Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Failiing forward

Ephesians 4:1-16
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
9 ( In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up 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 mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Some of the big questions that the church and the leaders at Central needs to ask and seek answers for include the following:
1. What is all this for? Is Central to be a comfortable social place for me to gather with safe people, a great place to salve my social conscience or to be a family-style collection of followers of God in Christ?
2. What is to be my personal relationship with my fellow Christians? To gain from them what I want and need in the way that is most comfortable to me or to serve one another selflessly with the desire to do what builds others us in Christ?
3. What is the purpose of leadership at Central? To manage resources after taking a popular vote or to lead people into maturity and faithfulness in Christ?
It doesn’t take a long look at the writings of Paul (or any other New Testament author) to see that any answer reflecting a market-place, consumer driven way of seeing the church misses the mark in substantial and meaningful ways.
In short, according to this short selection from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the answers to the questions should be along these lines:
1. We are to be the body of Christ that shows the oneness of God through our one another living.

2. We are to use the blessings of God to build up Christ’s body, the church, so that it is mature.

3. Those who have the gift of leadership among Central are to equip the church for works of service.
This is what each of us need to lead toward in our respective areas of leadership and influence. From what we do in a committee meeting to what we talk about in the hallway on the way to worship.
And it must be more that words. What we say 'at church' on Sunday or any other day is no where near as important as what we are doing.
Lead toward actions which move people toward maturity.
Will you mess up and fail? Yes. Just make sure that you keep 'failing forward'.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I wonder what it indicates about my personality that I like to watch a good fight or that most of the movies I enjoy are high adventure often involving lots of conflict. But I am encouraged when I read the letters from the apostle Paul since he often uses the language of a battle between right and wrong. He challenges us to put on the whole armor of God so we can stand. He said, "we don't wrestle with flesh and blood but with the powers of the darkness of this age. He challenged the Corinthians not to be like one who is "beating the air" or shadow boxing. One of my favorite of this kind of statement from Paul is in Romans 16:20. He had just told them he wanted them to be wise in what is good, yet innocent about what is evil. Then he said, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you." It is amazing to try to picture what he declares. He sees God as the God of peace. Yet the God of peace is going to crush Satan under our feet. Then he wants grace to be with us.

I must admit that most of the time it seems more like Satan is crushing me under his feet than that God is crushing him under mine. The context of Paul's statement indicate that it was their obedience of faith which would lead to their abiltity to walk over Satan and take him down. He gives us more insight into how we have the victory over Satan in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 where he said, "For although we are walking in the flesh, we do not wage war in a fleshly way, since the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."

The battle of our lives won't be fought with weapons of mass destruction. They will be fought with the mind, by bringing every thought captive. When we allow God to work through us in crushing Satan there is no limit to the power that is available. When we try to defeat evil and its source on our own power we are destined to complete failure.

Who is winning the battle in your mind?

Leon Barnes

Thursday, July 23, 2009


When God first made the woman and brought her to Adam, surely he was thrilled to now have a companion that was a perfect fit for him. I don't think God needed to show them a training video for them to know what to do together. When Adam saw her he made one of the greatest declarations of all time about marriage and what should happen in the relationship. "Then the man said, 'This as last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." Exactly what did Adam say and what was added by God for them to understand? We don't know for sure. It's clear that Adam said she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, that she would be called woman since she was taken out of the man. When he used the word, "Therefore" and gave directions about marriage and family from that day forward it was probably the words of God. Adam had no knowledge of a father and mother, thus no understanding of leaving them to hold on to his wife. But God whe made them, knew what was required for the relationship to work.

From the beginning God told them it would be necessary for the marriage for both the man and the woman to "leave" their mother and dad and "hold fast" to their wife or husband. It is all too common to see marriages in trouble because one or both couldn't bear to leave their parents and the result is they are never able to hold fast to their mate. Usually this whole thing works better if the couple literally leave mom and dad and establish their own home from the beginning. It is imperative that they leave parents emotionally so they can be devoted to their mate.

The principle goes deeper than just the leaving of parents to hold fast to the mate. If a marriage is to work we must leave behind old relationships and devote ourselves to the marriage. It is amazing to me that so many people get married and still continue relationships with old boyfriends or girlfriends. I used to hear about people still calling or getting calls from their former partner, but now the going thing seems to be to carry on a facebook relationship with the previous partners. If we made the decision to not be married to that partner and to instead marry someone else, it only makes sense that we will break off all relationships with the former partner to work on my new marriage and marriage partner with all my energy. The principle here is that you leave anything and anyone that might hinder the success of your marriage.

I think the principle should also apply when preachers leave one congregation to go to work with another one. Too often after they have left and become partners with a new congregation preachers still try to maintain thier relationships with the former place and make it extremely difficult for their new preacher to ever be accepted in the group. If you are going to become the preacher at a new place, then leave the old one physically and emotionally and hold fast to the new place. It will be a favor to your new place and a huge favor to the new preacher at the old place.

One final application, if you leave one congregation of the Lord's people and go to another one to worship and serve God then leave. Don't try to hang on to the old place and the new thus having your feet in both places. There are few things more irritating than someone who moves into a new area and becomes a member of a new congretation to constantly talk about how we used to do things where we lived before. I always have the urge to say, "Hey you aren't there anymore and we could not care less how you did things somewhere else. This is how we do things here so get off the old horse and get on the new one and quit trying to ride both at once." It is equally frustrating for folks who have left to go to another place coming back to tell you how great things are where they are now. Each church has to do the work they do to fit where they are and the people and abilities there. You can't mold one after the image of the other.

After a marrage has taken place there ought to be absolutely no courtship with anyone other than the one I'm married to. That is true if it is literally in marriage and it is also true with other relationships that demand my loyalty to be of any value.

Leon Barnes


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Every business, school, church or team requires leadership to accomplish anything. Mot of the people I know think of themselves as leaders. There are some who will quickly declare "I'm not a leader, but I'm willing to work in any area you will ask me. In Matthew 20 Jesus told the story of a man looking for workers to get involved in his harvest of grapes. He went into town at all different intervals of the day asking people to come and work. Those contracted early in the morning negotiated a price for their labor. But as the day progressed the different ones hired were told to come and work and he would pay them what was right. At 5:00 in the afternoon when there was just an hour left to work he came once more to town looking for workers. He found a group of men standing idle and asked them why there were just standing there and not working. They said it was because no one had asked them. They were willing to work, but seemed to have little initiative to start anything or to push themselves forward. When he asked they went into the vineyard and worked until time to quit.

Thank God not everyone is like those men. But in every church I've been achainted with, there are many like that. They are good people, willing to work, but will never see what needs to be done and step up to do it on their own. The fact God had Paul to list leadership as one of the figts one might have in Romans 12:1-8 indicates that you can't expect to make leaders of everyone who is a Christian. When Paul wrote his final letter to Timothy he challenged him in chapter 2:1-2 to be strong in grace and the things he had learned from Paul among many witnesses he was to commit to faithful men who would be able to teach others also. The process would be never ending. We learn from someone who sees our faithfulness to God and that we have ability as teachers and leaders in His kingdom. Then we search for others who are faithful to God and have ability to teach and commit the teaching to them so they can look for others who are faithful and able to commit the teaching to them. But if we try to commit teaching or leadershp to a person who lacks either of those qualities we will frustrate ourselves and injure the cause of Christ. Think of how many times churches look for people to serve in different leadership roles. It may be as an evangelist, a teacher, an elder or a deacon. But as the search gets under way some will suggest that someone they know and perhaps are kin to woudl be great for the job. They look nice and are really successful in business and it would be great to have them leading in the church. Sadly such people are placed into a role of leadership. A few months later people are asking themselves and one another what went wrong. But, it isn't hard to figure out what happened. We have tried to make one into a leader in the family of God who is lacking in either faithfulness to God or in ability to lead. It is absolutely amazing that we will some times put people into some leadership role hoping that it will help them become more faithful. Such a reversal in what God teaches will do nothing but harm to the church.

Notice when Paul wrote both Timothy and Titus about setting apart elders and deacons he told both men to look at how the men led in their families. If one doesn't how to manage his own family how can he take care of the church of God? Many have wonderful families because their wife is a devoted, spiritually minded person determined to train their children in the Lord's way. Then a church comes along looking for a prospective elder or deacon and sees this man's good family and determines that they would serve well as leaders. If it was the one who had really led in the family that is considered for leadership it might work. But we need to see who is behind the growth and depth of the family. Timothy was a wonderful young man. What if the church looked at Timothy's devotion and thought that his dad would make a great leader since he had done so well with Timothy? The problem is, Timothy's dad wasn't devoted to God at all. It was his mother and grandmother who had faith they passed down to Timothy.

Leadership in the family of God is a spiritual gift from God. It isn't a natural ability. Don't get me wrong there are many who have the natural ability to lead. But if it isn't a spiritual gift from God they will lead, but not in a way that leads people to build their lives on the Lord and His will. They will have the church making plans based on good financial decisions and what fits best with the political powers of the day. They will listen to everything people say they want and would help them be involved. This kind of leader will carry the church in the direction of the world and miss God's plan altogether. In Mark 10:35-44 James and John came to Jesus requesting to sit on Jesus right and left hand when he came into his kingdom. Jesus told them it wasn't his to give but would be given to the one for whom God had prepared it. The ten other apostles were infuriated at their audacity. Jesus told the whole group, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even teh Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Think about it today. Are we modeling leadership in the church after what the Gentiles do or what Jesus said would be the case among His followers? Every time we determine someone would be a great leader because of their charm, their money making ability, their weight in the community or their political powers, we follow the world and not Jesus. If we want to follow Jesus we must find leaders who are servants, who give themselves for others and for the Lord. Every leader in the church ought to be chosen on the basis of this text and on Philippians 2:1-10. Paul challenged them to follow an upsidedown concept of leadership. "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility conut others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is your in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant." What would the church be like today in every place if its leaders, all the way from the godly mother leading the nursery, to the youth leader, to the preacher, to the deacons, to the elders of the church, had the attitude Paul wanted us to have? We put others ahead of us. We look after the interest of others and we empty ourselves like Jesus. It would be a joy to worship with such a group. Their service to the community would demonstrate Christ's heart daily. They would keep big things big things and puny things as insignificant.

God's church needs godly leaders, who are spiritually minded and are gifted by God for leadership. Let's look out on the world and see that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Let's pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send more workers into His vineyard.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Play ball!

With the summer comes a new metaphor we're adopting as a congregation to help our members and our leadership more effectively seek and share The Way. Our goal is to be a people who are seeking the way, sharing the way - The Way being Jesus himself (John 10:10). How we live out that goal as members of Central is by being committed to four environments in our lives:

  1. Worship (weekly as a group and daily as individuals and families)
  2. Life Stage Groups (weekly gatherings right before our group worship to grow together in the Bible and deeper in our fellowship and service)
  3. House Groups (smaller weekly gatherings to grow deeper in our discipleship and in relationships)
  4. Faith Sharing (the natural and intentional by-product of the other environments - we are changed and cannot help but share that change with others)
The new metaphor we'll be using to help people remember and plug into our ministry is a baseball diamond. The metaphor is posted all around our buildings, in our bulletin and Leon, our pulpit minister, is going to each Sunday AM adult class/Life Stage Group to present the idea.
If you've not already looked closely at it, do so soon so you can get a sense of what it is each person at Central is called to do in the path of seeking the way, sharing the way. In the weeks ahead, we'll be asking that everyone be able to think through where they are 'on' this metaphor.

In addition to asking each member to 'place' themselves, we are also asking each ministry leader to make sure they see clearly where their ministry fits into the ball field metaphor. This is the same ministry structure we've talked about for the past year, just using a different metaphor to make it easier for some to remember.

Remember that you can go back into the olders posts on this blog and see how we progressed from where we were a couple of years back through today. God has blessed us with with serious introspection time and with guidance and leadership to help us move from places we needed to leave behind and into places we need to go.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Worker Bee

An important exercise for any of us in leadership is to fairly regularly be honest with ourselves and do a skill-set inventory. Asking ourselves what we're capable of, good at and recognized for with ears to hear the truth is really good.

Am I a worker? Some people are good at doing a job. A guy might say, "I can change air filters and light bulbs" - does that make him a leader? Maybe by example, but it doesn't mean he can or should be put in charge of other people or an group whose job is maintenance. Just because I can do a job doesn't mean I can effectively lead other people or develop the way that job is done.

Am I a manager? Some people can come into a system that's already set up and help it maintain or keep going in the way it was given to them. They might not be able to comprehend any changes to the system that are suggested to them or see how it could be improved, but they can keep it going "as is" or as they think it ought to be.

Am I an entrepreneur? Some people can see something others can't see YET and develop it from start to finish. They may not have it in them to manage or work it after it's set up, but they can look at the big picture and see what's needed and make an existing thing better OR develop something brand new that no one has ever considered before.

Read through Acts 6 and notice the story of the first deacons. What kind of people do you think those first deacons are or were? As you read through the rest of Acts, notice 'the rest of the story' with several of them and the kinds of things they're doing later.

Sometimes it's not only refreshing, but it's necessary for us to go back to the scriptures and clarify what God intended when he started some of the things we take for granted these days. Just because I grew up in a church with a particular heritage or culture or way of doing things does not mean that it was doing what God calls for.

Imagine re-envisioning all our leadership positions in light of scripture. I think sometimes we think "Oh, I've done that. My position is right." and never think past whether our standard of right is really scripture or what's comfortable because it's what I like and know already.

So what kind of leader are you and where do you find your kind of leadership demonstrated in scripture?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Starting 2009 on the same page.

The New Year is upon us and with it the great next steps we have been anticipating for Central Church! We are seeking the way and sharing the way together as we start off 2009 and sharpening our focus on doing a few things with excellence!

In 2009 we are focusing on excellence in worship, small groups/LSG’s, greeting/welcoming, youth and children’s ministry and strong, affirmative leadership to help us be good stewards of our resources and our talents. Every ministry and every leader needs to make sure that everything they’re doing is focused on those areas or supporting those areas in some good way.

The shepherds and staff are meeting twice this weekend (Saturday 8-10ish and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.) both for our ongoing prayer, planning and leadership time AND to get ready for two very significant meetings: 1) our ‘all-leadership’ meeting on Sunday January 18 after worship and 2) our 2009 kick-off congregational meeting on January 25th at 5:00 p.m.

Make it your plans to be at both of those very important meetings, especially the 18th. We’re at a time of shifting around of roles & responsibilities to be better at what we do. Some of you all have been looking for a place to put your feet down into ministry &/or to make a change – this is a meeting that will be very beneficial for you. Grab lunch, be back at 12:30ish and we’ll meet.

All shepherds, staff and ministry leaders are also asked to be a part of small groups in 2009 – no exceptions; all leadership is to be actively involved in a small group experience. If you’re not sure where to plug in, you’ll have opportunities available before this month is over. Feel free to come to the leadership training day Saturday, January 24 from 9-12 and get involved!

If you’d like to refresh your memory of some of the things we’ve done and ground we’ve covered in the last few months scroll down through the posts going back to April or so through the past year and you’ll get a sense of many of those items.



PS: THE ANSWER IS YES – ALL of our female ministry leaders are also encouraged and invited to be a part of the meeting on the 18th. Spouses please pass that word around and let’s make sure that all of those who are gifted and given responsibilities of leadership at Central Church, male and female, are a part of our all-leadership meeting.