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MTC Dec 13 a

Thanks to all those who were praying last week over the ministry training. Perhaps you were even following the Twitter-esque updates on Facebook. Praise God that we had a really good time together, noses in the Bible, chewing on some very meaty theology, wonderful singing (Salama Rohoni is new favourite for me), and a good atmosphere of fun and fellowship.

As promised to the apprentices, here are the notes and links:

And from the 2nd years programme:

And from the closing carol service:

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Ephesians 6 on children and parents

Next:

work

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Recently a businessman was telling me that he finds Christian organisations are the worst at paying his invoices. Another said that Christian employees tended to be lazy and produce poorer quality work. And then still another chipped in that he would never again work in a Christian organisation because of the culture of mediocrity and dysfunctional relationships. That’s obviously only anecdotal evidence. I know many wonderful exceptions to those generalisations. But if there is some truth there, what is the root problem? Well we’re all sinners. But surely Christian organisations should be the best places to work in and work with, the best employers with the best employees?

In a great article (here), Graham Hooper, notes that most talks and books on ‘being a Christian in the workplace’ tend to focus on ethics, evangelism or excellence:

  • Ethics: “don’t fiddle your expense accounts and tax returns and don’t steal pencils form the office”
  • Evangelism: “how to turn a chance encounter at the photocopier into a conversation about Jesus”
  • Excellence: “be the very best accountant/advertise/architect you can be”

While all three are hugely important he points out something more fundamental is often neglected – relationships. In particular, Ephesians 6:5-9 (and the parallel passage in Colossians 3:22-4:1) emphasises vertical and horizontal relationships:

  • The vertical relationship – The employee’s primary relationship is with the Lord Jesus. He is a “servant of Christ” (v5). It’s an immensely privileged position (servant of the Lord) and a very humbling one (servant of the Lord). And in exactly the same way the employer is also a slave of Jesus (v9). The gospel levels us all out. It doesn’t matter where we are in the company hierarchy, how long our job title is, we are all simply fellow servants of Christ whose job every day is to do his will, with a passion for him, seeking to please him who loved us and gave himself up for us.
  • The horizontal relationship – Ephesians is amazing here – we are to serve others as if those others are Christ! (v5,7) My service of Christ and service of others are not separate things they are one – I serve Christ through serving my boss as I would Christ. And – even more amazingly – it’s true of the boss as well – “do the same to them” (v9) i.e. do good to your slaves and employees, serve them, as if you were serving the Lord and not men. A servant leader. How radical would that have sounded 2000 years ago? And how radical now? How would our workplaces be different if we were serving each other as if we were serving Christ?

This is what God is concerned about in the workplace – relationships. As Hooper says:

I’ve found that building relationships with people is often the biggest test for the Christian. Relationships at work raise many challenges for us: how we exercise authority; how we respond to authority; how we handle conflict. In these areas our professed faith is tested every day. But, every time we face a work situation where we seek to respond in a way that honours the name of Jesus, then our work is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. In becoming an act of service to the Lord himself, it becomes something of eternal significance, part of our worship of God and not ‘in vain’.

And He is at work in us. As our commitment to do our work for the Lord is tested, so we learn to rely on God and so we grow. At work we have to deal with long hours, pressure, difficult people, difficult customers, failure when things don’t turn out well. It is in the pressure cooker of work, in the rough and tumble of life, that God moulds us into the people he wants us to be.

It is out of this ‘rough and tumble’, out of the and messiness of relationships, out of the fusion of vertical and horizontal, eternal and mundane, that the fruit of ethics, evangelism and excellence comes.

You can listen to Graham Hoopers’ talks for the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity here.

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Some dates for the diary and prayers…

RTB ad (1) 2014

We’re excited that for the first time, the Raising the Bar preaching and leadership conference will be happening in Kisumu as well as Nairobi. Another new feature will be that RTB 2014 will be a residential 72 hour intensive. We feel we’re being led more and more towards a fellowship model – a community hungry to keep growing and learning, a band of brothers who can encourage one another and sharpen one another in keeping the main thing the main thing and preaching Christ from all the Scriptures.

On the idea of ‘raising the bar’ see here.

If you’re in Kenya (or East Africa) and interested in joining us contact us here.

And for a little taster of RTB from earlier this year…

And for the trailer for this year…

 

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RCLucas

Dick Lucas has this extraordinary way of putting things in such a straightforward, brotherly, commonsensical way that it’s only when you later think over what might have at first seemed almost a throwaway remark that you realise that it represents the tip of an iceberg of research and wisdom, that, if taken seriously, has devastating force. E.g.:

Training for Christian leadership is probably a false trail; Jesus taught his intimate disciples to Serve, and thereby they became the apostles we know. (emphasis original, Foreword to Dear Friends, 2013, p9)

The world is very keen on leadership training. How to manage, how to get noticed, how to get to the top, how to handle conflict to your advantage. Every week LinkedIn sends me a seductive digest of ‘life hacks’, ‘the 5 things Donald Trump doesn’t do, ‘the 3 boardroom secrets that nobody knows’ etc. etc. And in the Church we can copy that – slightly Christianize it with a few verses scattered around – but basically it’s the same stuff – ‘the 5 strategic steps to 360 degree perpendicular church growth leadership’. Because we still, at the end of the day, a) think that the world has all the best answers and b) deep down have an unreformed view of leadership – we still think of leadership as an attractive prospect of being at the top with the power and the impressive title and lots of people running around at our beck and call.

At the iServe induction workshop we returned to Matthew 20:20-28 and asked:

  • How does the mother understand the Kingdom? Do we hear that understanding of the kingdom in our churches sometimes?
  • Why were the ten other disciples indignant?
  • What is the normal pattern of leadership among ‘the Gentiles’? How are status, power and position linked? How do we see this today in politics, in the corporate world, in the church, in the family?
  • What is so radical about what Jesus says about leadership in the kingdom? What has happened to status, power and position?
  • What sort of God do we have in Jesus?
  • How is Jesus both our salvation and our example? Why do we need both?

Jesus turns everything upside down and then shakes it – destroying all our categories, all the connections we make between identity, authority and position. Gentile leadership models are given no place in his Church. “It shall not be so among you.” A theology of glory and an economy of power is replaced by a theology of the Cross and an economy of service.

Harrison has pointed out before how even the term “servant leadership” can become just another tool in the Gentile leadership toolbox. From at least the 1970s even the secular corporate world has realised that servant leadership works but, although some have tried to keep a pure focus on servanthood (and hopefully in another post we can interact with Robert Greenleaf’s work on servant leadership), often it has become simply another management strategy; another means to an end. So we are aspiring leaders first and servants as an optional pragmatic second.

A biblical servant leader, in contrast, has the servant bit in bold type not the leader bit. The core identity is ‘servant’ – like all God’s people. Like God himself in fact (amazingly). ‘Servant’ does not qualify ‘leader’, rather ‘leader’ qualifies ‘servant’. And the way to train in servant leadership is (to come back to Dick Lucas and to Matt. 20) not to aim at leadership but at service.

Even the Son of man came… to serve

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On the subject… iServe Africa is still seeking funds to purchase some land on which to establish a Leadership Centre (maybe we should call it a ‘Service Centre’ (but that sounds like the place you’d return a faulty appliance or have a car repaired)). Time is running out for this appeal so if you have a heart for seeing fresh graduates and others trained in the gospel, gospel ministry and biblical servant leadership please contact the office to find out how you can partner with the project. And here’s a video about it:

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In 2 Chronicles 26 at the last First Priority prayer meeting we saw King Uzziah’s reign go through a very clear trajectory:

Slide1

It had been exactly the same with his father Amaziah (2 Chron. 25) and his father Joash (2 Chron. 22-24). A wonderful rise and then a terrible fall. Throughout history it’s been the shape of world empires and nations, of companies and organisations, sadly of churches and revivals, and of countless politicians and personalities. Why?

Surely the deep answer is that it’s the shape of Adam. The first word of the book(s) of Chronicles signals that search for a second Adam –  the one who will reverse the fall, bring blessing, crush evil, restore all things. And in Uzziah it looks like we may have found him: restorer (v2), crusher of evil (v6, 11-15), a great ‘name’ and spreading dominion (v8, 15 cf. Gen. 12:2; 15:18), the builder of Jerusalem (v9), a gardener (v10). But then, like Adam he breaks faith (v16), enters into a living death (v19 cf. Num. 12:12), and is separated from God’s presence (v21).

This is the pattern of Adam and it happens again and again at every level of society because we are all born in Adam. My real problem is not that I have an ‘Uzziah’ in my life (e.g. pride) that I need to kill. The problem is that I am Uzziah – I’m born in the man of death and decay and I deserve to die eternally.

What I need is the true King whom Isaiah saw the year Uzziah died (Isa. 6); the second Adam who would bring in a new Eden (Isa. 11). What was the shape of his life? Look at Isaiah 52:13-53:12:

Slide2

Instead of a meteoric rise and a terrible fall, this King starts in exalted glory, descends to take human flesh, descends to a humiliating execution and then is exalted to the throne above all thrones (Phil. 2; John 13).

That is the shape of our salvation. That is what absorbs and reverses the shape of our Adamic curse. And it is also the shape of those who are in Christ Jesus. It is the shape of servant leadership. A few of the OT greats were clearly conformed to this U-shape – e.g. Joseph, Job, Daniel. And it is for us to whom Paul says: “have this mind” (Phil. 2:5).

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An old question: Why does 1 Samuel 8 seem to be very negative about the idea of a king while Deuteronomy 17 seems to be fine about it and Judges seems to think the big problem is the lack of a king?

A friend helped me see recently that it’s not about having a king or not it’s about what sort of king. It’s very similar to (and connected to) the issue I keep banging on about on this blog that it’s not so much “Do you believe in God?” but “What sort of God do you believe in?”

You get two types of king in Deuteronomy 17:14-20: a) A king who is on the same level as his brothers, whose chief work is to daily read the Law so that he would fear God, keep and do the Law, and not be proud; and b) A king who accumulates stuff (“multiply for himself” x3) and sends the people back to Egypt.

The people in 1 Sam. 8 want a king like the kings of the nations around. Samuel explains what that sort of king is going to be like: v11-18 – he will be a taker (“he will take” x6) who will make himself and his aggrandisement the big project (“his” x9), basically enslaving you until you cry out like you did in Egypt (v17-18). But the people don’t care – there’s a sense in which that’s exactly what they want. They want a Big Man.

The LORD God says in choosing the world’s Big Man model of leadership they are rejecting him as king (v7). They are doing what they’ve always done, “forsaking me and serving other gods” (v8). Notice the connection between choice of deity and choice of king. The LORD God is not a Big Man-type leader. He isn’t a taker, he’s the giver. He isn’t an oppressor, he’s the liberator. He doesn’t make people serve his power agenda, he stoops to serve. But the Israelites (like we all naturally do in our perversity) want cruel tyrannical Big-Boss-In-The-Sky gods.

And the LORD says, that rejection of the true servant God and turning to tyrannical idols is now being played out at the human level: “so they are also doing to you (Samuel)” (v8). Samuel is the good leader of Deut. 17 – governing Israel by the Word and prayer (e.g. 1 Sam. 7 & 12). He is the servant leader who can say to the people, “What have I taken? Whom have I oppressed?” (1 Sam. 12).

What we need is what we don’t naturally want – The Servant King who perfectly fulfils the patterns of the Law and the Prophets: our Elder Brother who gives himself, who serves us, who sets us free. And second, we need servant leaders like Him – who are Word-driven, loving, obedient, serving, humble.

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According to Mark Toth of the global HR group Manpower:

What’s the absolute #1 leadership trait in the history of the universe?

The correct answer is . . . humility.

That may seem 100% counter-intuitive when you picture today’s stereotypical CEO. But according to various workplace gurus (including Jim Collins and the research team behind the landmark business book Good to Great, as well as recent studies published in the Academy of Management Journal and Organization Science), it’s true.

Leaders who are truly (1) servant-hearted, (2) able to put others and the organization first and (3) willing to listen with humility to other points of view are the ones that people will follow. Thus, if you want to win in today’s hyper-competitive world of work you should (1) hire, promote and retain people who fit that description and (2) strive to fit it yourself.

So, I humbly suggest that you ask yourself this question today: Do others see humility in me? If you want to be a truly great leader, the answer should be a resounding “YES.”

(article here)

Funny how the world sometimes catches up:

Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people (Daniel 4:17)

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:44-45)

Christ Jesus… being in very nature God… humbled himself (Phil. 2:5-8)

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What if servant leadership flows from the nature of God and his mission…

Solomon tells it like it is:

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.   (Ecclesiastes 5:8-9)

Extractive model

That’s the default leadership position for the world. The Ancient Egyptians used it, the Roman Empire, the British Empire. You could call it the extractive model. If I’m the king in this system I just want to get as much profit as I can from the land over which I rule. So I divide and conquer. I put officials under me with layers of officials under them with the job of getting as much as possible out of the powerless peasants who farm the land. In this system the arrow is basically upward – resources, revenue, respect all goes upward. What goes down are orders and domination.

The extractive model is never going to create servant leaders. The officials are not there to serve the people under them, they are there to exert power over them and get as much tax revenue as possible from them. And the official is not even a true servant of the official above them or the king himself. In fact he hates his overlord as much as the peasant – he wants his job. So you see the nature of the king and the nature of his commission defines the sort of leader you get. If the king is raw power, sucking up resources into himself like a giant leech (as Mike Reeves puts it), then the leader under him will become like him.

But there is another model. Here’s Paul giving Titus a leadership 101:

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness

Notice the ‘for’ – Paul is a servant of God and sent by Jesus Christ for a particular purpose – not to tax God’s people, not to tie burdens on God’s people, not to go on a power trip and lord it over God’s people – but for their sake – to build them up in the faith, to increase their joy in Christ, to set them free with the truth. Where does this come from? It comes straight out of the heart of God himself. He is no leech. He has always been a giving, blessing, gracious, outpouring God:

2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

Before he was a Creator or a Law-giver, God was a Lover and a Promiser. Before he made anything, let alone before he made us, and long before we’d done anything, God set his incredible love on us and promised us everything – New Creation, Glory, Joy, Christ Himself.

3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Saviour… 7 For an overseer as God’s steward

Gospel modelYou see again how the nature of the king and the nature of his commission defines the sort of leader you get. This model is the opposite of the extractive model. The arrow is basically down. God’s nature is essentially Saviour (it says that four times in Titus). He’s not just raw power, he’s not just up there demanding glory and praise and money. He’s fundamentally an outpouring, out-going, saving God. And if you have a God like that, a servant king who says, “I love you, I’ve saved you, I’ve promised myself to you” – then you will want to serve, secure in His grace and love. And more than that, since he’s entrusted and commanded you to take His gospel to the world you are constituted as a servant twice over – you are a servant of the king who has given you the great commission and you are also a servant of the people to whom you must preach the gospel – you are not there to dominate or tax – you have a free gift for them that has been entrusted to you – it’s not yours it’s theirs – it’s like you are a motorcycle courier delivering their gift.

This is also why servant leadership and faithful Bible teaching are so closely linked. But that’s for another post…

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The fourth Raising the Bar conference will soon be here…

RTB 2013 flyer 1

Speakers for this year will include Greg Prior, Philip Sudell, Harrison Mungai, Sammy Gichanga, Mercy Ireri and myself. For a taste of last year’s conference see here. And for something on what we mean by ‘raising the bar’ see here. Register, spread the word, and pray that God would be pleased to use this conference for his glory and our good.

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