Here is a six-step prescription for keeping Christ central in the lives and ministries of both congregants and leaders.
Stay rooted in … the Word. Daily and generous doses of Bible reading and reflection are a beginning point for being grounded in servant leadership. God’s word should serve as our strategic guide (Psalm 119:105), because as Proverbs 16:17 reminds us, “the highway of the upright avoids evil; he who guards his way guards his life.” But, allotting time for study only when preparing for sermons may rob Scripture of this meditative and regenerative power. Thus, make time for the Word in your daily schedule, your informal pursuits, your pastimes…and your plans.
Stay rooted in … prayer. Prayer should be as pervasive as study of the Word, i.e. a part of your daily schedule, your informal pursuits, etc.. Eddie Gibbs calls this “respiratory prayer” for it is “the kind of regular, habitual praying that is the spiritual equivalent of breathing to sustain life.”[i]
Stay rooted in … ministry. Regular participation in hands-on ministry can help thwart a misalignment of priorities. A leader who is repeatedly involved in addressing people’s most basic needs, and doing so in the uncertain climate of human imperfections and sins, will by necessity need to maintain a close link to his or her power source, God’s Holy Spirit.
Stay rooted in … accountability. Some denominations utilize “staff-parish committees,” or “human resource teams” to provide an accountability link between the congregation and the pastor. Other churches have denominational oversight that provides this function. However, often these groups only address skill development, overlooking spiritual development. If they do so, they abdicate half of their responsibility. And, in some situations these groups may have evolved into an committee that cannot, or will not, do this. In all scenarios an accountability group is in order. However, the discomfort of such groups often causes Christians to avoid them. Researchers Dotlich and Cairo point out “discomfort signals that different viewpoints are being aired … that teams are grappling with difficult problems in the most open ways possible.”[ii] Proverbs confirms this, reminding us “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). A final excuse is that participation in an accountability group might damaging a valuable personal relationship. Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Temptations of a CEO, warns that “ironically, this only causes the relationship to deteriorate as team members begin to resent one another for not living up to expectations.”[iii]
Stay rooted in … your mortality. Every leader should be preparing for the day he or she passes the baton to one’s successor. Though you bear the baton for a while, God’s picture is bigger, and one day (maybe sooner that you think) you will pass that baton. Researcher Jim Collins calls this “setting up successors for success.”[iv]
Stay rooted in … your priorities. Following the above steps can help a leader keep his or her priorities aligned correctly: God, family, and ministry.
Excerpted from Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How NOT to Kill a Growing Congregation by Bob Whitesel. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004, pp. 153-161.
It was a father-son hiking trip gone terribly wrong. When they reached the mountain peak, the father tied up his son, placed him on a pile of firewood and prepared to slash the boy’s throat—until he heard a voice telling him to stop.
On Sunday, the father—also known as the biblical patriarch Abraham —will be brought up on charges of attempted murder and endangering the welfare of his son, Isaac, in a mock trial at Temple Emanu-El synagogue on the Upper East Side…
“Let’s be honest here—if I put an ad asking people to come study Bible on a Sunday morning, not many people will come,” said Gady Levy, the new executive director of the synagogue’s Skirball Center, which is hosting the event.
With this program, he said, “people are going to come and study Torah. But they’re going to do it in a creative way—and in a way that makes religion relevant to their lives.”
But 21%, near the 40-year high, consider it fables and history
by Lydia Saad
PRINCETON, NJ — “Twenty-eight percent of Americans believe the Bible is the actual word of God and that it should be taken literally. This is somewhat below the 38% to 40% seen in the late 1970s, and near the all-time low of 27% reached in 2001 and 2009. But about half of Americans continue to say the Bible is the inspired word of God, not to be taken literally — meaning a combined 75% believe the Bible is in some way connected to God. About one in five Americans view the Bible in purely secular terms — as ancient fables, legends, history, and precepts written by man — which is up from 13% in 1976.
The latest results are from Gallup’s 2014 update of its annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 8-11.
Fittingly, overall acceptance of the Bible as being divinely written or inspired closely approximates the proportion of Americans identifying themselves as Christian: 76% in Gallup’s 2013 religion aggregate. Meanwhile, the 21% viewing the Bible in secular terms nearly matches the combined 22% who identify with another religion or no religion.
Parsing the Debate Over Biblical Interpretation
Gallup’s long-standing trend question on biblical interpretation touches on two ongoing debates in Christian theology. One is about whether the words of the Bible came directly from God — essentially using the writers as scribes — or if they are the words of men, but guided by divine inspiration. The other debate involves the meaning of the words: whether they should be taken literally, or be viewed partly — or merely — as metaphors and allegories that allow for interpretation.”
by Jerry Pattengale, The Wall Street Journal, 5/2/14
The media loved the 2012 tale from Harvard Divinity School.
The ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ fragment is about 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches. Photo: Karen L. King/Associated Press
In September 2012, Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King announced the discovery of a Coptic (ancient Egyptian) gospel text on a papyrus fragment that contained the phrase “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . .’ ” The world took notice. The possibility that Jesus was married would prompt a radical reconsideration of the New Testament and biblical scholarship.
Yet now it appears almost certain that the Jesus-was-married story line was divorced from reality. On April 24, Christian Askeland—a Coptic specialist at Indiana Wesleyan University and my colleague at the Green Scholars Initiative—revealed that the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” as the fragment is known, was a match for a papyrus fragment that is clearly a forgery.
Do Bible Haters Now Equal Bible Lovers? American Bible Society Thinks So
“The number of Americans who read Scripture at least four times a week and believe that it is the inspired word of God has fallen to just under 1 in 5, according to new research from the American Bible Society (ABS).
The same percentage of Americans (19 percent) are now ‘antagonistic’ toward the Bible, reading it less than once per month and believing it is a book of teachings written by men that contain stories and advice.
Thus, the ‘percentage of Scripture haters now equals Scripture lovers,’ notes the [original] press release for the 2014 edition of ABS’s annual State of the Bible report, conducted by Barna Group. The main reason: millennials.”
New study reveals who reads the Bible – and why
by Association of Religion Data Archives
“About half of Americans read the Bible on their own, and four in five people who read it as part of their personal lives open it at least once a month.
And far and away the No. 1 reason they pick up Scripture is for personal prayer and devotion.
A major new study on American Bible reading may disappoint the culture warriors in politics and the media who tend to see religion in terms of its perceived impact on issues from same-sex marriages to federal budget battles.
Instead, the just-released study on ‘The Bible in American Life’ offers insights into how, why and when Americans read the Bible outside of worship.
‘People have spiritual questions,’ said Arthur Farnsley II, a lead researcher and associate director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, which conducted the study.
“The Bible in American Life” is a national study by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture. The purpose of the study is to understand better how Americans use the Bible in their personal daily lives and how other influences, including religious communities and the Internet, shape individuals’ use of scripture. Download the report.
“He’s the guy who wrote the code to quantify what folks on Twitter gave up for Lent and how the fasts change from year to year (forswearing swearing is up, dropping alcohol is down). He figured out what Bible verses went viral after Osama bin Laden was killed, or at any other time (chances are good that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” and “For I know the plans I have for you” are doing really well right now), and the most popular saints and mountains in American church names. (Mt. Pisgah beats out Mt. Nebo. And Lutherans almost never call their church “First Lutheran”—though “First” is a fifth of Presbyterian churches.)”
Was Paul Converted? NT Wright on the “Conversion” of Paul
“The standard reading of the apostle Paul’s life is the story of conversion, and at work in that story is religion and hence of Paul ‘finding religion’ or ‘leaving religion for faith.’ In the altogether exciting 15th chp of NT Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Wright pitches his tent in a way that he gets a good angle on this very topic (though I shall suggest another angle might provoke a more refined perspective on the question if Paul was a convert).
He sees three definitions often at work: (1) those who see Paul abandoning one religion (Judaism) for another (Christianity) — which is not how Paul saw it; (2) an inner renewal on the part of those who had no faith — again not the best way to see Paul; and (3) the move from ‘religion’ (externality kind of thing) to “faith” (inner reality). Again, NT Wright says this too is not how Paul saw things. He says more about this third view, because he’s right in saying this is the core orientation in the ‘old’ perspective on Paul…”