Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’

2 Samuel 11:1-27 (Part 1 of 5)

David Sins with Bathsheba & Arranges Uriah’s Death

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with another church employee about potential leaders for Sunday morning teams. We discussed a few options and some of the people we discussed were already serving in multiple areas. That point led to discuss the fact that we needed to be looking at people who may have not been in leadership positions before. That point led me to discuss the fact that some of our volunteer teams are aging and that often in churches we count on the same people to most of the work because they are familiar and are known quantities and, as a result, churches often do not develop volunteer team members toward the goal of some being in leadership. That point led me to discuss that we as leaders of volunteer teams at church must constantly be recruiting new members for our teams. We cannot let up on that one point. Without constant eyes on recruiting new members for our teams, we handicap ourselves into (1) keeping people in the positions that they are in even when they may have leadership talents, (2) preventing rotations of leaders, (3) people suffering burnout from leading teams where burnout volunteers don’t show up because they are tired of serving all the time, and (3) not being able to replace leaders or volunteers when they get too old to serve anymore or when someone leaves the church. Recruiting is a constant must in churches.

I likened it to a college football team where recruiting is the lifeblood of great teams. If the coaching staff every loses focus on getting the best and brightest young men for their football teams, the football program will suffer. A perfect example of this statement would be when Steve Spurrier was the coach of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks football team. Steve became the coach of the Gamecocks in 2005 and slowly built up the program from the mediocre state that it was in when he took over. It took a while but by the 2011 season they began a three year run where they had three consecutive 11-2 seasons. Each of those seasons with a different bounce of the ball in the two losses in each of those seasons, they could have easily been a 12-1 or 13-0 team. They were that good during those three years. But something happened to Steve and his staff when they were in the midst of that three year run where they had some of the best and grittiest players in the country. They stop caring about recruiting it seems. The backups behind the stars of the 2011-2013 were not superstars and the recruits coming in were no longer 4 and 5-star recruits. By 2014, the Gamecocks fell to 6-6 in their record for the season. In 2015, they got worse and ended up with a 3-9 record and Steve resigned at mid-season. Any analyst will tell you, the problem was that Spurrier and his staff started slacking off on the recruiting trail and it came back to haunt them.

We must always remember that our purpose in churches is to disciple people to deeper and deeper commitments to Jesus Christ. When we give up on doing that right, we give up on recruiting people to being on service teams. We give up on developing new leaders. We give up and then we wonder why the church has aging leadership and fewer and fewer volunteers. We cannot forget to be always on the recruiting trail and that also forces us to be on the leadership development trail – not just counting on the same old crowd to pick our volunteers and leaders from.

That was the thing that I thought of this morning as I read 2 Samuel 11 for the first of five times this morning – David forgot his purpose and it caused him to fail just as when we forget that discipleship is our purpose in churches we will fail. Let’s read 2 Samuel 11 now:

Chapter 11

1 In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

 2 Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. 3 He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. 5 Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.”

6 Then David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing. 8 Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax.[b]” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace. 9 But Uriah didn’t go home. He slept that night at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard.

 10 When David heard that Uriah had not gone home, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?”

 11 Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents,[c] and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.”

 12 “Well, stay here today,” David told him, “and tomorrow you may return to the army.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Then David invited him to dinner and got him drunk. But even then he couldn’t get Uriah to go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard.


14 So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. 15 The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” 16 So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. 17 And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.

 18 Then Joab sent a battle report to David. 19 He told his messenger, “Report all the news of the battle to the king. 20 But he might get angry and ask, ‘Why did the troops go so close to the city? Didn’t they know there would be shooting from the walls? 21 Wasn’t Abimelech son of Gideon[d] killed at Thebez by a woman who threw a millstone down on him from the wall? Why would you get so close to the wall?’ Then tell him, ‘Uriah the Hittite was killed, too.’”

 22 So the messenger went to Jerusalem and gave a complete report to David. 23 “The enemy came out against us in the open fields,” he said. “And as we chased them back to the city gate, 24 the archers on the wall shot arrows at us. Some of the king’s men were killed, including Uriah the Hittite.”

25 “Well, tell Joab not to be discouraged,” David said. “The sword devours this one today and that one tomorrow! Fight harder next time, and conquer the city!”

 26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 When the period of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her to the palace, and she became one of his wives. Then she gave birth to a son. But the Lord was displeased with what David had done.

 In this passage, we see that David’s sin started off by him no longer remembering his purpose as king. He got lazy and stayed home. He felt that he was too important now to be out with his army. He got proud of his accomplishments and was resting on his laurels. There is a danger in anything when we think we have “arrived”! In any job, when you think you have all the knowledge and skill that you will ever need, you will stop paying attention to details. You will stop learning or be willing to learn. You will stop thinking that others may have the ability to teach you anything particularly those that are organizationally below you. You will begin too thinking that those above you are idiots and that you could run the organization better than they can. When you begin resting, you begin decaying. When you begin resting, you do not grow. When you begin resting, you become prideful. When you begin resting, you become defensive instead of offensive (meaning that you protect the present turf rather than trying to expand it). When Rome began building walls around their empire was the moment that they began decaying as an empire. When the Romans were at their best was when there was an urgency to expand the kingdom. Just as David here make the mistake of becoming prideful and resting on his achievements of the past, that was when he became most susceptible to decay. That decay expressing itself in indulging in his selfish desires.


That’s the takeaway for today. As Christ followers, we can learn from David. We can learn from Steve Spurrier. We can learn from the Romans. The day we rest on our achievements and stop working to expand God’s kingdom is the day we begin to decay. When we stop recruiting new people to our ministries, when we stop sharing the gospel, when we stop evangelizing, because we think we have it made is when we start decaying and settling into sinful pride and all that it entails. That is when we start excluding people. That’s when it becomes us vs. these new folks coming in our church. That’s when it becomes religious arrogance. That’s when it becomes about the color of the carpet. That’s when we start defending our turf instead of expanding it. That’s when we think we don’t have to read the Bible anymore because we got this Christ follower thing down cold. That’s when we think we do not have to grow anymore because we have “arrived” at that place where we do not want to move on from. That’s when we get comfortable. That’s when we are ripe for the temptations of sin – it’s OK for me, I’m a king, I’m a long-time Christian, I’m a mature Christ follower. I’m a…


Father in heaven, please help us to read this story of David and realize that pride can enter into the lives of each and every one of us no matter how long we have been Christ followers. Please help us to stay humble. Please help to stay hungry for you just as we were on the day of our salvation. Please help us to seek you daily in prayer and in studying Your Word. Please help to see that following you is a journey and not a destination. Please help us to always see that we can learn much from the infinite God that you are. Please help us to understand that only you are perfect and holy and that we are prideful and sinful such that we understand that we never have it made, that we are imperfect beings incapable of perfection in the absence of the covering of the grace of Jesus Christ. Help us to remember our position in relation to you. We are sinful. You are sinless. We need help daily from the grace of Jesus and to have the humility to always put you first in our lives and to give you glory in everything that we do.


Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 3:1-4:1 (Part 3 of 3)
The Lord Speaks to Samuel

Preacher’s kids are the worst kind. Have you heard that phrase? I was a preacher’s kid (PK). I grew up as the son of a South Carolina United Methodist Church minister. I have lived in Lamar, SC. I have lived in Anderson, SC once. I have lived in Walhalla, SC. I have lived in Rembert, SC. I have lived in Hartsville, SC. I have lived in Elgin, SC (just outside of Columbia, our state’s capital city). I have lived in Anderson, SC. I have lived in Travelers Rest, SC (just outside of Greenville #yeahthatgreenville), all before I graduated high school. Such is the life of a Methodist minister and his family – moving…a lot. You would think that I would have grown up and gone in the ministry as some PK’s do. My brother did that. Being a Methodist minister in the South Carolina Conference of the church is kind of the family business. My dad was a Methodist minister in South Carolina. My uncle Doug was a Methodist minister in South Carolina. My brother is a Methodist minister in South Carolina. My brother married the daughter of a Methodist minister in South Carolina. It’s the family business. However, I was the black sheep of the family! LOL! I became an accountant. And by my teenage years, I helped add to the mystique of preacher’s kids being the worst kind and as an adult I may have gone to church regularly up until about 1992, it was a nothingness, just something you did. After marrying right after my freshman year in college, I continued to attend my wife’s small 40 people at church on Sunday church that was nothing more than a glorified social club (at least that is what it seemed to me) rather than a place of spiritual challenge and growth in discipleship. So, in those years church was just something I did – nothing that caused me to accept Christ as my Savior or that would challenge me to grow in my faith if I had done so. Church, there. Church, always there. Church, not really meaning anything that just always being there, part of my life.

You would think that growing up in a preacher’s home and all that it entails that I would have grown up more spiritual in nature, more attuned to church, more studious in God’s Word, and most certainly one of those who accepted Christ at a very young age. I may have professed maybe even multiple times as a child that I had accepted Christ as my Savior but I do not ever remember a specific moment of having had the salvation experience. I did not fully experience anything like that until December 2001 when I was 39 years and 4 months old. When I was growing up, church was the family business. We often lived in parsonages that were right next to the church. Churches that my dad served were the playgrounds for me and my brother to entertain ourselves in. On Sundays it was all church business but during the week we would ramble around and through my dad’s churches as if they were daily adventures in a theme park. Back in the days when we were little, re-runs of Star Trek (The Original Series) had captured our imagination. So, of course, my dad’s churches became the Starship Enterprise. We play out episodes of the show in our starship I mean church building. Outside would be the foreign worlds where Star Trek landing parties would go. In general, we were always at the church. Since mom worked full time, Dad was the one to take care of us in the afternoons after school and in the summer time. So, while he would be in his office doing his ministerial duties, we would wander around the church buildings having our adventures. We were always at church. All the time. I guess when you are there all the time you became numb to its glory and power.

Over the years because I was always there, it was no longer special. It was just part of the scenery, the background of a little kid’s life, the background of tweener’s life, the background of a teenager’s life. With what I am about to say, don’t let it come across as though I hate the way I grew up. Don’t ever think that. When I look back on how my parents raised me, I am thankful, oh so thankful, for the way they raised me. My dad, especially, instilled in us to work hard, to know right from wrong, to treat others fairly regardless of who they were, what they looked like, where they came from, or the color of their skin. My dad instilled in us a desire to learn, to love learning, to love school, to love to learn something new every day. My dad taught us about being men. He taught that no matter what men have to work all of their lives with no breaks and that sometimes you get knocked down, things happen where people screw you over, things happen in life that are not fair, but as a man you have to get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving on. He taught us to be good providers for our families and to do whatever it takes to keep our families fed, clothed, and protected. My brother and I have grown up to be productive and generally successful in our respective fields of endeavor. So, don’t get me wrong. I had a good life growing up. I would not take anything for the great times that we had as a family and some of those great father-son moments that I had with my dad. I have no issue with the way I grew up except for one.

I think that my dad kind of ignored the spiritual condition of his children once we got past those little kid years. I think that he thought after those years just being exposed to the life of minister that we would learn, grow, accept Christ, mature as a disciple and all of that by osmosis. It was either that or Dad was so busy with church stuff from the morning in the office until sometimes late in the evenings with meetings, counseling sessions, and any other of a multitude of church activities that occupies the life of a minister. It is more than just your 8 hour a day factory or office worker job. It is from daylight til well into the night pretty much 6 to 7 days a week. A preacher is always on duty. So, when my Dad was home maybe he just wanted to decompress and church was the farthest thing from his mind. Or maybe it was that he didn’t want us to be weird, wacked out religious freaks. Our home after we were little was as secular as yours. As we got older, dad’s career progressed. So, as we got older, every succeeding church that Dad served got bigger. With bigger churches comes more responsibility. It may be all these things combined. But after early childhood, I really don’t remember my dad being our spiritual mentor. He was great in every other aspect of being dad but his spiritual leadership of me and my brother when I reflect back on it was lacking.

As many great preacher’s kids that come out of preacher’s homes that go on to be great assets to the church of Jesus Christ, there are just as many who fall away from the church and/or grow up to be wild childs. I was one who struggled with church. I was one who lived a life of self pursuit. I was one who partied up as a teenager and as an adult. I was one of those PKs. Was it because my dad kind of ignored my spiritual development? Don’t get me wrong, I accept full responsibility for the choices I have made in life but did Dad’s desire to not be a preacher when he got home play a small role in my not coming to Christ until my late 30’s?

As I read through this passage for a third time, that was what I thought of. We can never just think our kids are going to get it. We must be their spiritual leaders. We must not take for granted that just by taking our kids to church that they will be tuned in, turned on, and saved by Jesus Christ. Now, with these thoughts in mind let’s read the passage again this morning, 1 Samuel 3:1-4:1:

3 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.

2 One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle[a] near the Ark of God. 4 Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”

“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.

6 Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”

Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”

7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. 8 So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.

10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12 I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. 13 I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God[b] and he hasn’t disciplined them. 14 So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.”
Samuel Speaks for the Lord

15 Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then got up and opened the doors of the Tabernacle[c] as usual. He was afraid to tell Eli what the Lord had said to him. 16 But Eli called out to him, “Samuel, my son.”

“Here I am,” Samuel replied.

17 “What did the Lord say to you? Tell me everything. And may God strike you and even kill you if you hide anything from me!” 18 So Samuel told Eli everything; he didn’t hold anything back. “It is the Lord’s will,” Eli replied. “Let him do what he thinks best.”

19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. 20 And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and gave messages to Samuel there at the Tabernacle.
4 And Samuel’s words went out to all the people of Israel.

Here, in this passage, we see that Eli had spent his entire life in service to God. His responsibility was to oversee all the worship in Israel. However, in pursuing this great mission, he neglected the responsibilities in his own home. Don’t let your desire to do God’s work cause you to neglect your family. If you do, your mission may degenerate into a quest for personal importance, and your family will suffer the consequences of your neglect.

Let us as parents never take for granted that our kids just by exposure to our faith that they will “get it”! We must speak to them about Jesus Christ. We must evangelize our own children. We must guide them to the cross and pray daily that they accept Christ as their Savior early (so that they won’t have to live the life of idolatry and sinful lusts that we lived). We must and equally as important once they accept Christ as their own personal Savior disciple our children. We must observe the fruits of their spirit and guide them in all righteousness. We must teach them how to mature in their walk with Jesus. We must take an active role in discipling our children – not depending on them to get it by osmosis, not depending on them to get it by exposure, not depending on them to get from their children’s pastor or the youth pastor. We have to do it. It is the most important aspect of our job as parents – to teach, to lead our kids to the cross, and to lead and to teach them after the cross. It has eternal importance.

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 27:1-10

The Altar at Mount Ebal

It is one thing to be accepted as a member of God’s people. It is another to grow up into a mature member of God’s people. The difference is one is a convert and the other is a disciple. Jesus, in the Great Commission, did not say Go and make converts. He said Go and make disciples. Certainly, you cannot make disciples if conversion does not occur first. However, Jesus wanted us to grow people in the faith once they had accepted him as Savior and Lord. That is what many modern churches are dealing with. My church and many like it that have sprung up on the Christian church landscape over the past 20 years specialize in attracting those who have never heard of a relationship with a Savior named Jesus Christ or those who have been away from church for many years.


Churches like ours are reaching people with the gospel message in ways that traditional, old-school churches with their denominational affiliation in their name cannot or are not willing to reach. Many people are afraid of churches with denominations in their name. They are afraid of church named after families and have memorial in their name. Many people outside God’s family today are afraid of churches with mammoth buildings made of brick and have three stories of classrooms attached to a large and ornate sanctuary. Many who are far from God are afraid of fancy suits and fashionable dresses. That’s where our church and others like it come in. Our worship center some say looks like a Harley shop with its combination of white and black with orange striping. It is not a brick and mortar building. It is a iron frame building. Our people have always felt that they could come in their blue jeans. It is a come-as-you-are church. We are the classic modern church. We are only 10 years old. We seek and attract those who are far from God. We are what is called a seeker church, an attractional church.


We are a toddler of a church compared to many of the traditional churches in our area. One of things that we have come to realize as part of beginning our second decade of existence is that we have had a problem with “stickiness” over the past 3 to 4 years. We grew rapidly in the first 6 to 7 years of our existence. However, during the past three to four years, we have begun losing attendees at about the same rate that we have been attracting new ones. As a result, our growth rate has slowed. What we have learned is that in order to make our church “sticky” (where people come to a church and stay), we needed to help our people grow in the faith. That’s what traditional churches have done well for years – Christian education and discipleship.


In order for us to have a church of maturing Christians who look more like Christ each day and less like the world each day, we must teach what we believe as Christians, why we believe, and how to apply those beliefs in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christian beliefs. We must develop Christ followers who know and understand Scripture so that they can make Christ-like choices in their lives. This time, last year we brought Pastor Tim back from the church planting field and re-established the basics for believers class that he had been in charge of before he left to plant LifeSong Church, Manchester, CT. As well, we are now working on developing Christian education over and above that basics for believers class. We are teaching classes on all aspects of being a part of the body of Christ and knowing God’s Word and experiencing God in deeper and more profound ways. We know that we have to do more than attract people to Jesus and lead them to the cross but we have to teach them how to live beyond kneeling at the cross. We cannot simply stay kneeled at the cross. We must emerge and lived changed lives. Without Christian education and biblical knowledge, a spiritual infant will remain undeveloped and still act a whole lot like the world.


That need to make disciples and not just converts is what I thought of this morning when I read this passage, Deuteronomy 27:1-10. You’ll see why after we read through it:


27 Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people: “Keep all these commands that I give you today. 2 When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. 3 Write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 4 And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster. 5 Build there an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. Do not use any iron tool on them. 6 Build the altar of the Lord your God with fieldstones and offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God. 7 Sacrifice fellowship offerings there, eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the Lord your God. 8 And you shall write very clearly all the words of this law on these stones you have set up.”

Curses From Mount Ebal


9 Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Be silent, Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the Lord your God. 10 Obey the Lord your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today.”


Here in this passage, we see that Moses, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was telling the people that they needed to keep God’s laws in the forefront of their society. The laws of God needed to be visible and ever-present in their lives. By stating that it needed to be made of natural, uncut stones, to me, that means that God did not want His word dresses up. He did not want it added to or taken away. He just wanted His Word, His Law, made clear and unadulterated. But most of all He wanted His Word before His people each and every day so that it would be an ever-present part of their lives.


The only way we internalize God’s Word is through constant exposure to it. As we learn it and become more and more familiar with it, God’s Word becomes a part of our nature. We know how to handle situations according to His ways. When we know Scripture, we are able to call it up in our minds when we face situations where we do not know how to handle them. When God’s Word is an ever-present part of our lives, it changes us from the inside out. The Holy Spirit helps us recall God’s Word and apply it to our lives. We are changed by it. We are matured by it. We become disciples by it.


That is what we are learning at our church is that in order to mature our people and help them grow deeper in Christ, we must encounter them with God’s Word in classroom and self-directed study settings such that our people keep God’s Word before us always and make it a part of our daily lives. Our church is requiring/suggesting that all of our people regardless of spiritual maturity go through the Basics class and then start choosing higher level classes after that just so that we as mature believers don’t “get fat and sassy” (an old Southern expression meaning that we can get complacent sometimes when we think we have it made). We as a church staff want our people to take the basics class before any others so that we are all on the same page and have the same understanding. We are getting pushback from some of our more mature members. But I find that pushback shortsighted. We are never too old to learn. We are never too mature to refresh. We are never completed in our discipleship. It is amazing to me how sometimes a passage of God’s Word can be read by me a 1000 times and it not hit home. However, there is that one time that it hits you like a ton of bricks and you find new revelation in a passage you’ve known by heart for decades.


We must keep God’s Word ever-present before us. It teaches anew each and every day. Keep God’s Word before us so that it is there with us every day. Even the oldest Christian can learn something new from an infinitely more wise God. Even the oldest Christian can find no revelation for this particular phase of their lives in Scripture that they glossed over for decades. God’s Word is alive applies to us anew each day. We are never too old to have God’s Word before us each and every day.


Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 3:21-29 (Part 1 of 2)

Moses Forbidden to Enter the Promised Land

If you are like me and you are a manager at your job, do you ever sometimes wish you could show your company how much you really mean to the company if you quit and took another job elsewhere? At Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI), I am the chief finance guy. In finance, it is often true that what you do goes unnoticed unless something blows up. I have to say to myself sometimes that the best compliment for a person is finance is that finance is not mentioned at all. That means the administrative/financial part of the business is operating as it should. Sometimes, I think, man, what would this company do without me? There is so much that I do on a daily basis that keeps the company running smoothly that nobody notices. What if I quit and took another job? What would happen? My ego tells me that FAI’s smooth operating finance function would fall apart, the company would fall apart without me. Then, as I say that, I dream of those first six months without and think of how many times that they would have to call me to figure stuff out. But, of course, they would eventually get up to speed but it would be gratifying to know that they would surely miss my many off-the-job-description duties that I perform to keep the company running smoothly and out of trouble. They would finally get it that it is my passion to see my company succeed and that I have had a “whatever it takes” attitude from day one on the job.


However, is that the way that I should be thinking? None of my staff is ready to take over my job. There is only one position that is built to train someone to take over my job. That position is that of my general ledger accountant. Do I see the person holding this position as able or even willing to take over my job. Therein lies the job of a leader. We must be able to replace ourselves in the organizations that we work for or, even, those we volunteer for. It is the essence of leadership to be able to replace yourself. It is like recruiting for college football teams and then getting those players ready to be the next man up. Teams like Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State that have been consistently successful over the past 7 or 8 years have the next man up mentality. Each of these programs gets the right talent for their systems and then trains them up. The names may change over the years but these teams continue to be successful regardless of the change in names of the players on the field. We must be that way in our organizations that we lead as well. Am I getting my general ledger accountant ready to take over, or will FAI have to suffer after I leave for months as they search for someone from the outside to come in and take my place.


Should I be right now assessing whether my general ledger accountant has the leadership capabilities and the smarts to take over after me. Can I make her into a leader? Can I develop her accounting skills? Can I get her to “get it” like I do? Can I move her from a task completion orientation to a big picture view of the company? Can I get her to see that she needs to understand how our entire company operates and not just our little corner of the store? What do I do if she simply is not the type of person that wants to be a leader or has the talent to be a leader. To be a leader you have to be willing to take on the reins of leadership and learn what you need to learn and you must be a person who has that certain charisma that causes others to follow. Will she? Can she? Those are questions to be answered. Do I have the right person in the right seat? And what do I do if I realize that she is not the right person?


When I think about it, I must come to the conclusion that I have not done a good enough job in replacing myself so far. It is often easier to just do something yourself than it is to teach someone what you know. I know that I hoard the more complex tasks of my job to (1) justify my position as the knowledge holder and (2) because it is just easier for me to do it because I know the nuances of our business (all the “what to do if ‘x’ happens” nuances) that come from 8 years on the job. But am I growing my people by hanging on to the knowledge and just doing these complex tasks myself. That is why at month-end I work more hours than anyone during the time in which we close the books and do our financial reporting. It is just easier for me to do the tough stuff than it is to allow, in my mind, someone to take it over and screw it up and then have to come in behind them to clean up their mess. Eight years ago, though, that was the way I learned. If I do not train my general ledger accountant to start taking over my tougher tasks, then, the department will indeed fall apart when I leave. What you want is, that even if they do have someone come in from the outside to take my place, that my people will be able to steer the ship until a new captain takes over. However, it would be best though if I trained up my general ledger accountant to take over. That would be the most seamless way. If I don’t do these things, the department will fall apart when I leave. That’s not how we want to leave our positions when we move on. We want the success to continue. We must leave our jobs, when we move on, better than we found them. The only way to do that is to develop the “next man up” mentality within our organizations. If we want to be the Alabamas, the Clemsons, the Ohio States of the world, we must develop those second and third string players so that we the first stringers graduate and leave the program that the program will continue to thrive when the second stringers become the starters. We must be able to replace ourselves with those underneath us by developing their talent so that they can maintain success or even take the organization to the next level. Am I developing that next man up mentality at FAI? Good question.


That idea of developing that next man up mentality was what I thought when I read today’s passage, Deuteronomy 3:21-29, this morning. Let’s read it together now:


21 At that time I commanded Joshua: “You have seen with your own eyes all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings. The Lord will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. 22 Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”


23 At that time I pleaded with the Lord: 24 “Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? 25 Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”


26 But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. 27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. 28 But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” 29 So we stayed in the valley near Beth Peor.


From the middle of Genesis forward through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and now in Deuteronomy, Moses has been the central figure of the people of Israel. He is to Israel what DeShaun Watson is the Clemson football team. If you follow college football, you know that over the past three seasons, Mr. Watson has taken Clemson football to a new level of consistent excellence. He is an amazingly talented quarterback. This season will be his last at Clemson as he graduates college in December and will likely be a first round draft choice in the NFL draft this spring. He has been the central figure of Clemson football for the past three seasons. He is an amazing talent and equally good as the solid leader of the team. He will be sorely missed. He is a once in a generation talent. Will Clemson be as good the next few seasons beginning with the 2017 season without him. Who knows? However, if the coaching staff is worth its salt, they have been developing the next man up so that Clemson will continue its rise to elite status among college football programs. Recruitment and development of players is the key to long-term success in college football so that “next man up” really does work.


Moses was the star quarterback of the Israelite team. He was the practical and spiritual leader of his team. However, throughout the wanderings in the desert for 40 years, and although he was the first string quarterback, he was tutoring and coaching up the next quarterback, Joshua. Joshua was learning from the current first string quarterback, Moses. It is now time for Moses to leave the team. He has used up his eligibility and a new quarterback must emerge. However, if Moses had not kept Joshua by his side these years, Joshua would not have been ready to be the next man up.


So, too, must I develop the people that work for me at FAI and in my part-time role at LifeSong Church. I must develop my general ledger accountant at FAI to be the next man, well..uh…, woman up. If I cannot hand the job off to her when I leave FAI (whenever that may be), then, I will be like a football team that had great success because of a specific group of recruits but then falls off the map after they leave. If I have not developed the finance & admin manager at LifeSong to be the director by the time (if ever) that I leave, then I will have done my church a disservice. Vacuums are created when we do not develop the next man up. Chaos ensues. We want to make leadership a pipeline of next women and men up.


Jesus developed this mentality among the disciples. The organization, Jesus’ church, survives to this day because he invested in the development of his direct reports. And they did the same for their next generation. And here you and I sit as Christ followers because of the next man up mentality of Jesus. He set the example for us in leadership. We must follow develop new baby Christians into mature Christians and we must develop mature Christians into new leaders who will ensure the success and survival of His church. We never stop recruiting. We never stop developing. We never stop the next man up mentality.


Amen and Amen.