Author and Pastor Stanley Mehta opens Chapter Two of his book, The Art of Raising Leaders, with those impactful words.
Where better to build that trust than within the home?
Pastor Stanley stresses how important it is to keep an open home in order to raise the next generation of leaders.
In today’s culture, an open home translates more as “entertaining” than “hospitality.” In our busy lives, an open homes comes with many qualifiers. Google calendars must sync up. Elaborate menus must be planned. The music and lighting and crockery must be on point.
But true hospitality is much simpler – and also much more powerful. Pastor Stanley uses an old Sanskrit proverb – ‘Atithi Dev Bhava’ – to point out the importance of practicing true Biblical hospitality. He explains that the saying means that one needs to welcome guests as one would welcome God. The word for “guest” in the proverb translates to ‘one who arrives without an appointment.’
In today’s world, a guest without an appointment is usually perceived as a nuisance. But receiving guests at any time is part of the Kingdom culture, says Pastor Stanley.
As one of the former pastors of Bombay Baptist Church in south Mumbai, Pastor Stanley and his wife, Esme, impacted many lives.
But that powerful, godly influence came at a cost. Right from the start of their ministry, Pastor Stanley and his wife insisted on opening the doors of their home to those in need. It meant sacrifice of personal space, of family time, and even finances.
He speaks of the time when as a young family living above the church building, they would open their home to the church youth for evening meetings. Gradually, after church, the young people would come up to Pastor Stanley’s house for lunch and stay on for the evening meeting and sometimes even later. But even with a limited salary, even with old furniture held together by rope and carpets that were falling apart, even with plates that were constantly being broken, hospitality shone through. Pastor Stanley and Esme were able to speak into the lives of the young people and disciple them.
Pastor Stanley also says that opening our homes gives the disciple-maker an avenue to hone the character of the disciple because of the trust that has been built in the intimate space of the home.
In his book, The Art of Raising Leaders, author and pastor, Stanley Mehta, speaks of how discipleship is the most Biblical form of leadership development.
If we intend to raise successors who will take our ministries forward, then Pastor Stanley emphasises that discipleship is the way forward.
He makes a clear distinction between discipleship and mentorship. While both are relational and foster learning, discipleship is founded and commanded by God. We have been given a divine commission to, “Go, and make disciples of all nations…” Jesus himself showed us a clear discipleship model at work in his three years of ministry.
While each of us is called to make disciples, it’s important that we too are discipled by those who may have walked down a similar road before us with godly grace and maturity.
For a seed to grow into a tree, Pastor Stanley says, it must be subject to a process. It has to be buried, it must receive nutrients and enough moisture from the soil. Only then will it fulfil its purpose. So too with an individual. To become a leader, he or she must subject themselves to quiet learning, to being nourished by others and by God’s Word, of going through struggles and overcoming them.
In The Art of Raising Leaders, Pastor Stanley shares from his vibrant, and often challenging, life as a pastor of Bombay Baptist Church, a century-old church in South Mumbai.
He remembers how, in his early years as a pastor, he was discipled by strong leaders who were willing to pour into his life. That discipleship didn’t just affect his role as a pastor, but it shaped him as a husband and father and friend, as well.
How does that happen? Pastor Stanley says simply yet powerfully: One of the main accomplishments of discipleship is a transformed character.
That transformation affects every aspect of our lives.
Pastor Stanley shares a personal example of how, in his early years of marriage, after a particularly intense disagreement with his wife, he had remained firmly in the “I’m right” camp – till he sought advice from his mentor in England.
After a long-distance call with his mentor, Pastor Stanley was able to reach out to his wife, and together they implemented some changes that his mentor had suggested. Their initial argument, which had led to a stalemate in their marriage, was resolved as his mentor spoke God’s truth into his heart and marriage relationship.
Pastor Stanley says simply: Discipleship helped restore our marriage relationship.
The watchword right now all over the world is lockdown!
My daughter’s last PUC board exam scheduled for Monday morning got postponed on Sunday night. In India, during the last 48 hours, several services and operations have been shut down with immediate effect. As of now, transport, shopping malls, offices, educational institutions and entertainment avenues are all shut in many parts of our nation and around the globe. What more restrictions to follow, God alone knows!
Let us pray and hope that this Coronavirus lockdown is temporary. Let us co-operate with the authorities in their efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic. Stay at Home.
But what do we do when we are locked down? For many of us, this will be a totally new experience. If you are like me, an extrovert who loves meeting people, chatting, traveling around, so on and so forth, staying inside a house for a few weeks or even a few days is not going to be easy! Self- isolation or imposed isolation is difficult for most people. In addition to this, some of us will have to deal with frustrations and disappointments. Many of our immediate plans and projects have to be, now, either canceled or postponed indefinitely. I know a couple of friends who had to postpone their wedding date. For some, the much-awaited travel and summer vacation is gone. Perhaps there are many others who are facing other such heart-breaking situations.
I would like to suggest some practical ways to make the best out of this lockdown scenario. To start with let me briefly talk about Apostle Paul who faced a lockdown situation in his life. Acts 28:30 states, “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house…” Paul was arrested in Jerusalem on the pretext that he created riots through his preaching. Recognizing he wouldn’t get a fair trial in Jewish territory, Paul demanded that he be tried in Rome as he was a Roman citizen. That’s how he ended up in Rome as a prisoner. He was not put in a dungeon but was allowed to hire a house and stay there. He was under house arrest. Praetorian guards monitored him day and night. He couldn’t move out of the house but could receive visitors. Inside the house Paul could read, write, pray, converse, so on and so forth. However, he could not move out of the house. He was locked in. Sadly, this experience didn’t get over soon. Paul had to spend almost two whole years waiting for the trial. There are some definite lessons that we can learn from his life.
1) Don’t let the lockdown dampen your joy and enthusiasm.
This is evident in the letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian church from house arrest. Despite the restrictions, he wanted the Philippians to know that he was rejoicing in the Lord. How could Paul manage to do this? He had a heart of gratitude. He thanked God for the manifold blessings (both spiritual and physical) in his life. Phil.1:3-4, 18, 2:17, 4:1, 10.
I’m sure all of us, in spite of our present disappointments and problems, if we take time to count our blessings, it will truly surprise us! I suggest you take a paper and write down all the blessings the Lord has given you and your family. Ask each member of your family to write 5 things that they are grateful to God and then share with each other.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
2) Get closer to your family members.
The ones who were with Paul during his house arrest were his occasional visitors and the soldiers who guarded him. They were his only social contacts at that time. There were no other outsiders. Paul used that time to get closer with them and perhaps even led some of them to Christ (Phil.1:13, 4:22). Furthermore, whoever met him during his confinement experienced spiritual upliftment (Phil.1: 14).
The current lockdown situation has given many of us a rare opportunity – to get closer with our loved ones and spend more quality time with them. Because of tight work schedules and travel situations, many husbands and fathers have lived with the guilt of not being ‘present’ at home. Maybe the Lord has given us an opportunity to sort this out. Of course, some of you will be working from home, but you will find some extra time for your beloved ones which you longed for. Several things can be done during this lockdown. If your family prayer time has been erratic and not substantial, this is the time to regularize it. Pray together. Read the Bible together. Discuss spiritual topics with your family members. Perhaps watch some good Christian movies online as a family or play board games. We, as a family, enjoyed a game of Uno and another local game during the last two days. It was good fun!
3) Pray earnestly and meaningfully for those whom you know.
Paul used the lockdown time to pray meaningfully for the churches and individuals whom he knew personally. Philemon 1:4, Col.1:9-12, Eph. 1:15-21, Phil. 1: 3-4. I want you to look at the meaningfulness of Paul’s prayers. He knew the spiritual condition of his people and prayed to God accordingly. Meaningful prayers are not like the spontaneous ones. They are pre-planned, well informed and timely. Of course, it needs time!
Maybe we too could use this lockdown to increase our personal prayer time. Let’s get rid of superficiality. If we do not specifically know the physical and spiritual needs of our friends and acquaintances, better give them a call or text them and find out. Also, use this time to pray for the thousands who are going through a difficult time because of the virus all over the world. Use ‘News’ not just to quench your desire for information but convert them into prayer points.
4) Re-energize your inner being.
While under house arrest, this active minister of God took the time to scrutinize his own spiritual life. He was mostly on the giving side and now this lockdown provided him the much-needed break to take stock of his inner being. This led to the realization that he needed to grow. Phil. 3:10-14.
I suggest a few books as ‘must’ read. William MacDonald’s True Discipleship, George Verwer’s “Hunger for Reality”, Robert Dann’s “Father of Faith Missions: A. N. Groves”, and Jerry Bridges’ “Trusting God.” Check the online Christian library https://www.rightnowmedia.in/ (It is a paid website, but it is worth it).
There are also a lot of free online resources made available for free by people like John Piper, John Stott, and many others.
5) Try to be productive despite the lockdown.
Paul’s success in life was his ability to be productive amid difficult situations. He didn’t while away his time thinking of the disappointments of the past or difficulties of the future. Rather, he focused on the present and wanted to make the best out of it. Paul used his lockdown situation to write a few letters, of which 4 of them are preserved as part of God’s Word today – Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon. Looking back at Christian history, a lot of saints have used their lockdown to pen down masterpieces. John Bunyan wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress” while in imprisonment. Amy Carmichael wrote close to 20 books while confined to home after she broke her leg in a fall.
We live in an age where we have plenty of opportunities to be productive, even in lockdowns thanks to the internet. Enroll yourself online for a short-term course. Equip yourself with skills that can help your job or learn some new skills.
6) Think about the inevitable event of life called death.
Paul was not frightened to meditate on death. As he faced an uncertain future, he contemplated on death as one of the possible outcomes. Phil.1:21-23. He didn’t shy away from thinking about death. His view of death as a departure from this world to his Savior’s presence gave him hope. Though he contemplated the possibility of death, he wanted to live, if it is God’s will. Phil.1:24. He also believed in supernatural deliverance. Phil.1:19. Likewise, he believed that God is capable of showing mercy and deliver his children from death like situations. Phil.2:27.
Though we hate to talk about suffering and death, it is real. Times like this remind us of that fact powerfully. Looking at history, epidemics like this has wiped out populations across the world – Black death – 20 million in Europe, between 1918 and 1920 Spanish flu killed close to 50 million. Many sincere believers also lost their lives. It is unbiblical to think that all believers are going to be protected from this pandemic onslaught. Sincere believers may also face death due to Coronavirus. Nevertheless, what makes a believer distinguished in times like this is the hope he or she has. On the one hand, we can plead with God to deliver us from this deadly virus for He is merciful. On the other hand, we are called to exhibit eternal hope in the midst of death all around. For those who are in Christ, death is not a failure to survive the pandemic or withdrawal of God’s grace. It is just a vehicle to depart from this world to his glorious presence.
Fear of death is real and natural, especially in times like this. I went through this kind of experience when I was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) 3 years back. Since then, I do take precautions wherever possible. I do take medicines daily. I continue to do scans and tests periodically. But I live by faith. I trust in His word which says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Take necessary precautions to protect yourself and your beloved ones while at the same time trusting in His care.
7) Know that our Lord is Sovereign, and He is in Control.
Although Paul could not really see the end of his lockdown or the eventual outcome of his trial, he knew that His God was in control of his life. He knew that his life was in the hands of the one who could turn every situation for his good and His glory. Phil.1:12. He knew the one in whom He believed.
Coronavirus may have originated because of human absurdity, carelessness, or wickedness. But our understanding of God’s sovereignty demands that we believe that our God knew the exact moment and mode when the first covid- 19 virus entered a human body. I’m not suggesting that God is responsible for this. But by being Sovereign– He knows what is happening, and he has allowed it to happen. Why? We cannot know for sure. But we do not have to jump into abrupt and absurd conclusions.
The world may find it difficult to control the pandemic, but it is not beyond our God’s control. So, let us plead with Him for Mercy upon this world. May we also have the boldness to pray ‘Let your will be done’!
Sam serves as an itinerant Bible teacher. Based out of Bangalore, he directs Emmaus Academy of Biblical Studies (EABS), an online correspondence Bible course. He is also in charge of the Missions Focus wing of Operation Barnabas ministries in India. Sam is married to Jiji and is blessed with 2 children.
We’ve all experienced that “back against the wall” scenario: a week that didn’t go as planned—crises appearing from nowhere as crises are most likely to do—and study time set aside in the face of more urgent tasks. Now exhausted and distracted, you sit at your desk staring at a stubbornly incomplete sermon. You may even begin to wonder if people will notice whether you just rehash a sermon you preached a few years back. Change the title and some key illustrations and surely they won’t notice. Right?
Sunday looming, another solution presents itself. With just a few clicks and some creative searching, you could access the entire wealth of the internet: blog posts, commentaries, even entire sermons. You could be done in less than an hour, leaving space for some badly needed time with your family.
Maybe just this once.
After all, is it really that big of a deal if you’re the one who does all the research? Shouldn’t it be enough for you to craft the final product, shaping it to meet the needs of your particular church? Does it matter who does the grunt work?
In one particularly interesting passage in On Christian Doctrine (4.29), Augustine wrestles with this same issue. And, as he often does, he takes the question even a step further, envisioning a situation where it might be advisable for this to be an ongoing practice in the church, not just a one-time thing.
There are, indeed, some men who have a good delivery, but cannot compose anything to deliver. Now, if such men take what has been written with wisdom and eloquence by others, and commit it to memory, and deliver it to the people, they cannot be blamed, supposing them to do it without deception For in this way many become preachers of the truth (which is certainly desirable), and yet not many teachers; for all deliver the discourse which one real teacher has composed.
Augustine specifically has in mind people who are gifted communicators (he calls these “preachers”) but not gifted at researching and writing sermons (these are the “teachers”). In other words, they can present a sermon powerfully, but they can’t write a powerful sermon. Or, in our context, we might even include gifted communicators who simply don’t have the time to write powerful sermons, focusing their attention instead on other meaningful activities. And Augustine argues that it’s perfectly legitimate for such pastors to memorize sermons written by other people and preach them to their own congregations, as long as they do so “without deception.” In other words, just tell people where you got this brilliant sermon and you’ll be fine.
In my next post, I’ll offer some reasons that I think Augustine’s proposal is worth considering, so long as we do so thoughtfully and openly. But, before we get there, I think it’s important to pause for a moment and reflect on four reasons to be careful with any suggestion that pastors should let people do the hard work of crafting a sermon for them.
A good preacher needs to be shaped by the text. Before preaching the sermon, preachers need to soak in the text and allow it to shape their lives. And the only way to do that is to do your own homework. You have to wrestle with the text yourself before you can challenge others with it.
A good preacher checks their sources. Everyone preacher uses resources when putting together a sermon. After all, you can’t know everything. But the danger of using someone else’s sermons is that you have to assume they got it right. Not a safe assumption no matter how brilliant your source. If you’re going to stand before God’s people and preach God’s word, you should probably invest some time to make sure you’re doing it well. I hear God takes that rather seriously.
A good preacher needs to contextualize the text. As I mentioned above, every preacher knows that a good sermon is written for a particular audience. But there’s more to contextualizing a sermon than just reading someone else’s sermon and figuring out how to say the same thing to your audience. Good contexualization arises from good interpretation, and that only comes from homework.
A good preacher needs to adapt on the fly. Even people who manuscript their sermons know that a good preacher should be able to adjust the sermon on the fly. Reading the audience, you can tell when you need to dwell on a point just a bit longer or explain something just a bit more clearly. But that means you have to own the material well enough to make such adjustments without losing the thread of the sermon.
With these four reasons in mind, we need to be careful with advice suggesting that pastors can outsource sermon preparation, whether that advice comes from an online service or someone as influential as Augustine.
Nonetheless, as I said earlier, I do wonder if there’s a way of capturing the value of Augustine’s collaborative approach to preaching while still guarding against the dangers we’ve just discussed. And that’s what we’ll pursue in my next post.