Developing Spiritual Discipline Amongst Leadership Teams: Part 2

SpiritualDisciplinesSlideIn order to see spiritual discipline developed amongst our leadership teams, we must answer the following questions…

Why should we develop spiritual discipline within our own lives?

What practical steps can we take to develop spiritual discipline amongst our family ministry teams?

In I Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Paul provides enough information for several weeks’ worth of messages out of these 4 verses.  Tomorrow I will walk through 3 simple points we can all take and apply to our daily walk with Christ as ministry leaders…

1 – Strive for your Prize

In verse 24, Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

Very few of us remember the team or individual who finishes second – the team that loses the Super Bowl, the individual who wins the Silver Medal at the Olympics, or the team that loses by 1 point in the State Championship game.  A great difference between those games and the Christian “race” is that every Christian who will pay the price of careful training can win.  We must strive for victory in and through everything we do and say

Spiritual discipline must be evident in our Christian walk.  Too often in life we settle for mediocrity – we settle for being good and miss being great! I believe God has called us to be great in everything we do and say.  We must not settle for second place, but constantly be striving for greatness… striving for victory… striving towards a stronger, more authentic relationship with Jesus Christ… striving to become the ministry leaders God desires us to be!

2 – Train for your Crown

In verse 25, Paul says, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Those of you who have spent any amount of time around the game of football know the physical endurance and training that goes into the game.  For many football players it begins with two practices a day beginning in early August.  On top of that, did you know that yoga is one of the most widely used training programs for NFL Offensive Lineman?  It takes extreme levels of discipline and training to play at high levels.

Beethoven, the famous composer, was known to practice hours at a time every day as a child.  I began playing golf at a very young age, and I ended up playing at the college level for 2 years.  But it took hours of practice and discipline every day for several years – leading up to college – to get to that level.  Success in many areas of life takes much more than physical discipline – it takes mental, emotional, financial, and relational discipline as well.

Our spiritual journey must also include strict training.  Your effectiveness as a Christian is first dependent on your character.  The focus of spiritual leadership demands that you maintain spiritual discipline, because you cannot take others where you have not been.

The success of your ministry will depend, at least in part, upon your personal growth – this is the greatest need within most student ministry teams!  One of the central charges given by Jesus was to make disciples of all nations.  We cannot accomplish this apart from spiritual discipline.  True spiritual discipline takes accountability, dedication to God’s Word, involvement in community, and ultimately truly knowing Christ more and more every day!

3 – Fight for your Faith

I Corinthians 9:26-27 – “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

I know this may not be the best example, but I want you to think of two boxers…  Every punch thrown is meant to land squarely on their opponent in order to send them crawling from the fight.  When Paul says, “I beat my body,” he figuratively means he would give his body a black eye and, if necessary, knock it out.

Paul put his body into slavery to his mission of winning souls for Christ.  We must fight our bodies the same way.  Think of how often and how easy it is to give into the sinful pleasures of this world – the things that make us feel good.  Instead, we must lead our body, making it our slave.  We must continually fight against our own sinful self – at the same time striving towards a deeper relationship with Christ.

Developing spiritual leadership amongst our teams begins and ends with each and every one of us.  We set the bar.  We establish the spiritual maturity of our team around us.  Whether you lead an entire ministry, a small group on Sunday mornings, or work as a volunteer within the nursery, your goal must be to set the bar of spiritual growth high for those around you!

I am one to give those in ministry leadership the benefit of the doubt, but I also believe in a high level of accountability.  As a leader, if you want the people around you to study the Bible, pray, fast and grow closer to Christ, then you must make sure you are doing it as well.  The vision for spiritual maturity in a church will rarely exceed that of a leader’s life.  We must strive to go where you want to take the people around you!

Also, find ways to practice the spiritual discipline in community.  There is an old saying about leadership: ‘If you are leading and no one is following then you are just out for a walk.’  Don’t walk alone toward spiritual maturity.  Discover the various ways to lead people.  The list is endless.  Read the New Testament together over the summer months.  Memorize a key passage that follows the theme of a message series and repeat it during worship.  Commit to a church-wide fast while making key decisions.  Meet 15 minutes before every service for a Prayer Huddle. Make sure every one of the leaders around you is involved in community outside of your weekend services.  Emphasize the importance of quality family time within the lives of your leaders.  Make sure each and every one of your leaders is attending a church service every weekend!

But again – if you are not accomplishing these things, then how can you require or encourage your leaders to live out spiritual discipline in their own lives?

Often the spiritual disciplines are misrepresented as exclusively practiced on our own.  Make sure they are used to draw the body of Christ closer together as well.  As leaders we must be continually growing closer to Christ, leading through community and holding followers accountable to a life of spiritual discipline.

I challenge you right now to evaluate two things – where are you at in regards to spiritual discipline within your own life and what type of spiritual impact are you making on the lives around you? 

Developing Spiritual Discipline Amongst Leadership Teams: Part 1

SpiritualDisciplinesSlideOver the past several years, God has shown me the significance of developing spiritual discipline amongst our leadership teams.  Successful ministry cannot occur without our leaders working every day to become more like Christ! 

‘Spiritual discipline’ sounds like a phrase from another era of history.  Whenever a book is written or a sermon is preached on the subject, people wonder if it is a subject only for ancient saints or a group of monks cloistered away in a mountain retreat.  But we must understand that spiritual disciplines play a significant role in our spiritual development.  They represent practices of our faith that give us the opportunity to interact with Christ.

After accepting Christ as our personal Savior, our faith is developed over time.  Certain spiritual disciplines help us become stronger in our faith.  Unlike spiritual gifts, which are provided to us by the Holy Spirit, spiritual disciplines are more like finely honed tools that aid us in our spiritual journey.  Yet each of the spiritual disciplines takes time and effort to develop and incorporate into our daily lives.

How Do Spiritual Disciplines Work?

A spiritual discipline is a good habit that allows you to remain open to God and become more like Christ.  Discipline is one of the hardest things for us to learn.  Think of some of the finest athletes… Most of them have a strong sense of discipline, because they have to build up strength, endurance, and skill to be good at a particular sport.  Surgeons spend years developing their surgical skills and learning the human body so that they are able to skillfully fix what is malfunctioning in the body.  Our favorite writers have the discipline to sit down every day to write, edit, and re-write until the story is right.  They hone their language skills and their ability to see a final product in all of the chaos of storytelling.

That’s what spiritual disciplines are to our faith…

Spiritual disciplines exercise our spirit, mind, and emotions so that we become closer to God.  They help us see His will for our lives more clearly so that we can live the life He desires for us.  The more we practice these disciplines, the better we get at them, and the stronger we make our faith.

Spiritual disciplines also help us simplify our faith.  How often do we feel discouraged because we don’t quite know what to do or if we are making the right decisions?  Spiritual disciplines have a way of clearing out the unnecessary things so we can get back to the basics.  Sometimes we overcomplicate things, and growing closer to Christ on a daily basis can keep us from making our lives more difficult.

Practicing spiritual discipline also gives us the strength and ability to keep our eyes on God.  When we focus on God, we stop letting other things get in the way of who He desires us to become.  Our lives find clarity when we stay disciplined in our faith.

In John 13:35, Jesus says, ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’  True spiritual discipline begins with our understanding of what it means to love as Jesus has loved.  As ministry leaders, we must set the bar high when it comes to the spiritual discipline of our teams.  It takes prayer, dedication, and a compassionate heart for those we are leading.

We must answer the following two questions in order to see this practically carried out.

  1. What is the purpose in developing spiritual discipline within our own lives?
  2. What practical steps can we take to develop spiritual discipline amongst our ministry teams?

In I Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Paul provides enough information for several weeks’ worth of messages out of these 4 verses.  In tomorrow’s post, I will walk through 3 simple points we can all take and apply to our daily walk with Christ as ministry leaders and will break down the practicality of spiritual disciplines amongst our leadership teams…

Part 2: Monday

Missional Servant Leadership

What does a missional student ministry look like?  As Christians, we must constantly seek ways to reach out to those around us, and accomplish the mission God has set before us. But do we truly understand what that means, or do we allow our own capabilities to block us from truly accomplishing God’s work?

According to Webster’s Dictionary a servant is “one who expresses submission, recognition, or debt to another.”  Servant Ministries defines a servant as an individual who “serves the purposes of God in the lives of individuals that he or she leads.”  Both of these definitions are very vague and do not give us a true glimpse at what it means to be a servant of God.  It must go much further than that.  I believe a true servant of God is an individual that puts aside his or her own needs, steps out of their comfort zones, and reaches for the needs of others with a loving and humble attitude.  It goes to the root of who we are and what we do on an everyday basis – in and through every word, action, and relationship!  It must extend past the four walls of our churches and into our homes, our workplaces, our schools, and our neighborhoods.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 says, “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.”    Joshua 22:5 repeats this important thought, “to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and soul.”  I pray our students see the vision of what God desires for His servants and begin impacting those around them for the cause of Christ!

When discussing what it means to live a missional life, there is no greater place to begin than with the life of Jesus Christ.  Matthew 20:26-28“…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Christ went to the ultimate low to serve those He loved; even those he knew were going to betray him.

Following, the disciples’ argument in regards to who was the greatest individual (Mark 9:33-34), John gives a glimpse at one of Christ’s greatest acts of service.  I can picture it now – here were the twelve disciples walking down the road from Galilee to Capernaum, debating who was the greatest, the smartest, the best looking, the most intelligent, and who had the greatest future!  The focus was completely on them.  They showed no signs of humility, but instead were filled with pride and self-righteousness.  Jesus responds in Mark 9:35 and says, “If anyone wants to be the first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  The first step to becoming a Christ-like leader is to humble yourself and put the needs of those you come in contact with above your own!

Shortly after, in the Gospel of John, Jesus displays a heart of compassion once again.  The disciples had just finished a long walk.  The long, dusty, dirty conditions made it necessary to wash your feet during New Testament times.  Most house owners had servants who would wash your feet as you came in the door.  Although the disciples would have washed Jesus’ feet, they would never have turned and washed each other’s feet.  The time of foot washing was reserved for the lowliest of menial servants.  It was saved for the lowest of slaves.  It was the janitor that was responsible for cleaning the guys’ football locker room of the New Testament.  Nobody wanted to do it, and nobody looked forward to it.  Yet Jesus Christ stooped to the lowest of human responsibilities to show an example of great sacrificial love.

I would have been just as shocked if I were Peter, James, John, or one of the other 12 amigos.  In John 13:6-10 we see Peter basically ask Jesus why he, of all people, would stoop so low to wash their feet.  Just like you and I, Peter failed to see beyond the humble service itself.  He was focused on the individual who was doing the work, instead of the point Jesus was attempting to get across.

Why would Jesus do this?  Why would he stoop so low and wash the disciples’ feet?  Is he not the Messiah?  There are three things we can instill within our own student ministries out of this simple story.  First, Christ washed the disciples’ feet to give us an example of servant leadership.  As leaders and pastors, we must realize that in order to be a true leader, one must display a servant’s heart.  I believe today’s students are attracted to those who are real and authentic.  We must be willing to break, admit our sin, and give a Christ-like example of true humility.  Also, our title or level of importance should never get in the way of our ability to serve.  Although Christ was Lord and Teacher, we continually saw him serving those with whom he came in contact.  If we want our students to realize it takes a servant’s heart to be a true leader, we must set the bar high within our own lives.

Second, Jesus provides one of the greatest examples of humility through this story.  John 13:15 must be our example and pattern for ministry.  Jesus’ purpose through this was to establish the model of loving humbly.  There is a difference in loving those around us because we have to and in loving them humbly.  Despite what Christ knew about His disciples, he continued loving them.  It was a true sacrificial love.  Too often, we love those we can stand and those we get along with.  We love the students who show compassion and who show great leadership skills, but do we love the ones that cause nothing but problems?  Do we love the guy and girl that we catch in the corner making out while on a missions trip?  Do we love the parents who continually pester us with emails and phone calls because they feel they have not been notified as to what the next even is?  Do we love the students who are only there on Wednesday night because they are trying to hook up with the hottie sitting across the room?  It does not matter what we know or what we don’t know about those within our ministry.  Christ has given us the perfect example of loving humbly, no matter the circumstance or situation.

Finally, John 13:17 gives us a pathway to blessing.  Joy is always tied to obedience to God’s word.

As we read on, Christ eventually went to the ultimate human low and gave his life for you and me.  He displayed more love than any of us could ever imagine.  It was true sacrificial love!  What are you willing to sacrifice?  What will your students sacrifice to reach live missional lives?  We must continually reach beyond our own capability and serve God with a loving and humble attitude.  That may mean getting your hands and feet dirty doing some yard work.  It may mean rounding up a group of students and serving burritos to the homeless.  It may even mean creating a relationship with your local nursing home to serve wherever the need may be!  Whatever God calls you and your ministry to, pick up the phone, and, with a loving and humble attitude answer,  “Here I am, send me!”

Upcoming Blog: Effective Missions Strategy for Student Ministry