Traits – Passion for and Dependence on God

This week I continue sharing a series of articles focused on things I have learned that are traits of an effective pastor and leader.  Some might suggest having a passion for and dependence on God should go without saying, but the truth is that one can be competent to lead others but fail to lead themselves.  I have seen too many leaders falter because they attempt to be a branch disconnected from the life of the True Vine. They depend more on their wisdom and skills rather than a full reliance on God.  In previous articles I referred to king David leading with a pure heart and skilled hands.  He was known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14).  Our heart will not be pure nor passionate if we are not purposefully and intentionally seeking after God. David sought the Lord like a deer panting after water (Ps. 42:1), and God used him to lead His people to enjoy His blessings like they had never known before.  We can gain much wisdom following his example.  It has been said that one cannot lead people any further than what they have been themselves.  If we want our people to passionately seek after God, they must be able to see it displayed in our lives. May our example be one of being a person of persistent prayer, a faithful student of Scripture, and consistently walking in the Spirit. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Character That Builds Trust

This week I continue sharing a series of articles focused on things I have learned that are traits of an effective pastor and leader. Once again, I share Psalm 78:70-72.  He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; he brought him from tending ewes to be shepherd over his people Jacob – over Israel, his inheritance. He shepherded them with a pure heart and guided them with skillful hands. Another trait that the psalmist points out of king David is that he led his people with a” pure heart.” It cannot be stressed enough how important good character is in being an effective leader, especially in ministry.  A leader can be very gifted and competent in many things but a lack of character can easily derail and disqualify them. A review of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 makes it apparent that the Lord looks more at the heart than the skills and abilities of a leader.  Out of the fourteen qualifications listed, ten focus on character qualities such as being upright, sensible, self-controlled, respectable, gentle, avoiding greed and addictive behavior and so forth. Paul went on to admonish Timothy to not only be trained in doctrine but in godliness as well (4:6-8).  While calling is essential, it doesn’t replace qualification of good character.  While no one can be perfect, except our Lord, leaders should seek to consistently live above reproach.  In doing so people will willingly follow because you have built trust by demonstrating Christ-likeness, integrity, and spiritual maturity. Let us strive to live so we can say as Paul, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)  – Dr. Gary Mathes

Traits of an Effective Pastor

For the next couple of months, I am going to be sharing a series of articles focused on things I have learned that are traits of an effective pastor and leader. A wonderful description was made of King David in Psalm 78:70-72.  He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; he brought him from tending ewes to be shepherd over his people Jacob – over Israel, his inheritance. He shepherded them with a pure heart and guided them with skillful hands. One of the first thing I notice is that it was God that called him into this position of leadership.  When Paul met up with the elders from Ephesus, he exhorted them saying, Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (Acts 20:28).  We see here that it was God who placed a calling on their life to lead his people.  I believe a pastor is one who is chosen by God to be his servant to shepherd his flock.  This is both a source of encouragement and solemn conviction of responsibility. Leading people is not an easy task and sometimes it is only the sense of calling that keeps one in the ministry. But we can be encouraged when we know that God not only calls us, but He empowers us with His Spirit, encourages us with His Word, and accomplishes His purposes through our work.  As we faithfully fulfill His calling we can look forward to the day we hear him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”  – Dr. Gary Mathes

Maintenance or Mission

One of the key principles of leadership I have learned from many in the field of church revitalization is that knowing and clearly articulating your mission is the first and primary step.  One of my favorite philosophers, Yogi Berra, said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else.”  Mission is the compass that points to our true north.  It is answering the question, “What are we supposed to be doing?”  Without clearly articulating the answer to that question it is easy to settle in on doing what you always do, i.e. maintain the norm.  Unfortunately, many churches struggle with a definitive sense of purpose and fall prey to a posture of maintenance.  As leaders we are to clearly and concisely communicate what Christ has called the church to complete.  We believe Jesus’ mandate for us is the Great Commission and we are to be faithful to follow these holy orders.  Our purpose is to make disciples. Our method is to go, baptize and teach those who respond to the gospel.  Our scope is from our neighborhoods to the nations. Our length is to the end of the age.  Our power is in the Spirit of Christ. When we understand our mission, and choose to accept it, we will see God at work in our midst and will bear much fruit for His glory. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Motorboat, Raft, or Sailboat?

I saw an interview the other day about a couple who took an interest in sailing.  They took lessons, bought a sailboat, and then made their way from taking short trips to eventually a voyage to Tahiti.  I was impressed by their dedication and sense of adventure.   I was reminded of an analogy shared by John Ortberg that I believe is worth passing along.  In life (and ministry) we can either be a motorboat where we are in charge of setting the direction and speed of progress.  Others choose to be more free and float along like a raft drifting to wherever the current leads.  But the Christian life seems to be more like a sailboat.  We have a role to play in setting the sails but are dependent on the Lord to provide the power.  As followers of Jesus, and Christian leaders, it is important that we practice the spiritual disciplines that puts us in position to be empowered and used of the Lord.  Life, and ministry, is a wonderful adventure to pursue, but to be successful, we need to not only do our part to be prepared, but to live fully dependent on the Lord to empower us and lead us to where He has called us to go. So, throw up your sails and let the wind blow! – Dr. Gary Mathes

Better than Superman

An oft told legendary story about Muhammed Ali is that while flying on an airplane a flight attendant asked the famed boxing champion to put on his seat belt.  He purportedly said, “Superman, don’t need no seatbelt.”  The quick-witted attendant replied, “Well, Superman don’t need no plane!”  It was a bold but necessary reminder that we are all mortal human.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is a reminder that not only are we mortal, we are unable to save ourselves and are in need of a Savior.  Many people desire to be Superman and have the ability to save themselves and be the hero of their own story.  The call to repentance is a call to change our mind about our ability to save ourselves through our own efforts and strength.  It is the sober recognition that the weight of our sin is a spiritual gravity pulling us down to a destructive end. We cannot rise above our own condition but are in need of the supernatural power that only Jesus can provide.  By his grace and mercy, we have access to that power through our faith in his death, burial and victorious resurrection. Better than Superman, Jesus is truly man and truly God.  He is the Sovereign King of glory who has conquered every enemy and subdued every foe, including death itself.  I am grateful for His grace and power in my life.  I am grateful that the life-changing gospel is preached in our pulpits each week in our CPBA churches.  I pray that more who live here in the northland and beyond will hear, believe, and be forever transformed by its power. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Great Commission Vision

One of the encouraging benefits of our Christian faith is understanding there is a better future that awaits the saints of God. Scripture gives us glimpse of what God’s people can anticipate when Jesus returns and consummates the Kingdom he began during his earthly ministry.  In what we call the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples to go into all nations making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20).  It is our fundamental work as a church.  In Revelation 7:9-10, John portrays a vision of worship in heaven that helps us see what our faithfulness to the Great Commission will result in.  After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  What a beautiful picture is portrayed in these verses, and what a tremendous reminder that the gospel we share is for everyone.  Our mission as an association is to partner together for the gospel to reach the northland and the nations.  Whether we reach the nations globally or locally, may the work we do and the proclamation we share bring life transformation to all to hear – to glory of God.    – Dr. Gary Mathes

Who Are You Trusting?

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church, he stated that he had been entrusted with the gospel (1 Thess. 2:4).  That is a huge responsibility and one that we as followers of Jesus have been given as well.  As such we should embrace it boldly and humbly.  Boldly we need to live out our calling, knowing who it is who has called us, and who has also equipped us to carry it out.  Humbly in that we must always guard against trusting in our own abilities accomplish it.  We live in the tension between being gifted and equipped by God but remembering we are broken and finite.  We must learn to be faithful stewards of the skills and abilities God has entrusted us with, and be faithful planters and irrigators, but wholly trust that it is God who causes the growth.  Paul learned to serve in a way that God received the glory.  He stated, “I planted, Apollos water, but God gave the growth.” (1 Cor. 3:6).  May we embrace the same lesson and carry out our part of the mission we have been entrusted with boldly and humbly, motivated by one desire – that God would receive all the glory!

Values – Relevant Communication

This week I complete a series of articles focusing on our values.  Previously we looked at the values of Meaningful Relationships,Purposeful PartnershipsKingdom Expansion, Healthy Leadership, Congregational Support, and Faithful Stewardship The seventh value we embrace is that of Relevant Communication.  We value sharing relevant information in relevant and effective ways to help churches be informed of important issues, partnership opportunities and significant events. One of the principles and practices I have learned is that it takes multiple messages on multiple mediums to communicate effectively.  As one mentor put it, “Just about the time you are weary of saying the same thing over and over, your people are just now getting it.”  As an association we utilize our website, social media and other platforms to make churches and leaders aware of things that are relevant to ministry and foster greater cooperation among our network of congregations. Good communication is a vital part of effectively informing people and motivating them to take action.  We value and therefore strive to share with our churches and leaders information that is pertinent and useful to better serve you and help us collectively carry out our mission – to partner together for the gospel to reach the northland and the nations.  – Dr. Gary Mathes

Values – Faithful Stewardship

This week I continue a series of articles focusing on our values.  So far we looked at the value of Meaningful Relationships,Purposeful PartnershipsKingdom Expansion, Healthy Leadership, and Congregational Support.  The sixth value we embrace is that of Faithful Stewardship. For churches to do ministry well it takes a variety of resources to be successful including financial, informational, educational, leadership, organization, administrative, etc.  Therefore, we value providing and sharing resources in a trustworthy manner that help churches and leaders better accomplish their work, as well as for collaborative ministry efforts.  We value networking among churches, denominational entities and other sources to procure and link resources with opportunities.  As an association of churches, we are able to network and cooperatively share our resources in order to more effectively carry our mutual mission. Paul captured this sentiment as he thanked the church at Philippi for sharing in his ministry, and as a result he was “amply supplied” (Phil. 4:10-20).  We are grateful for the gifts our churches send to the CPBA office so that we can fulfill the mission of equipping leaders, empowering churches, engaging partnerships ministry and expanding the kingdom.  We strive to be faithful stewards and exemplify integrity and wisdom in what we receive.  Thank you for your trust and partnership! – Dr. Gary Mathes