Leading the Church

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13

In the Church, Christ has released five different leadership anointing (sometimes called the five-fold ministry gifts)–apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching. These anointings are found throughout the church in many different people but are sometimes solidified into leadership roles or staff positions when the community recognizes a strong anointing and calling on a person’s life. Each of these anointings cause a person to lead the church in slightly different ways and create a slightly different culture for the church body. Let’s briefly look at each one:

The primary question for the apostolic person is, “What is God doing?” Sunday Worship is about giving God total devotion and experiencing a divine encounter. Apostolic people are often given blueprints or strategy from the Lord for an entire organization. They are risk-takers who want to gain ground for the Kingdom of God.

The primary question for the prophetic person is, “What is God saying?” Sunday Worship is about giving God the praise that is due Him and experiencing God’s Presence. Prophetic people often support the apostolic and are given insight into the future of an organization and trends that are coming next.

The primary question for the teacher is, “What truth needs to be taught?” Sunday Worship is about teaching biblical truth from the scriptures and the discipleship of the believer. Teachers tend to make complicated theology or paradoxical truth more easily understandable for everyone. Because of this they are often the “translators” standing between the apostolic/prophetic people and the pastoral/evangelistic people.

The primary question for the pastoral person is, “What do our current people need, especially those who are hurting?” Sunday Worship is about people feeling welcomed, cared for, and connected to community. Pastoral leaders tend to lean into compassion, empathy, and mercy. Their focus is often the hurting and vulnerable.

The primary question for the evangelistic person is, “What does the outsider/new person need?” Sunday Worship is all about the new person, the guest, the person who has been far from church and/or far from God. Evangelistic leaders want to see people give their life to Jesus for the first time and want everything in the church to be geared toward that goal. They tend to be Christians who don’t like church very much or remember vividly what it was like to avoid Christians in their pre-Christian life.

As you can see, depending on who is leading a church and what leadership anointing they may have, the church will take on a slightly different culture. Below is an example of the difference between a church with an apostolic culture verses a church with a pastoral culture.

Pastoral church

Primary Focus: connecting in community

Secondary Focus: healing emotional wounds

Leaders: led by Pastors and pastoral people

Mission: care for the believers 

Discipleship Emphasis: emphasizes slow processes of development over time

People’s Involvement: the people either consume or pastor

View of Church: church is a hospital for the wounded

Leadership Mode: pastoring is the main expression of the church (evangelism feels too pushy and not relational enough, teaching sometimes feels irrelevant, prophetic feels too weird and supernatural, apostolic feels too authoritative and risky) 

Apostolic church

Primary Focus: create Kingdom culture

Secondary Focus: a Kingdom environment (presence of God, supernatural activity)

Leaders: led by apostolic people in the context of the 5-fold ministry gifts (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher) 

Mission: taking ground for the Kingdom

Discipleship Emphasis: emphasizes transformation through divine encounter (healing, deliverance, social change, salvation)

People’s Involvement: the people produce or are sent out

View of Church: church is an army sent to reclaim what belongs to the Lord

Leadership Mode: evangelism, teaching, pastoring and the prophetic are all pieces that contribute to the whole but they function under the authority of the apostolic. God’s supernatural presence and activity are paramount above all else.

Pastor Dave Hess

Way back in 2015, I felt prompted by the Lord to launch a prayer ministry at my church. As I was thinking through who did prayer ministry like this and did it well, I was reminded of the church I attended for a few years in college–Christ Community Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. It was a long shot but I wondered if I could meet with the pastor, Dave Hess, and pick his brain a little.

To my surprise, when I called his secretary and explained my situation, he was willing to fit me in. So a few weeks later I drove up to Camp Hill to meet with Pastor Hess. I can’t remember the date, I just remember that it was cold and snow was on the ground.

As soon as I walked into his office, Pastor Dave greeted me with warmth and kindness. I explained my desire to launch a prayer ministry and to express the supernatural gifts of the Spirit but in a way that was responsible and accountable. My memory of him that day was that he mostly just listened and asked questions. He didn’t give me any great advice or wisdom except this: He said that I had to experience the Lord and profoundly encounter Him first before I could expect others to do the same.

Then he gave me three books for free. He gave me one training manual on prayer ministry, one book on prophetic gifting, and finally he gave me his own book. He talked briefly about his incredible encounters with God through his battle with cancer. It began to dawn on me just how important and influential Pastor Hess had become. The only way I can describe it is this: Imagine going across the street to your neighbors house to ask advice on how they get their rose garden to be so beautiful and in the process of talking about gardening you become aware that your neighbor is the former President of the United States. Here you are with the President and you’re asking him about roses. That was the feeling.

On my way out of his office, Pastor Dave Hess did something that left a mark on me. It was the most powerful moment of the whole meeting and it was totally unexpected. We both got up from our chairs and he thanked me for coming in. Then he did something that to this day I can’t shake from my consciousness. He took my coat off of the hook before I could get to it, he opened it up and waited for me to slip my arms in it. Picture what a butler would do for the head of the house. Or, if you were into watching Downton Abby, it’s what His Lordship’s Valet would do to help him get dressed. It’s what a father does for his children when they’re trying to put on a heavy winter coat.

As it was happening, I was too stunned to put it all together. It was the perfect picture of servant leadership. Here was this great man of faith, this man that I should be serving, and he was holding my coat. He took the posture of a servant with such ease it was clear that this was a regular part of his life. This is just who he is. I can’t even help my kids put their coats on without thinking about this moment. It is seared into my mind and heart. It was the winter version of washing feet.

I know it seems small, but you have to understand that Pastor Dave gets invited to speak at large conferences, he has written multiple books, and he has been the senior pastor of Christ Community for decades. I didn’t really know any of that when I asked to meet with him that day.

The books he gave me, by the way, ended up profoundly shaping the prayer ministry at my church. But the simple act of helping me put on my coat did something more. Can you imagine? One grown man helping another grown man put on his coat? There’s no logical reason for it. It was simply an act of servanthood. It was simply an act of love to a guy he just met. He has probably done that a million times. Serving and loving people are so natural for him that he probably thought nothing of it. But I’ll never forget it. It must have been how the prodigal son felt when his father brought the robe and put it on him.

Why are charismatics so weird?

 “What should we do with these men? For it is plain to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable miraculous sign has come about through them, and we cannot deny it. But to keep this matter from spreading any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 

And they called them in and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right before God to obey you rather than God, you decide, for it is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

Acts 4:16-20

Why is it that Christians who operate in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are so often weird and awkward?

Or put another way, why do charismatics often seem to lack emotional intelligence around people?

In my journey with these supernatural gifts and their proper use, I’m starting to understand why people who use these gifts seem so weird to your average evangelical. First, we need to acknowledge that low emotional intelligence can be found in every tradition of the church. I’ve met super-awkward Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, and progressives. So that part isn’t necessarily unique.

But I believe one factor that can sometimes increase awkwardness with charismatics is what happens when one receives these gifts. There is often a massive moment of full surrender in our relationship with Jesus before we start seeing the flourishing of the supernatural gifts. They may have even been there in seedling form already, but the gifts don’t flourish without surrender.

What this surrender requires is a gigantic “Yes” with our life. It is telling Jesus that we will do what He tells us to do no matter what. It is agreeing to operate with quick obedience even if it is hard, even if it is awkward, even if we’re afraid, even if it makes us look bad, even if it doesn’t fit with social norms. If the “fear of man” had a hold on our life, its stranglehold gets broken in this process of surrender.

Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” The fear of man is being overly concerned about what others will think of us. It is being overly concerned about our image and reputation. It is an oppressive desire to be liked and to have people say nice things about us. In order to fully operate in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, this part of us must die.

So there is a process of surrender whereby we are killing or suppressing the voice that says, “But what will people think?” or “But how will this look?” This voice is often used by the enemy to keep us from stepping out in faith and taking bold risks in obedience to the Lord. The problem is that there is a part of this voice that involves emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is often summarized as having four main parts:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Relational awareness (empathy)
  4. Relational management

When one is trying to be obedient to the Lord, part of putting to death the fear of man in our life is knowing that something will be awkward (self-awareness) and yet doing it anyway. This sometimes comes across to others as someone who doesn’t have self-management or relational awareness. An observer may assume, “If they knew how that looked, they wouldn’t do it.” But sometimes that’s not true. Sometimes the person trying to act in obedience knows how it looks and does it anyway.

Why?

Obedience. Surrender. I gave God my unequivocal “Yes” and don’t want to take it back.

But God would never ask us to do something embarrassing or awkward, right? Wrong. This is a myth that is believed by too many American Christians. We see throughout the Bible and throughout the history of the church that God continually asks people to do things that are awkward, embarrassing, and often misunderstood. And as we witness the lives of the persecuted church around the world, God even asks us to be willing to be killed for the sake of Christ.

Now, all of that said, there is a place for EQ in knowing “how” to do that thing God is asking us to do. He wants us to be loving. Many charismatics, in their deep desire to be bold in faith and quick in their obedience, have forgotten that not all EQ is the fear of man. We still are called to operate in love, and loving someone often looks like the four parts of emotional intelligence.

In other words, the reason many charismatics come across as awkward is because, in their deep desire not to give in to the fear of man, they have “thrown the baby out with the bathwater.” It is, of course, true that some charismatics just have a deficit in EQ like many other Christians. But it isn’t always that.

In my life I have found that, more often, it is a deep desire to be unquestioningly obedient and, in doing so, sometimes missing the mark on the difference between the fear of man and appropriate EQ. Charismatics don’t always get it right. They don’t always know where that line is. But I love their heart of wanting to obey the Lord no matter what. I’ll take that over a life full of fear any day. Being awkward for the sake of obedience to Christ seems like a small price to pay compared to the high price many Christians are paying around the world for their faith.

Self-Limiting

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

As Christmas approaches, I’ve been thinking a little about the incarnation–God becoming human in the person of Jesus. Nothing can limit or contain God except Himself. When Jesus became human in the incarnation, it was a gigantic act of self-limitation on the part of God. The One who was once omnipresent, self-limited to a time and place in history. The One who never experienced pain, hunger, or thirst, self-limited Himself into a human body that experienced all the basic human needs for food and sleep. He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.

Does this mean that Jesus wasn’t the fullness of God?

No. Colossians 2:9 is clear, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Imagine a dad playing basketball with his young son. If he is a good dad, he will “self-limit” the amount of force and skill that he exerts. He does this out of love for his son. Does this mean that in this moment he is “less” of a dad? Quite the opposite. In the dad’s loving self-limitation he is fully himself and maybe even the best version of himself because his love is tangibly on display. The same is true of Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15).

What about God’s omniscience and power? Did God self-limit those in the incarnation?

I believe He did.

It is true that we see Jesus know things He couldn’t know without supernatural insight. We also see Jesus do incredible miracles that He couldn’t do without divine power. Yet, I believe that what we see in Jesus is a tiny fraction of God’s total omniscience and power. I believe Jesus only did that which is possible to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. He only did that which was possible for a human to do who is completely filled and empowered by the Spirit and perfectly connected to the Father. In other words, I believe Jesus did these things as a perfect human conduit of the power of the Spirit not as God the Son.

Luke 4:1 says that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” after His baptism as He was led into the desert to be tempted. Then, having been victorious over Satan in the desert, Luke 4:14 says that Jesus returned to start His ministry “in the power of the Spirit.” It’s not until this happens that we start to see Jesus do miracles, healings, and deliverances. So I believe that the “supernatural” aspect of Jesus’s ministry was Him acting as a human fully empowered by the Spirit and completely connected to the Father. I don’t believe they are instances of Him flexing is divinity (though He had every right to as God the Son). So even His miracles are an aspect of His self-limitation.

We know that the power He could have displayed could have been so much more overwhelming. Jesus even said, leading up to the cross, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?“(Matthew 26:53). There was so much more power that could have been unleashed but wasn’t. Again we see Jesus’s self-limitation.

Though Jesus knew things about people that He couldn’t have known without supernatural help (see John 1:47-48 & 4:16-18, Luke 5:22 & 9:47), I believe this was Him operating in what the apostle Paul would later call gifts of the Spirit like words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). Yet, we still see that Jesus self-limited His foreknowledge when He talks to His disciples about the end times and says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

Jesus’s self-limitation in the incarnation was a radical act of love toward us. It also leaves us followers of Jesus without excuse. We can no longer write-off parts of Jesus’s ministry with the statement, “Yeah, well, He was God.” We sometimes like to think Jesus’s divinity gets us off the hook from having to operate like Jesus did in the fullness of the Spirit. But, though He could have operated out of His divinity, I don’t believe He did. Everything He did He did as a human fully surrendered to the Father and fully empowered by the Spirit. And though we will never be the perfect conduit of the Spirit that Jesus was, we are still called to be a conduit just the same.

Washing Feet – Revisited

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 

John 13:6-15

I love when the Lord shows me something new in a passage of scripture I’ve read a hundred times. I read the above passage the other day and felt like the Lord showed me something new. We tend to think of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet as an act of humble service whereby He then instructs His disciple to do the same for each other (that is, serve each other). But consider that there’s more that Jesus is addressing here. 

We know that Jesus isn’t just talking about personal hygiene. And I believe He’s talking about more than just service. When He’s talking about taking a bath, He’s really talking about baptism/salvation. He’s talking about the cleansing of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus says, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

And when Jesus is talking about washing feet, He’s talking about the regular cleansing that we need even after we are saved. Jesus said, “Those who have had a bath (been saved) need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.” Meaning, we who are followers of Jesus have already been forgiven of all of our sin, and yet we still need a regular kind of cleansing because of our regular contact with sin and the contaminants of the world. We’ve been cleansed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out (our spiritual bath), yet we still get the muck and grime of the world on us simply by walking daily in the world. After we have had a “bath” we don’t need to get saved over and over again, but we do need a different kind of cleansing. We do need a foot washing.

We see this same kind of “dual cleansing” demonstrated by the priests at the Temple. First, they offered the sacrifices of animals to account for their sin. The spilling of blood addressed their guilt from sin. Yet, the priests also had to wash in the wash basin before entering the Holy Place. The washing with water addressed anything they may have had contact with that made them “unclean.” And these wash basins were made from bronze mirrors. They would have literally seen a reflection of themselves as they washed away the contaminants of the world with water. I don’t think it was an accident that a time of reflection accompanied this time of cleansing.

Jesus introduces a new kind of “dual cleansing” for the new priesthood of believers. First, baptism represents the full and total cleansing of our life from sin. Jesus’s blood is what would enable the Holy Spirit to come and bathe us in righteousness from the inside out. Then, a foot washing, which represents the ongoing need for forgiveness, repentance, and cleansing from the muck of the world.

Not only do we need a spiritual “foot washing,” a regular kind of repentance and cleansing, but this cleansing is something we believers can offer to each other. Jesus commands, “…you also should wash one another’s feet.” We not only are called to serve each other humbly, but we are called to participate in helping each other stay clean. The cleansing water is the Holy Spirit, and He does what only the Spirit can do. Yet, we can participate in this by metaphorically washing each other’s feet.

I have seen the reality of this kind of cleansing happen over and over in the prayer ministry we have at our church. People come in for prayer with the muck of sin and the muck of the world caked on them. They feel ashamed and defeated. They feel oppressed and depressed. They know there is more to this Christian life than what they are experiencing but they just can’t seem to tap into it. They are followers of Jesus who have been bathed in the waters of baptism, but they still need a foot washing for their soul.

Then we start praying, and the increased Presence of the Holy Spirit begins to be poured out. We as prayer ministers bend low to wash feet and the cleansing power of the Spirit does His work. I watch as time and again people get set free from sin, free from shame, free from unforgiveness and hurt, free from the heavy weight pressing down on their shoulders, free from the heaviness on their chest that keeps them from taking a full breath. As the cleansing water of the Spirit is poured out, the Light comes, lightness is felt, freedom is experienced, hope returns, and a cleansing takes place right in front of us.

When Jesus taught us to wash each other’s feet, I do think he had in mind humble service. But I also think He had in mind ministry that brings freedom and cleansing, ministry that one believer can offer to another. We have the honor of ushering in the cleansing power of the Spirit for each other if we are willing to bend low. This ministry of cleansing is the ministry of washing feet and inviting the Holy Spirit to come and wash souls.

Carrying God’s Presence

Imagine God calls you into something through a prophetic word. You have a special assignment from Jesus. This assignment is so unexpected that the Lord actually uses supernatural divine revelation to bring it about. God tells someone else ahead of time what will happen and that person then tells you. And then, God’s prophetic word through this person comes about. It actually happens! As unexpected and unlikely as it seems, God brings about the word spoken over your life!

Now imagine that the divine calling that came through this prophetic word is that you will carry the very Presence of God on you and release it to other people. You will be the conduit through which people will experience a tangible encounter with Jesus. Other people will have an encounter with God because of the tangible Presence of God resting on you. This is your calling! Can you imagine?

Have you ever experienced something like this?

How special would you feel if this was you? How uniquely chosen would you feel? How honored would you feel? How humbled would you be? How overwhelmed at the enormity of this responsibility?

Yet, I am reminded that there is someone who had this exact thing happen to them in the Gospels. It was a donkey.

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 

Luke 19:29-35

Jesus spoke a prophetic word to His disciples about what they would find. He called this donkey out ahead of time through a word. And what was the divine calling? It would be to carry the very Presence of God into Jerusalem so that the people of Jerusalem could have an encounter with their Savior.

We who have been called out by a prophetic word, we who bear the heavy responsibility and incredible honor of being a conduit of God’s power and Presence, need to remember that we are very much like that donkey.

We are special and unique and loved and called. We are honored and humbled and surprised that God would use us. Yet, our main task is simply that of the donkey. We simply carry the Presence of God to others. He does all the rest. We can’t save, or heal, or deliver, or empower, or comfort. But Jesus does all of that and more. Our job is to carry His Presence, follow His lead as He pulls on the reins, and do what He asks us to do. Then we watch as Jesus does the miraculous all around us.

A minister named Dr. Randy Clark operates in an astounding measure of God’s power. I love his prayer. Let it be ours!

“God! Let your eye fall on me, for I want to be totally yielded. I want to be that person through whom you can show yourself strong. I want to be the coin in your pocket for you to spend any way you want. I want your glory to rest on me. I want to be the donkey that you ride on. I just want to be yielded, God, and I want to believe that I can be the person that you clothe yourself with. I want to believe, God, that I can be mightily used in your kingdom. God, in my heart I am saying to you, please, look upon me and let your grace fall upon me because I want to reveal your glory. Show yourself strong through my life.” 

Dr. Randy Clark, Spend and Be Spent

An Ancient & Rediscovered Evangelism

…the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demonized man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:35-39

No one could help this man. Scripture says that “for a long time” he hadn’t worn proper clothes or even lived in a house. The locals had tried to contain this man full of demons with shackles and chains but his demonization gave him supernatural strength. Nothing seemed to help.

No one needed to convince this man that the spirit realm was real. No one needed to convince him that there were supernatural things that happened in the natural world. He was living this reality; he was being tormented by these demons daily.

When Jesus shows up, the response by the demons living inside this man is telling. They cause the man to shout at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” (Luke 8:28)

A couple things to notice here. First, the very thing that they were doing to this man, torturing him, is what they were afraid that Jesus would do to them. In other words, just as the man had no power over the demons, the demons had no power over Jesus.

Secondly, they call Jesus the Son of the Most High God. There were other “gods”––we might call them demonically-backed idols (read 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 10:19-21 & Revelation 9:20)––but the demons knew that there was only one Most High God.

What I find so fascinating about this encounter with Jesus is that this demonized man gets totally delivered and completely restored to his right mind, and the result is that he essentially becomes an evangelist to his hometown.

I believe this connection between deliverance ministry and evangelism will only grow in the coming years in the American church. I’m already seeing it happen. People are dabbling in the spirit realm and then finding themselves bound by darkness and harassed by demons. They don’t need convincing that the spirit realm and the supernatural are real. They are fully convinced that the spirit realm is real because they experience the dark side of it daily.

They have nightmares and night terrors regularly. They are racked by fear and can feel evil presences around them. They feel like they are being haunted or attacked by spirits, but they don’t know what to do about it. They visit mediums and fortune-tellers but they don’t seem to help. These so-called “spirit guides” actually make the problem worse. Even more darkness is hanging around after a visit with them.

What a spiritually harassed person needs is someone with answers as to how to get free. What they need is someone with the kind of authority and power that can break the demonic chains in their life. What they need is the Name that is above every other name, the Son of the Most High God, Jesus. They need followers of Jesus who carry His name, His delegated authority, and the power of the Holy Spirit to come alongside them and show them how to get free from all the darkness.

And when they get free, they will go and tell their story to their friends and family! When they get free, they will go and declare that only Jesus was able to rescue them from the hauntings, from the darkness, from the nightmares and spiritual oppression. When they get free, they will become the next generation of evangelists to a culture that already believes in the supernatural but has only experienced the kingdom of darkness. When they get free, they will become ambassadors of the freedom, power, and love that can only come from the Kingdom of Light and the name of Jesus!

…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:11-14

Twenty Years Later

Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
    Why does he say to himself,
    “He won’t call me to account”?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.

Psalm 10:12-14

I had just come down to the living room and turned on the TV. Every channel was covering the same news story. I was in a little apartment by myself in Texas. A couple weeks prior, I had moved my entire life from Baltimore, Maryland to Waco, Texas in order to attend seminary. I had decided to skip my morning class that Tuesday and sleep in a little. It only took me a few minutes of watching to realize that nothing would ever be the same.

Here I was a guy sitting in central Texas who was born and raised in the northeast and went to college in the northeast watching multiple terrorist attacks happen in the northeast. I felt powerless. I had a strange sense of wanting to get home and yet simultaneously glad that I wasn’t there. I was worried about my friends and family and wondered where they were. While the Twin Towers were three hours from my house, the Pentagon was only 45 minutes away. Where Flight 93 crashed was only two hours from my college.

Disbelief. Shock. Anger. More disbelief. More shock. Horror. Helplessness. These feelings cycled through on repeat. I was glued to the TV. I remember not wanting to even go to the bathroom because I had to bear witness to the Pearl Harbor of my generation.

The second plane hit the second tower. Somebody do something! The second tower fell first. Oh my goodness! The first tower fell second. Get out of there! Clouds of ash. People covered in blood and ash. People wandering around disoriented. News broadcasters speechless. Lord, have mercy.

I watched all day. I watched until there wasn’t anything left to watch and then I kept watching. I was alone in that little apartment and yet, somehow, I was also deeply connected to the rest of the country who was also watching in horror. In shock. In disbelief. And we all knew.

Nothing would ever be the same.

Pro-Life Movement

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”

Jeremiah 1:4-5

Both my mom and my mother-in-law raised three children of their own, worked full-time as nurses, and still found time to volunteer countless hours at crisis pregnancy centers to help young mothers in need. They are just two among hundreds of thousands of pro-life women who do the same.

I have a number of pro-life friends who have decided not only to raise their own biological children but also to foster and adopt children in need. They are among the hundreds of thousands of pro-life families doing the same.  

Many women who have had an abortion––who have felt the pain and suffering that happens during and after an abortion––are now pro-life advocates. They don’t want other women to be misinformed about the realities of abortion and the devastation that it can cause. They want to bring hope and redemption. This is the pro-life movement. 

“If you’re going to be pro-life, be pro-life for the whole life.” 

I hear my pro-choice friends say this a lot and I couldn’t agree more. But I can’t think of a single pro-life person that I know that isn’t pro-life for the whole life. Sometimes it seems like when my pro-choice friends picture the pro-life movement they picture someone like the Monopoly guy with a top hat and a monocle longing to take away women’s rights. This and many other images are, of course, false caricatures. 

The truth is that the pro-life movement is filled with people like my mom and mother-in-law who give countless hours to those in need; it’s filled with families who foster and adopt, and filled with women who have had abortions. This is who makes up the pro-life movement that is so often ridiculed and belittled by the other side.

The pro-life movement that I know and love tries to fully embrace and live out these words:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Chosenness & Selectivity

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 

Mark 9:2

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. 

Mark 9:30-31

In Mark 9 we see Jesus choose to be exclusive on two back-to-back occasions. First, only Peter, James and John were invited up the mountain to see Jesus transfigured before them. Then, Jesus intentionally tried to avoid the crowds who needed ministry because “he was teaching his disciples.”

Peter, James, and John were Jesus’s inner circle. They were the ones Jesus wanted with Him when His soul was in turmoil in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Mark 14:32-33). Jesus repeatedly picked these three men out from the rest of the twelve disciples.

Jesus also was unapologetic about choosing the twelve over the crowds. When Jesus wanted to spend extra time on discipleship, teaching the twelve disciples the deeper things of the Kingdom of God, Jesus didn’t mind intentionally avoiding the crowds.

This theme of “intentional chosenness” demonstrated by Jesus continues a theme we see throughout the Old Testament as God chose Israel as His chosen people. One of God’s main strategies throughout the Bible is to choose a small number of people in order that they might absorb the DNA of the Kingdom and then bless the rest of the world with it.

But this selectivity on the part of Jesus flies in the face of our sense of democratic equality. Shouldn’t everyone have been invited up the mountain with Jesus? How is that fair? Shouldn’t they at least vote on who gets to see Jesus transfigured?

And why would Jesus go incognito in trying to avoid people who are genuinely in need? Why did the disciples get an “unfair” amount of time with Him? Shouldn’t Jesus have made Himself more available to the poor huddled masses?

The truth is that good leadership demands that we pick and choose who to pour our lives into. We have to admit our limitations of time, energy, and resources. So the best leaders are selective. The point is multiplication. Invest in a few who will then, in turn, invest in a few, and the chain reaction impacts more people than one person could have otherwise.

So what looks like unfair selectivity and favoritism on the surface is actually powerful wisdom on display. If Jesus had spread Himself “equally” to everyone, no one would have had the depth needed to carry the DNA of the Kingdom after Jesus was gone.

In our culture we rightly champion equality because it is the closest approximation we can muster to the love and servanthood that is found in the Kingdom of God. But sometimes the unintended by-product is that this good principle of equality gets applied in ways that actually does more harm than good. Everyone should be treated with the same amount of love and respect, but that doesn’t mean we give our time and energy to everyone in the same way.

When it comes to good leadership, there are times we must employ “intentional selectivity” with our time and a kind of “purposeful chosenness” with people. “Equality” cannot be the driving principle behind how we spend our time. “Investment” needs to be the driving principle. We need to ask ourselves, “Who can we pour our lives into in such a way that it multiplies the work and impact of the Kingdom of God?”