Check the Ego at the Door

Everyone has dealt with someone who is a “know-it-all” before. Large egos are easy pretty easy to spot and are typically pretty difficult to deal with. Problems with the human ego or an inflated “self-worth” or importance have been around a long time… in fact, I would argue that ego problems go back nearly almost to the beginning of creation. I think we can find our first ego issue in Genesis 3:1-7 where it says,

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

I find it quite interesting that one of the very devices (ego) manipulated to deceive Eve in the Garden was the very thing that caused Lucifer to fall in the first place. Isaiah 14:12-15 paints us a picture of a self-absorbed Lucifer with an ever growing ego who desired to be seen as more than he really was.

Isaiah 14:12-15 says,

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Obviously we can see by the end of that verse what the outcome of that thinking was… A man named King Solomon, who people say could be the wisest man to have ever lived, said in proverbs 16:18 that,

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Now obviously we have a lot more at play here with the fall of both Lucifer and man than just a human ego issue… but I think we can see a self-importance or self-inflation issue displayed in the Garden of Eden when Eve is deceived by Satan into believing that she could “be like God.” So… we have our very first example of an ego problem.

So… what is the problem with a little confidence? Nothing… if found in Christ.

But… an ego is an entirely different monster. We see in Scripture that the Biblical model for Believers is actually quite opposite to having an ego or inflated sense of confidence in self. The Biblical model or Christ standard is one of humility and of dying to oneself.

Luke 9:23 says,

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

So… for those like myself who like to be involved and love to serve within the Body of Christ and may struggle with pride, ego, or over inflated confidence… what do we do? How can we continue to serve and make sure that the attention is being directed in the right place and that we are staying “in-check?”

  • Check your motives.

Where is our focus? Ourselves? Or others? Matthew 22:37-39 says,

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself

In this verse Jesus teaches us that the greatest commandments were to love God with all we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we truly strive to keep these commandments it is impossible to have an ego issue because we are essentially removing all the focus from ourselves and placing it where it should be… Jesus and others. That’s what it’s all about in the end anyways right?

Our insecurities are often manifested as excess confidence and the desires of the flesh and this world scream out for attention, acknowledgement, and praise but for those of us who have been reborn in Christ we no longer are enslaved to those desires and we no longer must give them dominion over us.

Galatians 2:20 says,

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 5:24 says,

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

  • Live humbly.

Lets face it… none of us are the best thing since sliced bread or two-ply toilet paper. Without Jesus we are worthless because it is in Him that our only worth is found.

A humble heart has no room for an ego because it recognizes that all we have and all we are comes solely from God. In 1 Corinthians 4:7 Paul gives us a very serious reminder that all we have: our talents, successes, wealth, knowledge, gifts and abilities, etc… come from God and because of that we have nothing of our own to boast of.

1 Corinthians 4:7,

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

It is reassuring to know that all we have we have been given and that the Lord’s work isn’t dependent on our talent, skill, or anything else other than our obedience. God hasn’t called us to be the best, most adorned, highly skilled and praise worthy leaders… He has called us to be humble servants.

Micah 6:8 says,

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

1 Peter 5:5-6 says,

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you

Indeed, Jesus Christ is to be the example for how we should live and He Himself lived humbly. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus says,

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Psalm 51:17 says,

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

We aren’t called to be experts. We are called to be humble servants.

Romans 12:3-5 says,

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

If the answer to your problems is yourself then you haven’t addressed the biggest problem of all. Don’t let your ego be your idol… check it at the door.

How are we to use our Authority?

Many of us have been given a position of authority. What’s yours? Are you a pastor? Supervisor? Sunday School teacher? Politician? Parent? Etc… You’d be surprised how many of us have been given some amount of authority that we brush off, don’t think about, or don’t even realize we have. Some of us may feel qualified… others maybe not so much. So… what do we do with this authority? We recognize that without leaders and without authority the world around us would be in shambles and chaos, but there is harm if we use our authority incorrectly or for the wrong reasons as well.

I find it interesting that in 2 Corinthians 10 while Paul is both describing himself and defending his ministry he says what we find in verse 8:

Authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you.

Wow. As much as I have loved and read the letters of Paul this one verse never has stood out to me as much as it does in light of having been entrusted with some authority. Let’s take a second to evaluate… how often do we use our authority as a weapon to get things done the way we “want them” or to make things fit our preferences? Do we find it necessary to win every argument or to make our opinion or say known? Is it our way or the highway? Do we lord over people with our authority or do we use our authority to enable them, to build them up, and to create growth in other’s lives?

Let’s take a second to evaluate our authority and how we can use it for the building up of others and the success and growth of the Kingdom of God.

  • Have a humble spirit.

All of us have known a “know it all” and I would be willing to bet that all of us detested that very thought or attitude. How do we carry ourselves as leaders? Do we know it all or are we open to admitting that we don’t know all the answers and maybe there are other ways of accomplishing tasks other than our own?

Philippians 2:3-4 says,

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

I believe there is a difference between an authority figure and a leader. I also believe that we as believers should strive to be the latter of the two. A leader understands that they don’t possess all the answers and uses the people around them to collectively achieve success. A leader empowers and enables the people around them to help them reach their full potential in a task, position, or job. There is a whole lot more to leadership than simply providing the tools necessary to complete a job.

When asked what the qualifications for becoming a “leader” were John Quincy Adams said this,

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

  • Celebrate the successes of the team.

Have you ever worked for someone who only noticed when you fell short on a task or didn’t complete it in the way they had envisioned? They only noticed the negative when you are faithful and diligent one hundred percent of the time. It stinks.

A good leader uses their authority wisely by recognizing those around them for what they do for the “team.” In every application it is easy to feel “under-appreciated” or not needed, but when a leader “brings to the light” or raises awareness of what others are doing it in turn reminds every team member that they are an important.

We are well aware that 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 says,

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Using your authority for the benefit of those around you will go a long way to encouraging your team and achieving excellence, and when we do receive praise as the “leader” it is important to acknowledge the contributions of the team.

A solid leader needs no other praise than that of achieving, encouraging, enabling, and inspiring.

When Dwight D. Eisenhower was asked to define leadership he did so like this,

Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

  • Replicate yourself.

Proverbs 11:14 says,

Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Good leaders or authority figures aren’t afraid to train up replacements for themselves! That may seem crazy but a successful leader uses authority as an opportunity to help others gain insight and abilities.

If you aren’t replicating yourself by pouring into others around you then you need to evaluate what your motives behind leadership and authority are.

An effective leader doesn’t worry about team members around them surpassing them in knowledge, skill, or ability. Instead they recognize that the success and enablement of others is what creates overall success. If we aren’t working to build our kingdom, but rather the kingdom of God, then it shouldn’t be a concern anyways.

John Buchan said,

The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.

So… we all have a choice to make. Will we use our authority to our advantage, or will we humble ourselves and use our experiences, intelligence, and position to encourage, enable, and build up those around us?

Will you use your authority to build others up or destroy them? The choice is yours.

Proverbs 29:2

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.

Am I Afraid of Change?

How many people does it take a light bulb in church? Four. One to install it and three to reminisce about how good the old burnt out one was.

All joking aside… there is some truth to this joke. Are we as a church stagnant? Who is to blame for our prolonged lack of movement? Are we really doing everything right or in the best way possible… or are we just resistant to change?

We certainly fear change in the church. One of the most popular and commonly used phrases within the church is “we’ve never done it that way before.” Because… obviously the way we’ve always done it is the best way possible to accomplish the task. The word change has become a “new-age” curse or trigger word in the mouth of many within religious organizations all over the world. Why is it that it has become so off limits?

I personally have been warned many times throughout my ministry so far (I did start fairly young) to not be so “headstrong” or quick to rush into “relevance” or change. In fact, one of the first lessons I learned, the hard way, was that when entering into a new ministry you must avoid immediate big changes at all costs until the “honeymoon” wears off. Let’s face it… at first we must wear our “mittens” because we are indeed handling someone else’s “baby.”

If you are reading this and are envisioning me voicing all my rants about “tradition” please erase that from your mind and hear me out. Let’s think together here. Everyone likes routine. I’m the poster child for routine! I order the same dishes at the same restaurants every time I visit them. I make a list on the first day of every workweek and stick to it. But… in an age of constant “upgrades” and change in the social, political, technological, and work worlds I find it hard to believe that our church “traditions” or ways of doing things are never in need of updating.

Tradition does indeed have value and it runs deep. Comfort is exactly that… comfortable.

Change is hard. Change is often necessary. Let’s venture into this topic a little bit and see what happens…

  • Some things never change.

Malachi 3:6 says,

For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

I believe this first point is the most important point of all… some things NEVER change. Our hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ will never change. It is the same today, as it was yesterday and the same as it will be tomorrow, and for eternity. God’s love for us never changes. The Gospel does NOT change.

1 Samuel 15:29 says,

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

In fact Romans 8:38-39 tells us of our security found in God’s steadfastness in the things that do not change. It says,

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So… in the midst of changing times, methods, and techniques we can rest assured that the important things have stayed the same. In the midst of our “changing” we should build our foundation on the Gospel and promises of God that do NOT change. In fact, we can make the changes that need to be made because we are grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

James 1:17 says,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

  • God is not afraid of change.

 In 2014 Pope Francis said,

God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is continuously surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.

Don’t we serve a God of change? Think of the salvation and change that occurred in Saul of Tarsus to make him into the man of God, Paul, that we know of today. Think about when you met Jesus… what changed? Hopefully everything.

We serve a God who calls us to change! Often we are called to repent and change our ways. Repentance without change is not repentance… it is just remorse.

Acts 2:38 says,

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 3:19 says,

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.

Another huge example of change comes from a story of Jesus Himself. In John 14 scripture reveals to us a scene in which Jesus is talking with his disciples and preparing them for a change. All they had known in their ministry alongside Jesus was going to be different… Jesus was going to be physically gone. Crucified.

Like all of us good “church-folk” the disciples did not want things to change… some of us would say that they were scared or intimidated by the possibility of change. I mean… let’s face it; things were good when they were with Jesus. They most likely felt safe, they were in good fellowship with each other, and daily they got to sit at Jesus’ feet and be taught, as well as see Him perform miracles, signs, and wonders.

The disciples would not understand it at the time, but the change that was about to take place was going to change the world. It is because of this change that we have hope, guidance through the giving of the Holy Spirit, and much of Scripture itself! The disciples would venture out because of this change and spread the message of Jesus and the Gospel, the church would spread and take root. Without this change where would we be?

Albert Einstein defined insanity as:

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

As a church are we insane? Our results will stay the same as long as our method does. Let’s face it… change is a good thing.

  • Things were never as “good” as you remember.

Have you ever shuddered at the words, “back in the good ole days…”? So many of us like to dwell in the past. We like to glorify the ways things used to be. Having good memories of the past is great! But… those memories shouldn’t shackle down our future.

All of us like to remember the times when things were going well and the church was relevant and thriving, but the reality is that we mix our memories with our fantasies and the “good ole days” were never as “good” as we remember. Sure… sometimes things were working, but sometimes our stories are like a good fisherman’s tale. The fish keeps getting bigger and bigger.

There have always been problems and obstacles to overcome, but always looking or reverting back to the ways of the past isn’t going to solve the issues we face today. The world has changed… so why is our method the same?

We cannot allow our fantasies of “better times past” and our irrelevance to lead to our death. It is a death that is slow and agonizing, and definitely not glorifying to the Creator and Inventor of change… God. Invest in your future and create positive change!

  • The mission never changes… but the field does.

All of us should agree on this point… times are changing and we have to change with the times in order to minister within them. We cannot be afraid of change.

In order to reach people in the 21st Century we need to make some changes, not changes to our message, we should never water down our message, but changes to how we get our message out there.

We are called to be “Fishers of Men” (Matthew 4:19) and like any good fisherman we must change our bait according to our surroundings, context, and goal. There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” and with that mentality we aren’t going to get very far.

Just like overhead projectors and cassette tapes, some of the ways we are continually doing things are just outdated. Look for an upgrade!

  • Change requires sacrifice.

Some of us may be resistant to change because of the work it entails. Change isn’t easy! Our routines get jacked up, our methods get tossed out, and we have to be constantly learning.

Even though I say all of this, I will also say… the work is worth the outcome.

Change takes an investment of time, money, and effort. No good thing comes without sacrifice. We are willing to sacrifice our money to buy the newest iPhone… so why are we so quick to clench our fists when we see an area that obviously needs improvement within our church? Sometimes our “improvements” may flop, and sometimes the things we do take a long time to complete. Never stop moving. Use God as your guide and head to the finish line… changing your route as needed.

  • Don’t change for changes sake.

Lastly, after all of this thinking and talking on change it is important to note that we don’t need change for changes sake. There are a lot of churches that will change their worship style, lights, logos, names, sign, etc… to increase attendance, entertainment value, and marketing potential. We shouldn’t be changing just so we can seem modern and cool. Being on the “cutting-edge” isn’t always the best use of time and resources. Find what works for you, make it happen, and constantly be looking for areas to improve.

All of us may not be in the most “modern” church… but that shouldn’t be because we are fearful of change. When change is thought out, prayed about, and done for the good of the Gospel then it is beneficial and God-honoring.

How to be an Impactful and Effective Volunteer

One thing that no church is lacking for in the need category is volunteers. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the congregation… there is always a need.

I have heard it said that in 100% of churches 20% of the congregation does 80% of the work. How does that math work out?

Honestly, there are so many things within the church that are almost entirely dependent on volunteers and so often many of those things go unnoticed by those who aren’t made aware of the task.

Imagine a Sunday without volunteers. It would be a train wreck, and many of us would probably be quick to be negative or complain… well, to be honest, we have no room to talk if we aren’t part of the solution. Complaints go nowhere in fixing the problem at hand.

Where are all the volunteers?

Think about it… who runs the sound that we all tend to enjoy while the band is playing or the pastor is speaking on Sunday morning? It sure would be interesting without it. What about the camera for the churches that broadcast or live stream? Most of us would agree that first impressions are vital when it comes to welcoming newcomers… well, who welcomes guests and passes out bulletins to people as they enter your church? Who watches your kids? Who teaches your classes?

The list could really go on and on… but I think you are getting the point.

At New Hope Community Church (where I serve) we have the hardest time recruiting dedicated media volunteers to run the computer that projects our lyrics on Sunday mornings. But… interestingly enough I get more complaints about words being messed up, delayed, or jumbled from people than anything else.

So… you may be reading this and asking yourself, “where do we go from here?” To that I would like to answer with a challenge: Serve your congregation out of worship to God.

Don’t become involved merely just to build an organization or program, or because you think you are expected to. Become involved out of a desire to influence, change, and help your friends, family, and neighbors.

Ministry is important… and you don’t have to be a “minister” to do it.

1 Corinthians 12:12-25 says,

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

You see, the church functions as a body. Each part, no matter how small, is equally valuable to the health of the whole body. Each part performs different duties in relationship to its contribution to the body. God has equipped each individual differently, with different spiritual gifts, backgrounds, talents, personalities, and abilities… but all have an important role to play.

There are a few ways to get off on the right foot as far as your volunteering goes. Below I will outline a few ways to be an impactful and effective volunteer because a person without a strategy often stumbles and struggles.

  • Dedicate your time.

This may seem obvious… but service takes time. Nothing is more irritating to an organizer than volunteers who are consistently late to their commitments. As a Worship Pastor it definitely makes my job more stressful when I don’t have my media team or sound engineers on time to rehearsals or services. As volunteers we should aim to take the stress and workload off of those around us. Weight is more easily distributed among several different carriers than if it is placed all on one.

Be a servant and carry some weight!

  • Practice your responsibilities.

Everyone expects the music and preaching to be polished and ready to go on Sundays and that requirement carries over to volunteers as well.

Believe it or not… your service is your worship and should be done with excellence.

As volunteers we should be “well-rehearsed” in the same way a musician would be before stepping in front of people. There are several things we can do to become better in our volunteer services…

If we are greeters we can dedicate time to learning the names and faces of those within our congregation so that we can more easily connect and assist when we see them. This also makes it easier to visibly find guests and make them feel welcomed with a personalized greeting.

If we are serving with children or in Sunday School classes or groups we can look over our material and prepare our rooms, areas, or spaces before hand. We can also find material to read and invest our time in to make us better in our service.

If we are musicians, media teamers, or sound engineers we can practice our craft alone so that we are ready to go on a Sunday. Time invested into service beforehand will always make things run smoother when the time comes to perform our duties in front of others. This can also mean getting familiar with the songs and communicating beforehand so everyone is one the same page on Sunday (as far as lights, sound, and projected lyrics go).

  • Develop a proper attitude of service.

A major attribute in becoming a successful worker or volunteer is developing an attitude of willingness and sacrifice. Many times it is easier to believe in something and aggressively pursue it as long as it doesn’t cost us anything…. but the most effective workers are those who willingly sacrifice for the good of the body.

We hear of the sacrifices of following Jesus in Luke 9:57-62,

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I find it hard to believe that in light of this passage many of us don’t have it in us to sacrifice a single service a month to serving in some aspect within our churches.

Work to develop an attitude of service. At first it might not be easy… but I promise that the more you serve to glorify the Father the easier it will become.

  • Commit yourself to being flexible and reliable.

Want to make it easier on those around you or those “in charge?” Well you are in luck! Reliability is an organizers best friend.

Let me ask you a question… how long would we stay employed if we were late every other day and sometimes just didn’t show up to work at all without notice. Probably not very long. What about if we came in every following day with a sob story or excuse? It wouldn’t matter.

If we can dedicate ourselves to working reliably in the world and for the world why is it like pulling teeth getting reliable and diligent workers to work in the church for God?

How many of us would drop everything instantly if our boss called us in for a special favor? I would say many of us would because of the possibility of rewards that could come along with that sacrifice of time or plans. Well… what about the rewards that Christ promises?

Be flexible and reliable!

Tardiness, last minute cancellations, and “no shows” ARE a hindrance to your “ministers” spiritual preparation and focus. This carries us into our last point…

  • Communicate.

Just like in every other aspect of life… communication is key! As ministerial staff we understand that life gets busy and hard at times… we aren’t exempt to that. But with a little help and communication we can make or churches and ministries more efficient and effective. Be willing to communicate in times good and bad. It is never too late to ask for help or to learn something new… all you have to do is ask.

Volunteering is WAY underrated and under-appreciated. Remember who and why you are serving and know that you are valued even when it seems otherwise.

Be a volunteer that is impactful and effective.

Colossians 3:22-24 says,

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

What is your mouth filled with?

The topic this week is one that I think all of us need to hear and be reminded of on a regular basis. As worship leaders, worshippers, and believers in general the world views and makes judgments about us based on several things: how we act and handle ourselves, and how we speak and interact with others. Are we compassionate? Encouraging? Quick to speak and slow to listen and think? Or do we use our words as a way to force our agenda or tear down others for personal gain, enjoyment, or even naturally or unintentionally?

All of us probably are well aware that the Bible doesn’t shy away from, or hold any blows, when it speaks of the tongue and how we as believers must interact with each other and the world. Scripture is pretty clear that we must tame our tongues at all costs. In fact, the word “tongue” (which is often used interchangeably with the word, language) is in the 1611 version of the KJV Bible 160 times! Think about it! That is a LOT! We have 66 books in our Protestant Bible and if we were to divide up those 160 times that the word “tongue” is used throughout those books it would appear almost 2.5 times in every book! Obviously God’s will is that we pay close attention to what the Word says about our tongues…

James 3:2-10 says,

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

James 1:26 says,

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

What I get from reading passages like the ones above is that the tongue isn’t something to be taken lightly. In reality our tongue makes up such a small part of who we are, but yet it determines so many things like: how we are perceived, how easy or hard we are to work with, whether or not people enjoy being around us or interacting with us, etc. With our tongues we hold the power to encourage and build up, or to tear down and destroy.

Proverbs 18:21 says,

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Proverbs 15:4 says,

 A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

What does your tongue demonstrate and give? Life or death?

So… how does our tongue affect our weekly and congregational worship? Believe it or not, the worship that happens on Sundays in our churches is actually determined by far more than what happens during the music or preaching of God’s Word. We all know that our worship isn’t determined by or limited to the sound or words of a song, but rather that worship is an active lifestyle that inhabits all we are, think, say, and do, and that brings pleasure to the heart of God! This means that our actual worship happens more frequently off the stage than on because we interact with others each and every day and our corporate worship may be limited to 1 or 2 times a week on the stage!

How is the way you interact with those on and off the stage building a Christ-like character within them? Are you encouraging and building them up with your interactions and words or are you sowing a seed of darkness and death in their lives and souls?

I am convicted personally, and I think we should all be, when I think that although I may enter into corporate worship with the correct heart and mind I may be failing every other day to demonstrate God-honoring worship by the way I interact with those around me. The 2 or 3 times I may get to lead or participate in corporate worship fails or falls short in light of 5 or 6 other 24 hour days that I may be sowing death with my words.

I love this quote I found… it says,

What takes us years to build with our talent can be destroyed overnight by our character; and, what takes time and effort to build with our worship team efforts can be destroyed by the power of the tongue.

Let’s face it… we have great responsibility. As believers, especially in today’s time, we are under the microscope of the world. Everything we do has an audience and if we can’t speak out of the grace and love we have been given then what does that say about the value we place in that precious gift we are so freely given?

Our talents, abilities, and more importantly our words and actions carry great weight! The way we interact with and influence people daily can bring great blessing to the heart of God and our ministries or they can bring great destruction, deceit, and death.

An example of worship being halted by the work of the tongue is Miriam. If you are unfamiliar with the story it comes from Exodus. Chapter 15 verses 20-21 says,

Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted.”

Miriam was a worship leader and a person of influence that was used by God. However, we see that later on she allowed her language of worship to be replaced with divisive language. Numbers 12 records this,

Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this. (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.) At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them. When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!” The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.

Miriam’s name literally means “bitterness” or “rebellion.” She recorded in the Bible as being a co-leader of one of the most powerful and influential worship services in the history of Israel. But we soon find her being used by the enemy to bring accusation against God’s leader, bring division among the people, and cause the progress of an entire nation to be halted in the middle of a desert.

Don’t allow yourself or the words you speak to be the halter within your congregation or body.

So… how do we do this? How do we build the body with our words?

  • Choose to speak out of grace.

Colossians 4:6 says,

Let your conversation be always full of grace.

Did your parents ever tell you to “think twice and speak once?” Or, “If you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all?” Both of these statements speak such truth! The often quoted verse out of James 1:19 immediately comes to mind here,

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

But really it isn’t always that simple… but if we are to be constantly conforming ourselves to the image of Christ then we must speak out of grace because it is through Christ that grace has been given. If we’ve ever been given a second chance (which we all have through Christ) then we owe it to others to be understanding and gracious in our interactions and words.

  • Choose to bring life through the things that you say.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me… they can destroy my mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I am guilty of living and speaking towards others with that mentality.

If our mouths and words convey messages about us and our hearts then what kind of message are we conveying each and every day as we speak and interact with others?

In Matthew 12:34 Jesus speaks to the religious people of his day in this way,

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

That may seem pretty harsh but the truth there can rattle you if you pay attention to it. Too often we equate our speech or make excuses for our detrimental interactions with others to our upbringing or personality but this makes it out to be more than that… it is a heart issue. Just because you aren’t a “people person” doesn’t excuse your heart for being the ammunition to a dangerous weapon used to cut others down.

In the battle of words choose to speak life to others.

Deuteronomy 30:19 says,

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.

Romans 14:19 says,

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says,

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

  • Choose to be accountable for your tongue.

No more excuses. It really is that easy. Find an accountability partner and be serious in reforming your language in the same way that you have transformed and reformed your mind and heart.

Jesus has done His part in us and now the ball is in our court. Choose to speak in a way that glorifies the Father. Create times of worship in your interactions with others by speaking life and grace.No longer do we have to be careful about who we say what to… because ALL we say is going to be said out of worship to the Father.

This week’s blog was hard because I was writing to an audience of one… me. If you have taken anything at all from this rambling please commit yourself alongside me to speaking life to others in the name of Jesus.

Psalm 100:4 says,

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Let’s not allow ourselves to be like Miriam. I will end with a reminder out of Deuteronomy 28:47-48. It says,

Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of all things.