Category Archives: REFLECTIONS

What Is Jesus Doing?: Church Leadership in the Family of God


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Recently on LinkedIn, I received an invitation from a Christian Leader who is thought to be at the forefront of leadership today. Among believers, his name would bring instant recognition. This popular author and leader is calling together pastors to instruct them in church leadership techniques and values.

I received my “personal” invitation today. I emphasize “personal” because though it was addressed to me by first name, it was a bulk invitation. But that’s another issue for another time. Simply tuck away the question: Should believers–the people of Truth–give the impression they’re being personal when in reality, they are not at all. Does this flirt with deception? I suspect, but am not certain myself. At the least it is manipulative.

Though I was grateful for the “personal”  invitation, I had to decline. I was invited to share my reason for declining. This is what I wrote:

Jesus led a family, not an organization. The leadership styles and values of an institution are, with few exceptions, polar opposites to those of a Family. Thanks, but I want to continue to learn from Jesus how to model the life of a compassionate father.

Thank you for the invitation anyhow.

Though I know this could come across as “holier-than-thou,” I have to express my genuine concern for the body of Christ and its “leaders”. I’m doing that here and now.

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Years ago a campaign was run entitled “What would Jesus do?” WWJD was stamped on everything from bracelets, to pens, to stickers and bibles. The idea was that whenever you considered something you would be reminded to ask the question “What Would Jesus Do?”. I want to go beyond WWJD to WIJD (What Is Jesus Doing?). Is Jesus raising up corporate “leaders” to lead His church or is he raising up spiritual fathers and mothers?

I believe that the focus we all have had on Christian Leadership is not wrong or bad, it is imbalanced. It can be very right if you’re leading an organization to focus on corporate leadership. Fortunately, pastors aren’t called to lead organizations. Pastors and other church leaders are called to a different leadership paradigm. We are to model a life of faithfulness and compassion as “Fathers” in the church. We lead, but in a very different spirit.

The need in the church is not for more “leaders” to grease the church-machine and keep it going. The need of the hour is for spiritual fathers and mothers, who understand nurture and character and will develop the intimate relationships that foster such spiritual formation. It all comes down to how you conceive of the nature and structure of the church–Ecclesiology. Is the church intended to be an organization? Or is the church intended to be a Family of families? 

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Notice: the operative phrase is “intended to be.”

We know that the church in the 21st Century has become an institution–an organization. But is that what Jesus intended it to be? Was the Father birthing into the world the world’s greatest institution, or an extension and elaboration of His own Family? Was Father-God raising up CEO’s or “sons of God” (ladies, you are included in the metaphor of son–Rom. 8.24; 1 Jn. 3.1-3)? The answer to this question will determine how you come down on the whole question of Christian leadership and discipleship. The answer to this question may even free you to discover a new way of relating to your brothers and sisters in Christ (if you have experienced new life in Christ).

This is a crucial and immensely practical point. How you decide either places you inside God’s intended purpose for the body or outside His intended purpose for the body of Christ. I’m not talking here about inside or outside of salvation. Nor am I saying that those working inside the institution are not seeing the blessing of God upon their service. Each person has to be effective where God has placed him or her. I’m saying that God will honor faith in almost any context, but in the purposes that He has for the body of Christ and the world, the real blessing and Kingdom fruit will be along the lines of His intended purpose and plan.

QUESTION: What do you think Father intended? CEO’s or Fathers and mothers?

Our Transition to House Church


house-churchWe’re in the very first stages of a transition. New Life Fellowship of Concord, NH was a traditional church that transitioned to a cell church. After ten years as a cell church, we just sold our building in town and are moving and morphing into a house church. We are not doing this intentionally. We’re simply following the Lord. The way we’re meeting has changed as much as the venue is now changing. We’re informal and relational.

Actually, the transition began with the way we worshiped. We added a period of silent waiting upon the Lord immediately following our music worship. And from there, we felt that the Lord wanted us to be less ordered and open up for more involvement by the people. As we invited folks to share what they sensed the Lord doing, we began to see that He was changing our focus.

Now we are hoping that we don’t just fall back on our earlier worship format. We don’t want to become–as one author wrote–“a church service captured by a living room.” We want to explore more fully anything that will draw us closer to our Father and to one another without compromising the Gospel or abandoning worship. But we sense our worship will change. And so will our outreach.

I’m not sure how we will meet without a plan, but the Lord knows; and we’re willing to let Him lead. He is the Head of the church.

We all agree that we’re teetering on the brink of the ministry of Jesus. People who need healing and deliverance are coming to us. We have always desired to have them see Jesus– “To Know Him and To Make Him Known.” We also know that in our age and culture, the only way to lead people to Jesus by demonstrating that He cares about their needs, their hurts, and pains.

I had a seminary professor, J. Christy Wilson. He had been a missionary to the Muslims in Afghanistan for fifteen years. He said once in answer to a question I posed: “You will never win a Muslim with an argument. You will lose every time. But the way they come to Christ is when they see Him heal their children or loved ones. They are won through the manifest compassion of God. Allah cannot heal. Allah does not heal.” Only a power encounter or revelation of Christ will bring Muslims to Christ. I believe that’s true of not only that group but of many modern people groups who have abandoned what they consider dead religion. Unfortunately, they threw out the baby with the bathwater.

Anyhow, I look forward to our first house church meeting this coming Sunday. Yes, we still meet every other Sunday and on off weeks, we meet on Saturday at barbecues to which we invite our friends and family who do not yet know Jesus. One week of outreach followed by one week of worship and prayer for those we love. That seems to be the pattern.

We do not feel that we have the exclusive corner on how to do church right and everyone else is doing it wrong. We feel that every church has a ministry if they want one. They fulfill a purpose that is specifically theirs. We simply believe that this is where God is leading us. And because we love Jesus, we can do nothing better than to follow. Unless of course, we’d rather be a museum than a ministry. Not us. We’re in this for life . . . all the way.

QUESTION: Wonder what God has for us as we abandon our old wineskin for a new one?

 

Are you Led or Pushed?


What a great day! What a beautiful morning. I slept until 9:15. Got up. Showered and shaved. Groomed my beard and hair. And dressed. Then went into the Cave and began a Custom Scan of my Cave computer. After that, I carried the laundry down for Marcy, greeted the ladies in my household, and went to my office downstairs. I made some coffee (haven’t had any yet, turned on the computer, scanned through my emails and answered a couple, then set up for my morning of writing to follow my first cup of coffee and prayer. So far . . . A wonderful, and joyful start to the day.

2013-02-27 10.36.40I love spending quiet, alone time with my Father. That comes with my first cup of coffee. I have a little sitting area, where I light my candle (inviting the Holy Spirit to make me aware of his presence and considering the flame as the ever burning love between me and Jesus). Then I sit with him in quiet for a season, mainly to still my mind. Sometimes I read a text of Scripture with that theme of quieting myself and being still before Him.

Once I’m quieted in his love and presence, I become spiritually Alert, sensitive, listening, waiting. I usually have a devotional reading and a book that I will go to if I don’t feel too much push toward it. I say “Push” because I’m always alert to anything that feels like a “push” to have to accomplish something. That is usually a sign that something in me is opposing the quiet and leading of the Spirit.

The Lord never pushes me . . . He LEADS me. He is in front, not behind. Sometimes he’s along side. But He has NEVER pushed me. He Draws. He leads. He sends. He walks beside. He walks ahead. He abides in one place with me. But He never rides me nor leads from behind.

That is one of the ways I recognize the voice of my Shepherd. “My sheep know my voice . . . And they will not FOLLOW another,”  Jesus said in John 10. Are you one of his sheep? If you have been drawn by him and if you have the high privilege of being one of his sheep, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, then you have something to look forward to. And you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart. You will find it when you are willing to give everything for the remarkable, wonderful joy of knowing Him–the Shepherd of your soul–Jesus of Nazareth . . . Risen from the dead. Alive and looking for you.

So I guess my day is going to be another adventure. Whether good things or bad things happen (for there is no guarantee that we will not suffer) He is with me and I am with Him. My day is in his hands. And as he takes my hand with his, He will lead me through whatever lies ahead. All in all . . . I’d say that’s a great day!

©2013, David C Alves

Back From My Internet Fast


You may recall that back in late October, I made plans to go on an internet fast for the month of November. I wrote a post about it: Taking An Internet Break. Anyhow, I’m back and want to share with you some of what I experienced and learned.

But first . . . an apology. For those of you who subscribed to my blog on Kindle, and for those who looked forward to reading here at “David’s Place,” I apologize for not returning on Dec. 1 as I had originally intended. That becomes part of my story too. I really do appreciate EVERY reader, and I value your time.

So, I took a much-needed break from my blog, Facebook, Buffer, Twitter, and the endless writing and posting that goes with all that. Not to mention, the research and reading across the blogosphere to bring you the best that I can deliver when I write. (I’m sure some of you can identify)

The first week, I felt as though I didn’t know what to do with the time . . . WRONG!  I’ve always been the kind of person who knows exactly what I will do when I retire. I knew that in Jr. High. Now I’m close to the age where retirement might be expected. So, I had no writer’s block or confusion over what to do with my time. I began by creating a reading list on GoodReads. If you haven’t discovered Goodreads, you owe it to yourself–unless you’re already on LibraryThing. (I think there’s a post that you could write if you’re familiar with BOTH of them. Love to see a comparison review of the two sites and their features. Anyone game?)

Anyhow, I developed a “to-read-next” shelf on GoodReads. And I methodically began to read.

I also spent more time with people . . . face-to-face. I met them for breakfast.

Then I decided to go paperless and scan everything into OneNote 2010. I wrote a blog post that gives more particulars. But if you’re not already scanning your stuff into OneNote or EverNote, then you have something to look forward to. Love that I can retrieve it instantly once it’s scanned in.

So I spent more time quietly reflecting on the Bible. Listening to the Lord, journaling, and contemplating also filled the time I would have been using to surf Facebook and Twitter.

I made a couple of decisions too:

  • No more mindless scanning of the Facebook news feed. I look for high value friends and family shares and comments.
  • I’m keeping a lower profile. It takes less time and effort. I have more readers now then when I was spending hours tweeting, posting, and interacting online.
  • I want to post less often, but with improved content–making my contributions more worthy of my readers’ time.
  • My days begin with prayer and writing. ALL social interaction and email is after 12 noon.
  • Only give 2 hrs a day to the internet (unless doing special research).
  • Enjoy more face-time with people.

These choices will improve my quality of life, as well as my personal relationships. That’s what I did and learned on my social networking fast.

By the way, I can now highly recommend a TWO MONTH fast from social networking and book marketing for you authors. Write more.

My next fast? I’m going to try fasting for a month from my Smartphone. It’s way too much a new appendage and needs to be pushed back into balance.

©2013, David C Alves

Follow @davidcalves

Writing is An Act of Faith


You know, I was sitting here wondering why I persist to type words into a OneNote 2010 page, when it struck me that writing is a true act of faith.

Who knows whether or not anyone will read them? I mean, most of us write because we want to connect with others. But honestly, my book did not sell anything like I thought it would when I dreamt of its release. For years I had ideas of what it would be like to be a published author. Not because I wanted fame or fortune. The realities are much different than movies. But because I wanted to serve and impact readers. Wow! Where was my head?

WRITING FOR CHANGE

No, I believe that my first book and my blog have taught me a lot. I still want to connect, but now whether I do or not I realize that I write because I have something to say and I love saying it. I believe that God has given me a perspective that combines with a gift of encouragement, to help others to be all that they can be in Christ.

I also know how much I love a helpful book. I’m changed by the reading and applying of what I read to my life. When a good book mentors me, I’m a better man for that. I want to pass that gift along to those who read my books. I want my books to mentor, coach along the journey to Christ’s Kingdom reign.

Truly, faith is keeping at something, even when you don’t see the results you expected. It’s believing what cannot be seen but being assured that it’s the right thing to believe.

WISE ADVICE

Before I completed and published my first book, I had breakfast with Gordon MacDonald at Friendlies. I wanted him to mentor me as a writer. He asked me to tell him my story. I talked. He listened graciously. I realized even while I was talking that I wasn’t communicating my passion for writing. Instead, I was telling him something else. It was as though God was allowing him to see something in me that needed addressing.

After breakfast, he recommended that I read a book. “This is not a Christian book I’m recommending, but it will be helpful for you to read it,” he said.

The title was In the Shadow of Fame: A Memoir by the Daughter of Erik H. Erikson by Susan Erikson Bloland, the daughter of famed child psychologist, Erik Erickson. As a sidenote, I’m just finishing a memoir of a woman who separated from her husband for a year and met Joan Erickson while walking along the beach. They became close friends. That book is entitled A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman, by Joan Anderson.

LOOKING BACK

In retrospect, I realized that my reasons for publishing were mixed. Shortly after I read Bloland’s book, I completed my book. I sought the Lord to purify my motives. Then I released the book at Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, and for Kindle and Nook. Sales were mainly to family, friends, and fellow pastors. Of course my church family and fellow associational leaders encouraged me as well. But that was about it. For the first year, I continued to write. But then I stopped.

DARK NIGHT

I went into a depression which, I later found out, was a “dark night of the soul.” I withdrew from people and things I usually enjoyed. I felt exhausted all the time. Because I was a busy pastor and associational leader as well, I began to question my calling.

Everything lost is taste and savor. Fortunately for me, I had praying friends and ministry partners. Some wise counsel helped me recognize God at work, not the enemy. He was taking everything but Him. Funny, because I thought I had given him everything already–many times. But He sees deeper than we ever could.

ON THE OTHER SIDE

I’m on the other side of all that now. It took two and a half more years to slowly let go of everything but Him. It was truly a spiritual winter. But the great thing about tracking through the winter with the Lord is that spring is the next season to follow. Spring is a time for sowing and planting, digging around and preparation.

A WITNESS

Now I’m settled in a great peace, waiting only on Him. I am also searching out a coach on the road ahead of me in spiritual formation, while at the same time coaching those whom God has sent my way. But I’m no longer an expert–Dr. Alves. I’m merely a witness, testifying to whatever the Lord shows or entrusts to me.

And . . . I’m writing again. Writing by faith. My one prayer is that the Lord will use the process of writing by faith in my life first . . . And if He so chooses, in the lives of those who may be drawn by His Spirit to read.

QUESTION: Have you ever experienced what I’m talking about?

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