— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 20, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 21, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 22, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 23, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 24, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 13, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 14, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 15, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 16, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 17, 2017
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— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) October 30, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) October 31, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 1, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) November 2, 2017
#Leadership #TIPoftheDay: Hurt? Beat down? Fallen? Desperate? You may be right where God needs you to be to use you.
Wondering about God's will for your life? It's simple: https://t.co/7KVDiCvD6s
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) October 31, 2017
Years ago, as a new Christian, I was thrust into ministry quickly. At the time I didn’t understand surrender, so I tried to lead by my own power. I learned very quickly about God’s power being made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I got really good at making God’s power perfect! He used me even though I had no idea what I was doing most of the time. But I also made lots of mistakes.
Get Out of the Way So God Can Get to Work
I was sharing my faith—or trying to—with one couple in our apartment building. I spent months using every tactic I had learned, and then some, with no results. Finally, my wife told me to back off. I couldn’t believe it. What a backslider, I thought. I was fulfilling the Great Commission, but I had married a heretic! Then she told me that perhaps I needed to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. She was right, of course. I receded, and eventually the couple came to Christ—about a year after we moved from the building.
In my ministry, I’ve been in lots of overwhelming situations. I’ve spoken on the phone with people talking about committing suicide. I’ve walked into hospital rooms of dying patients surrounded by family members in need of comfort. I’ve entered homes where men have died in their prime. In one case—and I wasn’t ready for this—the man’s body was still on the floor in the living room when I walked in.
If I would have been faced with the same situations years ago, I may have done more damage than good by trying to minister in my own power. Over the years, however, I’ve learned more about surrender—yielding the situation completely to God. More and more I can respond as David did: “When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn” (Psalm 142:3, NLT).
Now, as soon as I get a phone call or enter into a situation, the first thing I do is surrender the situation to God. I pray something such as this:
God, you know I don’t have whatever’s needed to minister to this family. I don’t have the right words, and I’m not sure how to handle this. I’ve got nothing! But I know that you do have all the right words and you do know what is needed. So I’m once again surrendering myself to you. Use me any way you want. If they need words, speak the words through my voice. If they just need someone to be there, help me to be quiet and to be there with them through this. If they need counsel, give me the words to say at the right time. Whatever their need, God, you know what it is, so use me anyway you want. I’m all yours.
I’m always amazed at what happens. God does his work, whether I understand it or not. There’s nothing magical or mystical about it, but I know God has used my weakness to demonstrate his power. One family sent me a card that thanked me for how I ministered to them through my caring attitude, my words, and even my humor. When I received the letter I chuckled because I went into the situation with no idea how to handle it. But God did.
When you surrender your leadership to God, allowing him to use you any way he wants, you will minister in ways you thought you never could. In fact, you will learn, as I have, that it’s not about what you do at all. As Mother Teresa so eloquently put it, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”
What Surrender Requires
To learn to surrender, you first need to grow in some other biblical characteristics. The World’s Greatest Small Group Leader illustrated all these character traits perfectly:
- Humility—It all begins here. Surrender demands a humble heart. Jesus humbled himself when he “made himself nothing” and left heaven to become human (Philippians 2:7-8). Humility is the opposite of selfish ambition and vain conceit (v. 3).
- Authenticity—A humble person can be who he or she is without pretenses. Even though he was, by his very nature, God (v. 6), Jesus came and lived as a man (v. 8). He never denied either part of his identity. He knew who he was.
- Vulnerability—An authentic person can be open and honest with others; he has nothing to hide.
- Submission/Obedience—A surrendered heart means you are submissive to authority. Jesus obeyed his Father in everything, even death (v. 8).
- Integrity—All of these characteristics lead to integrity—uncompromising adherence to truth. Jesus was the model of integrity. He was the truth (John 14:6). Integrity elicits trust, a vital characteristic of a small group leader.
What Surrender Produces
A surrendered leader is one who is connected to the Vine. You are dependent on the Vine. You will produce much fruit (John 15:5). You naturally put the interests of others before your own by
- Listening to them
- Serving them
- Praying for them
- Loving themThese are some of the attributes of an effective leader, but one more needs further discussion.
Surrender Propels Group Growth
God has called you to help bring about spiritual growth in people’s lives. But how does that happen, exactly? What’s your role?
Imagine you are the captain of a sailboat. How do you make the vessel move forward toward your destination? The wind and only the wind supplies the power necessary for movement. If the wind is not blowing, you might as well forget raising the sails. How about having all the people on the boat blow as hard as they can into the sails? No, that won’t work either. No matter how much effort you expend—no matter how much you huff and puff—you cannot move the ship forward. You cannot create wind.
So what do you do? You wait for the wind and then raise the sails to catch it. What happens if you do not raise the sails? Nothing. The power is accessible, but you must do your part in the partnership—raise the sails. The wind can only propel you forward when you are engaged in it. Sailing is a partnership between man and nature.
Spiritual growth is a collaborative effort between you and God. You cannot do it without God. He has ordained not to do it without you. The term for Spirit is the same for that of wind in both the Old and New Testaments. The Holy Spirit is the wind that provides the driving force of all spiritual growth. You cannot bring about spiritual growth in your own life or the lives of those you lead.
Neither are you a passive bystander. As the Holy Spirit moves, you must become engaged in that driving force. As a small group leader you have at least four vital sail-raising responsibilities:
- Pray for the members of your group. That’s your first and most important job.
- Be an example to the flock. Let them see spiritual growth happening in your own life by being involved in the spiritual disciples of worship, Bible reading, prayer, and others.
- Involve the group every week in practices such as meeting in authentic community, studying and applying God’s Word together, teaching and admonishing one another, praying together, serving together, and confessing your sins to each other.
- Shepherd your members outside of group meeting times. Be prepared to mentor them in areas where they need to grow, as God leads you.
Get out of the way so God can get to work.
-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group
This week, I’m sharing them from my Twitter profile.
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) October 23, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) October 24, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) October 25, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) October 26, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) October 27, 2017
What do you want to be known for? Think about this for a moment before reading on. What do you want people to say about you when you die? What do you want written in your obituary?
I would have responded differently to that question at different stages of my life. As a kid growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, I wanted to be known as a great athlete, a Hall of Fame baseball player like Johnny Bench or Pete Rose, a great basketball player like the Big O or Dr. J, or a world-class bowler like Earl Anthony or Dick Weber.
My athletic career was not that spectacular. I accumulated lots of trophies, but mostly because I happened to be on some good teams. I did receive three individual awards: one for best defense in basketball—which went to the kid who never scored a basket. In baseball one year, I received the “Most Spirited Player” trophy—which went to the kid who sat on the bench and cheered on the rest of the team.
My favorite award was the Most Improved Player—which went to the kid who didn’t stink quite as badly as the year before. The trophy had the initials “MIP” on the plaque. I overheard my mom telling all her friends I received the “Most Important Player” award. At least my mom appreciated my talent!
In college, I would have said I wanted to be well known—period. Didn’t matter for what, just popular. I had gotten about as far as I could in most athletics, so just for fun, I tried out for the cheerleading squad at the University of Cincinnati. I figured at the very least I’d get to meet a few pretty girls. On a fluke, I made the squad—three years straight. I was proud to be a “big man on campus” with my cool letter jacket. I was “known.”
In my 20s, I would have said I wanted to be recognized for being successful. I climbed the ladder of success until that ladder—and everything else in my life—fell out from under me. That’s when I gave my life to Christ, and everything changed. Well, almost everything.
After becoming a Christian in my late-20s, if I were really honest, I might have said I wanted to be well known and successful as a Christian writer, small group “expert,” or minister. At times, in my more reflective moments, I might have said I wanted to be considered a good husband, a great dad, and a trusted friend.
Today, I want to be like Enoch.
You don’t hear too many people say that, do you? People will say they want to have the faith of Abraham or the power of Moses or the wisdom of Solomon. But Enoch? Who is Enoch?
Enoch was one of only two people who were taken away to heaven without ever dying. The other was Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), who was whisked away to heaven in a whirlwind, accompanied by a chariot and horses of fire. But Enoch just suddenly disappeared. I love what Genesis 5:22-24 says about him: “Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years.” He enjoyed a close relationship with God throughout his life. “Then suddenly, he disappeared because God took him” (NLT).
No, I don’t want to live another 300 years! Neither is it necessary to just disappear without dying, unless it’s the rapture, of course. But I do want to live in close fellowship with God throughout what’s left of my life, until God takes me when he’s ready.
Enoch had a heart for God, and small group leadership starts with your heart. It starts with your relationship with God—seeking after him.
One of the key attributes from 1 Peter 5:2-4 for small group leaders is that you are “examples to the flock.” That’s why it is so critical that you are, first of all, a man or woman after God’s heart. It’s why the most important thing you can do as a leader is earnestly seek God every day.
-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group
I usually share these TIPS from my Twitter profile, but today I’m mixing it up!
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) October 17, 2017
— Michael C. Mack (@michaelcmack) October 20, 2017
I often take a break from my work here at my home office to walk back in my woods. I call them mine because of the amount of time I’ve spent working back there, even though they technically belong to the county. I’ve blazed a walking and mountain-bike trail through the woods, complete with log jumps, ramps, and other adventures. I routinely maintain the trail and the woods, cleaning up garbage, removing log jams in the creek, and sawing and removing downed trees that block the path.
These woods are not only my refuge, they’re my little piece of creation that I get to work. They are my Garden of Eden. I identify with Adam when I’m in my woods. He was given a place like this to enjoy and manage (Genesis 1:26). It was an act of stewardship:
Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth. —Genesis 1:26, The Message
I’ve thought about this as I’ve worked in my woods. God created it all and controls it all. But part of his design was to give us stewardship over what is his—to manage it and work alongside him in caring for it. Sometimes as I remove large branches that impede the flow of the creek, I can immediately see a difference in the direction of the water. This might sound silly, but I seek to be in tune with God enough to sense how I can best work together with him to tend to these woods. After all, they don’t belong to me or the county. They’re his, but I am his partner.
Jesus was the perfect example of a good steward.
It is obvious in the Gospels that he lived his life on Earth as a steward of all God gave him. Of particular interest is how he illustrated stewardship of the small group entrusted to his care. Seven times in John 17:6-19, Jesus referred to the disciples as being his, given to him by the Father while he was here on Earth. He discussed what he came to do: to pass on to them what the Father had given him (vv. 8, 13, 14). He talked about multiplication—that he was leaving them behind and that he was sending them into the world just as he had been sent (vv. 11, 18).
Jesus’ attitude about his small group is reflected in his summation: “None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction” (v. 12). Not only had they not been lost, but they won thousands to Christ just a few weeks later and started a movement that changed the world. That never would have happened if it had not been for Jesus’ attitude of stewardship as he surrendered his will to God’s eternal purpose (see Ephesians 3:11).
God has a great, eternal purpose for your small group, too. It will be accomplished when you surrender to it as an act of stewardship.
Jesus modeled stewardship for us, and he also spent a lot of time speaking about it. We generally apply Jesus’ teachings on stewardship to money, but that’s just a small part of the picture. God wants you to wisely manage everything he gives you.
In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus gave a number of guidelines for how you can lead your group as an act of stewardship.
“A man going on a journey … called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them” (Matthew 25:14).
You have been called to lead something that does not belong to you. It belongs to the Master who has entrusted you, the servant, with the responsibility to invest into your group members while they are in your care.
As the group shepherd, you have been given a huge trust, responsibility, and privilege. As our main passage puts it: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care” (1 Peter 5:2).
As a small group leader, God has entrusted you with much! He’s entrusted you with his men and women, his message, and his mission!
I’ve discussed being a steward of his people and his mission, but what about his message? The apostle Paul sent this warning to the Galatian leaders: “Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven! —were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed” (Galatians 1:8, The Message).
This statement is so important, Paul repeated it a second time: “I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed” (v. 9).
The theme of stewarding God’s message is repeated elsewhere in Scripture:
- “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
- “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16, emphasis added).
- “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1, emphasis added).
The reason Scripture cautions us about sound teaching is obvious. We are handling the truth. Anyone who leads or teaches any kind of group has a high privilege and responsibility. This does not mean, however, that leaders and teachers must be exceptionally talented, highly educated individuals. The apostles were known as “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13).
As you lead, you are responsible not only for the group God has given you and his mission, but to correctly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group