Tuesday, August 25, 2009

September Newsletter

I love September because I love high school and college football. I drove to Pell City last Friday night to watch our JHS Golden Eagles take the field for their first game, then cried all the way home because the rain and lightning forced them to cancel the game. I pity Weaver this Friday night (August 28)! The JSU Gamecocks begin a season that, while playoff ineligible, promises to be a great year. I am crazy about September and football.

I also love September because it means we will see new faces in worship as college students descend upon both our church campuses. We are blessed to have a great relationship with Jacksonville State University, and with our own Gary Brittain at the Baptist Campus Ministries. Why not pick a student and open your home to provide a good home cooked meal while they are here with us. I am sure they will take cash if you cannot open your home. Pray for Zack and our college leadership team as they reach out to students this fall.

In the month of September I will be preaching a new message series: “CRUNCH TIME: Making Good Decisions in Bad Situations”, based on the temptations of Christ in Matthew 4. We will examine the signs of temptation when Satan opens fire, and how you and I as the Saints can fight back! I hope you will invite someone to come with you for this series.

I also love September because it’s a time when you can get connected. On September 12 from 5:00 – 7:00 PM at EaglePoint we have our next “Group Link.” I hope you will come and find connections that count! Jesus said to His disciples, “Follow me.” One of the ways we fulfill that command is through connections with other believers. Now is the time for you to get connected to your spiritual family.

Finally, I love September because our staff has the opportunity to get away for a couple days (Sept. 21-23) to hang with each other, to evaluate our ministries, to plan for the upcoming year, and to pray over our church family like we never have before. I would ask you to pray that God mold us as a leadership team and as a church family into His image. These are exciting days in September – for football, for family, for faith!

Loving September and You,

Dr. Derek

The Leader's Goal

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (I Peter 1:13-16)

“Is it possible that we may become so focused on the journey that we lose sight of the destination?” I think that’s one of the most important questions Blackaby asks thus far in his book on Spiritual Leadership. As church leaders, we can become so focused on nickels, noses, and numbers, that we forget our true agenda: “Moving people on to God’s agenda.” I have often heard the analogy: I have been so busy taking care of the alligators, that I forgot my original intention was to drain the swamp!

Henry Blackaby says the three most common, “and perhaps most subtle,” goals that disorient leaders are:

Bottom Line Mentality – We start to think in terms of results instead of building a strong organization. “Spiritual leaders do not use their people to accomplish their goals; their people are the goal. Spiritual leaders have a God-given responsibility to do all they can to lead their people on to God’s agenda.”

Perfectionism – Churches that concentrate more on tasks, (i.e. excellence) than people, often miss what God considers most important. We must always strive to give our best in service to our king. But our task is to take people from where they are to where God wants them to be.

Bigger, Faster, More – Joel Osteen, the cults, sports, etc. There is a BIG difference between drawing a crowd and building a church. Remember: God is not impressed with numbers; He is impressed with Faithfulness!

So, what are the goals spiritual leaders ought to seek as they serve Christ’s Church? Henry Blackaby lists three:

Spiritual Maturity – Our goal is to take people from where they are to where God wants them to be. God is not looking for results, but relationship. I was personally convicted when Blackaby stated, “Leaders will never move their people beyond where they have gone themselves.” As pastor of a growing congregation, I have been reminded in my studies that my congregation will not move forward in their intimacy with Christ unless I am moving forward in my intimacy with Christ. May God grant us favor as we seek to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

Leaders Lead Followers – Blackaby says, “Great leaders lead followers.” Leader development must be a core if we are to effectively lead. Again, here is another area of conviction and challenge: What am I doing to enhance our staff, our deacons, and our leadership teams’ spiritual maturity. Now, I recognize that there are times when church leaders are focused on things other than growth in Christ, whether it’s unhappiness in ministry and the people who are to blame, unconfessed sin, or a host of reasons for the lack of development. As leaders, we must know when to confront and when to encourage. Blackaby lists four habits leaders must practice in their quest to grow their leadership:

Leaders delegate.

Leaders give people freedom to fail.

Leaders recognize the success of others.

Leaders give encouragement and support.

Bringing Glory to God – My goal ought to be to glorify God in the way I shepherd the congregation God has entrusted to my care. Our staff ought to be seeking God’s glory in their respective ministry areas, our lay leadership ought to be striving for God’s glory in their servant opportunities. Paul urged the Corinthians: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Cor. 10:31)

Here lies the ultimate evaluation, the ultimate measuring stick of all that we do: Is it for God? Is it for His glory? Is it for the praise of His name? We must always remember that God’s glory is what we should desire for the watching world to see. Do the residents of Calhoun County see us living our lives for Christ and the advancement of His kingdom? Or do they sense that we live for ourselves and not the One who has saved us and called us to a holy calling?

Will you examine your heart as I have done in these days? Will you enter your prayer closet, shut the door, and be still before the One who knows you better than you know yourself? And will you ask yourself…What evidence of redemption do my neighbors see in me?

What signs of maturity in Christ are plain to see?

What yardstick do I use to measure…

The depth of my prayer life?

My time spent in the Word of God?

My love for people?

My desire to see our staff reflect Christ in all they do?

My desire to move our lay leaders to maturity?

My desire to glorify God with my life and my family?

It is only when we seek Him with all our hearts, that we will move ourselves and our people on in their pursuit of God’s agenda! Will you join me in the journey to the destination: Christlikeness!

Until Next Week,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:5-9)

Robert E. Lee is a fascinating leader to study. He was always able to do more with less. His soldiers lined up to fight for him. It was even said that, with the war all but lost, Lee’s soldiers were prepared to fight on if he would only give the orders. What was it about General Lee that inspired such loyalty among his followers? Was it his rank as a general? Other generals certainly did not enjoy such loyalty. Was it his ability to court-martial traitors or his ability to strategize for maximum effectiveness? The simple fact is Lee’s soldiers followed him because of who he was.

How do you live a life that moves others to follow? Well, often we focus on all the perfunctory things instead of the main thing: “Become the kind of person that others want to follow.” Blackaby says, “Instead of developing the appearance of a leader, why not develop the character of a leader.”

It has never been easier to create the image of a leader than it is today! With the right kind of help, leaders can be groomed for positions of great responsibility rather than the inner development that results in impeccable character. In short, spiritual leadership is based on the work of the Holy Spirit. A leader must bring more to his people than a bright smile. A leader must be one who has bathed in the power of God’s Spirit. Blackaby says there are three illegitimate ways people gain influence over others:

Position – Many today seek influential positions without developing a character to match their assignment. I love what Oswald Sanders said in his book on Spiritual Leadership: “Should it not be the office that seeks the man, rather than the man the office?”

Power – “Christian leaders also invite rebellion when they use force to achieve their organizational goals.” I have personally seen pastor friends use strong-arm tactics to get their personal agenda’s through. I have heard pastors use the pulpit as a soapbox stand to literally rip into their church members who disagreed with them. I have seen leaders, like Blackaby describes, who “lobby for support from influential church members as if they were seeking to get a bill passed through Congress.”

Personality – When position and power do not produce the desired results many revert to their “charming personality.” Fortunately for me, I don’t have a charming personality. But then, my wife says I can revert to my good looks. By the way, Julie does wear strong glasses! J

Blackaby then asks: “What then are the standards by which true spiritual leaders can be measured?”

God’s Authentication – Influence as a leader is never greater than those times when God chooses to affirm leaders before the eyes of their people. God’s authentication is the first and most important test of legitimacy. When you study the lives of Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Deborah, and especially the life of Jesus, you will find visible evidence of God’s hand upon their lives. How do we know when God’s hands are upon our leaders? I believe it when they look like Christ!

Encounters with God - Blackaby says people do not choose to become spiritual leaders. Spiritual leadership flows out of a person’s vibrant, intimate relationship with God. Spiritual leaders meet God in profound, life-changing ways.

Character/Integrity – Spiritual leaders ought to be known for their honesty. We have all heard the saying, character is best defined as “who we are in the dark.” Integrity must be paramount in the life of a leader. And when a leader’s character/integrity is attacked without basis, the leader must know that God will vindicate His own. And I will tell plainly: HE WILL!

A Successful Track Record – Consistent, long-term success will bring the greatest level of credibility to any leader. “Success can be a sign that God is blessing a leader.” However, we must make sure we are measuring success the way God measures success. Faithfulness is the key. Therefore, respect cannot be demanded. It must be earned.

Leaders can gain a higher degree of influence through patterns of obedience and growth. That’s the “proven track record” we must seek for our lives and our ministries. L.R. Scarborough, the second president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, issued this challenge to spiritual leaders: “If your place is not great enough to suit you, make it so. The minister who is unable to make a place great is too weak to hold a great one.”

– Billy Graham was once asked if he could do some things over, what would he do? He stated, “I would speak less and study more.” Preparation brings profound confidence to leaders. Blackaby says, “The most successful leaders have been the ones who did their homework thoroughly.” Preparation for ministry success means spiritual leaders will invest significant blocks of time to training, study, discipline, and hard work.

The most significant thought that permeated this chapter for me is the simple, yet profound thread woven through the chapter: Spiritual influence does not come automatically, haphazardly, or easily. It is not something upon which leaders can insist. It is something God must produce in you!

Until Next Week,

Dr. Derek