November 29, 2014

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25

long_road-aheadAs the remaining days of adequate daylight dwindled, I abandoned running in preference to cycling. My goal of cycling over 2,000 miles in a year was within my grasp so I filled those precious post-work hours on the bike. I happily pedaled past 2,000 miles until daylight-savings snuffed out anymore evening bike rides.

However, the consequence was a complete lack of running for about a month. It is a common story for me. I will abandon running to the most insignificant of excuses. I am not a person who experiences the runner’s “high”. Therefore, a run does not hold the promise of an endorphin fix. It is just a rather uncomfortable workout.

cold run 1Since the season of outdoor cycling has passed, I have reluctantly returned to running. I am too inconsistent on the treadmill so I decided to do evening runs at a local track. In my new found dedication, I completed a couple workouts but quickly found it hard to persevere in my commitment to running in the dark and cold. I could feel all the excuses sapping my resolve. Inconsistency was once again lurking around the corner ready to devour my motivation.

A runner friend discovered my activities and began to join me. Around and around the track, we run in darkness. I hear his breath and adjust my pace to the beat of his footfalls. I run faster. My lungs burn and my legs sting but I push on just a little longer because… he is still going. These have been some of the best workouts I have had and some of the most enjoyable.

cold run 2I have enjoyed it so much that a polar vortex and snow have not kept me from the track.  I ran in 13 degree F temperatures when, in the past, threatening clouds kept me in?  The question is why?

I have read books and articles on running.
I have listened to running experts.

I know how to be a better runner.
I want to be a better runner.

I could benefit from a coach but knowledge is not my primary need. Knowledge is not what keeps me from being a better runner.

A lack of running has kept me from becoming a better runner.

My greatest need as a runner is encouragement to run – encouragement to do. I went out in 13 degree weather because someone came by my office door and said “you coming?”. It was as simple as that. I would not have persevered in doing what I need to do if it had not been for that simple encouragement.

I tell this story as an illustration of what I believe to be the Church’s primary need.  In my last blog (The Fall of the Homely Handy), I pondered how the Church might want to respond to the information age that we are currently living in.

OpenBibleWe live in a time when the internet delivers into our homes some of the greatest Spirit-inspired teaching of the centuries. We can listen to teachers from across the globe that have been powerfully gifted and called to eloquently preach the Word of God. I can easily research any theological question that might be troubling me. We can maintain a near constant hearing of the Word of God.

I asserted that in the typical Church, the majority of their activities revolve around education – presenting the Word of God to the ears of their congregation.

Yet, is that our greatest need?
Are the ears of the typical Christian suffering
from a lack of hearing the Word of God?

I believe that no Christian has the excuse of inadequate teaching. We live in a wonderful age. We can easily supplement any inadequacies that may come from the teaching of our local Church. Therefore, I don’t believe that true followers of Christ are suffering or should suffer from a lack of hearing the Word of God.

Yet, I do see a lack of doing.
I do see a lack of perseverance.
I see a lot of folks who are hearers of the word but struggle at being doers.

They know what they need to do to better follow Christ.
They want to be better followers of Christ.

I know that every Christian can benefit from Spirit-inspired teaching but I don’t believe that more teaching is the primary need of the typical believer. Hearing the word of God is not what keeps me from being a better follower of Christ. A failure to do is what keeps me from being a better follower of Christ.

Therefore, how do we become better doers?
If this is the primary need of Christians,
then how can the Church better meet this primary need?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

I assert that the greatest need of the typical Christian is encouragement; encouragement to persevere through difficult times; encouragement to love; encouragement to good works; encouragement to DO; encouragement to take what we have heard, what we know, and to actually DO it.

The author of Hebrews is encouraging the Church to come together for the purpose of motivation – to stir one another up and encourage each other to be DOERS.

So, what might this look like in our information age?

Ironically, I suggest that we learn from the example of David Dickson in his book “The Elder and His Work”, first published in America in 1883. He provides practical advice of an elder’s call to the ministry of shepherding Christ’s flock, which is really a description of how we are to practically encourage one another to be DOERS.
Here is how I will summarize this example from the late-1800’s that I think we can learn from:
  1. TEACHERS SHOULD TEACH: PreachI am not suggesting that pastors should abandon the preaching and teaching the word of God. That would not be Biblical. Our Lord has gifted and called teachers to speak the word of God to our ears. They need to be faithful to their calling. Our local pastors have the opportunity to speak from the Word to the direct needs of their congregation. That is something that no podcast can do. In addition, I believe that teachers have a responsibility to teach the Church how to wisely and safely use the resources that we have available to us in this informational age. We know that all that is on the internet is not good. Therefore, we need to be shown where to go and how to discern the information that we might come across.
  2. SHEPHERDING SHOULD BE VALUED: shepherdI am suggesting that the shepherding of the congregation should be valued as much, if not more than, preaching and teaching in this informational age. I am arguing that the greatest need of today’s Church is for followers of Christ to become better DOERS. I believe that will be best accomplished by practical encouragement – shepherding. Therefore, local Churches should evaluate how they are doing the ministry of shepherding. They should be particular and specific in dedicating resources to this desperately needed ministry. They should be practical and organized so that people in their congregations don’t fall through the cracks and be overlooked.
  3. SHEPHERDING IS A TASK BEYOND THE PASTOR: IS4086RF-00038636-001There is no pastor that has enough time to practically shepherd a congregation. I believe that shepherding should be the primary task of the Elders. It seems that the primary task of many elders has become the purveyors of budgets and bylaws. This is where we can learn from our past and the example of David Dickson. In the 1800’s church in Scotland, the families of the congregation were divided amongst the Elders. Each elder was responsible to shepherd specific families. He regularly visited those he was shepherding. He knew them personally. He knew their struggles and trials. Therefore, he was able to give that needed word of encouragement and when necessary a word of admonition or correction that might be received. He was able to see where additional teaching would be beneficial because he knew where they were spiritually. He was able to effectively disciple which requires an involvement in people’s messy lives beyond what can be accomplished by a Sunday morning greeting. By this organizational structure and division of responsibilities, the elders were able to practically shepherd a large congregation.
  4. SHEPHERDING IS A TASK FOR EVERYONE: I have focused on elders in this discussion because I believe the Church needs to be organizedEnglish: A man helps a friend along at the 200... so that shepherding actually happens for the entire flock of Christ. However, I hope it is clear that the ministry of shepherding is something every follower of Christ can provide to each other. It is not a ministry that is reserved for the elder or the pastor of our Churches. We should all be encouragers. We all should excel at stirring each other up to love and good works. Imagine the draw of our gatherings if when we came together our primary purpose was to encourage one another. I cannot help but to think that our Churches might be closer to meeting our primary need – encouraging one another to finish the race and to persevere all the more as we see the Day draw near.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the church.  Thank you for our pastors and elders you have called to their specific ministries.  Thank you for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  That you for those who are encouragers.  Help me to be an encourager.  Help me to be an encouragement to my family and friends.  Help our churches to be places where we are encouraged to persevere.  Lord, form our churches so that all of our needs are met.  Don’t let us forget our own faces.  Give us the strength and motivation to faithfully follow you through anything.  Give us encouragers.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen





  1. Great post. I agree that most churches are fat on the Word and lean on application. Thanks for sharing!

  2. JD,

    Yes and yes and yes.

    My wife and I and our family moved into a new area, and found a very large church as our new home.

    Great preaching, Phenomenal music (big,big, big for me), but relying on small groups for that personal touch. Sunday’s are not a time of socializing with brother and sister.

    While we learned from a team of gifted preachers, and worshipped to professional musical worship, we shrivelled from lack of family. Not that it couldn’t be found, but that it was difficult to do so.

    I was connected through the music, as I began playing on the arious worship teams and at the various campuses. But mu wife, and daughter not so much.

    My wife needed to be in community, to feel surrounded by love, and to be honest so do I.

    So my in-laws began attending a smaller, town denominational church. ANd my wife went with them one Sunday. Her countenance that day when I came home had a familiar glow. She’d been touched by loving members of a church in 1 day.

    We’d been discussing a change,but she was reluctant due to my love of playing music and doing so in such an excellent way. So was I, but that day made up my mind, it needed to happen.

    Our son is heading of to the Marines soon….. and as he waits he was floundering, his Christian Friends off in college and no connection at our church. His mom just wanting there to be a group of people to love on him and be praying when he heads off. The worship team found out he was musically gifted…..BOOM, he’s involved. My wife who hadn’t sung at church, since we moved, was asked to sing, and I was asked to contribute. My daughter even played the tambourine. This all happened Sunday, my second week there.

    I’m still transitioning out of my commitments at the other church, and still face my own desire/dilemma, but it is so apparent that no man is an island without the love, encouragement and christian community, to build us up.

    AND, All this without a single deep interaction with the new churches pastor.
    “It takes a village”, not something I feel is a politically great idea, but spiritually it is absolutely necessary.

    • Amen! Thank you for your comment.

  3. Fantastic post my friend. If you don’t mind, do you get “cyclist’s high”? I find it easier to get that little rush on the bike than in running shoes. Just curious.

    • I think that I might have a few times. Although, it has been nothing like what my runner friends have described to me. My sister-in-law is a runner and she starts feeling great just a 1/2 mile into a run. Does it take a long ride for you to get a “cyclist high”? I am in the process of trying to “lean out” a bit. I am hoping that if I get lighter than running might come easier. The added perk is that I will be faster on the bike (which is my main reason).

      • Your sister-in-law is “in the zone”. The “high” comes after generally – you have to punish the body enough for it to produce the endorphins in decent amounts. Being in the zone, where you feel in tune with your running (or riding), while exceptionally fantastic, is not the high. The high, and it’s really subtle, is that overwhelming feeling of peacefulness, that everything is wonderful, at the end of the journey. Pay close enough attention and you’ll feel it regularly except in cases where you’re taking it easy.

      • That makes sense. I guess that I have experienced the “runners high”. What I want is more “zone”. Any suggestions on how to make that happen on a more regular basis.

      • Just so happens, i’ve written a post on how to do that… Gimme a second, I’ll dig it up…

      • Here’s “the zone”: https://fitrecovery.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/running-into-the-zone/

      • Sweet; Thanks!

      • My pleasure.

  4. JD, this is fabulous. You have put into words something I’ve been wrestling with. How can one be a part of a congregation for years and yet feel unknown? It is a lack of shepherding. I and many others are keenly feeling this lack.

    Thank you for this. It gives me much to ponder. In my sphere, it must start with me, coming alongside my brothers and sisters and encouraging them to press on. Blessings to you.

    • Hey Rebeca – thanks for you comment. I think it is something that many of us struggle with. It is so easy to give up on congregation that we don’t feel a part of. The challenge, at least for me, is the golden rule – encourage others as I want to be encouraged, even when they are not very encouraging.
      God Bless

  5. JD, I happen to agree with you in this area completely. Our job as Christians is to encourage one another. While encouragement is not the end of all means, it is a tool in the hand of the Church to further the Gospel and help us all to walk in the works our Father has prepared for each follower so long ago. We often opt for the comfort and forget that the harvest is at hand, work is plenty, and the workers are few. Blessing to you, as you all surrender to Him in all you do 🙂 thanks for this great post!

    • Hey Heidi – thanks for your well said comment.
      God Bless

  6. My mother went home to be with the Lord this week. She had a special gift for encouragement. Everyone around her was blessed by it. If we have the privilege of growing up in intact families, we may take a gift like that for granted. Those of us who have ministered in the inner city, where families are often fractured, know firsthand that encouragement is the one gift desperately lacking. Both circumstances and their elders often discourage children from pursuing their dreams. One generation denied hope, denies it to the next. On and on it goes. When we first established a Christian legal clinic for the needy, we contacted numerous suburban church with a view toward securing prayer support. Not, mind you, financial support. Prayer support. The encouragement alone would have meant so much. No interest was shown. It was a sad reflection on the state of our churches and the state of our nation. By way of encouragement, I regularly read your blog which I find both relevant and doctrinally sound. (For anyone who may be interested, I’ll be posting a eulogy for my Mom tomorrow at alawyersprayers.com.)

    • Hey Anna – thank you so very much for your comment. You are so very correct. My wife works at a pregnancy resource center and sees the very same reality that you have seen in the inner city. The mentoring programs of these ministries are wonderful ways to break that sad cycle of discouraging the next generation from thinking they can break free. It is true that one of the most powerful influences is the encouragement that we from intact families often take for grant. Thank you also for the reminder that we all need to take the time to support, pray and encourage those who are in those difficult “front-line” ministries.
      My our Lord and Savior richly bless you in your service to Him!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: