Response to the Sexual Abuse Task Force Report

As you are well aware, in fact it is nearly non-ignorable, the Sexual Abuse Task Force report from Guidepost Solution came out this past Sunday.  Like so many of you, I have read through a great portion of the report as well as the many responses it has evoked.  My heart grieves.  I grieve for the victims of abuse who have had to endure a systemic response of being stonewalled and sideline with their cries for help and justice.  I grieve that the cause of Christ has been severely damaged as yet another denomination has been guilty of trying to cover up evil rather that expose it. I grieve for the trust that has been broken and it will be a hard and long road to rebuild.  I grieve for the painful consequences that the erosion of trust brings which will greatly affect our cooperative effort to advance the gospel.  I have heard it said that a reputation takes years to build and only minutes to destroy. Even with a true, genuine, and appropriate response it will take a great amount of time to reestablish the confidence in our leadership that has been lost.  But we owe it to the victims, to the advancement of the gospel, and for glory of God to work together to respond in the right way, in the right time, and with the right spirit. This is a time for prayer, for repentance, and for resolute determination to right the wrong, and put in place measures to prevent this from ever happening again.  I appreciate the many recommendations contained in the report to help our SBC family respond properly and address the issue of abuse with wisdom and diligence.  We will certainly be mindful of how our association of churches can be a part of the solution moving forward.  I know many of you have already been praying and I would simply ask that you continue to lift up our SBC leaders to the Lord, as well as the upcoming annual convention in Anaheim, California.  Pray that we may we be found doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Leadership – Leading Organizations

This week I wrap up sharing principles of effective leadership.  We first looked at learning how to lead yourself, then learning how to lead another person, and last week learning to lead teams.  This week the next level of leadership is that of leading organizations.  As a pastor, we have been called to be a wise elder, a loving shepherd, and a transformational overseer.  The overseer role is the ability to lead an organization. At this level you are asking questions pertaining to the mission of the organization, in our case, the church.  You are also looking at the culture you are shaping in order to be effective at carrying out the mission.  Leading an organization requires the ability to look at the whole from a 30,000 feet point of view and measuring and adapting strategic and systematic competencies. Leaders of organization have to answer and articulate the following directional questions. Why do we exist? What is our mission? What core values must we operate from? What is our vision? Where are we going in the next 5-7 years?  What is our plan to take us there? How are we currently operating? What do we need to adjust or realign? How will we know if we are making progress and hitting the right targets? What kind of team do we need to lead us well? Of course, none of these questions should be answered alone but by a group of leaders who have demonstrated competencies in leading themselves, others and teams well, and working synergistically to assure the organization effectively accomplishes its mission. May the Lord continually grant us wisdom, strength, and courage to lead his Bride, the church, faithfully, fruitfully and for His glory. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Leadership – Leading Teams

The past few weeks I have shared the principle that effective leadership starts with first learning how to lead yourself, then learning how to lead another person – one on one. The next level in a leadership ladder is knowing how to effectively lead teams.  This is moving from discipleship to building and directing ministry teams.  Not surprisingly, Jesus is our best example of how to build effective teams.  It began by recruiting the right people to join his team.  When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, they certainly were not mature, complete leaders ready to change the world.  Therefore, he poured himself into the work of developing them into world changers.  What he provided for them in the three years they followed was first, clarity of mission.  He helped them grow in their understanding that he was on mission to establish the kingdom of God through his life, teaching, death and resurrection.  And he was on mission to help people enter into this kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel and the making of disciples in every nation.  Every team or ministry you lead needs to have clarity of purpose and strategy to bring it about.  Without clarity there is confusion, frustration, and stifled accomplishment.  The second thing teams need is competency in the work they are asked to do.  Jesus spent time teaching and training his disciples.  He modeled his ministry before them and then asked that they emulate it through group projects.  At one point he sent out 70 on a mission assignment and then called them to come back and debrief their experience.  At the end of his earthly ministry his disciples were ready.   Before he ascended into heaven, he finally authorized and deployed them to go and take the gospel into all the world.  They had clarity, developed competency, and now was given control to carry out what he called them to accomplish – the Great Commission.  The goal of leadership is not to take and wield control, but to call others to join you to successfully achieve worthy goals as a team.  A leader is successful when they provide a clear mission for the team, developing sufficient competencies within team members, so together they have confidence and control to accomplish the tasks the group has been purposed with.  Eventually the hope would be that those you develop and deploy will turn around and do the same for others. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Leadership – Leading Others

Last week I shared the principle that effective leadership starts with first learning how to lead yourself, and that begins by learning how to first be a follower.  The next level of leadership is learning how to lead another person – one on one. This is the level of one disciple making another disciple.  This is what Paul was demonstrating when he said, “Follow me as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1). And this is what Jesus has called us to do in the Great Commission – be a disciple who makes disciples.  Learning to lead others is key to faithfully fulfilling Christ’s command.  While it may seem difficult it often happens more naturally than one might think.   Parents lead their children, husbands lead their wives, friends lead friends.  While there are a number of skills one can grow in to grow as a leader of others, I will focus on just three – listen, learn, and love.  Good leaders are good listeners, they not only hear what others are saying but actively listening for what is really being communicated, keying in on and identifying the needs and concerns of those they lead.  Leaders are learners, they next study and research to be prepared to bring timely truth, useful ideas and relevant resources to pass on to those they are leading.  And finally, leaders are those who truly love those they are helping.  This is the heart and soul of effective leadership.  Love for the Lord and love for our neighbor is the “why” in our motivation to lead others.  It is the reason we put the needs of others before our own.  It’s the reason we desire to see others reach the potential God has placed in them and called us to help draw out.  What a tremendous honor and privilege it is to be used of the Lord to lead others to become followers of Jesus and grow more and more like Him!  – Dr. Gary Mathes

Leadership – Leading Self

One of the things I can assure you of – there are lots of books and resources out there on leadership.  Understandably, it is a topic that draws a lot of interest because it is so needed.  If you Google leadership, or still go to bookstores, you will find a plethora of books giving you all the keys, principles, laws and secrets to leadership.  I have read many of them as I’m sure you have.  Yet one of the best sources of learning to lead well is – Jesus.  I appreciate and have learned much from authors like Collins, Kotter, Covey, Maxwell, Lencioni, and many others, but I would rather learn to lead like Jesus. And one of the first lessons of leadership is learning how to follow.  The best leaders are followers.  And to follow well is to practice self-denial and submission.  Jesus demonstrated this and in speaking to the Jewish leaders told them, “…I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:28-29). Jesus set the example of leading under the direction and will of the Father.  He asked the same of his followers. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).  To lead others, we must first lead ourselves in the sense of yielding our wills to the will of the Father.   Letting Jesus lead us is key.  And when we allow that we can do so with the confidence that the work Jesus began in us, he will complete – making us more Christ-like.  And when we become more Christ-like we can then say as the apostle Paul did – Follow me as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1). 
– Dr. Gary Mathes

Adaptive Leadership

I recently finished the book Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger.  The author shares how Lewis and Clark had to adapt their leadership strategy to accomplish the mission they had been given from President Thomas Jefferson.  Hoping to find a water way to use from the Mississippi to the Pacific they instead ran into the Rocky Mountains causing them to change how they travel.  Bolsinger extracts several leadership principles that we as Christian leaders can learn from. We have been called to carry out a noble and lofty mission as leaders of Christ’s church.  Yet today we find ourselves living in a rapidly changing world and radically different culture.  While the mission has not changed, how we carry it out has. It requires adapting as leaders to discover and learn what is needed and necessary to effectively accomplish the call to take the gospel into all the world.  With this in mind, beginning Monday, May 9, I am launching a pastor’s cohort.  We will be reading through the book: Canoeing the Mountains by Bolsinger to learn together the principles of adaptive leadership.  This will be a six-session cohort that will meet on Mondays from noon to 1:30 pm every two weeks.  Cost is $10.00 for the initial lunch and book.  If interested, please contact the CPBA office at cpba@clayplatteba.org.  This is a great opportunity to gather with peers, to learn and encourage one another, and one I hope you will take advantage of.  – Dr. Gary Mathes

Rejoicing in the Resurrection

This coming Sunday you will be celebrating the wonder of all wonders – the joy and hope of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we recount the death of our Savior on the cross as an atonement for our sin, his burial in a garden tomb, we rejoice in the truth that it wasn’t the end of the story. We celebrate that the stone that sealed his sepulcher was rolled away, the tomb was empty, his binding grave garments were unoccupied, and so there would be no question or confusion, Jesus himself appeared to many of his disciples very much alive and well. And over 2,000 years later we sing with the host of brothers and sisters in our two counties, our nation and around the world songs of joy and proclamation that our Savior has risen from the grave, defeated death and reigns as Lord and King. “Up from the grave he arose! With a mighty triumph o’er his foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain and He lives forever with his saints to reign. Hallelujah! Christ arose!” May the power, hope, and joy of the resurrection fill your hearts this coming Sunday as together we raise our voices high announcing to all the world the good news that Jesus has overcome sin and death and calls on everyone everywhere to repent and believe for the forgiveness of sins and the hope of everlasting life. To God be the glory! -Dr. Gary Mathes

Watershed Question

I recently shared with a few churches the concept of a church lifecycle bell curve.  It demonstrates the growth, maturation, plateau and decline most churches often experience.  When a congregation self discovers that it has plateaued or is experiencing decline, there is an important question the leaders need to ask.  The essential watershed query is, “Are your best days in the past, or are they yet ahead?” This is a pivotal and revealing question. The answer reveals the difference between operating from nostalgia or with a new vision, between future growth or continued stagnation and decline.  It is dangerous to live in the glory days of past success if it leads us to simply rest and lose our passion for current and future work.  While it is good and encouraging to celebrate what God has accomplished through our service in the past, churches nevertheless need to keep their focus future oriented because the fields are still ripe, and the harvest is not complete.  We cannot afford to turn inward and simply focus on ourselves, we must intentionally keep our focus outward to reach those who are yet not saved.  Let’s keep spurring each other on in the work our Lord has called us to – fulfilling the Great Commission until He comes again.  Indeed, our best days are yet ahead! – Dr. Gary Mathes

Resilience

I recently have been learning and teaching on the idea of resilience, i.e., the ability and strength to bounce back.  In life and in ministry we often experience the body slams of trouble and tribulation.  Jesus told us we would face these experiences but adds, “But take heart I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).   When we face hardships and difficulties, we can either break like an egg or bounce like a ball. The difference is how well we have prepared for the storms of life and how strong is our faith in the Jesus – the ultimate resilience warrior.  If anyone has ever showed us how to bounce back, it is our Lord.  Crucified, dead, and buried, but on the third day rose again.  And no one showed us better as a mere mortal how faith in Jesus is the key to resilience than the Apostle Paul.  In Romans 8 he reminds us that God is for us and that not even tribulation, distress, death, persecution, danger or any other thing can stand up against the love of God, that in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (v.37).  With such confidence in Christ, Paul would declare that we are afflicted but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-10). On our own it is impossible to overcome the trials of life and the assaults from our enemy.  But God has given us Christ as our example, the Spirit as our strength, the Word as our guide, and the communion of saints as our companion in the storms and in the battle.  Let us draw upon what God has provided and learn to lean on each other, and together we can walk in the victory Christ has accomplished on our behalf. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Healthy Targets

Healthy Structures – Discipleship

This week I share the ninth and final target for healthy churches – Discipleship.  The three targets under the category Healthy Structures are Leadership, Membership, and Discipleship.  As Baptist we are people who have been champions at pointing to the Great Commission as our purpose and mandate.  Jesus gave us the holy order to “Go, make disciples…,” baptizing and teaching them until he returns.  From evangelizing the lost to building up the saints, churches are called to make disciples, and healthy churches will have intentional strategies and structures to involve people in discipleship no matter where they are on their spiritual journey.  Every church needs to have a sequential pathway of discipleship for their members to walk and journey together on.  What system does your congregation have in place to lead someone far from God to faith in Jesus Christ, to grow mature in the faith, equipped to serve in the Body, and able to be a disciple-maker themselves?  As one church put it, “Our purpose is to turn atheist into missionaries for Jesus.”  That doesn’t happen by accident but by intentionality and design. Methods are plentiful today, but my favorite is what Paul modeled and wrote for Timothy to follow.  “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). The key question of discipleship is not how much have you learned, but how much have you passed it on to others?  Healthy churches have a clear understanding and strategy for making disciples and support it with intentional leadership and resources to implement it well.  Let us encourage one another in our efforts to reach people for Jesus and then lead them to gather, grow, give, and go for the glory of God and expansion of His kingdom. – Dr. Gary Mathes