Thursday, June 4, 2009

The people factor

3) Ministries thrive because of people not because of supernatural intercession by God.

At the heart of this assertion (warranted by his experience) is again the inability to discern between the supernatural and natural. Brett has observed that his own success and even business men who are successful are no different than Christian ministries that are successful but claim supernatural causation. Thus, everybody’s successes can naturally be explained in terms of good leadership. In Brett’s second year of ministry in PBF, he developed in his people skills, management skills, and leadership skills. Is this natural or supernatural? Yes.

The Scriptures claim that God has given mankind abilities in accordance with man’s purpose on this world. Mankind is to grow in their use of their skills and abilities. As one example, the original tabernacle of God was built by supreme craftsmen who were “successful.” Proverbs states that a man skilled in what he does shall stand before kings, not obscure men (Prov. 22:29). There is no inherent dilemma in the Christian worldview that strong leadership has the potential to be the causation of some measure of “success” in this world. The Scriptures continue to exhort men and women to be good stewards of their skills and humbly employ them. Believers or unbelievers who develop their skills may obtain a measure of temporal success (“success”measured by followers, numbers, resources, influence, etc). In Jim Collins’ secular best selling business management book entitled Good to Great, Collins analyzes the key characteristics of 11 “successful” companies that had been painstakingly selected from a list of 1500. There are several intriguing conclusions of his analysis. One of the most intriguing is how leadership in these top companies tended to be described. The leaders were characterized in terms of modest, humble, having concern not for personal fame, but rather the well being of their successors and the company’s longevity. What a secular book corroborated is Christ’s claim that the greatest among you shall be the humblest and look not only to one's own interests. Is this natural or supernatural?

Having said this, the Christian worldview does not promise automatic success temporally because of certain leadership skills. Because of a world plagued by the curse of sin, ultimate “success” for God’s people (which I will define as the perpetual blessing of God) is guaranteed when the new creation is free from the curse of sin.

So when Brett observes that he has seen churches struggle because of a lack of strong leaders, I will say I have as well. I have experienced my share of churches that had weak leaders who did not preach the full counsel of God and who were not being good stewards of their skills. And, I believe now I am in a ministry where the staff is seeking to develop their ministry skills in accordance with God’s desires for His people. Is there a measure of success? Yes. Is this miraculous? No--by the standard definition of miracles. When a pastor says “We could not have done this without God,” Brett would be wise to press the pastor to clarify what he means. Maybe the pastor is attempting to express thanksgiving and praise for good things that have happened. Maybe the pastor is humbly recognizing that any gifts and abilities he DOES have are from God as well. In the Christian worldview, however, God has promised to build HIS church. He has not promised to build the USA, Google, GM or any other entity.

So again, the accurate Christian worldview can handle Brett’s concern without jeopardizing the integrity of the core web of Christian beliefs.

From here I will begin to address Brett's posts, "My Deconversion Story - Part 4" and "Life after God."

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