Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Five Views on Apologetics - An Overview - Stanley N. Gundry (Editor)

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This is a book about Christian apologetic methodology. The book does not aim to present apologetic material per se, but to have various authors present their differing view on how they approach apologetics. Firstly, what is apologetics? Apologetics comes from the word apologia which means defence; that is, apologetics is defined as presenting a 'defence' of the Christian faith. Some of the debate within apologetics may involve the following:
  • Arguments for the existence of God
  • The role of the Holy Spirit in apologetics
  • The role of Scripture in apologetics
  • The place that experience has when producing convincing apologetic arguments
  • Postmodernism and the debate about absolute truths, relativism and the like.
The Five Views on Apologetics was published in 2000, and the following five authors presented their views: William Lane Craig, Gary R. Habermas, John M. Frame, Kelly James Clark and Paul D. Feinberg.

William Lane Craig (pictured) argues strongly that the kalam argument for the existence of God is a convincing apologetic. The premise for the kalam cosmological argument is that 'whatever begins to exist has a cause' (: 50).

One of the interesting angles that William Craig takes, is his prominence on the work of the Holy Spirit in the apologetic journey. He says, it is important to insist on the self-authenticating nature of the Spirit's witness. 'The claim that the Spirit's witness is self-authenticating entails that belief grounded in the witness of the Holy Spirit is an intrinsic defeater of the defeaters brought against it; that is to say, it is a belief enjoying such a high degree of warrant that it simply overwhelms any putative defeater' (: 34). Naturally, more questions arise from this discussion, including the question about people who adhere to belief systems outside of Christianity, who claim to have an encounter with a divine presence. Robert Oakes (: 29) defines a self-authenticating religious experience as a 'veridical experience of God which is sufficient to guarantee that the person having that veridical experience could never in principle have any justification for questioning its validity'.
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Another highlight from William Lane Craig's 'Classical Apologetics' methodology is his view that apologetics falls into one of two categories; that of showing Christianity to be true, and that of knowing Christianity to be true. Many Christians may know in their deepest heart of hearts that they know Christianity to be true but may in turn struggle to show Christianity to be true. Nonetheless, their faith in Christ is still rational, despite their inability to articulate convincing arguments/evidence for the belief that they hold.

Gary Habermas highlights the apologetic methodology called 'Evidential Apologetics'. He says that what defines this a part from the other four views in the book, is its focus on using historical evidences for the Christian faith (: 94). You could take the death and resurrection of Jesus, for instance, and look at the probability of its historical occurence or rather look at the evidence to see whether it was more probable that Jesus did in fact rise from the grave on the third day, or not. For example, some of the historical evidence used would be the witnesses who saw Christ following his resurrection (including the Jewish leaders of the time - who offered no polemic against the premise that Jesus rose from the grave). The methodology is about presenting historical evidence for the Christian faith.

The third apologetic methodology is from Paul D. Feinberg, and he argues for the 'Cumulative Case' methodology. This is really saying, that while apologists like Craig might argue firstly for the proof that God exists, the cumulative case takes any argument, evidence, experience it can muster to present the Christian faith as more probable than its alternatives. He believes that while apologetics could be labelled as either, the establishment of the truth or rationality of belief or thirdly the persuasion of the unbeliever, it should be for the persuasion of the unbeliever.

Fourthly, the apologetic methodology discussed is 'Presuppositional Apologetics', from John M. Frame. This takes a completely different approach. Frame will position himself with the assumption that God exists, and that the Bible is God's Word for humanity. Then after making that assumption, humanity can engage with the God who created them and the Scripture that we have, and find the truth of the Christian faith. He says, the process is God's rationality -> human faith -> human reasoning. The other four authors are very critical of John Frame's seemingly circular argument. He is an example of Frame's circular argument (: 356).
  • Premise 1: Whatever the Bible says is true.
  • Premise 2: The Bible says it is the Word of God.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, the Bible is the Word of God.
Lastly, in the Five Views on Apologetics is Kelly Clark's 'Reformed Epistemology' methodology. He thesis is that while evidence can be persuasive it is not imperative to have evidence to rationally believe that God exists. I hope not to misinterpret his apologetic methods, because of lack of understanding, so I will quote him: 'I am inclined to think that the theistic arguments do provide some noncoercive evidence of God's existence. By noncoercive I mean that the theistic arguments aren't of such power and illumination that they should be expected to persuade all rational creatures. Rational people could rationally reject the theistic proofs. Rational people-and this is a fact with which we must live-rationally disagree. Nonetheless, I believe that someone could rationally believe in God on the basis of theistic arguments, but no one needs to do so' (: 273).

The Five Views on Apologetics at times feels like it delves into semantics a little, but such is the realms of philosophy and intellectual debate. The format though is so engaging, with one author presenting their apologetic methodology, and then one by one the other four authors provide a short reply. Then the next apologist offers their methodology, and one by one the authors reply. Then, the end sees the authors each provide some closing remarks and intellectual debate on the content and responses of the other authors. The Five Views on Apologetics is a great book for understanding the realm of Christian Apologetics, and its enough to wet the appetite for engaging in apologetics in the future.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Law No. 7 - The Law of Respect - John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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Law No. 7 in John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is The Law of Respect.

A small group gathers together to develop an idea from head office. Now, if the team is not appointed with a leader, what will happen? Initially there may be some discussion, debate, and ideas flowing forth. As the team gets to know each other, normally the strongest leader in the team will be easily identified. You know what I mean, the leader who seems to have integrity, self-assertiveness, wisdom and maturity. The law of respect, simply says, that in this situation, the team will naturally follow the strongest leader in the team. That's the law of respect - 'People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves'.

Think of a leader that you follow that inspires you. You respect them right? Also, they most likely are a stronger leader than you, correct? You follow them, because of what they have done in your life, what they have done for in an organisation/s or what they have done to inspire people to reach their potential. We naturally follow leaders stronger than ourselves. I know this to be true for me.
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John Maxwell shares the story of a lady you might not expect to be a strong leader, in a worldly sense; she didn't have the looks for it and she didn't have qualifications. In fact she grew up as a slave in the early-mid 1800s. Her name was Harriet Tubman. What an inspiring story of someone who chose to free other people from slavery, and risking her life for their freedom. They called her Moses, and as Maxwell writes, 'By the start of the [American] Civil War [1861-1865], she had brought more people out of slavery than any other American in history. Harriet Tubman had people who respected her, for her commitment to ending slavery, and people followed her. For more on Harriet Tubman's story, check out Wikipedia.

This is John C. Maxwell's Law of Respect (Law No. 7), from his bestselling book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mark 1:29-34 - Jesus Heals Simon Peter's Mother-in-Law - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Mark 1:29-34 (Jesus heals Simon Peter's mother-in-law) - 29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.



32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

As they left the synagogue, Jesus, the disciples and the people headed to the house of Simon and Andrew, where Simon Peter's mother-in-law was suffering from a fever. The previous verse of Mark, spoke of the authority of Jesus, and we see in this passage, Mark saying that Jesus 'took her hand and helped her up'. She was healed. Once again, the Messiah, the Son of God, has acted, early on in his ministry, with power and authority to bring restoration and healing. We are reminded of his power and of his authority by Mark.

Do you believe in the authority of Jesus today? That is, does the power and authority that Jesus had to heal the sick and cast out demons still relevant today? I believe it is. I believe that the nature and character of Jesus, and the authority that he exhibits, is no less relevant today nor less powerful. Mark was recording the ministry of Jesus in the first century, and my interpretation of the text, through twenty-first century eyes, is that Jesus has authority to heal the sick today. From this passage, there would be no hesistation for me, to pray for those who have a fever, and who are worn down by illness, and to pray for their healing, in and through Jesus Christ.

If you believe Jesus has authority to heal the sick today, why don't you think of someone right now, who is unwell, and pray the prayer below:

A prayer for the sick: Lord, today, for those who are unwell, sick, oppressed, hurting and broken, I pray for healing in the name of Jesus Christ. By the power and authority demonstrated through the ministry of Christ, let there be healing today! Amen!
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Mark 1:29-34 - Jesus Heals Simon Peter's Mother-in-Law. This is part of Pete's Bible Commentary, written by Pete Brookshaw.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Law No. 6 - The Law of Solid Ground. John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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Law No. 6 - The Law of Solid Ground. John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
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Trust is the foundation of leadership

The newpaper headlines have been damning for media tycoon Rupert Murdoch of late. His famous UK newspaper, 'News of the World' has already closed its pages for the last time. Now his entire financial empire is in question. Will this multi-millionaire lose much of what he worked so hard to gain? So why is the rug being swept out from under his feet? Primarily because of one word: Trust. The media mogul is being investigated because employees in his workplace were allegedly hacking people's mobile phones to access inside information in order to sell newspapers. The scandal runs deep and wide, and Rupert Murdoch is one man who now probably wishes the media wasn't such a powerful machine, that is able to tarnish his name and brand so quickly. Though, a breaking of trust can do that.

See, trust is the foundation of leadership. You rip trust away from an organisation, and you rip away the fabric that was holding the organisation together. You have someone who becomes untrustworthy and you find their influence, their relationships and their ambitions are affected. Good leaders on the other hand understand the importance of trust and developing trust amongst their family, friends and colleagues. Trust is built over time, through the consistent integrity of the choices a leader makes. While trust takes so long to build, one unethical or moral mistake can break trust within minutes. Think about the following things that can easily break trust in a relationship:

  • Sexual misconduct
  • Sudden outburst of anger
  • Breaking an important promise
  • Continually breaking smaller promises
  • Favouritism
  • Harassment
  • Neglect
  • Micro-managing
  • Lack of self-control
The list goes on. John Maxwell says, 'To build trust, a leader must exhibit competence, connection and character.' When speaking of character, think of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in the Bible in Galatians 5:22 - 'The fruit of the Spirit, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.' All leaders and aspiring leaders, could all do with more of those characteristics! With integrity and character that exemplifies those fruits, you are sure to be a leader who is fundamentally trustworthy in all aspects of life. When you combine this with competence, Stephen Covey says, 'the fruit is wisdom and judgment- the foundation of all great and lasting achievement and trust.' (The 8th Habit, p. 149). 


General H. Norman Schwarzkopf (Cited in Stephen Covey's The 8th Habit, p. 151) says, 'I've met a lot of leaders in the army who were very, very competent. But they didn't have character. For every job they did well in the Army, they sought reward in the form of promotions, in the form of awards and decorations, in the form of getting ahead at the expense of somebody else, in the form of another piece of paper that awarded them another degree...a sure road to the top. You see, these were competent people, but they lacked character. I've also met a lot of leaders who had superb character but who lacked competence. They weren't willing to pay the price of leadership, to go the extra mile because that's what it took to be a great leader. To lead in the twenty-first century...you will be required to have both character and competence.' - And then, can I say, you will have trust! Trust is the foundation of great leadership.


Trust is but one part of a leaders arsenal, if you like. While there are many other aspects to effective leadership, without trust, you simply do not have a good foundation in which to build anything else.

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John C. Maxwell's Law No. 6 - The Law of Solid Ground - 'Trust is the foundation of leadership'.  From The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Also, look at Stephen Covey's The 8th Habit.

Law No. 5 - The Law of E. F. Hutton - John C. Maxwell's The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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Law No. 5 - The Law of E. F. Hutton - 'When the real leader speaks, people listen' (John C. Maxwell)

John C. Maxwell names this leadership principle after a brokerage firm called E. F. Hutton & Co. that was founded in 1904 and became a well known, well respected financial firm in the United States. In the 70s and 80s they ran an advertising campaign that used the catchcry, 'When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.' Maxwell alters the catchcry and says, 'When the real leader speaks, people listen'.

I've seen this leadership principle at work in many situations. You're sitting around the board room, and little Johnny presents his idea to the leadership team. A few people offer some quick, insightful comments. The introverts sit back and ponder the possible changes. Some small talk ensues, until eventually someone who everyone respects and admires offers their opinion. The small talk ceases, and people find themselves listening intently to what this leader has to say. It seems true, that when the real leader speaks in a given circumstance, people listen.

I recall a time when Salvation Army leaders, employees and volunteers gathered together to talk about the future work of The Salvation Army. About 80 people were present at the open forum, and people were periodically standing up, offering a comment, question or a passionate political statement. Chatter occurred following many questions and different people offered their answers. I remember the moment. The chattering was soft and consistent, after someone had offered a comment that was particularly controversial. A retired General of The Salvation Army stood to make a comment (Rtd. General Eva Burrows), and within seconds there was silence. I mean, absolute silence. She spoke with boldness and conviction, and offered her point of view. It dawned on me very quickly, the leadership principle we are discussing; that when the real leader speaks, people listen.

The fact is, people want to hear the opinions of people with influence. That is why we stay up late and watch the current affair's shows, with their interviews of leaders like politicians and CEO's. That's why we are glued to the television when a chat show is on with someone we admire. We wonder what their opinion will be; we wonder whether they will offer an insightful comment that is worth adding to our leadership bag.

As my wife and I, along with a handful of others sat to discuss John Maxwell's laws of leadership (back in 2001), we came to this law. The law of E. F. Hutton. It was interesting, because I was rattling off some leadership content, and no-one was paying close attention, until my wife spoke. She said something profound, and then we all thought about what had just happened. When the real leader spoke, the people listened! We just sat there laughing, as I felt a little kick in the guts, but was happy that we were all connecting with the leadership material.

We develop opportunities to be listened to, as a leader, in many different ways. Some of the ways we are further blessed with the ability to communicate to others is through:
* Our character - Being someone who has integrity, someone people trust, and someone with a strong sense of morality.
* Our experience - People gain respect for leaders who have 'been through' events, and have the experience to back up what they're saying. Think through leaders who share about a social justice project AFTER they have just been overseas to witness it first hand, and have also given a sum of money to support the cause.
* Our knowledge - When we have a deeper knowledge of the organisation/circumstances in which we are communicating, people tune in. They want to hear our opinions, because they trust that we know what we are talking about.

Our aim is to be a better leader and a better communicator. Why? Not because of reasons the world throw at us; for some self-aggrandizement, but because we wish to create change in the world, and communicate injustice and truth to the world around us.

"When the real leader speaks - people listen." Do you hear what I'm saying??

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mark 1:21-28 - The authority of Jesus - Jesus drives out an Evil Spirit - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Mark 1:21-28 (Jesus drives out an evil spirit with authority). - 21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
   25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. 

Could you imagine listening to a teaching segment from Jesus? You get the picture here, that it was inspiring, moving and powerful. Mark doesn't highlight to us in this passage, what he spoke about, but rather the manner in which he spoke. He spoke with authority (Gk: exousia), and so captured the ears of those in attendance at the synagogue. He didn't speak like the teachers of the law. I wonder what that was like? Maybe dry, lifeless, and hard to follow with the continual offloading of words from the Torah to the listeners. There was something different about Jesus and his message, and people were amazed by it. 

What is interesting, is that no only were the words of Jesus amazing and powerful, but the ministry of Jesus was also worth noting. Maybe they go hand in hand: powerful teaching -> powerful ministry. A man was possessed by an impure spirit/unclean spirit (Gk: pneumati akatharto), and by the authority of Jesus, the unclean spirit came out of the man. So in this passage from Mark 1:21-28 Jesus had authority to speak powerfully, and he had authourity to cast out evil spirits.

The New Bible Dictionary defines authority (Gk: exousia) as, 'rightful, actual and unimpeded power to act, or to possess, control, use or dispose of, something or somebody (1982 :108).

Mark shows the authority of Jesus is various passages in his gospel. We see him mention the authority of Jesus in the following passages:
  • Mark 1:22 -'He taught as one who had authourity'
  • Mark 1:27 - 'What is this? A new teaching - and with authority!'
  • Mark 2:10 - 'But I want you to know that the son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.'
  • Mark 3:15 - '...and to have authority, to drive out demons.'
  • Mark 6:7 - '...he gave them [the disciples] authority...'
  • Mark 11:28-33 - A passage all about what authority Jesus had to do ministry

What can we glean from this for us today? As a preacher, it is easy for me to look at this and say, 'I want to preach with the kind of authority Christ preached with'. Maybe that is relevant for you, but maybe you aren't a preacher. We all have opportunities at time to speak about our faith, or the Bible, or why we believe in the existence of God, and in these circumstances, WE need the authority (the exousia) from God to speak with clarity and boldness, those words that are right for the moment we are in. Not only that, but if we find ourselves close to Christ, and empowered by his Holy Spirit, we might find ourselves in ministry of casting out unclean spirits (exorcisms, if you like). We need not be afraid of such times, because we lean on the authority that Jesus has, and the authority that Mark is so clearly wanting to express to his readers. 

Bibliography:
Douglas, J. D. et al. (1982). New Bible Dictionary. 2nd Edition. England: Inter-Varsity Press.

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Mark 1:21-28 - the authority of Jesus, is part of Pete's Bible Commentary, written by Pete Brookshaw.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Law No. 4 - The Law of Navigation - John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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Leadership Law No. 4 - The Law of Navigation


How many leaders do you know that have dreams and visions and then seem to lack the capacity to lead the team to the destination? As a leader, I can vouch for struggling with the law of navigation.


A dream pops into your mind, and you begin with all guns blazing; you write down some ideas and tell some people about it. You gather the support of the leadership team, and you inspire the team to dream of the impossible and everyone is initially motivated. But what next? Without being able to navigate, or plan the way to the final goal, you end up wandering around in circles, and the team is deflated and as the leader you are worn out.


You can't get Apollo 11 onto the lunar surface in 1969, without some navigation. A dream in itself won't cut the mustard. A fleeting idea of one day reaching the moon won't get you far. You must 'chart the course' as John Maxwell highlights. Visionary leadership is needed. He uses the following acrostic:


Predetermine a course of action
Lay out your goals
Adjust your priorities
Notify key personnel


Allow time for acceptance
Head into action
Expect problems
Always point to the successes
Daily review your plan (1998: 40)


An important part of the law of navigation is the daily reviewing of the plan. You could work out where you are going, set some goals and begin working towards them, but without regular revising of where you're headed, you might find yourself heading in the wrong direction! That's a leadership nightmare! You know the fact that if you begin walking in a 5 degree angle off the main track, within a few kilometres you're lost!


A strong leader must be able to navigate the organisation or team to the end result. Constantly re-check the scope of the goal/project and make the adjustments necessary. Some of the adjustments might be related to finances, personnel, resources, time schedules, etc. Don't start wandering down rabbit warrens. Keep the final aim in view, and adjust the plans accordingly.
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John C. Maxwell's Law of Navigation is law number 4 from his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

Mark 1:14-20 - I will make you Fishers of Men - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Mark 1:14-20 - 14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Jesus has been baptized by John, and he has spent over a month being tested in the desert. Now he is off proclaiming the good news of God. Though, we should ask, what is this good news? The good news  is from the Greek adjective, euangelizo, which occurs 54 times in the NT. The noun is the word euangelion (occurring 76 times), which we translate as gospel. Jesus came proclaiming the gospel (euangelion), a message that intended to be good news (euangelizo). The essence of the good news he came to proclaim was that through him people could find salvation. Now, lets not get lost in an intellectual pursuit that will drive us insane, but rather think of how great this good news is. God provides a way for us to live in close relationship with our Creator. We can live holy and dedicated lives to honour Christ. He is the good news. He is the euangelizo. Awesome!

In these verses, Mark challenges his readers to, 'Repent and believe the good news.' (v. 15). Repent, as in, turn away from what you were previously engaged in, and then believe, that is, embrace and trust in the good news. This is the message that Mark highlights. The first words that Jesus speaks in ministry, according to Mark, is this repent and believe message. Mark is truly an early evangelist who got straight to the point of the reason for the incarnation of Christ; he came to usher in the Kingdom of God, so repent and believe! What a powerful and confronting message!

In Mark 1:16-20, we read of Jesus' ability to recruit followers to his cause. Within a few lines of text, Mark has described Andrew, Simon, James and John choosing to follow him. Think of this for a moment. Andrew, Simon, James and John are seasoned fishermen. They no doubt love fishing, and they make their livelihood through it. Jesus comes along and they 'left their nets' and followed. Would you give up your way of living? Your livelihood? What if Jesus came along and said, 'Leave what you are doing, and come and follow me...'? Wow!

Luke 5:1-11 expands on the story from Mark 1:16-20, and we see from this account that the fishermen went out on to the boat with Jesus and Jesus divinely brought in a large catch of fish. They were astounded by this, and chose to follow him. Jesus says to Simon (Luke 5:10), 'Don't be afraid, from now on you will fish for people'. Mark's account says, that he spoke to Simon and Andrew, and said, 'Come follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.'

Lastly we should ask in this passage, of what Jesus meant by 'fishing for people'. Jesus was the master of metaphorical, visual language, and we are left curious about the exact meaning of what he had just said. He was calling these new four disciples into his mission - his mission to reconcile the world to himself. Some scholars believe Jesus' comments about being fishers of mean, related to Jeremiah 16:16, where Jeremiah says, '"But now I will send for many fisherman," declares the Lord...' We are nonetheless, called today, for those who have repented and believed the good news, to join in the mission of Christ, in all of what that means for us today. 
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Mark 1:14-20 - 'I will make you fishers of men' is part of Pete's Bible Commentary, written by Pete Brookshaw.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mark 1:9-13 - The temptation and baptism of Jesus - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Mark 1:9-13 - 9At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." 12At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Something must be said of the amazing experience this would have been for John. John was the cousin of Jesus, and was well aware that he was the promised Messiah that the Old Testament Scriptures promised. You know what runs through John's mind? "You should be the one baptising me!" John, nonetheless is afforded the privelege of baptising Jesus in the Jordan river. Picture, the crowd looking in, and John nervously lowering Jesus into the river. The presence of God is around about the situation; a great picture of the trinity.

This is a wonderful, insightful picture of the Trinity [Father, Son, Holy Spirit] in the Scriptures, in Mark 1:10, as we see Jesus arising from the water, as the Spirit descends on him and God in heaven making a declaration. The Trinity has always been. When we consider Genesis chapter one (First chapter in the Bible), we see "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The word for God here is Elohim (אלהים) which is used in its plural form - hmm... suspicious - this might be a sign already of the Trinity in Scripture!

The picture of the Holy Spirit in this passage is one of a dove, and in our minds a dove conjures up words like peace, humility and gentleness. Interestingly, this peaceful, humble and gentle spirit then says, 'Right, up you get, and go into the desert and be tested!' As we consider the character of the Holy Spirit from these verses, we have a two-fold expression of both peace and activism. The Spirit rests on Jesus, and then the prompt is to now go out into the desert and tackle self-control, obedience and perseverance.

In our lives, we need the peace of the Holy Spirit to rest on us. We need the Spirit to descend on us in such a way, that we are prompted to go to the places the Spirit leads us, or be open to be prompted, like, 'Right, get a move on - it's time to go to Botswana'. God asked of it to Abraham. Remember? God said, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you...' (Gen 12:1). Well, God may not ask us to move countries and be a missionary in a foreign land, but he may ask us to go into a metaphorical desert and be tempted. Are you ready for that?

Mark is the first-century king of simplicity. Jesus goes into the desert (v. 12), and he's there forty days, and he is tempted, and angels attend to him. Now lets move on to another story, says Mark. Well maybe it's better than Matthew stating the obvious, 'After fasting forty days and forty nights [in the desert], he was hungry' (Mt 4:2). Thanks Matthew for that ever insightful comment on the Saviour of the world. I guess it does highlight his humanity - sorry to all the docetists out there!

Angels attended Jesus. What does this mean? Did the angels massage Jesus? Or bless his with a soft pillow? Or did the angels somehow bless him with encouragement, of the mind, body and soul? All my mind says is, wouldn't it be great if angels attended to us, and lifted us up when we were down, or if they encouraged someone to say an uplifting word to us when we needed it. Our day-to-day lives would be better off, if the angels that attended to Jesus would gracefully attend to us, and help us live lives worthy of being called a Christian.
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Mark 1:9-13 - The temptation and baptism of Jesus is part of Pete's Bible Commentary, written by Pete Brookshaw.

Mark 1:1-8 - John the Baptist Prepares the Way for Jesus - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Mark 1:1-8

1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way" 3 "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" 4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Mark is down to earth. If he lived today, he would probably fit in well amongst the everyday people of our society. He writes a gospel, that shows his earthiness. He gets straight to the point; no messing about. Jesus is the Son of God. He's not just a prophet, because that would undermine the truth of what Jesus claimed. He is the good news. He is the personification of grace and salvation. He is the Son of God. I love this matter of a fact kind of writing that Mark employs. It is easy to grasp and connect with. Today we might be inclined to write some explanatory notes and introductions before we delve into the crux of our letter, but for Mark, this is about Jesus the Christ, and he wants his readers to be clear on that point.

Mark highlights very quickly to his readers that this gospel is about Christ, the promised Messiah. He then quickly links Jesus with Old Testament Scriptures and prophets, noting Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, and he is also quick to link Christ to John the Baptist. Hurtado writes that the work is written, 'not from the standpoint of unconcerned historical observance but with deeply religious interests in mind' (1983: 15). In fact, Mark is making the point that Jesus did not just pop up onto the scene, but is actually the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. He is one sent from God for the redemption of humanity.

Interestingly, the reference from Malachi 3:1 (look at Mark 1:2), was understood by the Jewish community as a prophecy regarding the future sending of a Messiah type figure, and that the Jewish people considered Elijah (see Malachi 4:5-6) to be the one that would be sent, according to this prophecy (Hurtado, 1983: 16). So when Mark begins mentioning John the Baptist, and the clothes he wore and the food he ate, there is a conscious connection here by Mark, to connect Malachi (About Elijah) to John the Baptist and then to Jesus the Christ.

Mark builds the connection between John the Baptist and Jesus. In his matter of a fact way, Mark quotes John the Baptist as saying that while he baptizes with water, this Christ would baptize people with the Holy Spirit. If I could offer a powerful contemporary hermeneutic here, it would be the challenge to come before Christ and be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Baptize meaning 'immersed into', and like John the Baptist immersed people into water, we can come before Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit.


Bibliography:

Hurtado, Larry W. (1983). New International Biblical Commentary: Mark. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers & Paternoster Press.

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Mark 1:1-8 - 'John the Baptist Prepares the Way for Jesus' is part of Pete's Bible Commentary by Pete Brookshaw.

James 1:1-18 - Facing Trials and Gaining Wisdom - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Before I comment on the biblical passage of James, firstly read through James 1:1-18 (NIV).

James 1:1-18 (NIV) - 1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Greetings.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

What?! Consider it pure joy when you face trials? Yes. That's what James is saying. See God knows the end from the beginning and when you are in the midst of trials, God knows that in the future whether you will persevere; God knows whether it will work out alright. It is in this melting pot of difficulty that our faith is tested. Have you ever given financially to something the Lord placed on your heart, and then you were tested with your financial situation? Your faith was being tested. Have you felt the world was against you, while you took a stand for justice? Have you ever felt like you were being tested with patience right after you prayed for patience? Maybe it was stepping into the calling God placed on your life and now you are in the midst of barrenness and seemingly unfruitfulness. Within the trial, God is poking and prodding your faith and if you allow, your faith can be sharpened in the process and you will develop perseverance.

James speaks about asking God for wisdom when you need it. James doesn't say explore the words of Plato and Aristotle and read some of the ancient manuscripts from the prophets of old; he says, 'ask God'. While seeking clarity from other people or intelligent sources of wisdom can be helpful, ultimately, God is the source of all wisdom (God is omniscient), why would we go to any other source first? Ask God, James says, and believe that God will give you wisdom. My mind thinks of the story of Solomon, who had a dream and the Lord said to him, 'Ask for whatever you want me to give you' (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon did not ask for anything other than, 'a discerning heart to govern [the] people and to distinguish between right and wrong' (1 Kings 3:9). God honoured his request; he was imparted with wisdom. When you are in need of clarity, direction, guidance, go to God first. Ask for wisdom and believe that the Lord will answer!

When it comes to temptation, James makes it clear that we can be dragged away by our own evil desires. So often we can blame God or rather, the devil, for our slipping into wilful disobedience. "The devil made me do it." Interestingly, James is noting that we, by our own desires, can slip into sinfulness, by choosing to embrace the act the temptation is wooing us towards. I could list the different temptations (sexual, prestige, financial, etc), but what we need to comprehend is simply that our own desires can lead us into sinfulness. We are a sinful people, and we must turn to a saviour who can continually lead us in a journey of holiness; that will not lead to death, but rather to life.

* Pete's Bible Commentary of James 1:1-18 by PeteBrookshaw. 'Facing Trials and Gaining Wisdom'.

Natural Church Development and Christian Schwarz: An Overview of the Principles, Tools and Teachings of NCD

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What is Natural Church Development (NCD)? NCD is an approach to the Christian life, a way of exploring biblical principles and church growth that was developed by sophisticated and extensive research of churches around the world. It is about growing healthy churches. Here is an overview of Christian Schwarz's Natural Church Development.

The 5 Basic Components of Natural Church Development
  1. The 8 Quality Characteristics (the 'muscles' of NCD)
  2. The 6 Growth Forces (the 'blood' of NCD)
  3. Trinitarian Compass (the 'heart' of NCD)
  4. Minimum Factor (the 'eyes' of NCD)
  5. NCD tools (the 'hands' of NCD)
 1. The 8 Quality Characteristics

These 8 characteristics, Christian Schwarz says are the key to church growth. The concept is simple: If the local church is expressing these 8 quality characteristics in a healthy manner, then statistically and most probably your church will grow. The church can not help but grow when the church, as a living organism, is healthy. The 8 quality characteristics are: Empowering leadership, gift-based ministry, passionate spirituality, effective structures, inspiring worship, holistic small groups, need-oriented evangelism and loving relationships. You will notice the adjective before each noun, that stresses the fact that leadership, for instance, needs to be empowering, worship must be inspiring and relationships must be loving. These 8 quality characteristics sum up, for the most part the foundation of a healthy church. Arguably, the NCD teaching does not overtly mention the work of justice; of offering a cup of cold water in Jesus name, what some might label 'social justice'. This in my opinion is a theological let down from the whole teaching, but there are many great things to glean about the local church from these 8 characteristics, nonetheless.

How this Natural Church Development foundation makes its mark on the local church, is by the local church completing an NCD survey, amongst atleast 30 participants, which provides a snapshot of the health of that church. The NCD survey provides an interesting look at where the local church stands in terms of each of the above mentioned quality characteristics. From a church I used to minister in, the church scored great on 'loving relationships' and 'passionate spirituality' but scored very low on effective structures. It was clear to the church, that for this church to become a healthy church, it needed to look at its leadership structures, its building limitations and its capacity to embrace future growth. If you are looking to grow a healthy church, then maybe completing the NCD survey provided by Christian Schwarz will help your local church. Here are some links for you:
2. The 6 Growth Forces

"Human growth principles can bring about results: success in business, economic improvement, even church growth. However, the problem with many of these human concepts is that there is no inherent sustainable power behind them. They depend on great amounts of outside energy, and once that energy is reduced, everything collapses. What a contrast to the dynamics that we observe in God's creation, where the following principles is at work: Remove the barriers and growth takes place 'all by itself'. It is not a human responsibility to energize the church. God takes care of that." - Color Your World with Natural Church Development: Christian Schwarz (: 81).

The six growth forces (previously called 'biotic principles'), are forces that bring about the growth of healthy churches by releasing 'all by itself' kind of growth. Think of a leaf that protrudes out from the branch of a tree. People can water the tree, and fertilise the tree and ultimately care for the tree, but the person doing the caretaking, is not 'growing' the lead per se. They are merely helping to facilitate growth. These growth forces, are related to biology and ecology, and are needed in growing healthy churches.
  1. Interdependence - "How does this decision affect other areas of life?"
  2. Multiplication - "Does this decision help facilitate multiplication or merely addition?"
  3. Energy Transformation - "Does this make best use of the resources in the environment?"
  4. Sustainability - "Do the results of this decision allow there to be internal sustainability?"
  5. Symbiosis - "Does this decision foster fruitful co-operation between different resources/activities?"
  6. Fruitfulness - "Does this decision provide tangible, visible fruit for the Kingdom of God?"
They are important growth forces to understand. Take for instance, the starting of a new Kid's Club on a Wednesday night in your church. Everything is ready to go, and everyone is excited to volunteer and participate. Six months into the program, you realise the need for quality children's resources. Now instead of buying new resources, you think about symbiosis, and you discuss with the Youth Group about sharing and utilising some of their resources (this in turn saves you $500 from new board games, gaming machines, etc). As you reflect, one of the set backs of the program is that you are now having less people attend Sunday afternoons to your kid's discipleship program (an issue of multiplication). You also question whether the intended program is achieving the goals in which it first intended (fruitfulness). This simple example, shows you that even just briefly considering these 6 growth forces, helps you examine whether particular programs and ideas should be implimented in the local church, and whether in fact it will help or hinder the growing of healthy churches.

3. Trinitarian Compass

Natural Church Development have developed the Trinitarian Compass. Now, the Trinitarian Compass is about helping Christians have a holistic worldview, to theology, church growth, expression of mission, etc. Have a look at the picture. The green section represents the reflective side of us; that intentional side of us that embraces social justice and tolerance, and reflects on the importance of God's creation - the world. The red section represents our proactive side; our tendency to focus on evangelism and discipleship, and the importance of the Word of God. The blue section of the Trinitarian Compass is that pentecostal leaning towards the work of the Spirit, the power of the Spirit and the focus on emotional health and spiritual power. The Trinitarian Compass helps us to grasp a balanced, trinitarian approach to our faith, and the challenge is to passionately live out ALL three sections of the this compass. We are called as followers of Christ, to fully embrace the work and ministry of the Spirit, to fully engage with the Word of God, and the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are also called to recognise God's omnipotence in creation and his work and mission in today's world. Fully embrace the Trinitarian Compass - or rather, fully embrace God as Creator, Saviour and Spirit! 

4.  Minimum Factor

This part of Natural Church Development relates to the 8 quality characteristics previously mentioned. When a NCD survey is completed (see link above to NCD Australia for more details), the survey reveals the results on a bar graph. The lowest of these 8 characteristics, is called the 'minimum factor'. The Natural Church Development teaching encourages churches to work on their minimum factor as a priority to help provide an environment for a church that grows all by itself. So, for example, if after completing the NCD survey, the results show empowering leadership to be the lowest within the church, then the following might happen. The pastor/leader of the church might consider their own leadership styles, or their capacity to lead, and find areas in which to change. There might be an opportunity to invest in church leaders more intentionally, and a possibly answer might be to implement a leadership mentoring process for leaders in the church. While some literature will say, 'Focus on your strengths', NCD, interestingly says the opposite. They believe, (and can statistically prove this), that by improving the overall 8 characteristics, the church will grow, and it will grow all by itself.

5. The NCD tools

For NCD tools, you can check out the NCD International Page here. Additional tools and helpful resources for growing healthy churches, can be found by searching for NCD national partners, for example, NCD Australia, NCD New Zealand and NCD USA to simply name a few.
Some of the other tools that come out of Natural Church Development is the NCD survey. Also, the book, Natural Church Development (1996), by Christian Schwarz. Also: The 3 Colors of Ministry and  The 3 Colors of Love. Don't forget tools such as their Trinitarian Compass, the 8 quality characteristics, 6 growth forces, and the minimum factor. Thanks to Christian Schwarz and Natural Church Development for all the research and tireless work they put into growing healthy, passionate, churches that impact people's lives for Christ.
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Transforming Mission's dream is to be Growing Healthy Churches. I hope this has helped you a little in that journey of yours, and in your involvement in the local church.

To continue the discussion, go the "Disciples in Training" on Facebook.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Leadership and Management Differences/Similarities

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What are the differences and similarities between leadership and management? Is there a difference? Can you be a great manager and at the same time, be a great leader? Or are leaders and managers mutually exclusive? Below are some great quotes on those differences/similarities between both leadership and management:
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'Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right' - Warren Bennis.
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'Management is getting people to do what needs to be done. Leadership is getting people to want to do what needs to be done. Managers push. Leaders pull. Managers command. Leaders communicate.' - Warren Bennis.
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A great quote that shows the differences between managers and leaders: 'Leaders conquer the context - the volatile, turbulent, ambigous surroundings that sometimes seem to conspire against us and will surely suffocate us if we let them- while managers surrender to it. The manager administers; the leader innovates. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original. The manager maintains; the leader develops. The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people. The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust. The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective. The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why. The manager has his eye on the bottom line; the leader has his eye on the horizon. The manager imitates; the leader originates. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it. The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his own person. Managers do things right; leaders do the right thing.' - Carter-Scott, C. (1994). "The Differences Between Management and Leadership."
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Top Story: Best Management Practices - Cutting the fat in business.
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'Leaders and leader/managers distinguish themselves from the general run of managers in at least six respects:

(1) They think longer term...

(2) In thinking about the unit they are heading they grasp its relationships to larger realities...

(3) They reach and influence constituents beyond their jurisdictions, beyond boundaries...

(4) They put heavy emphasis on the intangibles of vision, values, and motivation and understand intuitively the nonrational and unconscious elements in leader-constituent interaction.

(5) They have the political skill to cope with the conflicting requirements of multiple constituencies.

(6) They think in terms of renewal...' - John W. Gardner (1990). On Leadership.
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The definition of leadership vs the definition of management - once again shows the differences between the two - '...[T]he word lead, at its root, means "go, travel, guide." Leadership has about it a kinesthetic feel, a sense of movement... [Leaders] begin the quest for a new order. They venture into unexplored territory and guide us to new and unfamiliar destinations. In contrast, the root origin of manage is a word meaning "hand." At its core, managing is about "handling" things, about maintaining order, about organization and control. The critical difference between management and leadership is reflected in the root meanings of the two words- the difference between what it means to handle things and what it means to go places.' - James Kouzes and Barry Posner.
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'Management is the exercise of authority and influence to achieve levels of performance consistent with previously demonstrated levels...Leadership is making happen what wouldn't happen anyway...[and will] always tail working at the edge of the what is acceptable.' - Richard Pascale.
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The above Leadership and Management differences/similarities are highlighted in Stephen Covey's, The 8th Habit, pages 360-364. See a post on Stephen Covey's 4 Human Capacities here.
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A thought: The Bible says that if you have the gift of spiritual leadership, then govern diligently. We are called not to just manage the future, but to tranform it. We must not settle for merely managing human rights abuses, or managing the decline of organised religion or the local church. We are not asked to simply manage businesses so they can spew out the same results week in, week out and not acieve greatness. We must lead, and transform our spheres of influence and by the grace of God, we will witness change and transformation that honours the God who created us. (See 10 reasons why people don't go to church). 
If you have an inkling to lead - then LEAD, and don't just MANAGE! God is not after people who simply manage what is, but lead what can be. While we must be good stewards (managers) of what what we have been given, leadership allows us to soar above mediocrity and reach new heights, and affect change that was not even considered with a management mindset.

For more discussion why not join the Facebook page "Disciples in Training" ?

There are many differences between leaders and managers. Management at times is said to be a subset of leadership. Others argue that leadership is a subset of management! Regardless of the debate, the functions of both leadership and management ARE different. Leaders are visionaries, and managers work to 'manage' the strategy behind the vision.

CEO Online has a helpful table of differences between leaders and managers. Check that out
here


Check out Stephen Covey on Leadership and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Growing Healthy Churches - Links/Resources/Tips

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The vision of PeteBrookshaw.Com is to be Growing Healthy Churches. To resource and empower the local church, including equipping ministers of the gospel to transform their circles of influence. Here are some links, resources and tips on growing healthy churches. They are all worth a browse.

  • Doctorate thesis on apostolic ministry - Steve Addison
  • A Primer on today's Missional Church - JR Woodward (11th May 2008 - Such a great indepth blog on what is the missional church)
  • Mike Frost on YouTube - Being the Missional Church (He speaks clearly about what is the church - the ecclesia and how it should function to be effective. 52mins.

For Salvationists:
Colossians 2:2-3 - 'My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.' Amen!

Law No. 3 - The Law of Process - John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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Law 3 - The Law of Process

In this law, John C. Maxwell is simply saying that leadership is not developed just in a day. We don't wake up one morning and all of a sudden we have leadership expertise running through our veins. Leadership is developed daily. It is developed through our consistent growing, learning, stretching, reading, attempting and perseverance.

John Maxwell outlines the four phases of leadership growth, and they are:
Phase 1 - I don't know what I don't know
Phase 2 - I know what I don't know
Phase 3 - I grow and know and it starts to show
Phase 4 - I simply go because of what I know

Honestly, from starting work as a full-time Salvation Army minister (2009), I have witnessed my development through these stages. Lets take the example of filling out the financial records. My first attempt saw me in phase 1 - I didn't know how to fill out the paperwork, and I wasn't even sure who to ask for help. As I began to learn the financial system, I began to see the mistakes I was making (phase 2), and over time I have been able to fill out the finances myself! Now, I'm proud to say I'm finally in phase 4, where I can complete the work, fairly quickly and accurately. We are really at different stages on different aspects in leadership. Currently we are embarking on a building project in my local Church, and I feel once again, that I'm back in the early phases trying to understand the process, and learning how to lead effectively within the whole process.

What is leadership development?

Leadership development is more than just learning leadership techniques. You might know all the leadership techniques in the world (congratulations!), but if you don't know the systems and processes for the task you are completing, then it is still difficult! Leadership capacity coupled with a great understanding of the tasks you are completing, is a powerful combination.

The point of this leadership law, is that to grow to become a great leader, with the right values and qualities, and the right skills, develops over time, and not in a day. As a young leader, I have to discipline myself to learn and grow, so that I can become, by God's grace, a better leader. There are days, honestly, when you feel like, you will never 'arrive' at the place you want to be, though my hunch is that even leaders in their sixties and seventies still have that feeling! Be encouraged to continue to grow and learn, no matter what your age, and no matter what you 'have achieved' and what you are dreaming about.

Law No. 2 - The Law of Influence - John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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Law 2 - The Law of Influence

John C Maxwell says, that 'leadership is influence', nothing more, nothing less. While this statement may not be 'irrefutable' as the title of his popular book says, the fact is leadership encapsulates influence. A good leader has vision and purpose, and while reaching towards the clouds, influence is what helps fulfill the dreams of the leader. Maxwell writes, 'The true measure of leadership is influence...' It is safe to say, that without influence, a leader does not have the ammunition, if you like, to reach the goals or the resources and capacity around to reach the destination.

Maxwell speaks of the death of Princess Diana, that stopped the world in its tracks. This was a lady with influence, that captured the hearts of the people. The question I ask, is how do you increase your influence? Also, is influence always a good thing?

Firstly, influence can be used for good or evil. No doubt we are aware that Hitler had influence, but his warped regime characterises evil and is not the kind of influence we want. Lets assume, the influence we have, is not for some self-aggrandizement, like some tele-evangelist with a bulging bank balance. Lets assume, building influence is about bringing great change and transformation to the causes we are passionate about. Building influence in order that multi-million dollar companies might embrace the Fair Trade movement is great. Building influence within a Church building project, may involve having the leaders, the skills, and the finances at your fingertips so that the God-given dream will succeed. Influence need not be a scary thing, or something to be overly wary of, as long as we are dealing with 'power' in all its forms, and only allowing influence to be used for good, ethical causes.

Secondly, to the question of how we increase influence (not necessarily just personally, but maybe the influence of a church, organisation, etc), here are some thoughts:
* Build trust with others
* Learn to have self-assertiveness and to be decisive
* Be a positive leader
* Take others with you on the journey
* Pray and believe the Bible
* Be faithful, obedient and have integrity in all things
* Learn to communicate effectively

Influence is a questionable attribute for some. A Christian may claim that influence is unbiblical and the goal to become a person of influence is not God's desire for someone. The thesis being, that God is the only one who will and can make someone influential, and is not something humans should strive after. I agree partly with this assertion, though, I believe strongly in the words of Romans 12:8 that says we all have different gifts given to us, and if it is leadership, then, 'lead diligently'. If we are called by God to be a leader, then we are responsible to grow as a leader, and be faithful in reading, learning and developing, in order that we may lead diligently. Influence is not synonymous with power in a worldly sense, but simply characteristic of strong leadership.

Remember Law No. 2 - The law of Influence - From John C Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Law No. 1 - The Law of the Lid - John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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Law 1 - The Law of the Lid

John C Maxwell says that, 'Leadership ability determines a person's level of effectiveness'. This leadership lesson is about the fact that people, or organisations will only ever go as far as the leader that is leading them. If the leader only leads at a level of say 4 out of 10, then the people they lead, or the organisation they are the leader of, will only ever get to around 4 out of 10. We see this leadership principle all around us. Think of a school with a mediocre principal, or a festival run by a incompetent coordinator or a military campaign with an ineffective leader; we know the effects of mediocre leadership.

Our aim, is to lift our lid; to lift our lid on our ability to lead. What are some practical ways we can become better leaders?

  • Read a leadership book
  • Have a mentor who is a great leader
  • At the start of each day, think about what your purpose is, and don't be distracted by expectations that do not fulfill your purpose - or rather, don't consume your time with things that do not add value to becoming a better leader.
  • Become well versed in our area of work, e.g. if you are an engineer then know your engineering and physics well, so that you can lead more proficiently.
  • Develop your leadership skills daily - read, reflect, develop yourself.
  • Have a look at www.mindtools.com for a site with leadership and management tips and resources.


Remember Law No. 1 from John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - The Law of the Lid.

"The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be" (John C Maxwell).

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Stephen Covey's Four Human Intelligences/Capacities

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Stephen Covey's Four Human Intelligences/Capacities

Stephen Covey clearly integrates four human intelligences into a wholistic approach to life in his 2004 leadership offering, The 8th Habit. The teaching is, that if you develop each of the intelligences (IQ, EQ, PQ and SQ), then you will find more fulfilment in life and in fact will be more influential and successful in what you live for.
Throughout the last part of the twentieth century the talk was about IQ (Mental Intelligence), and the focus was on the importance of developing your own IQ to better interact in business and relationships. As years progressed the understanding and acceptance of what is labelled EQ (Emotional Intelligence) gathered some traction. The substance of EQ relates to the emotional capacity of people to interact with others and is related to self-esteem, interpersonal relationships and self-assertiveness. Covey also highlights PQ (Physical Intelligence) and SQ (Spiritual Intelligence). PQ is defined as the intelligence related to the natural aspects of the functions of your body, for example, the process of digesting food, or the absorption of vitamin D into the blood; so to improve your PQ is to improve your fitness and your overall physical health. The spiritual intelligence is the glue that holds the other three intelligences together and it, 'represents our drive for meaning and connection with the infinite' (Covey, 2004: 53). Our spiritual intelligence helps us discover the overarching principles that characterise our life, and the principles that in fact enrich us.
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For a summary of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, click here.
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The four human intelligences offer a wholistic opportunity to enrich our lives, as we seek to develop these facets of our lives - mind (IQ), body (PQ), spirit (SQ) and heart (EQ). Let me give you an example of how this plays out in real life. You may be a dedicated manager of a bakery franchise and you have a passion to increase your business and focus on your own development. Firstly you might review literature on baking, small business leadership, accounting techniques, etc - you are choosing to increase your IQ. Secondly you might decide to have a jog every afternoon, because you notice you are growing physically weary keeping up the long hours in the kitchen - you are now working on your PQ. Thirdly, you notice the need to grow your emotional intelligence (EQ), because of the regular conflict resolution needed between employees, and the assertiveness that is longed for, especially when it comes to negotiating rent and expectations with shopping centre management. Finally, in the process, you take a day or two off the busy schedule, walk up a mountain, with the fresh air on your face, and you contemplate your place in the bigger scheme of things. As you spend this time reflecting on the principles that characterise your life, you find yourself thanking God for the blessings he's given you over the years - this is about your SQ.

By developing all four of the human intelligences discussed, we can have a greater impact on people around us, and effect greater change in the causes we fight for.

Please offer your helpful, constructive thoughts and comments below. It would be a great set of teaching to expand on, ponder and implement into life.
See Stephen Covey's - The 8th Habit (2004).
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For a summary of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Click Here.
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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Worship is a Catalyst for Mission

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Worship is a catalyst for effective mission. If you want to be effective in God's mission, then having a foundation of worship is imperative. You know what I mean right? Ever been in a great time of prayer, where you are sensing the Spirit of God moving around you, and then not long after this, God uses you in ministry? When you are expressing a life of full devotion to Jesus, you are more in tune with God when it comes to honouring him in ministry. Whether it be, speaking out truth, fighting for justice, praying for someone who is sick, making that phone call or sending that encouraging email - a foundation of a worshipful life honours God. You become effective in ministry, not because of your skill set per se, but because the Creator of the cosmos is working through a devoted life. Attempting to persevere through the Christian life with your own skills and abilities, and without the power of God will leave you undone. Some things, like demon oppression, cannot be sorted out by creative communication, or skillful guitar work. A devoted, committed, passionate life that is devoted to the good news of Jesus is what God is after!
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Will you tithe your tax return?
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In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth; not some random process by clever evolving genetic material. Elohim, YHWH - the God of the cosmos - the one who started the Universe ex nihilo (out of nothing). He is worthy to be praised. That's right - he is worthy to be praised. So praise God.

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