How to Build Trust

People will not follow you if you cannot be trusted, it is the foundation for doing ministry. Trust is the critical component for healthy and effective relationships and teams. David Horsager writes, “As trust within an organization increases, so do output, morale, productivity and loyalty” (in his book The Trust Edge).

Horsager suggest eight pillars for building (or rebuilding) trust with the people you lead. Think about how these principles transfer to the church world.

How do you rate in these trust-building qualities:

Clarity: This is straight from Simple Church, the message and process must be clear or people will not get on board. People trust leaders who provide clear communication, whether it’s vision for a new ministry or program goals.

Compassion: This is a lesson straight from Jesus himself, who had compassion people in need. It’s why everyone liked Mother Teresa, but you don’t have to be a saint to show people you care.

Character: This has been defined by Bill Hybels as, “the person you are when no one is looking.” We must do what’s right, not what’s easy. This may be a deal breaker if you don’t show your team biblical integrity. There is a reason I like this quality coming before competency; we so often emphasize competency and training for the task that we sacrifice the quality of character. Jesus invested into his disciples, not only for competency in the task, but also character. We must develop people.

Competency: Training is so important in the ministry; we want people to be successful in what they do, and sometimes just a little training will get them on the right path toward a fruitful ministry. You don’t have to be an expert is everything, but make sure you stay on top of your primary ministry focus. On the negative side, why do people so often resist training?

Contribution: People want to trust that you’ll get the job done, and get it done right. Don’t settle for less than your best. The body of Christ all working together makes “the body” of Christ, never minimize your contribution to the whole; everyone is important.

Commitment: The quickest way to build trust is to make and keep your commitments. Think about all the people you trusted to do what they said they were going to do, now think of those who fell through, failing to keep their commitments.

Connection: As John Maxwell teaches, “everyone communicates, few connect.” It’s all about relationships. Connect with those you lead, as friends, not just as workers accomplishing a task. Volunteers will walk away from a task sooner than they’ll abandon a relationship.

Consistency: It’s why we trust a restaurant franchise; we get the same food in Bangkok as in Birmingham. Leadership consistency lets people know you’re dependable.

DARING PROPOSITION: Ask your team members which of these trust-builders you demonstrate most, and which ones need improvement. Your commitment to trust-building will model this value and create a strong ministry team.

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We Need to Develop Character

It is good to know the reasons that character development is so important:

1. Because the Image of God in Mankind was Marred at the Fall:

  • Genesis 1:27, God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
  • Colossians 3:10, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.

2. Because We are Fallen Human Beings:

  • Genesis 2:15-17, Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
  • Genesis 3:4-6, The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
  • Romans 5:12, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:22, For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

3. Because We Live in Guilt and Shame:

  • Genesis 3:8-9, They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

4. Because We Devise the Wrong Solutions:

  • Cover Up – Genesis 3:7-8, Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. 8 They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
  • Blame – Genesis 3:11b-12, Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

5. Because We are Not Born with Good Character: Character is developed.

  • Psalm 51:5, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
  • Psalm 58:3, The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.
  • Proverbs 22:15, Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

6. Because We are Born with Sin Tendencies:

  • Exodus 20:5-6, You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Years ago there were two men, Jonathan Edwards and Max Jukes. These two men lived as contemporaries and their family history was traced for a certain number of generations. Max was a drunken criminal.

  • Max Jukes had 1,026 descendants. 300 were in prison. 190 were prostitutes, and 680 were alcoholics.
  • Jonathan Edwards had 929 descendants by contrast and 430 were ministers of the gospel. 86 university professors, 13 university presidents, 75 wrote good books, 7 elected to congress and 1 a vice-president of the United States.

Tell me that generations are not affected by what we do. You can break the generational curse when you develop character.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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Developing Christian Character

How Do People Grow and Develop Character?

What is Spiritual Formation?

Spiritual Formation is the process of developing the character (life skills) and competencies (ministry skills) of Christ in a believer’s life.

What is the Goal of Spiritual Formation?

  • Romans 8:29, For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
  • Galatians 4:19, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!
  • 1 John 2:6, “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
  • 1 Peter 2:21, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,”
  • 1 Cor. 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
  • Colossians 1:28-29, We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Why is Spiritual Formation (Character Development) so Important in the Church?

There is a character crisis in the church that has led to a leadership vacuum.

  • “If a leader demonstrates competency, genuine concern for others, and admirable character, people will follow.” — T. Richard Chase
  • “T. Richard Chase distills the basic components that followers look for in a leader. Are they competent? Do they really care for people? Do they possess strong character? Everything else is icing on the cake. Followers can endure a wide spectrum of differences in their leaders, but these three elements are non-negotiable.” — John C. Maxwell
  • “An important question for leaders: ‘Am I building people, or building my dream and using people to do it?”‘ — John C. Maxwell
  • Our goal isn’t to build a big church — but to build big people. If we invest in people, and develop them into mission-driven people, we will see our dream for the church accomplished. People quickly ascertain whether we are building them or using them.”— Jack Hayford
  • It’s not enough to just get the job done, but we must become more like Christ in the process.

It’s important that our competence (ministry skills) doesn’t surpass our character (life skills).

Character Competence

What happens when our competence exceeds our character? What do we call the difference? (A disaster, a crisis, a fall from grace, bad ink. The world looks on and says the church is full of hypocrites).

Character is a non-negotiable in ministry. The Apostle Paul put it this way – ‘giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited“— 2 Corinthians 6:3 cp. “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7)

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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Our Part in Spiritual Formation

Here are several ways we develop our own character:

1. Take Responsibility for Our Own Spiritual Formation:

  • Philippians 2:12, So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
    • You “work out” your salvation, you don’t “work for it.”
    • We must work out our salvation with fear & trembling. (see Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Once we experience salvation through Christ’s substitutionary death we are responsible to work out this new relationship/position in Christ with “fear & trembling.”  As we face new challenges, problems or temptations we are not to haphazardly devise a solution with little reflection on what God would want us to do. We are to approach this new life in Christ with “a healthy fear of offending God and a righteous awe and respect for Him (cf. Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; Isaiah66:1-2).” MacArthur Study Bible

2. Start From the Outside In:

  • Matthew 23:25-26, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
  • Legalism – is an External Make-Over

3. Practice the Spiritual Disciplines:

  • 1 Tim.4:7b-8, On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
  • Spiritual disciplines (practices, habits) interrupt the flow of normal life in order to be open to God’s work in our lives. Disciplines of the Spirit:
    • Study of the Scriptures – reading, observing, interpreting, applying, meditating
    • Fasting
    • Solitude
    • Praying
    • Silence

4. Cultivate a Hunger for God’s Word:

  • 1 Peter 2:1, Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.
  • Why do some people grow when in the Word and others don’t grow as much?
    • Matthew 13:8 says –”And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” cp. Mark 4:8; Luke 8:8.
    • The answer to this question is found in Luke 8:15 “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”
  • Luke provides the explanation for the different levels of growth and fruitfulness. Luke records Christ giving four steps to being good listeners that maximizes their time in the Word.
    • Step 1 is to have an honest heart. This word “honest” [Gr. kalos ] is the opposite of false-hearted, dishonest about self.
    • Step 2 is to make sure we have a good heart. The word “good” [Gr. agathos] Thayer’s Lexicon says – it means good in the sense of fertile soil, it denotes a soul inclined to goodness and accordingly eager to learn.
    • Step 3 is to “hold it fast” [Gr. katechousin – “cling to” the truths learned]. We are all prone to hear something and then forget it. Jesus is saying we need to hold on to it. For me this requires taking notes if I’m listening to a message, going over those notes during the week, memorizing a key verse from the passage.
    • Step 4 involves bearing “fruit with perseverance.” Fruit bearing takes time and perseverance [Gr. hupomone]. This requires life application, action steps, accountability, prayer and a lot of patience. The degree to which we apply these four steps will determine our fruitfulness.

5. Repent Over Your Sin:

The word repentance [Gr. metanoia] means “a change of mind.” An unbeliever must have a change of mind about their:

  1. “Sin” – Revelation 9:20, 21
  2. “God” – Acts 20:21
  3. “Dead works” – Hebrews 6:1

The biblical concept of repentance involves far more than merely a casual change of thinking. True repentance is always a turning from sin (1 Thessalonians 1:9), and it always results in changed behavior.

  • 2 Corinthians 12:20-21, For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced. cf. 2 Corinthians 13:1-5
  • 2 Corinthians 7:9-11, I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.

There are seven marks of a believer that is truly repentant over their sin.

  1. “What earnestness” [Gr. spoude] denotes haste, diligence to try to change things in contrast to previous indifference.
  2. “What vindication of yourselves” [Gr. apologian] denotes an eagerness to clear oneself.
  3. “What indignation” [Gr. aganaktesin] denotes vexation or anger that they have troubled others with their sin
  4. “What fear” [Gr. phobon] denotes fear over God’s displeasure
  5. “What longing” [Gr. epipothesin] denotes yearning to see the matter rectified and relationships restored. Describes a person that will accept all the help he can get.
  6. “What zeal” [Gr. zelos] denotes a fervency or enthusiasm to do what is right.
  7. “What avenging of wrong” [Gr. ekdikesin] denotes a readiness to turn against oneself.

How does godly sorrow differ from worldly sorrow (2 Cor.7:10; Matt.27:3; 26:75)?

  • Judas had worldly sorrow; he felt remorse but it only led to his own suicide (Acts 1:18-20).
  • Peter wept bitterly after he denied the Lord and became extremely vocal about his faith to a lost and dying world.

6. Confess Your Sin & Seek God’s Parental Forgiveness:

  • 1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

7. Obey God’s Word as You Learn It:

  • Philippians 2:12, Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
  • Luke 6:46, Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
  • Luke 8:19-21, Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you… 21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

8. Replace Old Habits with New Ones:

  • Ephesians 4:22, “…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”


  • Ephesians 4:25, Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
  • Ephesians 4:28, He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
  • Ephesians 4:29, Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

9. Place Yourself Under the Authority of a Local Church and Soul-Care of a Small Group Leader:

  • Heb.13:17, Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:10, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?

Place ourselves in a “face to face” environment where people are honest about our need to change.

  • Matthew 18:15-20, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

You need the “teeth of accountability”

10. Get an Accountability Partner:

  • Hebrews 3:13, But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
  • 2 Timothy 2:22, Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Write out your spiritual growth plan

11. Apply All Diligence in Developing Your Character:

2 Peter 1:5-7, Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love Diligence involves seeing the task of character development as a special assignment from the Lord and using all of your energy to accomplish it. (IBLP adapted)

Spiritual formation is a lifetime task

  • Philippians 3:12-16, Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, ” I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
  • It’s a lifetime of work. The Apostle Paul was always pursuing this goal but was very conscious of the fact that he hadn’t arrived.

12. Our Progress Should be Measurable:

  • Ephesians 4:11-13, And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
    • Measurable Outcomes – Is formation occurring? What is your next step?
    • What bench marks have you set to measure your progress?
    • Marked by Love – Love for God & a Love for People
  • 2 Timothy 4:15-16, Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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Steps to Developing Character

It’s important to develop a definition of a disciplined person) at each level of disciplemaking. This involves identifying the character qualities and competencies that a disciple needs to develop at each level.

A character quality is developed as we choose to obey a command of Christ habitually despite the difficulties, opposition or circumstances. Long-term habits (good or bad) shape our character.

Character development is a fundamental change in a person’s moral constitution. It involves seeing people who are feeling-oriented become obedience-oriented.

  • Don’t underestimate the challenge of developing a person’s character; it’s a painful process.
  • Paul wrote, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,” Galatians 4:19.
  • Although it may be a painful process, it’s not an impossible task. We can take hope in the fact that the Bible wasn’t just given to us for information but for transformation (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Rick Warren has written in his book The Purpose Driven Church:

  • Christlike character is the ultimate goal. To settle for anything less is to miss the point of spiritual growth. We are to … “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:13).
  • Developing the character of Christ is life’s most important task because it is the only thing we’ll take with us into eternity. Jesus made it quite clear in his Sermon on the Mount that eternal rewards in heaven would be based on the character we develop and demonstrate here on earth.
  • This means the objective of all our teaching must be to change lives, NOT merely provide information.
  • Character is never built in a classroom; it is built in the circumstances of life. The classroom Bible study is simply the place to identify character qualities and learn how character is developed. When we understand how God uses circumstances to develop character, we can respond correctly when God places us in character-building situations. Character development always involves a choice. When we make the right choice, our character grows more like Christ.

Choices start with thoughts – “Sow a thought and reap an act. Sow an act and reap a habit. Sow a habit and reap a character. Sow a character and reap a destiny.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson


  • What is character? It is the dynamic orientation toward good or bad.
  • Character is developed through repeated choices that become habits.
  • How do you build character? Building character involves the transformation of the will through repeated choices that become habits that are allowed to shape ones thinking and feelings.

Church consultant Bob Gilliam suggests the following formula can create a sufficient enough commitment in a person’s life that wants to develop life skills (character) or ministry skills (competence).


Discipline is made up of two important dynamics – Relationship and Accountability. If we want to be committed to a habit that will ultimately shape our character then we must have a close relationship with someone that we invite to hold us accountable.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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What is Christian Character?

Just as Jesus sought to develop the character of the disciples, not just training them for the task of the Great Commission, we must develop character. It is destructive to have a believer’s competence larger than his character. So what is character?

1. Character Defined:

  • “Character is who you are when no one’s looking” – Bill Hybels
    • It is NOT the same as reputation – what other people think of us.
    • It is NOT the same as success or achievement.
    • It is NOT what we have done, but who we are.
  • The Greek word for character is charakter. It is translated in Scripture as the “express image.” One of God’s primary goals for believers is to transform them into the image of His Son so that they may be a reflection of the character of Christ. – Bill Gothard
  • According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, the word “originally denoted an engraver or engraving tool. Later it meant the impression itself, usually something engravers, cut in, or stamped, a character, letter, mark, [or] sign. This impression with its particular features was considered as the exact representation of the object whose image it bore.” In Hebrews 1:3, Christ is referred to as the “express image” of God; He fully expressed the character of God through His life.
  • We can take comfort in God’s purpose when we experience difficulties because “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
  • Character is the inward motivation to do what is right according to the highest standards of behavior in every situation.
  • Character consists of the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life that determine his or her responses, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Character is the wise response to the pressure of a difficult situation and what we do when we think that no one is watching. It is the predictor of good behavior.

2. Character Needs to be Added to our Lives:

  • 2 Peter 1:5-7, Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply (or add)  moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

3. Character Needs to Increase in Our Lives:

  • 2 Peter 1:8, For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; “for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.

4. Character Development Determines Our Maturity:

  • 1 Timothy 3:2-7, An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
  • 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12-13, Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach… 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
  • Titus 1:5-8, For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,
  • 1 Timothy 3:11, Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.

5. Character Deficiency:

  • 2 Peter 1:9-11, For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my 3 possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

6. Character is Rewarded:

  • 2 Peter 1:11, for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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Love One Another

In the 1980’s, Tina Turner asked the infamous question, “What’s love got to do with it?” According to John, it has a lot to do with it. The key passage for today is 1 John 4:7-16.

This month Skip has been preaching out of First John, a series about Learning to Love God’s Way. It seems to me that love is a funny word. We use it to describe the intense feelings that we have, but the word is somewhat limiting.

In the New Testament, there are primarily three separate words used for LOVE, and all of them are translated into English as “love.”

  1. Agape is a word used to describe the unconditional love that God has for us, a divine sort of love that comes from the nature of God.
  2. Phileo is more of a brotherly love; like Philadelphia is actually the city of brotherly love.
  3. Eros is a word use to describe the intimacy we find within marriage, like the erotic love that binds together a husband and wife.

We use the word love today in regard to things like, “I love my wife” to “I love the Auburn Tigers,” to “I love pizza.” It would be a good thing not to confuse my love for Kim and my love for pizza by using the word phileo or even eros.

Love can also bring up WARMTH as we think about that special someone in our lives, or it can bring FEAR, and maybe even COLD SWEATS because we know this relationship is getting serious.

So today, I’m going to talk about love. Now men, I know this is a tough topic for all of us. We are not too strong on expressing our feelings. Our wives and daughters can be crying over something and we have no clue what to do or how to make it better, so most of the time, for good or bad, we just leave them alone.

And then there’s the church. It’s a place that is FULL of feelings. When we begin to understand the sacrifice of Christ, and the depth of love that sent Jesus to the cross, it is emotional, and we don’t often know what to do with that emotion. So, if we are unsure or uncomfortable, we simply do our best to avoid the situation. That’s tough when it comes to church. Let me tell you, I’m uncomfortable talking about love; I’m no expert and I don’t have it all together when it comes to love, but this letter of First John is WAY TOO FULL of love to simply ignore it.

I sense that many men don’t come to church because it’s just not all that manly to hear about a guy name Jesus who loves us. We sing about love, in public, and declare our great love for Jesus, who after all, is another guy. Wrapping his arms of love around us just seems uncomfortable to men who are not yet believers. At times I wonder if we need to “man up” the church so that we don’t set up unnecessary barriers to reaching unchurched men for Christ. But today, this message is about the Love of God, a love that so many people often do not understand.

John had a lot to say about love, he comes back to this theme over and over in this little book. The Holy Spirit obviously wants us to understand love from a much deeper perspective.

Let me submit to you that there are two things about love that I notice in this chapter:

  1. What Love Proves
  2. What Love Produces

What Love Proves (1 John 4:7-11, 14)
How often do we read stories or watch movies that have a theme of proving one’s love or loyalty? How many times must we QUALIFY our love since it can mean so many different things to different people? For instance, conditional love sets up restrictions. It says,

  1. I will love you BECAUSE; (you have done something for me in the past).
  2. I will love you IF; (you will do something for me in the future).

But I doubt many of us enjoy this conditional form of someone’s love, because it appears to be a selfish kind of love. People will love someone else for what THEY get out of it. We don’t find this sort of love in John’s letter. I think the better way to describe God’s love is: “I love you ANYWAY.” JJ Heller has a song on K-love and she puts it this way: I will love you, for you. Not for what you have done or what you’ll become. That is God’s kind of love. So, what exactly does love prove?

1. Our love for God is proven by our love for one another (1 John 4:7-8, 11): 7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

  1. Love is a Test: Love is actually a test of our fellowship in God, and our worship of God, because John tells us that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). Love is at the center of God’s being; it is his nature. Since God’s nature is love, it becomes the ONLY test of the reality of our spiritual life. If God is living through us, his love WILL shine through.
  2. Love is a Guide: Not only is love a test but love is a Guide. Think for a moment about sailing. A navigator depends upon a compass to help determine his course, but why a compass? It’s because a compass determines our direction. The needle points north. Why? It’s because the compass is responsive to the nature of the earth. God’s nature is love and it acts as a guide in life, so we act out his love the way he has already demonstrated his love.
  3. Love is Responsive: Not only is love a test and a guide, it is responsive. Since the nature of God is love; then the person who knows God and has been born of God will respond to God’s nature. As a compass naturally points north, a child of God will naturally practice love.
    1. So this type of love for one another is proof of our love for God and is a test of a sincere and true faith. Believers claim a special relationship with God, having become “born of God” (1 John 4:7). If we are children of God, we share his divine nature. Although we are not perfect, we have a higher calling in life, to become more into the image and likeness of Christ.
    2. Not only are we born of God but we have the capacity to know God. This word “to know” (in 1 John 4:7) is much deeper than to simply have an intellectual understanding of God. The word has been used in Genesis 4:1 to describe the intimate union between the first husband and wife. So, “to know God” signifies a DEEP relationship with God, to share his life and to enjoy his love.
    3. John goes on to tell us that the one who does not love God, does not know God (1 John 4:8). To me, this indicates the lack of a personal experience with God. How could someone know God yet not love as God has commanded? It could be that this person has the knowledge in his head, but he has never allowed that knowledge to travel the 18 inches down into his heart. This person has sincerely deluded himself into believing he is one of God’s children. This is a dangerous position to be in. Our eternal destiny hangs in the balance!

2. God’s love for us was proven by the sacrificial death of Christ (1 John 4:9-10, 14): 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

  1. Love is Real: John tells us, “THIS is REAL love.” Not “I love you because,” or “I will love you if,” but “I will love you unconditionally.” Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Now that’s real love. Bruno Mars sings about a girl he’s in love with, “I’ll catch a grenade for ya, throw my head on a blade for ya, jump in front of a train for ya,” but Jesus willingly gave his life so that the whole world might have everlasting life through his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection.
  2. Love is Active: Not only is love REAL, but it is also ACTIVE. All you need to do is look at Paul’s description of love to discover that love is NOT a feeling, or an emotion; it is a verb, and it is active. Here is what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13: 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Now that doesn’t sound like an emotion or even a warm fuzzy feeling when she walks into the room.
  3. Love was Sent: Not only is love REAL, and ACTIVE, but it was also SENT to us from the Father. Did you notice that three times in three verses John mentions that Jesus was SENT? We know that Jesus was BORN into the world, that’s the essence of the incarnation; the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Children are BORN into the world, but John says Jesus was SENT; God had a mission from the beginning to reconcile all people to himself.
  4. Love was Sacrificed: So, love is REAL, it is ACTIVE, love was SENT, and it was also SACRIFICED. We may have asked the question at some point in our spiritual journey, “Why did Jesus have to die?” “Was there not some other way?” Look again at 1 John 4:9, it says, God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. His death was NOT an accident; it was intentional. A sinner’s greatest need is for life (according to Ephesians 2:1) because, without Christ we are dead in our sins. So, it is ironic that Christ had to die in order for us to have life. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

God is love. Have you really grasped the impact of that message? Have you embraced the love that God offers? Singer/songwriter, Chris Rice, understood this fact when he wrote a song called, Untitled Hymn, the first verse goes like this:

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

God is love, and his love allows us to be reconciled to the Father. John challenges us to love others because God so loved us anyway (1 John 4:11, 7). Remember we are not saved by loving Christ, or loving others, or being good (or believing that we’re better than the next guy). We are saved only by believing in Christ, trusting Christ, receiving Christ. Once we understand the magnitude of his sacrifice, our normal response must be to love God, and to love others. This is a spiritual transformation that takes our heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.

Hey, let me bring this to a close, so I’m going to save the second part of this message (What Love Produces) for some another time. Right now, we need to focus on our relationship with God. In this passage, John tells us what love proves:

  1. Our love for God is proven by our love for one another: If we say that we love God, let’s evaluate our current relationships: spouse, kids, neighbors, co-workers, your boss… are we demonstrating an “I love you anyway” sort of love?
    1. If not, what personal changes do you need to make?
    2. Who do you need to go to, in order to reconcile a relationship?
    3. Who do you need to forgive and demonstrate the love of God?
  2. God’s love for us was proven by the sacrificial death of Christ:
    1. Do you not yet understand the magnitude of God’s love for you?
    2. Have you experienced God’s love first hand? Or have you just become familiar enough with a few Bible stories? Maybe your faith is really just second-hand, like people in your family believe, so maybe that covers you good enough. Don’t deceive yourself with poor theology.
    3. God wants to take all the scraps, the left over pieces of the broken dreams of your life, and all the junk, and make a great piece of art, a masterpiece that resembles the one who sacrificed himself so that you may have life.
    4. So, have you embraced the love of God and personally accepted Christ as your Savior? That was the reason he was sent, to take you from death into life, to save your soul, and give to you everlasting life that can start right now.
    5. Or perhaps you have been playing around with church just being close enough to be comfortable with God.

*The more we love God, the more we understand the love of God.
*The more we understand God’s love, the more we will love him and love others.

If you need to know more, or get things right with God, don’t delay. Don’t put it off another week.

If you need to receive Christ, I’m asking you to move out from where you are and come up toward the stage area and talk about getting right with God.

If you need to recommit yourself to Christ and begin demonstrating God’s love or get involved in God’s mission in this congregation, don’t leave this building the same as when you came in. It’s time to make a change.

If you have been debating on whether to join this church, what better time to unite with this congregation than right now? Get involved and connected to what God is doing in this place. He has created you for good works, acts of kindness and love, and for service within a local body of believers. Let the Love of God make something beautiful in your life.

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The Discipleship Method of Jesus

At King’s Grant, I am the Pastor of Discipleship. While not an expert on all matters of discipleship, I have a passion and goal for people to grow in their faith and relationship with Christ. I believe that all followers of Christ need to be FAT (faithful, available and teachable). If we are no longer learning, we fail to be a disciple. The vision of the discipleship ministry is to “move people toward higher levels of commitment to Christ and his church.”

We measure maturity a lot of different ways in our churches. Sometimes it’s measured by church attendance. Other times it’s measured by Bible knowledge. But the biblical evidence of maturity is fruit. (For a great study on what it means to bear fruit, check out the teaching of Bruce Wilkinson’s Secrets of the Vine). In Matthew 7:17-20 Jesus says, “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit, thus by their fruit you will recognize them.” Maturity is all about fruit. I like what Rick Warren has to say about authentic discipleship.

How many times have you heard that “God doesn’t expect us to be successful. He expects us to be faithful.” That’s only half true. The Bible makes it very clear that God expects far more than faithfulness. He also expects fruitfulness. This is taught all throughout the New Testament. Many people will be surprised when they get to heaven and God says, “You didn’t bear any fruit?” Remember, Jesus cursed the fig tree because it didn’t bear fruit (Mark 11:12-14)!

God expects fruitfulness in our lives, and he says it over and over and over again. But how do we help people bear spiritual fruit in their lives? How do we turn them into mature, mission-minded believers who minister to others? I’m not interested in the modern way, the postmodern way, the emergent way, the missional way, the seeker way, the charismatic way, or even the purpose driven way. I’m interested in how Jesus helped people become fruitful.

In Jesus’ prayer in John 17:4 he says, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” He hasn’t gone to the cross yet, so what work has he completed? It’s the finished work of Christ that most churches never understand – making disciples.

How did he finish the task? His prayer in John 17 tells us.

1. He led them to salvation: Jesus prayed, “For you granted him authority over all men that he might give eternal life to all those you have given to him” (John 17:2). This should be obvious. Discipleship begins with evangelism. Of course, we want to disciple people who are already Christians. But remember, Jesus started with lost people. We’ve got to win people to Christ before we can train them. The spiritual birth always precedes spiritual growth.

2. He taught them the Word: Jesus taught his disciples the Word of God. There is no spiritual growth that’s not based on God’s Holy Scripture. In John 17:8 Jesus prays, “For I gave them the words that you gave me and they accepted them.” And in John 17:14 he says, “I have given them your word.” The Word of God is the foundation for all discipleship. Want people to grow spiritually and be fruitful? Get them in the Word every day. Just sitting in church and listening to sermons won’t help people be as fruitful as getting them into the Word for themselves.

3. He prayed for them: To see people grow spiritually, we need to pray for them. Jesus said, “I pray for them. I’m not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9). We need to pray with them and pray for them. Paul followed this example of Christ as well. In fact, he starts almost every letter in the New Testament he wrote with a prayer for the church.

4. He checked up on them: Jesus says, “While I was with them…” (John 17:12). We can’t disciple somebody that we’re not with. We’ve got to be with people if you want them to grow spiritually. We’re not going to be able to personally check up and mentor everyone, but our church needs a system of coaching, mentoring or discipling. We need small group leaders who will follow up on people. Jesus protected his disciples from false teaching and kept them from backsliding. He guarded them. At the end of his ministry on earth, he says “I haven’t lost a single one of them – except Judas to fulfill Scripture (John 17:12). If we want people to grow, we need some sort of accountability in our ministry.

5. He sent them on mission: Then Jesus says, “As you sent me into the world I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). Who do we think are the most mature people at our church? Could it be the people who’ve gone overseas on mission. It changes people. When they come back, they’re not thinking about materialism or consumerism anymore. Once people have served around the world, it changes our value system. We care more about people overseas, and we care about people in your own community, too. These short-term missionaries have come back and loved the poor, and get involved in the lives of others. Now that’s maturity.

The goal of discipleship in any church must be ministry and mission. Maturity is never an end in itself. In fact, you can’t be mature until you’re ministering and living on mission. Jesus said “I didn’t come to be served. I came to serve and to give my life as a ransom” (Mark 10:45). The words give and serve define the Christian life. If we want people to be like Christ, teach them to give and serve.

6. He expected reproduction: We know he expected reproduction because in John 17:20 he says, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” He not only sent the disciples out into the world, but he implied that he’s expecting reproduction. Because they went out, there are nearly two billion people who claim the name of Christ around the world.

7. He focused on character: Jesus didn’t simply expand the knowledge, perspective, skills, or conviction of the disciples. He focused on their character. Spiritual maturity is about character and conduct, not just content. We don’t want to just fill up people’s minds with facts and figures. Paul says, “I want to present every man perfect in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). If people we’re training aren’t more like Jesus after we’ve worked together, we’ve missed the point.

8. He loved them: Jesus said, “You sent me and I have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17:23). This is so typical of Jesus. All that Jesus did for his disciples was in a spirit of love. We must love those we train. If we don’t love them, it doesn’t count. If we don’t have a sincere abiding love for the people in our church, then do you know what discipleship is? It’s manipulation. We’re just manipulating them toward a goal.

Sometimes we forget that Jesus is the best model we have when it comes to ministry. No one in the history of the world discipled people more effectively. Jesus was able to say at the end of his ministry that he had finished his work. I hope we can all say that as well.

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Cross-Cultural Values

Cross-cultural is not just experiencing another culture overseas or across town. We also desire to embrace the culture of the cross, which may be described in the following 12 values that all believers should embrace…

Cross-Cultural Values: 1 Peter 2:11

We are essentially aliens and strangers in this present world, so we desire to effectively model and communicate the values and cultural norms of the cross (the culture of the cross) rather than of the world (or American culture).

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” 1 Corinthians 2:2

[Values guiding my relationship with my God]

1. Savior-centric

Focusing on Jesus in my internal life and my external communication. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the initiator and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame… Hebrews 12:2-3 – Is Jesus the center of my thoughts and conversations? Do I revolve around Him?

2. Submission

Consistently asking the Master what He wants and then simply doing it. “During the days of Jesus life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7 – Is there anything I am unwilling to do for Him?

3. Sanctification

In his power and for His glory living a life that is “set apart” by His Spirit, according to His character, for His purpose. “it is God’s will that you should be sanctified…” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 – What percentage of my personal life and my ministry are a work of the Spirit?

4. Sacrifice

Continually offering my life to Him as an act of worship. “I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God” Romans 12:1 – Is my whole life a sacrifice or do I see it as specific, intermittent acts?

[Values guiding my relationship with the world]

5. Supplication

In humility sharing my needs with the Father and trusting Him to take care of me. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 – Are all my finances, family, future, health, and other concerns turned over to Him?

6. Satisfaction

Trusting God’s provision in all situations and learning to want what I have. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13 – Am I satisfied with what He is providing for me and do I want what I have?

7. Self-denial

Choosing at my own initiative that which pleases Him rather than what pleases me. “If any man would come after me, first he must deny himself take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 – What am I intentionally and willingly giving up for Him today?

8. Suffering

Joyfully joining in suffering because I know its redemptive value for others and myself. “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ…” I Peter 4:12-13 – Do I expect to suffer as a Christian? Do I follow Him up to the boundary of suffering and then hold back? Am I upset with Him when I suffer?

[Values guiding my relationship with others]

9. Selfless love

Laying down my life wholly for the benefit of others and expecting nothing in return. “No man has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 – Do I love when it will not be returned and when it is costly?

10. Sympathy

Allowing my heart and hands to be guided by God’s concern for those in need. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress… If one of you says to him, `Go, I wish you well’, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” James 1:27, 2:16 – Have I become hardened by the overload of needs around me?

11. Saltiness

Developing and sharing a savory (Saviory) flavor in order to influence the stew. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 – Is my life salty enough to evoke questions about Him and am I ready to answer?

12. Servant-leadership

Serving others… the motive, the style, and the content of leadership. “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them… Not so with you.” Matthew 20:25-26 – Am I willing to serve? To be treated as a servant?

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