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The Witnesses: Dr. James Naismith
Dr. James Naismith was born in 1861 in Ramsay Township, Ontario, Canada. Naismith’s parents died of typhoid when he was only 9-years-old leaving him to live with his strict religious grandmother and uncle.
In 1883, Naismith entered McGill University in Quebec. Initially, he stayed away from sports until friends suggested he join football rugby and lacrosse to stay fit. He graduated top 10 in his class earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and Hebrew. Naismith won scholarships in theology and continued to participate in sports, much to the dismay of his professors. They particularly didn’t like lacrosse due to its aggressive nature. Yet Naismith held to his belief that a person could play sports and have a good spiritual life.
After obtaining his diploma and becoming an ordained minister, Naismith departed for Massachusetts and joined the YMCA in the summer of 1890. While teaching youth physical education, he discovered that football, baseball, and track and field were great in the summer months, but there was nothing in the winter months to keep the young boys busy and off the streets at night.
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Identifying that next leader is not easy. You must often times select a few prospects and begin to work with them waiting for the cream to rise to the top. While you are mentoring and waiting for maturity, here are a few things to begin to look for.
Leadership in the past. The best predictor of the future is the past. Is this a person who has worked well on a team previously? Maybe, they needed a break and stepped aside for rest, but are now able to get back on board.
The capacity to create or catch vision. When I talk to people about the future, I want their eyes to light up. I want them to ask the right questions. When you are sharing your vision with people do they get excited along with you? Do they offer suggestions that spur your imagination further? When you find someone who is able to catch the same vision as you, you have found someone that you can entrust much of the responsibility with. They will have a similar passion for the work as you yourself would.
A constructive spirit of discontent. Some people would call this criticism, but there's a big difference in being constructively discontent and being critical. The unscratchable itch is always in the leader. These people are a bit hard to sift from the genuine critics, but when you do you may have found a diamond in the rough. Just because they are questioning a few things does not mean they are not on your side. Give them an opportunity to help make a needed change and you may have found a great friend
Practical Ideas. Not everybody with practical ideas is a leader, of course, but leaders seem to be able to identify which are and which aren't. A person's experience will often times lend practical ideas. When someone offers an idea that is helpful, it may be that they have been involved in a project much like what you are facing which will make them a helpful candidate for your ministry team.
A willingness to take responsibility. Leaders will bear work, for the feeling of contributing to other people is what leadership is all about. When you find a person who is willing to take responsibility for not only the ministry you have given them, but also the success of it, you have found pure gold. These are people to build upon. The ministry is dependent on individuals who are willing to take responsibility.
A completion factor. In the military, it is called "completed staff work." The half-cooked meal isn't what you want. Someone who competes what they have set out to do is invaluable. When looking for leadership that will help you move your church forward, look for people who finish what they start, no matter how small or trivial the task is.[ read more...]
The main purpose of interpreting a text is not UNIQUENESS but CLARITY! The first task of the preacher is EXEGESIS – careful, systematic study of the Scripture to discover the original, intended meaning; to find out the original intent of the words of the Bible; to hear the Word as the original recipients heard it. But we don’t just do exegesis when there is an obvious difference between THEN and NOW – it is the first step in studying EVERY text
- Go back to the original and the best sources for yourself first – don’t just begin by consulting somebody’s book! (i.e. Mark 10:23 – one “expert” said there was a gate in Jerusalem called the “Needle’s Eye” which camels could only go through on their knees, but that gate never existed!)
- We must always guard against EISEGESIS – reading our desired interpretation into the text instead of letting the text speak to us!
To provoke your thinking, one of the best things to do is use several Bible translations that you know in advance will differ in their interpretation.
There are three basic theories of translation:
- Literal: advantage – as close as possible to the original; disadvantage – doesn’t account for cultural differences in customs and expressions (i.e. King James Version)
- Free: advantage – eliminates historical and cultural “barriers” by expressing Scripture in modern terms; disadvantage – since it is more concerned with translating “ideas” it is not always accurate in exact wording (i.e. Phillips, Living Bible, The Message)
Jesus died for the sins of the world. He did not die for most, several or some. He died for all. When He suffered on the cross, He did not have only a few hundred or a few thousand on His mind. What held Him to that tree was every single man, woman, boy and girl who would ever live on this planet. Is our own directive the same?
How many churches would be quite satisfied if they could just reach a few hundred from their community. Think about it, if your church directly affected 300-500 souls on a weekly basis, would you be satisfied? I would. For a while any way.
We've got to stop thinking small. Jesus did not think small. The scripture does not speak small. This gospel was given that every single person ever conceived could have a relationship with Him. For too long the Church’s growth has been limited by our small thinking.
There are well over 6 billion people on this planet today. Some would say that God will add to the church in His time. That growth will happen when He wills it to happen. Jesus proved his commitment and desire to see every person in your city saved when he suffered that horrific beating and the cruel death of the cross.
Revival has nothing to do with God’s will for it to happen. He has proven His will. It has everything to do with our putting ourselves in a position to allow it to happen and to receive and maintain it when it comes.[ read more...]
We live in a world that needs healing. We are surrounded by people who need healing. The pain of this healing is manifold. It comes from the past. It comes from the present. It is physical. It is emotional. It is spiritual. It is mental. Some of these people have received a bad report from the doctor and are desperate for a miracle. Physical injuries of every kind have left others maimed or crippled to the point that they struggle to accomplish even the smallest of tasks. Many others are victims of childhood abuses and neglect that have crippled them emotionally and mentally as adults.
These people encircle our churches. They are our members. They are our neighbors. They are the people we bump into at the grocery store and places where we do business. We speak to them on our jobs. We speak to them on the streets. Every day of our lives we are in constant contact with individuals who desperately need a healing of some sort in their life.
But healing does not come. The pain does not subside. The inner and outer suffering is constant and there is oftentimes no help from doctors, psychologists, counselors or even the ministry.
This is very sad, especially when you consider that many people spend their entire lives and fortunes seeking the healing they need.
Just because a person is a member of a church and filled with God’s Spirit does not mean they are not still suffering as the world does. Oftentimes, a person can sit in a church pew their entire lives, and many of them never do completely open up and let God heal the wounds of their heart and mind. Others still are struggling with the news they just received from the doctors. Panic, fear and despair all attack these sweet people as the realization sets into their minds that they may not have long to live or that their malady is something that cannot be healed by the doctors.
For many, the doctors and specialist have done all they can do. Help is not eminent. The suffering is going to continue. Pain, of the heart and mind and throughout the body, is all they have to look forward to. Fear, panic, worry, and anxiety of every kind is constant and is not promised to end.
But God asks the question, “Are You Ready For Your Healing?”
Why does it seem that God heals some and not others?[ read more...]
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
There are many worship services going on today but too many lack Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) involvement. The only way to lead a Spirit-filled worship service is if those doing the leading are filled with the Spirit. Sounds basic I know, but it really is the answer to leading a true Holy Ghost inspired worship service. Those who are involved need to have a true love for worshipping God and they need to express that while leading. The musicians, singers and anyone on the platform leading worship should be full of the Holy Ghost themselves (John 20:22).
Lead by example! When you are singing songs about worship and you yourself are not worshipping, you are sending the wrong message. As "worship leaders" we should be leaders of worship. To lead someone is to show someone the way. While leading worship, one should not feel constrained or bound by anything. Outward demonstrative worship requires us doing just that…demonstrating worship! Whatever the Lord impresses on your heart to do while leading, you should do without hesitation.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
liberty- freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
Pray to be sensitive to the Lord's leading. The Lord knows in each and every service, where He wants to take the congregation. If we limit Him by not leading the way we are supposed to lead, the service goes in the wrong direction. We should pray every service to be sensitive to His voice and that He would show us what He would have us do in that service. Worship is not something we do for anyone else but for our Creator. Worship is something that does not require the attention or approval of anyone else but our Lord and Savior! We were created to worship Him. He doesn't make or force us to do it, it is something He wants us to do from the bottom of our hearts. He gives us the choice to worship Him or to not worship Him.[ read more...]
I marveled as I observed each presentation. The goals were impressive, and every presenter received accolades at the conclusion of each delivery. It was an annual goal setting and calendar planning session. It was expected that I would be impressed. When everyone was finished the pastor asked me if I had any questions for the various department leaders now that the presentations were finished. I did have a few.
“How many people on your team or in each department have any clue as to what you just presented? As the department leader did any of you create these presentations on your own and without the input of your team? Were any of these presentations simply modifications to last years? Did anyone achieve what was proposed to do last year? How do you hold yourselves accountable to attaining these goals? Do you or they know how you are going to accomplish these goals? How do your goals support the goals of the other departments? Are the goals of every department mutually supporting one common church vision? Are the goals of any one department pulling in a separate direction and counteracting the goals of another? Did the church develop its vision first and then have every department develop goals that are essential in order to reach the vision? Are your goals self-serving or do they benefit everyone else? Are any departments competing for people, calendar time, resources or talents in order to achieve your goals? How do you intend to measure these goals in order to track them? What data did you use in order to set your goals? Does anybody know exactly where this church is heading and what its vision is?”
These were just a few of the questions I asked. Surprisingly nobody had answers for any of these questions.
I then told them a true story. Recently my wife and were stopped at a traffic light. A Day Care Center was located on the corner and we observed over twenty children and a few teachers having a car wash. It was hilarious! Each child had on a little yellow T-shirt with the Day Care Center logo emblazoned proudly across the front. They were running, chasing each other, and expending a lot of energy. It looked like a swarm of little bees humming around. One little boy was chasing some girls with a soapy sponge. Another was spraying his friends with the water hose. There was a cacophony of screaming and laughter in the air. We both laughed at the sight of the people actually doing all of the work. The teachers were washing the cars and trying in vain to get everyone to cooperate with them.[ read more...]
This is the third installment in a series on spiritual abuse. The whole idea of spiritual abuse is a very troubling at best. The church was intended to be a place of redemptive recovery facilitated by the grace of God. When manipulative control moves to the forefront it can have a very harmful effect on the people who gather to worship. It also has to be established that spiritual abuse can take place in a reverse order. It can originate from the congregation in the form of a board of elders or a single influential member who controls the pastor through financial means or sometimes through psychological and physical intimidation. Increasingly one will find the reverse order in churches that once had to deal with a pastor who was spiritually abusive.
Spiritual abuse is defined as “the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support, or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment.” It can be defined another way as “destructive and dangerous involvement in a religion that allows the religion, not a relationship with God, to control a person’s life. He also goes on to say, “People broken by various experiences, people from dysfunctional families, people with unrealistic expectations, and people out for their own gain or comfort seem especially prone to it.”Spiritual leaders who resort to this kind of activity may or may not immediately recognize the control they are exerting. The trend usually isn’t immediately recognized but as time passes the cycle of behavior manifests in a manner that has a horrific effect on people’s lives. Even worse is the leader who acclimates himself to a state of denial of his own personal responsibility. To compensate for the increasingly unsettled environment, he may begin to assign all of the spiritual shipwrecks of the past as those who were “wolves” or “rebellious.”
As I filtered through all of the material concerning spiritual abuse, I jotted down a series of questions concerning not just the church but the leader too. They were based more on a rhetorical nature that did not so much require an answer but rather an evaluation of the spiritual health of the place where this activity is taking place.
• What does spiritual abuse do to those who worship there? How does it affect their sense of worship and understanding of God?
• Can God have freedom to transform and can grace really do an adequate work in this atmosphere where fear, intimidation, and manipulation prevail?
• Can true spiritual growth and discipleship take place in this setting?
• What do the actions of the pastor have on his soul in the long term? This was a very troubling question to me personally. What dark things begin to take place in the soul of the pastor who exerts force in such a way that he is never challenged and held to a standard of accountability himself?
• Are his actions motivated by pride of place or position?
• Has he moved from being an under-shepherd to a lord over God’s heritage? Such spiritual abuse literally takes the place of God in the working of the church.
• Is there a sense of the grace of God reflected in any of the public ministry of the Word?
• Is there an attempt to place heavy weights on the people he is called to shepherd?
• Does he empower people to live in a venue of spiritual growth in a public setting as well as within the private confines of the heart?[ read more...]
In one of our recent family devotions, my wife and I sat our three children down to talk about the importance of 'family.' We do this ever so often because our children, and probably yours as well, often withdraw into their own world of fantasy and ignore the rest of the family. They each have their own room and their own ideas about how to spend their free time. If we allow them, they will shut themselves out from the rest of us to do their thing. While this can be cute when they are very young, my wife and I have noticed that it lends itself strongly to an attitude of selfishness. It becomes all about 'me' and less about others in the family. When the kids do get together, it becomes a war of words or worse, as each of them stand up for what they feel is 'their rights'. They have no sympathy or compassion for their siblings. It is almost as if they desire to build their own little 'kingdom' or 'empire' in their own little space.
As I was thinking about this it struck me that this is also a danger for all of us in ministry. If we are not careful, we can allow ourselves to get caught up in building 'our kingdom' instead of building 'His Kingdom.' Even though we feel like we are doing the work of Christ, it can become more about 'me' and less about others. There is a grey area here where the lines of demarcation become blurred. 'His Kingdom' begins to blend into 'my kingdom.' Motives become mismanaged. Desires turn dangerous. And it is not too long until 'my kingdom' becomes more important than anything or anybody else. Because of this danger, we all need to test ourselves every so often. We do this by asking; How do I feel about the others in this Kingdom? Do I truly have sympathy and compassion for their needs? Or, are my desires more important?
As we all do, I understand the importance of caring for others, but recently, while listening to a Jewish Rabbi, this understanding became crystal clear.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin was speaking of the typical Orthodox Jewish family. I paraphrase his words;
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Why is it that everywhere in the world the Jewish people are so successful and wealthy? Why are their families so close knit and strong? Why is there very little divorce?
The obvious answer is they put God first. However, beyond that, it is because of their strong sense of 'family'.
The origin of the Hebrew word for 'family' means; to serve. A family is not a family unless they serve one another. Brother serves brother. Sister serves sister. Husbands serve their wives. They put others needs in front of their own. The Jewish people live this way.
All it takes to start a fire is a little fuel, the right atmospheric conditions, and a source of ignition, perhaps as small as a tiny spark. If circumstances are right, a single blade of grass once ignited can build into an inferno that burns and ravages countless acres of prime forest. Humble beginnings can transmute into raging fire storms, exploding trees, molten sand, and death. The aftermath of such devastation causes one to wince in regret at the horrible and blackened scars left behind where beauty once stood. As unnatural as it may appear it is but another witness of the beauty of the healing and creative powers of God. Most pristine forests have at one time or another been destroyed by fire, but eventually they grow back stronger and more beautiful than ever. It is a cycle that must be understood.
Seral Succession is an ecological principle in which, over time, the natural biological systems become so developed that they begin to atrophy and bog themselves down. A strong forest becomes weakened and diseased because of the vines, weeds and assorted parasitical vegetations that erode its strength. New growth is repressed and beauty lies dormant because the system prohibits it. Extreme cases may require a controlled burn - an act of destruction - before beauty, order and strength can return. The temporary and painful state of charred ugliness is quickly forgotten once the beauty of a healthy forest burst though.
The same principle applies to agriculture. It is not uncommon for farmers to burn certain fields in anticipation of planting a future crop. Soon afterward the tractor tills the soil and much of the ugliness disappears. As horrible as the blackened field may have first appeared, its memory will be completely erased as spring bursts forth in a display of brilliant colors and verdant growth where once only charcoal and ash had been.
In effect, the fire’s devastation produces healing by burning away the undergrowth that prevents fresh, new vegetation. The ash becomes a natural fertilizer.[ read more...]