Growing In Godliness Blog
Author: Mark McCrary
Leadership from Preachers
by Mark McCrary
I wasn’t a good leader when I first started preaching. In fact, it is generous to even say I wasn’t good at leading. I didn’t lead. At all.
You see, I grew up hearing, “The preacher isn’t a pastor!” So naturally, when I started preaching the last thing I wanted to be seen as was a pastor. After all, that was one of the big problems in denominationalism, right? Biblically, formal church leadership is found in the form of elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). They shepherd and protect the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4), while the preacher’s primary task is preaching the word (1 Tim. 4:2).
Looking back, there were numerous times when I wish I had asserted more needed leadership in the first two churches for which I preached. But, because I didn’t want to be viewed as a pastor, I wasn’t even a leader. To be honest, I probably was rarely even a suggester.
Then, something remarkable happened. I actually read the Bible. Specifically, Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. These books, written to preachers, are about leadership. A preacher’s leadership. I learned that while a preacher still isn’t a formal leader like a pastor (elder, shepherd, overseer), he is still an informal leader and should embrace that leadership role.
Take for instance Timothy. He was young and unsure of himself (2 Tim. 1:3-7). Yet, despite this, he was called to be brave (1 Tim. 1:18), see to the appointment of shepherds (1 Tim. 3:1-7), teach and command the things Christians need to hear (1 Tim. 4:6-8; 11), set a good example (1 Tim. 4:12; 6:11-16; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2 Tim. 2:22-25), use his “gift” (1 Tim. 4:14), manage people (1 Tim. 5:1-16) and church disputes (1 Tim. 5:17-6:2; 2 Tim. 2:14-19), and watch out for false teachers (1 Tim. 6:2-5).
Titus, too, was to lead by appointing shepherds (Tit. 1:5-8), silence false teachers and trouble-makers (1:10-14; 3:9-11), teach “sound doctrine” (2:1), set a good example (2:7-8), and remind people to be obedient to civil rulers (3:1-2). Paul summed up Titus’ work—the preacher’s work—with these words, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (2:15).
Living right. Standing for truth. Confronting people dangerous to the flock. Teach. Set the right example. Deal with problems. These are all things leaders do. These are things preachers do.
Now, to be clear, when elders are present, preachers are to follow as well. But, they still are to show godly influence in the church through informal, yet necessary acts of leadership.
The World Needs Lights
By Mark McCrary
Viruses. Racism. Injustice. Riots. Financial upheaval.
It is tempting to think that things have never been worse, yet our field of vision over the course of time is very narrow. The reality is human existence has always been filled with all of the above, along with earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, famines, awful diseases, conquests, pillagings, dominations, food and water shortages, mosquitoes, snakes, lions and tigers, and bears… and the lists go on and on.
Reasons to be upset, scared, anxious, concerned, frustrated and the like are nothing new. They have been the constant companions of the human experience and while we travel this earth, they always will.
Despite these realities, the Bible holds several enticing possibilities before us: we can have hope (Psalm 42:11; 62:5-6; Romans 15:13; 1 Timothy 4:10), joy (Psalm 16:11; John 15:10-12; Galatians 5:22-23 ) and peace with others (Psalm 34:13-15; Isaiah 32:16-17; Luke 2:13-14; Romans 12:17-18; 1 Corinthians 13:11)—even in this life. It does not give us these things by taking us out of the world, but by giving us tools to use while in this world. What are these tools?
There are numerous passages we could look to, but let’s spend a few minutes contemplating Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…” (Philippians 2:14-16).
Under inspiration, Paul gives us some simple, doable actions we can put into place in our lives. First, he tells us not to complain. All of us complain from time to time. Sometimes, those complaints move from “time to time” to all the time. Spend some time this week paying attention to your speech; look over your social media posts. Be honest. How much do you see yourself complaining? It may be more than you think. We can post all the Bible verses we like on Facebook or Instagram, but when we complain—especially when people know we are a Christian—we aren’t showing the world that we are any different than anyone else. So, check your complaining. Complaints stem from too close a proximity to the world. Paul’s attitude (and Christ’s for that matter) was radical because he focused on different things: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” ( 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
When you make the decision to stop being negative, you must follow that up with an equal decision to being positive— shine as a light. Point people from the chaos of the world to the love and peace of God. You aren’t being self-righteous when you decide to model this; people need to see that it really is possible to have the peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) in the “midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” People need to hear that injustices are real, that life stinks sometimes, but when one sets their mind on God in obedience, it really can change one’s life and outlook. We need to be living proof of this.
Finally, all of this is made possible because you “hold fast to God’s word.” Every day we are all tempted to cast aside the Biblical teachings to some degree or another. Don’t. Always remember that real freedom comes from following God and His word (Romans 6:15-19). The more we submit to God’s wisdom rather than our own, the more peace we will have. Hold on desperately to God and His word.
God needs a hitter this week in this game we call life. Let’s step up to the plate.
Reflections on the New Star Wars Movies and a Disturbing Cultural Message
By Mark McCrary
I’ve been thinking about the new Star Wars movies. No, this isn’t a review, a geeky complaint or admonition to watch them. It is a consideration of what they are saying about us as a culture. There’s a spiritual point, so please stick with me for a few minutes.
I remember walking out of the second new movie (“The Last Jedi”) wondering, “Okay… so, who’s the bad guy here?” The one I thought was the bad guy, Snoke, had been killed in the middle of the movie. I didn’t think it was Kylo Ren because while he was sometimes bad, he kinda acted like he wanted to be good sometimes. So, who’s the bad guy?
Why’s it so important to have a bad guy? Because the original Star Wars movies were a morality play. They were good versus evil. In the first Star Wars movie, within the first 5 minutes we were introduced to Darth Vader. He was dark, imposing, barking orders with his deep bass, slightly mechanized voice, lifting people up in the air choking them with the power of the Force… and that was the just the beginning of the movie. Hands down, there were no questions as to who the bad guy was in this movie (and the subsequent original movies). But, there was no one like that in the new movies.
I think—on reflection—that the possible reason why could be of significance to Christians. You see, the original and new movies were made in two very different times in our nation’s culture. In the 70’s (with all its problems), there was still an acceptance of some absolutes; in good and evil; black and white. However, today, absolutes are by and large rejected. Views about right and wrong are more “nuanced.” Rather than black and white, things are more gray and uncertain.
It is true that there is a lot of gray in life. But absolutes, black and white, right and wrong… these are things that can’t be ignored. If they are, it is to our peril. This isn’t just reality; it is biblical.
God is good (Exodus 34:6; 1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalm 145:9). Not just sometimes, but always. He is perfect, and all his guidances are right (Psalm 19:7-11). Jesus is the absolute perfect physical reflection of this perfect God (John 1:1,14; Hebrews 1:3), and He is the only way to Him (John 14:6).
The Devil is evil (Matthew 13:19)—not misunderstood; not confused. He is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44), and to follow Him leads to certain, eternal punishment (Matthew 25:41-46).
There is light and darkness (1 John 1:5-10), and you and I have to choose which one we will walk in. If we choose the light, we will go to heaven. If we choose darkness, we will be lost in hell forever.
Now, I acknowledge I may be making too much out of this. But, importantly, as our culture drifts more into a rejection of absolutes it will be reflected more and more in our entertainment. Followers of God must not have our heads in the sand about this. While I am not suggesting we must abstain from entertainment because of these messages (though some may choose to), I am saying in no uncertain terms that we must be aware of them; and more importantly, aware of the biblical message and its truthfulness. We must stand by that message. Otherwise, we will be spiritually confused and liable to fall for any deception that comes our way (Ephesians 4:14).
Women and the New Testament
By Mark McCrary
Mention the Bible to some people today, and one of the first things they will think of is sexism. After all, it teaches that men are the head of the house, that women can’t be preachers, that they are second class citizens, that sex is only for the man—generally, that women aren’t important, right?
Well, yes and no. It is certainly true that God has ordained that the man is to be the head of the family (Eph. 5:22-29), and He has also determined that women are not to have teaching authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11-12). No Sexual Revolution can ever overthrow these truths. However, most misconceptions and misunderstandings people have about women and the Bible are just that—misconceptions and misunderstandings; and very erroneous ones as at that.
Did you know that women ministered to Jesus and helped Him in his important task? Luke 8:3 tells of many who “provided for Him from their substance.” Women were also the first witnesses of the resurrection (Luke 24:1-10). This is remarkable because in Jewish society, the testimony of women in the court of law had little if any weight.
One of the few named servants in the church apart from the apostles was that of a woman—Phoebe (Romans 16:1). In fact, Romans 16 list the names of a number of disciples in the city of Roman, many of which were women, such as Priscilla (v. 3), Mary (v. 6), Juna (v. 7), Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis (v. 12) and Julia (v. 15). Mentioned as well—though not by name—are Rufus’ mother (v. 13) and Nereus’ sister (v. 15).
Contrary to the view of women in much of the first century society, the teachings of the New Testament lifted them up. Their sexual desires and needs were elevated to the same level as those of men—“Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Peter reminded husbands that they are to view their wives as “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7). To fail to do so, he warned, would hinder a man’s prayers to God. Also, the husband was told to view his wife as a “weaker vessel”—not that she is spiritually weaker, but she was to be viewed as something precious and valuable to him; something to be honored and protected at all costs.
Though the husband is the spiritual leader in the home, there is certainly a sense from Ephesians 5 that even he is submissive to his wife as he leads. Everything he does in verses 25-29 is with her and her well being in view. If she is not bettered because of his leadership, he’s doing something wrong and needs to correct it.
That they are also of the same spiritual value as men is seen in Gal. 3:26-29, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Are women under more restrictions then men? From a teaching standpoint, yes; but from the standpoint of worth and usefulness, she stands shoulder to shoulder and head to head with any man. Her role is not one of leadership. But remember: role is functional; worth is intrinsic. Let’s focus on the worth and value of women found in the New Testament; let’s preach it, embrace it, use it and live it.
God has blessed me with three wonderful and spiritually minded daughters. My prayer for them and all God’s female servants is that they be used—just as any man—in God’s kingdom as He sees fit for His own glory and honor. Such should be the prayer of us all.