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The Chinese Bamboo Tree
By: David Church
When I read of this amazing wonder of life, I can't help but think of the time and effort we invest into our ministries, often without any evidence of growth or life. There have been many times I have personally invested my time, talent and finances into a person or ministry without evidence that it would pay off. There have been times, because of this, that I have given up on a person. Yet, there have also been times after giving up, that I have seen a breakthrough, and that person I worked with finally accepts a bible study. They finally come to church. They receive the Holy Ghost. Those years of hard work and effort finally pay off.
The Bible states;
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
I have come to learn that God's growing season is much like the Chinese Bamboo Tree. There isn't anything typical about it. There is no rhyme or reason to it. We will never understand how God operates, we just need to understand, "in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. I sometimes wonder if God placed the Chinese Bamboo Tree on earth for us to learn from.
What most people do not understand about the Chinese Bamboo Tree is that the growth is not all occurring during that five week span in the fifth year. But underneath the ground, the seed has actually sprouted within days of being planted. During those first four years this Bamboo Tree is actually growing a very strong, deep and extensive root system below the surface of the ground. This extensive root system is necessary to sustain the life of this amazing tree. One cannot see this growth with the naked eye, but one who understands plants knows exactly what is happening. They cannot see it, but they know the seed is growing. They keep feeding, watering and providing sunlight to it because they understand if they stop, this plant will die. This is a great picture of faith.
Those of us who truly understand God know that He is going to do what He promised He would do. Our faith in God is what keeps us going. We continue to invest our time and energy into his Kingdom because we understand that something is happening just beneath the surface. Whatever is happening beneath the surface is a necessary part of the answer. We may not see the answer today, but that doesn't mean the answer is not being worked on today. Our faith in God gives us the patience to keep working and waiting until His answer does come.
James said it this way;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Most of us have enough faith, but few of us have enough patience. I encourage you today to allow your faith to work patience in you. When you allow your faith and your patience to work together, God said, "you will inherit your promise!" You will receive your answer. Your ministry will succeed.
Don't quit now, you have come too far to turn back. Don't give up. There is something happening just beneath the surface! Keep working. Keep watering. Keep witnessing. Keep praying. Keep preaching, and "in due season you shall reap, if you faint not!"
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I Sam 17: 19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.
Can you imagine all the hundreds or even thousands of warriors that were in the field that day? There were both Israeli and also the Philistine seasoned men of combat. Archers. Chariot riders. Foot soldiers. Champions of wars past. Huge, scarred, muscular men of combat.
And along comes this ruddy, stubbly faced, nosy kid who upon hearing the Philistine champion's challenge, calls out…. “Is It My Turn Yet?”
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To give a little history as to how some of the heavy-handed authoritative traits came into play among pastors you have to trace back to the charismatic movement. Out of the charismatic movement there was the evolving of a concept called “shepherding.”
The Latter Rain movement actually had its earliest beginnings in the late 1800’s and was born out of the Methodist and Holiness camp-meeting environment. It would continue to generate momentum and experience growth during the post-World War II years and be much encouraged by the Charismatic movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Marked by extreme excess and abuse of the gifts of the Spirit, this activity led to the production of “prophets” who had little use for personal holiness and consecration. After a while it appeared that they only had a desire for their own personal kingdoms to grow.
As time went by these intruders became susceptible to moral and ethical failures. The subsequent fallout from their failures caused many who followed them to be led astray by their repulsive actions. In an effort to recover from these shenanigans a group of leaders came together and formed what was called “The Shepherding Movement.” Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, and Don Basham were the primary founders of this loosely formed organization who determined that its sole purpose would be to form a system of personal accountability. Later a fifth leader, Ern Baxter would be added to make up what was referred to as the “Fort Lauderdale Five.”
They decided that their work would be modeled after the pattern of Paul mentoring his sons in the faith, Timothy and Titus. They would work toward building a system of accountability that would form deeper relationships among pastors, ministry development at all levels, and ethical standards with emphasis on moral and financial dealings.
The whole system worked with the idea that anyone who came into the church needed a“shepherd.” After witnessing the moral collapse of several prominent men, this seemed to be a good and necessary thing. Who could object to the need for spiritual leadership and accountability? It became very heavy on authority and control in a manner that even simple decisions of daily living had to be monitored and approved by the pastor/leader of local congregations.
As an example, the leader would have to make the final decisions on car purchases, home mortgages, and job opportunities. In some cases, the “shepherd” would designate who young men and young women would marry to the degree that the marriages were arranged and carried through. The “shepherd” would have almost complete control over the personal finances. The parishioners would bring their paychecks to him and he would cash them and take his cut which was oftentimes more than 10% and give them the remainder. So as you can see the role of the pastor changed into an extreme form of authoritative control.
Some of the characteristics of the Shepherding system are as follow:
• Discipleship only takes place when one is committed to the group, cell ministry, and its leader.
• The only hope of salvation is extreme devotion to the shepherd of the group. This indicates the leader has more power to save than does Jesus Christ.
• Jesus Christ does not work directly in the life of the follower but rather He works through a system of delegated authority that flows down from the shepherd. You are to submit to this man as you would submit to God.
• Our relationship with God is not primary but rather it works in tandem with the power of a shepherd who has total control over the present, material world we live in.
• Our obedience[ read more...]
Some of the things you can do in your own congregation to rectify any lack of loyalty are: 1. Teach the difference between faithfulness and loyalty. 2. Remind your people that, according to their new nature, they already want to be loyal. Unless they are outright rebels, disloyal acts come out of ignorance and/or weakness of the flesh. 3. Let them know, in light of their sharpened understanding, you are expecting them to be loyal. They will be what you expect them to be.
Some of the things you can do in your own congregation to rectify any lack of loyalty are:
1. Teach the difference between faithfulness and loyalty.
2. Remind your people that, according to their new nature, they already want to be loyal. Unless they are outright rebels, disloyal acts come out of ignorance and/or weakness of the flesh.
3. Let them know, in light of their sharpened understanding, you are expecting them to be loyal. They will be what you expect them to be.[ read more...]
Continuing this series on Guarding the Gates, which in concept really speaks of guarding the mind, we come to the third thing that can help you. In review, the first thing to do to guard the gates is to be given to study and the second thing is a minister has to be given to prayer. The third guard that you can put at the gate is a quest for personal holiness and godliness.
In the first message on this study, I mentioned the fact that when a man gives himself to disciplined and sanctified study, the stretching of the mind will directly affect the growth of the soul. Simply by nature of the study, the exposure to things in the Scriptures and the accompanying books the minister has available to him, we begin to understand how holy God is and how important it is for us to have acclimate it into our lives.
Holiness is important because of the nature of the work that a preacher must do. Never will I forget the story that was told in the very first class when I begin RN school in March 1985 that was told of Lewis Semmelweis. He was the guy who was laughed at because he outrageously claimed that dirty physicians’ hands were responsible for the death of the mothers who were dying from childbed fever. He was certain that the germs that were unseen were the culprits that were literally killing these young mothers.
I would be so bold as to assert that if my hands, heart, soul, and mind are not clean it will have some measure of impact on the congregation that I serve. In my mind, this ought to place a greater sense of responsibility on all men who bear the vessels of the Lord and they must be clean (Isaiah 52:11)! I also believe that for those who are quibbling about standards of holiness and are attempting to accuse those who are ardent adherents of a separated life of living in a condition of holiness that perhaps your vision has been clouded by the mists of worldliness that are so prevalent in our generation. We wouldn’t dare want a surgeon to operate on us if he had just come in from working in his garden and therefore a minister who has no real cleanliness of holiness about him shouldn’t be operating in the pulpit.
Jude uses strong words when he tells us that we will have to contend for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints. The faith is that dogma of doctrine that defines how to get into the church, who the church is and where it is to go. All of these components of the faith, while intricate, are very simply carried out by a man whose gates (mind) have been guarded by holiness. Jude when he spoke of the nature of this faith he also clearly stated that we have no right to modify it but the risk of it being altered escalated when there was a unholy alliance with “certain men” who managed to creep in “unawares.” Doctrinal purity and commitment to holiness will require vigilance on the part of clean men who have allowed personal holiness to be a guard at the gate.The question may come about as to how are we giving ourselves to personal holiness? There are some points to remember in this quest for holiness. First, a man has to understand that he is only fit to preach if he has a clean life. I am drawn over and over to the writings of Paul to his sons in the faith, Timothy and Titus, and routinely he uses words to describe the character of those qualified to minister. I am going to give you a list of words that is not all inclusive from the ESV that Paul used and these are from 1 Timothy (you can glean many other nuggets if you browse through the other two P.E.’s):
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American society is in the midst of a communications explosion. All sorts of electronic and print media vie for people’s attention. Amid this cultural revolution, there you are, trying to communicate the most important message of all time – the good news of Jesus Christ. How can you possibly compete? Following these 10 principles will ensure greater impact for your preaching.
- Believe in what you say. Ferdinand Foch said, “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” All the crafting in the world can’t save a message that has no passion in it. If you can’t get excited about a subject, don’t preach on it.
- Believe that people can change. Keep in mind that all great communicators have one thing in common: They expect their message to change lives.
- Live what you say. Unless you have credibility, even the best content will get you nowhere. If you don’t live it, your listeners won’t either.
- Know when to say it. Be observant of people’s reactions to your message. When you sense that people are receptive, it is time to ask for a response.
- Know how to say it. Creativity greatly enhances communication. Use all the tools you can to make the message interesting and memorable: plays on words, acrostics, humor, stories, skits, music – all can help increase your impact. Avoid being too predictable. If people always know what you are about to say or how you will say it, they will tune you out.
One of the keys to Effective Church Leadership is delegating work to others - no one can do everything for themselves. Learn to delegate aspects of your ministry properly, and you will have time to complete the most important needs of the church successfully.
The process of delegation consists of the decision to delegate, the briefing, and the followup. At each of these points, anticipate the potential problems.
The decision: Persuade yourself to delegate. You will not benefit if you lead the Church with the assumption that it takes longer to teach somebody else to do a job than to do it yourself. Delegation has its own rewards. Once somebody has learned a particular task, they will be able to do it in the future without repeated briefings. However, be sure to delegate each job to a person with the appropriate skills, experience and knowledge.
The briefing: Make sure that the person to whom you are delegating clearly understands the brief - what you want them to do and by when. Offer ongoing support and guidance.
The followup: During the course of the project, check the standard of work produced. Provide positive feedback, but beware of overdoing it - there is a narrow line between helpful supervision and debilitating interference.
Delegation does not mean handing over control of a project, but handing over responsibility for certain tasks. Encourage people to work using their own methods, providing they stick to the instructions you have given them. This allows you to utilize their specialized giftedness or to provide them with an opportunity to develop a new area of expertise. One of the common contentions arising out of delegation is conflict over responsibility, so it is vital to define exactly what the person is responsible for.
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Here's a question we would almost never ask somebody. And what an incredible question it is. "Are You Backsliding?" It's not a question to condemn. It's a question to ponder. As ministers of the gospel, some would never want to ask their congregations this question as it might offend. How many however, might still be saved today if only someone would have asked them this simple question while there was still time to correct their path?
We ask people all the time, "Are you ok?" "Is everything alright?" And why not? We are genuinely concerned about the welfare of the other person. True concern however, causes one to ask the deeper questions. It forces us to enter into a conversation on uneasy ground. Barbara Walters is renown because of her ability to ask interviewees the probing questions that often times bring those she interviews to tears. They never expected her to ask "That" question.
We oftentimes don't like to ask the hard questions. We rarely enter into conversation with someone where we don't feel comfortable. Yet, here is the place where a person is most vulnerable. Here is a place where they are searching for answers. Here is a place where they often times feel lost. Hard questions demand hard answers. Hard answers lead to a right way of living.
A person who is "off track" seldom realizes it before it is too late. Recently, the news has read like this...
Aug 6, 2011 - A hiker fell to his death from a cliff near a waterfall in the Angeles Forest in Eaton Canyon early Saturday, the second fatality in the...
Aug 1, 2011 - A 26 year old woman fell to her death Sunday while descending from the summit of Half Dome within Yosemite National Park.
July 27, 2011 - A Hiker fell to his death in Buckskin Gulch.
July 19, 2011 - A hiker died on Monday morning after sliding between 50 and 100 feet on a steep snow field along the Grinnell Glacier Trail.
June 25, 2011 - Officials say that a woman fell to her death while hiking on Mount Evans Saturday.[ read more...]
- Get Rid of Stuff - Paper, publications and possessions require maintenance; maintenance costs time, energy, space and money. Dispose of seldom or never-used items. Ask yourself, “What will happen if I let this go?” If the answer is “nothing,” get rid of it.
- Limit Your Reading Material – Realize that you can’t read, know, or retain all the information you receive. Set up a reading folder for holding unread information. Pitch the oldest material (read or not) when that space is full.
- Touch it Once – Be decisive: Handle mail only once and move on. Don’t shuffle papers with the vague “I don’t know what to do with this so I’ll put it here for now” Syndrome. Use a simple DRAFT technique – Delegate, Read, Act, File or Toss – the first time you touch it.
- Think Before Acquiring More – Evaluate before accepting new items. Get off mailing/routing lists that serve no purpose. Ask yourself if you really NEED this item.
- Organize Before Increasing Space – The more space you have, the more inclined you are to be a saver. Keep things as simple as possible by retaining as few items as you absolutely need.
- Don’t Leave Things Out As Reminders – Leaving items out is a common mistake.
- Keep Frequently Used Items Handy – Keep within easy reach your current working papers and items you’ll need when you answer the phone.
- Don’t Crowd – Individual file folders over ¾ of an inch thick need to be first purged, then divided if necessary.
Ever had one? One of those days where you wish you would have stayed in bed? I had one last week. Well, actually I had two of them in a row. My boy Jeremy had just gotten the cast off his arm from the break he received when he fell out of the tree 2 months ago. So, Thursday evening, we decided to take our dirt bikes out and go riding. We had ridden about an hour when Jer flipped his bike on a jump and it landed on his foot, thus breaking it. So to the house we go to get a few things before we head to the emergency room. Before we leave the house though, we should let Molly out. Molly is our 5 pound Maltese. The baby of the family. She is almost ready to come into the house when the neighbors dog comes over and mauls her. She wasn't hurt badly, only bruised and frightened, but we don't have time to comfort her because Jeremy is needing to go get X- rays. This has turned out to be a very bad day.
I wake up Friday morning, thinking, O. K. the worst is behind us. It's a brand new day, right?! Wrong. All I did was turn my head and sneeze. That's all. But now my neck has gone into a spasm and the vertebrae are out and I can't move my neck in any direction more than an inch without causing excruciating pain. So I lay on the bed for an hour. Unable to move. (6 days, and 2 chiropractor appointments later, I'm still in pain.) Boy this is starting out to be a bad day. Unable to get an appointment with a chiropractor, I suffered though a very painful day at the computer, with set back after set back on site development. Finally after a long, frustrating, painful day, my wife and I (still suffering) go to bed hoping tomorrow will be better.
Two hours later the phone rings. It's Kristi, our 17 year old. She was driving back from church camp, a 2.5 hour drive from Indianapolis and fell asleep at the wheel. All she could tell us was that she was in a wreck. She didn't know where she was at and the car is totaled. We asked her if anyone had stopped to help her. "No". "Do you see any road signs?" Frantic and in shock, she replied in tears, "No, I don't know where I'm at." I cannot tell you how fearful my wife and I were. Not only were we not able to tell the police where she was, but we really did not know her condition since she was in shock and unable to tell us very much.
Guessing her time of departure and the approximate distance in the trip, I called the State Police and told them the situation and to look for her on Route 65 between Rensselaer and Lowe, about a 60 mile stretch. Amazingly the phone rings 10 minutes later and the fire department has found her 1 mile off the exit ramp from Rensselaer To our relief she is bruised, but ok. God really had his hand on her. She hit the guardrail at around 65 MPH, completely destroying the guardrail and totaled out the car.
But God is good isn't He! At the end of a second very bad day, I got to hold my baby girl in my arms and thank God for keeping her from certain death. Holding her, I realized that by all rights, we should be in a hospital room seeing the worst.
We can complain about the neck spasms, dog fights, broken bones, and bad days at the office, but when it's all over we really just need to stop and thank the Lord for breath. Thank Him for our children. Thank Him for a job, any job. We would complain about the old junk car that we are driving, but we need to notice the old lady walking home from the grocery store with bags in her arms and a long walk ahead of her. How blessed we really are.[ read more...]