Helping women live victorious lives in Christ

Posts tagged ‘transparency’

Maintaining Christian Fellowship When the Church Doors are Closed

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)

By Brenna Fields Taylor

As I write this blog, we are about 2 months into the COVID-19 pandemic here in the United States.  Because of the way in which the virus spreads, churches have been forced to close their doors and discontinue meeting in person.  And church leadership has become quite creative in determining how to keep doing church when we can’t go to church. One must wonder…prior to now, have we put too much emphasis on the church building?  Have we assumed that a church edifice, and everything contained therein, would be what would draw people to Christ (that’s what Christians are supposed to be doing, correct)?  Well, I don’t want to digress…that’s another topic for another day!

Christians have begun to make (or were forced to make) the adjustment to worshipping remotely. Even my daddy, who said he would never join Facebook, is listening in to bible study and Sunday services online!  Whether it is Facebook, livestream, Zoom, conference call, or a recorded message, Christians seem to be doing the best they can to adjust to the times in which we live (even if some of us had to go kicking and screaming).  But while we’re getting our worship and study in, what about the fellowship?  Using my own church as an example, the people seem to be thirsty for the person to person fellowship.  When we join the weekly prayer meeting conference call, as people join the line and identify themselves, they are joyously greeting one another and are excited to hear each other’s voices. It sometimes is a challenge because everyone is talking while we’re trying to begin the prayer service.  If you ‘ve ever been to a family reunion, it’s somewhat like that. Many families reunite every 2 or 3 years, and the meet and greet part of the weekend is sometimes the most exciting time.  Everyone is greeting everyone and giving big hugs because we haven’t seen one another in a long time.

So, until we can get back to church (the physical building), what can we do to maintain fellowship?   Whatever it is we choose to do, we must be INTENTIONAL about maintaining this fellowship.  Maintaining fellowship was easy when we saw each other at least once a week.  But now, things are different. When was the last time we picked up the phone (not sent a text) to call someone we haven’t spoken to in a while?  When was the last time we wrote and mailed a quick note to someone? (yes, the United States Postal Service is still in operation). Have we thought about doing a “drive-by” and dropping off groceries and supplies to someone in need?  We may not be able to go inside the person’s home and fellowship, but we can wave from our cars!

It is easy to become comfortable inside of our homes (I know I definitely am).  And I say “we” in the above statements because I know I can do better about maintaining fellowship. Just as, little by little, we’ve gotten comfortable in our own little bubbles, little by little, we can come out of those bubbles and intentionally plan to cultivate Christian fellowship.

While cities are slowly beginning to ‘open up’ again, churches do not yet know when we will return to in-person worship experiences.  Until such time, believers will need to get creative, not only in how we worship, but also in how we fellowship.  As one of my elementary school teachers used to say, “put on your thinking caps!”  Get innovative in how we fellowship with one another. We don’t need a committee meeting and a church vote to do something…do something today!

The Best Version of Ourselves

by Brenna Fields Taylor

Earlier today, I was honored to participate in the virtual Celebration of Life for one of my high school classmates who recently passed away. Beautiful words of remembrance were spoken about him, and encouraging words were shared with the family and all in attendance who grieve his passing.  As the celebration ended, his oldest daughter spoke on behalf of the family to thank her father’s classmates for planning such a moving celebration.  She recalled that her father had instilled in his children to be the best versions of themselves, and as she ended, she encouraged everyone on the video conference to be the best version of themselves.  What a powerful word from this wise young woman!

The service ended and we all said our goodbyes.  As my day progressed, I continued doing the things that were on my agenda for this Saturday. And yet, the challenge that this young woman shared continued to resonate in my mind.  I began to ask myself, “Am I currently being the best version of myself?”  If I were to answer that honestly, I would have to reply, “yes in some area, but no in other areas.”  I could do better with using my time more wisely, I could do better in eating healthy foods (I knew I shouldn’t have bought those Chips Ahoy cookies from Publix…they were buy one, get one free!)  Honest reflection shows me that I have some work to do so that I can be the absolute best version of myself.

I believe that in order for us to be the best versions of ourselves, our focus needs to be on what God would have us to achieve.  God has spoken very clearly to me about some things, while for other things, I’m awaiting answers and confirmation.  Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) tells us that “we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God has already ordained the good works that he wants us to accomplish.  Are we walking in them?  As Paul is writing to the Philippian church, he shares this with them: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6, NLT)  So, we do not need to fear as we step out in performing the good works that God has planned for us, because He will ensure that they are finished…they will be completed!

God may have already revealed what those works are for us, but the task seems insurmountable.  We can’t envision how God is going to do this through us, and some days we may even wonder if we heard God right when He gave us that vision (let me be transparent…I have sometimes wondered if I heard God right).  But scripture reminds us that He has given us these good works and that he will help us perform them.  Because of this, we can step out in faith into our callings and be the best versions of ourselves.

I encourage you to take some time TODAY (as soon as you’re done reading this post) and ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I walking in what God has called me to do?
  • Am I living the best version of myself?

If you answered “no,” it’s ok.  Today is the day (not tomorrow) and now is the time to begin changing the answers to those questions from “no” to “yes.”  Spend time with God seeking His will for your life, and when He speaks and tells you to act, don’t hesitate…just act!  Trust and believe by faith that He will help you perform the things He has placed inside of you to accomplish in the earth.  Someone needs what you have to offer…don’t deprive them of the gifts that God has placed in you for their edification and for His glory.

Tomorrow is not promised…NOW is the time to be the very best version of ourselves.

Hold On

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

by Brenna Fields Taylor

As I write this blog, it is April of 2020, and the world is in the middle of a pandemic called COVID-19, a virus that is spreading rapidly throughout the world, taking the lives of countless people.  Because of the contagious nature of the disease, many communities are living in a complete shut-down (or at minimum, are sheltering in place, rarely venturing outside). As a result, the times in which we are living are unsettling, unusual and unprecedented.  History records that there have been many plagues of diseases that have impacted the entire world, including the flu pandemic of 1918 and a cholera pandemic that ran from 1852-1860.  While the experience of pandemics is new to us, it is not new to the world and certainly not new to God.

In the midst of these trying weeks, I have witnessed God’s healing power restores friends and loved ones, and at the same time I’ve seen when God has chosen to call others home to be with Him.  It has been an emotional rollercoaster!  What we are being told about this current pandemic seems to change almost daily, and a lot of times, we are unsure whose report to believe.  Churches don’t know whether they should meet in person or not, and sadly, there are debates among Christians on faith (or lack thereof), depending on churches’ decisions on this issue.  Vacations, conferences, class and family reunions, and weddings have been cancelled or postponed.  And since no one has any idea of how long this thing is going to last,  our lives seem to be on hold.

Even in the midst of all of this, I want to encourage you (and me) to hold on.  Isaiah 41:10 in the NLT says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

This virus has many of us hesitant to leave our homes and to be in close proximity to other people, and rightfully so. But this particular passage says that we shouldn’t be afraid.  This virus may have some of us feeling discouraged because we see so much sickness and death around us. I will admit that, even as a minister, I have been overwhelmed by the many prayer requests for healing and comfort, even as my own family deals with the aftermath of death.

But in this passage, God tells us that we don’t have to be afraid and discouraged, because He is with us AND He is our God.  God has given us three promises in this one verse: He promises to strength us, to help us and to hold us up.  I encourage you to lean on and lean into God and these promises, that He will strengthen you, to help you and to hold you up.

What I find interesting about this passage is that it’s not just any old hand that is holding us up.  It is God’s “victorious right hand” that is holding us up.    The right hand of God symbolizes power and might.  It conveys authority and blessings.  Not only is the hand of God powerful, but it is also victorious.  So if God is holding me up with his victorious right hand, he is giving me power, strength, authority, blessings and victory, even in this precarious time.

I know we are overwhelmed, tired and unsure…but hold on.  God has promised to strengthen us, to help us, and to hold us up.  Let’s trust God together.

 

Church Leadership and Vulnerability

As leaders in ministry, we are looked upon to set an example for those who follow our guidance.  It goes without saying that we should be above reproach, honest, consistent, loving, fair, just, and people of integrity.  There are many scriptures that speak to these characteristics (just take a look at what the apostle Paul wrote to his mentee’ Timothy for examples).

Vulnerability-Just-Ahead

It’s true that a leader should possess a certain level of spiritual maturity (again, Paul talks about these qualities in his letters).  Leaders should know the Word of God, not be swayed by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) and be able to live out the Word that we teach and preach on a daily basis.  There are countess books by authors such as John Maxwell who expound greatly on the concept of leadership and what makes an effective leader.

Recently the question of transparency and vulnerability in leadership has entered my mind.  Yes, leaders are to be examples to those around us, but how far should we take the example?  The issue I’ve seen recently is the fact that in many instances, church leaders are placed on pedestals by those whom they lead.  Leaders are saddled with sometimes unrealistic expectations of perfection and super-human strength (and no I’m not talking about Superman or Wonder Woman strength), and are expected to always “take a licking and keep on ticking” (anyone remember the old commercials for Timex watches…I guess I’m dating myself lol).  Leaders are sometimes expected to be able to withstand any and everything and keep going as nothing has happened…nothing should be able to faze them, right?

However, sometimes the people we lead (and us as well) forget one very important point: Leaders are human beings!  We experience emotions like sadness, anger, and frustration.  We get tired and sometimes feel like throwing in the towel (or at least taking a hiatus).  We sometimes get confused and are unclear about a decision we need to make.  We sometimes feel disappointment when things in our lives and ministries don’t turn out the way we thought they should.  I could go on and on, but I think you get what I’m saying.

So in light of that, how does a leader balance his or her own vulnerability with the need to set an example?  I’m certainly not an expert in this area, but my thoughts are this: it’s ok to be vulnerable and transparent to a certain extent.  How can this openness benefit those around us?  Being open with some of our struggles can help remind people of our humanness.  Just because God has called someone into ministry or leadership doesn’t elevate a person to the level of perfection.  Everyone struggles with many of the issues I mentioned before, whether we’re a leader or not. We need to stop worshipping people (after all, that’s idolatry – go back to the Old Testament to remind yourself about what God says regarding idolatry), and remember that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).

Being open with our concerns can also be an encouragement to those around us.  If you’re dealing with an issue, our followers are watching us to see how we’re handling a situation.  Are we living in defeat because we’re facing challenges, or are we standing on the Word of God and in faith to help us overcome?  Paul reminds us that we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37)! And we may experience emotions as a result of our situations (and sometimes those emotions are visibly seen on our faces and in our eyes), but our faith helps us to keep going, and can serve as an example for others experiencing similar situations.

Vulnerability and transparency are not easy.  Our egos sometimes don’t want to admit that we are flawed or imperfect.  But I believe a certain level of vulnerability can be healthy and helpful, not only for us, but for those who follow us.  However, I would caution that we be careful to display wisdom regarding our vulnerability.  Everyone can’t handle hearing everything (AMEN somebody), and we never want to be a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 8:9, NIV) to anyone.   We’re not going on Dr. Phil to tell it all (of course, this is an exaggeration, but you get my point).  We probably shouldn’t share every last one of our issues and concerns, but there are some issues that if shared the right way, can help strengthen someone else.

Your decision to be vulnerable can be a blessing to you and to others but we must be wise.   Every spiritual leader should have a spiritual mentor who has traveled the road you’re currently on, and provide you with Godly advice and can help counsel you through those issues that everyone’s not ready to hear. Ultimately, we should seek God’s guidance about what areas to be transparent in, when and with whom. Stepping outside of God’s will in this area could prove to be disastrous.

So leaders, I believe it’s ok to be vulnerable and transparent.  And followers, I believe it’s ok for your leader to be vulnerable and transparent.  Leaders are human, and we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing: to live fully for Christ, live a victorious life, and to look forward to the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Whether you’re a leader or a follower, we’re all in this thing together.

Just my $0.02.