Leaders Are Encouragers

encouragement

Spiritual leaders must speak faith into the lives of people.  The last thing anyone needs is one more critic, skeptic or doubter.  We don’t exist as leaders to be dream killers but rather to be faith speakers.  Life offers enough discouragement.  As leaders, our job is to offer the encouragement people need to scale the impossible mountains of life.

We see this played our brilliantly in the Scriptures through a man named Hezekiah, who was the King of Judah.  In 2 Chronicles 32, we read about Hezekiah’s battle with Sennacherib, the king of Assyria.  Sennacherib had invaded Judah and was encamped around Jerusalem preparing his final, and seemingly unstoppable, attack.  The citizens of Jerusalem were in a terrified panic.  Hezekiah stepped into the crisis with these words:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him.  With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.

– 2 Chronicles 32:7-8

Let’s be clear.  This isn’t the sentimental drivel of the average pep talk.  Hezekiah isn’t aiming for a bunch of #ibelievethatwewillwin retweets.  He’s not blind to the desperation of the situation.  Nor is he telling them to think happy thoughts and just picture the victory in their minds.  Hezekiah’s too good of a leader for any of that.

Instead, he shows us what true encouragement looks like.  He’s leading his people to anchor their hope in the presence and the promises of God.  Yahweh is with His people. He’s mightier than the Assyrian army.  He longs to help.  Jerusalem’s hope isn’t their strength, strategy or savvy.  It’s their Savior.

We find encouragement when we find the faith to believe God will fight our battles for us. Leaders, we need to offer our people the hope of Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  When faced with crisis, people don’t need a pep talk.  They need a call to worship.

Leaders, let’s not settle for the hollow encouragement that sounds more like wishful thinking.  Let’s speak boldly and powerfully to our people.  The promises of God are sure.  The presence of God is steady.  The power of God knows no limits.

We all need someone to lift our eyes from the crisis to the hills.  Praise God that when we do, we see the glory of the One who fought for us on the cross and fights for us today.

Fear, Faith & Church Planting

If you want a crash course in how messed up your heart is, plant a church.

It’s a sure fire way to surface all kinds of fear, anger and despair you had yet to uncover. When I look back on my last six months as a church planting resident with The Summit Network, I realize just how much I’ve had to confront in my own heart. I wish I could tell you those confrontations with self were always easy, quick and painless but that’s just not the way it works for me. I can be a frustratingly slow learner. But Jesus has been faithful and I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned for anything.

Like most church planters, I’m an optimistic visionary at heart. I love big dreams, inspiring visions and thoughts of what the future can and should look like. I live in the world of what’s possible and I love to paint that picture for people. And I really love it when other people buy into the vision.

But when they don’t, all kinds of chaos threatens to break out in my heart. Whether it’s someone not joining our launch team or someone not contributing financially or someone just seeming a little bored as I’m laying out my dream, I don’t always handle the rejection well. Fear, anger and despair are right there to plant their little questions. Maybe my vision stinks? Maybe we’ll go broke and my son will starve? Maybe the reason this person isn’t more excited is because they’re a totally selfish jerk who doesn’t love Jesus? Maybe I’m not a good leader? Maybe Summit needs to fix their assessment process and weed out guys like me? And on and on and on…

All of that junk comes from a lack of belief in the promises of Jesus to us through the gospel. He really did promise to build His church. (Mt. 16:18) The Father really is glorified when we bear fruit. (Jn. 15:8) He knows every one of our weaknesses and promises sufficient grace. (2 Cor. 12:9) No plan of His can be thwarted. (Job 42:2) And on and on and on…

I get worked up when I think this whole thing rests on my shoulders. I’m tempted to shrink my vision, lower my dreams and downsize my hopes. I’m tempted to cave to the fear, anger and despair that constantly lurks. But when I remember Jesus, I’m okay with the uncertainty and the setbacks. When I remember Him, I’m filled with hope for what God is going to do.

Planting Restoration City has forced me to learn how to fight fear with faith. Maybe God will use a church plant to do the same in your life or maybe He’ll use something else. Either way, I’m convinced it’s a lesson he wants all of us to learn.