Tuesday, October 11, 2005

No Life Jackets Needed

Change was definitely on the horizon when the disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the water early that morning. So many people use the passage in Matthew 14 to talk about a lack of faith on Peter's part. I want to explore instead, what it means for us as leaders, by breaking down a few of the elements found in the reading from verses 22-32.

First, Jesus spends time away by himself. When change is going to occur we need to spend a great deal of time in prayer. Change is very difficult to lead. People push back. Sometimes people even say and do things that really hurt. It is amazing what happens when change hits someone who is not ready for it. It can be like a tiger backed into a corner. The person who is a leader in the church can all of a sudden display the kind of character that is more like someone far from God instead of someone who is a follower of Jesus. Therefore, when we are preparing for any change we must ground it in prayer.

Second, Jesus comes to the disciples at 4:00 in the morning. Change never comes when we are totally ready. God moves when he is ready, not when we are ready. How often do we want to push off change because we aren't prepared? I will procrastinate by saying that I need to do some reading on the subject before I make my decision. When God is ready to move in our lives and in the life of our church we must be ready no matter when it is that he comes to us.

Third, Jesus tells them to take courage. In other words, Jesus knows that the change that he brings will not be easy. The things he is going to ask of these men is not going to be ordinary, it is going to be extraordinary. What happens next? Peter gets to walk on water - that's never happened before or since. The work that Jesus calls us to as leaders is not one of ease, but of joining him where he is at work in our community. In most cases, it going to be where we least expect it. That will challenge us and change us to rely on Jesus. Just as Peter had to reach out his hand to Jesus so that he could rescue him, we will have to do the same as we get in over our head and try to do things ourselves.

Fourth, Peter begins to sink in the water because he took his eyes off of Jesus. Everyone points this out. Everyone says this is where Peter failed. This is where I think we fail too. The change is upon us as leaders. We step out in faith to be a part of what God is doing, but then we begin to realize that there are a lot of things that need to be done. We realize that the effort and the energy necessary to make the change work is extraordinary. We start looking at the waves crashing against us. Satan whispers to us, "you can't do it." We start believing it. We get stressed out because we see all the reasons we shouldn't be going through this change. We hear from those around us, who have been in the church a long time, and we listen more to them than the voice of Jesus upon our lives. All of this culminates in our sinking. We take our eyes off of the master and we go under.

Fifth, the good news is that Jesus is there and his hand is always extended. He is ready to rescue us from ourselves. He is ready to right the ship, calm the storm, and give us everything we need to persevere. Jesus wants us to succeed in the work that he has called us to be about as leaders. I think he is ready to lighten the load if necessary, but I believe that this lessens what it is that God is seeking to do through us. If everything is smooth and easy and we succeed, then we can take the credit. But if we can stand firm in the midst of the storm, then we can only point to God as the one who made us successful.

Finally, the disciples who stayed in the boat proclaimed, "Truly you are the Son of God." When Jesus moves in our lives in an authentic way, people around us will know that he is God and we are not. Sometimes it is even in our failure that others can see who God truly is and be drawn to him.What would happen if we as leaders decided to get out of the boat and to never take our eyes off of Jesus?

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Vision Leaks

One of the prophets of old, Nehemiah, received a vision from God to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. About half way through the process, the people lost sight of the vision. It says in Nehemiah 4:10, "The strength of the laborers is giving out." This didn't just mean their physical strength, but also their resolve to follow the vision God had given through Nehemiah. So Nehemiah recast the vision in verse 14, "Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome."

When people join Charter Oak Church we ask them to sign a membership covenant. For many in our faith community, that covenant has been long forgotten, others just need to hear the vision again for who we are as a body of believers. I put before you once again the Charter Oak Church Membership Covenant:

1. Members are expected to WORSHIP the Lord by doing the following:
• Faithfully attending a worship service each weekend that you’re in town and not ill;
• Giving financially to God’s work at Charter Oak Church;
• Living a Godly life.

2. Members are expected to GROW in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ by doing the following:
• Progressing through the ’01 classes;
• Faithful participation in Sunday school classes, a small group, or Bible studies.

3. Members are expected to CONNECT with others in this body by doing the following:
• Refusing to gossip;
• Being a peacemaker;
• Praying for Charter Oak Church and the needs of her people;
• Participating in fun events;
• Becoming part of a small group;
• Acting in love toward every person you encounter.

4. Members are expected to SERVE in the ministries of the church by doing the following:
• Discovering your SHAPE;
• Being equipped to serve;
• Developing a servant’s heart.

5. Members are expected to REACH out to members of the community by doing the following:
• Sharing your time, your faith, and your hospitality with them;
• Inviting them to attend church and fun events with you;
• Warmly greeting those who visit Charter Oak Church.

As leaders of Charter Oak Church, we are called to live out this covenant to the best of our ability so that those who watch us will be influenced by our leadership. The way you live your life, inside and outside the church, matters. It matters to God.