Godly Leaders

Series | Marks of a Healthy Student Ministry

*Here is the second mark of a healthy student ministry:

A healthy student ministry has people who are godly leaders.

We cannot bypass the principle of godly leadership and still expect to see God’s blessing. Holiness is the primary ingredient for leaders in the church.

It is staggering to consider how many churches–and youth ministries in particular–select leadership. A man (or woman) is not to be a leader in the church because he is the best businessman, has innate leadership ability, or has a large bank account. In student ministries specifically, leaders aren’t chosen because they can snowboard or play Halo or whatever. Those with worldly gifts and talents are not God’s best tools; God wants and uses righteous instruments.

Godly leaders are those with deacon qualified character. When Timothy stayed in Ephesus, he had the responsibility of bringing the church to spiritual maturity. The apostle Paul knew Timothy couldn’t do it alone and that he needed godly leaders beside him.

Titus faced the same challenge in Crete, and Paul gave him similar advice. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 Paul gives a profile of the kind of people that are to be leading the church. They are to be:

  • above reproach
  • devoted to their wives
  • temperate
  • prudent
  • respectable
  • hospitable
  • able to teach
  • self-controlled
  • not self-willed
  • not quick-tempered
  • not pugnacious (not a punch-throwers)
  • not contentious
  • gentle
  • not materialistic
  • managing their household well
  • having a good reputation among unbelievers
  • lovers of good
  • just
  • devout
  • and not new converts

Those are the qualifications given in Scripture for leaders in the church. They indicate the kind of people God wants to lead His church. A church should not accept just any volunteer; it should elevate godly ones. While not everyone on the youth staff will be an elder or deacon/deaconness, these are the spiritual characteristics that must be promoted and pursued.

Godly leaders are also those committed to sacrificial service. This involves their:

  • time
  • talents
  • and treasure

The sacrificial service of a leader is above and beyond the sacrificial service of a non-leading Christian. And since every Christian follower is called to lose their life, giving up everything to follow Christ (cf. Mark 8:34-38), how much more the leaders.

This above-and-beyond commitment is alongside of responsibilities to family and work. The family is not equivalent to the church, so serving one’s family is not synonymous with one’s “ministry.” Neither is a person’s vocation equivalent to the serving the body, regardless of the spiritual opportunities provided by the position itself.

There are other ministries in the church that someone can serve in, even “deacon” in, using their spiritual giftedness, discipling, while following Christ that will cost a person less than serving in a leadership position in a student ministry. But we should stop making apologies for how much is asked of leaders. We ultimately answer to God (and to a lesser degree, to the elders, the parents, and even the students themselves), therefore, it is not a responsibility to take lightly. We show how valuable we think the ministry is by how much it costs us to serve. Ministry that doesn’t cost anything isn’t very precious.

The consequences of our work are eternal. We’re engaged in a spiritual fight. Our work demands commitment. If a youth ministry doesn’t have leaders who measure up to God’s standards, there will be problems from the start. So we must labor to make sure that our leaders (staff and students) are biblically qualified and clearly identified. Leaders don’t just appear with the push of a button.

Part of the Local Church

Series | Marks of a Healthy Student Ministry

*I retaught my series on the Marks of a Healthy Student Ministry almost a year ago. The introduction is here and without further ado the actual marks finally begin.

A healthy student ministry has people who are part of the local church.

The Old and New Testaments are completely silent about Student Ministries. There are no verses that describe ministry focused on young people. Based on this alone, we might conclude that student ministry is at best a-biblical, that is, it isn’t found in the Bible. But though no verses support or provide instruction for this particular ministry, there are also no scriptures that condemn or prohibit it. Apparently student ministries is not anti-biblical either. So should there be such a thing as student ministry, and if so, where does it belong?

The New Testament does have much to say about the church and her role. Of course, a church is a body of believers that gather together in a local place for corporate worship, mutual edification, and biblical instruction for observing everything Christ commanded. In particular, Paul defines the work of church leaders in Ephesians 4:11-16 as strengthening and equipping believers to do the work of the ministry.

This responsibility of the church is to equip every believer. No national, cultural, gender or age restrictions exist, providing a rationale for focused shepherding and discipling of students. In light of Ephesians 4:11-16, student ministry exists to strengthen and equip students to do the work of the ministry. Done properly, student ministry is just a focus on the few to reach the many within the context of a local church.

Churches typically have other ministries aimed at specific groups of people, be that children’s’ ministry, women’s’ ministry, etc. These particular ministries are not essential for equipping the saints but they can help to target “each part of the body” (Ephesians 4:16) and “every man” (Colossians 1:28). Colossians 1:28 was not actually written for youth ministry; it is Paul’s objective for the entire church. Presenting “every man” complete in Christ is a huge task and student ministry exists to reach the “every man” among the Junior High and High School students as God enables salvation and sanctification. But it is only under the umbrella of the entire church that student ministry makes sense.

Though I’m certain there are more, here are four brief sub-points important for being part of a local church.

  1. Following Christ. As part of a local church students need to follow Christ. On one hand this is so basic, yet on the other hand we never want to take it for granted. As part of the Body we must follow the Head. Anything we do apart from following the Head misses the point of being a part of the whole.
  2. Submitting to the elders. Elders are given by God to oversee the local body. Students are responsible to submit to the direction and priorities the elders set like the rest of the body. Elders are given to guide and protect, so wandering from their oversight is inappropriate and dangerous.
  3. Pursuing the same goals as the whole body. A philosophy of student ministry should not contradict or compete with that of the overall ministry. Though some practical differences may exist, there should be no disconnect between what happens in big church and “little church.” The goals and practices of student ministry should be consistent with every other ministry.
  4. Serving others outside of student ministries. Whether helping lead in children’s’ Sunday School or service projects for families in need, students are a necessary part of the body that must work properly the makes the body grow.

Because student ministry is only healthy as it is part of a local body, student participation in “big church” worship is important as well. The youth meeting does not and cannot replace the entire congregation’s worship services. Anytime the church gathers, students should be a included.

Though it should be obvious, this also means that healthy student ministries are not isolated from the older members, those with wisdom to share and to whom the younger should watch as examples. Para-church ministries that attempt to make disciples in an isolated context away from the church are missing out on the blessings and benefits of being part of a local body.

Being part of a local church is #1 on the list for a reason. Too many youth pastors and student ministries try to do their own thing and try to be so different from what’s happening in the rest of the church that inconsistency and ineffectiveness abound. Student ministry is not finished until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, grown up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. In order to do this, students must be connected to the rest of the Body. Though churches don’t need student ministries to be a healthy churches, healthy and proper student ministries must be part of local churches.

The Marks of a Healthy Student Ministry

Series | Marks of a Healthy Student Ministry

*It was four years ago–July 11, 2001 to be exact–that I preached my very first message at Grace Bible Church. I was exhilarated that Wednesday night as we began to lay out the course for our student ministries. A lot has happened since then, both in individual lives and in the ministry, but there are some things that are still the same.

In particular, the primary principles–our priorities and philosophy of ministry–have remained constant. If you remember, my first two messages were on The Marks of a Healthy Student Ministry. Those defining marks have not changed since the start.

And it is time again to pause from our regular teaching schedule and evaluate the condition of our student ministries department by reconsidering these marks. It is important to make regular assessments because we don’t ever want to stray too far from our primary purpose. We always want to remember what we’re doing here. The reason we’re here, my objectives as pastor, the goals of our staff, all of those should be explicit and evident.

I’d like to assume that everyone already knows our primary purpose and what we’re doing here. I would really like to take for granted that every student and staff person knows the reasons for, and objectives of, one28. Though there are probably a number of ways to say it, the point, the goal, the purpose, the reason of our ministry is to present every person complete in Christ.

I know that I refer to our aim on a frequent basis and it obviously comes from Colossians 1:28. All of us ought to be ready on a moment’s notice to show that verse to anyone who asks about Christ or about our church or about one28 itself.

The idea of completeness in Christ is what consumes everything that we do or, at least, it should be consuming everything that we do. Whether it is Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights when we all meet together, small group Wednesdays or service opportunities, retreats or short term missions trips, everything we do in this ministry falls under the banner of seeking to present every person complete in Christ. For some that must begin with evangelism and salvation. For others it means edification and equipping for the lifelong sanctification process.

We want to see young men and young women become spiritually mature men and women loving God wholeheartedly and following Him purposefully. As basic as that is, and as much as I hope you know that, it is fruitful to remember that foundation because we are often distracted by so many other things. We can get so preoccupied and busy, even with church stuff. But spiritual growth doesn’t happen just because you are at church. It doesn’t happen by just hanging out with other believers. It’s about pursuing Christ and seeking to become more like Him, then helping others to do the same. So my job is all about being committed to seeing every one of you become more and more like Christ. Christianity itself is about being Christ-followers and Christ-lovers and this ministry is devoted to help that happen.

As far as our corporate ministry goes, it is advantageous to have some measuring stick, some evaluation tool to help determine if our organization and our organism (as the body of Christ) is doing all it can to present everyone complete in Christ.

So this series on the Marks of a Healthy Student Ministry is something that I started with when I came here and something that we will continue to work through on a regular basis. In fact, every staff retreat we set aside time to walk through a ministry grade card, where each staff person grades our fulfillment of each mark. Then as a group we talk through areas of strength (and how to excel still more) while also identifying areas of weakness to overhaul.

These are some of the things that are closest to my own heart, some of the deepest and strongest passions that I have for our ministry. These are things that drive me and push me–that consume me. For those who are new or for those who haven’t been paying attention or even for the old-timers who need a refresher, hopefully this series will boost your appreciation for why we do what we do.

So what are the things that determine whether this ministry in this local body is healthy or not? I want to suggest that a healthy student ministry has people who:

  1. are part of a local church.
  2. are godly leaders.
  3. have an appetite and ability to study God’s Word.
  4. pursue spiritual maturity.
  5. are passionate about discipleship.
  6. pray for spiritual things.
  7. place a high priority on the family.
  8. pursue spiritual fellowship and service.
  9. seek to glorify God in everything.

For further reference you can check out Mark Dever’s 9 Marks ministry. And for your information, it is just a providential coincidence that both of us have 9 marks.

Recommended Reformation Resources

I finished preaching through the Reformation solas again and wanted to put together a list of recommended resources for further study, similar to the online Edwards resources list I posted after this past Snow Retreat. Unlike that list, however, I’ve also included some books that are not available to read online.

See more about the Reformation Wall

Books

Reformation general:

Sola specific:

Biography:

Websites

  • Five Solas | This is the place to start for Reformation resources on the internet.

Audio

I also preached on the Pillars and Preachers of the Protestant Reformation at the 05SR.

  1. Post Tenebras Lux: After Darkness, Light
  2. Sola Scriptura: The Ultimate Authority and William Tyndale
  3. Sola Fide: The Ultimate Issue and Martin Luther
  4. Sola Gratia: The Ultimate Cause and Ulrich Zwingli
  5. Solus Christus: The Ultimate Advocate and John Knox
  6. Soli Deo Gloria: The Ultimate End and John Calvin

The Precious Possession of Diligence

Many of you know that my dad passed away early Monday morning, April 17. We travelled to Ohio for his funeral last week and soberly enjoyed the time we were able to spend with my mom and sister as well as other family and friends. I had the privilege to speak for a few moments at his memorial service and the rest of this post is the substance of my message.


Fathers and sons have a special connection, and the relationship between my dad and I was no exception. I absolutely loved my dad and it seemed right for me to honor him today even if for just a few minutes.

There are many things I owe my dad.

Dad taught me to love the game of baseball. He instilled me with a passion for mowing the yard to make it look good. He taught me about generosity, never letting any of my friends pay for lunch when we went out and occasionally sending that $20 for pizza when I knew they didn’t have much to spare. He taught me about the power of respect, gradually increasing both my freedoms and responsibilities which only made me want more to grow up and be a man like him.

But there is one lesson I learned from my dad that excels every other in my mind. In fact he is not just an example to me in this area, he will forever be THE standard. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this lesson is that he never once talked to me about it. This is a lesson I learned entirely by observation, watching him day in and day out.

The biggest thing I owe my dad is the lesson of DILIGENCE.

Everyone has a basic understanding of what diligence is and most of us know how rare it is to find. Diligence is defined as careful, or better yet, persistent, work or effort. We might call it hard work, tenacity, tirelessness, or perseverance. A person like this is often known as a “fighter” or we might say they have “stick-to-it-iveness.” But whatever we call it, that’s what I learned from my dad.

There is not a week of my life that goes by when I don’t think about my dad’s diligence. When I’m tired or just tired of doing something unenjoyable I remember his example.

He was diligent in his work. As a self-employed draftsman he did whatever was necessary to make his clients happy and provide for his family. He worked out of our house most of my life and I could count on him being at his table every morning–listening to his country music–day after day, year after year.

Not only that, he was diligent to be at every one of my sports games. He missed none of my games until I was 16 and traveling with a summer baseball team in Tennessee. Otherwise I could count on him being there. When I moved away he was faithful to support neighborhood kids or Triway teams or family friends. As long as there was even a glimmer of health he was there.

There were other areas of faithfulness too. He was diligent to get our family to church every week. He was diligent to shine his shoes every Saturday night before church. He was diligent to recycle. He was diligent to walk when he could. Diligence was the pattern of his life.

Most of all he was diligent for the last 14 years in his will to live. Since open-heart surgery in the fall of 1992 he battled uphill against heart disease, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, staff infections, broken bones and other problems that racked his body from head to toe. I suppose most of us were surprised God’s grace enabled him fight this long.

I cannot read the following verse without thinking of him:

A slothful man does not roast his prey,
but the precious possession of a man is diligence.
(Proverbs 12:27, NAS)

Diligence was my dad’s precious possession and is the one thing I most hope to inherit from him.

The only regret I have for my dad was also my most consistent prayer request: I wanted him to experience more Christian joy. There’s no doubt that there were seasons of little joys for him. He did have a great smile and a laugh that welcomed you into any story. But in spite of all the difficulties and pains that seemed inescapable to him I kept praying that he would experience sweet, Spirit-produced joy in Christ.

Joy is what he’d talk about if he were back with us. If he were here, knowing what he does now, I’m sure he would love to tell us about the sweet and sovereign happiness to be found in Christ alone.

I think he’d tell us that he missed out on living in this kind of joy, the kind purchased for us by Christ on the cross. He’d express godly sorrow for so much despondency and point us to Christ who died not only to set us free from the wages and eternal penalty of our sin, but also from the dreary, joy-killing power of sin in this life.

I believe my dad would urge us to live in verses like:

Though you have not seen Him (Jesus), you love Him. Though you do not see Him now, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

This is the kind of joy he knows about now. This is the kind of joy he’d want us to live in now.

No matter the trial, if we submit to Jesus we can be freed from the concerns of this life to live in the joy of making much of Christ. Jesus is better than life and He promises eternal joy to anyone who will leave their earthly attachments and love Him with their whole heart.

As I close this morning, I saw a Christmas card I wrote my dad in 1995 that he kept it displayed in his room. Though I used the word perseverance back then it carries the same sentiment as diligence. Here is part of what I wrote:

One word that describes you more than any other is PERSEVERANCE. What an absolute pain in the neck to always be physically less than the best and mentally lacking in desire. Yet you get up every day and press on. Thank you. Your example has not gone unnoticed!

…One day, tomorrow or next week, or at least Heaven, WILL BRING ABOUT THE TURNING OF THE TIDE.

Thank you for not giving up and for always being faithful to God and us.

The tide has finally and gloriously turned for my dad. He no longer needs to fight, persevere, or work with diligence. Instead of indescribable pain he has inexpressible joy in Christ. I pray that each one of you have this experience, and hope, of joy today as well.

The Best Online Edwards Resources

In spite of the fact that the 06SR is over, I am hoping that many of you will desire to learn more about and from Jonathan Edwards. While curious readers may already have clicked through my Edwards delicious tags, it seemed like an annotated list of Edwards resources available online might help get you started.

Edwards' gravestonePhoto thanks to Tony Reinke

  • Jonathan Edwards.com | This is the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Edwards Web Site,” and even though it hasn’t been updated in quite a while, this is the best place to go for some of JE’s scientific and personal writings. You can also view most of JE’s major works unabridged, such as Original Sin, The Religious Affections, Freedom of the Will, and of course The Religious Affections. Sometimes the site is down, but it’s worth a quick look.
  • JE on Monergism.com | Monergism.com is one of the most helpful Bible/theology collection sites on the web in my opinion, and their page of Edwards materials does not disappoint. This is the best place to start, not only for primary Edwards material, but especially for biographical sketches and articles about his theology.
  • JE on the Bible Bulletin Board | This site is by far the best place to go for Edwards’ own writings on the web. It is organized by category and all the documents are in the same format. BBB is the first place I go to check for JE sermons and shorter works.
  • The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University | There is not a lot of content available yet at the Center, but if they upload half of what they claim, this will become the place to go period. I did find their biographical timeline the most complete available online.
  • JE: The Life of a Master Preacher | This is a (small) online exhibit that includes some pictures and brief biographical information.
  • A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards | This is a free online book available for pdf download from the Desiring God web site. The book includes chapters by various authors (like Piper, J.I. Packer, Mark Dever, Donald Whitney, etc.), originally presented at a conference by the same name held in October of 2003–Edwards’ 300th birthday. This is a terrific introduction to JE and his passion for the glory of God.
  • Of course if you’d rather listen than read, most of the God-Entranced Vision of All Things seminars are available as mp3 files. I listened to all of these messages prior to the retreat; many of them three or four times while I was jogging. Piper also has another message on Edwards, The Pastor as Theologian that was from an earlier pastor’s conference.

The above are not the only internet sites with JE material out there, but they are the online resources that I used and would recommend most. The audio and sermon notes for my messages at the 06SR are also available online.

The Religious Affections of Jonathan Edwards

  • Session 1 – Shock and Awe – An Introduction to Religious Affections
  • Session 2 – Logic on Fire – Jonathan Edwards and The Religious Affections
  • Session 3 – Heat and Light – The Nature and Importance of Religious Affections
  • Session 4 – No Sure Signs – Inconclusive Signs of Religious Affections
  • Session 5 – Known by Fruit – Distinguishing Marks of Religious Affections
  • Session 6 – The Body and Blood – The Examination of Religious Affections and the Lord’s Table

Why Go to Church?

*I’m normally don’t enjoy email forwards, but this one was different. It was sent to me by my friend and fellow one28 staffer, Chuck Weinberg.

A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.”

This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this…they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”

Thank God for our physical AND our spiritual nourishment!

*

How to Destroy Unity

unityThe theme of this year’s Grace Academy Junior High retreat was unity. I was asked to address the junior high students on Thursday night out at the Warm Beach Christian Camps & Conference Center, specifically at the trusted W-Bar-B Ranch. The passage I selected to preach from was Colossians 3:14. Here it is in the ESV and the NAS:

ESV – And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

NAS – And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

This verse comes in the middle of what is probably my favorite paragraph (verses 12-17) in Colossians. The point of the paragraph is the idea of “putting on” Christian virtues after “putting off” sin in verses 5-11, and this exhortation in verse 14 reveals the crown of Christian virtues: love, along with its result: unity.

This was it. Here was the key to unity–love.

But we’ll all heard about love before. Sometimes we’re so saturated with talk of love that we become “love sick.” So what I thought I’d do is just give you a grocery list of ways to destroy unity. In fact, were going to look at eleven ways to destroy, ruin, and undermine, unity. These are sure fire ways to guarantee a miserable, gloomy, blithering year in Junior High (and for that matter, the rest of your life). These are some practical suggestions for having no unity when you’re walking with others between classes or hanging out during lunch or at soccer practice or spending time together on the weekends.

As a preemptive footnote, I realize this is long. No one is making you read it. But if you are patient you might find benefit in it.

1. Be Impatient

A person who is impatient has a tendency to be quickly irritated or provoked. Generally this happens when you are inconvenienced or taken advantage of by another person. Impatient people are easily upset and annoyed by others. It doesn’t take much to get them bent out of shape. They are regularly put in a bad mood by someone else.

By no means should you be pleasant or good humored or cheerful when something doesn’t go your way or doesn’t happen when you want it to. When someone promises to do something, hold them to a standard you wouldn’t expect to live up to yourself. Be impatient.

Of course impatience destroys unity because we won’t tolerate someone who can’t keep up with our expectations or who is weaker or slower or imperfect. If they mess up–they’re out. If they can’t keep up–don’t wait for them to catch up.

2. Be Unkind

A person who is unkind is inconsiderate and harsh. Proper unkindness can range from being callous to purposefully cruel, from being inconsiderate to downright mean-spirited and hurtful.

Of course, girls seem to know how to do this naturally. We call it being catty, that is, deliberately hurtful in their attitude or speech. I’m regularly amazed at the female’s ability to be just downright cruel and mean. That’s the way to go for the destruction of unity.

Guys, on the other hand, are generally more direct and hostile, they are unfriendly or just pick on someone for the sake of picking on someone. We just punch people we don’t like in the head. Hitting others in the head is generally a good way to communicate that we don’t care about being kind to them.

Please do not go out of your way to be nice to someone else, especially someone else who doesn’t deserve it. Don’t serve others, don’t be gracious to others, don’t be generous. Be unkind.

Unkindness destroys unity by not letting people in the circle we don’t like.

3. Be Jealous

A person who is jealous envies or covets or desires what someone else has. This can lead to resentfulness and long term grudge holding. Being jealous means having intense negative feelings toward another’s achievements or success. If someone has something or gets praise that we should have got, we better let everyone know about. If another person is more popular than you, do whatever it takes to knock them off their pedestal.

This is the time when it is appropriate to mock others behind their back. Be jealous.

Jealousy destroys unity by keeping others out of our circle to punish them for having what we should have or wish we had.

4. Be Boastful

A person who is boastful is always heaping praise on himself. This is the braggart, the cocky, full of himself, walking-with-swagger bighead. Boasting is showing excessive pride and self-satisfaction in one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities. It’s actually trying to make others jealous. Jealousy pulls others down, bragging builds us up.

Throw a parade in your honor. Have a party just to talk about your greatness. Be boastful.

Being boastful destroys unity by setting ourselves up as most important. It keeps us at the top of a very short list where there just isn’t room for anyone else. We don’t need them anyway–we’re cool enough.

5. Be Conceited

A person who is conceited is proud, but maybe just in their heart. They are full of themselves too, puffed up with an exaggerated view of themselves, self-centered and snobby. They are too big for their own britches.

Don’t ever consider for a moment that you are not perfect or that you haven’t arrived. Don’t show any kind of humility. Make sure you believe that you are the best. This is especially important for those of you who are more quiet and who might not be comfortable boasting in public about how great you are. If nothing else you can be kind of smug on the inside. Be conceited.

Just like bragging, being conceited destroys unity by putting ourselves up on the pedestal, and even if we don’t talk about our greatness we still expect others to recognize us as great. And if they don’t? They’re not included.

6. Be Rude

A person who is rude behaves disgracefully or discourteously; they are offensively impolite and inappropriate. This is the person who is always trying to bring shame or disgrace on someone else. Instead of building others up they are tearing others down. They can’t be trusted. They are insulting and abusive.

Don’t spend time thinking about someone else’s needs or their feelings or their sensitivities. Don’t think about how to care for others or even how to act politely. Be rude.

Rudeness destroys unity by never worrying about whether someone is left out of the circle in the first place.

7. Be Selfish

In a lot of ways this characteristic motivates most of the others. A person who is selfish lacks consideration of others; they are primarily concerned with their own profit or pleasure. They are self-absorbed, self-obsessed, wrapped up in themselves, thoughtless, looking out for number one.

Don’t ever let anyone think that you could be happy unless they do what you want. Be selfish.

Selfishness destroys unity because it makes it seem like we’re the only ones who are important anyway. Who cares about anybody else? Don’t seek to serve anyone but yourself. That will keep your circle pretty small.

8. Be Irritable

This is somewhat related to the first point–being impatient and easily annoyed–but it goes a bit further. A person who is irritable is easily provoked to anger. They have a tendency to be grouchy, moody, crabby, cranky, and with a short fuse.

When someone does even the slightest thing to you, get mad, immediately, and let them know it. Don’t hold back. Don’t wait for it to get better. Defend yourself, no one else will do it. Retaliate. Be irritable.

And being irritable or angry helps to push others away. There won’t be any unity if everybody is mad at everybody else.

9. Be Bitter

A person who is bitter is resentful because someone treated them bad of they feel like they didn’t get what they deserved. Bitter people are usually sour and spiteful. They are always taking to account the wrongs people have done to them.

Keep a list of everything that everyone has ever done wrong to you, no matter how insignificant or small it was. Keep track of other people’s sins and never let them forget it. Punish them by acting cold or gossiping about them or anything that will let them know just how awful they were. Be bitter.

Oh, before I forget, let me encourage you to be just as petty and small about this as possible. I’ve found that really tends to erode any chance for unity.

Like anger, bitterness will keep you away from everyone else. There won’t be any unity because no one will deserve to be united to you.

10. Be Immoral

A person who is immoral doesn’t conform to or accept standards of morality–right and wrong. Perhaps a little stronger is the word “perverse.” We normally apply that in terms of sexual immorality, but the basic definition is “showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.”

When I suggest being immoral, I mean go for it. This will be sure to break whatever unity might be there. Scoff at your parents and encourage others to do the same. When you hear some juicy tidbit about somebody else, it doesn’t matter if it’s accurate or not, make sure you pass it on to everyone who’ll listen. Do wrong yourself and encourage others to do the same. Be immoral.

Immorality or perverseness destroys unity by eroding any genuine foundation for unity. If there isn’t anything solid, any truth, if it is just all lies and half-truths then there is nothing to stand on.

11. Be Cynical

A cynical person is always doubtful and distrusting. They typically are concerned only with themselves and making themselves look good. They are suspicious, not open, pessimistic and negative. So never trust anyone and never let anyone trust you.

Just curl up by yourself in the corner far away from everybody. Even if things could be good, don’t get your hopes up, it probably won’t last. No one else is going to stick with it, you might as well not either. Be cynical.

So being cynical and pessimistic will destroy unity by negativity.

To sum up, If you want to make sure that there is no unity, no harmony, no getting along with each other, just commit to being impatient, unkind, jealous, boastful, proud, selfish, irritable, bitter, immoral, and cynical.

Well why do I mention these eleven things as unity destroyers? Some of these overlap one another and certainly there are other ways to bring disunity. The reason is because all eleven of these sarcastic encouragements are the opposite of LOVE! And love is the perfect bond of unity. Note the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

You probably recognize the contradictions for the first nine obviously, and then “be immoral” goes with all of verse six and “be cynical” opposes all of verse seven. So if you can just not love, you won’t have any bond or harmony. Without love there will be no perfect unity. In order to destroy unity all you have to do is not love.

But there is one (large) problem with not loving. If you don’t love, you don’t know God. 1 John 4:7-8 makes it clear that love is the normal Christian behavior. Disunity is anti-love and therefore anti-Christian. How dare we claim to know God and not be unified. When we destroy unity we destroy our testimony, our assurance, and potentially destroy our brothers.

A Notice about Prayer

You can’t be a Christian if you don’t pray. I’m not talking about prayer being a work that you do that saves you or sanctifies you. I am not talking about something else that you need to do to make God happy. I am simply looking at it from the standpoint of standard Christian practice. The reason some people don’t pray may be because those people aren’t Christians.

Consider first, Christians are to be like Christ – and Christ prayed. You can’t read for very long in any of the gospels before you find Christ praying. The Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, God in human flesh, prayed. And He prayed often. He prayed regularly. He prayed when it was inconvenient to pray. And if Christians are actually “little Christs,” if Christians are being “conformed into the image of Christ,” if being complete in Christ means being like Him, if He has left us “an example that we should following in His steps,” then Christians will pray.

Second, Christians are to obey Christ – and Christ taught us to pray. Not only by His example, but by His own direct words. It is not something He expected us to pick up implicitly (though we do that too), it is something He commanded explicitly.

And third, Christians are to glorify God, and prayer shows God’s greatness. Prayer glorifies God in at least two ways, 1) it shows His greatness in that we want to spend time with Him. And 2) it shows His greatness by highlighting His resources and resourcefulness. We don’t just pray to God to get His help to glorify Him, the act of praying itself glorifies Him! Praying is not just the means to an end, in one respect it IS the end! When we don’t pray it must be because we think we can take care of ourselves. This attitude robs God of glory due only to Him.

We are too comfortable with profession of faith and no prayer coming from the same mouth. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.