History class was often the most overlooked under prioritized class in school. The adolescent voice cries out, “Why study yesterday when we have today…eat and drink and be merry…etc.etc.etc.” As a church historian, that makes me cringe. Let me offer 6 reasons learning history actually makes you a better leader today;
1. Everyone screws up. History is peppered with big names of venerated leaders who really dropped the ball from time to time. Read David McCullough’s 1776. It wasn’t the greatest year for George Washington, the father of our country. Seeing their mistakes gives hope that we are in good company and we too can survive to lead another day.
2. Your situation has a context. Understanding words and sentences requires context. Understanding your church and your beliefs also requires context. The history of your church and tradition is one section heading in a long chapter of a long book written by God. Learning that context keeps you from taking your current struggle too personally. It gives you a frame of reference.
3. Free lessons in leadership. The historian in me has little patience for the “new” and “popular” of contemporary thoughts on leadership. You want real, battle tested insights? Open your history books! Account after account of the good and the bad and the ugly leadership practices of real people. Oh, and it is free. You don’t have to fly to a conference or hire a leadership coach on the blogosphere. Sit under Churchill. Study Gregory the Great. Read the Apostolic Fathers.
4. Your situation is not new. Study church history in any depth and you will unearth old footprints, impressions of your current situation already played out, lived out. You are not the first pastor to face A,B,C. You are not the first leader to be confronted by X,Y,Z. It has been seen before. What did they do? How did they maneuver the mine-field? Step where they stepped and you will most-likely reap the same results, good or disastrous.
5. History uncovers your control beliefs. We all have pre-understandings and suppositions that filter what we see and what we read and how we process reality. They re-enforce our theologies and root our models of church. They can also lead us into serious leadership error. Study history and you uncover the experiences behind your beliefs. You may also discover reason for a little humility.
6. History gives hope. God worked in the past in wonderful ways. God is still working and working in your situation. History reminds us to be patient and let God write the story. Looking back to previous promises, now fulfilled, helps us stay the course and look to tomorrow.
7. History humanizes those we differ with. The christian church is a big family- a wide river with many tributaries and streams. Reformed. Pentecostal. Evangelical. Catholic. Orthodox. Holy pagans (another article for another time). Hearing their story humanizes them in our eyes and we become more patient in the face of diversity and understanding in the presence of discord.
Start adding a healthy dose of history to your reading list. And, read history outside your stream of theology. If you are Reformed than read about Pentecostals. If you are Pentecostal than read about the Apostolic Fathers. If Catholic than read about the Orthodox. Their story is our story. Our story is His story.
In a world of veiled offers, snake-oil salesman, and political side-stepping, teach your people to lean on God’s word. Disappointment has programmed us to doubt and question, two characteristics incompatible with a growing faith.
Promise is the language of God. He does what he says he will do. He doesn’t understate nor over reach. Every word is true and backed by the authority and capacity to see it through.
- He promises friendship. Help your church receive it. (Jn 15:15)
- He promises peace. Show your church how to expect it. (Jn 14:27)
- He promise guidance. Enable your church to ask for it. (Isa 42:16)
- He promises strength. Model for your church how to lean on it. (Phil 4:13)
- He promises rest. Reveal to your church how to enter it. (Heb 4:9)
Churches cannot doubt his provision; they will never walk by faith. They cannot question God’s character; they will never enter the deeper life. Walking by promise is the surest defense against sin. Promise led Israel out of Egypt. Promise entered our world at Bethlehem. Promise was sealed at Calvary. Promise was proven by the empty tomb.
…for He who promised is faithful (Heb 10:23)
Listen for God. When you open your Bible, expect to hear Him. Slowly read a passage and expect Him to meet you in the words. Maybe just a few words and maybe only one. But, suddenly, something will resonate deep in your soul amplified by God’s heart for you and His mind tuned to your place in life. He will have struck your chord. You won’t need to question it; you won’t be able to deny it. Here is the one thing God wants you to hold on to with dear life. It will stay with you all day, echos of the conversation with the Divine. It will continue to ring and ring and ring. It is the mighty and gentle voice of God reverberating deep in your being like a bronze bell long since struck that cannot help but sound forth its tone.
Slow your people down. Teach them how to experience the Bible. They aren’t reading from God; they are listening for God.
“[reading]…is itself a practice in which the presence or absence of the fruits of the Spirit may be clearly manifest.” (p. 7) – David I. Smith, John Shortt and John Sullivan, Teaching Spiritually Engaged Reading
Do your people approach reading the Bible with a spirit of understanding or “overstanding”? Do they stand over the text or do they put themselves under it? And when they do read the Bible is it for information of transformation?
- Giving financially to a church +416%
- Memorizing scripture +407%
- Discipling others +231%
- Sharing their faith with others +228%
- Giving financially to causes other than their church +218%
Also, we (CBE) find that if a person who engages the Bible four or more times a week their odds of giving in to these temptations decreases:
- Drinking to excess -62%
- Viewing pornography -59%
- Having sex outside marriage -59%
- Gambling -45%
- Lashing out in anger -31%
- Gossiping – 28%
- Lying -28%
- Neglecting family -26%
- Overeating or mishandling food -20%
- Overeating or mishandling money -20%
They all own one. Can you help them get into one?
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! – Psalm 119:103
This study tool is your rabbit hole into Bible Wonderland. This is adventure and discovery and amazement. Remember the question, “If you were stranded on an island and could only have one book what would it be?” Sure, the first is the Bible but if I could take a second it would be The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Revised and Expanded). The NTSK has;
- 800,000 cross-references, listing verses that illustrate how words and phrases are used elsewhere in the Bible.
- Helps the reader interpret Scripture with Scripture.
- Brief chapter summaries.
- Dates and other notes.
- Grammar studies
- Figures of Speech
I firmly believe in study and seeking and hunting and being transformed by God through his Word. But, I also believe in delight and beauty and fun in our walk with God. Don’t go out to eat with the family one time and you can purchase a guide and tool that enables you to feed your soul and their soul as well!
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! – Psalm 119:103
The army that settles is no longer a threat to their enemy. The settling army wastes army resources on higher walls and deeper trenches without ever taking new ground. There is no After Action Report because this army never has any action to report. Is your church settled in behind its walls or is it regularly scattering the gospel in enemy territory?
Be leery if the work has gotten easy. Satan loves to promote and sell settling in your church. He loves to resource business provided it never turns into progress. Oh, the more you settle the easier your work will be.
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. Genesis 11:8
For more teaching on this listen to The Church that Scatters Matters in Paul message library.
Pride is the first sin, the foundational rock of every wrong choice we will make today. Pride topples nations and leaders. Pride is my downfall and yours. Pride exalts what we do not need while at the same time attempting to cover over what we do. Pride says, “I don’t need God’s help. I don’t need your help. I must do this myself.”
So, before you begin building your week, whether for a heavenly kingdom or for a diabolical empire, walk your foundation with the Chief Inspector. Subject every stone to his watchful eye. Many a mighty wall will fall because it was built on pride.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation…Let each one take care how he builds upon it. I Corinthians 3:10