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Category Archives: Leadership

Church Politics

As we continue through the Gospel of Mark, we come to an interesting encounter between Jesus and the religious leaders of Jerusalem.

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked.  “And who gave you authority to do this?”
Mark 11:27-28

On the surface, this may sound like a reasonable request.  After all, the leaders of Israel need to make sure that Jesus is the legitimate Messiah of the Jewish people.  But, as always, attitude is everything.

Authority is basically the permission to do something.  It must always be delegated from someone who has it.

In the Lord’s case, it should have been fairly obvious.  Who gave Him permission to heal the sick, open blind eyes, or raise the dead?  There’s only one place that authority could have come from – God the Father.

The Lord gets right to the heart of the matter.

Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question.  Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism — was it from heaven, or from men?  Tell me!”
Mark 11:29-30

The leaders of Israel wanted to look like they were experts in judging spiritual matters.  So Jesus turns it around.

“If you want to investigate my spiritual credentials, then let’s see how well you’ve done in the past.”

The Lord used what should have been a real easy test.  John the Baptist led the nation back to God in repentance and a true change of heart.

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men’ . . . .” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Mark 11:31-33

This discussion cuts right to the bottom line of the problem.  Did they talk about John’s lifestyle or the message He preached?  No!!  Their only concern was the result of what they would answer.

This is politics in its purest form.  Truth takes a backseat to my image.  It’s about how people will perceive me based upon my answers.  That type of attitude gets no response from God.

Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Mark 11:33

There are too many churches that fall into this category in our generation.  God’s will has nothing to do with their decisions.  It’s all about who’s in power, and what they personally want to accomplish.

We need to get back to our roots as believers.  Being a people of prayer who want to see God’s desire done in our lives.  It’s not how big I build my kingdom, or how many people think I’m the best.  I need to see God’s kingdom increase on the earth.

One thing is for certain, spirituality and politics don’t mix very well in the government of Christ.

Question: Why does the will of the majority not always equal the will of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Rank and Privilege

In my last post, we saw two of the disciples, James and John, trying to take leadership over the others.  Jesus explained to them that in the kingdom of God, your positions were prepared for you by the Holy Spirit.

The other disciples heard about it and started to get mad at the brother’s attempt at gaining power.  The Lord handled it by teaching them some kingdom principles.

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.  Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:41-45

There are some good points that Jesus covers in this short statement.  I want to start with the most important one.  It’s the key to the whole passage.

The Lord concludes by using Himself as the example of service.  He came to serve the needs of others and to lay down His life for our freedom.  We miss the importance of this sometimes.

Christ didn’t simply do what He was told.  He didn’t let people push Him around.  He was a leader.  He instructed His disciples and even commanded them to do certain things.  Along with this, Christ served the needs of those around Him.

In explaining it, the Lord uses two levels of leaders.  Then He contrasts the world and the church.  He says that in the world, those who seem to be in charge lord it over them or make people do what they want them to do.

But there’s another level.  The really high officials exercise authority over them.  The word He used means to exercise privilege.  That means it’s all about what pleases me.  So in the world, leadership is communicating what I want done and what pleases me.

That’s not how the kingdom of God should be operating.  The two levels of leadership are completely different from the world’s way of operating.

Jesus starts by explaining how you become a leader.  It starts by serving.  This word literally means to be a waiter or an attendant.  This implies that you are not a slave to the one you’re serving.  Instead, you are serving people as instructed by the owner of the establishment.

Then, the next position is that of the top level of leadership.  Jesus says that to fit in there, you must become a bond-slave of the whole.  This is where we miss it sometimes.

As a leader in the body of Christ, I am not a slave to the Finance Committee, the individual members, the biggest tither, or even my denomination.  I am a bond-slave to the church of Jesus Christ.  My goal is to see the kingdom of God advanced.

That’s how Jesus fulfilled these roles.  It’s how we follow His example.  I’m not pushing my agenda or what makes me happy.  I serve others under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

If you walk in this attitude, then you’re ready for leadership in God’s kingdom.

Question: What are some examples you’ve seen of servant-leadership?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Caring for the Young

In my last few posts, Jesus was preparing His disciples for their future roles as leaders in the body of Christ.  He wants them to understand that leadership in God’s kingdom is handled very differently than in the world.

The Lord now uses a little child as an object lesson for them to understand.

“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”
Mark 9:42

Using a child as an example, Jesus begins to talk about how to handle new believers.  There are some important issues that I think we usually miss in this section of Scripture.

The Lord is talking about young believers here.  Not necessarily physical children, but spiritual children as well.  The key is that they believe in Christ.  They’re young in the things of God.

Care has to be taken in our dealings with new believers.  The actual word that Jesus used in this verse is, entrap.  He doesn’t want new believers entrapped or tripped up in their walk with God.

Too often I’ve seen young believers given an impossibly long list of do’s and don’ts.  After a short while, they fall away in frustration, believing that they can never measure up to what Christ expects of them.

I actually had one self-righteous member explain it to me this way…”Well, you realize that it’s a lot harder to stay saved than to get saved.”

Really!  Is that the God we serve?  Does He let you into His family by a simple act of faith only to kick you out at your first sign of weakness?  Absolutely not!  We have a loving and faithful God who works with us to bring us into our destiny in Him.

It’s man that wants to make it hard to serve God.  We have to prove how great we are at by putting others down and pointing out their failures.

We need to learn to treat new believers just as we would a newborn infant, spiritually speaking.  The Lord has some very strong words to say concerning His attitude toward those who offend new believers.

But it doesn’t end there.

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
Mark 9:43-48

In this context, do you really think Jesus is literally talking about cutting off your hand?  I’ve committed many sins in my life using my hands, feet, and eyes.  But never once was it my hand, foot or eye that caused me to sin.  The desire for sin always started in my heart.

Then what is the Lord talking about?  Simply put, He’s speaking about His body on earth…the church.  Each of us is a member of the body; an eye, a hand or a foot.  Jesus is saying that no one member of the body is so indispensable that it can’t be removed for offenses against the body.  This was a teaching that the disciples probably didn’t understand until long after the resurrection.

But we need to bear this in mind.  How we treat one another is important to Christ.  I believe that there are many who have died before their time because of offending the body of Christ.  We need to major on our love walk in order to be pleasing to Christ.

Question: How have you been a blessing to those who are young in the Lord?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Which Denomination is the Best?

In my last post, I talked about the path to leadership in the kingdom of God.  It requires a servant’s heart.  Today, Jesus will continue teaching along those lines with His disciples.

He took a little child and had him stand among them.  Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:36-37

We need to understand what the Lord is talking about in this passage.  In the past, I’ve heard it misapplied all over the place.

Jesus is talking to His disciples.  These are the people He has set apart for the leadership of the church.  They were also specifically chosen to minister to Israel – God’s covenant people (Matthew 10:5-6).  So the Lord is talking about receiving a covenant child in His name.

As the disciples are listening to Him, they have an “Aha! moment”.  They realize that Jesus is not just talking about physical children.  They’re beginning to understand His teaching style.  They apply what He says to an incident that recently happened to them.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Mark 9:38

They remember telling someone to stop driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But their reasoning is important to us.  The Greek verse literally says that the disciples told him to stop because he did not follow us.

Notice that it wasn’t because he didn’t follow Christ, but that he didn’t follow the disciples.  We know from the last post that they had a high opinion of themselves.  After all, they gave up everything to follow Christ.  This man, who was driving out demons, didn’t.

On the other hand, even though he didn’t give up everything to follow Jesus, he had the evidence of the power of God operating in his ministry.  He also must have understood a lot of the Lord’s teachings.  People were being delivered as he preached Christ.

This is where we are at our point in history.  Many Christian denominations are a part of the spiritual landscape before us.  What did the Lord say about this?

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.  “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.  I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:39-41

By saying this, Jesus has settled the matter of denominations.  Do all of them follow Christ to the same degree?  Obviously not.  But that’s not the issue.  The question is; are they operating in the name of Jesus?

Jesus is telling His disciples that you don’t have to be a super-apostle, trained by Jesus Christ, Himself, in order to get a reward.  If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation, and your calling is as simple as giving water to someone, you’ll have a reward for fulfilling that calling.

We may not all be in the same denomination, but we must all receive each other in the name of Jesus Christ.

Question: How have you learned to respect other believers who don’t worship as you do?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2018 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Servants First

What do you think is the best path to leadership in the kingdom of God?  There was a principle of leadership that Jesus had to get across to His disciples.  After all, they were going to be leading the church after His ascension.

They left that place and passed through Galilee.  Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples.  He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”  But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
Mark 9:30-32

As Jesus approaches the time of the cross, He spends more alone time with His disciples.  He needs to prepare them for the challenges ahead.  Part of this was to instruct them about the cross.  He was going to suffer, die, and then rise from the dead three days later.

The disciples just couldn’t grasp what the Lord was trying to get across to them.  But now, after Peter’s rebuke, they were afraid to ask the Lord to explain it.

As they walked along, the disciples started to debate something among themselves.  I’m sure that it got pretty heated.

They came to Capernaum.  When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Mark 9:33-34

This argument probably started with, “What if Jesus were to die?  Who would be in charge of this group?”  I’m sure that Peter, James, and John all thought that they were eminently qualified.  That is until Jesus shared His views with them.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Mark 9:35

The Lord explains that the true path to leadership is through servanthood.  That’s something that we have a hard time grasping in the church these days.

Jesus is our prime example.  The disciples were arguing over who was greatest, right after Jesus told them His plan.  He became Lord of all creation.  But the path He took involved laying down His life – serving – all of humanity.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8

I think that it’s funny the way we get into leadership in our generation.  If someone wants to be a pastor or teacher, they go to a Bible college for years.  Then they graduate and send their resumes to churches.  A lot of them will get voted in and installed as pastors having never served in ministry.

I think that’s why there’s such a high burn-out rate in the ministry.  We haven’t learned that the path to knowing your calling is service in the kingdom.  Without being a true servant, there’s no way of understanding the needs of those you’re leading.

That was the path that Christ took.  It hasn’t changed.  The Father is looking for qualified servants to lead His people.  Don’t ever look down on that season of your life.  Enjoy your call to servanthood.

Question: How are you called to serve in God’s kingdom?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2018 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Sheep Without Shepherds

In my last post, we saw Jesus going off to a solitary place with His disciples.  They were in need of some rest after a particularly stressful time.  After they were leaving, some people discovered where the Lord and His team were going to.

But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began teaching them many things.
Mark 6:33-34

Jesus and His disciples wanted a break from ministry.  Apparently, a few hours sailing on the lake was enough to lift their energy levels.  When He saw the crowds, Jesus was ready and willing to bring them God’s Word.

What impresses me the most is that it wasn’t out of obligation.  He didn’t minister because He was the Messiah and that was His job.  There was an inner pressure that was initiated by His compassion for the crowds.

It’s important to note how the Lord viewed these people.  He saw them like sheep without a shepherd.  That’s important.  They had shepherds assigned to them in the synagogues.  But for all intents and purposes, it was as if they had none.

That got me thinking about our generation.  As I look out across Western Christianity, I see the same problem.

Yes, we have people that we refer to as pastors (shepherds), and I’m one of them.  But I’ve been noticing a trend that gives me a cause for concern.  In our society, many believers are like sheep without a shepherd.

What do I mean by that?  Right now there’s an attitude in the body of Christ that we don’t need or want shepherds.  We want teachers who will tell us about living for God.  What we don’t want is a shepherd who will lead us in the right paths – and warn us not to take the wrong paths.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
2 Timothy 4:3

The Apostle Paul saw it on the horizon.  He spoke about it to a young shepherd named Timothy.  We’re living in the fulfillment of this.  We want to surround ourselves with teachers, not shepherds.

When somebody teaches, I become the judge.  I decide whether or not to apply what I hear.  After all, no one’s going to tell me what I have to do.  God loves me, no matter how I decide to live my life.

The truth is that God does love you.  You may even be on your way to heaven.  But is that really what your life is all about?

We’re called to be the light of Christ in this dark world.  We’re the ones with the message of hope and salvation to those who are lost and dying.  When we live for ourselves, we miss the whole point of why the Lord placed His Holy Spirit in us.

When we live as sheep without a shepherd, then we’re on dangerous ground.  The enemy is able to pick us off, one by one.  That’s why so many Christians have the same problems as the world.  We should be living at a level that’s so much higher.

Make it your goal to place yourself under a God-assigned shepherd who will speak God’s word into your life.

Question: How has following a God-given shepherd protected you from an attack of the enemy?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Preparation is Everything

When you think about the ministry of Jesus, what’s the picture you get in your mind?  Do you think that He simply wandered around Israel with no objectives, preaching as He walked along?  As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, we’ll start to see the logistics involved in the Lord’s ministry.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.  Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.
Mark 6:6b-7

Jesus’ work in Israel is starting to grow.  Larger crowds are coming to hear Him speak.  At the same time, the number of disciples is increasing.  At this point, the Lord probably has about 20 people in His group all traveling with Him.

We sometimes get the idea that life was somehow easier in the ancient world.  In actuality, they had some of the same challenges that we have in our modern society.

It’s always easier when one or two people are traveling together.  Food and lodging aren’t too tough to find along the way.

But now Jesus is moving around with a group of twenty.  Think about it.  That’s not something that could just be done without any prior preparation.

After all, there were no restaurant chains along the highway.  There were no big name hotels with 800 numbers to book in advance.  They had no arenas that could schedule a huge event with advanced ticket sales.

Jesus needed some of His disciples to do the advance work in the cities He was heading to.  They needed to let the towns know that the lord was on His way there.  Then they had to report back as to where they would sleep, get food, and what would be the best place to preach when they arrive.

Later on in His ministry, as the team grew to over a hundred, Christ had 72 workers who did this job.  (Luke 10:1)  Jesus never had the attitude of, “We’ll just figure it out when we get there.”  It’s sad that many churches and ministries have no vision other than to hold meetings, and then just see what happens.

The Lord never took that approach.  He even instructed the disciples as to how they were to accomplish their objectives.

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff — no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.  Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.  Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.  And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”
Mark 6:8-11

Contrary to what some teach, this is not Jesus laying the groundwork for a poverty mentality among His ministers.  This was the vetting process for the towns Jesus was about to pass through on His intended course of travel.

By taking nothing with them, they were testing whether or not a town was ready for the full ministry of the Messiah.  If they were not willing to supply the needs of two lone travelers representing Christ, then they weren’t worthy of the tremendous blessing that would be given to their town when Jesus arrived.

That’s why it’s important to pray, seek God’s direction, and make plans for how your ministry will progress.  It doesn’t just happen by accident.  You have to put some legs on the dreams and visions God has placed in your heart.

Question: What’s the next step you have to do to prepare for what God has in your future?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2018 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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