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Being a church leader is not always easy or fun. There are seasons you go through where people who are focused on themselves and their motives shake things up and you get caught in the middle of the muck and mire slinging. It’s not a comfortable place to be in. This all came back to me this morning when I was reading Mark 15.

Up to this point, the religious leaders were getting more and more upset with Jesus. He had been teaching truth and challenging their comfort zones in many of their ways and traditions. They noticed that people had been starting to take heed to his way of teaching which threatened their places of power and desires.

They designed a plan to undercut Jesus, arrest Him, accuse Him falsely, and send Him to Pilate to be investigated. Ths is where we pick up the story….

 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” Mark 15 2-5

While they made accusations against Jesus (which were false as we see in the preceding chapter), Jesus remained quiet. Pilate took note and was amazed.

Now Pilate had a choice. He could gather himself together and address the problem with the people who were causing the problem or look for an easy way out. He looked for an easy way out.

“Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.” Mark 15: 6-10

Note, he knew it was out of ENVY that the religious leaders were doing this to Jesus. He should have addressed it but wimped out. He hoped the crowd would take the pressure off his shoulders by making the decision that he was in place to make. I have seen this often growing up in democracy based churches. There is a challenge, the pastor refers to the church for a vote, and hopes they make the right decision so he can place it on them. “What can I say? The majority wants it.”

Well, here’s the problem with this mentality (besides the fact the leader is ignoring their responsibility). Antagonists work hard to get people on their side and through pity, confusion, and pretend empathy… they are very effective.

“But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.” Mark 15: 11

I have been in this position before. People I considered my best friends…. Christ followers….. people who tell you what a difference you have made in their lives and their families…… now trashing you, yelling at you, and gossiping about you around town. It’s confusing, hurtful and you just want to ask, “what in the world is going on here?” It makes no sense!

Pilate faces this in the next section….

““What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Mark 15: 12-14

Notice how the crowd never answers the “Why?” question…. Chances are they really don’t know why. They have been worked up with half truths and victim mentality so instead of seeing the whole picture and walking in faithfulness, they charge ahead full of emotion.

Now, Pilate has had several chances to expose the truth, challenge the wrong, and shut down the false motives. Surely, he will stand up now as he knows the accusations are false, they are acting in envy, and there is no justification for the act they call for. Right?

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” Mark 15: 15

Church leaders, stand up and be ready to move for what is right and what is true. You may become unpopular, you may lose friends, and you may lose your job but never be the one who crucifies truth to avoid making others unhappy.

Random thoughts….

 

As follow up….here are some thoughts from Gene Edwards in the book “Preventing a Church Split”

Over the years I have gleaned a few points that seem to be common to church splits and raids. A raid is when a person comes into a church and leads a handful of people away to his cause. His style is very important. He is not rude, pushy or insistent. Polls show, that all who listen agree that this brother who raised these issues was doing it out of a pure heart. But the division still took place.

1.

The one who is leading the raid or split if stopped at any point before he leaves with his stolen sheep will declare that he is innocent and is falsely accused.

2.

Just about everyone will believe him; even those who do not follow. He is seen as innocent and mistreated by the church’s leadership and they look like the villain.

3.

The one leading the raid or split plays himself as simply too spiritual to criticize his persecutors, even while criticizing them. Either way, the church’s leaders, if they dare try to stop him, get hung out to dry.
4. His followers vow that they are in no way being influenced by him. I have never met a Christian who would admit that he was following a person in a raid or split. This statement help lead the people out: “We Christians should not have leaders. Only the Lord should lead us.”
5. After the split the ones departing will continue their friendships with Christians in the church which they split! This creates a great problem of leaders in the church that has been raided or split. The exception is when the membership is committed to leadership. Then they can have fellowship with Christians of other churches.
6. The leader of the split declares that God told him that, we are right and they are wrong, that the church he is splitting was a cult (or wrong doctrine) and not worthy to exist. (With God on your side, anything is ethical, is it not?)
7. The Church responds like they did in Church history. They will brand them as “heretics.” Both sides have no idea how deeply this division is going to hurt, discourage and destroy people. Nothing is going to stop some people from causing splits and raids. And never will they admit they are causing that split.

Whole article here…..

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Before I get into this blog, I want to put forward that I am making an assumption. I am assuming your pastor is called by God, preaches the Word, has a burden for the message God has laid on his heart that week, and begs the Holy Spirit to speak through him (or her) so the message is not the pastor’s but is coming from the Lord himself. If that is not a description of your pastor, you need to communicate with him and then look up my blog “Thinking about leaving a church?”

So moving forward with my assumption in place, let’s explore a story in Mark 3: 1-6

“Another time (Jesus) went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Mark 3: 1-3

Here we have Jesus going to the synagogue, a tradition He would generally do to worship and to teach. This is much like your pastor today where he goes to his local church focused on teaching the Word. Now like some of our churches, He is there to teach to a group that is pumped, ready to dig in, and respect and encourage their pastor as well as those sitting back just waiting for the pastor to mess up to jump on him. Why people with this attitude don’t find something better to do with their time, I have no idea. It’s something hurting within them but it tends to happen at times.

Some pastors who are aware of these people get timid and very cautious with every little thing they say and do hoping to avoid a conflict. This is not the case with Jesus! He has the man with the damaged hand stand up in front of all to do what is right and loving. Every one is on the edge of their seats wanting to see what happens next.

“Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.” Mark 3: 4

Here it is…. a one sentence sermon in the form of a question. The law (that Christ came to fulfill so we are no longer under it through grace) said no work could be done and Jesus challenged it. Which is God’s heart on the Sabbath? Good or evil? Life or death?

No one said a word….. No one responded. This is not because they didn’t know the correct answer. It’s because they closed down their hearts and didn’t want to do the right thing. Didn’t want to follow God’s heart. They were hard-hearted and closed down.

This happens in our own lives at times during the message time too, doesn’t it? We know God is wanting to break down some walls in our lives. We know that He is calling us to do something, change something, or release something as the pastor brings the Word but we just decide to fold our arms, sit in the shadows, and decide to blow it off.

You might say, “Wait, Tom…maybe they didn’t know the right answer.” OK, let’s read on…..

“He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” Mark 2: 5-6

Did you catch that?They would not submit to his challenge and encouragement to change and respond so Jesus was… ANGRY! We are used to Jesus getting angry at the temple and kicking out the money changers but here we see He gets mad at people who refuse Him. He was DISTRESSED at their stubborn hearts.

We get this view that Jesus is ever gentle with so much patience that we can do whatever we want…. whenever we want… and He will just sit on the sidelines until we need Him. Come on now!

He calls us for one reason; he wants us to respond. When you feel a challenge from your pastor in the Word, when you feel a conviction as you read the Word, when you know He’s trying to reach out to you……. Listen! Act! Move!

Will you act on the Word today or, like the Pharisees, will you blame the messenger and plot against him?

What you do with the Word……MATTERS!

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Got a flyer from “Care for Pastors” the other day and it had some statistics about pastors that I thought others might be interested in. When I used to get things like this before I was a pastor, I thought they were a stretch. Now after more than 10 years and meeting and talking with pastors from all over, I no longer do. It may sound self seeking but take care of your pastors as they look to invest into you and your families lives.

Statistics from “Pastors at Greater Risk” by H. B. London…

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A thought jumped into my head in the middle of yesterday’s message at church and I thought I would explore it a little more here in blog form. However, before I do, I want to let you, the reader, know that I am making some assumptions. If you do not fall into these assumptions, this blog may not be for you. I am assuming you are a Christian involved in a Christian community through a church. I am assuming you enjoy this church and have a pastor that is faithful and caring that you wish to encourage. If you fall outside of these assumptions, some of my other posts might be for you but this one might not fully apply. With this in mind, let’s move forward…..

Many pastor’s feel encouraged with nice words people give to them after a message that they enjoyed,  a sincere inquiry of how they are doing from someone, or, in the rare occasion, a card of appreciation from someone they care about saying a simple “Thanks”. These things are priceless even if they are just sparked in October by Hallmark (October is Pastor Appreciation month…. don’t forget!) However, these are not the bullet points I wish to cover in this posting (though they are vital to the pastor).

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I have read and discussed a lot over the years about watered down theology in the postmodern church but this is not one of those posts. This is a post from a pastor of a contemporary church who enjoys going to powerful conferences (Catalyst, Willow Creek GLS), reading blogs, listening to podcasts, and thumbing the latest books on church leadership. This is a post from a guy who has tapped into the teachings of many of the cutting edge church leaders that have solid theology and engage culture without watering it down. This is a post from someone in the mix who has to say that while there are many wonderful new things happening in the modern church in the area of leadership, there are some concerns as well. Quite frankly, the same old concerns done in an all new style. Here are just a few….

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