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Category Archives: The Church

God Pleaser or Man Pleaser?

Who are you trying to please by your ministry?  That’s a question we all need to answer.  It determines your destiny in Christ.

I’m continuing my look at the book of Galatians.  It’s Paul’s letter combatting legalism.  He starts off by talking about his own walk with the Lord.  What was the Apostle’s motive toward the ministry?

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

This verse deals with some key motivational attitudes.  What is it that you’re actively trying to accomplish in your ministry?  If your fulfillment isn’t coming from Christ, then there may be some course correction that’s needed.

The first important word in this verse is approval.  The phrase, trying to win the approval of men, means to convince men.

Are you trying to convince people that they need to serve God?  If you are, that’s the first sign of a man pleaser.  It’s not our job to convince people.

We’re called to hear from the Holy Spirit, then to speak the Word that we’ve heard.  It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to use the Word to convict and convince those listening.  This is something Paul was keenly aware of.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

The next important word is trying.  It means to desire and seek after.

Where are you seeking your validation from?  That may require some soul searching to truly answer the question.  Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re looking to man.

You preach the Word.  Many lives are touched and blessed by the message.  One person comes up to you after the service and tells you they didn’t agree with you.  Suddenly you feel like a failure and want to quit the ministry.  That’s a sign that you’re seeking in the wrong direction.

It’s nice when our ministry has a positive effect on those who receive it.  But that’s not always a requirement of the assignment we’ve been given.  I’m glad that Christ didn’t rely upon the response of the Pharisees to continue His plan to save us.

The final phrase I want to look at is to please men.  That literally means to get an emotional response from people.

Are you trying to stir people’s emotions?  Emotionalism and hype are the mainstays of the entertainment industry.  In case you didn’t already know this, the ministry of the Word is NOT a form of entertainment.

It’s so unfortunate that many churches build their services around the American entertainment model.  Please understand; I know that we have to present the message of Christ in a way that’s relevant to our society.  In that sense, there will always be a measure of professionalism.

We want the music, the flow of the service, and the time investment to be welcoming to those attending.  It’s the motivation that needs to be examined.  What’s the goal?

Am I choreographing the service so that at one point people will stand to their feet and cheer?  Am I out to bring tears to peoples’ eyes?

According to Paul, my ultimate goal is to serve Christ.  I firmly believe that if I do that well; then emotions will be stirred.  But instead of a passing excitement, their lives will be changed by the power of God.

Like the Apostle Paul, we need to have the attitude of a God pleaser.

Question: When have you had to choose between pleasing God or man?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, The Church

 

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Our Declaration of Independence

I’m now going to begin posting from the third of the foundational books of the New Testament – Galatians.  It was written by Paul at the same time and place that he wrote 1 Thessalonians (Click here for review).

Just to remind you; James was written as a Christian primer for new believers and 1 Thessalonians was an encouragement to a new church.  Now, with Galatians, we’ll see how Paul handles a long-standing church that was beginning to fall into legalism.

Many call the book of Galatians our spiritual Declaration of Independence.  In it, Paul lays out the true relationship between the Law of Moses and God’s will for the church.  There are many believers who fail to recognize the total package that Christ purchased for us on the cross.

It’s the principles in this letter that sets Christianity apart from all other religions.  We’re not just a sect of Judaism.  Christ is doing a whole new thing in the church.

Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia…
Galatians 1:1-2

This opening line is the key to understanding Paul’s mission and authority.  Becoming an apostle was not his idea.  It wasn’t something he studied and trained for.  He had no MDiv.  He never stood before a denominational ordination committee.

Think about how far we’ve fallen from those days.  In many circles, becoming a pastor or preacher is simply a career choice based on personal preference.  You go to school, get a degree, and then get ordained.  Next, you candidate at a church for the position of pastor, they vote, and you’re elected.

Yes, I realize that a great number of ministers are there because of the clear call of God on their lives and I’m one of them.  But for too many, it’s just a choice they made to pursue a career that they liked the sound of.

Please understand that the ministry to the body of Christ is not something to enter into lightly.  It’s a spiritual battleground that can destroy you if you’re not prepared.  Each year, hundreds of pastors and leaders drop out of the ministry because of this fact.  I personally have had many minister friends who are now selling cars or insurance because they couldn’t handle the pressures or demands.

When we read Paul’s letters, we’re not just reading the suggestions of an intelligent teacher.  We’re hearing God’s heartbeat for the church.  This is something Paul learned by spending years at the feet of the Holy Spirit – listening and obeying what he heard.

The book of Galatians is saturated with the Word of freedom to the church.  Serving Christ was never meant to be about following a set of rules.  God never intended us to figure it out on our own.  The Holy Spirit is our Guide to lead us into His truth.

Hopefully, as we go through this study of Galatians you’ll find a spiritual freedom that you never knew existed.  It’s my prayer that it will cause you to rise to a new level of faith and power in Christ.

Question: What does spiritual freedom mean to you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Leaders Care

I’m posting about First Thessalonians, one of the foundational writings of the New Testament.  At the end of the letter, Paul is giving some final principles that will help their growth.

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:14

It’s obvious that Paul is talking to the church leadership in this section.  The word, warn, in this verse is the same word admonish, that was used in the previous verse.  (I talked about it in my last post.)

These are things that true leaders should be watchful over.  The problem is that in our generation, so many people don’t want their leaders to be looking out for them.  We want to live however we choose with no accountability for our choices.

Then, if a leader truly cares about us, and warns us of the dangers of our lifestyle, we get upset and leave the church.  If God’s people are going to become a great spiritual force, then we need to listen to the exhortation of our leaders.

The first thing Paul says that a leader must do is to warn the idle.  This literally means to warn those who are out of order or unruly.

We know that the Lord we serve is a God of order.  The church, as well as our private lives, needs to be arranged according to His plan.  When we start deviating from His order, then we need to be warned of the trouble we’re getting ourselves into.

The next thing Paul tells us is to encourage the timid.  This is actually a very important part of being a leader.  The phrase literally means to relate near to the weak-souled.  The Greek word for relating near to someone implies telling your story to them.

A lot of times those who are weak in the faith think that those in leadership were born into it.  They don’t know the struggles, challenges, failures, or insecurities of those who lead.  When we share our stories with them, they begin to see what God can do through anyone who’s willing to follow the leading of the Spirit.

Another part of leadership is to help the weak.  This means to stand next to, and hold up the unestablished.  There are those in the body of Christ who haven’t put their roots down deep yet.  We need to be there to help those people to stand strong.

In a garden, there are times when you have to tie a young plant to a pole, to keep it stable, until its roots are deep enough to sustain it.  It’s the same with God’s people.  Many need the support and encouragement of a stable believer until they can stand firm on their own.  Too often we’re guilty of letting young believers fall away because we assume they know how to live for Christ right from the start.

The final part of leadership is to be patient with everyone.  Now that’s the tough one.  I’ve heard people say that they’re praying for patience.  That’s actually not the best way to become patient.

The reason for this is because patience is not a commodity you can receive; it’s a choice you have to make.  Patience is a choice to be willing to wait for God’s perfect timing in a matter.  It involves seeing things from God’s perspective and knowing that the final chapter of someone’s life hasn’t been written yet.

These are all important goals in the ministry of church leadership.  We, as leaders in the body of Christ, need to realize the truth that the Lord is looking for these qualities in us.  We aren’t judged on their response, only on our willingness to care for and encourage those under us.

Question: What growth have you seen in the lives of people who you’ve encouraged?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Leaders and Followers

I’ve been looking at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church.  As one of the first New Testament Scriptures written, it has a lot of foundational principles for us.  One of these has to do with church leadership.

Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.  Live in peace with each other.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

The word translated respect in this verse means to know by seeing, watching and observing.  We are to focus upon those who we know are our leaders in the Lord.  In this way, we can observe the direction we’re to be heading.

This verse is important for us to hear.  It tells us some of the jobs that God expects His leaders to perform.

The verse tells us that our leaders are to admonish us.  That literally means that they’re to put things into our minds.  By observing them, we learn what we’re to be accomplishing for Christ.  We also learn what to be careful for.

Too often we don’t want to be led.  We want to make our own choices without anybody else’s input. Then we get in trouble because we miss out on the insight that only comes through experience.

But how exactly do we focus on each other so that we all keep in step with what God’s doing?  We see a great example of this in Scripture, when Paul was first saved and he met with the Apostles in Jerusalem.

James, Peter, and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.  They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
Galatians 2:9

This is an interesting verse.  When they met together, the Apostles understood how the Lord works.  They didn’t expect Paul to operate exactly the way they did.

It says that they recognized the grace that Paul had been given.  This is a spiritual perception that comes from time with the Holy Spirit.

Too often we take a “cookie-cutter” approach to ministry.  We find what God is calling us to do and we run with it.  But, because it works well for us, we make the assumption that everybody should be ministering the same way that we do.

That’s foolish.  We’re all different.  Not only that, but we’re all called to reach different people.  What you do in your ministry will never work to reach those I’m called to deal with.

It’s the Holy Spirit who organizes what we do.  That’s why it’s so important to let Him take the lead in showing us how to minister.

I must be able to watch what you’re doing for Christ and recognize the grace that’s operating through you.  Then, even seeing the differences, we can still march together in unity.

Unity and fellowship are all about knowing our place in the body of Christ.  It not only means that I recognize those marching next to me.  I need to see those who are marching in front of me, leading me. I also need to recognize the ones behind me, who are following my example.

Only then can we accomplish all that the Lord has for us to do.

Questions: Who are the leaders you are following?  Who are those that are following you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Growing Love

We all know that we’re supposed to love one another. The question is; how do we get to that point? Paul talks about it in his first letter to the Thessalonian church.

Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

Above all else, we should be cultivating our love-walk. Without love, our faith is worthless.

In this passage, Paul talks about two different kinds of love. The first is the Greek word philadelphia, which refers to a brotherly or family type love. The other is agape; this is a choice to love someone, with or without the emotion.

I’ve heard people teach about them in the past. But it’s the relationship between the two that’s the important thing.

Paul starts by saying that he doesn’t need to talk to them about brotherly love. Of course not. That’s something that grows naturally out of a sense of family.

It’s that close feeling we get from spending time with others. The more time spent together, the closer the bond. It’s not just about family. It can be developed in the workplace, school, and most importantly, in the church.

I’ve heard people complain that they feel closer to their work friends than they do to the church. These are the people who usually arrive late and leave right after the “amen”. How could you possibly feel close without spending time with others?

Feeling close to a church family is up to you, not the church. The more time you spend, the closer you’ll feel. Yes, there’ll be some bumps and bruises along the way, but none of us are perfect. We need to be increasing our brotherly love for other believers.

The reason it’s so important is that God uses this to teach us the next level – agape-love. This is the choice to love – to treat someone as a friend – whether you feel like it or not. Love also treats them this way whether they’re present or not.

We need to understand the progression from brotherly love to agape-love. This is very important in our spiritual growth. The apostle Peter talked about this in his epistle.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
2 Peter 1:5-7

It’s only when we truly love others that we’ve entered the mature spiritual walk. The road to culivating this love leads us through brotherly love. The only way this is formed is by time spent with other believers.

Allow God to work out His love-plan in your life. Be a close, functioning part of a local church. In this way you’ll be able to increase more and more in your love for others.

Question: How have you learned about God’s love by being part of a church?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2017 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Whose Authority?

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Now we’re going to get into a new area as we start chapter 4.

Just to remind you, I’m going through the New Testament in the order it was revealed to the church by the Holy Spirit. The first four books, James, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark, are the foundation stones of our walk with Christ.

Because of this, there are a lot of “firsts” in these writings. In this post I’m going to deal with an important first principle. It’s one that’s almost lost in our modern church experience. I believe that God wants to restore it in this generation.

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

Before I get started into the main subject, I want you to see that God’s desire is always for our growth. Whatever we’ve learned and implemented in the past, it must always increase more and more each year. We want the life of Christ to become increasingly brighter all the time.

The principle that we need to understand is that of authority and submission. These are two subjects that most people don’t want to deal with in the church. That’s usually because it’s not done in a Scriptural way.

In these verses, we see the first time that a church leader talks about his authority in Christ. It’s the foundation for the relationship between leaders and followers in the body of Christ.

When Paul says that we instructed you, it literally means you received instructions from us. I believe that there’s a big difference in those two phrases.   Paul didn’t just talk to them, they actually took what he said seriously; and applied it to their lives.

He taught them how to live in such a way that it pleases God. To please God means that you evoke a positive emotional response from the Lord. Some of our modern teaching gives us the wrong ideas.

The fact is that God loves us and wants us as His children at all times. However, not everything we do brings a good emotion to the Lord. When I operate outside of His will, He’s not smiling happily saying, “That’s My boy!” There are plenty of Scriptures that implore us not to grieve the Holy Spirit within us.

On the other hand, our present church culture usually doesn’t want to be instructed on how to live for God. It’s okay to suggest to us some things, but don’t tell me what I need to do. I’ll decide for myself what I will and won’t do in my life.

By this time, you might think that I’m simply talking about being obedient to church leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. This lack of submitting to instruction has a lot to do with our present leadership.

I call your attention to the second verse above. The word instructions is actually the word commands; like in the military. They’re not optional.

Here’s the important point that I don’t want you to miss. The word authority is not in the original Greek verse. Paul actually says; you know what commands we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

Please understand that Paul is not saying that Jesus gave me the authority to tell you what to do. Unfortunately, that’s how many leaders incorrectly interpret it. Then the leaders try to force people to do their will.

On the contrary, Paul was saying that he spent quality time in the presence of the Lord. He then heard from Christ certain commands that he was to pass on to the church. And that’s where, I believe, we’ve missed it.

We need leaders who are willing to do what it takes to hear a Word from God. People don’t need to hear my opinion on how to live for Christ. They need to hear from Christ, Himself. That’s where God is bringing His church to in our generation.

Question: How have you seen the effect of leaders operating in their own authority?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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The Leader’s Prayer

I’m continuing to post about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church. He’s been very encouraged by the reports he heard about their strong walk with the Lord. It’s Paul’s desire to visit them again in the future.

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
1 Thessalonians 3:10

According to Paul, it’s his constant, earnest, prayer that he would see them again. But I want you to notice that it’s not just about friendship. As great as their Christian walk is now, the apostle wants to see them increase their effectiveness.

They may be strong in their faith, but they’re not perfect. Paul wanted to spend the time necessary to impart what they need. It’s interesting to see that he included an example of how he’s praying for them.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

There are three specific things that Paul is praying about. First – he wants the Lord to open up a way for him to return to Thessalonica.

This is an important truth. I don’t decide what I want to do for God. My schedule doesn’t belong to me. My time is the Lord’s and I use it as He directs. Paul wanted to be in the center of God’s will; hoping that it would lead him back to this church.

The second request that Paul prayed about, was that their love would increase. He already commended them on the fact that their faith and love were actively seen. Now Paul wants their love to increase to the point where it’s overflowing.

This is something that should be a prayer of our heart. This overflowing love literally means that you have excess or too much love than there are people to share it with. When you operate at this level, you’re truly walking in the love of Christ.

The final prayer that Paul has for this church is that their hearts would be established, immovable, and set fast in one direction. In that way he would know that they were able to go the distance in their faith.

That should be the desire of our hearts as well. That we stand strong in all the will of God.

I want to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when I come before the throne of the Lord. To do that, I must have a heart that’s firmly established in Christ. No looking to the right or left. Never wondering what I may be missing out on in the world.

This prayer of Paul is even more important to serve as an example to us as church leaders. We need to have a heart for our people. It’s not just about teaching and preaching to them. Our desire should be for them to grow in maturity and to be able to stand strong in the Lord.

Never lose your vision for others; for their strength and establishment. Make that your prayer, just like the apostle Paul. Be a leader who sees their people through the eyes of Christ.

Question: What prayers do you bring before God for those in your care?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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