strategy, in his church. A convert must be treated as a novice in Jesus Christ (Blanchard and Hodges, 126). The new believer needs fundamental instruction before he can progress along the spiritual journey. Along with that, he will also need someone devoted to his development (one to show him how to read his bible and to take the first step of water baptism). There comes a point where that disciple becomes an apprentice (Blanchard and Hodges, 130). He will need a small group where he will be encouraged, corrected, and protected from pride or confusion. This is where many of our new believers are tragically lost in the mix. If all goes well, he then will reach the place of a journeyman (Blanchard and Hodges, 132). He has now been connected to the love of Christ (novice), the life of the church (apprentice) and now must be connected to the needs of the world. The church has the responsibility and privilege of directing his attention to a place of ministry that best aligns with his gifts, talents, experiences, and passions. Finally, continuing on he will one day become a master or teacher. This is the life stage where he is to be entrusted with the opportunity of taking a novice of his own (Blanchard and Hodges, 135).

What was the most helpful part of this book and why?
The most helpful part of the book was the authors’ instruction on the heart and importance of ensuring that one is growing in the image of a servant leader. The authors warned against the reality and danger of fear (Blanchard and Hodges, 53). Too often one can be caught up in basing his identity on his performance and in the approval of others that surround him. Fear of failure commonly stems from a fear of rejection. This fear separates a leader from God because of the shame that ensues. The fear also can separate a leader from others because he ceases to believe that his team would understand or accept him in his authentic state. Finally, fear can even drive him from who he truly is meant to be due to the fact that he could easily begin to develop the pattern of gravitating towards excuses instead of repentance (Blanchard and Hodges 59). One can settle for comparing himself to others which either gives him a false confidence or a general frustration of his present circumstances. This distorted perception of life commonly leads to mistakenly coming to expect disappointment and deceit (Blanchard and Hodges, 60). The bible warns that, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare.” (Proverbs 29:25). The authors remind the reader to be careful to believe that only God is the “omniscient audience and authority for [one’s] decisions” (Blanchard and Hodges, 63).

Copy one quotation from the book that seemed particularly important to you and interact in your own words with the portion you quoted.
One quotation from the book that was particularly important was, “Learning to lead like Jesus is more than an announcement; it is a commitment to lead in a different way” (Blanchard and Hodges, 19). According to the authors, this transformational journey of leading like Jesus begins with personal leadership (Blanchard and Hodges, 20-21). They challenged the reader to ask oneself two questions. One must ponder, “Whose am I?” Leaders must acknowledge that they are not the final authority or the primary audience in their ministry. One must never seek the approval or applause of his supervisor, his congregation, his peers, or even his spouse. Rather, his primary objective must be to celebrate God and to submit to his plans and purposes. With that in mind, the second question to be asked concerning perspective is, “Who am I?” At his own water baptism, “Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness’” (Matthew 3:15). A great leader of people must first learn to be a great follower of God. Following his baptism and inauguration into ministry, Jesus was quickly ushered into a season of temptation. In a similar way, each and every day will be full of moments where leaders will have to decide to either be about the Kingdom of Heaven or the empires of this world.

Servant

Experience

I would recommend a book by Henry and Melvin Blackaby titled, Experiencing the Spirit: The Power of Pentecost Every Day. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy in a special pre-release. Copies are available at GoldenGateBookStores.com for under $11.00 a piece (http://www.goldengatebookstore.com/rel/v2_viewupc.php?storenr=333&upc=1590529111&affnr=-2610). You can learn more, or even purchase a copy of the book, at Random House’s website (http://www.randomhouse.com/gm/results.pperl?title_subtitle_auth_isbn=experiencing+the+spirit). For further study (specifically for more theological depth) on this important topic, I would recommend one check out Frank D. Macchia’s Baptized in the Spirit and Robert and William Menzies’ Spirit and Power.

God continues to appoint, assign, and assure his followers to be about the mission of bringing about reconciliation and restoration (blessed to be a blessing). One biblical example of this reads, “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah” (1 Samuel 16:13). In the First Covenant, the Spirit was given to specific individuals for specific tasks for specific periods of time. However, after Pentecost, God’s Spirit can now be poured out upon all believers (regardless of status, gender, race, or age) at all times. Let us enjoy and experience the blessings of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, ascension, and outpouring together (for his plans and purposes)!

Official Description: The first Christians “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) – shaking the gates of hell even in the face of severe persecution. The result: People all around “were filled with wonder and amazement” (Acts 3:10). What can give Christians today the same impact? God’s Holy Spirit is ready to answer that for us in an awesome way, as Henry Blackaby and his son Mel Blackaby make clear in Experiencing the Spirit. You’ll see how the proof of the Spirit’s presence is our awareness of God’s personal assignments for us, plus our supernatural enablement to carry out those assignments. You’ll find essential clarification on the difference between natural talents and spiritual gifts. You’ll explore the dynamics of being filled with the Spirit through intimate relationship with Him, committed obedience, and radical departure from sin. Instead of considering what you can do for God with your abilities and talents, you’ll be encouraged here to seek what God wants to do through you supernaturally by His Spirit, empowering you beyond your personal competence and capacities. Release the Holy Spirit’s work at the very core of your experience of the Christian life.

Author Biography: Dr. Henry Blackaby has devoted his life to the ministry. A multi-faceted talent, he has served as a music director, senior pastor, college president, missionary, and later as an executive in Southern Baptist Convention. Blackaby is the author of more than a dozen books with more than one million copies sold, including the best-selling Experiencing God. As the President of Blackaby Ministries, he is a vibrant speaker and the father of Dr. Melvin Blackaby. Melvin serves as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro in Georgia, where he lives with his wife, Gina, and their three children.

Experience

Treasure

I would recommend Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving. I was fortunate enough to receive a free copy in a special re-release. Copies are available at ABDBookstores for under $8.00 a piece (http://www.abdbooksellers.com/si/9781590525081.html). You can learn more, or even purchase a copy of the book, at Random House’s website (http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781590525081).
The author’s treasure principle is that “You can’t take it with you – but you can send it on ahead” (Alcorn, 18). A Psalmist had something similar in mind when he wrote, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him” (Psalm 49:16-17). What I appreciated about this book, which is not always the case with many Christian financial resources, is that it is balanced and biblically based. Unlike much of the prosperity teachings that are out there, the emphasis of this book is on giving to God and to others rather than on giving more in order to just get more. Imagine how much more effective the church would be, on the mission of Christ, if we grew in our giving and sacrifice?

Official Description: Bestselling author Randy Alcorn introduced readers to a revolution in material freedom and radical generosity with the release of the original The Treasure Principle in 2001. Now the revision to the compact, perennial bestseller includes a provocative new concluding chapter depicting God asking a believer questions about his stewardship over material resources. Readers are moved from the realms of thoughtful Bible exposition into the highly personal arena of everyday life. Because when Jesus told His followers to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” He intended that they discover an astounding secret: how joyful giving brings God maximum glory and His children maximum pleasure. Discover a joy more precious than gold! After years of writing and teaching on the theme “God owns everything,” In 1990 Randy Alcorn was sued by an abortion clinic (for peaceful, nonviolent intervention for the unborn). Suddenly he had to resign as a pastor and was restricted to making minimum wage. Legally unable to own anything, Randy gave all his book royalties to missions work and need-meeting ministries. He and his family have experienced the reality of The Treasure Principle—that God really does own everything, takes care of us, and graciously puts assets into our hands that we might have the joy and privilege of investing in what will last for eternity.

Author Biography: Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM). Prior to 1990, when he started EPM, he served as a pastor for fourteen years. He has spoken around the world and has taught on the adjunct faculties of Multnomah Bible College and Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Randy is the best-selling author of twenty-seven books (over three million in print), including the novels Deadline, Dominion, and Deception as well as Lord Foulgrin’s Letters, the Gold Medallion winner Safely Home, and Wait Until Then.

Treasure

Challenge

I recently completed a reading critique of a book by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner titled, The Leadership Challenge: The Most Trusted Source on Becoming a Better Leader. Here area few of my observations:

What is the author’s main purpose in writing this book?
The authors’ main purpose in writing this book is to make an attempt to assist leaders in accomplishing the astonishing within their respective organizations (Kouzes and Posner, xi). One of the greatest challenges that every leader will face is to translate one’s principles into procedures and one’s mission into actuality. The authors’ wish is to equip leaders with the capability to guide their teams through moments of insecurity, to maximize the gifts and passions of their counterparts, to exemplify integrity and transparency, and to grow on a regular basis. The objective behind this resource is to encourage leaders to become deliberate in building a lasting legacy by creating valued institutions that survive over time in developing both individuals and institutions who acclimatize, transform, flourish, and mature (Kouzes and Posner, xii).

List two items of information this book provided of which you were not previously aware.
The authors’ teaching on the importance of setting an example as a leader was extraordinarily helpful information (Kouzes and Posner, 95). They encouraged readers to be intentional in doing regular personal audits. Such examinations should include one’s habits, schedules, meetings, and responses to obstacles. They then recommend that leaders make such experiences and evaluations available to their followers. One reason why some ministry strategies are not as effective as initially envisioned is because the leadership team is not modeling the values to their followers. For example, small groups often do not survive (or at least thrive) in local churches because the pastor is not actively engaged in a small group (he could at least adopt his pastoral staff to function in such a way as to model community to the congregation). The point leader might need to become more intentional in sharing stories and experiences in the mist of his messages or lessons. Another example would be one’s general frustration with people’s lack of obedience to personal evangelism. Yet again, the leaders must first exemplify the importance of connecting to their own sphere of influence through prayer, kindness, conversation, and invitation. They must make every effort to see their own friends being baptized during a weekend worship gathering before they ask their congregation to be about the mission.

Another item of instruction that was appreciated was the chapter on leaders who inspire shared vision – specifically the portion dedicated to the importance of creating common purpose for the organization. The authors warn that “You can’t mobilize people to travel to places they don’t want to go” (Kouzes and Posner, 117). Therefore, a pastor must be careful to pay attention to the people of his church and to establish what is most valuable to them. He must convey the gospel in such a way that the message becomes an invitation to them to be challenged, an opportunity to participate in something larger than themselves, a possibility to personify greatness, a prospect to do something good, and to transform the world as they know it. One reason why many people have shown a lack of commitment might be because the leadership has failed to call them to commit to the correct mission. Too much time and attention has often been invested in a building, in a budget, or in a specific ministry program and all the while the people have largely neglected Christ’s Great Commission and Great Commandment.

What was the most helpful part of this book and why?
The most helpful part of the book was the author’s instruction on the importance of every leader enabling others to act (Kouzes and Posner, 20). The authors used the example of how entrusting leaders will often use the phrase “we” well over the term “I.” They reiterated the importance of leadership functioning out of relationship and thus exemplifying a willingness to turn their people into leaders themselves. Many pastors have a difficulty mobilizing and releasing their church into ministry due to a lack of personal vision and values for themselves. They do not know where to go next and therefore grow fearful that someone else will rise up and take people some place entirely different. Such an atmosphere does nothing but breed a culture of distrust between the pastor and the church. Typically, a gigantic deficit of adequate and necessary training and developmental opportunities arise in such an environment. Thus, either the pastor is unwilling or unable to make fully committed disciples within the community.

In the spirit of enabling ministry, a leader must “show trust to build trust” (Kouzes and Posner, 242). Credibility begins with revealing who one is and what one believes. A trustworthy leader must be quick to confess his failures and recognize a need for personal growth and discipline. A leader of integrity must never shy away from asking for feedback, closely paying attention to others’ responses, and creatively celebrating the successes of others. A reliable leader is willing to change his mind, to forgive those who have failed, to keep away from all forms of slander, and to actually include those who have made themselves available to the cause.
Finally, to sufficiently enable others to serve, a leader must be an effective coach and mentor. One way in which leaders can grow in this area is in the avenue of conducting monthly coaching conversations (Kouzes/Posner, 272).

The authors listed questions which are specifically designed to initiate feedback between leaders and followers. One must reiterate the vision by asking, “Where are we going?” He must also encourage alignment within the organization by asking, “Where are you going?” The leader can continue by complimenting and correcting when necessary by asking, “What are you doing well? He might also take inventory by asking, “What suggestions for improvements do you have for yourself?” One could also guide the teammate in taking personal responsibility by asking, “How can I help you? Finally, one must show that he too is trainable by asking, “What suggestions do you have for me?” The natural alternative to not giving regular and honest feedback is to eventually be forced to do damage control. Paul seemed to coach his church when he wrote, “This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down” (2 Corinthians 13:10-11).

Copy one quotation from the book that seemed particularly important to you and interact in your own words with the portion you quoted.
One quotation from the book that was particularly important was, “The study of leadership is the study of how men and women guide others through adversity, uncertainty, hardship, disruption, transformation, transition, recovery, new beginnings, and other significant challenges” (Kouzes and Posner, 164). The authors encouraged leaders to search for opportunities – what they called “seizing the initiative” (Kouzes and Posner, 164). They proposed that transformation requires great influence. In other words, authentic leaders will seek to improve their organization. That being said, such morphing goes far beyond the senses (i.e. the bottom line of budgets, buildings, and attendance). Some momentous cultural shifts far exceed that which can “be seen, felt, or measured by a new system, structure, or process” (Kouzes and Posner, 168). The true test of a leader who successfully navigates through change is that the organization, and most importantly the actual people, is actually making a noticeable impact in their community.

Challenge