Mission Statement

I once heard a pastor speak of his experiences at a vacation spot. I’m not quite sure where he was. But, I believe that he was at some sort of hotel or resort. Somehow, while at the resort, he was told that every employee in the organization knows exactly what the company’s mission is. They work very hard to train their employees to know these things. It matters not whether the employee is a maid or a cook or a waitress or a manager or the CEO of the organization, the claim was that every employee can tell you what the mission of the company is.

And so, he told us, he tested it. Sure enough, as he engaged in conversations with several people in the organization, every one of them was able to communicate with him the mission of their organization. He said that it really helped everyone in the organization work together toward a common goal. And then, he turned to us pastors and said, “How well do the people of your church know what the mission of your church is?” Do you know the mission of your church?

Here’s what we say at Rock Valley Bible Church, “We exist to enjoy His grace and to extend His glory.” In other words, we exist to find great joy in what Jesus did for us in the cross–forgiving us all of our transgressions. Our delight, then, drives us to share this with others, thereby extending the glory of God.

I hope that those at our church know this.


Leadership and Love

Alexander Strauch has written some excellent books that have served the body of Christ greatly.  I have devoured his first two books, Minister of Mercy:  The New Testament Deacon (first published in 1992), and Biblical Eldership (first published in 1995).  They are great books setting forth the pattern of leadership as found in the New Testament.  They help to differentiate between the two offices in the church:  Elders and Deacons.  Elders are to focus their attention upon shepherding, leading, teaching and guiding the church.  Deacons are to focus their attention upon the practical needs of the body and serve to meet them. They have been a great help to how we view leadership at our church.

In recent years I have obtained three other titles that Strauch has written:  Leading with Love (published in 2006), Love or Die (published in 2008), and If You Bite and Devour One Another (published in 2011).  Now, I’m no prophet. Nor do I have special insight into the reasons for the recent emphasis of Strauch’s writings. However, I can make a guess (and if I’m wrong, the point is still valid).  My guess is that they flow out of Strauch’s own experiences as it relates to his first two books.

Strauch’s books on leadership have become the standard for many churches.  As a result, he has surely counseled with many churches concerning leadership in their church.  I have personally heard of instances in which he was called to help counsel churches deal with leadership problems.  My hunch is that he has seen a lack of love in many churches, which has been the source of their problems, not the structure of leadership (which was the topic of his first two books). Church leaders have done well in defining the roles of the two Biblical offices, but have done poorly in carrying out the heart that is needed in Biblical leadership, which is love. In other words, church leaders get the outside right, but they have missed the inside. That’s my guess on why Strauch has written several books on love.

At any rate, my point here is still true:  Church leaders need to love those whom God has given them to lead.

What makes Tim Tebow great

Much has been written about Tim Tebow, the quarterback for the Denver Broncos. He is a fierce competitor with a soft heart. He’s a good NFL football player. But, here’s what makes him great.

“Every week, Tebow picks out someone who is suffering, or who is dying, or who is injured. He flies these people and their families to the Broncos game, rents them a car, puts them up in a nice hotel, buys them dinner (usually at a Dave & Buster’s), gets them and their families pregame passes, visits with them just before kickoff (!), gets them 30-yard-line tickets down low, visits with them after the game (sometimes for an hour), has them walk him to his car, and sends them off with a basket of gifts.

Home or road, win or lose, hero or goat” (Rick Riley, ESPN.com. Read the entire article here).

You didn’t act like a pastor today

I recently went to a football game with a father and his ten year-old son. We enjoyed the game. We enjoyed our peanuts and popcorn and pop. Our team won easily. We enjoyed ourselves. Afterwards, we were on our way home, and the son commented on my behavior during the game. He said, “You didn’t act like a pastor today.”

I started reviewing my behavior during the game, thinking that there was something that was unbecoming of my call as a pastor. I didn’t swear. I didn’t yell at the referees. I did cheer loudly on a few occasions. But, I didn’t really think that anything was out of line or inconsistent with being a pastor of a church.  So, I asked him what he meant by this comment. He said, “Normally, you are in charge of everything at church. But, today you were a regular guy. You were just one of the crowd.”

I was greatly encouraged by his clarification, because that’s who I am. I’m a regular guy!  I just happen to have the privilege of being in a position of spiritual leadership. That’s why I don’t insist on others calling me “Pastor Steve.”  Calling me, “Steve” is fine with me, because I’m just a regular guy.

God doesn’t want Froggy seats to shepherd His church

My text for my message yesterday was 2 Timothy 2:20, “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.” I had a fun time with an object lesson.

I looked for a gold or silver vessel in our house, but couldn’t find anything, but, I did find a nice crystal bowl, which was a wedding present given to my wife and I (nearly 20 years ago!). Then, I looked around for a vessel of wood or of earthenware. We don’t use chamber pots anymore, so I found my son’s portable toilet, which we call the “Froggy seat.”

Upon one of these vessels, we place honor. And, upon the other, we don’t place honor. Can you guess which one? Crystal bowls are kept clean and safe and used only for special occasions. We serve food in it because it helps enhance the appearance of the food. Froggy seats, on the other hand, are not so beautiful. We keep them hidden from view, in the bathroom. We even prefer not to be talking about Froggy seats. They get quite dirty and gross. We clean them with high-power cleaners and disinfectants.

We don’t serve salad at the dinner table in the Froggy seat. Can you imagine coming over to our house for dinner and eating your salad from it? Neither do we place our son upon the crystal bowl when he needs to go to the bathroom. I believe that you understand this.

Now, to understand the point of the illustration, you need to understand that these vessels represent different sorts of people. Some are like crystal bowls, carrying themselves with honor. Some are like Froggy seats, carrying themselves with dishonor.

Here’s the point: God doesn’t want Froggy seats to shepherd His church. Rather, God wants crystal bowls to shepherd His church. That’s the point of the next verse, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

It’s at this point that you see the illustration breaking down. Whereas a Froggy seat will forever remain a Froggy seat; it will never be used at the dinner table. Such is not the case with God’s people. By God’s grace, people can be transformed from a Froggy seat into a crystal serving dish. May God give such shepherds to His church.



Cattle Call

I’ve seen it often enough.  There’s an opportunity for ministry.  Someone puts out a massive email to the church, expecting those in the church to come running.  But nobody comes.  Instead, they just look on.  This is “the cattle call.”  Those making the call are often discouraged, thinking that nobody in the church wants to serve.

But, the cattle call doesn’t work. … It’s a start. It lets everyone know of the need.  But in and of itself, it will merely summon a bunch of people to looking on and see what nobody is doing.  If you want others to join in the work, a personal invite is often needed.  Then, you will often find many willing to help.

In working through the gospel of Mark this week, I was struck that this was the way of Jesus.  When He chose His disciples, He personally invited them and called them to action.  “Jesus went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him” (Mark 3:13).

Four questions

I always begin our leadership meetings with four questions.

– What has God been teaching you in recent days?  (i.e. in the Scripture or experience)
– How have you been leading your family spiritually recently?
– What is a specific prayer request for yourself?
– What is a specific prayer request for the church?

Too often, church leadership meetings can devolve into mere “business meetings,” where we resemble worldly wise men, rather than shepherds of the church.  But, these sorts of questions asked at the beginning of our meetings help to keep our focus upon the Lord and His guidance.

Furthermore, they help to prepare each man coming to the meeting, as he knows that he will be confronted with answering these questions.  They have led to humility and vulnerability and confession of sin.  They have brought a unity among us as we are led to pray for one another in greater ways.

Perhaps you might be inclined to use them in your setting (leadership meetings, accountability groups, etc.).

Beware of Thyself

In Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick, captain Ahab is a crazed ship captain, obsessed with one thing: to kill Moby Dick (the white whale), in order to avenge the loss of his leg. At one point in the story, Ahab is exerting his power irrationally, which caused his closest companion to warn him, “Let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man” (chapter 109).

Such is the temptation of all in leadership: exerting their power irrationally. To the elders of Ephesus, Paul warned them, “Be on guard for yourselves” (Acts 20:28). To Timothy the same advice was given, “Pay close attention to yourself” (1 Timothy 4:16). It’s no wonder that a spiritual leader in the church must not be self-willed (Titus 1:7).