Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jesus Driven Ministry - Quotes (3)

You really should buy this book!

Truth and urgency
Consequently, a major feature that attracted people to the gospel in previous generations – the urgency coming from the sense that this is absolutely true… [is] much less a feature of the church. It seems that in place of urgency some growing churches are attracting people through entertainment. Growing churches generally serve a high quality programme that is attractive and entertaining. As one in involved in youth ministry, I can testify to the effectiveness of entertainment in attracting people from outside the church so that they come within the sound of the gospel.

But entertainment must always be a servant of truth. Unfortunately, given our pragmatism, we may sometimes neglect some important objective truths such as the Atonement, the reality of judgement, and the need for holiness because those concepts are not very entertaining. These doctrines don’t seem to produce good subjective feelings, and that factor may, in practise, be more influential in determining a church programme than the fact that a given truth is a biblical doctrine. So we could produce a generation of Christians who do not include many unpleasant doctrines in their worldview (their basic approach to life). The result will be an unhealthy church. (p121)

…both John and Jesus were quite specific about the things that people need to repent of… (p124)

Specifics help people to understand what is involved in repentance. (p124)

The failure to be specific in our call to repentance could result in people not realising that Christianity cannot coexist with some terrible sins. (p124)

Today we find that some Christians are very proud of their doubts and do not attempt to resolve them. Perhaps this is a reaction to the shallow dogmatism and easy-believism often seen in evangelical circles. Yet I believe that some people are using these problems as an excuse for intellectual and spiritual laziness. When confronted by others about their uncertainty, they say they are ‘working on it’. But in reality they are not waging an all-out battle to find an answer to their problems. That uncertainty will leave them ineffective and without a real message to give to the world. (p129)

Working with others
What if we do not like some of the team members we ‘inherit’? Say, a senior pastor is appointed from outside a church… There is one person on this team who makes him feel uneasy. Perhaps he thinks that he will have conflicts with this person or that person would not respond well to his leadership style. Perhaps he has doubts about the person’s abilities.

What should the new pastor do? Some would say that he should ask the person to leave. Such a response comes the highly individualistic theology found especially among evangelical Christians, which I believe, violates the Biblical teaching of corporate solidarity within the people of God. This theology gives certain people the freedom to change churches when they don’t like a new pastor. There isn’t the sense of being committed to a body ‘in sickness and in health; for richer for poorer.’

We can imply from the teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians that he would have been revolted by this lack of permanence in the commitment we have to fellow Christains. In the body of Christ we do not reject people because we do not like them.

Perhaps the tragedy with the evangelical church is that feelings overcome theology very often in determining the way we decide and act. The biblical Christian says, ‘Whatever my feelings are about this person, I will accept him because God wants me to do so. And I will ask God to give me the grace to work harmoniously with him’. Our theology says that this effort at working with the person will succeed, even though our feelings may give another message. Our theology drives us to work hard at this relationship. We pray for the person and about our relationship with him. We meet with him regularly. We seek to show Christian love to him and do all that we can for his personal welfare. (p133)

I have had a few situations in Youth for Christ and at church when I’ve needed to work closely with a person whom I would not have chosen. Once or twice the person initially seemed to imply that he did not want to work under my leadership. Most often I have found, that after some time, I have come to like the person. I pray almost daily for the people with whom I work closely, and when you pray for someone so regularly, you automatically develop a special affinity with that person. Usually, after some time, I have also come to recognise great value in the person. (p134)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Jesus Driven Ministry - Quotes (2)

Some more quotes for Ajith Fernando - from his chapter: 'Saturated in the Word'

If we are to live holy lives, we need to be saturated with the Word. Jesus prayed, “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth’ (John 17:17) p90

‘Oh give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri [a man of one book]. (John Wesley) p91

My ground is the Bible. Yea, I am a Bible bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small’. (John Wesley) p92

‘It is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until you come to talk in Scriptural language and your spirit is flavoured with the words of the Lord, so that your blood is Bibline..’ (CH Spurgeon) p92

If we give up on Biblical principles for quick results or what seems to be an easier way out of problems, we lose the security of being anchored to the Word. This loss of security is, I believe, a primary cause for burnout in the ministry. We become restless – and start to act out of that restlessness. Our spirits can’t handle the strain of such a course for too long. We will lack the strenght for long term ministry.’ p94

In the ministry the people we serve are very fickle, and their actions inflict deep pain upon on us. These blows that come in ministry can be very hard on our emotions. To experience such responses after we have sacrificed so much for others can be so hurtful. This is why the ministry is never a good primary source for our security. Burnout is very high in the helping professions. p95

‘This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success’ (Joshua 1:8). The two basic teachings of this verse are that 1) a leader must spend a lot of time in the Word and think about it all the time, and 2) the obedience that results from such exposure to the Word is the key to the leader’s success. This is why I have no hesitation to tell young ministers that if they do not spend unhurried time in the Word (and in prayer) daily, they have no future in terms of effectiveness in ministry. p101

‘When a minister stops studying, he simply stops’ p104

I heard about a minister who left the ministry and went into other work burned out and discouraged. He had even left his library behind in his last church. When his successor at this church came and went through the library, he found that most of the ex-pastor’s earlier books were on the Bible and theology while most of the books he had aquired more recently were books on practical topics. The ex-pastor was a typical product of our pragmatic age. Possibly his pragmatism did not give him the resouces to remain fresh in ministry over a long period. How sad it is that many Christian leaders who used to spend long hours with the Scriptures in their early years as Christians do not do so anymore. And how dangerous it is for themselves and for those they lead. p104

Let us pray and work until once again evangelical Christians will be known as ‘Bible Christians’, the term John Wesley liked to use to describe the early Methodists. P106)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jesus Driven Ministry - Quotes

Have been reading Jesus Driven Ministry by Ajith Fernando (IVP) - which I can't recommend too highly. For anyone involved in Christian ministry (small 'm') it will challenge and refresh. Below are some extracts - more to follow.

A famous Christian leader is reported to have said he used to complain to God about the interruptions he had from his work when God reminded him that these interruptions were his work! All of us have been irritated by occurrences that seem to be demonically designed to disturb our peace of mind and upset our program of life. But we must remember that God is sovereign; nothing happens in our lives without his consent. Therefore we should look carefully at annoyances to see if we can discern God’s hand at work. (p25)

Biblical leaders should be so devoted to their people that in order to help them, the leaders abstain from doing some things that they want to do and perform some tasks they do not like to do. Because of their commitment to a group of people they will persevere in working with them even though inconvenient and seemingly fruitless. The leader’s feelings may say, ‘Drop this work and do something more productive and satisfying. These people do not deserve your commitment.’ But because of the leader’s commitment to the people they refuse to give up on it. (p22)

I have a fear that the church in the West will disqualify itself from being a missionary-sending religion by portraying to its membership a Christianity that is a nice religion but lacks a radical edge. In my visits to the West the most common response I hear to sermons I have preached is something to the effect: ‘I enjoyed that sermon.’ Sermons should disturb, convict, and motivate to radical and costly obedience. I have wondered whether people’s desired result from sermons is to enjoy themselves rather than be changed into radical disciples who will turn the world upside down…

A minor feature of worship – bringing enjoyment – has become a primary feature. Such a church may grow numerically but it will not be able to produce the type of missionaries that the world needs – men and women who will pay the price of identification with the people they serve and endure the frustrations that involves. (p23)

The aspect of the Spirit giving power for service has become very prominent in the church and has been effective in attracting outsiders to the church. This is good and to be desired. But perhaps because of the current marketing orientation of the church, this feature that attracts outsiders has been emphasised almost to the exclusion of the other role of the Spirit as the one who helps form character.
The result of neglecting the latter aspect of the Spirit’s work is that we are seeing a high incidence of moral and spiritual failure among people with powerful ministries…
We all, including those whose primary gifts are preaching and teaching, have to guard against Satan’s trap that lulls us into neglecting the battle against unholiness. He may convince us that we are doing all right because of the apparent power that accompanies our ministries…(p33)

Our life will catch up with our ministry (p33)

‘Burnout takes place when the wick and not the oil is burning’ (p36)

We often react in the wrong way when we face opposition and crisis. We can become overcautious, as the following responses show: “I will never witness in hostile surroundings again’. ‘I will never suggest a radical departure from the norm again. This church is not ready for or interested in change’. ‘I am not cut out for this work. Maybe I should resign’. (p38)

In a time a crisis, before we meet hostile people, we must first meet God. (p39)

Unction – ‘that mystic plus in preaching which no-one can define and no-one (with any spiritual sentivity at all) can mistake’…
‘If nothing else revealed the poverty of our secret prayers, the absence of unction would. Able preaching can often reveal the cleverness of a man… Unction reveals the presence of God’. (p43)

Insecure leaders…
Some become too possessive of they people they minister to and cling too tighly to them…
Some become too possessive of the work itself. They will not hand over a job to someone who can do it better…
Insecure leaders find it difficult to handle criticism and obstacles in their way. Anyone will get hurt and discouraged when such things happen. But those who derive their primary satisfaction from God can snap back after a time. Those who get primary satisfaction from their work often lose control and react excessively in a way that harms people and the work…
Some are obsessed by a burning desire to show people that they are capable… Such people will never be happy, for people are fickle and unreliable when it comes to expressing appreciation for our work.
Some seem to very humble, examples of a servant spirit. They work hard and follow instructions. They are ever ready to help others, but deep down they are bitter… They may say that they do not work for recognition, but they are angry that they have been taken for granted. We may not see this anger at first, but sometimes it comes out, usually in an outburst that leaves the recipient stunned…

I think most of us suffer to some extent with the tendencies we have just outlined. It is when these attitudes control us that the problems become serious. When we find such reactions welling up inside of us, we should take it as an occasion to seek God afresh so that our identity, security, and significance come primarily from him. (p58)

A retreat acts an antidote to activism where our fulfillment comes from our busy activity rather than from God. Activism is one of the great pitfalls we face in ministry, and being away from our busy schedules helps orient our minds in a spiritual direction. (p63)

‘We are uncomfortable with silence because silence forces us to face God.’ (p63)

‘The question that must guide all organising activity in a parish is not how to keep people busy, but how to keep them from being so busy that they no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence.’ (p65)