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Cancel culture is the oldest blame game in the book. When man sought to honour God’s word in the garden the serpent told him God was actually the problem. It’s because he didn’t want you to be like him. Satan made the loving creator God the enemy of human progress. He wasn’t to be listened to leave alone obeyed. Human history began by cancelling God out. Adam would then borrow a leaf from the serpent when he and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Who was to blame for this? It was the woman God made not forgetting Adam was there when Eve was deceived. Adam would in one breath blame God and Eve while he comes out merely as a victim of circumstances. To Adam, those around him were the problem, not him and his sin.

When this is our culture old ideas like honour and respect sound so backwards that for many people they don’t even make sense.

This old lie would then be passed down the generations taking different forms but with the same end goal. Whenever we find ourselves in a fix we immediately find someone to blame especially those in authority. Interestingly we never start with ourselves. If something is going wrong in an organisation or we are not feeling as fulfilled we immediately find the enemy. If we are struggling at home and we aren’t like that other couple we know who to blame. If our church isn’t meeting our needs and not tailor-making the service to our comfort we know who to blame. But in none of these situations do we stop to ask if we might be the problem. Instead, we immediately mount an opposition to the leader with an aim to cancel him out since after all he’s our arch enemy.

When this is our culture old ideas like honour and respect sound so backwards that for many people they don’t even make sense. Why would we respect authority when it’s the problem? Why should we honour those in leadership when we’ve made them into our mortal enemy? Why would we respect our pastor when we’ve concluded the church would be better without him? Why listen to that deacon when we believe he’s out to take advantage of us? Why would the woman submit to a husband who is a symbol of oppression? Why would we even pay taxes when we think we might be better off without a government?

It’s for this reason that we only realise someone was a good leader when they leave office. We spend so much time finding fault with our leaders that we don’t stop to appreciate how much we need them.

But while not all leaders are worthy of respect more often than not we are the ones who’ve chosen not to respect them. We’ve drunk so much of this cancel culture that we will never have anyone in office worthy of our respect. Immediately someone gets a place of leadership even when he was a former friend he becomes our number one enemy or we are branded, collaborators. It’s for this reason that we only realise someone was a good leader when they leave office. We spend so much time finding fault with our leaders that we don’t stop to appreciate how much we need them. Worse in the Christian space we don’t even praise God for the good leaders he gives us because we are always suspicious of them.

Pause for a moment and imagine how lonely this makes the place of leadership. Add to that the godly requirements of a leader when those in his care think of him as the enemy. Think about that pastor who labours hard in prayer, creates time to meet the members, stays up late to prepare helpful Biblical sermons, goes out to look for funding, has a family to look after and perhaps a job on the side and yet his congregants think he’s the problem. You could add the name of an organisation leader, a husband and father, a government official and your CEO. While they may not all be the best and most sacrificial leaders I think we owe them the honour that comes with that office. It should especially be the case when it’s a Christian leader who’s trying his best to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Before we cancel them out let’s give them a chance by praying for them, submitting to them and offering our advice and help. Above all let’s remember God requires us to honour our leaders.

I think we need to stop waiting for the leader to fall so we can justify our verdict on him. We need to stop overanalyzing their performance and motivations. We need to stop thinking the worst of them. We need to stop waiting for them to get into a scandal so we can cancel them out. We need to start by giving them the benefit of the doubt. We need to appreciate that it’s always better to have a leader because the alternative is chaos. We need to notice that they are trying their level best. We need to realise that sometimes, and most times we are part of the problem. We need to view leaders as God’s instruments to bring order to disorder. We need to be for leaders not against them. Before we cancel them out let’s give them a chance by praying for them, submitting to them and offering our advice and help. Above all let’s remember God requires us to honour our leaders.

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That’s exactly the kind of title that makes you stop scrolling, isn’t it? What if I said this blog is about preaching? How does that make you feel? If you are honest you might be a bit disappointed. You might even feel cheated because that’s not what you always associate preaching with. You wanted to hear about the secret behind public speaking and moving crowds. How to become the Luther King of our generation. To move crowds and influence people. Well, I want to make a case that preaching can do that and much more when it’s faithfully done. You can then apply the same idea as a Christian influencer whether in blogging or Tiktok.

I want to begin by saying that no speaker sets out wanting to be boring. They may have struggled in preparation if they did any of it. They may have wrestled with the text and question of relevance in their study. But no one wants to imagine theirs will be a boring message with little impact on the audience. I doubt any of us sets out to fail in persuading people.

We want the Truth but we also want it to move our audience. But how do you move people while being faithful in your preaching?

We want to move people with the Truth. We want them cut to the heart and ask, how can we be saved? We want to spur people to be excited to live for God and his mission? We want to warn them of coming judgement in a way that they feel compelled. If we are honest we admire preachers who move crowds even when we might take issue with their methods. And no one comes to a Sunday morning ready for a boring sermon. We want the Truth but we also want it to move our audience. But how do you move people while being faithful in your preaching?

Ask Why it Matters
You cannot be a good speaker if you don’t believe in your message. Likewise, you won’t make a faithful and relevant preacher if you don’t believe in the text at hand. Before you can preach it to others you need to preach it to yourself. And here I don’t mean give yourself a theological or doctrinal lesson. I mean preach it to yourself brother! Sit and ask what it’s saying, how it’s saying it and why that’s relevant. Have your Eureka moment not by discovering the Greek wording of it but by seeing just how relevant and practical it is to our faith and everyday life. And trust me it’s relevant.

Great preaching rests on showing us why the text matters and the secret is going back in time.

You see the beauty of expository preaching is that you have your work already done for you. Every passage we teach is actually a repeat sermon. There was a first audience who heard and applied that sermon. They were moved by it back then. This means all we need is to go back and ask why it mattered to them so it matters to us. Great preaching rests on showing us why the text matters and the secret is going back in time. But be careful not to remain back there. Before you stand in front of us make sure to travel back and apply it in real life. Preach that sermon to yourself and your world and if you can at least move with it you’ll have a friend cheering you in the congregation.

Find your Passion Switch
It’s said some people can sell you anything because they do it so passionately. The problem with some expository preachers is they can rest on just having the faithful script with them. They know the truth, they want to preach the right thing but give little attention to the delivery and landing process. But I guess for most of us who are starting out we just don’t know how to go about it. I want to say if we are compelled by the truth we will be compelling in our delivery of it. If the message had an impact on us we need to do the same for our audience.

While we can apply methods like storytelling, humour, helpful illustration and the like it all depends on how passionate we are about the truth in front of us.

We need to find our passion switch. To want to communicate the passage in a way that moves people. But this is not just about the methods. It’s about us and the truth. Think about how you told the news of your wedding, your graduation, your first job… There was an enthusiasm that made people want to listen. While we can apply methods like storytelling, humour, helpful illustration and the like it all depends on how passionate we are about the truth in front of us. Some people can talk all day about their jobs because they are passionate about them. Others won’t stop bringing football into every conversation. Why can’t we do the same with our preaching? Make the people in front of you see you value and love what you are teaching. Passionate speaking is infectious. Find your passion switch before you come out to preach.

Think about the People
Faithful preaching cares about people because God cares about them. You cannot love preaching and not love people. That’s like loving a party without people. Unfortunately, sometimes we think so highly of preaching than we do the people in front of us. We call ourselves soldiers of the truth but miss the recipients of the message. If that explains you and I then we should stop preaching and ask God for a love for his people first. Don’t go to that Sunday service with your points and illustrations if you’ve not thought of the people.

Jesus was a faithful preacher, he knew his text but what moved him to preach is the people.

What moves people is when the preacher is both faithful to the text but also faithful to them. I always admire the instances where the Gospel accounts note that Jesus saw the masses and had compassion for them. Jesus was a faithful preacher, he knew his text but what moved him to preach is the people. Do you want to be a great speaker and influencer? Think about your audience first. Ask yourself where they are at in their journey of faith. What are they struggling with? Do they need encouragement or rebuke? Faithful preaching is neither tied to the text nor the people alone. It’s tied to both. It’s faithful to the text but it’s also faithful to the people.

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Here in Kenya, we are preparing to go to the general elections next year. I bet you’ll hear a lot about the kind of leaders we want or need. We will all hopefully get a chance to choose who to lead us. The problem is leaders can’t choose who to lead. Sure they can pick a constituency and position of influence but they can’t pick and choose the people. They can have the best manifesto and the most elaborate implementation plan but they can’t have the best people to lead. What’s worse is they’ll have to deal with those who already hold them with suspicion. People who don’t want to be led by them.

But what does that have to do with shepherding you ask? Well, everything. You see many of us think the problem with leadership is that we don’t have good leaders. And while we apply that mostly to political leaders we can also share the same attitude in Christian ministry. Get the right person and leadership works, we say. Everyone will be happy, godly, and prosperous. In truth, the best of leaders have to endure harsh criticism and opposition because people don’t want to be led. We enjoy the merits of good leadership but we don’t really want to be led even by the best of leaders. If we did Jesus would face no opposition from our world. People from every nation and race would gather around to serve him who truly cares for them. You’d think the best leader would have everyone following them and doing so joyfully.

But the word of God is unashamed to tell us who we truly are, that we are all rebels. We’ve all gone our separate ways when it comes to God and his authority on us.
Romans 3 says:

10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.
Romans 3 NIV.

We are all sinners who especially hate God’s authority and with it any other form of authority. The world heaps all kinds of praises and massages our ego but the word speaks plainly here. Where the world says we are mostly good but shaped by our environment the word says we are inherently wicked and that it is us who shape our environment that way. That’s the problem of leadership and shepherding. The problem behind every other problem we face is the problem of sin. Adam chose his way and likewise, we do the same. People don’t want to be led and leaders don’t want to be held accountable because they don’t want to be led either. Politicians don’t want to be asked questions and citizens don’t want leaders telling them what to do and how to live.

Back to shepherding and it’s the same problem in Christian ministry. You’d think the redeemed would celebrate good leadership and to some extent, they do as adopted saints. But the presence of indwelling sin in our hearts means we still are rehabilitated rebels. There will be occasions when we despise leadership even from the best pastor and youth worker. Moses was a great sacrificial leader, a Saviour and yet Israel made his life hard. Jesus came to die for his people and if you think perfect leadership none fits the bill more. But he was not only rejected by the religious leaders but the masses demanded for him to be crucified.

If we then approach shepherding thinking that if we do our best, that if we die for the people they’ll love and make it easy for us we are in for a surprise. And yet if we are not willing to die for those we serve we fall short of Jesus’ model and his call to be undershepherds. So how do we shepherd people who naturally don’t want to be led and do it sacrificially?

The first thing is to know we are shepherding among rebels and we too are rebels. It means we know people for who they are and our leadership surpasses mere appreciation to serve a higher goal. John tells us something striking about Jesus in his Gospel. In John 2 we are told:

24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. John 2 NIV.

What is striking is that Jesus knew us more than anyone else, he knew our deep-seated rebellion, and yet he came to die for us. This is shepherding that does not depend on the applause of the sheep. It’s shepherding that follows the way of the Cross. It says that God’s approval and recognition is enough for us. It gives the very best to people who may not naturally want to be led. Such realization will safeguard us from the idolatry of approval and appreciation. It’ll be to God that we look and not merely what we gain from the people. And when people do appreciate and idolize us, our hearts will be shielded from pride.

But since the condition of the heart is also true of us as Gospel ministers we need to ask ourselves if we are also responding similarly. You see it’s not just the normal congregant who has an issue with leadership, our Gospel ministers also don’t want to be undershepherds under the great Shepherd. We can’t lead if we don’t want to follow. How can we ask people to submit to our leadership and shepherding if we won’t submit to Jesus and those he’s entrusted with leadership?

We need to remember we are first his disciples before we are Gospel ministers, first sheep before shepherds, and only undershepherds. Before we murmur and complain of rebel sheep we need to survey our hearts. Would the chief Shepherd say the same of us? To shepherd among rebels, we need to kill our own rebellion and submit to our great Shepherd and those he’s given charge over us. If we desire leadership we must learn submission to godly leadership. If we would be undershepherds we need to obey and follow in the footsteps of our chief shepherd.

To the shepherds among us please remember these words from the apostle Peter:

5 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flockAnd when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5. NIV

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Image result for prayer

By God’s grace, I’ve been thinking through what true repentance is made of, especially when it comes to the affections I feel. Most recently I’ve been thinking about the difference between shame and guilt. Both are Biblical words used in the diagnosis and punishment of sin but what do they really mean? Is there one more preferred than the other? How do they apply to repentance?

Let’s begin with understanding what these words mean. In its essence, the chief defining trait of shame, is embarrassment. Feelings of awkwardness mostly from being found out in wrongdoing. Guilt on the other hand, in its essence is about responsibility for an action. Feeling to blame for wrongdoing. Each can have some traits of the other but I think the chief difference is that of embarrassment versus responsibility.

How does this apply when we think about our sin before God and others? When we think about sin, it is not enough to simply know that something is bad and abominable before God, God cares for how we view it and what feelings it invokes in us. This is where shame and guilt come in. We need to feel both embarrassed and responsible for our sin. Embarrassed because we knew better and still went on and did it. Embarrassment because we did what we think others shouldn’t or did to others what we would not like to suffer from them – the embarrassment of our hypocrisy. The embarrassment of choosing what fails and is doomed to fail. I think this embarrassment is what God speaks about in Isaiah 1:29, when He speaks of redeeming Zion by justice. The effect is that those dwelling in Jerusalem as Isaiah is speaking will be ashamed of their idolatry because it will fail them and cause them to face God’s wrath!

But we must also feel responsible. That we deliberately took action and walked a certain path because we wanted to. That we are to blame for the choice and the consequences that followed. Guilt considers that God is right in His verdict of our sin and that we can give no defense; we are rightly accused and judged, indeed guilty! Isaiah at his call in Isaiah 6, sees God and is immediately conscious of his sin. He knows that he is guilty and deserving of death. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” v5. He understands and takes ownership of his sin and knows that it means he is doomed.

How then do these two feelings work together in our repentance? Let us consider King David, his sin with Bathsheba and how shame and guilt work together in his repentance as seen in 2 Samuel 11 – 12  and Psalm 51. David sees a woman bathing, finds out she’s someone else’s wife and still calls her up to his room and sleeps with her. She gets pregnant and David devises this grand plan to have her husband sleep with her to cover up the pregnancy but when that fails, he plots Uriah’s death in war. He then takes Bathsheba to be his wife and bear his child. He does all this in secrecy thinking that he is all safe. But God has been watching and sends him a prophet to expose his sin. The prophet quite expertly exposes David’s sin through a story of injustice. David, as the ‘righteous’ ruler is rightly angered by the injustice and proclaims the proper judgement for the sinner. Prophet Nathan then says simply, “You are this man!” and goes ahead to proclaim Yahweh’s verdict and judgement on him.

How does David respond? “I have sinned against the LORD.” This, I think, is the result of shame and guilt. He is ashamed because he gets to see himself clearly. He is able to plainly see his actions in the light of what he knows and has received from Yahweh’s hand. He sees his hypocrisy plainly – how can he judge the unjust man in the story when he has done exactly the same thing to Uriah? His shame humbles him before the LORD to hear and accept responsibility for his sin. With things now so clear, with him off his high horse, then he can take responsibility for his actions, rightly confessing it, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Shame humbles the sinner and gives proper room for guilt to work to bring about confession and then hopefully godly sorrow that leads to repentance.

Psalm 51 records David’s response to the exposure of his sin. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. . . For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgement. . . Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. . . Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. . . Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. . .

The shame and guilt have worked out their proper course on the road to repentance for David. We shall do well to learn from him. When God mercifully exposes our sin, in private or public, we ought not to take quickly to trying to excuse/justify our sin. There is never a good reason for sin! Then we are to have a good look at our sin – to name it (blood-guiltiness) and understand what it is that we have believed, said and done that is contrary to God. Often times I’ve found that when I am aware of a sin, I want to skip this step of properly understanding and taking responsibility for it because I am so embarrassed by it. But what I am learning from this is that I do not properly feel the guilt of it – take proper responsibility for it, because I haven’t properly diagnosed the error. This means that I oftentimes stick at sinning because I’m busy trying to treat the symptoms and not the root of the problem. I’m busy trying to put out the fire without understanding its cause. “Let’s just move on!” yet we haven’t known what it is we are moving on/away from. I have found that it is when I have properly understood my sin that I can clearly confess it and then seek to turn away from it, which in fact is what repentance means! How can we ever hope to confess and turn from (repent) what we do not understand? How can we be equipped to recognize sin in its different guises when we’re not humbly taking responsibility for it, understanding it at its root? True repentance involves the pain of shame and guilt followed by the real confession of sin and seeking to turn away from the sin we have just confessed as God cleanses and helps us. Skipping any step leaves us simply wallowing in sin not mortifying it!

This article was written by Leah Kagure. 
Leah is a Ministry Training Facilitator at iServe Africa doing bible teaching,  mentorship and looking after female apprentices.

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Have you ever been in a conversation where you feel totally out of place? This happens to me quite often. I get in a matatu on a Sunday morning headed to church. It’s tuned to one of the local ‘tribal’ stations. I think it’s a gospel show going on because I can hear some ‘Amen’ and ‘God bless you’. Almost everyone in the matatu seems engrossed in the conversation going on on radio. I can hear them laugh, one or two nod their heads. But where am I? Poor me, I can’t understand a word. I have no idea what they are laughing about. Worst of it is when one talks to you commenting on the ongoing conversation on radio. I don’t know, how do you expect me to respond?

It feels so awkward! On the one hand, you want to listen in and hear, on the other hand, you don’t want to hear any of it. I am not only victim but done it too- I have been around my mzungu friends who don’t know Swahili yet that’s what I speak with my Kenyan friend- it gets worse when we switch to Sheng!

Now, come to church. We are talking to young people. The topic/series is Relationships and Marriage- trust me this is a guaranteed topic. In our thinking, this is what every young person is struggling with. We need to speak about these real issues. And so, what we do is get a married couple to tackle this. Share about dating/courtship & how to go about it. How long should it take before you get married? Get an ‘expert’ ‘marriage counsellor’ ‘relationships coach’ to handle this with the hope that the young people shall be helped. The expectation is that they will all get married and live happily ever after.

But the problem is, in this whole conversation, there’s someone who feels awkwardly totally left out- the single and not dating. We concentrate on the dating/courting/engaged and forget about the single and not dating. The question they are asking is how can I be pure and live without thinking that there’s something totally wrong with me? How can I serve my brother/sister without looking at them as my suitor? Sadly, this is never answered yet in answering, we not only help the single & not dating but also the dating, courting, engaged, married, widowed… all of them.

So, why do we leave them out? Why do we totally forget them;

  1. Glorifying Marriage, Despising Singleness

In our society, somehow people view marriage (at least in Christian circles) as the goal for every young person. Culturally, you are only regarded as a man, able to speak before men, if you are married. Some churches even go to the extent of not ordaining single people.

Marriage has been glorified and put perhaps next to salvation! That means if you are of age (whatever that means, in your twenties perhaps) and aren’t ‘seeing someone’ or not ‘being seen’ by someone then there’s a problem with you.

No wonder in our preaching series, there’s no place for talking about singleness!

  1. Failure to Point people to Christ as the Real Source of Our Joy & Satisfaction

Marriage has been seen as a ‘problem-solver’. We think the solution to masturbation is for one to get married. Are you struggling with lust & pornography? It’s high time you got married, so we say. Or perhaps the reason you are so disorganized and late to church is because you are not married- get married and things will be ok. We think this is the real source of joy and satisfaction yet that’s not true. We forget that our identity as forgiven sinners, redeemed by Christ’s blood, we who once were alienated but have now been brought near & become children of God, a people of His own possession is what matters most! The most joyful, satisfying & peaceful thing is that we belong to Christ.

We thus need to be pointing people to Christ, whether they are married or not. He’s the one who’s dealt with & deals with our biggest problem of sin and God’s punishment on us. He’s the one we need to look at & point people to, married or not. So, struggling with masturbation, lust, pornography? Look to Him, behold Him, He is the most satisfying, glorious… all that we need.

  1. The Ultimate Marriage

That marriage is only but a picture of something bigger, greater- Christ and the Church- is a mystery! How can that be the case? Well, Christ is the head of the Church, He died for her, He nourishes her & clothes her. The Church submits to Christ joyfully serving Him. This how it’s supposed to be for a husband (head) and wife.

Even more fascinating is the Church, the bride of Christ is waiting for its marriage to the groom, who is Christ. At the moment, Christ is preparing her, adorning her, for that great marriage. The bride has to be ready. It shall be the most glorious event for us- this is the ultimate. Nothing of the marriages on earth now can compare to it.

Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage supper of the Lamb has come, & His bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure… blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” Revelation 19:7-9.

This is what all of us should be looking forward to- the ultimate marriage- whether single or married!

So, please the single men and ladies there are crying out. Who will listen to them? Why don’t we think of how we can address them in their current state and encourage them to be fruitful in the ministry and service to the LORD? What if they are being called to singleness for life? Is there a place for that in our thinking or we think there’s definitely a problem with them? My encouragement to all singles out there

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you from that.” 1 Corinthians 7:27-28

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Just doing a bit of research on monasticism and came across this great quote from Benedict’s Rule (530 AD) which is instruction to the abbot of a monastery but reads like good wisdom for pastors and Christian leaders:

Once in office, the abbot must keep constantly in mind the nature of the burden he has received, and remember to whom he will have to give an account of his stewardship [Luke 16: 2]. Let him recognize that his goal must be profit for the monks, not preeminence for himself. He ought, therefore, to be learned in divine law, so that he has a treasury of knowledge from which he can bring out what is new and what is old [Matt. 13: 52]. He must be chaste, temperate and merciful. He should always let mercy triumph over judgment [James 2: 13] so that he too may win mercy. He must hate faults but love the brothers. When he must punish them, he should use prudence and avoid extremes; otherwise, by rubbing too hard to remove the rust, he may break the vessel. He is to distrust his own frailty and remember not to crush the bruised reed [Isa. 42: 3]. . . . Let him strive to be loved rather than feared. Excitable, anxious, extreme, obstinate, jealous or oversuspicious he must not be. . . . Instead, he must show forethought and consideration in his orders.
(Rule of Benedict trans. Timothy Fry quoted in Mark Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, Baker)

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