Leadership

The Power of an Open Home

Without trust, discipleship cannot be effective.

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.

 

Click to buy : The Art of Raising Leaders  

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Discipleship Spills Over Into Our Relationships

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.

 

Buy Now: The Art of Raising Leaders 

 

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DON’T OUTSOURCE YOUR SERMON PREP

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.

  1. 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.
  2.  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


photo credit: Macsoundhine via photopin cc

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