Growing In Godliness Blog
Leaders and Followers
By Matt Hennecke
Many of you are aware I spent most of my secular career engaged in leadership development efforts in a number of organizations. In my experience organizations are preoccupied with leadership. Countless classes and courses and degrees are offered to develop better leaders, but often little is said about what makes good followers. Here’s the thing: all of us play the role of follower more than we play the role of leader. True believers are first and foremost followers of Christ. Jesus said, in John 10:24, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Secondly, many of us follow shepherds in our congregation. We follow mayors, governors, and other office holders. Wives follow husbands. Children follow parents. So, while following dominates our lives it doesn’t dominate our thinking.
What Makes a Good Follower?
One cannot define a good follower without considering how they are led. Leadership is crucial to good followership. In a congregation under the oversight of elders (or even in a family household) different followers need to be led differently. Think for a moment of Christians in a local congregation: Some are new, perhaps recent converts to Christ. Others are seasoned Christians who know their Bibles well. Some are “on fire” – enthusiastic and motivated. Others are demotivated and unenthusiastic. Given these variables we can create the following Follower Grid with a follower’s knowledge on the vertical axis, and his zeal on the horizontal axis.
With the Grid before us we can begin to identify five different types of followers and how they need to be led.
1. THE NEW FOLLOWER (Needs an Instructing Style of Leadership)
Consider for a moment a new Christian. He is likely someone who hardly knows his Bible but has learned enough to realize his only hope is in Christ. In your experience, how would you assess the zeal of a new Christian? High, right? But how would you assess his knowledge of the Word? Very likely it is low. In such a case, the appropriate leadership style is one of “Instructing.” A new Christian needs someone – be it an elder, evangelist, or a more seasoned Christian – to mentor and coach him. He needs instruction to grow in the faith. Note the zeal of those baptized on the day of Pentecost but also the instruction they needed from the Apostles (Acts 2:42). Or consider what Paul said of the Jews who had a “zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (Rom. 10:2).
2. THE GROWING FOLLOWER: (Needs an Involving Style of Leadership)
As the new Christian begins to grow and his knowledge increases, it’s important to begin involving him more in kingdom work. It might be premature to “turn him loose” to teach a class, but he might be ready to co-teach a class with a more seasoned brother. It is during this time when the follower with the help of a leader can discover his “gifts” for kingdom service. If we push him too fast or hold him back too long, we may demotivate him. Sometimes growing Christians are asked to carry too big a load resulting in failure, or sometimes they stagnate because they’re not given the opportunity to grow in the faith and assume greater responsibilities. The Hebrew writer warned of this when he wrote, “let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity….” (Heb. 6:1).
3. THE MATURE FOLLOWER: (Needs a Sharing Style of Leadership)
Leaders who have knowledgeable and zealous followers can have confidence in giving them more responsibilities. Such Christians volunteer to teach classes, evangelize effectively in the community, and become mentors to less mature Christians. Such Christians are typically self-starters who take on tasks without them being assigned. They look for and initiate opportunities to serve and do so with great enthusiasm. In many ways, these Christians share in the leadership of a congregation – albeit informally. The worst thing a leader can do is “over control” these people lest they demotivate them. Leaders who lead by edict and don’t involve these followers in decision making are likely to alienate and demotivate them. These are the best kinds of followers, though they may sometimes question and challenge the thinking of their leaders. They do so, not because they are trying to undermine them, but because they are enthusiastic, Bible students who are serious about serving the Lord as He has directed through the Word. By way of example, consider the apostles, already zealous for the Lord and His commission, awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and once filled with all knowledge became ambassadors of the Word – sharers in His work and glory (Acts 2; Rom.8:17).
4. THE DEMOTIVATED FOLLOWER: (Needs an Encouraging Style of Leadership)
Sadly, there are some followers who despite their deep Bible knowledge and understanding have lost their zeal. The leader’s role in such situations is to encourage and motivate the follower – to try to re-instill the zeal that has been lost. This can be accomplished positively by reminding them of their calling in Christ and all He has done for them. Or, it can be done negatively by warning them of the consequences of heartless service. God’s people in the Old Testament frequently fell into such heart-dead worship. Consider their attitude and the sacrifices they brought to God described in Malachi 1:13: “…my how tiresome it is….and you bring what was taken by robbery, and what is lame or sick….” They knew God demanded sacrifice, but their hearts weren’t in it. The same was the problem with Laodiceans who had grown lukewarm in their service (Rev. 3:14-22). Without attention, these followers will likely slip into the next category of follower.
5. THE LIFELESS FOLLOWER: (Needs a Telling Style of Leadership)
Worst of all are followers who have lost their zeal and are happy to remain ignorant of the Word of God – the very Message that has the power to motivate. Such followers’ hearts are hard, and they feel no need to study and learn from God’s Word. They may slip in and slip out of worship assemblies and are content to do no kingdom work. Such followers create a challenge for churches because their apathy can infect the rest of the flock. They need to be confronted with love and firmness. They need to be told repeatedly what Christ has done and the importance of growing in Christ. They need to be warned about the coming judgment. Their souls are in jeopardy and require special, persistent attention lest they be lost. Consider the warning given to the church in Sardis, “…you are dead. Wake up and strengthen the things that remain which are about to die….” (Rev. 3:1-2).
So, follower, how would you assess your zeal for God and your knowledge of His Word? Are your growing or stagnating? And leaders, what “style” do you use to lead? Do you find yourself telling more than involving or sharing leadership? For both followers and leaders, the perfect role model is Christ Jesus who was both follower (John 12:49-50) and leader (Colossians 1:18).
Divisiveness & Social Media
By Brent Lykins
We live in an era where social media plays a large role in our communication with each other. It’s very easy for us to type away, letting our fingers put our thoughts out in the open for the whole world to see.
Unfortunately, when we are behind keyboards and not face to face with someone, it becomes slightly easier to let opinions and dialogue flow that may not have flowed otherwise. We all have opinions, right? We have opinions about current news headlines, politics, the status of the country, and we even have opinions about how others should think, act, or speak.
Satan loves this.
Satan loves this because it’s just one more way that he can slide a toe in between the door and the doorpost. Once a toe is in, it becomes easier to get a foot in…then a leg…and then eventually Satan is standing in the middle of us, making himself a full divider between brethren because of a social media post.
In an election year, there are literally thousands of posts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and whichever news outlet that you may frequent online. Everyone is eager to get their point across. Everyone is eager to “one-up” the other and then “drop the microphone.” It’s so easy for us, brothers and sisters, to be tempted to “one-up” someone else or feel the satisfaction of dropping the mic in front of everyone who may be reading at the time.
Satan loves that.
In a year full of racial disturbances, protests, riots, shunning the police, and wearing masks, everyone is eager to speak their opinions and viewpoints. And once again, everyone is eager to “one-up” the other and then “drop the microphone”. Once again brothers and sisters, it’s easy for us to be tempted to partake in those actions.
Satan loves that.
Let me remind everyone reading that even though we are the body of Christ, each of us have our own will and each of us have our own thoughts. Your thoughts may not represent the majority. Your opinion may not represent the majority. We may not all agree. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but let me also remind everyone that sometimes we get caught up in some very sensitive subjects that may also tie into our pride, our upbringing, or even our underlying beliefs. It should be understood that once you publicly make a hit on someone else’s pride or underlying belief that it probably will not be accepted with open arms. In fact, you may hurt someone’s feelings or possibly provoke someone to lose their temper. Just as we all don’t share the same opinions, we also don’t share the same personalities. One may let a criticism roll right on by. Another may hold that criticism deep in their heart and it may cloud their future view of the one who wrote it.
May I be rogue and suggest that it may be better for Christians to keep their personal opinions about the hot topics of the times to themselves?
I have already seen brothers and sisters “defriend” and “unfollow” each other over differences of opinion. I have seen public arguments between brethren that will be saved forever and are able to be viewed by people who look to us to be examples.
A few on-topic passages to leave you with:
Romans 12:18 – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Galatians 5:14-15 – “ For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
Proverbs 17:14 – “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”
Reflections On Rearing Godly Children
By David Norfleet
This weekend my family gathered to celebrate the 16th birthday of our 2nd daughter, and while doing so I reflected on how fast time has passed. It seemed just like yesterday that our kids were crawling and needing naps, and we had all the time in the world ahead of us. But, now, in almost a blink of an eye, they are grown and no longer need mom and dad.
I think one of the most terrifying and yet rewarding experiences that we face is attempting to rear godly, spiritually minded children. It is terrifying because all of us at one point are amateurs, and armed with God’s word we attempt to navigate life and the thousands of decisions it throws at us. But, it is also satisfying and rewarding to see their faith grow as they mature and appreciate the Lord’s hand in it all along.
There is no magic formula which will guarantee spiritually minded children, and ultimately the decision to “walk in the Spirit” is one each individual must make for themselves – parents cannot make it for their children. That is not to say, however, we are without influence. So, with that I mind I would like to offer a few suggestions (I offer these not as an expert or one who is a perfect parent, but one who is still very much in the trenches and wants his children to grow into godly individuals.).
- If we want our children to be spiritually minded, we must be spiritually minded. Children are much more likely to become what their parents are than what they claim to be. Children, maybe even more so than any other people, see our real motivations, affections, attitudes, and goals. We will not model for them spiritual perfection, but they need to see sincerity in our pursuit of it.
- We must understand our true and greatest purpose as parents, and that is rearing spiritually-minded children. That is the only truly essential goal to be achieved in this life (It is not whether they gross over $100,000 per annum, have an advanced degree, or are the most accomplished socially.). That must be foremost in our parenting as God’s purpose in creating them was that they might “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). That alone will determine their success or failure in this life, and in the life hereafter. This must be our goal! It has to be more than a plaque on the wall, but rather the shaping-force of our decisions in how to raise our children.
- After the goal is set, we must train our children toward that goal. It is important from a very young age that the goals parents have for their children are communicated. They must know that they are to be consecrated – set apart for service to God. They learn this, not simply by being told, but by seeing this purpose in their parent’s decisions and seeing how parents react to their conduct.
- As part of this training we must control the influences we allow to shape their minds. The Proverb writer stated, “as he thinks within himself, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). So as parents we must exercise great care in what we allow to shape their minds. This will both involve influences we must protect them from, but just as importantly things that are good, wholesome, and spiritual that we expose them to regularly.
- Finally, if our children are to be spiritual, prayer must be offered for the help which God alone can give. Prayer is the means by which you can obtain the help God has promised. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). It is amazing what God can accomplish in our children!
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but simply offered in reflection of the awesome privilege it is to shape these young souls in the image of God. But, also to remind all of you parents to have fun along the way, enjoying the time you have with them!
Serving One Another
By Paul Earnhart
Marriage has fallen on hard times in America and its agonies have filled many with a desperate longing for the healing of the home. The appetite for books on this subject seems insatiable. Unfortunately, much of this concern is for a quick and easy method— “15 Minutes a Day to a Happy Marriage.” There is no such magic formula. But there are answers, real answers, to marital anguish. They have been there all along.
The Bible is the grandest marriage manual ever written; not because it was written for that purpose, but because it is a book about relationships. It deals primarily with a man’s relationship to God and, out of that, his relationship to himself and others.
Marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, has about it some unique qualities of companionship and intimacy, but it is, at its heart, a relationship and the fundamental principle which rules it and moves it to a profound closeness is the same one which nurtures human relationships of every kind. A powerful statement and practical application of that principle is found in Ephesians.
Ephesians 5:1 is a bridge. It is the concluding thought of one exhortation which leads to another. Paul is in the midst of a practical application of the great principles of God’s redemptive work in Christ. He has been speaking of walking worthily of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), walking in love as God’s beloved children (Ephesians 5:2), walking as children of light, carefully, wisely (Ephesians 5:8, 15). He urges the Ephesians to be filled with the sobering influence of the Spirit rather than the wild indiscipline of wine. Such a Spirit-filled life, he says, will reveal itself in concrete ways— in the heartfelt worship together of God, and in mutual subjection to each other (Ephesians 5:18-21).
It is on the last phrase fo the paragraph, “subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ,” that Paul fixes his attention on the succeeding verses (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). Here he finds the principle upon which all relationships in Christ must be grounded. It is an idea which occurs frequently in Paul, and he always derives it from what God has done in Christ and the cross. This calling, with which we must live harmoniously, is out of the rich mercy and goodness of God who, by His grace, has elevated us, sinful and undeserving, to sit in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10). This calling demands that those who receive it live with all others in a humble, long-suffering, forgiving love (Ephesians 4:2, 32) and find the greatest delight in serving the needs of others rather than their own. Such was the self emptying mind of Christ (Philippians 2:1-5). So He taught, lived, and died (Matthew 20:26-28; 23:11-12).
It is for this reason that in the succeeding discussion of the responsibilities of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, that the one whose role it is to submit is dealt with ahead of one whose task it is to lead and guide (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). There is no role in life which so suits the mind of Christ as the role of submission. No disciple of Jesus should find it demeaning to submit— whether a wife to a husband, a child to a parent, or a servant to a master— when he follows the One who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7); who came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The reason for the submission of the wife, child, or servant, is to bless the husband, parent, or master— and to honor Christ.
More difficult perhaps is the role of the leader. He, too, must subject himself. The husband must subject himself to his wife, the parent to his child, the master to his servant. This does not remove him from his responsibility of headship and leadership, but it means that his guidance must always be ruled by the best interest of those who must follow and not his own. The husband is not to rule his wife for his own selfish ends, but in order to bring blessing and fulfillment to her. The parent is not to rule his children arbitrarily, as if he owned them to do with as he pleased, but, as a steward of God’s gift, to nurture them after God’s purposes and for their own eternal good. The master (employer, manager) too, must in his guidance of the affairs of his servants (employees) seek their good and not merely his own.
This spirit of sacrificial love will revolutionize any relationship, especially marriage. The root problem of our modern marital trauma is not technique, but sin. Selfishness and pride have destroyed our ability to live humbly for the sake of another. We come to marriage, as to other relationships, not to give, but to get, not to forbear, but to demand, not to bless, but to use. How is this problem to be solved? In the same way every sin problem must be solved— by a heartfelt repentance which seeks God’s forgiveness and turns to serve Him humbly again. It is only as we come to know and emulate the servant-mind of God’s Son that we will find peace and blessing in our relationships with others. And in that most intimate of all human relationships, especially.
By Matt Hennecke
His name was Frederick Justus and his story is one of resistance and stubbornness. Over the years he refused to listen to the appeals of his own son and daughter-in-law as together they tried repeatedly to speak to him of Christ. Perhaps his heritage had something to do with it. He had come to America from Germany when just 18 years old. Germans, rightly or wrongly, have a reputation for being stubborn and unyielding. Perhaps he didn't think his own son could teach him anything. Perhaps it was unbelief. Whatever the reason, he was unyielding to the message of salvation.
And time marched on.....
Frederick Justus became a grandfather. First a granddaughter arrived in 1943, then a grandson in ‘50. Three years later another grandson and finally another granddaughter. Four in all. Despite Frederick’s gruff exterior, he loved his grandchildren. You could tell by the twinkle in his eyes. Whenever they came to visit they brought bedlam and left messes, but he didn't seem to mind too much. During those visits, the story of Jesus was mentioned, but still Frederick resisted.
And time marched on.....
With age comes maladies. Aches and pains at first, then more serious conditions. When Frederick Justus was 88 years old he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. More likely it was just old age. In the last few years he could hardly walk. His body was bent. He carried a cane. He sat more than he stood. Then, one day, he was hospitalized - Saint Joseph's Hospital in Chicago. His son and daughter-in-law visited, and despite the many times their message had fallen on deaf ears, they again spoke softly of the Son of God and of the hope of glory. This time something was different. This time Frederick listened. This time he heard. In barely a whisper, he at last said, "I want to be baptized into Christ."
The hospital was Catholic, so the son prepared for battle. Baptism as immersion doesn’t sit too well with Catholics. Additionally, the old man was very sick, but the son was adamant and stubborn. No surprise there, for he was German too. The son had as much stubbornness as his father - maybe more. Nothing was going to prevent the very thing he had prayed about for so many years. The doctor said “No,” so the son went to the charge nurse who thought the idea of a baptism wonderful. She said, “We don’t listen to doctors.” The nurse located a large metal bathtub with harness system that could be used to lower Frederick into the water.
On that day, the stubborn, self-willed, infirm Frederick Justus finally let go, and gave himself to Christ. He was baptized by his own son for the forgiveness of his sins, and the blood of Christ removed all infirmities of the spirit. He was born again into the kingdom of God.
A few days later, the hospital, unable to provide any further treatments for Frederick suggested he be admitted to a nursing home, but the son and his wife wouldn’t have it. An ambulance brought Frederick to his son's house. Three days after his arrival, at breakfast time, Frederick Justus coughed once and died. A Christian for a mere 3 days - a heavenly reward for eternity....
Frederick Justus Hennecke - my grandfather. I will see him again.
-Matthew Justus Hennecke