SteveMurrell.com | Reluctant Leader

Blog / Family / Leadership

Great Leaders Put Family First

January 3, 2016

CANTON, MISSISSIPPI. While visiting our Mississippi friends and relatives during the holidays, we stopped by the Murrell family farm/lake house. Has it really been four years since I was last here? Many of my best childhood memories are connected to that land and lake just north of where I grew up. While on the family farm, I took a moment to visit Dad and Mom’s grave sites (photo above). They both wanted to be buried between the cabin and the lake.

I am thankful that I was raised by parents who put family first.

Like most years, I plan to read through the whole Bible in 2016, so as usual, I started in Genesis where I always encounter old friends like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, plus many lesser known but equally fascinating men and women.

Thoughts of my parents and my childhood in Mississippi were flooding my mind as I read about Enoch in Genesis 5. I have always been intrigued by Enoch, the father of Methuselah. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Bible characters knows that Methuselah was the oldest man to ever live, dying at the ripe old age of 969. We know almost nothing about Enoch except that, “Enoch walked with God” and that “he fathered Methuselah and other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:22-14)

So basically we know two facts about Enoch, but those two facts are really all we need to know about anyone.

1. He was a spiritual man. “Enoch walked with God.”

2. He was a family man. “He fathered Methuselah and other sons and daughters.”

That’s about all I ever wanted to be, a spiritual man and a family man.

I am in the middle of writing a leadership book that will be released at the Every Nation World Conference in Cape Town, South Africa later this year, so I have leadership on the brain. Everything I see, hear, and read is filtered through my leadership grid as potential material for my book. So, here’s a leadership lesson from our two Enoch facts.

When I am looking for a potential leader or working with a current leader, I need to know about the person’s spiritual life and family life. If those are in order, then everything else tends to take care of itself. But if either of the big two are out of wack, then no matter what a leader has going for him or her, the potential for disaster is always looming.

I have added a number three to Enoch’s big two to frame how I want to live all of 2016. If at the end of this year I have done the following, it will have been a good year.

1. Walk with God

2. Be a good husband

3. Be a good father (and father-in-law and grandfather)

What do you want to accomplish in 2016?

 

 

Blog / Family

A CHRISTMAS EVE DISASTER

December 1, 2015
 This was originally written for Evangelicals Today mag, many years ago. I like to pull it deep from my archives around Christmas. I thought some of you, especially those with small children, might find it helpful this time of the year. 

————–

’Twas the night before Christmas, and the scene of the crime was Savannah, Georgia. The year was 1989. Our oldest son was almost four. Our second son was eighteen months. The third was still inside trying to kick his way out.

This was the first year that William, our first son, realized that Christmas meant gifts. He knew that according to the “youngest-first rule” at my in-laws’ house, he would be the second in line to open his gifts. At my in-laws’ house, the gifts were divided into piles. All gifts that said “To William” were put in a pile. All “To James” gifts were put in another pile. Once all the gifts were put in the right pile, they were opened one at a time beginning with the youngest and continuing to the oldest. This meant that James was first, then William, then older cousins, uncles and aunts, then Mom, Dad, and finally, grandparents.

As good Christian parents, we had attempted to teach our young boys the true meaning of Christmas. We didn’t expect much from James, but we assumed that William understood that it was better to give than to receive. After all, Jesus was born because God so loved the world that He gave… . . That’s what Christmas is all about—giving. What happened that night let us know that our children had completely missed the point, and that we had to adjust the way we would celebrate Christmas in the future.

All William wanted for Christmas that year was a bow and arrow. His little mind was made up. He knew what he wanted and he would not be denied. He prayed to God for it, and just in case that would not work, he constantly reminded us.

One day, just to make sure I understood his request, he said, “Daddy, I want REAL arrows.”

“Real arrows?” I asked, wondering what kind of damage a three-year old could do with real arrows.

“Yeah, you know the kind with the rubber things on the end. Real ones, not just toys.” He was serious about this. “You mean the arrows that stick to walls and windows if you lick ’em before shooting?” I responded, hoping I knew what he meant by real arrows.

“Yeah! Like in Toys-R-Us.”

Back to the Christmas Eve crime scene in Georgia.  Here’s what happened. James, the youngest, was first to open his gifts. Like all eighteen-month olds, he was more impressed with the colorful boxes and ribbons than with the contents. He hadn’t caught on to the materialistic spirit of Christmas yet.

Then came William’s turn. As James continued to play with his wrapping paper and boxes, William anxiously ripped through his first gift in world-record time. He completely ignored the contents and immediately tore into the next one. (At least James played with the boxes.) He only got the wrapping paper half way off this one before tossing it aside and grabbing the next one.

Deborah and I discerned that something was wrong here. “William, maybe you should say thanks and at least act like you appreciate these gifts.”

On the verge of tears, he said, “I thought I would get a bow and arrow, with REAL arrows. That’s all I wanted, and I didn’t get it. I got all this other stuff instead.”

Well, he did get a bow with real (rubber-tipped) arrows. He just hadn’t gotten to that gift yet because it was buried under a mountain of shredded green and red paper.

That was quite a memorable and frustrating Christmas for us. We knew something was wrong, but we weren’t sure just how to fix it.

A few months later, I read a book that described the scene you just read about, only it was happening in another city to another family with small kids. It was sure comforting to know that our experience was not unique. Right now, I can’t seem to remember the name of the book or the author. Anyway, this guy in the book not only had the same problem, but he had identified the root of the problem and had come up with the solution. It was so simple. It opened our eyes and changed the way we have approached Christmas since the disaster of ’89.

On that fateful Christmas Eve I described above, William was upset and ungrateful because he thought he didn’t get a bow with real arrows. The root of the problem is in the word “GET.” His focus was on what he would GET. We will always have a problem when we focus on what we get. Christmas (and life) is all about giving, not getting. The greatest joy and fulfillment comes as we give.

We decided that from then on, we would do our best to focus on what each child wanted to GIVE, not on what they wanted to GET.
In 1989, we asked William what he wanted to GET for Christmas. He wanted to get a bow with real arrows. Christmas Eve came around. It was William’s turn to open gifts. All he could think about was what he would get. He was totally oblivious to what others were getting and to what others had given. We had helped him miss the whole point.
After that, rather than asking our children what they wanted to GET from us, we would ask them what they wanted to GIVE us, their brothers, their relatives, and friends. For the weeks building up to Christmas, our children were taught to focus on what they would GIVE rather than what they would GET.

When gift-opening time would come around at the Murrell house, we put all William’s gifts in a pile, all James’s in a pile, and all Jonathan’s in a pile. We separated Mom’s and Dad’s into piles of their own.

All the gifts in William’s pile would say “FROM William” on the tag. All the gifts in James’ pile that say “FROM James.” The “FROM Jonathan” presents are in another pile, as are the “FROM Mom” and the “FROM Dad.” Once all the gifts were in the piles, each person would take his turn to GIVE all his gifts. This way, the focus is on giving rather than getting. Over the years, our boys learned to be just as excited about giving as getting.

They discovered that it really can be more blessed to give than to receive.
Blog / Family / Miscellaneous

Dick Dastardly, Turkey, and the Remedy for Entitlement

November 23, 2015

NASHVILLE. Yesterday at church my good friend, Rice Broocks preached a powerful sermon that included brilliant exegesis, solid theology, practical application, and a reference to two of the greatest cartoon characters ever – Dick Dastardly and his canine sidekick Muttley. Only Rice would attempt to connect the dots from the Apostle Paul to Timothy to Dick Dastardly and Muttley. (“Rashin frashin Rick Rastardly!”)

In his sermon, “Gratefulness is Our Greatest Weapon,” Rice talked about how gratefulness protects our minds, our relationships, and our hearts. He said that unexpressed gratefulness is actually ungratefulness. This sermon was both inspiring and convicting. And it also took me back in time.

When our now adult sons were young, Deborah and I decided that we would not tolerate an entitlement attitude in our home. Our remedy? Teach our kids to be thankful. I am not sure how successful we were, but we sure tried to raise grateful sons.

Yesterday Rice reminded me of the main point that we tried to teach our kids, that entitlement cannot coexist with gratitude.

Entitlement says that parents, businesses, siblings, government, church, life, God, and Santa owe me something. And since I am owed, there is no reason to say thanks.

Thankfulness is like kryptonite to entitlement. Kills it on contact.

And that brings us to that American holiday, Thanksgiving Day. After a hundred years of American cities and communities declaring their own thanksgiving celebrations, in 1789 President George Washington proclaimed November 26 “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of ALMIGHTY GOD.

Notice that the original official Thanksgiving Day was not about being generally thankful, but about specifically thanking ALMIGHTY GOD.

Recently Americans have become obsessed with removing all God references from the conversation lest we offend Bill Maher. With Thanksgiving we have taken that obsession to an absurd level, not only removing God but also removing the idea of thanks from Thanksgiving Day.

Increasingly Americans are calling the 4th Thursday of November, “Turkey Day” rather than Thanksgiving Day. Are we afraid that if we call it Thanksgiving, someone might accidentally thank God?

So now, rather than thanking God once a year for His gracious provision, we eat turkey and watch football.

Blog

“Daddy, I Disobeyed”: A Lesson on Disobedience & Grace

November 17, 2015

I was thousands of miles away ministering at a men’s retreat near Seattle, Washington. My wife and three sons were in Atlanta, Georgia. I was making a routine phone call to let them know how lonely I was without them, when my wife informed me:

“William has something he needs to tell you.”

I immediately knew my nine-year-old son was in trouble. She handed him the phone. He made his confession.

“Daddy, I disobeyed. And it cost $200.”

That was a short confession. I needed more information, so I played detective.

“Who did you disobey?” I was pretty sure of the answer to question #1.

“I disobeyed Mom.” He sheepishly confirmed my suspicion.

“Ok, so you disobeyed your mother. But how did that cost $200?”

He had disobeyed his mom before, but there had never been a monetary price attached to it. What’s going on here? Did she fine him? Two hundred dollars, that’s a pretty steep fine for a nine-year-old. Maybe, she suspended his allowance for the next five years? But $200? He could never come up with that much money!

“Well, see, Mom told me and my brothers to stop wrestling in the house, and we kinda stopped, but we were still playing this game where we sorta push each other and try to make each other fall down, but we don’t hurt anybody, but we weren’t really wrestling, but Mom says we were, and so my brothers pushed me and my head hit the corner of the door, and blood went everywhere, so I ran downstairs to find Mom, and blood kept going everywhere, and so she took me to the hospital and the doctor gave me a shot so the stitches won’t hurt and I got six stitches and Mom had to pay the hospital and the doctor and buy medicine and all that cost $200. Oh yeah, Dad, I almost forgot, and the doctor said I was the bravest person that he had ever had to put stitches in.”

Besides the $200, it also cost him a week with no swimming — doctor’s orders. That was pretty tough since it was summer time and there was a great pool where we were staying.

Recognizing this to be one of those made-for-the-Gospel events, I seized the moment and prayed God would make the reality of His grace as permanent as the scar on William’s head. I prayed that every time William looked at his new scar he would remember these three truths:

1. Disobedience is always costly—the tragedy of SIN. This lesson was obvious to William. Unfortunately, it’s not so obvious to us most of the time. We think we can sin and get away with it. We can’t. No one can. No one ever has. No one ever will. Adam disobeyed, ate the fruit, and paid the price. Cain sinned, killed his brother, and suffered the consequences. David, because of his position of power, thought he could literally get away with murder, not to mention adultery. Thanks to an obedient and fearless prophet, he got caught. He subsequently repented and was restored. If we sow to the flesh, we reap corruption. It’s a fact of life we can’t change — sin is costly.

2. Disobedience costs more than we can pay — the reality of JUDGMENT. William’s medical bills that resulted from his disobedience cost more than he could possibly pay. That’s how sin is. It always produces death — spiritual death. That’s the price of sin.

William had the power to obey or disobey, to wrestle or not to wrestle. He chose to wrestle. Of course, like most of us, he rationalized that he was not really wrestling, but we all know he was. Just like those who convince themselves that their lying, stealing, and adultery is, somehow, acceptable. All sin, even sin that has been rationalized out of existence, is costly — very costly. William found out the hard way.

3. God paid the price for our disobedience – the gift of God’s GRACE. William disobeyed his mother, cut his head, and in the process accumulated $200 in medical bills. He couldn’t afford the price of his disobedience, so who do you think got stuck with the bill? Right, the offended party. The one he disobeyed paid the bill. That’s what happened on the cross. We sinned against God. We couldn’t pay the price to fix the situation. God, the offended party, paid for our disobedience. We caused the problem, because of our sin. God fixed the problem, because of His grace. That’s the Gospel.

But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

Thank God for the unfathomable riches of His grace!

Blog / Discipleship / Leadership

The 20-Hour Work Week: Is Hard Work Compatible with God’s Grace?

November 17, 2015

MANILA. A while back I posted  a blog that included a rant about hard work that was inspired by my observation that some ministers and businessmen seem to believe that hard work is not compatible with the Gospel.

Christians with a functioning work ethic today are becoming as rare as Bigfoot sightings.

The 20-hour work week is the new normal, but when we add 20 hours hanging around coffee shops, and another 20 doing social media, we call it a 60-hour work week. It is amazing how little is actually accomplish in the modern 60-hour work week.

Why are we so allergic to work?

Today’s Church has a whole generation of teachers who misunderstand and distort the grace of God, turning it into an excuse for laziness and licentiousness.

The fact that we are not saved by works does not mean we are not supposed to work. Work is a good thing, a blessing from God. Genesis 2:15 tells us, The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden TO WORK IT and take care of it. This was before the  fall so work was originally part of the blessing, not the curse.

Paul saw no conflict between grace and work, rather he saw them as working together in harmony. Consider the following:
Ephesians 2:8-10
Verse 8 – saved by grace…
Verse 9 – not by works…
Verse 10 – to do good works…

Is hard work compatible with God’s grace? Paul thought so. I agree with Paul.

1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the GRACE of God I am what I am, and his GRACE to me was not without effect. No, I WORKED HARDER than all of them—yet not I, but the GRACE  of God that was with me.

Blog / Discipleship / Family

The Myth of the Gifted Child

November 17, 2015

TUGUEGARAO, PHILIPPINES. Last Saturday I flew from Manila to Tuguegarao, then drove to Aparri to meet my friend, Ferdie Cabiling (aka The Running Pastor) at the finish line of his epic 2500 kilometer (1400 miles) run across the Philippines. Ferdie’s goal was to run from Sarangani to Aparri (from south to north) at least 50K per day and finish in less than 50 days in his 50th year all for the benefit of deserving Real Life Scholars.  Learn more about the Real Life Scholars and the Real Life Foundation here.

__________________

“Your sons are so gifted.”

I’ve heard it a thousand times…

— At William’s elementary school piano recitals: “Wow, he has a musical gift”  (No, he’s practiced every day, since he was five.)
— At James’ junior tennis tournaments:  “I wish my son could hit a forehand like that” (Try training seven days a week for a few of years.)
— At Jonathan’s art shows: “He obviously has a special gift for art” (You should have seen his “art” before we hired an art teacher to mentor him.)

Yeah, we have gifted kids — they were gifted with a mother who wouldn’t allow them to waste time doing nothing. And they were gifted with a father who was on a ten-year anti-TV, anti-video game kick during their formative years. That’s why they spent countless hours reading, listening to music, and developing killer kick-serves.

My sons were also gifted with mentors/coaches/teachers who helped them discover and develop a few of the skills and talents that God hid in them.

Gifts are free. Talents are costly. They must be discovered, developed, and funded.

But sadly, most talent is never discovered, never developed, and never funded. It is simply wasted while staring at a screen. Tragic.

What are you doing to develop your gifts and talents?
What are you doing to help develop your kid’s gifts and talents?

I’ll never forget the junior tennis tournament in Chattanooga, Tennessee when the father of a kid sixteen-year-old James had just destroyed turned to me and said: “I bet you paid a lot of money for his forehand.” That father understood that if gifts and talents are to be developed, they must be funded. He was right, I paid a lot of money for that killer forehand, and it was worth every dollar/peso.

Blog / Family

The Problem with Preacher’s Kids

November 17, 2015

MANILA, PHILIPPINES. Since this week is the official launch of my new book, My First, Second, and Third Attempts at Parenting, I will attempt to post some parenting blogs the next few weeks. Following is an updated and edited blog based on an article I originally wrote about thirteen years ago for Evangelical Today magazine.

“Why are you misbehaving in my class? You should not act like this since your father is a pastor.”

Comments like this, from the mouths of frustrated teachers, are quite common at Christian schools. But, why is it so common for pastor’s kids to misbehave? Could the attitude communicated in the above quote be part of the problem?

Years ago, before he was a Christian, one of our Victory pastors attended a conservative Christian college in the States. Even though he was not the son of a preacher, he hung out with a group of notoriously wild and worldly preacher’s kids. They accepted him in their group because he was constantly skipping chapel and violating the school’s curfew, dress code, and alcohol ban. He acted like a pastor’s kid, even though he was not.

Why do so many preacher’s kids rebel against the God of their fathers? Why do so many preacher’s kids resent the ministry? Why do so many discredit the ministry of their parents?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some questions, opinions, and observations that may shed some light on the problem with preacher’s kids.

1. Are we supposed to raise pastor’s kids or Christian kids? It is possible to be a good preacher’s kid and not be a Christian at all. There are many who learn to jump through religious hoops and spout off religiously correct statements, but who do not know Jesus from Buddha. My ultimate goal as a parent was not to keep my three sons from embarrassing their mother and me. Rather, my goal was to raise kids who know, love, and honor God. Deborah and I never told our kids to act a certain way because their dad was a pastor/missionary. We tried to teach our kids that obedience is not about who we are, but who they are. We always told them, “You should obey, not because we are in the ministry, but because you are Christians, not because we love Jesus, but because you love Him.” We wanted them to live right because of their relationship with God, not because they happen to be related to a pastor. We wanted our sons to be wholehearted followers of Jesus, not good preacher’s kids.

2. Does God have two standards of behavior? When church members expect superior behavior from the pastor’s kids, when school teachers hold pastor’s kids to a higher standard than other kids, when pastors have unbiblical expectations for their kids, the implication of all this is that God has two sets of behavioral standards, one for preacher’s kids and another for everyone else. God does not have a double standard! His rules are for everyone, whether their dad is a preacher or a plumber. I’m not saying we should tolerate rebellion or indifference from pastor’s kids. Exactly the opposite. If preacher’s kids or “regular” church kids are indifferent about their relationship with God, something is wrong. But we should expect all our kids, not just the preacher’s kids, to  passionately pursue God and His purpose.

3. Must preachers choose between family and ministry? Over the years, I have upset some people in my congregation, even run some off, by telling them that they are number four on my priority list. First is my relationship with God. Second is my relationship with my wife. Third is my relationship with my three sons. Fourth is my ministry (career), or my relationship with my congregation. My wife and my kids are the most important people in the congregation. They know it and everyone else in my church knows it. That’s the way it is. No apologies. If I do not take care of my own family, I am worse than an unbeliever and unqualified to be a pastor (1 Tim. 3:4,5). I refuse to sacrifice my family on the altars of modern ministry success. My family is the foundation and validation of my ministry. One reason we see so many problems with preacher’s kids is that preachers’ priorities are often out of order. Pastor Dad has time for everyone in the congregation, except his own wife and kids. The family gets leftover time. When pastors mistakenly think they must choose between ministry and family, the usually end up saving the world and losing their family.

No one will raise perfect kids. No one. Everyone will look back and wish they could do certain parts of parenting over. That’s just reality. Hopefully we will get most of the big things right. Look at Noah. He had some huge blunders as a father. But he got the main things right. His ministry (ark building) saved his family.

By faith Noah, when warned about the things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. (Hebrews 11:7)

By saving his family, Noah saved the world. Noah’s obedience to God’s call on his life brought salvation, not destruction to his family. This is the way it should be. If we obey God like Noah did, our obedience (aka our ministry) will save our family.

Blog / Discipleship / Worship

In Light of Grace, Does Obedience Matter?

October 19, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO. (I wrote this blog a couple of weeks while visiting ourEvery Nation church in NM.) Does the doctrine of grace nullify the law? Does God still expect us to at least attempt to obey His word? The way some people preach grace today makes it seem that obedience no longer matters. Maybe it doesn’t matter to some preachers. But it matters to God.

How common it is today to “relax” God’s moral, ethical, and relational standards. No matter what the culture says, sex outside of marriage is sin. Coveting, lying, and stealing are also sinful. Bitterness, unforgiveness, and hatred are common, but wrong.

Speaking about the Law, Jesus said we should not think that He came to “abolish the Law or the Prophets.” Rather, He came to “fulfill” the Law. He then said, “until heaven and earth will pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until it is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17,18)

Jesus was was the embodiment of grace, but He was not anti-Law. In fact, He gave a serious warning to those who would like to “relax” the demands of the law. “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teachers others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19) Often when I hear a radio or TV preacher, it seems they are teaching people to relax God’s commands. I guess that means our generation has produced some of the least in the kingdom.

The Gospel tells us that no matter how sinful and disobedient we are, God still loves and redeems us, by grace through faith. Our obedience does not increase God’s love for us, and our disobedience does not decrease His love for us. While we were sinners, He loved us enough to sacrifice His one and only Son for us.

If God loves us whether or not we obey, what then is the point of trying to obey His Law?

Our obedience does not increase His love for us, but it does increase our love for Him. The more we obey, the more our love for Him will grow. Jesus said it like this, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” (John 14:23) He did not say, If anyone keeps my word, the Father will love him. No, the Father loves us if we keep the word, and if we do not keep the word. Reading and obeying God’s word, increases our love for Him.

Summary: We cannot increase God’s love for us, but if we want our love for God to increase, we must read and obey His word.

More blogs on this topic: Grace or Truth?   Grace is Supposed to Change Us,    The Certainty of Forgiveness.

And finally, here’s a great worship song about the transformational power of grace: Grace Changes Everything.

Blog / Church / Leadership

5 Tips for Preachers

September 29, 2015

NASHVILLE. My home church, Victory Manila, has over 125 weekly worship services infifteen Metro Manila locations. Unlike many multi-site churches we never play video sermons. All of our services have live preachers, who preach the same text. This does not mean all the sermons are exactly the same. Some of our preachers are evangelists who end every sermon with an altar call, some are teachers who throw out random Greek and Hebrew words, and some are free-flowing prophets who throw out the clock. Some of our preachers are serious, some use humor. Some preach fifty minutes. Others preach twenty minutes. Some are demonstrative, others move less than the wax Morgan Freeman at Madame Tussauds.

No matter the preaching style or the preacher’s gifting, all Victory preachers preach the same text, title, and big idea every week. And no matter the preacher, we all attempt to apply Isaiah 40:1,2 as we preach.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

Here are five preaching tips from Isaiah 40 that are as relevant today as when they were written 2700 years ago.

1. Comfort my people. Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) said that newspapers were supposed to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I think preachers should do the same. In most congregations, there are far more afflicted people than comfortable people, therefore, our preaching should bring comfort, not add more affliction.

2. Speak tenderly. Harsh words crush dreams and kill relationships. Tender words inspire dreams and restore relationships. Unfortunately there are not many places in society where tender words are being offered. Hopefully we can find them in our pulpits.

3. Warfare has ended Shoichi Yokoi was a Japanese sergeant in WWII. On January 24, 1972 he was discovered in the jungles of Guam. He had been living in a cave, hiding from the Americans for twenty-eight years, because no one told him the war had ended. Many believers are living in spiritual caves, afraid to engage the world. Preachers are supposed to tell them that Jesus already won the war.

4. Iniquity is pardoned. Paul never got tired of preaching the Gospel over and over and over and over. We should never tire of preaching and teaching what Jesus did for us, that because of his death and resurrection, our sins are forgiven. Preach it. Teach it. Sing it. Pray it. Then do it again next week.

5. Received from the Lord’s hand. And finally, our preaching should teach people how to receive from the Lord, not how to beg and manipulate, but how to receive what He freely offers.

If you are preaching this weekend or if you are leading a small discipleship group, I hope these ancient preaching principles will help you honor God and make disciples.

Blog / Church / Discipleship

Declaring War on Low Expectations

September 29, 2015

NASHVILLE. It is common in some modern ministry circles, to not only accept, but to actually celebrate low expectation and smallness. Big vision is considered arrogant and status quo is confused with humility. While some visionaries are certainly arrogant and some small-thinkers are truly humble, this does not mean that biblical humility and big vision cannot peacefully coexist. From Moses to Paul to Medieval martyrs to modern Bible translators, church history is filled with humble visionaries who dreamed big and actually accomplished much.

Consider the familiar words of Jesus in John 15. While exhorting his disciples to “abide in the vine” and to “remain in Him” Jesus listed five levels of fruitfulness that seemed designed to help his followers think bigger and expect more.

1. No fruit. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away. (John 15:2) Other translations say he cuts off fruitless branches. This text is more an exhortation to fruitfulness than an explanation of the doctrine of perseverance of the saints. Bottom line: fruitlessness is not an acceptable option. So, if your church or campus ministry is doing activities that are not bearing fruit, they probably need to be cut off or taken away. Unless of course, busyness is our ultimate goal.

2. Fruit. Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes. (John 15:2) Fruitfulness is the goal. Fruitless branches get cut off, and fruitful branches get pruned. Either way we get cut, so we might as well get cut for fruitfulness rather than for fruitlessness.

3. More fruit. He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:2) The divine purpose in pruning (cutting things off) is so that we bear more fruit. If you have been fruitful in church planting or campus ministry, the next step is more fruit.

4. Much Fruit. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8) We have all been repelled by insecure leaders who think ministry growth and size is all about them. Fortunately, they are the exception not the rule. If your ministry has born fruit and then more fruit, I suggest you brace yourself for more pruning. And after the pain of pruning, it might be a good idea to start planning, preparing, and staffing for much fruit.

5. Lasting Fruit. I appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide. (John 15:16) Alternate translations use the words remain or last. Jesus wants our fruit to abide, remain, and last. Unfortunately it is common for churches and campus ministries to experience much fruit that vanishes as soon as we tweet about it. Jesus is not interested in giving us temporary fruit. His fruitfulness progression goes from no fruit to fruit to more fruit to much fruit to lasting fruit.

Are you praying for, planning for, preparing for much fruit? Or have you made peace with no fruit or with little fruit?

The fields are ripe for harvest. That means we declare war on fruitlessness and low expectations, and begin to think and dream big as if God really wants to give us fruit, more fruit, much fruit, and lasting fruit.