#186: What Do You Say When Someone Asks, “What Do You Do?”

“What do you do?” You’ve probably been asked and answered this question dozens of times. It’s a standard icebreaker question at parties, networking events, conferences, meetings, and more.

Seed, Farmer

For many years, my answer would be along the lines of, “I am a sales manager.” Later in my career, the answer might have been “I am a marketing manager.”

More recently, after I retired for three months, the answer was “I am a student in seminary.” Then it was, “I am a minister.” By the way, saying I was a minister seemed to end conversations and scare off the most people!

These days, when asked, I will usually say, “I am an author. I write two blogs; one about leadership and the other a Bible study.”

A few weeks ago, I had an epiphany, a head slap moment, when I realized that’s only part of the answer. The real answer to the question of what I do is, “I am a farmer, I plant seeds.”

And here’s the thing. If you are a Christian, so are you! You’re a farmer. You plant seeds. Or at least you should if you are following Jesus’ command to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

I plant the seeds of the Word of God. Sometimes I get to water the seed, sometimes someone else does. Regardless of who plants or who waters, it is up to God to make the seed grow (1 Corinthians 3:6).

These days we tend to think the job of the Christian farmer to plant the seeds of the Word of God and water them is best left to the “professionals.” The folks in full-time ministry; our pastors.

Farming is Not Just for the Professionals!

In my experience, people who believe planting and watering are best left to professionals believe one of two things:

1) Jesus gave the Great Commission to the disciples so it doesn’t apply to us, ordinary people. Wrongo! Jesus said when you receive the Holy Spirit, you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

2) Only those who have “the gift of evangelism” are obligated to be witnesses. Baloney! Jesus never said only certain people should be witnesses. Returning to Acts 1:8, Jesus said everyone who believes will be a witness.

4 Reasons You Should Be a Farmer

1) The command to witness was given to all believers (Acts 1:8). Paul, writing to the Corinthians said we are all ambassadors for Christ (1 Corinthians 5:18-20).

2) In the early church, ordinary believers were witnesses. When Saul was persecuting the church, Luke notes that as the new believers scattered they went preaching the Good News (Acts 8:4).

3) We all have a stewardship responsibility. We have been given the gift of salvation through faith in Christ. Jesus specifically told us not to hide our light under a basket but to let it shine before men (Matthew 5:15-16).

4) Farming is part of the “work” of the ministry. Paul, writing to the Ephesians (4:12), said the spiritual gifts were given to equip the saints for ministry and in this list of gifts Paul included the gift of evangelism.

Not Every Planted Seed Will Grow

By now I hope you are willing to say, “I am a farmer” because you plant the seeds of the Word of God.

Our responsibility is to plant the seed. As Jesus said, while teaching the disciples, the seed will be sown on four kinds of soil (Matthew 13:18-23):

  • The path. Satan took away the seed sown on the path.
  • Rocky soil. The hearer hears and receives the Word but has no root and dies from pressure or persecution.
  • Among the thorns. The hearer hears but is worried about the cares of the world and the Word is choked out.
  • Good soil. The hearer hears and bears fruit yielding an increase over what was sown.

Note that most of the seed that is sown bears no fruit. There is nothing wrong with the seed. The issue is with the soil it is sown in.

Leaders Lead by Example

There is no Biblical exclusion that releases leaders in the workplace from the responsibility of being responsible stewards of God’s Word.

Leaders lead by example. Therefore, let your light shine before men! And the next time someone asks, “What do you do?” you may say to yourself, “I am a farmer and I plant the seeds of the Word of God.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Do you see yourself as a farmer responsible for planting and watering the seed of the Good News? Do you let your light shine before men so others see it and are drawn to Christ?

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Category: Personal Development | Obedience to God

#179: Are You in the Right Ministry Role?

I recently had the pleasure of reading Sustainable Church – Growing Ministry Around the Sheep, Not just the Shepherds, by Dr. Walt Russell.

Ministry Role, Spiritual Gifts

Full disclosure, Dr. Russell was one of my professors at Talbot Seminary. When I learned about the release of his new book I ordered it immediately and waited anxiously for the two days it took Amazon to deliver it to me.

In his new book, Dr. Russell describes the shallowness that permeates many of the western churches. Our traditional way of doing church is flawed in two ways:

1) We rely on professional ministers to meet all our needs, and in so doing, saddle them with unrealistic expectations which they cannot possibly meet.

2) The professional “clergy” are the primary gatekeepers of the church’s ministry activities. Often, the ministries of the church follow the vision and passions of the pastor without regard to the spiritual gifting of the members of the church.

These churches, says Russell, are non-organic and unsustainable. They are unsustainable because they rely on professional clergy who cannot possibly meet the needs of everyone inside the church. Neither can they meet the needs of people outside the church. Overall, the American church with its bureaucracy, policies, and traditions has drifted far from the original intent of Jesus, our Chief Shepherd.

By contrast, Russell describes the sustainable church as one in which every member is engaged in ministry. The individual’s ministry is shaped by their spiritual gifts, or as Russell prefers, “grace-gifts.” A church is sustainable when every member is engaged in ministry that leverages the spiritual gifts of the member.

For every member to be engaged in ministry that leverages their spiritual gifts they first must know what their gifts are. Right?! Sadly, only 10-20% of God’s people know what their gifts are, let alone leverage them in their ministry.

The first step in creating a sustainable church is to help people learn about spiritual gifts in general and to know what their gifts are. This, says Russell, is best determined through:

1) Prayer.

2) Studying the gifts themselves.

3) Determining what gifts fulfill you the most.

4) What abilities are confirmed by other believers? And,

5) What ministry work is God blessing in your life?

After reading Sustainable Church I took advantage of the spiritual gifts assessment that Dr. Russell created and makes available (free) at Sustainablechurch.org. Each of the 19 spiritual gifts is scored with the highest scores indicating areas that may be your spiritual gifts.

It turns out I may be an “LPTA.” My top scoring gifts were:

1) Leadership (Romans 12:8).

2) Pastor-Teacher (Ephesians 4:11).

3) Teacher (Romans 12:7) Note: Pastor-Teacher and Teacher were tied.

4) Administration (2 Corinthians 12:28).

After that, my scores fell off dramatically.

Having the scores is a good first step. But to really understand my specific spiritual gifts I must continue the discovery process by praying for guidance and wisdom, seeking confirmation from other believers, and seeing what ministry work God blesses in my life.

It is not enough to know what our spiritual gifts are; we must do them! Imagine what would happen in the church today if every believer knew what their spiritual gifts were, and were actively pursuing ministry opportunities that leveraged those gifts.

James exhorted fellow believers saying evidence of their faith in Jesus is demonstrated by their willingness to do ministry work (James 3:14).

Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? If not, or if you are unsure, get a copy of Sustainable Church, read it, and then complete the spiritual gifts assessment.

Next, confirm your gifts through prayer, confirmation from other believers, and God blessing your ministry work.

Above all, DO the work the Lord has equipped you to do. Leverage your spiritual gifts. When you do, you will be blessed beyond measure.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? Are you doing the work the Lord has equipped you to do?

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Category: Personal Development | Obedience to God

#152: The Handsome Farmer Who Got Fired for Stealing and Lying

Once upon a time in a land far, far away lived a handsome young farmer and his beautiful wife. They had a Perfect Boss, who had given them the responsibility and authority to care for the Boss’s garden.

Handsome Farmer

Until one fateful day when a particularly sneaky fellow came into the garden. This sneaky fellow was charming and charismatic. He convinced the young farmer and his wife that their Boss wasn’t perfect; that He had deceived them.

This sneaky fellow caused them to doubt the word of their perfect Boss, and even to rebel against Him. The handsome farmer and his wife stole from their perfect Boss, and then when He confronted them about their actions they lied to Him.

When the Boss discovered their treachery, he cursed them, fired them, kicked them out of the garden, and even posted guards to make sure they didn’t try to renter the garden.

The handsome young farmer’s name was Adam, and his wife’s name was Eve. Adam and Eve had a perfect deal going working for God, the Perfect Boss.

God had given them the responsibility and authority to care for His garden. They could eat any of the food from anywhere in the garden except they were not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Satan came along and tempted Adam and Eve. He caused them to doubt God’s word. He twisted God’s words and made them believe a lie about God. He made them think they, not God, knew what was best for them.

The sad result was they lost the intimate communion they had enjoyed with God. They lost the simple life of caring for the garden and having everything provided for them. Instead, they were cursed by God to work for their food, deliver children in pain, and condemned to die.

Breaking their covenant relationship with God was a costly decision made in a moment of temptation, that was based on a lie.

We don’t enjoy the intimate relationship that Adam and Eve had with God as they walked together in the Garden. But we are not lacking for inspiration from God:

We have His Word. Studying God’s Word provides His guidelines, His principles, and lots of examples for us to learn about Him.

We have the Holy Spirit. When Jesus went back to be with the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to take up residency in our hearts, to be our guide helping us to lead God-honoring lives.

We have the power of prayer. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. He is our mediator, who longs to hear the prayers of His children.

Leaders, be mindful of the ease in which Adam and Eve listened to a lie. They rejected God’s best and had to live with that fateful decision for the rest of their lives. It takes only a moment of weakness to cause a lifetime of heartache.

There are two ways of doing things: God’s way, and our way. The closer we align our way to God’s way the better off we will be.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. As a leader, have you struggled with times when you were tempted to do things your way, knowing God’s way was better? What was the result? How do you stay connected to God to insure your decisions align with God?

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Category: Personal Development |Obedience to God

#138: Should We Stand Against Authority?

Are there times when we, as Christians, should stand against authority?  Let’s consider a few examples.

Supreme Court Building

Should a Christian stand up for the life of the unborn against abortion? Most Christians believe that life begins at conception, that God created each of us unique with a special purpose in life.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Proverbs 139:13

Should a Christian stand up for racial equality and against discrimination? Most Christians believe that racial discrimination is inherently wrong.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Should Christians stand up for Biblical truth against the World’s truth? Most Christians believe that what God gives us in His Word, the Bible, is truth because He is truth.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Now it is this last one that causes heartburn for the majority of Christians. What does it mean to stand up for Biblical truth against the truth of the World?

Daniel and the Veggies

Let’s look at two examples from one of my favorite Old Testament Bible characters. Daniel. Daniel was a teenager, perhaps about 15 years old, when he was exiled to Babylon along with some other young men. They were to enter a three-year training program and then be placed into the service of King Nebuchadnezzar.

The king provided rich foods and wine for all the trainees, but Daniel and his three friends did not want to defile themselves by eating the king’s rich food. They wanted to obey the Law that God had given them regarding their diet.

So Daniel explained the situation to the chief steward and asked if he could be allowed to eat vegetables and drink water instead of wine. The chief steward was rightfully concerned that if Daniel didn’t look healthy the king would have his head. So Daniel proposed a 10-day test and at the end of 10-days the chief steward could judge if he looked healthy. God blessed Daniel and his decision. At the end of 10 days he looked healthier than those who ate the king’s food, so he and his friends were allowed to continue eating vegetables.

Daniel stood against authority when it would have been far easier and safer to just go along with the king’s program.

Daniel and the Lion’s Den

Most of us know the story of Daniel and the lion’s den. Daniel, now an old man, was still in captivity in Babylon, which was under the rule of King Darius the Mede.

Daniel had risen in the ranks of government service. He was one of three provincial presidents over the kingdom. He reported directly to the king.

Jealous men conspired to discredit Daniel, but they could find nothing to discredit him because he was always honest. So they tricked the king into signing an edict forbidding prayer to any god or man other than king. The punishment for violating this edict was to be cast into the lion’s den. The king signed the order making it a law for thirty days.

Daniel, knowing the edict had been signed, continued to pray to God by his open window facing the temple in Jerusalem three times a day. When the king was confronted with Daniel’s actions he was beside himself realizing how he had been manipulated.

He carried out the demanded punishment and had Daniel thrown into the lion’s den. The Lord sent an angel to protect Daniel that night. The following morning the king ran to the lion’s den and was relieved to find Daniel still alive. He promoted Daniel and issued another law that no one was to speak against the Most High God whom Daniel served.

Daniel’s Lessons in Standing against Authority

Here are four lessons we can take away from Daniel’s stand against authority.

  • Daniel’s heart was devoted to God. Even though he was young Daniel knew God’s law and was fully devoted to God. Daniel 1:8 says Daniel resolved in his mind not to defile himself, because he did not want to violate God’s law. Jesus said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” Mark 12:30
  • Daniel was gracious to the authorities. Daniel was not argumentative or mean spirited when stating his position. The Bible says, When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” Proverbs 16:7.
  • Daniel was prepared for the consequences. Daniel knew the king’s edict prohibiting prayer had been signed, yet he kept his habit of praying to God, knowing what would happen. Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6.
  • Daniel trusted in God. Daniel fully trusted in God even at the moment of being lowered into the lion’s den. Solomon wrote, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5.

If there is a situation in which you feel led to stand against an authority in order to remain true to God remember Daniel’s example: be sure the motivation is a heart fully devoted to God, remain gracious to those in authority, be prepared for the consequences, and trust God that He will never abandon you.

Join the Conversation

What do you think? Are there situations occurring today where we, like Daniel, should stand against authority that conflicts with God’s Law?

 

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Category: Personal Development | Obedience to God

 

#127: What Liberal Cancer is Killing Leadership around the World?

There is a cancer epidemic spreading around the world. This cancer is not the kind an oncologist can treat. No amount of radiation or poisonous chemotherapy will stop it.

Matthew 10:22, cancer

What is this cancer you ask? It is the cancer of moral relativism. Moral relativism has been spreading around the world for hundreds of years. It spread like wildfire throughout Europe during the Enlightenment Era of the 1600 and 1700’s, crossed the pond, and came to America where by the 1800 and 1900’s it was known as ‘Modernism.’

Regardless of the era or the philosophical name, the idea was to focus more on man becoming the source of knowledge to guide behavior in society. For that to happen, God had to take a back seat. That is when the cancer of moral relativism reared its ugly head.

God, through His Word, set the standard for morality. For man to establish a moral standard, he had to reject God’s standard. The trouble with man’s standard of morality is that different people, from different cultures, have different cultural norms, and they all think they are right. The moral relativist says no one standard of morality is right for all people, at all times, and in all places.

The impact of moral relativism is easily seen among our political leaders. For many, their primary objective is to keep their jobs by being re-elected. They will do or say anything to broaden their appeal to their constituents.

That’s why a legislative leader who was against abortion a few years ago has suddenly had his/her position ‘evolve’ to now be accepting of abortion under the guise of being ‘tolerant.’  God’s standard of morality was cast aside to make room for the moral standard of some activists.

The exact same thing is happening with the recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion in support of homosexual marriage. God’s standard of morality was cast aside to make room for the moral standard of some activists.

Lest you think that moral relativism affects only our political leaders take a look at the business world.  In the last few years, quite a few big companies have been in the news as a result of moral relativism: Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, ImClone, Global Crossing, Adelphia, AOL Time Warner, Quest, and Charter Communications to name just a few. These executives all thought their actions were morally justified.

That’s what happens when God’s standard of morality is replaced by man’s standard.

What Can Christian Leaders Do?

There is good news. There is one cure, and one cure only for the cancer of moral relativism and that is to return to God’s standard of morality. Christian leaders, millions of us around the world, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can stop the spread of moral relativism.

  • We must stand firm in our faith. Paul writes that we must be united in our faith with the fullness of Christ, and that then we will, “no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:12-14).
  • We must be a light unto the world. Jesus said our lives must be like a light that brightens a whole room, “in the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
  • We must be prepared for ridicule. Jesus warned the disciples that their message would bring derision, hatred, and persecution, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:21-23).

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Has moral relativism impacted you in your business? If so, in what way?

 

Category: Personal Development | Obedience to God