Today, is the celebration of All Saints’ Day. What is All Saints’ Day and why should we celebrate it?
Since the 4th century, Christians have celebrated the lives of saints and martyrs. However, it was not until AD 609 that Pope Boniface IV dedicated one day of remembrance for all martyrs. Since that time, and after a broadening by Pope Gregory IV in 837 into a celebration of all past saints, All Saints’ Day has been a solemn holy day in the Roman Catholic Church, often connected with reverence for past Christians and relics. While often criticized for idolatrous veneration of departed Christians, even after the Reformation, most Protestants continued to celebrate All Saints’ Day as a way to connect God’s faithfulness to His people in times past with God’s faithfulness to His people now.
In Hebrews, chapter 11, the writer takes us through what is sometimes called the “Hall of Faith.” We hear of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and Rahab — all of whom faithfully walked through their ups-and-downs with God. The first words of chapter 12 take a sudden turn to the present: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The lives of great heroes of the faith are celebrated as an inspiration for the Christians listening in the present moment, that they too might live with God faithfully in their everyday lives.
I love that phrase: “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” Those witnesses are the believers in God that have gone before us. They bear witness to us that there is a way to live faithfully with God upon earth now even as they also bear witness that there is future hope with God beyond our earthly lives. Although it may sound strange to our ears, all past believers are ‘saints’ in that they are ‘holy ones’ (the literal translation of the Greek word hagioi) through Jesus Christ. All Saints’ Day brings to the foreground the spiritual bond that exists between believers from all times and in all places. More specifically, All Saints’ Day highlights the connection between the saints who have gone ahead of us into God’s presence (sometimes called “the Church triumphant”) and the saints still upon this earthly plane (sometimes called “the Church militant”). We celebrate those who have gone before us so that we might be encouraged to run the race before us with our eyes fixed on Jesus.
In a culture dominated by the ever-pressing latest and greatest that is new and now, All Saints’ Day is a powerful corrective. It reminds that we are an important part of God’s story, but we are not the only part of the story. When we celebrate the saints of previous times we realize that we would not be here were it not for Abraham, Jacob, Ruth, David, Esther, Isaiah, Mary, and so many more.
In a culture that is obsessed with our present opinions about our present matters, All Saints’ Day offers us perspective. It helps us grow beyond “the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about,” to steal a phrase from G. K. Chesterton. We reconnect with Catherine of Siena and Augustine of Hippo, with Perpetua of Carthage and Janani Luwum of Uganda, with Sojourner Truth and Blaise Pascal. We need them; perhaps even more than we know.
In a culture that has forgotten how to think about the future, All Saints’ Day reminds us to have hope of a future day. Since there are saints who have gone before us, we can persevere now as saints upon earth. Jesus Himself told us that He is preparing a place for us and, as John testifies, there will be a great company there of saints from every tribe, tongue, and nation around God’s throne celebrating in God’s eternal kingdom.
By God’s grace, we, too, will join that great company. But until we do, we celebrate God’s faithfulness in their lives as a means to lean into God’s faithfulness in our own lives as persevering pilgrims in this land that is not our home.
If we are going to move toward Revelation 7:9-10 as the church of Jesus Christ, then we must pursue growth as disciples – both through developing new disciples and going deeper in life as existing disciples.
If we are going to become a Revelation 7 type of church, then we must reach out as a church and as individuals through evangelism (word), community outreach (deed), and more.
But if we are going to do grow disciples and if we are going to reach out, then we have to also intentionally pursue multiplication as a church. Some may say, ‘but what’s biblical about all that?’ It sounds very programmatic and organizational.
Let me say this about “intentionality.” We are either intending to become something or we are sliding toward something. I would rather intend to become God’s best for us as a church than unintentionally slide toward something else.
Multiplying in ministry is actually one of the most biblical things we can do, so let’s turn back to the Bible to see how this concept plays out through the entire Scripture. Let me share some notes on multiplication from the lives of Moses, Jesus, and Paul.
Moses on Multiplication (Exodus 18)
- The man of God redeemed from his wrongs
- Birth (Exodus 2:1-14)
- Early errors and murder (Exodus 2:11-15)
- Purification in the desert (Exodus 2:16-25)
- Calling at the burning bush (Exodus 3-4)
- The work of God in the Exodus
- The challenge to God’s people (Exodus 5)
- The conflict with Pharaoh (Exodus 6-13)
- The deliverance (Exodus 13:17f)
- The Red Sea showdown (Exodus 14:5-31)
- Provision of Manna (Exodus 16)
- Defeat of Amalekites (Exodus 17)
- The Sinai revelation (Exodus 19)
- Advice from Jethro (Exodus 18)
- Moses is exhausted (18:1-12)
- Jethro’s advice (18:13-23)
- Moses’ change of approach (18:24-27)
- Capable men (18:25)
- Leaders of groupings (18:25)
- Task of leadership/shepherding (18:26)
- Moses’ change of role (18:26)
Jesus on Multiplication (Luke 5:1-11, 27-32; 6:12-16; 9:1-6; 10:1-20)
- Luke 5:1-11, 27-32 – Jesus calls the first disciples
- Luke 6:12-16 – Jesus chooses the 12 apostles
- Luke 9:1-6 – Jesus sends out the 12 apostles to do what he did
- Luke 10:1-20 – Jesus sends out 72 to do what the 12 did
Paul on Multiplication (Acts 20:4-5)
“He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas.” (Acts 20:4-5)
- Some we know nothing about: Pyrrhus; Secundus; Gaius; Trophimus
- Aristarchus (Col 4:10; Philemon 24)
- Tychicus (Col 4:7-9; Eph 6:21-22; Titus 3:12)
- Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25-30)
- Demas (Philemon 24)
- Titus (letter)
- Timothy (1 & 2 letter)
- Acts 16:1-5 – beginnings with Paul
- Acts 17:13-15 – teaching the faith
- Timothy writing with Paul (2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 & 2 Thess 1:1; Philemon)
- Timothy described by Paul (Philemon 2:19-24)
Paul talks about this in a specific way in his words to the young pastor, Timothy. Timothy was one of Paul’s young leaders who had accompanied him on much of his mission work and he is now a young pastor in the city of Ephesus.
“The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
The Multiplication Principle (2 Timothy 2:2)
Why we must multiply:
- If we are healthy disciples, we multiply disciples
- If we are healthy in our service, we multiply servants
- If we are healthy in our ministry, we multiply ministers
- Why?…our need (Moses)
- Why?…development of the other (Paul)
- Why?…the missions of the Master (Jesus)
When we must multiply:
- Right away!
- Share whatever God is teaching us with someone today
Who we must look for (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
So may we be a disciple-making church that is also a multiplying church. May we live toward the Revelation 7 vision of the church, which is also God’s dream for the church, where people from every tribe, tongue and nation are gathered around the throne of God.
Continuing with my exploration of Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima’s Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, in the second part of the book the authors give attention to what they call “five dark-side issues experienced most often by leaders” (16). They group those dark-side issues into individual chapters that describe in greater detail what each of these issues might do to the leader. Here is a summary of each of those five types:
- The Compulsive Leader (103-109): “Compulsive in a leadership context describes the need to maintain absolute order” (105). The compulsive leader experiences difficulty with delegation, tending toward workaholism. They are conscientious but moralistic and may become judgmental. They are conscious of their status, looking both for approval and reassurance from others, yet learning toward anger and rebellion on the inside. The compulsive leader in the church setting relies upon administration and organization as the safety net for their fears of losing control, whether of staff, their board, or the ministry of the church. Moses is an example of the tendencies toward control seen in the compulsive leader.
- The Narcissistic Leader (111-118): “For the narcissistic leader…the world revolves on the axis of self, and all other people and issues closely orbit them as they get caught in the strong gravitational pull of the narcissist’s self-absorption” (115). Leaders with this dark side tend to overestimate their own achievements and abilities while stubbornly refusing to recognize the quality and value of the same in others” (115). They are often driven by unmet needs for admiration toward the pursuit of success, and can be simultaneously over-inflated in their sense of importance and deeply insecure. In the church setting, the narcissistic leader will promote themselves, their endeavors and their gifts aggressively, and thereby make themselves seem like an essential piece of everything without which nothing could possibly succeed. Solomon is an example of the tendencies toward self-obsession in the narcissistic leader.
- The Paranoid Leader (119-126): “Paranoid leaders are desperately afraid of anything or anyone, whether real or imagined, they perceive to have even the remotest potential of undermining their leadership and stealing away the limelight” (122-123). Oftentimes, paranoid leaders overreact to criticism, guess at others’ motives, and rigorously root out those who seem to be against them. The paranoid leader in the church will keep anyone else from preaching or do anything they can to keep their board from meeting without them. Saul, the first king of Israel, is an example of the tendencies toward suspicion seen in the paranoid leader.
- The Codependent Leader (127-138): Codependency is “an emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, practice of, a set of oppressive rules – rules that prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems” (133). Codependent people compulsively worry about the feelings of other people – even taking responsibility for others’ actions and emotions – while often being out of touch with their own emotions. Codependents are often reactive instead of proactive. “Ministry and Christian service organizations provide the perfect environment for a leader to focus on others to the exclusion of self. This often results in the codependent pastor or leader’s failure to car for himself, producing burnout and other debilitating maladies” (136). Samson is an example of the tendencies toward emotional and relational stunting experienced with the codependent leader.
- The Passive-Aggressive Leader (139-146): “Passive-aggressive leaders have a tendency to resist demands to adequately perform tasks” (140), oftentimes based on a fear of failure. The passive-aggressive leader may have outbursts of intense emotions, manifest various forms of impulsiveness, and can become perennial complainers. In the church setting, passive-aggressive leaders radiate edgy irritability, often complaining about their workload, the people they work with, and the sort of things they have to do. They make impulsive decisions, while also procrastinating essential tasks, both of which can alienate congregants and volunteers from them. Jonah is an example of the tendencies toward emotional outbursts and impulsiveness often seen in passive-aggressive leaders.
Have you experienced this sort of leader in your life, particularly in your church? What might it look like for you to learn from that experience?
Now, look in the mirror for awhile, and consider what your own dark side tendencies might be. How can you bring those to God today?
I continued our series on prayer, “Great Prayers of the Bible,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. In this series we are looking at notable prayers throughout Scripture in order to learn how to pray. This series accompanies our Summer of Prayer at Eastbrook. This weekend’s message explored the perplexing encounter where Moses confronts God in prayer when God wants to annihilate the Hebrew people because of their rebellion in Number 14. The main point: prayer is an exercise in loving self-sacrifice that points us to Jesus.