with Phillip Mutzelburg
I begin this discussion by teasing out some remarks I made on the subject of humility in the first article of this series, Identifying our Distinctives.
The nature of our humanity defaults to the dark side, and it creates a competitiveness in us that wants to get to the top of the pile and be the star. This is the exact opposite of what Jesus demonstrated, and highlights the difference between the example of servanthood and that of the chest thumping Pharisee who stands where all can see his bogus greatness.
This counterfeit prominence destroys authentic community, and isolates many leaders and congregants leaving them feeling defeated, devalued, and a failure. The level of devastation that this God dishonouring behaviour causes is widespread, and nothing short of evidence that the enemy of us all is at work to steal, kill, and destroy at every opportunity in the life of leaders. Put simply, I see this dark side of leadership as an extreme abuse of power.
One of the most common discussions I have had with church leaders during my time in vocational church work has revolved around feelings they have even in the crowd. They feel loneliness, pessimism, a lack of appreciation, and a disappointment that leaders without biblical humility create too often in the environment of church leadership.
When dealing with broken people in our congregations there is a level of grace given to the church leader which protects their heart from disreputable behaviour, as life transformation is taking place. But the assault on their spirit that comes with the self-importance of some prideful leaders is unexpected, and blindsides them and is therefore all the more damaging to the wellbeing of the leader.
A leader without biblical humility harms the reputation of Jesus in the earth, and reinforces the cynicism many irreligious Australians have of church leaders.
Biblical humility as a distinctive
We want to be a movement that is known as one where every leader is included and encouraged, and able to celebrate authentic community one with the other. We want A2A to be a safe place where a church leaders regardless of the size of his church, and regardless of how measureable their success might be can come and be celebrated for who they are, and for the sacrifice they make in faithfully serving God.
A distinctive is a visible distinguishing characteristic about a person or organisation. It is encouraging for us that visitors to our gatherings where leaders are together regularly make a spontaneous and telling observation about the environment of our get-togethers.
Consistently church leaders from mega churches, large churches, large independent ministries, small churches, and as individuals say we stand out in the Australian context as an all-inclusive group of church leaders who are comfortable in our own skins and enjoy an authentic level of community not commonly seen on the Australian landscape. I know Australian leaders who regularly tell me that the spirit we have amongst the church leaders at A2A does not exist anywhere else.
Least we become immediately prideful of these welcome appraisals, it is not impossible that regardless of the overall healthy environment, there is someone who feels isolated and dishonoured. We are doing ok, but we have not arrived. To think more highly of ourselves than we ought will quickly put us on a slippery slope towards prideful God dishonouring habits that will quickly destroy what God has done in us.
Defining biblical humility
Humility is generally defined as unpretentiousness, modesty, self-effacement, and similar words of explanation. Biblical humility certainly contains all of these characteristics, but more. It is the more that makes the difference and gives us the key to the way we should pursue humility.
Biblical humility is placing our gifting, our strengths, and the power gained by our position in leadership in submission to God so that they are always under His control.
Understanding the biblical basis of humility
In the greatest sermon in history, Jesus includes a few lines about humility. Matthew records his words in chapter 5 verse 5; Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. This comment is the foundational thought that should effect all of actions in Christian leadership.
This is the biblical picture of meekness or humility. Humility is having your strengths under the control of King Jesus. In this section of scripture we learn that the person who puts their strength under the domain of the King [king-domain/kingdom] gains their inheritance. The implication is that if you do not humble yourself before King Jesus, you will not gain your inheritance. This is a law of the kingdom.
Jesus was the greatest example of humility. He had great strength and power yet he resisted the temptation from Satan to use it. As he approached Calvary in the moment of his greatest testing, He did not call down ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set himself free. He put his power under the Father’s control and as a result he gained his inheritance and sits at the right hand of God today. And we are part of his inheritance.
Peter wrote to Christians scattered all over the world with some sensational advice. What he said is found in 1 Peter 5 verse 5; ……All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
I say this is sensational for these reasons;
Have you ever considered the delusional aspect of pride. Leaders without humility are deceived. They believe their own propaganda. They think everyone thinks as highly of them as they do themselves. They think no one notices when they are positioning themselves for the best seat at the table. They think no one notices when they drop a name, or look over your shoulder when you are in conversation with them. Most of all they think God will not notice.
Pride, which of course is the opposite of humility, is the single reason why seemingly successful leaders are brought down. In the decades I have been in vocational ministry I have seen great leaders on the national and international stage come crashing down. I have been personal friends with some of them. In recent times one of the most prominent leaders of the church in the western world has come crashing down because he did not place his strength and power under the hand of God. God opposed him.
Peter finishes his thoughts on humility with these equally sensational words. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
This is the key to success not only in vocational church work, but in the market place, wherever God has placed the Christian to serve him.
Walking in humility
When God spoke clearly to the National Leadership Team in February 2017 and helped us to identify our distinctives, humility was not the entirety of what we heard about humility. The Holy Spirit talked to us about walking in humility.
A form of the word walking is used about 130 times in the bible. It always has with it a sense of plodding along, travelling along, treading along through life. It has the feel of consistently doing something about it.
On that February day I am certain that the Holy Spirit was telling us to keep this distinctive of humility as a constant in the life of our movement. We are encouraged to live in humility so that we can continue to be a life giving movement to each other, and not a life sapping movement to each other.
I believe there is a genuine humility becoming more and more visible in the culture of our churches. It is something to be guarded at all cost so that all of us can enter into our inheritance which scripture tells us is the right of every believer.
I look forward to walking in humility with you all.
with Tim O'Neill
It’s amazing to realise that most of 2018 is now behind us and Christmas is just around the corner. Where has the time gone?
It’s been great seeing so many A2A churches taking steps to engage in a greater way with their local communities and to be more missionally effective. I think that we all want our churches to be like the church in Acts 2 that was so engaged that they enjoyed the favour of all the people in their city with the result that more were being saved and added to their number every day!
Thats a wonderful focus for us to have as we embrace the great commandments and the great commission. As Rick Warren says, a great great commitment to the great commission and the great commandment will build a great church! And of course to do this, requires great leadership.
National Leadership Team Update
At our last National Leadership Team meeting we discussed ways in which we as an NLT could add value to the churches across the movement. One of the ways we thought may be useful was to make ourselves more available across the movement to help catalyse change. Ralph Moore in his book MegaMultiMultiply makes the following comment:
An apostolic leader, whether in a large place or small, feels the need to keep moving. Some, like Paul, move from city to city. Today, most shift from project to project while extending the boundaries of the gospel. These people are catalyzers. If this is you, you naturally spark change.
Just to be clear, we are not calling ourselves apostles, but we do believe the the NLT can add value by functioning in an apostolic fashion. What this means is that:
ELI (Emerging Leaders Initiative)
The first year of ELI has by all accounts been an outstanding success with some wonderful testimonies from the emerging leaders who have taken part. The recent trip to Canberra was an incredible experience for all involved.
Whilst in Canberra, the participants had their worldview significantly expanded with substantial input from politicians and other key individuals in relation to our nation’s history both politically and militarily, the workings of the constitution and High Court and of Parliament House. Meeting our Prime Minister was surely also a highlight for all.
Special thanks to Mark Ansell and the team form Gateway who run ELI, and to Phillip Mutzelburg who arranged the trip to Canberra.
If you are a young or emerging leader, or you have emerging leaders in your church, I encourage you to consider next years ELI program. Please Contact Mark Ansell or Tina Silk on 03 9785 7500 & email@example.com for more information about ELI.
The NLT is delighted with the uptake that has occurred with credential holders entering into mentoring arrangements. We are particularly pleased that nearly all A2A Senior Leaders are in a mentoring arrangement. We see mentoring as being key to the ongoing health of a leader.
One further initiative that we will be instigating in the near future is introducing a short form agreement that can be used between the mentor and mentee to ensure a few key components to mentoring are agreed upon and to a degree formalised.
You can find out more about A2A mentoring here or by contacting Mark Ansell 03 9785 7500
Revised Marriage Rites
Religious bodies, such as A2A, may be granted permission by the Attorney General’s Department to endorse religious marriage. Ministers are permitted to solemnise marriages on the basis that they conduct marriages within the rites of their denomination.
The NLT has revised A2A’s Marriage Rites, with a copy being sent to all credential holders registered to solemnise marriages. A copy of the Rites is available here.
Other Movement News
A2A Executive Administrator / Assistant
I’m delighted to let you know that Liz Jesson has relinquished some of her Tailrace duties to enable her to come back in the role of Executive Administrator/ Assistant for A2A. Please feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 6327 4538
We are just about to complete our latest round of Leaders Together. Here is some of what we have covered as well as links to resources
Keeping Fresh In Ministry
We revisited Mark Conner’s excellent teaching about Keeping Fresh In Ministry, from the 2018 National Conference. Mark reminded us of the Theology of Self Care and the 5 habits of healthy leaders. We watched Mark teach first 2 habits (Retreat Regularly and Deal With Your Internal Stress) and then had a time of discussion. You can watch Mark’s excellent teaching on Keeping Fresh In Ministry here.
Developing A Strategic Plan
Rod Dowie presented the strategic planning process that he and the team at Coast and Vines have been putting together. They have come up with a brilliant template that could be used to help your church to develop your own strategic plan.
Their founding scripture is Isaiah 61:4 “And they shall rebuild old ruins. They shall rise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolation of many generations.”
CLICK HERE to hear from Rod. The document templates they have developed are available below.
Fringe Benefits Exemptions For Pastors
Most pastors would be aware that there are certain fringe benefits exemptions that may apply to pastors. Following is a brief summary of how that works.
Under tax law in Australia, income is generally taxable. When instead of receiving income, a person receives a benefit, this is generally subject to assessment under the Fringe Benefits Tax legislation. So any form of remuneration that is not assessed as income is generally regarded as a benefit.
The FBT legislation however provides that benefits paid to pastors and church workers may be exempt from FBT under certain circumstances.
The Draft Taxation Ruling issued in July of this year provides three important tests that must be passed for a benefit to be exempt.
School Holiday Programmes
It was discussed that School Holiday programmes and other programmes that churches undertook where with children under the age of 13 years, where parents or guardians were not on premises may require licensing as a Child Care Centre.
There is an important exception to this under the Education and Care Services National Law where it can be shown the programme or service is being conducted principally for the purposes of religious instruction.
This could have substantial ramifications on a number of activities that churches may run, including camps.
The take away from this is to document the purpose of the activity and why and how it is being undertaken for the purposes of religious instruction.
Link to Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (p17)
CAMP NO FEAR
CAMP NO FEAR has recently been held for QLD & NSW with outstanding success. The Camp had 90 attend with 6 salvations. 74 said they were refreshed in their relationship with God, 26 were operating in their supernatural gifts, 7 were baptised in the Holy Spirit.
Well done Anton, Lauren and the team who made this happen!
CAMP NO FEAR Victoria will be happening 24 to 27 January. You can find out more information here http://www.campnofear.com or obtain tickets@ https://events.ticketbooth.com.au/event/cnf2019
2019 A2A National Conference
Conference Registrations @ QT Gold Coast are open – get in early and make the most of pre-ordering your accommodation. Gives a great opportunity to gather your team and get them all along
Cultural Distinctive - Spirit Empowered Ministry
Phillip Mutzelburg has written another great paper outlining our Cultural Distinctives, with the latest one being about Spirit Empowered Ministry. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read this blog. Cultural Distinctive
I was journalling recently from Nehemiah (I love that book!) and came upon the last verse in Nehemiah Chapter 10. It finishes with the statement:
“We will not neglect the house of our God.”
It reminded me of what a special privilege we have of being part of God’s house, and for many of us, leading one of His houses and leading the people connected to that house to be passionate about Him and His house.
Be encouraged and keep up the great work that you are doing.