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Imitation and Leadership

I’ve been sharing about First Thessalonians. In my last post we saw how the Gospel is more than just words. It’s the power of God demonstrated to those around us.

Paul made a statement that I want to go back to. It was at the end of the verse we looked at last time.

You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:5b

This verse shows us an important part of our spiritual growth. It’s something that we don’t think about too often these days. That is; how do my actions affect you?

Immaturity will say, “I don’t care what you think, I’m going to do what I want anyway.” But as we grow in Christ we realize that what we do has an effect upon those who see us.

Please understand that I’m not saying to compromise the Gospel in order not to offend. What I am saying is that in all my decisions I need to take into account the needs and understanding of those around me.

Paul’s reasoning is made clear in the next verse.

You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:6

What we need to be aware of, is the principle of imitation. A mature believer understands that they’re going to be an example to those who are younger in the faith.

Example and imitation is a big part of our growth in the Lord. According to Paul, by imitating him, they were actually imitating Christ – to the extent that Paul was following the Lord.

We should all aspire to leadership in the body of Christ. The role of a leader is, by its very nature, an example to others. This is found throughout the Scripture.

When Paul was preaching the Gospel in Thessalonica, he didn’t take up an offering for his expenses. He worked as a tent-maker to support himself. Listen to his reasoning.

We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.
2 Thessalonians 3:9

The word follow in this verse is the same word, imitate that we’ve been talking about. Paul wanted his life to accurately portray what it meant to live for Christ. In that way, those who were looking to him as a leader would be able to see the mature lifestyle lived out.

I need to live with this thought in mind. My actions are either spurring someone on to greater growth in Christ; or giving them permission to walk in the flesh. You may not like it, but that’s what leadership is all about.

It should be our goal, as godly leaders, to have the same mindset as Paul.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

Be that mature role-model that others can look to and follow.

Question: How have you seen your example positively affecting the lives of others?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Bodyguard

HandsThis will be my last post in a series about spiritual warfare as seen through the eyes of David’s mighty men. In my last article I talked about Abishai, who was a giant killer, just like David. Now we’ll learn a little more about him.

He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.
2 Samuel 23:23

He wasn’t the same type of fighter as The Three. He probably didn’t hang out with them. They liked a good battle with uneven odds. He liked to go one on one with a giant. The good news is that we don’t have to all be the same.

When David saw his ability, he put Abishai over his bodyguards. And that’s the last big point I want to make. The mighty in spirit protect their leaders.

In the body of Christ, it seems like we’ve picked up the world’s spirit. Many times we treat church leaders the way we treat government officials. We gossip and joke about them. Sometimes we out rightly ignore them.

I believe it’s because we don’t understand the body of Christ. In reality, a pastor or church leader is not a commander, a president, or a king.

Personally speaking, when I hear from God, usually it’s when I’m minding my own business. I never wanted to enter the ministry when I was young. But when I wasn’t expecting it, the Lord spoke to my heart.

“Son, I’ve given you a gift of being able to take my Word and explain it with simplicity. You make My Word accessible to a lot of people. So I’m going to wrap you up as a gift to My church to help them attain to my calling on their lives.”

It wasn’t my plan. It’s actually all about your call and abilities. God has called me to encourage you, through the Word, to fulfill God’s calling. That’s all I’m able to do. That’s all any church leader is able to do.

What you do with me is totally up to you. You can choose to listen, ignore, blame, or talk about me. Of course you could also choose to receive my counsel and to pray for me. My prayer is that you decide on the second route.

That’s because those who lead are under greater attack from the enemy. People in church leadership need intercessors to go to war for them. It’s vital that there are those who are committed to protect their leaders daily in prayer.

We need spiritual bodyguards. It’s time to get some back at their posts in this generation. Are you a mighty bodyguard? Do you pray regularly and consistently for those over you in the body of Christ?

Where do you fit in as a mighty one? After all, you’re all called to be one. Are you content to simply be a part of the 600? Or do you aspire for more – to be part of the 30, the three, or the one?

Question: How often do you pray for church leadership?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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God’s Reward for Faithfulness

TrophyIn my last post I talked about leadership. Specifically how we as leaders should be faithful to the calling we’ve received. This assumes that I know both the what and the where of my calling.

In the same way, if I’m a member of a local church, and I know both what I’m called to do and that I’m where God called me to do it, then I can stand secure in my calling. I don’t run just because the work gets hard. I don’t get offended, even if nobody acknowledges me.

It doesn’t matter if someone looks at me cross-eyed. I’ll stay at the post God’s called me to. This is because I’m not serving men, but the God who calls and equips me for His service.

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Colossians 1:22-23

This is a big “if.” We all like to think that we’re unconditionally free from accusation. We quote that there is now no condemnation in Christ. But these verses are all contingent upon us fulfilling our call according to the plan of God. It’s not about me fulfilling my plan because I got some people to buy into it.

On the other hand, if you’re truly called, people will begin to see that calling. They’ll stand with you and surround you. But it will not be a private vision. It will be a corporate vision for the people God has given you to as a gift.

Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?
Proverbs 20:6

It’s easy to say that you love the people the Lord has brought you to. The real question is; are you faithfully carrying out your call? Remember that it’s the hireling who runs away when the pressure is on.

It doesn’t matter how spiritual you make it sound. God’s solution is never for you to run away. The only true sign of unconditional love is faithfulness to the plan God has set out for you. Apart from that, all your claims of “loving the flock” are merely empty words.

A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 28:20

God rewards faithfulness. If all you’re after is to become a big name, then God will not support you. If you’re out to prove you can start a great ministry with lots of followers – go right ahead, but heaven has no obligation to back you up.

Too many ministers take churches as “stepping stones” as they “climb the ladder” to a more prestigious pastorate. We don’t do things as the world does. The church is not just a spiritual model of corporate America.

God’s people are a supernatural kingdom under the direct authority of a sovereign Lord. It’s not up to us to choose where and for how long we will work. It’s the King of kings who decides our destiny and, to tell you the truth, I have more faith in His ability to promote me than in my own.

What I need to do in the tough situations is to stand my ground and let the Lord work His will through me. Faithfulness will bring God’s reward.

Question: How has God promoted you in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Don’t Run Away

Different AnointingI want to deal with an issue that has severely stunted the growth of the body of Christ. If your goal is to stand firm in your calling, then you’ll find yourself in a leadership position in the church. This is important, because the excellence level of the church will only rise as high as the example of their leadership.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
II Corinthians 15:57-58

There is a dangerous trend in the body of Christ right now toward unfaithfulness in its ministers. The average pastorate is only about two and a half years. Unfortunately, this trickles down to the members.

It seems that church people don’t commit to the Lord’s work anymore. When something happens that they disagree with, they move on to another church. I believe that if someone is truly called, then there should not be this running from church to church.

We know that we have the victory in Christ. The above verse explains that because we have this knowledge we have the ability to stand firm (literally – sit firm). We are to be not moveable. We are to be always super-abounding in God’s effort.

How can we accomplish this? The verse is clear on that point – because we see that our toilthat which requires our strength – was not empty. If I’m going to pour my strength and life into something, then I need to see that it matters in eternity.

Too many leaders in the body of Christ give up because the work starts to get hard. They move on because the people “don’t share their vision.” Or maybe there’s a “personality conflict.” You’ll hear things like, “I have to find a place where God can fulfill His call upon me.”

We’ve bought into the lie that’s a part of corporate America today. Instead of loyalty, there’s trend toward self-promotion. If I can’t get a better pay or benefit package here, I’ll get it somewhere else.

That’s all foolishness. Those statements show a profound inability to grasp what the call of God is all about. That’s why it is of paramount importance that you find exactly where and to whom God is calling you.

A spirit of excellence will take nothing less than the fulfillment of the plan of God for His people. But I’ve found that even many ministers miss the point of their calling.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13

We’ve heard this Scripture a thousand times, but do we really understand its implications? This verse, in context, is talking about the gifts that God has given to men. Many ministers get the wrong impression. These are gifts to the church. The church people are not a gift to us.

The reason why many leaders miss it is because they have the wrong perspective. They think that God has called them to a work, and now they have to find people to help them fulfill it.

As church leaders, we need to realize that the work of the ministry is not about us. We are called to a people. We are then given a vision for the work that we’re to lead them into. A leader is to receive God’s vision for the body of believers, then work to bring them into it.

Question: What’s your vision for the work God has called you to do?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Getting Things in Order

SpotlightIn the last couple of posts I’ve been talking about how those of us in ministry run the risk of getting too busy. By that I mean we start to neglect our intimate times with the Lord. Specifically, what Christ said in the following verse.

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
Revelation 2:4-5

What do you do if you find yourself in this condition? How do you get your spiritual life back on track?

The answer to this problem is clear from the Lord’s own words. The first step is to remember. Remember the height from which you have fallen. Think back to what your walk with the Lord used to be like. Allow a hunger to be birthed in you for the way it was. This will make the next step that much easier.

Step two is really the key to the whole process. Restoration always involves repentance. At this point, you may complain, “But I didn’t backslide – I still love the Lord, and I’m still doing the work of the ministry.” That’s probably very true. However, to God, the most important thing is your relationship with Him.

In any relationship, it’s not the fact that you love the other person that brings you closer. It’s the time spent communicating. If you haven’t deepened your walk with the Lord, through time in the Word and in prayer, then there needs to be repentance. I’m sure you already know that true repentance includes a 180-degree turn around to the right path. It’s time to renew your walk with Christ.

You also need to realize that if you ignore His call, you’re missing out on God’s best for your life. The words of the Lord in Revelation 2:3 above make it clear that if this condition is left unchecked long enough, then the church will suffer for it. Jesus said that He would remove the lampstand from its place.

It doesn’t sound fair that just because a church leader is out of relationship with the Lord, that the whole church can be dragged down with him or her. Unfortunately, that’s the way of spiritual things. Jesus said that if the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch. The church will never progress beyond the depth of the leadership’s walk with the Lord.

At this point I have to pause, and give a special exhortation to pastors and teachers. Too often we fall into the rut of self-deception. Sermon and Bible Study preparation time is NOT the same as a personal time in God’s Word. Interceding for your congregation is not intimate, personal prayer time with the Lord.

In my experience I’ve found that many leaders substitute the work of the ministry for the walk of relationship. The key to renewing your first love is to cultivate your relationship with God in personal time with God’s Word and in prayer. Above all else, we should be deepening our relationship with our Lord.

Question: How have you struggled in setting aside time for intimacy with Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Leadership – The Point of no Return

FinishIn my last post, I talked about being faithful to your calling. I started with the following verse.

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
I Corinthians 4:1-2

This should be very meaningful to church leaders. We are described as those entrusted with the secret things of God. The picture Paul uses here is that of a manager or steward.

In the Greek it’s a compound word, house-distributor. God has given us a trust, not only to receive deep things from the Lord, but also to distribute them.

This steward was the hired hand who oversaw the whole household operation in the master’s stead. He was the one responsible for its smooth efficiency. Again, if I’m going to fulfill this part of my role as a leader, I’m going to need to look to Christ as my model for the ministry.

Even after you’ve done all of this to the best of your ability, the Scripture says that there’s still one more thing that is required – faithfulness. You must be faith-ful. That means that someone can put his or her faith in you.

We always talk about having faith in the Lord. Rightly so – there’s no other person in the universe more worthy than He is to receive our faith. The problem is that we’re called to be just like Him. We are to be people who are faithful in the same way that He is faithful.

I’ve found that faithfulness in the ministry is hard to come by these days. Please realize I’m not talking about faithful works, but faithfulness to the call that has been placed before us.

It seems that many pastors and leaders have bought into the myth that’s being fostered in corporate America. They’re constantly updating their resume. That way they’re able to jump ship at the first sign of trouble or whenever a “better opportunity” arises.

We, as God’s people, have got to come back to the realization that success in ministry is not climbing a ladder; it’s following the clear call and leading of Christ.

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.
I Corinthians 4:9

More and more I’m beginning to understand what Paul was writing about here. He’s not griping about the problems he’s facing in the ministry. On the contrary, he’s becoming aware of a fact that everyone in ministry must face.

He says that he feels like a man doomed to die in the arena. He’s just like a professional fighter who knows that he’ll always fight until the day his life will end.

If you’re going to be an effective leader, you’ll have to come to grips with the fact that you’ve made it past the point of no return. You need to know within yourself that there’s no going back. This calling is for good – there’s no safety net – you are going to “die in the arena” of ministry.

Question: Why is there such a temptation to quit the ministry when things get tough?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Leadership, The Church

 

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The Key to Leadership

KeyWe need godly leadership in the body of Christ.  But what’s the greatest character trait that a leader needs?  Here’s one that I think is high on the list.

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
I Corinthians 4:1-2

The Apostle Paul wrote this section of Scripture to encourage spiritual leaders to be faithful to their calling.  He’s talking to those who work in the ministry.

The word regard means, to account or to take inventory.  In essence, we’re told that when other people take inventory of our lives as leaders, it should be obvious to them that we are servants of Christ.  It should be just as obvious that we’ve been entrusted with the secret things of God.

Unfortunately, what should be is not always what happens in reality.  There’s some uncertainty in Paul’s writing because he uses the phrase men ought to.  This means that he faced the same problem in his generation that we have today.  There are many leaders who don’t live up to their high calling in Christ.

The issue should be as clear to those around us as it was to the members of the Sanhedrin in the book of Acts.  It says that when meeting with the apostles they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  The apostles talked, ministered, and acted like Jesus.

That should be our testimony as well.  It’s sad that in many parts of the church, ministry has fallen short of from this ideal.

But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.  When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:31-32

In context Paul is teaching on the subject of the Lord’s Supper.  He makes it clear, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that if we would only take the time to judge ourselves we would not come under judgment.

When will we learn this simple lesson?  We wait for condemnation to come on us from the outside before we’ll take a long, hard, and honest look at ourselves.  Then, when we’re criticized for our failure to follow in the footsteps of Christ, it seems to be easier to get defensive than to take stock of our own lives.

We should be constantly comparing ourselves to the ministry of the Lord.  Only in that way can we be assured that we’re adequately portraying the role of a leader.

In the verse, from I Corinthians 4 above, Paul uses the word servant.  It actually refers to an under-oarsman.  Like those responsible for propelling the ship forward, we have a shared ministry with Christ.

Leaders need to be supplying vision to the people.  The church should have a forward momentum because of our commitment as those who lead.  In most cases, if a rowboat isn’t moving, the problem lies with the oarsman.

It’s up to us, as those in ministry, to set the speed and direction as ordered by Christ.

Questions: What are your areas of ministry?  How do you submit those areas to Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Leadership, The Church

 

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