Answering the Call to Serve

I am a huge University of Kentucky fan. I live and breathe both football and basketball seasons where I get to enjoy watching the Cats play. I grew up near Danville, Kentucky where there are two schools that are very well known in the high school football world.

There is so much about sports to enjoy and so many lessons that can be learned from both watching and playing. If you are a football fan you most likely know that from 2012 to 2016 Peyton Manning was the leader of the Denver Broncos’ offense… but what many don’t know is that there are often quiet leaders in the locker room that we don’t hear about. Those leaders can set the tone for the team.

When players from the Denver Broncos were asked about the leadership on the team one name came up repeatedly… Jacob Tamme. Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver, said,

I would have to go with Jacob Tamme. He sets a great example. Jacob comes from starting last year, to now he is doing special teams and playing on the offense. He’s on time for everything. He makes sure that everybody from offense to defense is all right. He speaks when he is spoken to. If he has something to say, everyone listens and he gives great advice.

Virgil Green, tight end, said,

Jacob Tamme is a great leader. He’s done a lot in this league. He’s somebody who’s been through a lot leads on special teams and offense. He takes a more serious approach to special teams, understanding that it often times wins and loses games. Having a guy that has been in the league for awhile and understands that his role is important no matter where it’s at is great for a young player like me.

Tamme had made a mark on the team with his experience, humbleness, and faithfulness to work hard on and off the field each and every day. He viewed each and every job and position as vital and that earned the respect of those around him. The cool thing about Tamme is that he grew up in little Danville, Kentucky. He went to high school just down the road from where I grew up, he played for my Wildcats, and despite his humble upbringing he got to be an influencer to many within the NFL because of his hard work and good attitude.

There is a cool, and well known, story in John 13:3-17 that goes like this,

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Here in this story is Jesus, sharing the Passover meal with His disciples. He is one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man, and as part of the Godhead He is responsible for the creation of everything in that upper room. He brought life to the oak tree that made the table, He knew each of the Disciples before the beginning of time, He was fully aware of the state of their hearts and minds, and He was responsible for the dust that dirtied their feet, but yet there He was with a towel and washbasin… a humble servant leader.

Luke 22:27 Jesus says,

For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

If we want to know and love God, the Creator of all that is, then we are called to serve as He serves expecting nothing in return. He says to us, “I am among you as the one who serves.” How might we follow Christ to serve others out of a meek and lowly heart?

How do we humble ourselves, receive God’s grace, and serve? How do we avoid the trap of our culture that tells us to look after “number one” the big “numero uno?”

Serving is hard. It’s especially challenging if we find ourselves in positions of influence. A thousand subtle temptations arise to promote ourselves, take credit, misuse our authority, and desire recognition. Whether we’re leading a team, a church, a family, or a Fortune 500 corporation, building a life inspired by serving can turn the “me-first” mentality and ambitions upside-down.

The life Jesus led models for us what it means to be a servant leader in all areas of our life.

All professing Christians agree that a Christian leader should be a servant leader. Jesus couldn’t be clearer:

Luke 22:25–26 says,

The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.

Where there’s not always agreement is how servant leadership should look in a given situation. Sometimes servant leaders wash others’ feet, so to speak (Like our story out of John 13), but other times leaders have to rebuke the ones they love and lead. Matthew 16:23 says,

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Sometimes a leader is called to discipline. Matthew 18:15–20 says,

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Sometimes they serve at their own expense. 1 Corinthians 9:7 says,

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

The world looks at the word “leader” as a lofty title… whereas Scripture paints a different picture.

The pairing of the words “servant” and “leader” is a little bit like the pairing of the words “jumbo” and “shrimp.” What seems to be an oxymoron, or an apparent contradiction, is really a redundancy, like “free gift.” A gift, by definition, is always already free. A leader, by Christ’s definition, is always already a servant.

But sadly, not all leaders are servants. In a 2014 nationwide survey by the Christian research organization The Barna Group, 62 percent of working Americans say they “wouldn’t follow their boss if their paycheck didn’t depend on it.” Roughly 30 percent of Americans report that “their boss makes them feel controlled, manipulated or defensive,” and an equal percentage reports that this unhealthy leadership is a source of great personal stress. A “slave-driver” employment culture is more common than we realize.

Yet God calls us to influence our culture. Whether in corporations, churches, coffeehouses, grocery stores, baseball fields, and communities one of the most powerful transformational agents that exists is the act of serving. Through serving, we humble ourselves, experience God’s grace, and we lead others to do the same.

The phrase servant leader was coined in 1970 by Robert Greenleaf in his essay, “The Servant as Leader,” in which he contrasted two types of leaders.

The first type of servant leader desires to lead above all. Serving is just an afterthought.

The second type desires, above all, to serve. Serving is primary; leading is secondary, the consequence of serving.

What type of leader are you?

What many of us fail to realize is that everyone is leading someone. Maybe you are a parent and you are leading your children, maybe you are a coach and you are leading your team, maybe you are a seasoned employee that others secretly look up to and model their work ethic after… everyone leads someone.

Dr. Mark Berry once said,

A servant leader leads from the heart and not necessarily the mind… As leaders, if we see ourselves as superior to others, then we will never gain their respect and admiration. We may have the knowledge, but if we don’t reach the hearts of those we serve, they will never understand our strategy. Without a servant’s heart, people will never catch our vision.

Without a servants heart people may never catch our vision, or see our relationship with Jesus modeled and lived out in front of them.

Dr. Michael Reagan once said,

The servant leader creates or embraces a vision of the future that encompasses not only the individual, but the community. These leaders work for long-term growth of many rather than short-term, personal gain.

Just as Jesus’ disciples were mentored and trained by a servant leader, so we must be committed to developing others. After all, isn’t life about giving ourselves away to others?”

Just as God’s grace is sufficient in our serving, His grace is made perfect in our failure to serve. Following Christ isn’t about loving perfectly, but receiving love imperfectly, despite our brokenness, and then giving love away in meekness and lowliness of mind and heart, with Jesus the Servant-King by our side.

In the Wycliffe translation of Philippians 2:7, we read that Christ “meeked himself” as he took on flesh and the form of a servant, although He was King of kings. As we live to follow Christ the Servant Leader, here is the challenge to each of us, no matter our calling or career: we are invited to “meek” ourselves, esteem others above ourselves, and serve.

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Developing Leaders

I’m a guy who likes quick results. I don’t like to wait for the long-term results, and I don’t like to rely on other people to accomplish a task. Often times our churches are the same way… some of our churches operate like the New York Yankees. They prefer to “buy” talent on the free agent market rather than grow their major league roster from their minor league system like the St. Louis Cardinals. Many times in church we rely on those who present themselves to us as pre-formed and developed leaders to carry out the tasks at hand, and when the well of “pre-developed” leaders runs dry we freak out and wonder how things are going to get done!

But, healthy churches are developing and raising up leaders from within just like the Cardinals and their long-term MLB strategy. When we take that approach, we know the person, their commitment to our DNA, and their commitment to our vision and values. We are truly able to know their track record. When we hire from outside, we hope it works out and they buy in and do well.  If we believe “everything you need to reach your city is already in your church,” you focus on a homegrown strategy.

Today, we’re going to talk about developing leaders and why we should do it.

Definition wise, I want to talk about development for a second. I think a lot of times people use the terms development and discipleship interchangeably and they’re really not.

Discipleship and development are kind of close cousins, and they really can’t accomplish much without the other. So let’s define discipleship for a minute. Discipleship is spiritual formation. It’s walking beside someone in partnership in order to accomplish the task of being as much like Jesus as we can be. Discipleship is something that every born again believer should be doing. It’s a spiritual disciple and definitely in the Christian Basics 101 textbook. You should be pouring into someone spiritually. Point blank… the end.

Development is a little bit different. Development is taking someone from point A to point B in order to achieve their best potential. So… leadership development would be walking beside and training someone to be the best leader that they can be. Development is focusing on someone’s leadership skills, giftings, and capacity.

I’m thinking about discipleship and development working together and there are some caveats. If you just disciple someone, and pour into them spiritually… maybe you teach them hermeneutics, eschatology, have them read their Bible from cover to cover, and you have them read Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology cover to cover, then you’re going to have this person who is a deep well of spiritual information.

A deep well can really satisfy and sustain a whole city when you think about it. The problem with the well is that it takes someone to get the water out. The problem with the well is usually only one person can get that bucket in there and get that water out. You’re going have a person who is extremely well versed in the Gospel but possibly unable to take the reigns of leadership in order to quench the spiritual thirst of many.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you take development alone and you teach someone to hone their skills, sing the right songs, speak eloquently, put together the most moving services, and create the best atmospheres but they don’t know anything about theology or doctrine. Then you’ve got a dying star, you’ve got someone who is going be great on the outside for a short time, but eventually they’re going to fizzle out because they don’t have anything inside them. So discipleship and development have to work together.

So… why should we disciple and develop leaders? Let’s think together!


  • Jesus set the Example

I love watching videos of kids trying to mimic a parent or sibling. There is just something super adorable about a little boy in a pull-up pushing a plastic lawnmower behind his Dad as he mows the grass that gets me every single time!

The first reason that we should disciple and develop leaders is that Jesus did it… we are like that little boy following and mimicking the actions of his Dad. If you look at Matthew 4, Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist, He’s just been in the desert and tempted by the Devil. He’s about to begin His ministry here on Earth, but before He heals anybody, before He preaches a sermon, and before He teaches on the steps of a synagogue Jesus walks by the sea and He sees two brothers fishing. He says,

You follow me. I’ll teach you to be fishers of men.

Immediately they drop everything and start following Him. He sees two other brothers working with their dad, fixing the nets, and says,

You follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.

Immediately they drop everything. They leave their father and follow Jesus.

Before He did anything else in ministry, He chose men that He was going to develop. He knew His time was short. He knew He didn’t have long, He knew He wasn’t going to have an endless amount of time on Earth, so He chose men to develop first. That’s what He did first in ministry. We should do it too.

In the Middle Ages, specialized artisans raised up future generations through an intentional apprenticeship process. Young apprentices served as understudies alongside a mentor who patiently provided careful instruction and guidance.

We can look to Jesus as the preeminent mentor, he turned a ragged group of social and spiritual misfits into world-changers. In fact, we are the legacy of this mentoring relationship. How did this happen? It took time with the master. He invested diligently in the lives of folks who just couldn’t quite seem to get their acts together. In fact, they bumbled the message and often missed the point as they followed him. But they watched and observed Jesus the master teacher, and He provided an atmosphere of trust, mentorship, and risk-taking. When they were sent on their first mission assignment, they were in way over their heads. But they had seen what Jesus did, and they had clear instructions. They gathered themselves together and the world hasn’t been the same since. Christianity is what it is today because Jesus developed leaders.

Any businessman likes to look at the bottom line and the value of an investment. When Jesus set forth the example of mentorship and development He provided the best example of a good spiritual investment. Mentoring is a risky, costly business. It requires time, effort, and disciplined focus. As ministry leaders, we are tempted to deliver results quickly and efficiently. But remember, deep-impact ministry is found in developing people, not acquiring them. Leaders with lasting impact, the ones who truly change the world, know their greatest impact in life is reproducing other people who have caught their vision and will carry it forward like a virus. If you want to radically change the world, follow the example of Jesus and invest in your volunteers. Disciple and develop them.

  • The Church Deserves It

For those of you who are married think about the last time you were out of town or gone for an extended amount of time. You probably called your spouse right? You checked in and made sure that everything was okay. You wanted to know that they were taken care of and okay in your absence.

Now imagine that you go to the doctor and the doctor says you’ve got three months to live. I would go out on a limb and guess that many of us would make sure with everything in our power, that our spouse was taken care of after we’re gone?

For me, as a husband, I am going take care of my bride.

Ephesians 5:24-27 says,

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such

Now, I think it’s on us as leaders in the church to care for the church… the bride of Christ. Let me let you in on a little secret: Nobody else is going to care about the leading of your people like you do. So we should be thinking about who is going to lead the people when we can’! The church deserves it! The Bride deserves it!

We have to prepare and know who is leading. Hopefully it can be somebody that we’ve trained, somebody we have confidence in, somebody that we know is going to stand on that stage and shepherd our sheep well. It’s on us. We’ve got to take care of the bride! She doesn’t just deserve good things… she deserves the BEST things.

  • We are called to Replicate

Who are you replacing yourself with? Who are you developing to take your job?

I have always told people that if I work myself out of my job then I will be satisfied. It may sound crazy… but I’m not joking. As leaders of the church we should be consistently working on raising up new leaders from within the church to someday lead the people and the ministries of the church.

We are called to replicate.

That’s a word I feel like has been a buzzword in the church culture over the past few years, and usually “replicate” is always kind of synonymous with “discipleship,” but we’re called to replicate because we’re only as good as our last day. It’s true! If I get in a car crash and die on the way home from the office, I’m really only as good as the last day I spent here. If the church misses a beat on the Sunday that I’m gone then I have come short in my ministry area.

Really, when you think about it, the only thing you can do on this Earth with lasting eternal value is invest in someone else, to give a piece of yourself to someone else. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spoke what has come to be known as the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:19-20 says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Of course everyone who has read the Gospels has read this passage, and the majority of us have heard more messages preached on this topic than almost any other topic found in Scripture. 

Typically, when we hear anyone speak on this message the emphasis is on missions… and it really should be! But, there’s quite a bit more than just that packed into Jesus’ statement. There are four main verbs in this commission or command. They are: go, make disciples, baptizing, and teaching.

So… what is a disciple?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a disciple as: a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.

What I find even more interesting than the definition is the word’s origin though. The English word that we know comes from the Latin word “discipulus” which translates to “learner.” A disciple is a learner. We as Christians are called to make disciples of Jesus and to disciple others. That means we should be teaching and replicating what God has shown us into them! We should be replicating ourselves!

It is easy for us as believers to build a castle, surround it with a moat, and live isolated in our own “kingdom.” But… that isn’t how life was meant to be lived and ministry was meant to be done. 

We can look to scripture and see the example that Paul set forth in replicating himself in Timothy. We can see that Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith. We see historically that Timothy was considerably younger than Paul, but that didn’t stop Paul from making a substantial investment in Timothy. We can see that Timothy was the recipient of mentoring at the hands of Paul and it paid eternal dividends and carries substantial weight in the Kingdom of God.

We must become someone else’s “Paul!” 

What an honor that is! We need to be making and effort to be consistently pouring into someone for their benefit and growth… not for what they can do for us. If you are like myself you may be thinking that you have a lot of work to do on yourself before you can begin to mentor someone in their life and faith… but let me assure you that there is always someone who will be blessed by your intentional spiritual and educational investment in their lives.

If we all can grasp the concept of developing leaders by replicating ourselves then we will begin to create and develop a cycle that carries on and benefits the church as a whole for years to come. 

Finding a “Timothy” can be viewed as our spiritual “paying it forward.” We have been blessed by our “Paul,” and then in return we continue the cycle and seek out someone we can bless as we have been blessed.

Do you have a “Timothy?” Who are you pouring into? Who are you replicating and replacing yourself with?


These are just a few surface level reasons to spur on some deeper thought about our personal development of leaders. Why are you doing it?

Diagnosing Spiritual Complacency

One of the terrible diseases of Christianity today is complacency. There is a major complacency epidemic spreading amongst the Kingdom. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

I certainly believe that Satan is a master deceiver and uses many techniques to disarm and neutralize Believers. I wholeheartedly believe that one of Satan’s strategies is to plant the seed of complacency.

I have a friend who served a tour of duty in Iraq. On that tour of duty he worked many road checkpoints and was issued, along with his other soldiers, some very particular gear. Among that gear was the normal body armor and helmet, but that gear also included padding and armor for their upper arms and thighs, as well as a groin guard. All of this gear had one mission in mind: to keep them alive and protected in the event of an IED explosion. As you can imagine all that gear made the already intense heat nearly unbearable. So for that reason many of the soldiers would remove the gear when officers were not around. One particular day there were no officers on site and a newer enlisted soldier was in the guard tower wearing his helmet causing many of the others to poke fun at him. On that particular day an enemy assailant just so happened to be taking aim with a long-range rifle and shot that soldier in the head. The helmet and his lack of complacency saved his life, whereas many of the other soldiers would have been killed. I say all of that to make this point: in combat complacency kills.

In Amos 6:1 the Lord spoke to the backslidden Israel through His prophet Amos. It says,

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!

The Lord was addressing to the people who were self-satisfied and in their comfort zone. They felt self-sufficient and strong enough in their own power. These people had little desire for God, and little hunger for His righteousness. They were self-confident and self-sufficient. Thus the Lord warned them about the impending judgment upon them.

How often do we fall into this exact attitude? We allow ourselves to grow complacent and live a self-satisfied life. Do we truly live dependent on God or do we try to maintain some independence? Remember, complacency makes us to feel secure in our job, safe in our strength, good about our knowledge, protected in our money and possessions, eventually blinding us and leading us to our downfall. Sometime the strike isn’t immediate. Like the enemy assailant in the story above, sometimes the enemy patently takes aim and waits. He allows us to grow comfortable, and complacent all the while he is disarming us without much effort.

A.W. Tozer says,

Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.

Let’s get one thing straight. Complacency is a killer that can ruin ministry. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

Revelation 3:14-22 says,

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

We see above that lukewarmness is a spiritual condition that apparently, Jesus can’t stand. Another name for it might be “complacency.” Complacency is not contentment. Where contentment is finding joy in the blessings of walking with God, complacency is when we have stopped walking.

How do you know that this killer has crept into your ministry? Here are some telltale signs.


  • Lack of Zeal

One of the most obvious and beginning stages of complacency is a diminishing presence or absence of zeal. We all can probably remember a time in our life when we were passionate about something, maybe you are like me and when you find a new interest or hobby you dive in headfirst and it is all consuming? Hopefully we can all think back to a time when we were like that with Jesus. We didn’t need complex theology or big “spiritually correct” words. Yeah… I just went there.

Too many of us have substituted zeal for knowledge!

I honestly am pretty tired of seeing Bible believing friends of mine tearing each other to shreds over theology on Facebook for the whole world to see. I have been there too! At times I myself have replaced my zeal for pursuing Christ and acting like Him for merely knowing more about Him and maybe letting others know about it. Before anyone gets all tore up please understand that I am talking to myself here! Maybe the dissection of the Word down to the last punctuation mark was just a distraction to keep you from understanding it and doing what it says? In actuality Satan, the deceiver, doesn’t care how much you know the Word if you don’t do the Word.

Please read the Word, dissect the Word, understand the Word, memorize the Word… but then go put into practice!

  • Tradition is Doctrine

Tradition entails so much more than what most people typically think of when it is mentioned. Tradition is more than robes, recited prayers, hymns, etc… Tradition is something that can invade and ultimately take over any church, regardless of its denomination, history, or style. Let’s get this straight, when we depend on tradition for our “religious” involvement, relationship, worship, or gatherings we stop depending upon something else… namely the Bible and the Spirit of God. When that happens, we’re on a rapid descent to destruction. In fact, our gatherings become nothing more than scripted ceremonies that we have rehearsed and polished in hopes of gaining something. We might keep ourselves happy, we might grow our church in numbers or financial security, but we aren’t truly pursuing the renewed work of Christ and the Kingdom of God here in our ever-changing ministry field.

There is nothing wrong with tradition itself. But… there is something wrong with depending on tradition!

C.S. Lewis once wrote,

Security is mortals’ greatest enemy.

But what kind of “security” is he talking about? I believe he is talking about the security that comes with comfort. Maybe your comfort looks different than the blanket that Linus drags around everywhere, but it’s still serving the same purpose. Do your traditions make you feel at “home” or secure and comfortable?

Complacency makes us feel secure, but feelings can lie.

Ephesians 5:14-17 says,

This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

How is it that we can be told to make the most of every opportunity and still pass up so many because they didn’t fit into our idea of “church?” Let’s put it out there, we as a whole have become slothful, habitual, uninspired, secure, and complacent, often doing what we do for traditional reasons rather than because it’s best.

Why is it that we, who have had the precious blood of Christ cleanse our sins, now take such a mediocre and habitual approach to those things related to Christ and His cause? From our outreach, in-reach, preaching, worship, programs, aesthetics, etc… in almost every area of corporate church complacency has unfortunately become the norm.

The message is the same, but the messengers and avenues they take change!

The secular world has caught on to this! Look at the music industry. Songs and albums were once put out on vinyl, then tapes, then cd’s, and now everything is digital. The same songs that were once on vinyl can now be downloaded on iTunes for .99 cents! Businesses don’t always change the product or name… they just change the presentation, method of delivery, or audience. Why aren’t we who have the best “offering” putting forth the same effort in our church activities as we do in our personal activities and businesses?

Andrew Grove, a founder of Intel, is famously quoted for saying,

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure.

If we stay the same, for the sake of staying the same, we get left behind and we do the message an injustice! We must understand that our complacency has eternal implications, and I’m afraid that a culture of mediocrity has now become the new tradition.

  • Tolerance of Sin

Last week I asked you to imagine a trashed house full of garbage and the flies that go along with the garbage. Sometimes our lives look a lot like that house, and the natural tendency is to clear out the flies. Sometimes we are successful and manage to shoo them all away, but as long as the garbage remains we are fighting a losing battle and those flies are inevitably going to return and multiply. So, the solution is to get rid of the garbage in our lives. We need to be concerned with the flies, but we also must work to remove the garbage to keep them out! Every trashcan is going to look different… but we certainly all have one. In his strategy of complacency, Satan watches as we clear our houses of garbage and flies…except for one room. It’s more than likely a hidden room, one we keep to ourselves. That room may be continual sin, it might be a relationship, bitterness, or a wound we haven’t allowed to heal. At times the door to that room full of garbage stays shut for a while and Satan allows us to have successes in other areas all the while the flies are just multiplying and building up in this little room. Then, out of nowhere, the door of the hidden room flies open, freeing thousands upon thousands of flies who have been breeding and waiting for just this moment.

Why does this happen? We get complacent and our complacency leads to tolerance or apathy.

Think it doesn’t happen? Take a moment to consider prominent Christian leaders, celebrities, or politicians whose lives and careers have been ruined when they fell in disgrace from one sin or another. We all know them so there is no need at mentioning names. We might look in from the outside an ask ourselves, “how would they allow that to happen” or, “why would they do that with all the success they have?” Rest assured. That fall wasn’t part of the plan when they began their career. Nobody begins a ministry with the goal to ultimately disgrace themselves and God by being brought to their knees by their own hand. Too often the fall comes from complacency. They believed the lie that they could “get away with it,” or, “it’s not that big of a deal,” and when they seemed to have it all together and under control, they grew complacent in their tolerance of sin.

Sin is sin, and all sin is bad. Don’t tolerate it! The church is to be a place of healing for sinners, but a Holy God doesn’t wink at or bless iniquity. He sent His son to die for and erase that iniquity and sin… not cover it up. The only reason the church welcomes sinners is because by God’s grace, sinners can be reborn with Christ’s righteousness. Do not tolerate sin in your own life! Letting a few “little things” slip leads to bigger slip-ups. I recently watched a video of a poor woman who slipped on an icy sidewalk and every time she would begin to regain her balance and composure she would begin to slide and fall again until ultimately she ended up on the ground. We’ve all been on an icy sidewalk… when you begin to slip it is all over. But… you know how you avoid slipping and falling? Stay off the ice.

  • Lack of Pursuit

What is a pursuit? I would define it as an intense chase of something in order to attain it.

My parents have a German shepherd by the name of Obi and he is extremely quick. One afternoon while playing and walking Obi his leash fell off of his collar and went limp in my hand. I looked down in shock only to see him looking at me with the same look of shock in his face that I had in mine. At that point the chase was on.

Why did I pursue Obi the dog? I pursued because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t catch him, of what would happen if I stopped pursuing him!

How many of us have stopped pursuing holiness? Lost interest or will to pursue God and spiritual growth?

Spiritual growth is marked by an aggressive intense pursuit of God. We desire His fellowship, His people, and His word. A life that lacks prayer, Bible intake, and neglects spiritual nourishment is a life that has slipped into complacency and that will see little or no fruit.

Mark 11:12-14 says,

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

When Jesus cursed the fig tree for its failure to produce fruit in the verses above He gives us a sobering lesson. Empty religion, lacking fruit, needs to and ultimately will die. In actuality the parable of the fig tree doesn’t end with Jesus’ withering curse, because the very next verse says,

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

The spiritual complacency or “religion” of the people had reached the place where they were making a total mockery of the temple and of the message. We may not see our situations as that bleak, but if Jesus walked into our churches what things would he need to overturn or shake up?

  • Inward Focus

One of the surest signs of complacency is a church that is self-absorbed or entirely inwardly focused. You might ask, “Tanner, what does than mean?” Let me begin my answer with another question, what is the mission of the church? That question can evoke many answers like: to provide teaching for Believers, to be a place of fellowship, a place of worship. To all of those I would say yes… but what is the first and foremost mission of the church? In Matthew 28:19 it tells us about that mission. It says,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The mission of the church is to spread the good news and make disciples. In fact we may have to get out of our comfortable and familiar zone to do it! Acts 1:8 says,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Is your church inward focused or outward focused? Are you so concerned about not “rocking the boat” that you leave it docked? We see in the book of Acts that in order to achieve our mission we have to wander outside of ourselves! Are we so overly concerned about keeping “our people” happy and content that we miss opportunities to reach those that haven’t yet been reached by Christ or the church? I will step out in an unpopular way and say that when a church is absorbed with just its own activities, its own problems, and its own people, it has become complacent and ineffective at achieving the goal and mission.

The primary challenge, and our primary concern, should be, “how do we reach people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus?” Most inward-focused churches are not sensitive to or even aware of this challenge. We might bank on our “friendliness” or position in the community to cut it… but the numbers show that it doesn’t! We can’t simply pray for a harvest and not plant any seeds or till any ground!

So many of us are so complacent that we fear any change or decision that might push insiders away and, frankly, impact the bottom line. Ironically, any organization, including a church, that doesn’t focus on reaching new people has already started to decline and will eventually die. In the book of Acts, James the brother of Jesus, told the Jewish Christians, who were the insiders of the day, they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles, the outsiders of the day, to turn to God. Why is it that this many years later that problem still exists? Are we making it easy for outsiders to turn to God, or are we stuck in the busy complacent work of keeping insiders happy?

Jeremiah 10:21 says,

For the shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.

Proverbs 1:32 says,

For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.

What is our focus as a church?


Zephaniah 1:12 says,

It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good or evil!’

Are you complacent? Go to war with the complacency in your life.

 

What is your Platform: Using our Opportunities Wisely

Many of us would say that we have been blessed with many opportunities. Do you recognize those opportunities? In what ways do those around you receive blessing through the opportunities that you are given?

Some of us are full-time ministers. Some are students. Others of us interact with people each and every day… maybe you are a: police officer, school teacher, mechanic, maintenance man, waiter or waitress, etc. We all have different talents and abilities and different ministry fields that we have been given the opportunity to serve in.

On a side note: If you aren’t a minister then I would say to you that you have a a wonderful opportunity to live as Christ in front of others! People expect “holiness” from clergy… and unfortunately many expect hypocrisy from “average” church-goers. I would challenge you to not be “average.” Use your opportunities wisely!

Romans 12:1 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

What part(s) of yourself can you give? What part(s) are you holding back? What opportunities have you been given? What is your sacrifice? Opportunities sometimes can be hidden, misconceived, or unidentified… but I promise they are there. How are you serving?

If you’re a Christian, God has given you at least one spiritual gift. And those gifts aren’t just for your own benefit; their purposes are to bless the entire Body of Christ. When you discover your spiritual gift(s) and use them everyday in your particular ministry field and in your local church, you’ll see amazing growth take place in your life, ministry, and in your congregation.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

You see… your gifts aren’t really for you at all. They are for God and others. If you think your talents or gifts are simply ways in which you can be successful, make a lot of money, and please yourself then you’ve missed the point of your life… and I am afraid many of us have missed it and we don’t even realize it. God has given us talents to benefit others, not ourselves, and believe it or not, it will recipricate because God has given other people talents that benefit us.

We all have different opportunities and gifts and each part matters. There are no insignificant people in the family of God. You were created, formed , and placed to serve God and bless others.

Your gifts, talents, and opportunities matter to God.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 says,

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

Are you using what God has given you for the benefit of others and your congregation and to make the world a better place? Or are you just wasting them or using those talents to benefit yourself?

Below I will outline a few steps to finding and using your opportunities and gifts to honor and glorify God.


  • Being willing

The first step in discovering and using our opportiunities and gifts to glorify God is to be willing to do so. This sounds simple, but it might not be as easy as you think. What is our reaction going to be when God presents an opportunity for us to scrub toilets, visit a nursing home, or do maintainence work around an elderly person’s home? Many of us might shrink away form the idea of serving “behind the scenes” in inconspicuous ways. We might think that God has got more “in-store” for us than that. I would tell you that no job is too lowly for a servant of Christ, and maybe that this service is a test form God to see how we will handle a forefront job or position. Don’t just look fort the glorifying jobs… because they are all glorifying in God’s eyes. Hopefully it’s the Father that you are trying to please and bring glory to anyways right?

Serve. Use your opportunity.

  • Being available

I don’t know about you, but I consistently find myself wondering where my day has gone. Time is precious… and SO many of us over-commit ourselves and get busy with things that we shouldn’t be so concerned with. It is because if that point that I think one of Satan’s best fiery darts is busyness.

Ephesians 5:15-20 says,

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We see Paul here in Ephesians calling us as believers to see the way in which we use our time as important. Paul says to us, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time.” God urges us to use our time wisely and to take advantage of our every opportunity to serve, honor, and glorify Him before those opportunities disappear.

We can use our time wisely when we put God’s will into action in our lives, caring for one another, spreading the good news of salvation, and anything else that gives glory to God.. Ask yourself, “What can I do today to glorify my Savior Jesus Christ?”

Therefore… time is a precious commodity that runs out.

  • Being prepared

Anyone who has read any of my blogs previously knows that I am huge on preparedness. I think that in any task, no matter how medial, we should be prepared and equipped to do the job at hand with excellence. , I have noticed that in my particular area, corporate worship, we can too easily develop or encourage a mindset that if we are not “worship leader” we can kick back and place the our weight on someone else in “leadership.” But, let me clarify one thing, as servants of the Lord we are all “worship leaders” in different areas. How are you leading?

Being prepared can make a world of difference. Being early to practice running sound, projected lyrics, or lights can make services run smoother and more effectively. Spending time preparing in prayer can wage war against the spirits that fight for our souls on Sundays and every other day. Preparing by training and investing time into others can keep someone struggling anchored to a Christian body of believers or help reveal a personal spiritual gift to someone who may be unaware of it.

Every time you serve, whether it is in the front or back, interior or exterior of the church, you have the privilege and opportunity to encourage and lead others to worship God. So use everything you have to point people to Jesus.

Prepare yourself. Prepare others.


How are you using your opportunities and gifts? What are you holding back?