Preparing a sermon (1)

So, you’ve been asked to present a message to the church. What now?

Three steps: Prepare. Deliver. Reflect.

And then… Prepare for the next!

That’s it.

 

I know, it’s just too simple to leave it like that.

Some will be frightened with the “what” to say. It seems that all is blank, a fog just came in and covered it all. You don’t know what to say. Others, especially those who know what to say, might be concerned with all the details of “how” to say it. And they are stressed with the manner, voice, gestures, length of time, appeal etc. However, let me start with another module.

Let’s begin with the “why”.

 

Why?

Yes: why are you preaching? If it’s just because you’ve been called to, probably to fill in the preaching roster for a congregation, then it is fair to find a better reason. (Even to quit.) This is not to say that such a reason is bad in itself. Bear with me, find a higher motivation. (Would you listen to someone just because is „his turn”?)

 

Try something like:

  • I have found a truth that has really changed my personal life. Finding a value for my life, I want to share it in the church.
  • There is a special need in my church these days. I am impressed to check into it using a certain passage from the Word of God  that will provide a solution.
  • Something happened in the world (community, country, world) that we as Seventh-day Adventist must definitely address.

 

You’ve noticed three spheres: (1) personal, (2) local (your audience), (3) world-wide (society at large). Let me detail a bit on each one of them.

 

1. Personal

You have found something interesting. Maybe you read something, or listened to an inspiring message, you saw a scene in a movie or talked to someone, went through a crisis or had a personal experience – you get it, it should be something that impressed you. And it made you change or entirely rethink something. Reflect how it changed your perspective, maybe even your life.

Don’t…

If it didn’t change you, if it is just an interesting, smart idea, don’t go further. We are tired of quotes over social media, where people adorn themselves with the thoughts or experiences of others… Try yours, be original. Don’t miss this: people will sense if what you say is real or fake. (Did I say “what”? Sorry. I should have said it “why”.) Your wife and your children will know it also. On the other hand, if you’ve been there, if your experience is genuine, people will feel it. You will speak with passion and that will be reflected in their eyes. Authentic sermon will get authentic feedbacks.

Let’s check some biblical situations (two for each). These might give you ideas, changing your perspective towards a better preaching.

 

Bible situation #1

The Samaritan woman had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Later she went to her fellow Samaritans in the village testifying about Jesus: “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). The reaction of people in her audience was immediate: “They went out of the town and were coming to him” (v. 30). Later, they said to the woman: “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (v. 42).

We can see the dynamics: from Jesus (source) to the preacher (instrument), and from there to the audience (destination). And then from the audience back to Jesus. What about your preaching? Imagine someone telling you some time after the sermon this verse 42.

Homework: find other people that can be enlisted here. Put yourself in the shoes of… for example: the former demoniac, now well dressed, to whom Jesus tells “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (Mark 5:19-20).

 

Bible situation #2

Some Jewish exorcists tried to capitalize the fame of Jesus, as preached by the great apostle Paul. Their message to a demon was: “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims…” (Acts 19:13). They preached about (a) Jesus without any connection to Him, they used their messages based on Paul’s efforts, without sharing anything with the faithful servant and sufferer for Christ. No wonder the demon asked in a loud voice: “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” (v. 43). Imagine you are at the pulpit, and someone asks you this… No need to remind you that these sons of the high priest left the place ashamed, naked, and wounded.

Again, see the cycle from a different angle: just a lip service with strong messages preached by great preacherd, while the speaker of the day has no personal connection to Jesus, gets him exposed to real needs and crises. He becomes the naked one… Why are you preaching „Paul’s Jesus” and not your Jesus?

Homework: find other people that can be enlisted here. Put yourself under the gown of… for example: Nicodemus. While he praises Jesus, trying to avoid the real personal problem (no connection with Jesus), the Lord tells him straight: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God […] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:3,7).

 

2. Church

Maybe you sensed a need in the church: a doctrinal issue (salvation, or end-time events), an influence spreading (perfectionism, or relaxing the standards), an opportunity for mission or even a subject that is being avoided. On the other hand, maybe is the Week of Prayer, or a day when a department presents its report, it is the beginning of a new term, or a day of a specific emphasis (children, youth, family, thanksgiving). Maybe a death occurred in the church, or a new family has been formed or enlarged. Whatever the need, challenge, opportunity you sense in the audience, think about it and set your mind to present a message to address it. This is not limiting you, only making you aware of some anchors you can use for a better connection to your listeners.

Don’t…

You will be tempted to preach for some against others (a hot issue like keeping the Sabbath), or to preach for some while neglecting others (to families, while singles/widows are left aside). Prepare such a message that answers the one specific need for the whole church. The issue is to be addressed for those in need as well as for those that might help. For the direct beneficiaries, but also for others that might wake up to such a truth. Make it a win-win sermon.

Be open and ready to answer out loud the silent question in your audience: “why is he preaching this?“ (remember that each one thinks: “is he preaching this to me?“).

 

Bible situation #3

The Galatian churches were troubled by some Judaizers who came to preach that the formula for salvation is “Jesus + works = saved” (even today such a subject is a hot issue in some churches). This in turn led to legalism while diminishing the crucial and exclusive role of Jesus’ crucifixion. In Paul’s evaluation, these preachers brought “trouble” and came to “distort the Gospel” (Galatians 1:7). What the apostle did was to specifically address the crisis in the church. Let us be clear: Paul didn’t preach about the Flood, nor did he explain the prophecies in Daniel, avoided reciting Psalms, and stayed away from checking genealogies. He knew he had to preach the genuine Gospel, not seeking “the approval of man” (v. 10). After the most impressive personal testimony, from 1:11 to 2:14 (see 1. Personal, above), he nailed it delivering the true message: “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (2:16).

Yet, he talked to the other party also: “you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (5:13). Looking for a win-wins situation, he ended his message with an emotional appeal: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:1-2).

What a message! We read it and find it helpful even today. Why not preach like that?

Homework: take a look at other churches – Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos etc. Start planning the sermon you would deliver to them if asked to come to their pulpit, knowing also the true message and evaluation given by the Lord Jesus Christ to each one of them in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

 

Bible situation #4

Cornelius’ house was known as a place where one can find help in times of need. His deeds were known to men, and his prayers have ascended to angels and to the Lord (Acts 10:2,4). He was on the right path, yet he needed more instruction and guidance into the whole truth. Peter the apostle came to help, although he had to cross a huge barrier – coming close to “unclean” people. While entering the house of Cornelius, Peter started his sermon to all the eager present there: “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation…” (v. 28). What? Imagine yourself at the pulpit of a church starting your sermon with such words! You might not have a chance to get to your second paragraph… Go home, brother, we don’t need you. Praise God that he didn’t wait too long to turn the attention to God: “but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (v. 28). And the rest is history.

See again the big picture: Peter answers a need of a group, presents them a balanced message of truth, and proves that God loves everyone. In the end he himself is astonished by the change in his former pagan audience – baptized by the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues (as a sign) as the apostles did at the Pentecost, now Cornelius’ relatives were “extolling God” (v. 46).

Homework: Read again Acts 10, but don’t read Acts 11:1-3! (come on, take your Bible). Now, that you did, how would you preach to your “clean” brothers?

 

3. World

A hurricane devastated an entire island, the Christmas is near with its opportunities and challenges, the religious players of the historic churches just made another compromise… Maybe an international crisis or a new discovery is on every breaking news, catching the attention of all. In two words: something happened. You will be smart to use any public event or situation to present the Gospel truth.

Don’t…

Be aware that any message for such a situation should be based not on a breaking news only. Just think for a moment: what will remain of your powerful sermon after the crisis fades away? If you don’t want it to follow the way to the bin, as the yesterday’s newspaper, then lift your message above the event itself, and dig its foundations deep into the Bible, and think of connections, projections and applications that can be helpful for every day’s life of your audience.

 

Bible situation #5

“You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching!” Such was the accusation against the disciples of Jesus, in the early days of Christianity (Acts 5:28). The apostles had a message and a firm determination “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (4:20). Far from being fanatics, they were just real, faithful messengers of the Lord, knowing that a crucial event had taken place, with huge implications for the nation and that generation, for the city and the world: “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (5:30-32). They were preaching to their times!

Once again, let us check the dynamics: an event takes place (Crucifixion), it has huge implications, some people are aware of that, some others are indifferent or even denying its importance. What would you preach to them? Topics like being vegan or not, the issue of silence during the church service, voting a budget or arguing about the recipe of the bread for the Communion are good subjects. But not for such times!

Homework: browse the daily news from different media broadcasters. See if you can find common topics, events, trends that everybody talks about. And try to connect them with passages from the Bible that would give them a real and helpful answer, that will put them in their real perspective. Now you know what to preach!

 

Bible situation #6

“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” One can sense the amazement of the two disciples when, on the road to Emmaus, met this guy who seemed to be from another world (Luke 24:18). Only a stranger could be so out of touch with the real world, not knowing the great events that took place in Jerusalem in the last 72 hours… “What things?”, dared the stranger ask them (v. 19). If we scan rapidly the series of events that made history on the weekend in Jerusalem we can find many which will make the headline.

Let us count about ten “signs of the times”: (1) the high priest took an action -tearing his garment – that equaled to his death sentence (Matthew 26:65; cf. Leviticus 21:10); (2) some unknown hand ripped the curtain of the Holy of Holies in the Temple (Matthew 27:51); (3) two political leaders of the age made peace (Luke 23:12); (4) a criminal pretending to be Messiah was set free (Mark 15:7); (5) a subjugated nation vowed loyalty to the Caesar (John 19:15); (6) a nation took a decision, assuming bloody repercussions of their deed to their future generations (Matthew 27:15); (7) a very unusual eclipse, for approximately three hours, covered the whole country (Matthew 27:45); (8) an earthquake took place, so powerful that opened some graves (Matthew 27:51-53); (9) a replica of the earthquake, two days later, even stronger (Matthew 28:2); (10) the fearful apostles of a Rabbi stole his body from the grave while the strong Roman soldiers guarding it were asleep (Matthew 28:12; N.B. that would be in the 😉 “fake news”).

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus could have told the Stranger volumes about each of these events. Don’t miss it, almost all of them can be labeled as “signs of the times”. Let’s preach about them, brother! Can’t you see the end is near? Don’t water down the message. When was the last time you heard a sermon about the second coming? (You know what I’m talking about…).

But look at the disciples – they talk about Jesus only (Please do yourself a favor and read Luke 24:13-35). Would you talk about the infamous death of a Galilean teacher? That’s not breaking news… msybe heart breaking news. But for the disciples all the above-mentioned events are nothing if not checked against the backdrop of Jesus’ crucifixion. Preach about the “signs of the times”, but let Christ be the center of your preaching. Hang these signs to the nail of His cross.

Homework: take some time and think about what meaning have the events that others see as “signs of the times” if one will see them apart from Jesus (LGBT rights, pro-Life vs pro-choice, immigrants’ crisis, unending wars, economical fears etc.). Look at them from the other perspective, what weight will they get if Jesus’ soon second coming would be brought in? Brother and sister, maybe now you know better WHY you preach what you plan to preach!

 

Conclusions

1. Personal – speak from your personal experience. Jesus challenged Pilate:

“Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” (John 18:34).

If others told you, then take a break and go back to your closet, pray and read your Bible. You will get a message from God.

2. Know the needs of your audience. John the Baptist had an answer from God for every category of people in his audience.

“And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them […] Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them […] Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them […] So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:10-14,18).

If you don’t know the needs of your audience, first take a sit in the church, mingle with the people and surely enough, you will identify the opportunity.

3. Preach to the times, centering all on Jesus. Paul said:

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. […] so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:2,5).

If you don’t preach Christ, then step out of the pulpit. Why are you there? People came to see Jesus (John 12:21). 


A following article „Preparing a sermon (2)” will cover the „how” to prepare the „what” to say. Let me know your feedback.

Reclame

Leadership principles in the life of Boaz

As part three of a series, this post will present the leadership principles in the life of Boaz. Different from Ezra and Barnabas, who led groups, peoples, churches, Boaz will be presented as a leader who wins one person, Ruth.

 

1. Being part of God’s bigger plan

Boaz is introduced as „a relative” of Naomi’s husband (Ruth 2:1). While the first chapter of the book of Ruth ended with the death of all the males in Naomi’s family – something like „all hope is gone” -, this second chapter is like a call to back up a little and see that all is not lost. God had a plan with a relative set aside in advance, someone unknown to the reader so far, a character in the background who was to come to spotlight soon.

As we shall see later, he became the grand-grandfather of David, as such an ancestor of the Messiah! From a different angle, as presented in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5), God prepared the way ahead in the way Boaz came to life on earth. When his own father, Salmon, married Rahab, and as Boaz grew up in such a family, most probably he learned also to show the spirit of the Gospel, in winning Gentiles to the Lord.

2. A divine double confirmation

When Ruth decided to go to the field to glean, the Bible says: „she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2:3). How come that it just „happened”? Not only that is happened, but she immediately found favor in Boaz’s workers. It was known that gleaning in other’s field, although permitted and regulated by the law of God (Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19-21), could have ended in being assaulted (Ruth 2:22 and Ruth 2:9).

Naomi saw there more than just a good work opportunity. When she heard about whose field was, she exclaimed: „May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead […] the man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers” (Ruth 2:20). Somehow the reader is lead to see that such a happening is God’s divine appointment.

3. Personal devotion

We do not know much about his personal devotion from actual Bible texts. However, we can get hints as we observe his speech, actions, attitudes. When he came to visit his field workers, he greeted them with „The Lord be with you”. Interesting enough, his workers responded on the same manner „The Lord bless you” (Ruth 2:4). Somehow this shows first that he was a religious man, a believer, and second that he created that environment around him (in his business, as is the case) where the leadership had also spiritual dimensions, where God was the one leading both the owner of the business and the employed workers.

Also, when he spoke with Ruth for the first time, he encouraged her on the spiritual path she had taken: „The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (Ruth 2:12).

4. Leading by example

 Boaz represented the character of the Christian gentleman. Like Abraham, he commanded his household after him to keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment. He showed courtesy to all his servants, and as he passed among his workmen in the field, he said unto the reapers, “The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee.” Here is a lesson for both masters and servants, for employers and the employed. The servants are strengthened in their hearts to do righteously, to be faithful to masters who manifest respectful kindness and courtesy towards them. Christians should be the most courteous people in the world. (Ellen G. White, Home Missionary, December 1, 1894, Art. A, par. 1).

5. Multiple tasks/gifts

Boaz is praised as „a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:1). Between the line we can read also that he was a rich man who could buy fields, he had many workers, he was following through the whole process of getting the crops (from sowing to harvesting), he was involved into the work by visiting, evaluating, checking the perspectives etc.

As Naomi rightly observed, he was a task-oriented person. When Boaz decided to redeem Ruth, Naomi comforted her saying: „the man will not rest but will settle the matter today” (Ruth 3:18).

6. Vision

Boaz first heard about Ruth’s story, as it was „fully told” to him (Ruth 2:11). Then he spotted her right away from all his workers (Ruth 2:5). Later on he showed her favor in a progressively manner:

  • (a) permiting her to glean on his fields for the full season,
  • (b) charging the men not to touch her,
  • (c) letting her glean even among the sheaves,
  • (d) and more, asking others to pull out bundles for her
  • (e) in the end giving her much more of the grains harvested

What it seems a benevolence shown unto a poor relative seems to be also part of a bigger test having its peak towards the end of the harvests. When Ruth called to be redeemed, Boaz exclaimed: „May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first [2:11] in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich” (Ruth 3:10).

Boaz decided to act as the redeemer. The „worthy man” (2:1) has found the right match, as „all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman” (Ruth 3:11).

His vision evolved from helping a poor to marrying a virtuos woman. His story evolved from somebody who gave a hand of help to somebody who received a wife, an offspring. On the resurrection day he will discover with amazement he had a place in the genealogy of Messiah!

7. Working with leaders

Boaz had many workers, young women, young men, and they were organized into the work – there was at least one „servant”, a „young man”, „in charge of the reapers” (Ruth 2:5-6).

Boaz was accustomed with the laws of the Lord and he worked his way through getting the full aproval of the leaders. He was ready to come „in the presence of the elders” (Ruth 4:4), and thus he called „ten men of the elders of the city” (Ruth 4:2, 4:11).

Boaz knew also the character of another leader in the story, and that is Naomi. Whoever got so close to Naomi could be trusted as a godly person (Ruth 2:11, 3:10).

8. Dealing with crises

The first crisis came on the night when Boaz discovered a woman near him in the threshing floor. „At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet” (Ruth 3:8). He was aware that such a situation could easily turn into temptation, wrong interpretation, risk of ruining a reputation etc. „Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor” (Ruth 3:14). He discovered that such an act from Ruth was not for temptation, but for redeeming. He called the name of the Lord and then dealt with the situation in such a way that both parties won without losing anything.

A second crisis was faced when to redeem Ruth, as there was a redeemer nearer than Boaz, who had priority into the process. Boaz presented the case in such a way that he offered the best to his competition, and yet kept his best shots towards the end. The truth and the perspective unfolded in two stages, as all it was to be done not only as a land purchase, a secular business, but involved also a spiritual dimension – following the levirate law to marry the widow of the deceased former owner of the land to be purchased (Ruth 4:5, Deuteronomy 25:5-10, see also a similar story in Genesis 38:8).

9. Getting followers and support

Boaz turned into a leader of his city as „all the people who were at the gate and the elders” wished him a blessed future into his relationship with Ruth (Ruth 4:11-12) and charged him to „act worthily” and „be renowned” into the larger community of faith.

Boaz became the grand-grandfather of David (Ruth 4:17) and that placed him also on the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Winning one poor woman, a Moabite, a stranger, a widow, his name will stand forever in the leadership of the redeemed.

Leadership principles in the life of Barnabas

1. Being part of God’s bigger plan

Barnabas, by his former name of Joseph, was a Levite. Accordingly, he was already called along with his tribe, in the old covenant, to serve God in leading people in worship (Acts 4:36).

He was both a real Jew and a real man of diaspora, coming from Cyprus, exactly the type of person needed by God for the work among the Gentiles.

2. A divine double confirmation

He was confirmed by the group of the apostles who saw in him a real Christian. They renamed him “Barnabas” – “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). It is a proof that he was involved into a ministry of bringing hope, comfort, encouragement to others. Probably to the apostles also… As into preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the apostles gave him “the right hand of fellowship” (Galatians 2:9).

3. Personal devotion

Barnabas is presented by Luke as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). He is also described as one leader of a small leading group involved into “worshiping the Lord and fasting” (Acts 13:2). He was a Levite (Acts 4:36) and most probably he had a certain lifestyle, but was also a teacher (Acts 13:1), which probably meant a good deal of knowledge into the Lord’s teaching.

4. Vision

Although he entered the Biblical scene as a giver to the cause and a comforter to the flock, he remained known as the first official leader sent by the church in Jerusalem to the growing church outside of Israel and Samaria. He was sent by the apostles to check the amazing growth of the Gospel preaching into territories like Cyprus, Phoenicia, Antioch, where “a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). When sent there, he immediately sensed the need for workers. His vision was to have equipped laborers working into new territories. His best man for this was Paul (Acts 11:25-26). And the rest is history. Christian history.

5. Multiple tasks/gifts

Barnabas was spiritually gifted (Acts 11:24):

  • he served as a leader of the second line of the Christian church – following the priory line of apostles, he was a prophet and a teacher (Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28),
  • he was active in encouraging (Acts 4:36-37),
  • he gave away fortunes for God’s cause (Acts 4:36-37),
  • he recognized the authority of the apostles (Acts 4:36-37),
  • he was trusted for carrying funds (Acts 11:30),
  • he was trusted as leader to carry important questions to the apostles and also to convey the answers with crucial decisions for the whole church (Acts 15:2 and 22),
  • he was a leader looking for leaders (Acts 9:27),
  • he was a teacher to the people (Acts 11:25-27).

No wonder that following his and Paul’s ministry in Antioch that was the place where the followers of Jesus were for the first time named as Christians (Acts 11:26). As such, he was a founding father of the Christian Church.

6. Working with leaders

Barnabas was the one who had eyes for Saul/Paul. He recognized the leadership potential in Paul and introduced him to the apostles and then took him for a joint venture in evangelism in Antioch (Acts 9:27; 11:25-27).

He also dealt with people who were growing, even despite their failures. He gained John Mark (Acts 13:5, Acts 15:37-39, Colossians 4:10) who ended up being one of the four Evangelists.

7. Dealing with crisis

Barnabas is presented in the Bible amidst different crisis. He was sometimes successful as in the multiple episodes of debates with the enemies of the faith – be they Jews (Acts 13:50-51), semi-Christians (Acts 15:2), or pagans (Acts 14:14-18). In all he was turning people’s attention to God, as in Lystra: “we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God” (Acts 14:15).

He did not give in to temptation when he was called and worshiped as “Zeus” (Acts 14:12).

In the same time, he was ready to fight Paul up to the level of “a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other” (Acts 15:39).

Yet he failed when under a certain amount of peer pressure. And this happened exactly in Antioch, where he was a leader of the local church. Paul writes that “even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:13)

8. Leading by example

His first example of leading was an act of giving money to the emerging Church and also recognizing the apostleship of the inner group of the 12 apostles (Acts 4:36-37). Although a worker in the second line of command (following the apostles), he was always on the frontline of evangelism (Acts 13:2).

9. Giving the message straight

When preaching to the new converts, “he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Acts 11:23). When preaching to the stubborn Jews, along with Paul “they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went” (Acts 13:51). When facing the creeping of heresy into the emerging church, by some semi-Christians (Judaizers), he and Paul “had no small dissension and debate with them” (Acts 15:2).

10. Getting followers, opposition and support

Barnabas is followed by different other future leaders: Paul (Acts 9:27), John Mark (Acts 15:34). His best help into work was apostle Paul, whom he just helped be put on the spotlight. His best fruit, as into growing and leaving a legacy was Mark, the Evangelist (they were also cousins).

Barnaba may be seen as a Christian pioneer, a skillful strategist, an emerging leader in the shadow of the great apostles. In the same time he leaves a wonderful legacy – first among the new named Christians, main character of the Acts, while half of the books of the NT are written by the two people he worked with the closest.

Leadership principles in the life of Ezra

1. Being part of God’s bigger plan

Ezra was part of a bigger plan, made by God and announced through His prophets long before he came on spotlights (Ezra 1:1, 7:7).

2. A divine double confirmation

For his present time also, God sent some other prophets to confirm the fulfilment of the plan and the respective call for the people and their leaders, Ezra included (Ezra 5:1). It was like a visible proof God was leading, and watching careful over them (Ezra 5:5, 6:14). Ezra himself acknowledged that God was with him, leading him and opening doors (Ezra 7:28; see also 9:9).

3. Personal devotion

Ezra is introduced in the Bible as a scribe, with a priestly pedigree, being known as a teacher-leader walking close with God (Ezra 7:6). Before teaching others, he was a well learned man into God’s Word as he “had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it” (Ezra 7:10-11).

4. Vision

As a leader-teacher, his vision was to lead Israel to know God’s will, given in the Law of Moses, “to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10; see also 7:25). He taught the people by reading them the Law of God and explaining it (Nehemiah 8:1-5,8,13).

5. Multiple tasks

Ezra followed the orders of the king concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem and reestablishing of the divine service in the temple (Ezra 7:14-20). Another task to follow is to “appoint magistrates and judges” in the city (Ezra 7:25).

6. Working with leaders, delegating

Ezra scrutinized the people, looking for the right leaders into the service of God – “ministers for the house of our God”, and he deals with Levites, priests, temple servants, leading men, men of insight (Ezra 8:15-20).

Working with leading men, he was delegating some tasks (Ezra 8:24). When facing a crisis that required great care and responsibility in fulfilling a task, he again selected “men, heads of fathers’ houses, according to their fathers’ houses, each of them designated by name” (Ezra 10:16).

His best colleague was another leader sent by God, Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:9, 12:26).

7. Dealing with crisis

When facing a threat – going to a long journey without any defending force – Ezra turned the attention of the people to God. By proclaiming a fasting time, his intention was to have his people humble before God and asking for His leading and protection over the journey (Ezra 8:21-23).

When facing a huge crisis (including a leadership crisis) tantamount to a renewed apostasy – the shocking discovery of faithlessness in the people he led, especially in the “officials and chief men” – Ezra turns again to God by fasting and prayer.

His fasting is detailed in many aspects: tearing of clothes, pulling the hair of the head and beard, refraining from the usual activity up to the evening sacrifice, internal emotional suffering and external weeping. The end of it is an approach through public intercessory prayer in front of the house of God. His prayer includes also several aspects mentioned: the feet are kneeling, “casting himself down” to the ground while the hands are reaching towards the heaven. (Ezra 9:3-6; 10:1). Later, Ezra went into isolation, alone with God, for another night of fasting and mourning (Ezra 10:6). Only after all these he proceeded to taking some drastic measures to combat the slippery slope of apostasy.

8. Leading by example

Ezra led by example. While in prayer, he numbered himself along with the sinful people, talking to God in such a “confession” about “our iniquities”, “our guilt” (Ezra 10:1; 9:6). When worshipping with the choir on the walls, “Ezra the scribe went before them” (Nehemiah 12:36).

9. Giving the message straight

Ezra proclaimed the truth to the people as it was in the Law (Nehemiah 8:2-3,18). It was a very sharp truth to the effect that some had to cut their bonds with unconverted people and even wives coming from the pagan nations around (Ezra 10:10-11; Nehemiah 13:1).

10. Getting followers, opposition and support

When Ezra acted for the glory of God, there was “a very great assembly of men, women and children [who] gathered to him” (Ezra 10:1; 9:4). His prayer was answered as God moved people to acknowledge their guilt, “for all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law” (Ezra 10:2; Nehemiah 8:9, 9:3).

When reading them the Law of God, “all the people answered: Amen, Amen” (Nehemiah 8:6), despite of some opposition (Ezra 10:15). The leader Ezra was encouraged and supported by others, being followed in a new covenant of the people with God (Ezra 10:4-5,12), even a written one (Nehemiah 9:38; 10:29).