Elder, Encourage Thyself!

Elder, Encourage Thyself

Encouragement is a commodity in short supply. While not alone in needing this, a leader of God’s people more than others can readily relate to David’s experience: “David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Sam 30:6 NASB). Hopefully, this is not the elder’s usual experience, but there are times when the task seems overly daunting.

The word translated “strengthen” in the NASB, is rendered in the KJV as “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” The underlying Hebrew word carries both connotations—“to encourage by adding courage or strength.” The great leader and motivator of God’s people, David, had his down times! In the context of our passage, his followers were embittered by the ransacking of their camp by the Amalekites and were ready to stone him! When bad stuff happens, blame the leader. Can you relate, elder?

When I think of discouragement (speaking from experience) I think of that state of being where enthusiasm for stepping into the future is nullified by present perceptions of opposition, failure, uselessness or ineffectiveness. This is often accompanied by a loss of hope for being a choice (or at least an acceptable) vessel of service for the Lord. So the question is pertinent, how does an elder encourage himself? Here are some helpful ways.

Look to God’s word

Scripture contains stories of Godly leaders, many of whom struggled with discouragement. We learn two things from reading about them: 1) we discover we are not unique in our struggles and 2) we can learn from how they dealt with emotionally debilitating  circumstances. The book of Hebrews includes chapter 11, the “Hall of Faith” as some have termed it. These were godly men who endured many adverse situations and did not give up. Meditating on passages like this has a cathartic effect for the discouraged leader.

Review past working of God in your life

God often told Israel to look back at past rescues from oppression and failure. The Passover, for example, continually reminded them that God saves His people from hardship when they follow Him. Piles of rocks set up as monuments were constructed to remind future generations of great activities of God. So, as those who struggle to serve the Lord and lead His people, we do well to remember the many times when our God worked in our past situations.

Some make use of a journal that they can readily review. I personally like to keep what I call “an encouragement file.”  This contains letters of appreciating, thanks or otherwise reminders of how God has used me in someone’s life. Such things are not kept for gregarious shows, as being framed and displayed for all to see. Rather they are simply private reminders of God’s faithfulness in using me in some small ways. They are simply reminders, like putting a stone monument by the river’s edge.

Sometimes, my wife and I will purposely reminisce. When she is discouraged I will remember for her by bringing up past victories in her ministry. And she does the same for me. Photo albums are helpful in this remembering, and can be a means of encouragement when the need arises. 

Share your discouragements

Find a trusted friend or accountability partner with whom you can share your discouragements and disappointments. I am thinking here of someone who is a good listener and not too quick to provide a solution. This can be difficult for men because we seem programmed to always see problems as things to be solved.  Discouragement is not always resolved like that. We often know the Scriptures that apply. What we need often is not a lecture but encouragement, someone who can come along side and add “courage” or “strength.”

However, this means becoming vulnerable on two fronts: 1) we must humble ourselves by admitting when we are discourage, which can expose us to the possible misguided condescension of other leaders, and 2) we need to accept the encouragement God brings through others, knowing that there will be a time when we may be called upon to encourage that other person. We need to develop the ability to trust and to be vulnerable with each other.

Talk to yourself

In the duplex of Psalms 42 & 43, David three times asks himself, “Why are you in despair, O my soul. And why have you become disturbed within me?” He wrestles through his thoughts and emotions, and each time he responds with a firm rebuke, “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him. The help of my countenance and my God.”  Sometimes we need to not only listen our thoughts and feelings, but we need to then rebuke ourselves with the right way to think. We need to choose to put our thoughts back on God and the hope He promises. 

Encourage others

One of the best ways for dealing with discouragement is to actively, willfully go out of our way to encourage others (1 Thess 5:11). In the end, discouragement results from the introspective activity of focusing on our ourselves too much. The best cure is to focus on others (Phil 2:4). 

Pray

I have not mentioned prayer until now because most Christians know its importance and probably do it instinctively. My sense is that most of us probably feel that to seek encouragement in any other way than prayer may be a sign of spiritual immaturity. If we have the Lord, why should we need these other things? My response, in all honesty, is that these “other things” are frequently the answers to prayer as I lay out my struggle before the Lord. If I believe He will answer my prayer, then I should set my heart on looking expectantly for His help in whatever way He provides.

Be Authentic

Finally, discouragement is not a sign of spiritual immaturity, unless we are prepared to describe David in those terms. Actually, presenting ourselves as never needing encouragement means we want others to see us as self-sufficient and not needing the help of other believers. At best we are being inauthentic, at worst deceptive. We all struggle with discouragement at times. Maybe, just maybe, sharing our struggles may be the very thing that helps someone else live an authentic life!

Often, no one will encourage you. Like David you must learn to encourage yourself, to strengthen yourself.  So I conclude, “Elder, encourage thyself!” You are the Lord’s Servant, you are called to be faithful. Do not sin by refusing to believe His word: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Keep looking up. Keep looking outward not inward. God still has a work for you to do, by His mercy. Keep doing it, by His grace.

Chuck Gianotti

Did You Know?

Did You know

… that BER has a series of lessons on How to Prepare a Sermon, from start to finish. We begin with an explanation of the biblical qualification, “apt to teach.” Then we cover developing a strategy, the call to study, exegesis, structure, and delivery.  We even show you how to develop a five year teaching plan, complete with a sample laid out for you. And this teaching is all in 15 minutes (or less) segments, so you can fit it into your busy schedule. Check it out here.


Did You Know

… about the BER Simulcast Conference coming up Saturday, Oct 15.

Why not host a satellite site, so you can participate along with others right there where you are? No long distance travel or expensive overnight accommodations. We have the plan, we have the structure, we provide the teaching (via live video feed) and we provide the graphics and participant handouts. You provide the place, the promotion for your area, the food and local organization. Easy! But the benefit to you and others will be significant!

This conference could affect the spiritual well-being of your church
by helping build up the shepherds and leaders of God’s people.

Check out the details here.

Now is not too early to begin planning.
It’s only 2-1/2 months away! Saturday, October 15, 2016

PS: The live site program stream will be available to all time zones through Video Delay Replay.
That means if you are on the other side of the world from the live site … 
you can join us via a planned streaming delay to suit your time zone!

 

Elder Training Programs

BER is pleased to announce three new and revised structured training programs for elder and other leaders in the church. At the heart of each is preparation for spiritual leadership and shepherding of God’s people.  One study is a survey a key doctrines that every elder must know, a second plan is based on the workbook “Biblical Eldership: A Study  Guide” and the third program is a robust one to two year program for thorough preparation for the man of  God who would become a shepherd of His people. Check out the details here.

We’re Live – New BER Site!

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 10.44.42 AMCheck out the new BER website! We went live this morning.  In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be sending you information about the new navigation and new features. We think you will like it all and find it much more user friendly (although for some, change will not be easy!) As always, please send us your comments, errors your find, broken links, etc. Help us make this site better.

Yours as a fellow vessel of mercy,

Chuck Gianotti (on behalf of the BER team of Alex Strauch, Bob Deffinbaugh, Kevin Fitzgerald, Viji Roberts, Dave Anderson, Jay Brady)

175,000 New Christians Per Day

“It is estimated that if all the Bible Colleges and seminaries around the world were operating at 120% of capacity, they would meet less than 10% of the need for Biblical training. If you can imagine, you need one leader for every 100 people . . . according to Christianity Today 175,000 people a day are coming to Christ around the world. Let’s just say 100,000. That means you need 1,000 people [leaders] a day, or 365,000 a year, or in ten years you need 10 million. Right now it is estimated that there are 5-6 million pastors and church leaders that have no access at all to any kind of Biblical training. According to statistics, the vast majority of people [over 80%] that come to the west for theological training stay here.” Jody Dillow of “Biblical Education by Extension”

Biblical Eldership Resources provides the key to helping meet the need for training elders, pastors and church leaders throughout the world. Our particular focus is raising up ordinary men who will be equipped to shepherd God’s people by using training that is globally available, easily accessible, educationally sound, self-reproducing, and biblically based. It is a huge task and we are partnering with other training ministries around the world to help meet the need. The need is there.

If you believe in the ministry of BER, then I would encourage you to consider helping financially to support this ministry. We are dependent completely on the Lord working through His people.  Your gift will be doubled by a matching grant. The sky’s the limit on what can be accomplished. Our goal is to equip a new generation of elders who will in turn equip the next generation of elders in shepherding God’s people. BER is simply the catalyst. Won’t you join us in your prayers and in your financial support? Donate here.

 

 

Are You A Marked Elder?

Modern business and sports gurus talk about being a marked leader, having the mindset of a forward thinker, being a big picture individual, a visionary, a leader of leaders, and the list goes on. I’ve attended my share of leadership summits, seminars and conferences. These can be beneficial, but do we sometimes miss the heart of spiritual leadership amid the spiritually-coated leadership principles mostly borrowed from the business world? Perhaps we should recall that Jesus contrasted Gentile leadership with spiritual leadership (Matthew 20:25-28). Early on in my “career” of being a shepherd of God’s people, someone asked me this oft-quoted question from sages of years gone by (forgive me if my memory fails to quote it accurately): “Does you heart break with the things that break God’s heart?”

The church does not need great leaders. The church needs godly leaders, whose hearts are knit together with God’s heart! Forgive me for dicing the pickles here, but this is a significant distinction. A great leader without a godly heart will never accomplish great things for God—because those great things that he devises will not be the things God desires. Let me explain by looking at an obscure Old Testament passage:

“Then the glory of the God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case. The Lord said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.’ ” (Ezekiel 9:3–4) “ …  Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple …”  (10:18).

By any reasonable assessment Israel had failed, and God removed his Shekinah glory, the ultimate symbol of His presence, from the temple. Did anyone notice, did anyone care? Yes, there were some whose hearts were broken, who “sigh[ed] and groan[ed]” over the unholiness among God’s people. The clear implication is that the vast majority carried on without feeling any weight of grief or burden at all, because they looked to external things for their glory. The Lord noticed and singularly marked out those few who really understood God’s glory and the tragedy of His presence departing from the temple.

I wonder if that is what weighed the apostle Paul down when he wrote: “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:28)?  The word “pressure” can be translated, “anxiety, worry, care.” Paul was driven by his concern for God’s people, not for projects or the quantity of bodies gathered, but for the quality of souls in the living Church of God for whom Christ shed his blood.  He was not focused on the size or the expansion of his ministries by which he might measure his personal successes. Clearly Paul was burdened over God’s people, and the desire for the glory of God to be fully manifest in them. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).

A godly heart comes out of a love for the things that our Lord loves. Such was the heart of the shepherd turned king, for God called him “a man after my heart” (Acts 13:22, see 1 Sam 13:14).  That should be the heart of an elder in the church. Anything that falls short of God’s glory in the lives of his followers weighs down the heart of a godly shepherd and motivates him to care for the people of  God.  That’s what marks him out in God’s eyes.

What marks you out as a godly leader?  What’s in your heart today.