Over the past six weeks in our church, we have been emphasizing our values. We chose the acrostic L.I.T.E. – which stands for Lordship, Integrity, Teamwork and Excellence. I wrote the following four articles to reinforce what we were all about as a church. This has been a positive emphasis. Each church has to have its own values based on where they are, their study of the Word, and the leadership of the Spirit. If these articles can inspire you in any way, to stay rooted to the basics, I will be blessed and give God all the glory.
WALTER J. CHANTRY once said, “Jesus will not be Savior to any man who refuses to bow to him as Lord.” We talk a great deal about salvation. Normally, you will hear someone say, “Trust Jesus as Savior and Lord.”
THE NEW TESTAMENT never refers to Jesus that way. In the Scriptures, it is always “Lord and Savior.” The term “Savior” is used a little over thirty times. The term “Lord” is used over four hundred times. In the Scripture, His name is Lord.
JOHN C. CHAPMAN writes, “No repentance is true repentance which does not recognize Jesus as Lord over every area of life.” Charles Colson says, “If Christ is Lord of all, Christians must recapture their sense of moral outrage. If Christ’s lordship does not disrupt our own lordship, then the reality of our conversion must be questioned.”
MY MENTOR, Vance Havner used to say, “Jesus Christ demands more complete allegiance than any dictator who ever lived. The difference is, He has the right to. Salvation is not a cafeteria where you take what you want and leave the rest. You cannot take Christ as Savior and refuse Him as Lord and be saved.”
THIS ARTICLE is not about the Lordship/ Salvation debate. It is about looking in the mirror. Is Jesus Lord of your life? In all things? Have you compartmentalized your faith? Do you have areas in your life where you are not interested in what the Lord has to say? Have you looked in God’s mirror and turned away, rejecting what He has shown you?
THE TITLE “LORD” is found over 700 times in the New Testament. To call Jesus Lord is to call Him God. To call Him God, is to acknowledge that you aren’t. In the earliest Greek, the word meant “to have power or authority.” It later came to describe one who is in control.
IN PHILIPPIANS, Paul tells us that Jesus is exalted because He is Lord. Romans tells us that salvation is based on a confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. When Thomas saw the resurrected Christ, he called Him both Lord and God.
AUGUSTINE SAID, “Jesus Christ will be Lord of all or He will not be Lord at all.” Thomas Brooks, the Puritan, wrote, “Though Christ’s coat was once divided, He will never suffer His crown to be divided.”
JESUS SAID, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not the things I say?” Good question. What’s our answer? Let’s examine a few obvious areas.
ONE, is Jesus Lord of your eyes? What you watch? Where you cast your gaze, your glance, your stare? The first look may not be sin, but the second surely is. What are you seeing with your eyes as you read, watch TV, walk down the beach, search the Internet? Are your eyes committed to Christ?
TWO, what about your hands? Are they pure and undefiled? Are they holy hands? Are they clean hands? The Scripture has much to say about our hands. We are reminded that clean hands and a pure heart are necessary if we want to worship and get in God’s presence.
THREE, what about your feet? Where do you go? Where do your feet take you in your free time? Is it a place where the Lord would feel comfortable? Have your feet taken you to places or led you to situations where your faith might be compromised or questioned?
FOUR, what about your ears? What are you listening to? Is it nothing to you when people take God’s name in vain? Have you watched so much, listened to so much, you don’t even recognize when someone is being flippant or foul in the use of God’s name?
FIVE, what about your mind? What are you putting into your mind? What are you reading? What is being recorded on your memory chip? What picture, word or image has been burned onto the hard disc of your brain?
SIX, what about your money? Is He in control of your checkbook? Your spending? Your investments? When the offering plate passes by, do you ignore it or invest in kingdom business? Are you laying up treasures in heaven or buying into wood, hay and stubble that will burn up one day?
SEVEN, what about your time? Is your church attendance under His Lordship? Do you only come when you feel like it or is it a commitment?
LET’S BE HONEST. Doing a spiritual inventory is unpleasant. We see things about ourselves that we would rather not see. We tend to see sin in others easily. We tend to excuse our own sin. We are all guilty of wanting others to live by standards we refuse to live by ourselves.
LORDSHIP is about giving God a blank check and letting Him fill it in. It’s about letting Him set your priorities. It’s about seeking Him in your decision making. It’s about turning your agenda over to Him. Something about, “not my will but Thine be done.”
THIS IS NOT ABOUT legalism or works salvation. This is about loyalty to the boss. If I say someone is my boss, my commander in chief, my Lord, and I don’t follow His orders, or obey His commands, I am not under authority. I am disobedient. I am rebellious. I am insubordinate.
IT’S ALL ABOUT who is going to run your life. Lordship is an essential element of revival. It is essential for a healthy church and a healthy believer. In the Word, it’s non-negotiable. Either He is or He is not. So let’s close by asking a simple question: Is Jesus Lord of your life?
WE LIVE IN A day of compromise, divided hearts, insincerity, dishonesty, deception, artificiality and expediency. The news reports tell us of corporations cooking the books, lying to investors and shredding documents. We hear stories of Insider Trading. We’ve been stunned by the revelation of indiscretions with former Presidents.
WHAT IS NEEDED in this hour, and every hour is integrity. Integrity is “an uncompromising adherence to a code of moral values; utter sincerity, honesty and candor.” It’s an absence of deception, and facades. In other words, what you see is what you get. If a person has integrity, their walk and talk will match up. The root of the Latin word means “untouchable, intact.”
ANOTHER WORD that could characterize integrity is incorruptibility. Lewis Smedes pointed out that one of the most fundamental acts of a society is promise keeping. Keeping one’s promise is a bedrock of relationships. Saying what you do, and doing what you say is not about convenience, it’s a matter of character.
NO CHURCH CAN SURVIVE if people do not do what they say they will do. If you agree to serve, you are counted on to serve. If you tell God you are going to give, then God expects you to live up to that pledge. A commitment is a promise and a promise is a commitment.
IF WE ANNOUNCE a Bible Conference, you should assume several things. One, we are interested in teaching the Word of God. Two, we are bringing someone in who can teach us and help us to have a better understanding of the Word. Three, if you will set aside the time and make it a priority, you will benefit from the conference.
WHEN WE ANNOUNCED X2 Giving, we were saying that our intent was to double our giving in 2002. Why did we do this? One, we believe it is possible. Two, it will help us accelerate our need to pay off the debt and reduce interest. Three, it will be an opportunity for you to trust God with your finances. Four, we were going to do it based on past giving to Future Generations. We’ve seen it work and we believe it can continue to work if we obey God.
WHEN A PERSON SIGNS UP to teach a class, work in Extended Session, serve on the Pastor’s Team, sing in the choir or serve in any capacity, it is a commitment to integrity. One, I know there is a need. Two, I am willing to be a part of meeting that need. Three, you can count on me to be in my appointed place.
WHEN WE ARE UNABLE to fulfill our commitments, it may be because of unforeseeable situations that have come about since we “signed up.” If that is the case, integrity says that I should tell someone in authority about why I can’t keep my commitment and what I’m going to do about it in the future.
I KNOW OF SEVERAL INSTANCES where people made pledges to a building program and subsequently moved out of town. On at least two occasions, I’ve had people who have left come to me and tell me that they had every intention of fulfilling their pledge, even though they had moved. That’s integrity. They could have just left, but their personal integrity demanded that they do what they said they would do.
TO BE A PERSON OF INTEGRITY, you have to practice integrity. You have to be willing to be held accountable. It also means I’m not flippant in making promises. When I make a commitment, I am, in fact, committing a part of my life to you.
THIS IS WHY THE CHURCH is often called a body. We are connected to each other. Thus, we must be committed to one another. If one part of the body doesn’t function properly, the whole body is affected. Eventually, the body is infected with apathy, sin, and carnality.
A BODY THAT FUNCTIONS PROPERLY is healthy. To put it another way, it has integrity. The bone structure is sound, the blood is flowing properly, the muscles are toned, etc. The church that is fulfilling its mission is healthy. The more the body works in harmony, the more productive that body will be.
A PERSON OF INTEGRITY will fulfill their calling and use their spiritual gift for the glory of God. Meditate on the words of First Timothy, Chapter Four, beginning in verse fourteen. “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” NASU
NOTE THAT THERE ARE four affirmations in these verses. First, there is a subjective affirmation, “the spiritual gift within you.” Secondly, there is an objective affirmation, “prophetic utterance.” Next, you find a collective affirmation, “laying on hands.” Finally, there is an effective affirmation, “so your progress may be evident to all.”
WE ARE TO USE the gifts God has given us. That makes us healthy, personally and corporately. God has spoken to us through His Word. Our progress in our faith will be evident as we act on what we’ve learned. As we cooperate with the other members of the body and serve one another, we give witness to the power of the Spirit to bring unity, harmony, health and life to the body. This is pleasing to God.
IN CLOSING, absorb these words from Proverbs, Chapter Four, “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.” NASU
TEAMWORK IS ESSENTIAL to any successful organization. I don’t know if you’ve thought about this, but it took a team of two to give you life; you probably spent part of your growing up years on some kind of team (band, sports, debate team, club or civic organization).
SOMEONE HAS SAID that teamwork is not about doing things to others or even for others; it’s about doing things with others. In the book, TEAM SPIRIT, the author, David Cormack says there are five stages involved in building a team. One, committing yourself to the process. Two, acquiring the skills. Three, applying the skills. Four, evaluating your performance. Five, building on your experience.
EVERY TEAM needs a purpose. When we know the purpose, we can commit to the process. What is our purpose? Individually, it’s to know, love and glorify God and to be used of Him in any way He sees fit. Corporately, this church was established to touch the whole world with the whole Word, motivated by a passion for Christ and compassion for all people.
WE ARE HERE because as a church, we are committed to the Word of God as the Inerrant, Infallible Word. We are a church that is committed to reaching this community, this region, our nation and the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.
THERE’S A DIFFERENCE between a crowd and a congregation. There’s a difference between a team and a crowd. The team is on the field, playing the game. The crowd sits back and watches the team. They may wear the team colors, but they aren’t a part of the team. They are merely spectators.
UNFORTUNTELY, in the church, as in sports, the crowd outnumbers the team. While there are no places for spectators in our philosophy of ministry (Play Ball), like every church, we have spectators. It’s one thing to not be a member and sit in a service, checking the church out. It’s another to be a member of a local church and be a casual observer.
THE PROBLEM most churches face is the team on the field is in need of rest and support. The crowd is in need of exercise and discipline. When the crowd disperses, there’s still a job for the team to do. It’s easy to be in the crowd.
JESUS CALLS US out of the crowd. He chose 12 to be on His team. He trained them, disciplined them, rebuked them, held them accountable and sent them out. He prepared and equipped them. They were not to be lone rangers, they were to emphasize community, teamwork and body life.
SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES and find how many times Paul refers to “one another.” We don’t live in isolation. We don’t serve our own agendas. We’ve been given a game plan by our coach. He expects all of us to be on the field, ready to play and work.
WE TALK A LOT about Paul, but in almost every letter, he mentions the team around him. We know about what Jesus said and did, because members of his team recorded his words and deeds for us.
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCHES that were effective encouraged the members to use their God given gifts. The saints were to be equipped, not to sit, but to serve. The purpose of everything we do, whether it’s in a Bible Study Fellowship, an activity, Worship or Prayer Meeting is geared to equip the saints for ministry.
THERE IS NOTHING like team spirit. There’s also nothing like a church that is split into factions, where people are always wondering, “What’s in it for me?” John Maxwell’s 8th Law of Teamwork says, “Rotten Attitudes Ruin a Team.” That’s true in sports or in the sanctuary.
THE HEALTHY CHURCH is the one where increasing numbers are committed to serving. When people work together as a team, there is a sense of accomplishment, loyalty, dedication and a willingness to sacrifice.
THERE ARE NO hot dogs on God’s team. All are called to serve. All are to be servants. If we’re too big to serve, we are too big. I’m grateful to say, we don’t have any hot dogs on our staff. I can’t think of one staff member who is consumed with a title, or self. If you watch this team closely, you’ll find a comradery, a passion for excellence, a willingness to do whatever it takes, a second mile mentality.
WE NEED EVERY MEMBER to start using the gifts and abilities God has given you. You are missing a blessing and we are limited in the ground we can take. Every new volunteer, every willing worker, every one who gets out of the stands and on the field is a victory for the kingdom. We have hundreds of faithful, godly, hard working servants in this church. We need hundreds more.
THIS CHURCH IS KNOWN for the “whatever it takes” mentality. Some who led us in that mind set have gone to be with the Lord. We need a new, younger generation to join those who have served faithfully for years. We need multi-generational teams. We need workers to help us reach a multi-cultural community.
OKAY TEAM. It’s time to put our hands to the plow and not look back. It’s time to hit the field. Put on your armor, we’re going to war with the world, the flesh and the devil. He is not happy when spectators become players instead of pretenders.
PAUL SAID in Philippians that we are to “think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Excellence is something we expect from the world, but sometimes neglect in the church.
WE WANT our hamburger cooked right. We want our furniture delivered without a nick. We want our service to be efficient. We want our clothes to be cleaned properly. We want our teachers to be prepared.
UNFORTUNATELY, when it comes to church, some folks think we ought to squeak by. They want to know how little can we do and get by. That’s the wrong question. The right question is, “What can we do to show that we are wholeheartedly committed to our God?”
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT about the fact that church property communicates to the community what we think about God? If our grounds are not cut, if there are no shrubs, flowers or trees, we look like an industrial park. Keeping grounds that are attractive to the eye says to those driving by, they take pride in their facilities.
WHEN WE BUILT THE NEW FACILITY, we didn’t cut corners. We didn’t put up a prefab building. Nothing wrong with prefab buildings, but we were committed to building a facility that would last. An excellent facility is costly, but a generation from now, they will thank us that we didn’t take the easy, cheap road.
WALK THE HALLS, look at your class with the eye of a visitor. I do this at least once a month. When I see old literature, old posters, junk stacked on top of pianos, used coffee cups on the floor, it tells me that the people using that room aren’t interested in making a good impression. We should take pride in the facilities God has given us. Not worship them. But use them and take care of them. They’ve been built for the glory of God. Our God is not disorderly.
OUR TEACHING should be excellent. Would you give up your Sunday morning to listen to a teacher who was continually unprepared? Would you go to a class where they basically read the quarterly to you? I wouldn’t. A teacher should prepare, knowing that they aren’t filling time, they are imparting the Word of Life to God’s children. To teach demands a commitment to excellence, disciplined study and preparation.
OUR MINISTRIES should be excellent. I’d rather not do something than do it with a half hearted attitude. If we are going to put our name on it (and God’s name on it), it needs to be the best. Anything worth doing, is worth doing right. Every ministry, every class is a portrait of the person who was in charge. Would you autograph your work?
OUR COMMITMENT to one another must be excellent. When the body is functioning properly, the membership is ministered to by the staff and the laity. Excellent care is provided by numerous people, not by a handful, or one.
OUR COMMITMENT to worship should be excellent. We want music to be excellent. Through the years, I’ve preached in a lot of different environments. There’s been more than one occasion where I’ve heard people make a “joyful noise” to the Lord, but I wouldn’t have called it singing.
OUR COMMITMENT to intercession must be excellent. We are working diligently to have the Prayer Tower filled 24/7. We are known as a praying church. We need to make sure we live up to our billing. Each of us, will at some point, find ourselves in need of the prayers of this membership. Let’s make sure we’ve returned the favor.
OUR PREPARATION should be excellent. Our presentations should be excellent. The use of our gifts should be with excellence. This happens only when people are committed to excellence.
THERE ARE OTHER AREAS, but let me move on. Excellence is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice. Our commitment to excellence is not because we are trying to pass a human inspection. It is because all that we do will one day be taken before the Throne of God and judged as wood, hay, stubble or gold, silver and precious stone.
VINCE LOMBARDI SAID, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to that person’s commitment to excellence, regardless of the chosen field of endeavor.” Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said.” W. Somerset Maugham wrote, “It’s a funny thing about life: if you refuse to accept anything but the very best, you will often get it.”
EXCELLENCE is the road less traveled. It is not easy. The path of excellence is uphill. Yet, it’s the right thing to do. What better thing could be said of us than, “he/she does all things well.” What better words to hear when we stand before Jesus than, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
AS OUR STAFF has prepared for leading during this time of sabbatical, I’ve watched a higher commitment to excellence rise to the surface. Now, more than ever, ideas are fine tuned, evaluated, discussed and sometimes challenged. Minds have been stretched. The staff is going further, digging deeper than ever before. They want to excel.
I’M VERY PROUD of what I see God doing right now. The staff has taken my challenge to excel seriously. They’ve worked, prayed, and put their hands to the plow. We know that a commitment to excellence begins at the top. It must flow down into every corner, every ministry and every member of this congregation.
GOD HAS CALLED, equipped and empowered us to make a difference. The significance of the difference will be determined by our commitment to excellence in all things. The founder of Wal-Mart said, “Believer it! High expectations are the key to everything.” If a guy committed to lower prices can say that, what about those of us who are bought by the precious, priceless blood of the lamb? We should expect and work toward nothing less than excellence to the glory of God.
©2002 MCC Used by permission. This article is copyrighted by the author and is for your individual use. Reproduction for any other purpose is governed by copyright laws and is strictly prohibited.Michael C. Catt, I Left My Mind in Mississippi… But I Still Have My Ministry (Columbus, Ga.: Brentwood Press, 1994), p. 66-68.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.