Archive for Church

The Top Seven Things I Do Before 7 AM

20120112-083359.jpg1. Lay out the next day’s clothes the night before
This is helpful because I often dress in the dark. It keeps me from leaving the house with un-matching socks, or some other wardrobe malfunction

2. Hit brew on the Kurig machine and drink that 1st cup of love.
I later get an iced grande triple espresso, but often can’t wait that long for a blast of caffeine.

3. Knell down at the living room couch and pray to God
This sets my day, and often can chart a new direction depending upon the leading of the Lord.

4. Read from my PAUSE Daily Bible Reading Plan and journal my thoughts
Find out more at http://wsfc.org/resources/bible-reading/

5. Review daily calendar, reprioritize, add and subtract. Set my goals for the day
I personally use Wunderlist for tasks and Evernote to capture everything in my life.

6. Download and quickly look at email. Swipe through social media.
Just a quick look to see if anything urgent requires my immediate attention. And then a fast flip through Instagram to get my “social shot” for the morning. This particular habit is one that I’m trying to break through extended fasts. But at least it isn’t the FIRST thing I do when waking up!

7. Shower. Then off and running by 7 AM.
Get my son to school. Hit Starbucks or another local coffee shop with wifi. Then: Work. Work. Work.

Bring It and Tend It

Today I was reading a Leviticus 24. I know, I know…Leviticus, am I right?!? But, you know what? I love the Book of Leviticus. Seriously. I really enjoy it. The key for me is to have a really strong grasp on the JESUS of the New Testament, so that I can have a greater appreciation for the Bible that HE would have read and known (the Old Testament).

As I was reading Leviticus 24 I came across these verses:

The Lord said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually. Outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, Aaron is to tend the lamps before the Lord from evening till morning, continually. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. The lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord must be tended continually (vs. 1-4).

I was quickly reminded of something very similar in the Book of Exodus that I had read AND blogged on previously. I dug through my blog (which has been poorly cared for as of late), and found what I had written SIX years ago. I’m re-posting it. I think it’s good and still important.

Enjoy.

 

In the Book of Exodus we discover such great detail regarding the construction, decor and maintenance of the temple of the Lord. If you’ve ever read through Exodus then you too have discovered the incredible minutia. Everything detail has of corresponding detail. Everything has a purpose and a place. The lampstand must be made of certain materials. The frame of the tabernacle has specific dimensions. Even the curtains must be made of a particular fabric and have just the right amount of embroidery  and yarn. Lots and lots of detail. Almost mind-numbing. Just when my eyes were beginning to gloss over I was captured by these verses:

“And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.”  Exodus 27:20-21

Here we discover God’s command to the priests that there should always be a light left on in the temple. The inner court must alway have illumination. The lamps were to be filled with pure beaten olive oil.  The process by which olive oil is harvested and refined is amazing. There are various grades of oil (ie: extra virgin) and the command was such that only the purest form be brought to the inner court to keep the light burning day and night.

Throughout Biblical history, we discover that oil is often used as a typology of the Holy Spirit and His anointing presence. From this passage, one can surmise that the Lord God desired that there be a visual reminder of His Presence always burning brightly within the temple and before the people.  God’s desire for His manifold Presence to be expressed, enjoyed and exalted remains today. He wants His Presence to be evident in our modern churches.

How often have we been a part of or at least aware of congregations in which God’s Presence has not dwelt for some time?  These are empty shells, white-washed tombs, and shadows of their former selves.

The lights are barely on, and God is certainly not at home.

How can we, in our postmodern culture, insure that the Presence of the Holy Spirit still burns brightly within our midst?  I believe there are two components that are found in the Exodus 27 passage.

1.  The People Bring It

The people of Israel were commanded to bring the pure oil to the temple for the lamp to remain lit. There is a responsibility on their part that is often overlooked today.  Our contemporary churches have largely become spectator based in which folks rate the service like that of an episode of American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance? In large part the leaders of the local church have a heavy expectation to “bring it,” and if there seems to be a lack of God’s Presence then the service is rated accordingly. In this passage we discover the opposite expectation.  The people were to “bring it.”

Imagine, Spirit-filled believers coming together and collectively bringing the indwelling Presence of God with them. Our church gatherings would be lit up! That’s where the pastors role begins.

2.  The Pastor Tends It

Aaron and his sons were the priests of the temple. They were commanded to tend to the lamp from evening to morning. What is notably absent from this passage?  Bringing oil was not their responsibility. Their role involved tending. Today in our churches, we have pastors that are given the same role: to keep the lamp burning with the oil that the people bring.

I have known good and Godly leaders that are struggling in their place of service. There are a number of reasons why this could be the case. But it occurs to me that perhaps they are trying to keep a lamp burning without oil. Another image would be: making bricks without straw.  These well-meaning pastors have too great an expectation upon them to be both bringer and tender. That is an undue expectation.

Welcome to the Kingdom of God partnership:  people and pastor. Together we can keep the light on for God.

What’s the Purpose of the Church?

Screen Shot 2011-09-01 at 4.59.45 AMA number of years ago, in my first pastorate, I remember the ongoing sense of confusion and frustration I felt regarding the purpose of The Church. I would often get asked “What are we doing?” and I knew the question was more comprehensive and challenging then our next event, bible study or teaching series. The question had to do with the greater purpose and overall mission of the “exclesia” – the Body of Christ.

I was stumped. Oh sure, I could muster some semblance of a response such as “We’re just gonna love God and love people.” That, by the way, isn’t a bad answer. I, however, was regurgitating something I had heard from yet another leader at yet another pastors breakfast. In no time I would respond to the “what are we doing?” question with a wide-eyed “Um, we’re reaching the world for Jesus” or “We’re making it hard for people to go to hell in our city.” Were we to reach the lost or feed the found? Ahhh…the pressure!

My understanding of the church’s purpose would flip-flop after every compelling book, conference or sudden epiphany.

Until I was about 30 years old and I spent a week with Pastor Jack Hayford.

When he spoke to me, and about 45 other Christian leaders, the lights began to come on, the fog started clearing, and I began to understand, deep in my heart, the fundamental framework for the local church.

And I haven’t looked back since. Like a gymnast, I finally stuck the landing.

By the way, it should be mentioned, that this wasn’t rocket science, a newly fashioned and fanciful theological construct, nor a secret-now-revealed to the best and brightest. It was simple, and it was explicit in the Bible. But, it finally made sense.

So Christ himself gave [the church] 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

 

The Church exists to equip people towards maturity in Christ Jesus.

Deep breath. I remember a wave of revelation coming over me like it was yesterday.

The church, and all it’s wonderful gifts, are to be aimed, like a strategic missile, at the mission of equipping (which in Greek is the word “katartizo” meaning “to mend”) the saints for the work of ministry. That’s discipleship. Like we say at West Salem Foursquare Church: we exist to Make More and Maturing Disciples.

That, my friends, can be done in amazingly creative and diverse ways. For example, at our church, we’ve determined that we’re gonna hit our goal by investing in The Big Three: scripture, small groups and serving. Other congregations may achieve the goal differently. More power to ya. Like it’s been said, “There’s more than one way to skin that cat.”

But, let’s at least aim for the goal: equipping people towards maturity (which in Greek is the word “teleios” meaning “brought to it’s finished end”) in Christ Jesus.

Based upon my observations, you may have push-back, or at least curiosity, regarding the value of evangelism. Shouldn’t the mission of the church be reaching and/or returning people to Jesus? Doesn’t the church exist for those yet to be found (ie: lost)? This is precisely what you’ll have to wrestle with, as I did. Here’s a piece of understanding from Pastor Jack Hayford, that helped me immensely: evangelism is the natural overflow of an equipped (mended and maturing) follower of Jesus.  

Equipping is the bullseye. Evangelism is the byproduct.

Leading Through Tough Stuff

Last week, myself, along with my friend Randy Remington and facilitated and lectured at one of my annual Leadership Symposiums on the the topic of “Leading Through Criticism, Conflict and Change.” 

As a resource, I gave out the following blog post that I wrote back in 2010. I wanted to REPOST it because I think it’s helpful for leaders of all kinds to know how to navigate tough situations like the one Solomon famously faced. 

Enjoy. 

 

In 1 Kings 3 Solomon, in a dream, asks the Lord for wisdom. His prayer is one that I have asked on a number of occasions and in various ways:

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? 1 Kings 3:9

Although a dream, this nighttime prayer became a reality. Solomon was indeed graced with immense wisdom. We discover its practical implications through an interesting encounter with two mothers (albeit prostitutes) that came to Solomon to have a disagreement settled.

One of the mothers had rolled over onto her baby in the middle of the night, smothering the little one. She then switched the dead baby for the living one. This was a classic “While You Were Sleeping” moment. However, like any mother worth her salt, the woman knew that the dead baby simply was not hers.

The battle of words begins: Yours. Mine. Not Yours. Alive. Mine. Dead. Yours. Mine.

Enter Solomon.

After listening to the arguments, in a bold move, Solomon presented a solution. His remedy has become a prototype for conflict resolution. Throughout the centuries, leaders have leaned upon Solomon’s sagely advice:

Bring me the baby. Oh yah, and a sword too. Gasp. I’m gonna split this cute little thing into two evenly divided pieces. Bigger Gasp. Each of you will get a piece. That should settle this. Another huge Gasp. 

In church life, Lead Pastors have to “split the baby” all the time. Not literally, of course. The baby is representative of ministry focus, good ideas, financial resources, etc. etc. All ministry leaders have their “babies” – the ministries they oversee, the specific ideas and concepts they generate, and the passions that are burning brightly within their hearts. These all must be cared for and nurtured and yet, sometimes, the baby must be split. Not every good idea can be integrated. Rarely are there enough resources available for everyone’s passion to be released at the larger, congregational level.

So how does a leader “split the baby” effectively? Here are few thoughts:

1. Pray for wisdom
Before issuing a decree, talk to the Lord. This can happen on the fly or over time. Sometimes decisions must be made quickly and the leader must seek the Lord in “real time.” In other situations, wisdom would demand a reprieve in order to pray. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I will need to get back to you. I need to take some time to pray about this. Will you join me in praying this through?” Scripture tells us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

2. Listen closely
Leaders often have very refined views and directions that have been shaped over time, and therefore can be predisposed to poor listening skills. Ok, maybe that’s just me. In other words, we have been around the leadership block and we have heard many things, often with similar, predictable patterns (ie: been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!). Because of this, it’s so important to fight the urge to tune out, but rather listen…closely. The next best idea may be in the your next conversation. The Holy Spirit will often steer our hearts as we listen to his voice and to his people.

3. Value subtleties 
When leaders are called upon to make decisions regarding great ideas with limited resources, one must depend upon subtleties. In Solomon’s case the subtlety was how the real mother refused to see the baby split (thus killed), but insisted that the fake mother receive him. This expressed true love, not selfishness. We need the wisdom of the Lord to pick up these kinds of subtleties when it comes to leadership decisions. Often when deciding between ideas we must actively listen for the little details that separates good from great. These subtleties will serve us in our decision making process. And we MUST make decisions…

4. Make clear decisions
At some point, after seeking the wisdom of the Lord, listening attentively, and weighing out the subtleties, a leader must make the call. That is what separates leaders from..well…followers. When you feel as if you’ve gotten the best information possible and have prayerfully been submitted to the wisdom of the Lord, then one must make a decision. If it is to “split the baby” then do it. If there are other options, then choose one. This is the tough stuff of leadership, and we wish we could “defer” it all the time. That would mean, however, that we aren’t the leader we think we are. Leaders make clear decisions.

5. Move on
This may sound cold and heartless, but, leaders have to “move on.” There will always be another decision to make. Even if you feel that you “really messed up” the last one: move on. You will live to fight another day. There will always be another “baby to split.”

Leaders: seek the wisdom of the Lord, listen to your people, value the subtleties that surface, make the hard calls, then move onto the next challenge. This is leadership. It’s not always easy. But, man, it is vital.

Take the Plunge!

The following blog post is about WATER BAPTISM. If you are interested in baptized at West Salem Foursquare Church please check out this link: WSFC WATER BAPTISM.

 

We are offering baptism at EVERY service during the ENTIRE month of SEPTEMBER!

We encourage you to TAKE THE PLUNGE!

 

In Acts 8 we read about Philip’s encounter with a man from Ethiopia. Philip took the opportunity to expound upon the scriptures and introduce the Ethiopian to the saving knowledge of Jesus. While talking they came upon a body of water, and the man asked if he could be baptized. The New King James version of the Bible says that Philip responded with this prerequisite:  “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

Before being baptized in water one must come to a place of surrender to Jesus by making Him the Lord and Savior. Our resolve must be similar to the Ethiopian man, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”   Salvation is necessary before taking the next step of Water Baptism. If we have made Jesus the Lord of our life then Water Baptism is an appropriate next step!

Obedience

Jesus left His people with two specific commands that are vital to our growth as Christians. The first is communion (the Lord’s Supper) and the second is Water Baptism. He gave the church these sacraments as a reminder of his death and resurrection. Water baptism is not  our salvation, it is only another step of obedience in the plan of God. It symbolizes “death to self” and “new life” in the power and purposes of Christ. In a very real sense we are saying “Not my will, but yours.”

Identification

In Water Baptism we are identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Romans 6:3,4 attests to this when it says,  “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

When we are submersed into the waters of baptism, we are symbolically, yet very intentionally, dead to our old ways of living. Simply put: it is buried! As we come up from the water we are made alive to the new life found in Christ. Now that our old life is “dead unto Christ” you want to be sure not to go digging it back up!

Confession

Water Baptism is a public act that renounces sin from our past and professes faith in Christ.  It’s a public expression that Jesus is Lord and that we are now a part of the family of God. Many have referred to baptism as a “outward sign of an inward work.”  It’s a visible and audible confession to our friends, family, and church of the deep work Christ has done in our life. The Book of Acts chapter 10 refers to many individuals that responded to the message of Jesus. During this time the Apostle Peter asked if “anyone could keep these people from being baptized with water.”  The answer was obviously “no” and therefore they were publicly baptized as an open acknowledgement of Christ as Lord.

Release

Nothing could be greater than a life that is fully ALIVE through Jesus Christ! That happens when we are not trapped in bondage to our sin and guilt. In baptism we are crucifying the sin of our life and coming alive to Christ. There is great joy when we are alive to Christ and dead to sin. Water baptism is a symbolic statement of this new life and marks a point of release into further growth and ministry for us as believers.

Not only is Water Baptism a Biblical command, but it is also modeled to us by Jesus who himself was baptized as described in the Gospels. He knew the importance of this sacred moment and calls us to the same obedience, knowing that it will mark a significant point of blessing for our lives!

Say It With Me: Change is Good

Over the last few months I’ve been able to watch a transformation happen on the corner of Wallace Drive and Glen Greek in beautiful West Salem. I drive around that area quite often on any given day, whether I’m heading home, going to the church, hauling our kids to events, or getting groceries at Roth’s Market.

OK…I also fuel up at Starbucks pretty close to there (I’m actually writing this blog post from that hallowed spot).

The transformation in progress involves the ripping down of some old buildings, and tearing out sidewalks, in order to make way for something NEW. We are getting a re-routed intersection for better traffic flow. I personally was wanting a new strip mall, or if I’m lucky, a Vespa dealership, Trader Joes, or H&M (here’s to dreaming).

Regardless, sometimes things have to be torn down and replaced when they no longer serve the purposes for which they were intended. That’s not always a bad thing. Change is good.

Say it with me:  Change. Is. Good.

That wasn’t so hard, right?

God is into change too. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

The old becomes new in Christ. That can be a long, painful process for us, but the end-result is oh-so worth it.

Even when it comes to our methods, programs, styles, and preferences we have to consider that God is into change. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 9:16-17 “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wine skins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wine skins, and both are preserved.”

The work that the Lord wants to do in us in these days, I believe, is a NEW work. He desires to change us; making us more like himself.

Are you open to this?  Thankfully, we have a great promise in the Word of God that “His Mercy is New Every Morning.”

Let’s lean into his NEW mercy together!

Five Good Things About This Good Friday

Today is what is known as “Good Friday.” It’s the day that commemorates the death of Jesus Christ upon a cross at Calvary. Calvary is also called “Golgotha,” which means “place of the skull.”  It is a literal hillside immediately outside Jerusalem’s walls. This photo captures what it looks like today, along with a side-by-side display capturing it prior to heavy erosion and excavation.

A really horrific event took place on this site (or one quite similar to it). The death of Jesus was unjustified and unbelievable. It was grotesque. Friends, it’s really difficult to reduce the crucifixion to a charming story, complete with chocolate candy, bunnies or a gold crucifix necklace.

Jesus was an innocent man subjected to a trumped-up trial, followed by agonizing punishment. He was mocked with a crown of thorns on his head and he was hailed by his tormentors as a king. Pontius Pilate, realized he was presiding over a major injustice, looked for some way to release this man in whom he could find no fault, but decided instead to go along with local opinion. Jesus was nailed to a wooden cross and died.

So, it doesn’t seem like there is much good in this series of events.  Or is there? Here are five good things about Good Friday.

1.  Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  

Hebrews 9:22 tells us that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Simply put: someone had to die. Only a perfect, sinless sacrifice would suffice, and that certainly rules US out. Jesus, as the only sinless person to ever live, fit the bill exactly. His sacrifice upon on the cross paid it all!

2.  Jesus’ death reminds us to not rely on our own strength.

Luke 23:46 captures some of Jesus’ final words on the cross as he said “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” This was a cry of submission and surrender. The Apostle Paul understood this when he said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  We can learn from this. A good thing about Good Friday is that we have an annual reminder to submit and surrender to God’s strength.

3.  Jesus’ death is an expression of God’s passionate love for us.

Romans 5:8 tells us that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The most famous scripture of all time, John 3:16, echoes this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” No greater love has anyone shown than to lay his life down for a friend. That’s what God, through Jesus, expresses to us.

4.  Jesus’ death reconciles us to the Father.

Romans 5 goes on to say in verse 10 that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son….” This means that you and I have been justified (just as if I’d never sinned), and redeemed (bought back from the enemy), and positioned as a child of God (rather than his enemy).

5.  Jesus’ death was a sweet set up for his Resurrection.

The best good thing about Good Friday is that it’s a launch pad for Easter. Tony Campolo famously said, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming!” Death is swallowed up in VICTORY. Just when you think all is lost, there is the hope of the resurrection. That’s good news for modern man.

 

 

Sparrows and God’s Math

I have never been great at math. Whenever the kids struggled with their math homework they NEVER came to me.  Only one word was on their lips:  Mom.

But, to my credit (I’m patting myself on the back now), if they ever had to give a speech then I was their go-to guy!

OK, back to math…Recently in my devotions I read Matthew 10.  Jesus says this in verses 29-31:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground a part from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Isn’t that amazing? There is not a single bird that falls from the sky without God noticing. And, boy, how much more important are we than a few birds? So much more important that God even knows every hair on your head (or lack thereof for some of you).

But here’s where the math gets funny.

In Luke 12 we read a parallel version of this story. It goes like this:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Did you catch that?

I’m not a smart man (said in the voice of Forrest Gump), but I definitely caught the difference between the two Gospel accounts.

One says two sparrows are sold for a penny.

The other says five sparrows are sold for two pennies.

Is it 2 for 1 or 5 for 2?

Imagine one hard-working sparrow vendor selling two for a penny.  Then imagine going down the block only to find another industrious vendor selling five for two cents.

Why would anyone be selling sparrows in the first place? Well, in biblical days a sparrow was an acceptable form of sacrifice if a person could not afford to buy a lamb or goat. People at or below the poverty line would buy sparrows for the temple sacrifice for one primary reason:

 

They. Are. Cheap.

 

Whether they are two for a penny or five for two pennies…sparrows are cheap.

And if the Bible tells us that God loves and knows the state of the sparrow, then HOW MUCH MORE does He love and know US?

This is really great news. God loves sparrows…but God loves us MORE!

Through the Roof

Zig Ziglar once said, “I have such optimism, I’d go after Moby Dick and take the tarter sauce with me.”

I love this quote, because I am an optimistic guy. I enjoy taking on big challenges (I know, I know…I’m kinda sick in the head).

I tend to look at impossible situations with tarter sauce in hand.

I’m a cup half FULL kind of person.

What about you?

Recently I was in Capernaum on the north side of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It was at this historical site that Jesus was teaching in a home. You can read about it in Mark 2:1-12. As Jesus was teaching in a packed out home, four guys brought their sick friend in order to receive a healing touch. They couldn’t get through the doors or windows due to the volume of people engrossed in Jesus’ teaching. There was simply NO WAY to get their friend inside the house.

Or was there?

It is at key junctures such as these that most people get discouraged and walk away (picture Charlie Brown sulking).

But not these guys. They went after Moby Dick with the tarter sauce in hand!

They went through the roof.

Not many folks would think to go through the roof. That takes work, costs money, makes a mess and causes a scene.

AND…it’s what gets friends healed.

I love the optimism. May we become more and more like these guys, especially when it comes to our friends that need to get to Jesus.

Young Mountain Men

I saw something in the Bible that I hadn’t seen before.

This is not abnormal, in that I’m always discovering things in the Bible that are new and revelational. But, in this case I thought I had “mined” most everything out of this particular passage: Genesis 22.

Genesis 22 is about Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah (fairly familiar story, right?).  Obviously the primary characters are Abraham and Isaac. You could also throw in an angel of the Lord and an innocent ram caught in a thicket.

The angel of the Lord, speaking on God’s behalf, gave last second instructions to Abraham to NOT slaughter his son Isaac (whew). Evidently, God was looking for obedience more than sacrifice.

Abraham passed the test. End of story, right? Nope. I found something that I hadn’t seen before. There are two other characters in this story that leapt off the page in my most recent reading of Genesis 22.

Two Young Men.

When Abraham woke up early in the morning, verse 3 tells us that he not only saddled his donkey, but he “took two of his young men with him.” No big deal, huh? Abraham probably needed some extra help for his journey. OK…so I read on.

Coming to verse 5 I discovered a second reference the young men: “Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey.'”  That caused me to underline the passage in my Bible AND go back in order to underline verse 3. I’ve been reading the Word of God long enough to pick up on patterns such as these. As a matter of fact, under my breath I whispered “I’ll bet these young men show up again in this passage.” And with that, I read on…

In verse 19, my suspicions were confirmed: “So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba.”  

OK. So there it is: three references to two young men in a story that is predominately about Abraham and Isaac.

Who are these young men? I don’t know, but their inclusion in this story has reminded me of some really important things in leadership and ministry.

1. Take others with you to the mountain. Abraham obviously took Isaac with him, but he extended his circle to two young men. I love this model. It may not always be practical or possible to take people with you, but when you can, do it. As a pastoral leader, I try to make room for as many young leaders as I can. Going to Costco? Grab someone. Heading to a conference or hospital visit? Bring a young leader with you.

Recently, I invited two of our leaders to go on a road trip with me to a memorial service for Jerry Cook, who is an author and Foursquare legend. With notebooks in hand, we captured our thoughts and impressions during the service then debriefed over a meal and the trip home.

Are you climbing a mountain (metaphorically speaking)? Then, bring others with you.

2. Young leaders are developed daily…not in a day. There came a point in the journey to Mount Moriah that Abraham determined the young men should “stay here with the donkey.”  Man, that must have been frustrating for them. Who wants to babysit a donkey when they could climb a mountain? I’ve known many emerging leaders that have felt similar frustrations; desiring to experience more and lead further.

Friends, leaders are not made in a day. It takes time. Be thankful for and faithful with the opportunities you’ve been given. I often say this to young leaders: “Don’t demand a ministry. Develop one.” And that may involve the care of donkeys, while more seasoned leaders go to the top of the mountain. You’ll most likely get there some day, and when you do you’ll realize just how stinking hard it is, and the intense sacrifice that is involved.

So, be patient.

3. Develop long-term mentor/student relationships. In verse 19, when Abraham returned to the young men (with an alive Isaac in tow), they all together “arose and went together to Beersheba.” One can’t read too much into this, but I appreciate the imagery of them all moving and living together in one place.  For me, it illustrates symbiotic relationships that can be formed and nurtured between mentors and students over a long period of time.

There are great benefits found in learning communities of mentors (Abraham) and students (young men). In my personal and ministerial life, I have grown to highly value the godly, older men that have access to my life. Similarly, I’ve chosen to be that kind of a person to a number of younger leaders.

So much is gained. So much is learned. So much is deposited…and withdrawn.

Are you a leader? Do you have “young guns” around you and going places with you?