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I’m 70 . . . And Still Learning What It Means to Serve

Written By Mart DeHaan

Mart DeHaan is the past president of Our Daily Bread Ministries and has served with the ministry for 45 years. He is heard regularly on the Discover the Word radio program, is an author of many booklets for the Discovery Series, and writes a monthly column on timely issues called “Been Thinking About.” He and his wife, Diane, have two children. Mart enjoys spending time outdoors, especially with a fishing pole in hand.

Dear friend,

I’m struggling to know how to begin. Maybe it’s because I still have so much to learn about what it means to tell others about anything, let alone something really important. Let me start with a story.

Of all the cartoons that have made me laugh, there’s one I remember most clearly. It pictures a man on a dinner date trying to make a good impression. As the meal comes to an end, he reaches for his credit card to pay. Feeling like it has been a wonderful evening, he takes a deep breath and says, “Hey, I’ve been talking a lot about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”

Why do I remember this punch line? Maybe it’s because I’ve passed that smile along to others from time to time. Maybe it’s also because I’m still trying to come to terms with my inclination to be overly concerned about my own interests—at the expense of others.

I’m not writing this as a young person. For more than 70 years, I’ve sat at many tables and looked into a lot of eyes. Late in the journey, I still find it so easy to forget what we’re here for and what makes the life we’ve been given worth living.

Because of this, I’m grateful for the cartoonists, authors, and community leaders who, along with family members, friends, and teachers, have helped me see that a life well-lived isn’t all about ourselves—but one in which we live for one another. I’ve had so many chances to see the wonder of a simple act of kindness, even when it is shown to a struggling plant, a frightened animal, or an unlikely person.

Most importantly, I’ve had access to the story of Jesus, who is remembered for being so patient with those of us who keep tripping over ourselves. In so many ways, He gave us reason to believe that when He asked people like us to follow Him, and even when He asked what they thought of Him—He wasn’t just thinking of Himself.

That’s why I hope you’ll never stop learning from Him and maybe just a little from the mistakes of old guys like me.

 

The Leader Who Serves Us

On the night of Jesus’ betrayal and suffering, His disciples sat around a table arguing among themselves (Luke 22:24). They thought their long-awaited Messiah was getting ready to rule the world and that some of them were more worthy than others to help Him kick Caesar to the curb and share the power.

They weren’t ready to hear Him say:

In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:25-27)

Imagine what it must have been like to have a seat at that table. Earlier that same evening, we would have seen Him get down on His knees, and like a house-servant wash our feet (John 13:1-17). We’d have heard Him say that, as His friends, one thing matters—to love one another as He had loved us (15:12-15).

While I don’t know for sure, I think I get a bit of why these followers and leaders-in-training were so confused. Their family and national history was full of strong leaders. Some were brutal. Some were benevolent. But all of them led from the front, from the top, and from places of enforced control and command. No wonder they were having a hard time with the upside-down-inside-out ways of Jesus.

 

The Leader Who Inspires and Empowers Us

Not only did Jesus make a name for Himself by putting our needs ahead of His own, He went one step further and asked His followers and leadership team to join Him in showing the way—to the God who is for us—in ways and to an extent they never could have imagined.

Only in looking back can we see that all that happened on that Passover, and in the miracles of Pentecost five weeks later, were meant to draw us into the action. By dying to show how much He loves us, He leads the way. By giving us the gift of his Spirit, He enables us to follow Him in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-25). This would be the kinder and gentler revolution Jesus envisioned in His manifesto of the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:1-12).

Over the years, I’ve been inspired by the stories of those who have taken the risk to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in the way they lead—not by threat or coercion, but by caring for one another.

Maybe that’s why I recall with such warmth the teacher who simply took the time to ask me what life was like for me growing up; the pastor who listened so patiently during one of the darker moments of my life; and another older Christian leader who, over lunch, took risks to let me know that he, too, has trouble with interpretations of the Bible that don’t seem to reflect the heart of a loving Father.

These self-sacrificing acts of care have given me a taste of what it must have been like for people in Jesus’ day to see themselves in His eyes. And I’ve got a hunch that there are people in your world who will benefit from seeing you as a fellow-follower and servant-leader who has come under the influence of His patience and kindness.

 

Walking in Jesus’ Spirit

Yes, I’m convinced this is the smile you have to offer. But please don’t think I’m saying if you “get it”, just “do it.” I’ve learned the hard way that the personal resolve to set aside my own self-interest for the sake of others doesn’t go very far.

I’m still learning that the kind of servant-leadership Jesus talked about doesn’t begin with a decision to follow Him into courageous actions of self-sacrifice. It isn’t just a matter of learning to make the right choices. Learning to lead by following Him begins so much deeper. As Jesus believed He was loved and led by His Father, so we need to believe His assurance that we are loved, and that we too can be led by His Spirit to care for others.

Our natural default will always be self-interest. Our normal inclination will always be to think we can do whatever we put our mind to. But what Jesus taught His disciples and what He is teaching us, is that we can’t follow Him or become His kind of influence in the world until we realize what we cannot do or change by ourselves.

Maybe that’s why Jesus let Peter and the rest of the disciples abandon Him at His arrest. Maybe that’s why, after His resurrection, He asked those same leaders-in-training to wait for His Spirit before trying to lead others to Him (Acts 1:1-9).

I still find myself being amazed at what happens when I remember to take Jesus up on His assurance that His Father (and ours) will not withhold His Holy Spirit from those who ask. I’ve never gotten over the joy of seeing or sensing what He alone can do to get me over the next hurdle of realizing that this amazing life isn’t all about me.

We began with a cartoon that pokes fun at the kind of person none of us wants to be. Maybe we can end at the other end of the smile. What would it take for us to experience the joy of giving up our own “rights” to be the kind of follower, friend, and Jesus-like influence we long to be? Let’s take the next step of following and leading—together!

– Mart

Am I Too Young To Lead In Church?

Written By Tyler Edwards, USA

Tyler Edwards is a pastor, author, and husband. He has served in full-time ministry since 2006. He currently works as the Discipleship Pastor of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is passionate about introducing people to and helping them grow in the Gospel. He is also the author of Zombie Church: Breathing Life Back Into the Body of Christ.

At what age is a person old enough to become a leader in the church? We love having younger people serve, but when can they transition from serving into leading?

1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.” How a person serves in church should not be limited by their age. As a general rule, the “young” have more free time, energy, and passion than our older counterparts. But too often, we can’t preach because we are “too young.” We can’t lead because we are “too young.” We can’t organize an event because we are “too young.” The list goes on. Too often, our abilities and gifts are never considered because they’re hidden in the shadow of our age.

Age is a factor, but it is a far less important factor than maturity. I have seen 60-year-old Christians with the spiritual maturity of toddlers, and I have met teenagers with a passion for the Kingdom and a closeness to the Lord that many senior citizens have never experienced. It is dangerous to see someone older and assume that because they have gone to church for a long time, they have a mature relationship with God.

 

Timothy the Youth

1 Timothy is a letter Paul wrote to someone called Timothy. We know from the letter that Timothy was a young man, and many scholars think that he might have only been 16 years old when Paul first met him in the city of Lystra. In our society, that’s not even old enough to vote! Yet Timothy already had a reputation as a godly man, from Lystra all the way to Iconium (Acts 16:2). That’s 40 miles, which is two days’ travel by foot. In today’s terms, Timothy would have been internationally-known.

Timothy was young, but Paul didn’t say he was “too young.” Instead, Paul sent him to resolve some of the most significant problems at churches across the region—including at the church in Corinth, which we know had sexual immorality, incest, and all sorts of other problems! Timothy also pastored the world’s first megachurch at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3). He taught, preached and was in charge of a church, all at an age that today would likely be considered “too young.”

Timothy had skills and was called by God. Paul saw that, and he used Timothy—despite his young age—to do what God had gifted him to do. The Great Commission Jesus gave applies to every Christian. There is no age requirement. If the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, why do we turn away perfectly good help just because they don’t have as many years under their belt?

The church is often guilty of ignoring 1 Timothy 4:12. When considering someone to serve and lead in church, we must learn to look beyond their age, and see their maturity, their faith, how they conduct themselves, how they speak, and how they love.

 

Lead by Living an Example

But 1 Timothy 4:12 is not only a challenge to the church. It is specifically a challenge to young Christians. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” That’s a call for us to display our maturity beyond our years by setting an example. We can’t control how others think of us. We can’t control how they will judge us. But we can demonstrate our love for Jesus, our maturity in speech, and in conduct.

Too often, we approach the older generation as if they are out-of-touch dinosaurs. Don’t come in with a list of complaints. Don’t demand that others listen to music you like or dress like you. Your greatest gift is your passion, but if you want more seasoned Christians to take you seriously, you need more than that.

You need to offer them the respect you want to receive. If you approach someone with frustration or contempt, you are likely to receive it in return. But if you show your passion and heart for the Gospel, if you demonstrate your maturity in Christ and seek for others to come alongside you, you might find that they try to listen. Share a vision for reaching your generation and invite others to join with you.

I was 21 when I first served as a lead pastor in a church, and most of the congregation was old enough to be my grandparents. I knew that my age was an obstacle for the congregation, and I didn’t want it to distract them from what I had to say about Jesus.

So I sold the beautiful car that I loved in exchange for a four-door family vehicle. Every Sunday I donned a nice suit, despite the fact that I really don’t like suits. No one had asked me to do this. I did it because I wanted to help the church accept me in spite of my age. I didn’t change my personality—that would be fake—but I focused on changing how I presented myself. I met my church members in the middle. I didn’t just demand their acceptance.

More importantly, I focused on what I was qualified for. As a 21-year-old kid, I was not qualified to give a lot of life advice. But I had Bible knowledge. For years, all my application, all my advice, all my expertise came from knowing the Bible and from getting to know it better. People didn’t care what I had to say about raising their kids, because I had never raised kids. So I shared what the Bible said. I didn’t talk about my perspective or my opinion. I talked about the Bible.

God did not say that no one has the right to look down on us; instead, He challenges us to live in a way that no one can look down on. Prove maturity by setting an example of godly character. Present yourself appropriately. Live like Jesus.

No one looks down on someone who speaks well, who lives right, who has a strong faith, who loves, and who characterizes maturity. People don’t look down on examples—they follow them.

So what does that look like?

1. Be involved

Everyone respects someone who works hard. Get involved in the old system even if it needs a lot of improvement. Serve. Work hard. Prove that you care. Often we complain, but we don’t want to do anything ourselves. We’re busy with our own lives, but so is everyone else. The people who hold the most sway in a church are the ones who work hard and are actively a part of it. The more involved, the more reliable, the more invested in our church we are, the more people will care about what we have to say.

 

2. Take initiative

If you have an idea, take action. As a church pastor I can tell you, no one comes to us with more ideas for things they think should change than young, idealistic Christians. At the same time, no one is harder to get involved in the work and mission of Jesus than those same young idealistic Christians. While we need to be careful not to over assert ourselves or to act out of bounds, sometimes doing something unofficially can wake the church up to do it officially. When you do it first, you prove you have your thumb on the pulse of the community.

 

3. Let go of your entitlement

The Gospel is clear: the only thing we deserve is death and eternal condemnation. It is only by the grace of God that salvation is possible. Entitlement is anti-thetical to the Gospel. Let go of your entitlement. Don’t take things for granted. Appreciate what others do. Be gracious. Be patient. Be humble.

 

Paul told Timothy not to let anyone look down on him, and Paul told him how exactly to achieve that. Set an example—in your speech, your behavior, your love, your faith, your maturity.

The church needs young leaders. The world needs Timothys. Out of our love for Jesus, those of us who are young need to learn to grow and mature as Godly Christians so that we might lead now. Not just 20 years from now.

Remembering Anzac Day And An Exemplary Army Chaplain

The call for a “padre” rang out down the line. Some poor “digger” (the colloquial term for an Australian soldier) had died and a chaplain was needed for the burial service.

Joseph John Booth answered the call and made his way to the forward point on the line, his heart surely pounding in his chest. It was only his second evening on the front, a place where death was as common as life.

The year was 1917, and millions of young men from around the world were dying in the trenches of the Western Front. We would eventually call this awful cycle of death and destruction World War 1.

As Joseph arrived in the trench to give his first burial service, he trembled with the knowledge that German soldiers were merely 60 feet away in their own trenches, likely listening to every word he spoke. In the darkness, he could not read from his prayer book and was forced to do as much of the service as he could from memory. This would only be the first of countless funerals he would lead during the war.

 

Courtesy of ww1anzac.com

Joseph’s Story

I started learning about Joseph’s story out of a personal interest in World War 1 history. Anzac Day—a special annual tradition for Australians and New Zealanders to remember and appreciate the sacrifice of servicemen and women in the military—was just around the corner, and I found myself in the research room of the State Library Victoria, searching for stories about army chaplains who served during World War 1. It was here that I stumbled on Joseph’s personal letters to Beryl Bradshaw, the love of his life, that he wrote while serving in France.

Joseph was an orphan from England who moved to Australia in his early 20s, settling in the western Melbourne suburb of Footscray. In 1915, Joseph was ordained as an Anglican priest after studying theology at Ridley College. In the following year, he became engaged to Beryl and was also enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a “padre”—the affectionate term given to army chaplains by the enlisted men.

Joseph soon found himself on a troop ship heading to the battlefields of France, serving God and His people in a war half a world away. Was he caught up in the excitement of seeing the world, giving little thought to the terrors ahead? Or did he press forward even in the face of the death and destruction waiting ahead? How would his faith be tried in face of the worst war the world had ever seen?

Reading Joseph’s story comes at a point in my life where I, too, am beginning a new role in a Christian ministry. Although I don’t have a terrible war to face like Joseph did, the future is uncertain as I find my place in my new role in service to God. But in Joseph’s story, I see how God guided him to serve others in a time and place that was greatly needed. I, too, can take comfort that God also has a plan for my life, and is guiding me along my path as well.

 

Joseph’s Ministry

Soon after arriving in France, Joseph was attached to the 8th Battalion, a veteran unit and legendary for its role in the Gallipoli campaign, a series of battles in modern day Turkey early in the war that was fought by mainly soldiers from Australia and New Zealand.  It was not an easy start to his ministry, since Joseph was a “novice among seasoned veterans,” as he told Beryl in one of his letters. However, he seemed optimistic, perhaps fueled with a zeal for his new ministry. He began leading the regular, mandatory church service, often called a “church parade”. He reported the first one as “a very fine Brigade parade and a fairly happy communion service, though I shall not be satisfied until my numbers increase”.

As time progressed, Joseph’s letters revealed that he became a well-respected man among the troops of his battalion. Perhaps he took to hear the advice given him by the Assistant Chaplain General on his arrival: “Never lower your standards, avoid being a Pharisee, avoid the whiskey bottle, take on every job that you possibly can, and remember that, as a servant of Jesus Christ, your duty is to make others comfortable, even though you yourself may need the comfort more.”

Soldiers certainly saw and respected his courage and integrity. They witnessed his sacrifices, and through his display of character, many who did not have a relationship with Christ were drawn to the truth of the gospel. As a result, Joseph’s church services grew in number.

I am challenged to live my life the same way that Joseph served as a padre: to stand firm in the face of growing pressure to lower my standards, to avoid being caught up in following rules and regulations like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, and to serve others even when it’s uncomfortable.

 

 

The Hardships of War

Although a padre’s main role was to act as a spiritual guide to soldiers and officers in the military, they faced many of the same dangers as fighting men. Throughout 1917, Joseph and the 8th Battalion were involved in some of the worst fighting up and down the Western Front. Joseph often found himself at the side of the unit’s doctor, helping out in whatever way he could.

There was one time when the doctor’s resources were drained dangerously low due to the number of wounded, so Joseph and a few other men voluntarily braved artillery-bombarded territory to retrieve medical supplies. After they had found the dearly-needed supplies, a sudden, terrifying artillery barrage caused them to cower in a gully. While waiting for the barrage to pass, Joseph got a premonition “in his mind’s eye” that they would be directly hit by a salvo of shells. He convinced the men to keep moving, and mere moments after they left, multiple shells exploded in the gully behind them. Joseph wrote to Beryl that if they had stayed, they “would have been wiped out almost without doubt”. He knew that God had providentially protected them in this near-death experience. Joseph would later receive the high military honor of the Military Cross from the King of England himself.

Men were dying by the hundreds and thousands every day all along the Western Front, and the duty that caused Joseph the greatest angst was the burial services of those who had died in action. During one of the intense episodes of the Battle of Passchendaele, Joseph was required to oversee the mass burial of 60 men from his battalion.

When his battalion was finally given relief and pulled out of the front line, Joseph wrote this in a letter, “perhaps one of the most pathetic experiences after a big battle is to go round the lines and discover the old friends who will serve the Army no more. The memory of those two days will lie heavy upon me even as long as I live. War is unspeakable and these men with whom one serves are indeed the very salt of humankind.

I have found that particularly on days like Anzac Day, our minds are drawn to the tragedy of war, the frailty of human life, and the condition of our souls. We search for the answers to why there is so much suffering, in times of war as well as in our relatively peaceful society today. In the purposelessness and tragedy of events like World War 1, where can we turn?

Daily, Joseph and the men he served faced this trauma. And yet through it all, his faith remained firm. How can that be? The only answer that I can find is in the hope of the truth of the Gospel. That despite the evil and destruction we see around us, there is a loving God who is yearning for us to be in relationship with Him, to accept the love that He is freely giving, and to live the life He intended us to live, whatever our circumstances.

Courtesy of ww1anzac.com

After the war, he married his sweetheart, Beryl, and served as vicar at St. Pauls in Fairfield, Melbourne. He would be remembered as a vicar who had a sympathetic understanding of people, as well as a remarkable memory for names and faces.

Joseph later made a collection of his letters, the same ones that I would find in the State Library many decades later. The postscript he wrote to this collection has stuck with me, “I hope those of you who read them [the letters] will find some little pleasure and gain some information, for future generations must surely learn that war is a filthy business, only lightened by the amazing courage and the wonderful comradeship of men of every race. The war is long over. It was to have ended war. Though it may not, it has begun a movement toward peace which, please God, will never die.

As I reflect on a war that ended a century ago, I pray that I would be dedicated to sharing the peace that can only come through Jesus, just as Joseph John Booth did with his life.

 

 

 

ODJ: leading well

February 20, 2016 

READ: 1 Chronicles 13:1-8 

It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul (v.3).

Pastor and author John Maxwell wrote, “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” In other words, if we don’t believe in the character, wisdom, and vision of a leader, we face the challenge of following someone we don’t trust or respect.

David’s soldiers believed in him. They had been in battle with him. They had sweat and bled with him. They had captured the City of David with him (1 Chronicles 11:5). They had seen that “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was with him” (v.9). And “they decided to make David their king, just as the Lord had promised concerning Israel” (11:10).

David’s men had truly bought into him, and now David gave them a vision: Men, we’re going to bring back the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (13:3). The ark, forgotten under Saul’s erratic leadership, was catching dust in the home of a guy named Abinadab—8 miles away in Kiriath-jearim. David desperately wanted to bring back the holy chest, for it contained the mercy seat where God had met with His people. He loved God and desired to honor and follow His ways (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).

Speaking of following, David truly led well by doing the following things: He loved and sought the will of God (1 Chronicles 13:1); he established a clear vision (v.3); he consulted with his leaders and listened to them (v.1); he brought the vision before all the people (v.2). The result? “The people could see that it was the right thing to do” (v.4).

As you lead others, take a close look at the four steps of leadership David lived out. Other believers won’t buy into your vision until they buy into your love of God and dedication to Him. For He alone provides what we need to lead well.

—Tom Felten

365-day-plan: Numbers 14:5-45

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Read Philippians 2:3 and consider what Paul identified as key leadership traits. 
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How have you been leading others recently—in your own strength or in the love and wisdom of God? Which of the four leadership steps David lived out do you need to grow in? How will you do that? 

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