Thursday, May 17, 2012



When David was old and full of days, he installed his son Solomon as king over Israel.  Then he gathered all the leaders of Israel, the priests, and the Levites.  The Levites 30 years old or more were counted; the total number of men was 38,000 by headcount.  Of these,’ [David said], ‘24,000 are to be in charge of the work on the Lord's temple, 6,000 are to be officers and judges…’ ” (1 Chronicles 23:1-4 HCSB)

It is not always the best team that wins the championship.  It is the team that plays the best together.  A winning team is greater than its individual parts.  No one wins a championship without gifted players, but you can have gifted players at every position, and if the pieces don’t fit together—if personal goals become more important than team goals—then you won’t be a winning team.

I first heard leadership guru, John Maxwell share the acrostic, “T.E.A.M.—Together Everyone Accomplishes More.”  That is what a winning team is all about.  That is what God wants His local churches to become.

Winning isn’t a given.  There are preparations to make.  To fail to plan is to plan to fail.  Yet, you would think that many believe it is more “spiritual” to just approach church life “willy-nilly” and that it just happens.  “We are letting the Spirit lead,” is the supposition.  What we are typically doing is blaming our laziness and unconcern on the Holy Spirit—and that is not a wise thing to do. 

Can churches be so organized as to function without the Spirit’s anointing—just the machinery of the flesh, fueled by self-effort?  Of course, we can.  Someone has said that in most churches the Holy Spirit could be withdrawn and they would go on functioning without missing a beat.  They would not even miss Him.

But, to shun organization—under the Spirit’s direction and with His dynamic—is not Scriptural!  There are four chapters in our Bible reading today that stress the importance of organization for ministry.  From the design of creation in Genesis, to the order of eternity in Revelation, we see that God is a God of order and He has commanded us, “But everything must be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor.14:40).  Paul wrote his young protégé, Timothy, “[I have written] so that you will know how people ought to act in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15).  Administration is a spiritual gift.  We see even in the Old Testament how organization was important to God.  It still is.

The worship of God is so important that it should not be haphazard.  We are to thoughtfully and meticulously prepared for it.  The worship leaders were “set apart” (1 Chron.23:13), for they dealt with “holy things.” 

It’s a big deal.  God takes this matter seriously, so we should.  Remember, “Nadab and Abihu” (1 Chron.24:2) who died for their self irreverent act in worship? Refresh your memory by reviewing Leviticus 10:1-3, if you need to do so.  God wants us to conduct worship reverently—so Israel is reminded of this incident. 

This doesn’t mean we can never laugh in the worship service.  We don’t have to be dour and sour.  But, some churches have become, “The First Church of Disneyworld.”  They resemble a circus more than a church!  We ought to be cautious about becoming so familiar with the handling of holy things that we become casual and careless.  Children are going to be rambunctious, but they also need discipline and direction.  Many are not getting it at home, and that’s why they show little in the house of God.  In some cases, the adults may be even worse!  It doesn’t take much to distract our attention from God—and unnecessary movement, disrespectful talking, and so forth are all that Satan needs to steal away the seed of truth being sown, before it ever has a chance to penetrate the heart.

When you go into a movie theater, they tell you to silence your cell phone.  You are reminded to not be noisy, so as not to interfere with the others intent on watching the movie.  It is rude to do so—and that is about watching a MOVIE!  How much more concerned should we be about concentrating on the worship of Almighty God!

I share these Biblical principles because that is my responsibility.  I need to be diligent in my duty.  If I lead in worship, I need to be a lead worshipper—setting the example.

We reproduce after our kind.  Leaders generate new leaders.  Worshippers birth new worshippers.  David was both and did both (see 1 Chron.23:1-2).  There is a family connection—one generation passed the responsibility down to a younger generation.  The first people we ought to disciple are our children.  It is a great blessing to have children called into ministry (1 Chron.26:5).  Many parents want their kids to grow up to be successful in business, sports, etc. and think it would be terrible for them to be a “minister.”  What a waste!  Is that your thinking?  That shows a carnal heart.  We should see it as an honor when our children become missionaries and ministers.

But, ministry is not just the purview of the young, it is the responsibility of the aged.  “David was old and full of days…” (1 Chron.23:1), but he was still serving the Lord.  One doesn’t “age out” of ministry.  In fact, old age may bring some changes in the way you minister, but it shouldn’t eliminate ministry.  What is God’s retirement plan?  Death!  The Bible presents spiritual leaders as, “elders” which underscores spiritual maturity, and doesn’t preclude the involvement of the young, yet is most often that leadership is developed with age.

Each group of worship leaders was given a specific assignment.  There were instructions and resources provided.  There was accountability.  The text speaks of “a single assignment” (1 Chron.23:10).  It is better to do one thing magnificently, than a number of things mediocre.  Paul said, “But one thing I do” (Phil.3:13), not, “these many things I dabble in.”  Observe, “These had their assigned duties for service when they entered the Lord's temple, according to their regulations, which they received from their ancestor Aaron, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded him.” (1 Chron.24:19). 

Do we have an area of need in our church ministry—where there seems to be no one stepping up to the plate?  God has promised to provide all our need (Phil.4:19), including this (1 Chron.25:5).  We are to pray to the Lord of the harvest for laborers (Matt.9:35-38).  If we have a personnel deficit, perhaps it is rooted in a prayer deficiency!  In Acts, we find the church fasting and praying—intensely seeking the face of God—to call out ministry leaders (Acts 13:1-3, for example).  We whine about the lack of workers.  Why don’t we try praying in faith and fervency—and dare I say it—with fasting?

Prayer is that important.  It doesn’t just fit us for ministry, it is ministry!  Aaron’s descendants were “to burn incense in the presence of Yahweh.” (1 Chron.23:13)  Incense is symbolic of prayer.  God wants His house to be “a house of prayer” (Matt.21:13).  There is much to be done after we pray, but nothing can be done until we pray.  Prayer isn’t just to be a formality in our order of service, but a focus throughout the service!

Acceptable worship would be inspired from the consciousness of being “in the presence of Yahweh.”  When we are self-conscious, we tend to quench the Spirit, for we do not let God have His way by yielding ourselves fully to the Lord.  “I don’t want to be a fanatic” is our thought.  If we are people conscious, we grieve the Spirit, for we are more concerned about our glory than God’s.  What we need to be is God-conscious!

It is God who is the Audience of One!  Ministry isn’t first about the work we do in serving others, but the worship we offer in serving God, “to minister to Him” (1 Chron.23:13).  Moses is called in 23:14, “the man of God”—he was God’s man—all he was and all he had offered up to the Lord—the supreme act of worship (see Rom.12:1).

The spotlight is not to shine upon us, for the glory of our name, but we are to shine it upon God for His glory—“to pronounce blessings in His name forever.”  Praise is to be the order of eternity, so we should begin practicing today! (1 Chron.23:13)

When we consider how to be a winning team, we note that the nature of our work may change according to the needs that arise.  The methods which once were utilized, may need to be modified (1 Chron.23:25-26).  The tabernacle would no longer be transported, but the temple would be constructed, thus, those who had been assigned the responsibility of moving the holy things, would now be reassigned.  Methodology is never to be a sacred cow—but a sacred how.  Winning teams are flexible in their game plan.  They have a plan, but they adapt according to the conditions on the field.

Someone has to be the quarterback, but everyone can’t be.  Neither does a good quarterback insure a Super Bowl champion.  He must have a supporting cast.  If you can’t be the person in charge, be a helper to those who are.  It is an honor to assist others in their service—that’s the nature of ministry (1 Chron.23:28).  We dare not minimize any ministry responsibility.  Suppose you work in the church kitchen, and think it “small potatoes” to peel potatoes—you ought not take it lightly—it is apparent that God did not (1 Chron.23:29).  The business of being a “gatekeeper” was big business also! (1 Chron.26:1).  Never minimize what it means to be a greeter or an usher.  People decide in the first few minutes—before they ever hear the choir or listen to the pastor—whether they will come back or not, based on the welcome they receive.   

Winning teams invest their time and energy during the week on what will happen on Sunday—and they show up at game time!  Worship is to be done with regularity (1 Chron.23:30-32).  Those who lead worship on the special days, are those who worship God throughout the week days.

Winning teams don’t rely on a few players, but have a strong bench.  There was a “rotation” in the Levitical work, so that everyone could share in it and none became worn out by always being in the game.  There was a lottery—and those who were selected considered themselves winners! (1 Chron.24:5).  Our attitude should never be, “I’ve got to go to church,” but, “I get to go to church!”

Music was an indispensable component of worship (1 Chron.25:1).  Playing an instrument is a talent to be cultivated and employed for the glory of God.  There will be music and singing in heaven—will you know what to do when you get there?  The earth is our “choir practice” for eternity!  Everyone can’t play an instrument, but those who can, should!  It ought to be unthinkable, that we would rehearse and march out for a few football half-time shows, and not regularly prepare and present music in the worship of a holy God!  These were, “all trained and skillful in music for the Lord.”  We used to sing in church, “Give of your best to the Master…” but we may be cruising along and settling for getting by, rather than giving the best.  Jesus didn’t do that for you!  He gave His blood! 

Winning teams know the game plan.  They study the playbook.  Music was a means to teach the truth of God.  It has a power to impact our thinking and so needs to be Scriptural (1 Chron.25:1).  Our worship, in our music for God, is to be integrated with our worship, in a message from God.  This is planned in advance.  It is to be thoughtful.  It can be spontaneous, but we are not to, “fly by the seat of our pants.”  We are to follow our worship leaders (1 Chron.25:2).  This means we’re not merely spectators, but participators (1 Chron.25:3).  Worship isn’t about being entertained by the talented as though we are at a show, but is about being engaged with our thanksgiving as we are inspired by those who lead us.

Winning teams have players who have heart and skill.  Two foundational pillars of church leadership are commitment and competence.  Also, to his son Shemaiah were born sons who ruled over their ancestral houses because they were strong, capable men.  Shemaiah's sons: Othni, Rephael, Obed, and Elzabad; his brothers Elihu and Semachiah were also capable men.  All of these were among the sons of Obed-edom with their sons and brothers; they were capable men with strength for the work-62 from Obed-edom.  Meshelemiah also had sons and brothers who were capable men-18.” (1 Chron.26:6-9).  People who are not committed to attending worship, giving in worship and involvement in worship, will not suddenly become committed when given a job.  Just because you want to teach a class doesn’t mean you should—unless you are capable.  Some are diamonds in the rough, who just need time and training.  Others are just rough to listen to—and will always be.  God has something better for them to do.  Some who want to sing solos are better suited to serve church suppers—they just don’t have the voice for it.  You may be good-hearted and still tone-deaf.  There is no shame in that—just if you persist in wanting a solo.

Winning teams have strong players.  Men are to be leaders in the church.  This doesn’t mean women do not have a ministry—they do—and thank God they are often doing it and doing it well.  But, a church will not be strong without strong, spiritual men who lead as God has called them (1 Chron.26:12).  I am not calling for the women to do less, but for the men to do more!  This isn’t about a gender being superior, but about the roles and responsibilities God has assigned.  The genders are equal in worth before God—there is no male and female (Gal.3:28), but, are different in their work for God—He made them male and female (1 Tim.2:12-15).

Winning teams manage their resources.  They invest their money in what makes a difference.  The way we handle money has the opportunity to bring honor to God or reproach to His cause (1 Chron.26:20ff).  How often we hear of those who pilfer from the church funds.  That is a Judas Iscariot!  We need to do all we can to safeguard what is given—to have responsible people and systems in place to prevent this, to the degree possible.  People who give to the Lord’s work want confidence that it is going where they wish, to make a difference for the Kingdom.  It is the Lord’s treasury, after all, not ours—so we need to treat it with diligence.

Winning teams maintain their facilities.  The maintenance of the house of worship is never to be neglected (1 Chron.26:27).  What does it say about our love for the Lord when we let the Lord’s house become dilapidated?  Some are gifted in construction.  I can think of multiple needs right now where a service for the Lord could be rendered with a paint brush, a hammer and saw, a trowel, etc.  The church needs plumbers, block layers, painters, carpenters, tile layers and other skilled workers.  Have you ever driven by a house and saw it crumbling, with peeling paint, the grass knee high, trash piled up…what do you think about those who live there?  Keeping up the appearance of the church house is divine service!  We can donate our time and our treasure to this cause.  The Jews paid a high price for the offering they gave “They dedicated part of the plunder from their battles…”  that is, they risked their lives on the battlefield, but instead of spending the spoils of victory, they shared them in the Lord’s work.

Winning teams have scouts who find winning players.  Some have the assignment to search for and select those who will serve.  This is a vital task (1 Chron.26:31).  We are to be “talent scouts.”  Our ministry placement team is completing their annual assignment now.   Thank God for their service; it is crucial.  If they approach you, are you prayerfully considering where you will serve?  The question is not whether you will serve, but only where you will serve.  If you are not willing to do anything, what does that say about the level of your commitment to Christ?  I trust you are willing, so just make sure you are doing what God wants and He will bless.

That makes a winning team!

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