You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me… Psalm 139:5-6

I’ve moved!!

If you’re a follower of “Knowledge too Wonderful”, or just happened upon this page, I just want to let you know that I’ve moved to a new home.  You can now find me over at www.jessicaclemmer.com where I’m blogging at “Jessica Clemmer: Finding My Voice”. 

I’d love for you to stop by and join the conversation!!!

Advent

During this season of election in our nation, I have watched the Church, and how we as a whole have acted, and reacted.  I’ve seen good, and bad, and yes, some downright ugly.  That is not a statement of judgement any more than it is one of exaltation.  It just ‘is’…we are a Bride being readied for a glorious and coming wedding day…but frankly, we’re still running around with curlers in our hair and no make up on.  Not quite ready yet…but at the same time, in the beautification process.  Thankfully, God’s not done with us yet!

Which brings me to the real reason for my post…Hope.  Not hope in a political system of this world, but rather Hope in a True King…one who’s government is that of peace, and whose reign will never end!

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.  ~Isaiah 9:6-7

Somehow, this year in particular, it is with great excitement that I am looking toward the Advent season…not just ‘Christmas’, as remembering and celebrating the birth of our Savior, (which I most certainly do love!), but also the meaningful weeks of remembrance and looking toward the return of a King, who will put aside all the politicking and debating and struggle and war, and will reign with love and peace, justice and righteousness.  All will truly be right in the world once again, as redemption will be complete.

My spirit soars as I think, not just of a babe in a manger, but as I ponder all the wonder of the King on the Throne.  The anticipation that swells in my heart, looking and awaiting THAT glorious day makes all the excitement and joy of an earthly Christmas celebration pale in comparison!  And yet, what an apt thing that we would experience a taste, a glimmer, of that kind of beauty during this time of year.  We may tend to remember the lowly birth, but also, let us think of the multiplied joy as we anticipate the glorious coronation.  Now THAT makes me want to sing…

“JOY TO THE WORLD!!!” 

Building a team, Part 2

The second dynamic that I feel is important to building a team, be it a church planting team (as we did seven years ago), an elder team or a worship team…any kind of team that you want to work together toward a vision or goal…is to look for people who have a shared heart for the vision.

This is an aspect, in my opinion, that is far more important than what the person has to offer as far as talents, experience or giftings.  All of those things are great to have, and can really be helpful in getting things done.  But, especially the more long-term your vision is, eventually there will come a time when each person might not be able to be operating in the capacity they envisioned themselves.  For example, maybe they have a great passion for childrens’ ministry, but currently, you have no children in your group.  Or maybe they are an amazing drummer, but the small facility you are meeting in isn’t conducive to the sound level of a drum set.  In these times, there’s a ‘sticking’ aspect that you want your team members to have, so that even though they might not be feeling fully released, they still carry a passion for the end-goal, and they want to stay put and stick it out even in the ‘waiting’.  They want to see the fulfillment of the vision as a whole, more than they want to personally do ‘their’ thing.

When you add people only for what they bring to the table, their value…either in reality or even just perception…lies in that thing, not in them.  There’s a sense (maybe rightly or wrongly) of “I’m here because I do _______.”  And if they can’t do that, there can tend to be insecurity, and questioning of where they fit.  This could be on the part of the team member OR the leader.  Either way, insecurity is never a good foundation block for team building.

Rather than look for people with amazing talents, look for people with sincere hearts.  People that get excited about what God is doing, and want to be a part of it, no matter what the role looks like.  Value people for who they are, and not what they do, and you will have a team that has the staying power to go the distance.

Building a team…Part 1

This past weekend I shared briefly at a conference some thoughts on building and leading a team.  I had condensed my thoughts into, basically, two points about building, and four points about leading.  Obviously not totally comprehensive, but it was what I boiled things down to for the ‘bottom line’ based on what we have learned, both through our experiences as well as scriptural examples.  In a short series of posts, I’ll share these points here.

Building a team…

There are two main thoughts that I have on building a team that is both effective, and has the potential to stay ‘in it’ for the long-haul.

The first is to build with sons and daughters.  Of course, I am not referring to natural/physical sons and daughters, though they may be included.  I’m speaking of people that have looked to you as a mentor, or spiritual father/mother.  People that you have invested your life into…and I mean in more than a ‘formal’ setting.  By spiritual children, I mean men and women you have shared life with.  They have seen you, just like our physical children, in our ‘natural habitat’…our home environment.  The times when you’re guard is down, there’s no professionalism to keep up, and you are just ‘you’.  That would include, for us, seeing us in our less-than-finer moments.  There have been moments when our spiritual children have seen my husband and I argue.  They’ve seen us go through hurts.  They’ve watched as we struggle through the realities of broken relationships, death of a family member, and job changes.  They observe as we muddle our way through the adventure of parenting.  And in all of that, a bond is strengthened, and they can learn from us…even when we aren’t ‘teaching’, per se…because through our actions and attitudes, we are, in fact, teaching probably far more than we ever could through a meeting, sermon or conference.  They are learning what it looks like to make mistakes and be redeemed.  They are learning what it looks like to reach the seeming ‘end of the rope’, and simply have no choice but to cry out to God.  Just like our physical children, our spiritual children learn from us as we “sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

The reason building with sons and daughters is so valuable, is because through the process of sharing the joys and sorrows of life, we also build strong heart ties.  Sons and daughters desire to build with you because they know your heart.  They have seen the process of God putting dreams and vision into you, and often, through the sharing of life, into them as well.  It’s not just your vision…it has become theirs as well.  Just like a wise father who builds wealth to leave to his children…so is the spiritual inheritance of our spiritual sons and daughters.  They see the investment of spiritual parents into the work God sets before them, and often, as a son who shares in the ‘family business’, so these children have a desire and passion to share in the spiritual ‘family business’.

A shared heart also provides stability for the times when the waters get a little rough.  The times when, as a team the conversation gets tense, or people are misunderstood.  Let’s face it, no matter how great we are at communication, sometimes misunderstandings happen.  It’s just reality.  However, when the foundation of relationship and a shared heart are what you are building on, you have the freedom and ability to go to the person and talk it out.  You have the basis to say, “I know your heart, and I don’t think what I’m hearing lines up exactly with who I know you are…”.  Likewise, your team, since they are people in close relationship with you, has the openness to say the same to you as well.  There is security in the relationship to go beyond what appears to be happening on the surface, and deal with matters at a far deeper (and probably ‘truer’) level.

Jesus built his ‘team’ this way as well.  Think about the disciples and women followers he had.  They didn’t gather for planning meetings and strategy symposiums.  The shared life.  They traveled, ate and fished together.  They attended weddings and holidays.  They supported and invested in one another, even financially.  The disciples asked Jesus the “why are you doing that?” questions, and he challenged them on their personal weaknesses.  They had the foundation of relationship that gave them staying power through the darkest times.  They weren’t just followers…there were lots of those.  The ones that really took the vision and ran with it were the ones who shared Jesus’ life and heart…his sons and daughters.

Depending your persuasion, you may be about to direct me to Genesis 2:18, where is says that Eve was created to be Adam’s helper…and thus the purpose of women is to ‘help’ men.  Again I say “Yes!  Exactly!”…but maybe not quite in the way you might think.  You see, the actual Hebrew word there for helper is “ezer”, which is a word that is never used in such ways as a subordinate, or one inferior.  In fact, quite the opposite…in other places it is used to refer to God being our help, a help greater than ourselves, as in Psalm 54:4, “Surely the Lord is my help (ezer); the Lord is the one who sustains”.  However, rather than implying Eve as a help greater than Adam, the “ezer” in Genesis is paired with the descriptive word, “kenegdo”, which means “face to face” or “corresponding”.  This gives the implication that Eve was Adam’s exactly equal partner; this understanding is was prompted Adam to declare Eve to be “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”…they were a matched set!  And, it was together that God commissioned the Man and the Woman to take dominion over the earth.  In reading the Genesis account you will see that it says “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”  He didn’t give the charge to Adam, and then add Eve as the ‘hired help’ to assist Adam in accomplishing his tasks.  The purpose was a shared one.

I’ll leave you with this example from my own life…and one that will open the door (and possibly a can of worms, for some) quite nicely to the posts yet to come discussing leadership in the Church.

My husband, Todd, and I have been married for 20 years this coming November.  Looking back over the years, I can see quite clearly my husband’s leadership in my life.  It has brought me to the point in my life, where I currently am, and never would have imagined to be.  The point that I am referring to, specifically, is that of currently serving as the lead pastor at our church, the church that we planted together (along with an amazing team of people, lest it seems like it was all he and I!!).  Together we felt God’s call to ministry, from the beginning of our marriage.  Together we learned, and grew spiritually, largely at his leading and initiation.  Together we served as youth leaders, on a worship team, and later in a marriage ministry.  During this time, we both felt sure that God was directing Todd to get some training, in our thinking that would lead to him serving in a pastoral role.  Then came a snag.  It turned out that it was also together that we felt a call to church leadership, specifically in the role of elder/pastor.  And it was there we had to pause…because our theological background had taught us this wasn’t in accordance with scripture (more on this in subsequent posts).  We were unwilling to move into something that seemed to ‘fit’ if we didn’t feel it was scripturally sound, no matter how ‘right’ it might feel.  So, we committed to wrestling out this issue together as well, studying, praying, seeking counsel.  Increasingly, as we felt God bringing clarity to many things, Todd would pour into me, encouraging me to use my giftings, to step out of my comfort zone, to respond to the things God was prompting in me.  It was a whole new territory…and one that I had, largely, not seen patterned before in couples we knew.  But we both knew clearly God’s calling growing and increasing, and it was repeatedly confirmed by others around us, so…together we planted a church.  Initially we both served as elders, but Todd in the role of senior elder (which is the same as lead pastor, but in our network we use the terminology senior elder).  Over time, (stories to come in future post) it just became apparent and practical for us to switch, and for I to fill the role of senior elder.  In reality, we continue to totally share the ministry, but because my giftings are more that of a ‘big picture’ visionary, and Todd is a ‘details’ guy, the switch works for us.  But, ironic as it may be, the reason I serve in this leadership role is because my husband faithfully fulfilled…and continues to do so…his role of leadership in my life.  Kingdom Leadership…the kind that always desires the best for the one being led, always wanting them to fulfill their destiny, and be fully released to be all they were created to be.

(I do want to note, that obviously I do realize not every marriage will look like ours, in the shared-ness of what we do.  Certainly, some husbands will make sacrifices for their wife to feel fulfilled by doing her ‘dream job’ of staying home with their children.  I don’t want to pigeon-hole anyone to any specific scenario.  Some wives are MOST fulfilled being ‘behind the scenes’, or answering God’s call on her in what might be considered ‘traditional’ ways…and I too include myself, as a stay/work-at-home mom.  There is no one-size-fits-all scenario for everyone.  I am trying to illustrate the principle that both husband and wife seek to prefer the other, but the husband demonstrates leadership by stepping up to the call of leadership by recognizing, cultivating and releasing his wife to be and do all God calls her to…no matter whether it is preaching a sermon, creating beautiful art or tending precious little ones (or maybe all of these and more!)…but knowing that whatever it is, she is fulfilled and thus, he serves well as a leader, and is honored by her.)

Ah, it’s such  a beautiful dance, really, this thing called marriage…don’t you think?

I debated about which topic to post next…leadership in marriage, or leadership in the church…but as you can see, I’ve decided to go with leadership in marriage.  I am suspecting leadership in the church might sprout into subsequent posts, so…here we go!

The topic of ‘headship’ and ‘submission’ can often be a touchy one.  I have seen it misused and abused to keep women ‘in their place’ and I have also seen it sadly misconstrued by those who are ready to cast off any authority of scripture in the name of self-rights. I think that Woodland Hills Church summarized the two positions on leadership within marriage fairly concisely in this statement…

Some believe the Bible teaches a timeless principle of male headship, where headship is defined as the model of servant-leadership exemplified by Jesus Christ. Others believe that the idea of male headship expressed in Scripture is a culturally-conditioned teaching, and that the ideal model of marriage is that of mutual submission and leadership by gifting, within an egalitarian relationship.  (Woodland Hills Church website)

I’m going to propose to you that my ‘stance’ on this would be that of saying “yes” to both those positions.  Because I believe, that if, in fact, a husband leads his wife in a true servant-leader way, the way Christ does His Church, it will actually look exactly like what egalitarians think of when they speak of mutual submission and leadership by gifting.  Let me explain…

When it comes to the husband and wife relationship, we see directives in Ephesians 5…though I believe we do need to be careful in remembering to take the whole of the chapter, and not just the bits and pieces we want.  Often the directives of this chapter are used to communicate that a wife should do whatever her husband wants, and he should be willing to die for her (on the off-chance she is about to get shot at or finds herself standing in front of a moving train).  I would submit to you that there is far, FAR more found in these verses.

First of all, let’s look at the picture we are presented with in Ephesians 5…which is of Christ and the Church…of which marriage is to be a reflection.  What does it mean to “submit,” and what does it mean to “give yourself up”?  (One is the instruction for the wife, the second is to the husband.)  Jesus came to earth in order to redeem His Bride…to fight for her release, through the actions of sacrifice, suffering, and yes, of dying.  In doing so, He brought her (the Church) into the fullness of all she was created to be…to rise up and take dominion (as we were originally intended to do…see Gen. 1:26-28) along with Him, to reign along side and as One with Him.  (Ephesians 2:6)  Jesus didn’t come and say to His followers…”Here is MY purpose and MY goals, and your job is to be my assistant in making them happen.”  No, SHE (the Church) WAS His mission.  He came, He took on the weight of responsibility to do everything required to see His beautiful Bride walk into her glorious destiny…at personal cost to Himself.  In turn, of course, the Church reflects back to Jesus all the glory and honor and reverence due Him.  The goal, the mission, the destiny is a shared one…His goal is not self centered, nor is hers…it is one that together is a beautiful dance of love, honor and glory.

(By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, this perfect blend is an innate desire…the stuff that all of humanity longs for, the stuff that ‘love stories’ are made of…because ultimately our longing is to once again walk in unity and oneness with our Creator!)

 

I have heard numerous times over the past decade or so that the ‘new move of God’ would be ‘leaderless’ or have ‘nameless/faceless leaders’.  I find this rather an interesting concept, especially since I don’t really see God operating that way anywhere in scripture, and it also pretty much goes against the directions he HAS given in regards to leadership.  And, just on a basic, practical level, it’s a rare group…be it a school, church, corporation…even a sports league…that goes anywhere with “no” leadership.  I tend to think that the folks this appeals to have most likely been hurt by some authority in their life, probably because that person(s) misused what was entrusted to them.

As I said in the last post, true Kingdom leadership is always one that serves those who a leader is in authority over.  Authority and leadership should not be viewed as “these followers are here to help ME accomplish MY goals and fulfill MY calling”.  No…leaders, servant leaders are the ones that are out in front, being the ‘point of the plow’ so to speak, in order to make a way for those following them.  I also said that we can see God’s leadership structure being applicable in a variety of settings, because the same principles generally apply.  Within the ministry training I have received, one of the most valuable summaries of leadership that I learned (which was used in terms of eldership within a local church) was that leadership can be summed up as a responsibility to “direct, correct, and protect”.  I think, this can be applied in almost any leadership capacity, and with a Kingdom mindset, it will always be with the goal of those things to raise up to maturity and fullness those being led.  A very prime example of this can be seen in the parent-child relationship.  Scripture gives directives to children to obey their parents, but it also instructs parents to train and guide their children in a way that is nurturing, loving and that does not exasperate them.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.    ~Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV)

As parents our primary goal should be to teach our children in the ways of the Lord, and teach them to seek after Him so that the destiny that God has on their lives can be fulfilled.  It was never God’s design for us to be ‘fruitful and multiply’ in order to have ‘minions’ to serve us, do our bidding, or be an object for our own gain.  In fact, exactly opposite!  We, as parents, should be serving our children in ways that have their best interest in mind.

Contrary to popular belief, ‘serving’ our children does not mean doing everything for them, making sure they never suffer or experience hardship in any way, or give them everything they want.  It is not wrong for us to expect obedience, because it should not be for selfish motives that we want to see our children obey.  It is for their own good.  So they can be safe.  (Do not run in the street!)  So they can learn to esteem others (Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.)  And most importantly, so they can ultimately learn to obey their Heavenly Father’s voice.

We can also see this dynamic in the Heavenly Father’s relationship with His Son.  The Father gave his Son instruction, and he obeyed.  Jesus said he only did what he saw His Father doing (John 5:19).  He also submitted his will to the Father, when he asked for the cup of crucifixion to be passed from him, but accepting when the Father’s answer was no.  Jesus completely trusted the leadership of his Father, but by not ‘giving in’ to his Son’s request, the Father was not acting out of ‘lording it over’, but rather answering in a way that would facilitate His Son in fully accomplishing and fulfilling his destiny, and ultimately be “exalted to the highest place” (Phil. 2:9)  The authority and submission of the Father and Son even demonstrates servant leadership.

Thus, we as earthly fathers and mothers can take our cues from the heavenly Father in sometimes saying no to our children, to see them walk in a greater good (Matt. 26:39); we can lead them by example (John 5:19) and we can, in true Kingdom leadership form, release them to be and do all that is in God’s plan for them!

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