Healthy Leadership

We Need More Women Like Beth Moore

I’ve been in countless Christian meetings over the years, but last week, I witnessed one of the most remarkable spiritual moments of my lifetime.

I was attending a gathering of Pentecostals held at a convention center in Orlando, Florida. When the speaker concluded the sermon, people began to stream to the altar. Many of them—including pastors—lay prostrate on the floor. Many were sobbing uncontrollably. Some people wept and prayed for an hour after the meeting was dismissed.

You may ask, “What’s so remarkable about that?” This meeting, held on July 26, was unique because the speaker was a Southern Baptist—and a woman. Yet her message was so convicting and so saturated in the Holy Spirit that people ran to the stage even though she didn’t even invite people to the altar.

The woman was author and popular women’s speaker Beth Moore, and the occasion was the 28th General Conference of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Leaders from the Assemblies of God, the Church of God and Nigeria’s Redeemed Christian Church of God were in attendance, along with thousands of Pentecostals from all over the world.

Moore based her message on Jeremiah 12:5: “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?” Without a tinge of self-righteousness or condemnation, Moore lamented the powerless state of the modern church and called us back to the raw authenticity of New Testament faith.

“We are settling for woefully less than what Jesus promised us,” said Moore. “I read my New Testament over and over. I’m not seeing what He promised. I’m unsettled and unsatisfied.”

She added: “I want holy fire!”

I don’t know what is more fascinating—that a Baptist challenged Pentecostals to embrace Pentecostal fire or that a woman who is not supposed to preach to men in her own denomination brought male pastors to their knees in repentance.

“We’ve lost our tolerance for pain and given ourselves to whining,” Moore declared. “We have settled for the spiked Kool-Aid of cool, cultural Christianity. What will make us relevant is not our cool factor. It’s time for leadership to repent.”

I’ve heard a lot of excellent preaching over the years. But listening to Beth Moore was uncanny because her sermon was not about her, and it didn’t draw attention to her. There was no swagger. There was no pretense. The sweet dew of heaven rested on this woman.

I could hear the Holy Spirit speaking loud and clear through a broken vessel.

That’s why people responded so dramatically, even though Moore simply closed her Bible and sat down when she finished her message. Everyone in the room knew they had heard God speak. They hit their knees because the anointing of the Holy Spirit wooed them to surrender pride, complacency and man-made religion.

What is baffling about this whole experience is that there are large numbers of Christians today who don’t believe Beth Moore should be preaching to audiences like the one in Orlando. In fact, some fundamentalists have launched attacks on her because she preaches authoritatively from pulpits. One online blogger says Moore “puts the ‘her’ in heresy” simply because men listen to her teaching. It grieves me that this anointed sister in Christ has been subjected to such disrespect.

The old argument employed by some conservative fundamentalists is that Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:12, forbid women to preach. They seem to ignore the fact that 1) Paul empowered many women in other locations to speak and that women such as Phoebe, Priscilla, Chloe, Euodia and Syntyche were on his ministry team; 2) that the Bible offers other examples of godly women leaders and prophets; and 3) that Paul’s unique concern in 1 Timothy 2:12 was about women in Ephesus who were “usurping” authority and teaching twisted doctrines.

The New Testament is clear that God has called all Christians to be His witnesses, and that both “your sons and your daughters” will prophesy in the last days (Acts 2:17). Our passion should be to see everyone empowered—regardless of race, class, age or gender. If we truly want Pentecost, we should want to see the flame of the Spirit resting on the heads of every person—not just white males over 50.

We really shouldn’t be too worried if God wants to use a woman today to call people to repentance. If He used Catherine Booth to shake England in the 1800s, or missionary Mary Slessor to plant the gospel in Nigeria, or Sojourner Truth to challenge slavery through her powerful preaching, or Kathryn Kuhlman to spark a healing revival in the United States in the 1970s, why are we still arguing about this?

We need an army of women like Beth Moore, and my prayer is that more women will seek the Lord and dig into His Word with the same passion that Moore has. I believe she is a forerunner for a new generation of both men and women who will carry a holy Pentecostal fire that cannot be restricted by gender.

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Don’t Run If God Has Called You to Speak

This past Sunday I stood in a pulpit, looked out over a congregation of mostly strangers, cleared the lump in my throat and preached a message that the Lord had laid on my heart from the Bible.

Thousands of men and women speak publicly like this every week. It’s what preachers do. No big deal. But even though I speak often, I’ve found that preaching the gospel is one of the most frightening assignments anyone could attempt. I feel as if I die a thousand deaths right before I do it, and I die several more times after I go home and evaluate what happened.

After one discouraging experience in which an audience stared coldly at me with their arms folded, I determined that preaching surely must not be my calling. I shared my struggle with an older pastor.

“Sometimes I feel discouraged after I speak,” I said. “Does that ever happen to you?” I was sure he would counsel me to stop preaching.

His answer shocked me. “Son, I feel that way every Monday morning,” he said.

When I tell friends that I stubbornly resisted the call of God to preach because of my lack of confidence, they act surprised. They don’t know how much anguish I went through. They think most people who stand in pulpits want to be there. They can’t believe that I wrestled with God for months when I felt He was calling me to speak.

We assume God chooses certain people to preach because of their oratory skills. But true preaching is not a natural exercise—it is one of the most supernatural tasks anyone can ever be called to do. It requires an imperfect human vessel to yield himself or herself to speak the very words of God.

If we do this in the flesh, the results are miserable; if we wholly trust the power of the Holy Spirit, prophetic preaching unleashes supernatural anointing.

Most preachers in the Bible were reluctant. Moses made excuses about his stuttering, Gideon tried to disqualify himself because of his family background, and Jeremiah complained about the responsibility of carrying a prophetic burden. Jonah bought a one-way ticket to the other side of the Mediterranean Sea so he wouldn’t have to give his unpopular sermon!

And the apostle Paul, who was a silver-tongued Pharisee before he met Christ, was stripped of his eloquence before he preached throughout the Roman Empire. He told the Corinthians: “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:3-5).

If Paul trembled when he spoke, I have no right to complain when I feel butterflies in my stomach for the thousandth time.

Charismatic revivalist Arthur Katz wrote about the power of true preaching in his 1999 book Apostolic Foundations: “The only one qualified to preach … is the one who wants to run the other way, like Jonah. … The man who sighs and groans when called upon to speak, who does not want to be there, who feels terribly uncomfortable … is the man out of whose mouth the word of true preaching is most likely to come.”

That is certainly not the way most of us view pulpit ministry in contemporary America. We celebrate the smooth and the polished. We measure the impact of a sermon not by whether hearts are slain by conviction but by how high the people jump when the preacher tells them what they want to hear.

That kind of carnal preaching may win the accolades of men, boost TV ratings, get lots of hits on social media and even build megachurches. But the kingdom is not built on hipster style or smug self-confidence. We need God’s honest words, sent straight from the authentic heart of a broken vessel. The church will live in spiritual famine until reluctant, weak and trembling preachers allow His holy fire to come out of their mouths.

If you have a message from God, stop running. If you are wrestling with God like Jacob did, quit resisting, and let your Maker break your pride; He wants you to walk with a limp the rest of your life so you can lean on Him rather than on your own ability. Die to your fears, doubts and excuses, and drink the cup of suffering that accompanies the genuine call of God.

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How to Control Your Tongue in the Trump Era

Last week, President Trump issued a tweet from the White House, mocking MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski’s appearance and questioning her sanity. And after both Republicans and Democrats in Washington begged Trump to use a more civil tone in his communication, he took to Twitter again, calling Brzezinski “dumb as a rock” and her on-air partner, Joe Scarborough, “crazy.”

What is going on here? Trump’s defenders say liberal journalists deserve harsh treatment because they relentlessly insult the president. Trump’s deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said her boss “fights fire with fire.” She added: “The American people elected a fighter.”

Liberal politicians and journalists questioned whether Trump is mentally stable. Meanwhile Republicans begged their leader to calm down. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Trump’s tweetstorm was “beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics.”

This is all new territory for us as Americans. Social media now allows our president, along with his political enemies, to toss verbal grenades while the audience listens to the explosions in real time. I’m sure politicians said awful things about each other before the digital age. But with Twitter, the ugliness is out there for us all to read and respond to with our own angry retorts.

Trump was certainly not elected because of his politeness. He is gruff and feisty, and his remarks often sound like those of a playground bully. His in-your-face attitude is what endeared him to many voters who are sick of conventional politics. They want a president who acts like a professional wrestler, breathing threats and flexing his muscles.

It remains to be seen whether this combative tone will work for President Trump or whether it will backfire. But this is certainly not the tone we need in the church today. Politicians may argue, and comedians may pull ugly stunts. But as a Christian, I can’t lower myself to this level.

I am called to reflect the love of Jesus. So are you.

The spirit of the world wants us to take sides in this nasty battle. The devil wants us to hate each other, bicker and throw mud. But the kingdom of Jesus transcends this divisive world. We are called to love people and share Christ with them. If politics prevents you from fulfilling the Great Commission, then you have traded your faith for an idol.

I know some conservative Christians who have become much angrier since the 2016 election. They can chop liberal politicians and journalists into pieces with their words. I also know some left-leaning Christians who have changed into monsters because they are so angry. They seethe with so much animosity toward Donald Trump that they are becoming the bully they say he is.

In this age of outrage, we have lost our first love. How can we rise above this ugly conflict and speak as prophets to our culture? The best way to maintain a prophetic voice is to control your words. Let’s remember these simple rules:

  1. Think before you speak. James 1:19-20 says: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” The definition of discretion is “the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense.” If someone says something to you that makes you angry, bite your lip and wait before you lash out.

You do not have to have the last word. Don’t ruin your testimony by being impetuous. Proverbs 29:20 says it bluntly: “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Sometimes the best thing to do in an argument is to shut up. Proverbs 17:28 says: “Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise; and he who shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”

  1. Learn to respond in the opposite spirit. Anger breeds anger. Mudslinging provokes more mudslinging. But when we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, we have the power to overcome the flesh and manifest the attitude of Jesus. When someone begins arguing, you can turn the conversation by showing compassion or mercy. Proverbs 15:1 says: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” You can set the tone.
  1. Let love be your guide. I Corinthians 16:14 says: “Let all that you do be done in love.” That’s a simple but powerful command. If what you are about to write on Facebook isn’t loving, don’t post it. Let love temper your words and your social media communication. Love builds a platform for you to share Christ, but angry, bitter or demeaning words remove all hope of you communicating the gospel with others.

Don’t allow today’s toxic public conversation to infect you with hate. Let’s model civility, reconciliation and kindness to a nation that needs the love of Jesus. And let’s pray that our president, who is surrounded by Christians, will learn to restrain his anger before he tweets.

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6 Ways Not to Take an Offering

I’ve seen it all when it comes to church offerings. Once when I attended an outdoor service in Nigeria, deacons used wheelbarrows and pickup trucks to collect money because more than 500,000 people were in the audience. Yet I know a pastor in Malawi who collects the equivalent of 80 cents in his offering plate each Sunday because his members are so poor. With that money, he has planted several churches.

Giving is a huge part of the Christian life. Jesus encouraged generosity; the first disciples collected offerings; and the apostle Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7b). Paul taught us that collecting money to support the church’s mission should be done with integrity and that believers should respond with generous hearts.

But even in those days, some Christians resisted the idea of giving to God’s work. Others used strong-arm tactics to get their hands in people’s pockets. We are still dealing with this problem 2,000 years later. Here are six of the most reckless tactics used today to raise funds in church:

  1. The endless appeal: Some preachers drone on and on for 45 minutes to collect an offering—and then they take another 15 minutes to pass the buckets. This is rude and insensitive—and it reveals a lack of faith on the part of leaders. You don’t have to talk people out of their money or hold them hostage until they give out of frustration. Trust God to supply the need rather than begging.
  1. The salesman’s extortion: Certain slick preachers in our movement are known for their uncanny ability to open people’s wallets. But these fundraising “skills” are more akin to those of a used car salesman than a minister of the gospel. They promise magical benefits to those who give large amounts. They also set deadlines. I once heard a preacher suggest that if people gave “right now,” their unsaved children would find salvation!

Never give in response to manipulation. Paul taught us that when we sow, we will reap. But in the same passage, he also said if we sow to the flesh we will “reap corruption” (Gal. 6:8). If you give in response to a prompting of the Holy Spirit, you will be blessed. But if you give because the preacher twisted your arm or used pressure tactics, your gift will not be blessed. Paul told us to give “not grudgingly or out of necessity” (2 Cor. 9:7).

  1. The give-to-get tradeoff: There is no question that God blesses generous people. If you keep your hands open to God by giving, He will open a channel of blessing for you. But God is not a slot machine, and His goodness is not for sale. Never believe a preacher who says you can buy the Holy Spirit’s anointing. And never follow a preacher who guarantees you will get a new house or a new car if you put a certain amount in the offering plate.
  1. The Holy Ghost auction: Numerous times I’ve heard a preacher announce that he needs a certain number of people to give $1,000—and he will wait for hands to go in the air. Next, he needs $500 gifts, $250 and so on. Within a few minutes, the church has become a cattle auction. Sometimes the donors are asked to stand—suggesting that God blesses rich people but not the widow on a fixed income who doesn’t have means to give a big amount.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they liked to blow trumpets in public to announce they were giving to the poor. He told them: “When you do your charitable deeds, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deeds may be in secret” (Matt. 6:3-4). Can you imagine Jesus asking rich people to stand and give their large checks while everyone in the audience applauds them? He actually pointed out a poor widow and raved about her tiny gift.

  1. The railing judgment: I cringe when I hear pastors tell people they will be under a curse if they don’t tithe. I don’t tithe to appease God’s anger; I give more than a tithe because I love to share God’s goodness. We should never put a guilt trip on people while collecting money. The church is no place for threats. Zacchaeus was a greedy tax collector, but Jesus did not attack him for his thievery; He extended mercy—and this melted Zacchaeus’ heart and made him a lavish giver.
  1. The pathetic apology: Sometimes we act timid about collecting offerings, maybe because the world thinks all Christians are fakes and that churches are “all about money.” But we have nothing to apologize for! We are involved in the greatest mission on planet Earth, and God Himself supplies the funds needed to evangelize the world.

When we collect offerings, we are engaging in a holy process. God is just as much involved in the offering as He is in worship, the preaching of the Word or the demonstration of spiritual gifts. God allows us to be His vessels to give, and then He rewards us abundantly so we can give more. The church has been sustained for 2,000 years by supernatural giving. He is in our midst. While we seek to become more generous, let’s learn to be more faithful in the way we steward God’s money.

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