Implementing Innovative Leadership

In October 2007, FCA Canada introduced an innovative leadership model – a nominated board of national elders to guide the Fellowship. Canadian elder Roger Armbruster discusses how this new structure is helping to advance FCA across Canada. 

As anyone can appreciate, until we really get to know one another relationally, there are always fears that a national board could lead to denominationalism. And yet there is a growing sense of cohesion and a desire for relational order that fosters connectedness, co-operation and interdependence, as well as mutual accountability, encouragement, understanding and spiritual support.

How We Got Here
The concept of having national elders did not happen abruptly or overnight. For quite a few years prior to the FCA Canada Convention in Regina, Saskatchewan in October 2007, seeds were planted at envisioning meetings and annual meetings. While holding to the New Testament premise of the local church being the primary decision-making agency, Paul Vallee and others made a case for trans-local church structure. They articulated that every local congregation needs to be part of something bigger than itself, and to be in relationship with a bigger picture.

Those who advocated a national eldership among our Canadian brothers and sisters were patient. They did not rush things; they were good listeners. Ministers were given ample opportunity to give their feedback, input, counsel and concerns. In this way, a growing trust emerged that this new structure was not something being pushed by a few people hungry for dominance. It became evident that the moving force behind this was a spirit of servant leadership that would aspire to facilitate inter-church teamwork, interdependence and partnership in a more co-operative manner.

How Do We Define Elder?
To us, “elders” are in fact “spiritual fathers” who provide a covering for those in the family who want to develop real and authentic relationship. We recognize that it is simply not possible for seven national elders to have an ongoing, personal relationship with each one of our  400-plus ministers and openly acknowledge that it comes down to the local church to build strong relationships with other local ministers and church planters they are in contact with on a regular basis.

Perhaps all this is a part of our historical and spiritual DNA. The main issue over why our Canadian Fellowship parted ways with the Independent Assemblies of God years ago was that of one-man control without checks and balances. (We do thank God that reconciliation took place between leaders of the IAOG and FCA Canada during the 2008 convention in Cornwall, Ontario.)

It is not our intention to convince people that other models are wrong and that we are right. Any one of these models, if not applied under the supremacy of Christ, can lead to dysfunction, whether it is one-man leadership, plural eldership, or rule by the members. However, where there is relationship and mutual respect, any one of these models can work successfully.

It can be an advantage, during crisis, transition or critical decision-making processes to have a team of mature leaders truly in submission to Christ, who can come alongside to assist during those times without undue pressure or burden being placed on any one individual. A corporate anointing is stronger and more powerful than an individual anointing, and has the potential to lead us all into greater maturity.

Working Together for Greater Results
Let me be clear that a national eldership does not mean we each have equal authority in every sphere of ministry in every region of the nation. We have different anointings, different giftings, different strengths, and different weaknesses. It is the love of Christ that constrains us to learn to use our strengths to cover others in an area of their weakness, and that they use their strengths to cover our weaknesses.

This also means that none of us gets our way all of the time. We are learning to defer to the other if we sense that a brother has a greater strength in an area than we have. Paul chided the Corinthians for polarizing around individual ministries such as himself, Apollos and Cephas. Each one had a sphere of ministry, but no one was complete without the other. Our calling is to complete, not to compete with one another.

We want, first and foremost, to communicate the spirit we are of, which is servant-leadership that serves and undergirds, rather than impositional leadership, which imposes and controls from the top down. Foundation-laying is an undergirding ministry that gets underneath, supports and builds from the bottom up rather than from the top down.

Other Benefits
This new leadership structure also enables us to operate as a “think tank” for long-standing issues and ideas that the Fellowship has debated. This is leading us toward new proposals, policy changes, and initiatives that seem to have some traction.

For example, we have been able to draft and present to the membership a statement of Minimum Standards for Ordination and Licensing. That has always been a local-church prerogative in our Fellowship, and the elders have no intention of changing it. But the apostle Paul did admonish Timothy to “not be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Tim. 5:22). What does that mean, practically speaking? What should local churches look for in evaluating those who seem to have a future in ministry? To see what we prepared as guidance for the Fellowship, click here.

This is just one example of how we are corporately coming out of a “lone ranger” mentality of serving in isolation. Together, we elders seek God’s wisdom and find his direction. None of us get our way all of the time, but we generally come to a place of agreement.

The national elders meet together once a year for two to three days, where we can really share our hearts in depth. We also participate in a conference call every month to build and maintain a teamwork mentality.

As long as each elder recognizes that leadership equals servanthood, good things can happen. I believe our members do not see us as bypassing their input and point of view, but earnestly desiring to serve them, and to create a stronger foundation for future growth. This, we hope, will also provide a stronger shield against devastating enemy attacks.

In one of our elder meetings, we began a discussion on how to restore ministers who fall prey to various moral temptations, whether financial, sexual, or other. These are always difficult and painful situations. I must mention that when we began this discussion, we were not facing an immediate crisis. There was no “raging fire” in one of our churches demanding attention, but we knew that we needed to be prepared for such difficulties in the future.

We did quite a bit of research. We looked at the restoration policies of other organizations, such as the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. We collected various FCA statements that had been developed at the local level. It took us a year and a half before we finally emerged with a lengthy document that was presented to the Fellowship at the recent Toronto convention in Oct. 2011. We believe it will be a compass in times of storm when our churches desperately need it.

So while progress is not immediate or abrupt, we believe we are definitely making advances, and that our national eldership board is a tool to infuse greater vision and direction into the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies in Canada.

Maintaining Balance
Perhaps the hardest part of being a national elder is finding the balance of serving vs. ruling. Yet I think that we are also coming to learn that in the biblical sense of these words, and in the kingdom of God, the two are not necessarily in conflict.

“Behold, the LORD God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a Shepherd. He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young” (Isaiah 40:10-11 italics added).

In this passage, there is a close connection between a shepherd feeding his flock, and ruling. The connotation of ruling is inside a love relationship. In the kingdom of God, we must not rule by force. We must rule by loving and by feeding. We must lead by example, not by driving or harassing the sheep to cause them to scatter.

Clearly, ruling has to do with feeding, loving, tending, serving, and only when that relationship is solid, and built on a foundation of deep trust, will the corrective or rebuking aspect have much permanent effect. So we are all growing in this, and learning to build trust in relationship.

It seems that the apostle Peter was both a local elder and, as an apostle–a national elder, if you will. He wrote: “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed. Feed the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (I Peter 5:1-4 italics added).

Ruling and serving are two sides of one coin. They are not contradictory, but complementary. We are trying to fully respect the decision-making of each church congregation, and yet provide leadership for the whole. It is impossible to please all of the people all of the time, but we can obtain consensus when we are patient, respectful, practice communication and seek God’s perfect will.

Looking Ahead
We believe we now have a stronger model of working together, not only as a leadership team, but through regional meetings and the day-long envisioning meeting held before each National Convention, which allows for greater input and a contribution from our entire Fellowship in addressing critical areas and working together toward co-operative strategies.

We are building strong relationships based on trust. We are getting things done that have only been talked about for many years. We have a way to accomplish things between conventions, not just when we are all in one city together.

This does not mean that we always make the right decision the first time. But we learn, and truly want to be more relational. We seek change that comes from the inside out, rather than from the outside in.

Some of the plans we are currently working on are:

  • a national plan for church planting
  • enhanced leadership development
  • a cohesive convention planning model

In the area of leadership development, we are looking at ways to support our existing leaders through training at the annual convention, while also looking at periodic times during the year to enrich our pastoral leaders.

We are also looking at ways to strengthen and train both emerging vocational and local-church leaders. We are even looking at enhancing our adult educational programs in our churches with the co-operation of our affiliated Bible colleges.

As we seek to take a humble posture and to act upon whatever God is saying, we sense that we are at a unique juncture in our Fellowship history. Our attitude is “Hats off to the past!” but “Coats off to the future!” While the future holds dangers, it also holds unprecedented opportunities to advance the Kingdom. We want a wineskin that is strong enough and yet flexible enough to seize divine opportunities and to prayerfully make wise choices to take us wherever God would have us to go.

Roger Armbruster is the head of Canada Awakening Ministries, based in Niverville, Manitoba, and serves as an FCA national elder.

How To Fast God’s Way

by Brad Montsion.

Fasting is not a very popular topic in the churches across our nation. When was the last time you ever heard of a fast being called? The problem is that we live in a society that expects God to deliver everything we ask for without doing anything on our part. We expect heaven to be the only part that moves. We continue to do things our way, yet we expect God to change.

The Bible makes it clear that God does not change. We are the ones who need to change. The church in Canada and the United States must make tremendous strides to become what God wants us to be.

The nation of Israel had much the same problem as we have today. They could easily see what they wanted God to do but failed to see what God wanted them to do. It’s important to see that the sovereignty of God is like a train track. If only one track is in place, the train will never move. If one track is removed while the train is heading along, the result will be deadly.

So what are the true parts of a biblical fast?

I admit I’ve had times when someone has called me to fast, but I was either not ready or not in agreement that the time was right. If God is in it, we will soon know because the desire will be birthed by his Spirit.

Isaiah was called upon by God to declare a fast for the nation. Israel’s facade had reached the limits of heaven. “They seem eager to know my ways…They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them” (Isaiah 58:2-3).

But God is not deceived by outward appearances. He has the ability to look within the heart of each of us. He knows what truly goes on in our minds. He recognizes the depth of our commitments and whose will is guiding our lives.

My greatest experience in biblical fasting took place in the late 1980’s when I was serving as minister of Christian Education in Fort McMurray, Alberta. It was during a time of ongoing trials for the church and, therefore, for all of us as ministers.

Our senior pastor, Jim Humphries, wisely called the church to a time of fasting. It was to last for seven days. Everyone was encouraged to fast as many of those days as they possibly could.

For me, it took about three days before God began to speak to me. When he did, it was not what I expected. I was hoping for some deep revelation of biblical truth that would impact my life forever. Instead, I found that just a few words entered my mind, requiring further reflection.

The bottom line was that God was calling me into a deeper walk of truth with him. I was not to look at others as much as I was to allow God to search my soul. I found it difficult at first to surrender my will to his, yet it proved best for both myself and those whom my life touched.

It’s interesting that we often want God to do things for us but become frustrated when God expects something in return, even if his expectations will bring further blessing.

The Israelites were fasting but seeing little results. They began to point the finger at God. Little did they realize that they were pointing three fingers back at themselves. God made it clear that their fasting was hypocritical. Isaiah 58 says that they fasted but…

1. They did as they pleased (v. 3).
2. They exploited their workers (v. 3).
3. They were full of quarrelling and strife (v. 4).
4. They would get into fistfights (v. 4).
5. They would humble themselves at the time of the fast but then resume their wickedness (v. 5).

God had a better plan if the people really wanted to see the hand of God work for their behalf. God has a way of having us walk very practically in a wicked world. Our lives have to reflect what our Lord would have us do. There are often social needs that concern God:

1. To share our food with the hungry (v. 7)
2. To provide shelter for the poor wanderer (v. 7)
3. To clothe the naked (v. 7)
4. To offer help to our close relatives (v. 7)

God places conditions upon His blessings. Everyone wants to be blessed, but often we feel that God must do everything. We must be careful to do what God calls us to do:

1. Don’t oppress others (v. 9).
2. Don’t point fingers (v. 9).
3. Don’t talk maliciously (v. 9).
4. Don’t refuse to help the hungry or oppressed (v. 10).
5. Don’t do as we please on the Sabbath (v. 13).
6. Don’t speak idle words (v. 13).

These are all what I call “the man-part of fasting.” These are things we should do and should not do. Fasting goes much beyond sacrificing meals. God wants to do more than just cleanse our bodies. He also wants to cleanse our soul and spirit in the process.

If we are faithful to do our part, we can be assured that God will be faithful to do his part in at least three ways:

1. He will reveal his glory (Isaiah 58:8). God will cause his glory to shine in and through our lives. Others will notice the change. Like Moses, our lives will reflect the glory of God. Some may not even be able to be around us. We will become a light in a dark place. Our lives will dispel the darkness of sin. We must remember that this is God that is doing this.

2. He will share his guidance (Isaiah 58:11). People are crying out today for guidance. Hundreds of thousands of horoscopes are sold every day. Those customers should be looking to the God who made the stars, not the stars themselves.

People want guidance on where to live, what job to do, which mate to choose, where to be educated, and where to shop. Everyone would like the opportunity to know ahead of time what will happen so they could make the right decisions. God can and will help us if we keep our heart right before him and seek his guidance.

3. He will unveil his grandeur (Isaiah 58:11-12). God has also promised to make us like a “well-watered garden.” We will be involved in the fixing-up business as the “Repairer of Broken Walls.” Anyone can break something. It takes the grandeur of God to restore what is broken, such as a broken past.

One of the blessings of all this is a great joy (Isaiah 58:14). There will not be times of want, because we will feast on the inheritance of Jacob-a land flowing with milk and honey.

How Does God Do His Part?
If you are wondering how God will do all this for you, the answer appears in this chapter. Through the right kind of fasting God will:

1. Loosen the chains of injustice
2. Untie the cords of the yoke
3. Set the oppressed free
4. Break every yoke

God is able to identify what the yokes are and then completely destroy them so they cannot place anyone else in bondage. Both the Assyrians and Babylonians were famous for their yokes of bondage. Their evil minds conjured up many kinds of oppressive tortures. They used the yoke to mock God’s people. Through a Biblical fast these yokes were destroyed. God’s people were released, and their land was returned to them.

No wonder there was great joy in the city. When God breaks something, it is broken to never be used again. God was systematic in destroying the yoke. Fasting can and does release the hand of God to accomplish His will for His people when it is done His way.

Fasting is worth every effort we put into it. Let God instill in your heart the need to fast according to his Word. Don’t fast just because someone else is fasting and wants you to join them. Don’t publicize it, either. Your reward will come in seeing the hand of God released in your life.

God has “a chosen fast.” We need to choose his kind of fasting so we can accomplish his purpose.

Brad Montsion is pastor of Fountaingate Christian Assembly in Cornwall, Ontario.

Leading From a Godly Soul

by Paul Vallee.

The Christian community was shocked in November 2006 to discover that a very influential, Spirit-filled, evangelical minister–the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, and one of President George W. Bush’s personal advisors–was having an affair with another man. Another leader wounded and left on the field of battle.

We know that every person is a target of the tempter. The tragedy when a believer falls is that it gives occasion for the enemies of God’s people to bring a reproach to the name of Christ. Think of the heartache that came to that particular local church, and to the family. And then consider the pain and shame this man will endure. What kind of a legacy is he leaving behind?

The theme of this convention is “Live a Legacy, Leave a Legacy.” What will we leave in the wake of our lives and ministries? The Scriptures reinforce the idea over and over again that the greatest contribution we can leave is the measure of our character.

As I prayerfully considered this, I was struck by a question Jesus raised in Mark 8:36 regarding the condition and priority of our soul. He asked, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

Let me rephrase the question to apply to us as Christian leaders. “What good is it for a minister to build a great church or a great ministry and lose his own soul?”

All the issues of life flow from our soul. To pursue other things at the expense of our soul, no matter how important, meaningful or good, is dangerous. We may pursue and achieve incredible success in life, but the question remains, “At what price?” Whatever it is that we give ourselves to becomes the object of our affection and energy.

The question I want to raise today is: How is your soul?

We can only effectively lead from a healthy, godly soul.

To have for a goal anything less than to know God and become like Him will eventually draw us away from Him. How do we get entangled with sin? How do we drift from God? How does that drift affect our relationships with others? How does a life of good intentions so often become a life of destitution? How does a good life end up going wrong?

We don’t have to go far in the human story to see how mankind lost paradise. The Bible quickly moves from how everything God created was good to how it all became defiled. The tempter came as a serpent to befriend our first parents, and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”

What does God expect of each of us, especially Christian leaders? In one of C. S. Lewis’ books, entitled The Great Divorce, he exposes the reasons why people choose Hell over Heaven. In this journey between Hell and Heaven, Lewis makes a couple of interesting statements that should awaken us to question what God expects of us. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it [their own will]. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it will be opened.'”3

As St. Augustine points out, “Grace is God’s giving us sovereign joy in God that triumphs over joy in sin. In other words, God works deep in the human heart to transform the springs of joy so that we love God more than anything else.”11

As Lewis points out later in The Great Divorce, “There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It’s not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels.”4

So we become like what we worship. When we turn to God, we become like Him, and when we turn away, we become empty. The apostle Paul described the conversion of the Thessalonians as turning from idols to serve the living and true God (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9). God is described as alive and true, while idols are dead and false. The deception of turning away from God is that idols promise much but deliver little. What remains only brings emptiness and a greater longing in our souls.

As Jonah reminds us, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (2:8). And one of those idols can be ministry. We can place the ministry God gives us ahead of our love and devotion to him.

In Paul’s letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, he warns him as a minister of the gospel to watch his life and his teaching. It’s a warning we all must take to heart. In 1 Timothy 4, we find the qualities of a godly servant of Christ; in other words, how to lead from a godly soul. How does a true follower of Christ live? What should we be focusing our lives upon? As we look at our text, we find answers to these issues.

The church in Ephesus was under attack from false teaching originating from within and discrediting the church in the eyes of the community. Timothy is asked to remain and straighten out the problems. But it’s about more than just giving the right answers, it’s living the right life. If we are really going to impact the lives of people around us as servants of Christ, there are some key qualities of a godly life that need to be developed within us. These qualities shine under real pressure.

As Philip Towner points out, “…the soundness of a church depends on ministers and leaders who are sound in their faith and practice.”5

I’ve grouped Paul’s words to Timothy into four qualities of a godly life. These qualities must be developed in our lives in order for us to have a healthy soul, a godly soul.

We must know the difference between what is good and evil. Ultimately, we have to distinguish between what is good and what is best. We must be able to identity what is false and reject it, flee from it and then run to and embrace what is good and true. That is the key to spiritual health and vitality in our lives.

Listen to what Paul tells Timothy. “If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales..” (1 Tim. 4:6-8)

Notice Timothy needs to point some things out: things that are deadly to spiritual health as well as things that will strengthen our soul.

A. If we are going to be a good servants of Christ, we must be able to point out the spiritually life-threatening problems. This is not the job of pastoral leaders alone, but every caring believer. We must warn others of the danger they are in. Each of us has that responsibility. From the book of Ezekiel, we are called to warn those who are sinning against God, just like a watchman must sound the alarm of an invading army ready to destroy an unsuspecting city. Love demands that we care enough to speak the truth into each other lives, motivated by the love of Christ.

What were the things that Timothy, as a good servant of Christ, was to point out? Obviously, Paul had just warned in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 of deception from false teaching and spiritual apostasy, from falling away from the faith. Many scholars believe that he is also including chapters two and three, where there were some positive things that needed to be understood as well.

Notice in his second letter to Timothy, Paul points out that the value of understanding and living out the Scriptures will bring a person to a mature state as a believer. God’s word equips us to be useful in our service to God. “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

God’s Word is not only for teaching and training, but also for rebuking and correcting-elements we often are tempted to ignore.

B. We must be willing to stand for the truths of Biblical Christianity.

1. Especially in a time when these things are being challenged by our broken society. “The Spirit clearly says that in the later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” (1 Tim. 4:1-2)

In our desire to effectively communicate to our culture, we must be very careful we don’t change the message. The emergent-church movement is suggesting that even the message must be changed in order to communicate with relevance to this postmodern world.

Let me point out that the Bible and its message is the most relevant and necessary message for today. We may at times be out of step with those around us, but that doesn’t mean we are irrelevant.

How many realize that most people thought Noah was irrelevant and out of touch with reality in his day, but his message was the most relevant message being communicated.

2. Notice how Paul challenges Timothy to stand for what he had been taught as true from childhood. Timothy’s faith was nourished by two significant women in his life, his mother and grandmother. These two ladies modeled what genuine faith was all about, both in word and deed. “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Tim. 1:5)

One of the greatest roles we have is to train our children and grandchildren. The impact later is incredible. But you may argue that you are single. This doesn’t just apply to biological, but spiritual children as well. We are called to “make disciples.” It’s more than just sharing the gospel and seeing spiritual birth occur in someone’s life. We need to help them grow in their relationship with God. Real ministry is parenting people.

C. One of the areas that we must guard against is superstitions: ideas that float about but have no real substance to them. Paul calls them “godless myths.” Then he goes on to warn against “old wives’ tales.”

What does the apostle Paul mean by this? As Dr. Gordon Fee points out, “These are a sarcastic expression often used in philosophical polemic [arguments] comparing an opponent’s position to the tales perpetuated by the older women of those cultures as they would sit around weaving and the like.”1 In other words, ideas that have no firm foundations. They cannot be supported. Many ideas that are spoken to undermine faith can not be supported.

D. In contrast to what is false, Paul states what is true. “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. (1 Tim. 4:9-11)

The gospel of Christ deserves full acceptance. Paul talks about striving and laboring for this gospel. Why? Because this message is the only hope of our world. There is a tremendous battle for the souls of people, and we must not become deceived about the gospel or give up hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What I mean by discipline is first of all our spiritual development and then the development of others. Paul is calling Timothy and ourselves to train to be godly people. “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Tim. 4:7-8)

A. Gordon MacDonald, in an article from Leadership entitled “Cultivating the Soul” wrote, “The forming of the soul that it might be a dwelling place for God is the primary work of the Christian leader. This is not an add-on, an option, or a third-level priority. Without this core activity, one almost guarantees that he/she will not last in leadership for a lifetime or that what work is accomplished will become less and less reflective of God’s honor and God’s purposes.”

What was it that Jesus emphasized? The training of the twelve, and more specifically, the development of their character. This was the critical work. Though He ministered to the multitudes, what endured and lasted was the work in these men’s lives, which was reproduced in others.

In his twenties, William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, wrote a letter to his wife, describing his feelings of discouragement and ineffectiveness. He was close to quitting, he said. Catherine, a remarkable woman, wrote back: “I know how possible it is to preach and pray and sing, and even shout, while the heart is not right with God. I know how popularity and prosperity have a tendency to elate and exalt self, if the heart is not humble before God. I know how Satan takes advantage of these things to work out the destruction (if possible) of one whom the Lord uses to pull down strongholds of his kingdom, and all these considerations make me tremble, and weep, and pray for you, my dearest love, that you may be able to overcome all his devices, and having done all to stand, not in your own strength but in humble dependence on Him who worketh all in all.”

As far as I can tell, Catherine was 23 when she wrote these words. But she was not too young to “get it.” William’s spiritual core, she understood, was the key to everything.”12

What I’m saying is that unless we are godly, we cannot develop godly people. We must lead from a godly soul.

B. Paul now moves from what Timothy had been fortunate enough to receive, the nurturing as a child, to the more rigorous metaphor of training as an athlete. The encouragement is that he must continually train himself, discipline himself to be godly. This is not a passive stance, but an active stance to spiritual growth.

Who is ultimately responsible for your life? Who is responsible to train to be godly? We are to train ourselves. We are responsible. We are to discipline ourselves to become spiritual.

As author Don Whitney states in his book on the Spiritual Disciplines: “The Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth. They are the habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been practiced by the people of God since biblical times. …The Spiritual Disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness.”6

Dallas Willard, in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, gives a classification of some of the key disciplines. Disciplines of Abstinence include such elements as: solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice; whereas Disciplines of Engagement include: study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, and submission.

One of the deep concerns surrounding Spiritual Disciplines is that these activities can form a work-righteousness pattern where a person’s sense of spiritual worth or merit is based upon the successful performance of these disciplines. In other words, I’m more spiritual if I do these activities than if I don’t. We can become quite pharisaical in our approach to Christianity. There certainly is a danger that in practising the spiritual disciplines, a legalistic approach to Christianity can happen. Yet, the purpose of the disciplines are not ends in themselves, but rather a means to experiencing the presence of God. If that occurs, humility will be the result.

Yet, the real danger today lies in the neglect of obedience to the text. We are living in a time when many people are living undisciplined lives, particularly as it relates to godliness. As Dr. Raymond Edman, past president of Wheaton College, challenged his generation (1940-1965), “Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down, and the foundations of society appear to be crumbling…Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures.”7

If these words ring true when they were first published in 1948, how much more do they need to be repeated today? A proper understanding of the relationship of Spiritual Disciplines and grace freed me to begin to study, pursue and develop these disciplines in my own life. I’ve met with varying degrees of success. I’ve discovered that the more I practice them, the more I enjoy them, and the less I practice them the less I enjoy them. There is something invigorating about spending time with the Lord. It refreshes, renews, refocuses and enables me to handle the challenges of life. I find that as I receive from the Lord, I’m better prepared to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit. There is a greater awareness of working together with the Lord, rather than taking the pressure of ministry upon myself.

Whenever I find myself growing weary, tired, or discouraged in ministry; I find that I’ve allowed the demands of ministry to rob me of the delight in pursuing my Lord. I constantly have to remind myself that ministry must flow from my relationship with the Lord. This not only applies to my ministry in my pastoral context, but also my ministry to my family. My strength, wisdom, and creativity come from my times with the Lord.

I’ve discovered that I either discipline myself or God will bring about other means to capture my attention and my affections. As Don Whitney points out, “God uses three primary catalysts for changing us and conforming us to Christlikeness, but only one is largely under our control.

One catalyst the Lord uses to change us is people. Another change agent God uses in our lives is circumstances. Then there is the catalyst of the Spiritual Disciplines. This catalyst differs from the first two in that when God uses the Disciplines, He works from the inside out. When He changes us through people and circumstances, the process works from the outside in. The Spiritual Disciplines also differ from the other two methods of change in that God grants us a measure of choice regarding involvement with them.”8

What we must understand is the freedom that comes through the practice of the spiritual disciplines. As Elton Trueblood points out: “We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom…that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters is the character of our binding. The one who would be an athlete, but who is unwilling to discipline his body by regular exercise and abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously denies him the freedom to run with the desired speed and endurance. With one concerted voice, the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life: Discipline is the price of freedom.”9

What are we giving ourselves to? What is our passion? We must become an example both in life (v. 12) and ministry (vv. 13-14).

The qualities that Paul is addressing about Timothy’s youthfulness are areas that young people tend to lack in their lives: things like speech, love, faith, purity. But the point of verse 12, as Donald Guthrie points out, is: “In this way it would become evident to the believers that in Christianity, authority is contingent upon character and not age.”2 As one scholar pointed out, anyone under forty was considered young. Timothy was probably in his thirties when the apostle Paul wrote these words: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” (1 Tim. 4:12-14)

The challenge is to be devoted and not negligent in God’s Word and in His call for our service. As spiritual leaders, we must once again hear the call of that great reformer, Martin Luther. When he was just short of sixty years old, he pleaded with pastors to be diligent: “Some pastors and preachers are lazy and no good. They do not pray; they do not read; they do not search the Scripture…The call is: watch, study, attend to reading. In truth you cannot read too much in Scripture; and what you read you cannot read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well…The devil, the world, and our flesh are raging and raving against us. Therefore, dear sirs and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, be diligent. This evil, shameful time is not the season for being lazy, for sleeping and snoring.”10

While the preachers must hear these words, every believer must take seriously the same call to read, to study, to apply the Word of God in their lives. One study by George Barna found that only 18 percent of believers read their Bibles daily, while 23 percent never read their Bibles. Is it any wonder that many in the church today are embracing the values of our culture rather than the values of God? We are looking for other ways of reaching people, of growing healthy souls, while neglecting God’s means and ways of accomplishing those things.

We need to be alert. There is an incredible battle for our souls. Here we have some specific things we must be alert for. “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Tim. 4:15-16)

These aren’t just words to Christian leaders who are communicating the gospel, but also to each of us as parents who are communicating the reality of Christianity to our children, our neighbors and co-workers.

Do your words line up with your lifestyle? There is nothing more damaging to the testimony of Christ than when our lives are out of sync. It’s like hearing beautiful lyrics to a song, but the music is terrible and basically drowns out the message.

“Ask yourself what you would have done if you had inherited New York City, when crime was out of control and more than half of the citizens admitted in a survey that they would move out if they could afford to. The city was a depressing place, and it must have been a somewhat daunting job to be elected mayor. Where do you start?

“Mayor Rudolph Giuliani started by going after the little things. ‘I am a firm believer in the theory that “minor” crimes and “quality of life” offenses are all part of the larger picture,’ he explains. Among the first elements to go were the “Squeegee Men,” drug addicted and shady looking riffraff who personified New York’s rough edge. Armed with a soiled rag and a dirty bottle of watered down Windex, these men would bully and badger motorists for money. Giuliani said, ‘We’re not going to put up with this anymore,’ and he brought this intimidation to an end.

“He then declared war on graffiti, subway panhandlers, loitering, broken windows, and petty vandalism minor offenses that would have gone unnoticed in days past while the police force was overwhelmed with homicides and violent crime. But Guiliani had a hunch: if you send out a signal that you won’t tolerate these minor offenses, people will get the idea that the major offenses will be treated even more seriously.

“‘One graffiti defacement or one loud radio may not seem like much of a problem, but criminals thrive in chaotic environments,’ Giuliani explained. ‘Small problems can be the first step to big trouble. Neighborhoods scarred by graffiti or blasted day and night by boom box radios will become besieged, vulnerable, and ultimately dangerous places. If police departments surrender on the small issues using the excuse that they are too busy dealing with “serious” crime, they soon will find themselves surrendering to the latter as well.’

“It worked. Giuliani has been successful in reducing crime beyond all expectations. Between 1993 and 1996, the murder rate came down almost 50 percent. Robberies plummeted by 42 percent while auto thefts dropped by 46 percent. The streets of New York City became safe in a way that was unimaginable just a few years earlier.

“Oftentimes as pastors, we get ‘stuck’ or lost in the big challenges of ministry. We wonder what we can do to get through to those we serve? The truth is if you take care of the little things, the big things will fall into place. Put first things first!”13

What comes first is the nurture and care of your soul, and then the souls of those you are called to care for.

Leading from a godly soul means that we must be discerning, disciplined, devoted and diligent. We are aware of what is good and evil. We must be disciplined. We must be like athletes in training, striving to overcome the weaknesses with the empowerment of the Spirit. The daily disciplines are what makes behavior consistent. Our reactions under pressure reveal how disciplined or undisciplined we are; how godly or ungodly we are. We must be diligent. Many are watching our lives.

Are you leading from a godly soul? May these closing words resonate in your soul today: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Tim. 4:16)

1. Gordon Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, New International Biblical Commentary, (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1988), 103.
2. Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, TNTC, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1957), 97.
3. C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, (New York: Harper Collins, 1973), 75.
4. Ibid, 106.
5. Philip H. Towner, 1-2 Timothy & Titus, IVP NTC (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1994), 105.
6. Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life, (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1991), 15.
7. V. Raymond Edman, The Disciplines of Life, (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1948), 3.
8. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 15-16.
9. Eldon Trueblood, as quoted in Leadership Magazine, Vol. 10, no. 3, summer 1989, 60.
10. Plass, What Luther Says, vol. 2, 951; as quoted by John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2000), 101.
11. Augustine, Confessions, 181; as quoted by Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, 57.
12. Gordon MacDonald, “Cultivating the Soul,” Leadership Magazine, Summer 2005, Vol. XXVI, no. 3, 51-52.
13. John Ashcroft. From the files of Leadership.

Paul Vallee is Senior Pastor of Living Stones Church in Red Deer, Alberta.

When You Need to Rock the Boat

A book review by John Sprecher

No pastor likes to upset the status quo. We all prefer to keep church life calm and predictable.

But what if you have a ministry leader, a teacher, or a board member who is no longer effective? What if you have to admit to yourself that someone is in the wrong position, unable to move into a fruitful future?

Or what if a certain program is no longer working? These are the kinds of situations that make us all squirm.

Dr. Henry Cloud, the well-known clinical psychologist perhaps best remembered for his 1992 bestseller Boundaries, has written a new book to help navigate the difficult pruning process that all of our lives need from time to time. He wrote it primarily for the business world, but it applies just as well to the church. It’s called Necessary Endings (HarperCollins, 2010). The subtitle talks about what “all of us have to give up in order to move forward.”

Dr. Cloud weaves into his narrative stories of business executives as well as individuals who need to deal with negative relationships.

His initial premise is that there must be pruning for maximum productivity. A rose bush will only produce great roses if it is appropriately pruned. In most of our lives there are people and things that keep us from functioning at our very best.

Another premise is that our lives have chapters that need to be acknowledged. One of his illustrations is the change that was required for a firm to move from analog to digital. Resistance to that change nearly destroyed a major company.

Often the challenges in organizations come because we have the wrong people in the wrong positions. Sometimes a person needs to leave a project or a position in order for find the place where they will be able to flourish and do their best.

In dealing with those we are working with, Dr. Cloud lists three types of people:

– the one who is wise who will receive correction and instruction
– the fool who will always blame someone else
– the evil person who is out to destroy

Dealing with each type person requires different tactics. He spends a good portion of his book helping process how to deal with each of these different perspectives.

I found the book to be very helpful, since we often do not make necessary changes until the pain is great enough to force us to move. But if we are willing to move more quickly, we can sometimes save pain for ourselves and others around us. Necessary Endings will help you to recognize the contributions of those around you and the need for making sure everyone is in the right place.

John Sprecher is senior pastor of Rock Church, Rockford, Illinois.

Lessons in Diversity

by Linda Smith.

We didn’t have the politically correct terms back in the small northern Minnesota town where I grew up as a PK (Pastor’s kid). But we were taught diversity in our home without knowing what to call it. That’s because we lived among Finlanders, Indians, and assorted “Scandahoovians.”

Mom and Dad invited the down-and-outers as well as the rich into our home for dinners. They invited locals as well as ministers, missionaries, and itinerant singers. As a kid, I could see that some guests had better clothes, drove nicer cars, and had all their teeth. But my parents treated everyone the same. They were all welcome at our house.

I had seen motels, but I figured those must be for people without friends. When our family of eight traveled, we always stayed with friends. Yes, all eight of us. After all, when our friends came to town, they stayed with us. That included people from near and far, and there was no occupancy limit. Preachers and missionaries came from Liberia, Uruguay, the Philippines, Japan, Iceland, the Yukon Territory, the city, the jungle, the hot countries, and the frozen countries. Our house seemed to be a magnet for them. If any minister needed a place to sleep, our beds were offered for a night, a week, or however long they were needed.

My mom always offered overnight guests a snack before bed, which meant we spread a buffet of delectable goodies that made our guests feel royal. Maybe it was the food, maybe it was the fellowship, but something brought out stories that didn’t fit into their sermons. There were stories about monkeys and snakes, wild boars and bug-a-bug hills, polar bears and whale blubber. They told about nursing women carrying babies on their backs. They had to wash what clothes they had in the river, and then the missionaries would paddle upstream for days to reach a tribe of people who hated everyone. We sat and listened with wonder and amazement.

Eventually, Mom or Dad would interrupt our imaginations to remind us we had school the next day, so we’d better get some sleep. Our dreams were filled with adventures, and so were our daydreams in school the next morning.

As the years have passed, all six of us PKs have pursued adventure in our relationships and in our travels–to different degrees and in different ways. And now we even know the name for it. It’s called “diversity.”

Linda Smith (daughter of Virgil and Ruth Rasmussen) and her husband, Kirby, now live in Seattle and worship at Westgate Chapel.