How to be a Godly Leader (John MacArthur)

JMac_Leader Today I finished reading a book that spoke to me very powerfully about what it means to be an effective church leader.  The good thing about it, is that the teaching doesn’t just necessarily apply to church leaders (such as pastors) but to Christians who are leaders in any other sphere as well.  The book (see left) is called The Book on Leadership, and is authored by well-known American pastor John MacArthur. The book is very timely because we live in a world where many leaders are anti-heroes who have questionable integrity and lack of character.  This means that many, even in the church, have given up on finding leaders of character and have settled for men and women who lack depth.  They appoint people over them who are well-schooled in leadership programmes and worldly methods of leadership, but are shallow and lack the deeper stuff of real godly character.  They are people who become autocratic tyrants who use and devour the people they lead and abuse trust – which, in turn, causes people to distrust authority even more.

The Book on Leadership is absolute GOLD, because it comes up with a list of 26 characteristics of godly Christian leadership by looking at the life and style of the apostle Paul.  It does this by 1) examining how he provided leadership in Acts 27, when he was sailing to Rome as a prisoner to be interrogated by the emperor Nero; 2) examining how he defended himself and withstood attack by the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians; and 3) how Paul managed the end of his days when friends deserted and attacked him.  As MacArthur examines these topics, he draws out 26 practical suggestions, such as delegating responsibility, being Christlike, being disciplined, by being humble, and many other things. 

I personally enjoyed the most the beginning of the book where MacArthur traces out Paul’s leadership in the sea storm of Acts 27, because a lot of extra-biblical information is used to explain why the sea journey was so bitter and why everyone was in such a rush to get it over with.  I felt like I was on the boat with Paul, a man who was so responsible that his Roman prison master implicitly trusted him only one day after assuming responsibility for his welfare.  The rest of the book, however, is by no means disappointing, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone in ministry, contemplating it, or training up for it.  If every Christian in leadership, even that outside of ministry, read this book and did what it says, this world would be a radically different place and many would trust the goodness of God’s authority.  Here are some insights from the book that struck me in particular:

This is the one snare that has probably caused the downfall of more  leaders than any other hazard: a lack of personal discipline – p. 145.

I occasionally hear Christians say, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that famous person over there, or this stunning beauty over here, or some great genius in the academic world became a Christian? Wouldn’t they be amazing spokesmen for Christ? What an impact they could have!’ God does occasionally use such people, but as Paul says, ‘not many’. He generally ignores that strategy [and the elite] and employs plain clay pots – in order that it may be clear to all that the power is of God and not from us. Even the notable and talented of this world must learn to become [simple, unremarkable] clay pots in order to be used by God to maximum effectiveness – pp. 113-114.

Optimistic enthusiasm [in leaders] inspires followers. People will naturally follow a leader who arouses their hopes, and they will just as surely back away from someone who is perpetually pessimistic … You cannot be an effective leader and be pessimistic. People who are cynical and gloomy debilitate everyone they speak to. They’re like blood-sucking leeches. They make people pale, weak, and passive – pp. 39, 40.  


11 March 2018 Pastor Haydn’s Sermon – What is Church?: Being a Joy to Your Heavenly Father

When a church is pleasing to its pastor, it also pleases its heavenly Father.  When Paul shepherded the Thessalonian church, they weren’t just another social gathering, but like a much-loved infant (2:7, 11).  In fact, he went so far as to say that if they were not standing firm in the Lord, he didn’t want to live (3:8)!  This is the church’s purpose and destiny.  The church has largely lost its way in this respect, but as I point out in my sermon, it can get back to what it’s supposed to be in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-10 (c.f. Psalm 16).

4 March 2018 Pastor Haydn’s Sermon – What is Church?: Being a Joy to Your Pastor

When a church heeds its pastor, not only does he experience joy but (more importantly) so does his congregation (Hebrews 13:17).  For Paul, the Thessalonian church was such a joy to him because they accepted his preaching as being from God (1 Thess. 2:13) and they even were denounced by their fellow Greeks.  That is just what Jesus their Saviour had suffered, and Paul couldn’t wait to see them again and be enthused again to keep sharing the Gospel.  But are all churches like this?  Sadly, no.  Here’s my sermon on 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (데살로니가전서), c.f. 1 Kings 18:1-21 how they can be a joy to their pastors, as all churches are meant to be.

God bless, Pastor Haydn.  

25 February 2018 Pastor Haydn’s Sermon – What is Church?: A Bubba Loved by Mum & Pop

Paul’s tenderly heart for the church really comes out in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (데살로니가전서).  He didn’t just invest in this church; he loved it, as a nursing mother loves her breastfeeding bub, and a father loves his children.  Paul never did things by halves; he threw himself into it because he loved the church as he loved himself and Jesus his Saviour.  In these verses, Paul also had to defend himself, reminding the church of what he hadn’t done (vv. 3-6) and informing them of what he had done (vv. 7-11).  Finally, he reminds them that all his work with them is for God’s glory, which really is why Jesus died to save sinful people.  This is how I feel about the church that I am shepherding, and here is my sermon on this from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (c.f. Psalm 81:8-16).

God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Pastor Haydn’s Devotion – Overcoming Self-Loathing (25th of February 2018)

Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –

Overcoming Self-Loathing

punchinello Christian author Max Lucardo once wrote a powerful children’s book named You Are Special about these imaginary people called Wemmicks.  These Wemmicks are little wooden people that were crafted by a loving carpenter named Eli, who lives on a hill close by.  One Wemmick named Punchinello (pictured left), however, is going through an enormous struggle: people keep putting stickers on him.  Some are stars which have messages on them like “You are so clever”, while others are ugly round dots which say, “You are boring” and “Nobody loves someone like you”.  Punchinello tries to get stars, but more often than not be gets the round dots.  Worse, some of the stars get ripped off him altogether as people take back their words. 

            For Punchinello, those ugly green stickers erode his resilience.  They cause him so much suffering because deep inside he listens to their hideous voices and starts to undermine and attack himself. I’m sure many of you have had the same thing, where the hurtful, damaging voices of others causes you to hate yourself.  “If others said I am garbage, then they must be right”, you reason.  “Perhaps they see something revolting about myself that I cannot even see, so perhaps I am as bad as they say I am.  I am disgusting, loathsome and unlovable”.  The Australian movie from the 1990s, Muriel’s Wedding, is an excellent example of this, as she tries to get married so that someone will want her and she’ll be special to someone (anyone)!  But it horribly backfires when she realises that the love of no other person will fill the void in her heart. 

            Self-loathing is a terrible thing because you will often sabotage yourself before you attempt anything.  You’re constantly in defeat mode and no matter what others say to you about how valuable and loved you are, you will not believe it.  Many victims of abuse feel like this all the time. The problem is when you and I choose not to believe it because you really do think yourself unworthy of love, blessing, and respect.  It also blocks you from going to God because you think yourself unwanted, and that you “must be good enough” to approach Him.  But you’ll never be good enough, and so you never go.  It leads to sin and addictive, self-destructing behaviour because you think you’re a piece of dirt.  You treat others like dirt because that’s what you think you are.  It’s a vicious cycle.

            King Saul was a selfish narcissist who lost the kingship to David because he thought himself small – or insignificant – in his own eyes (1 Samuel 15:17).  He privately was very self-loathing, but tried to cover it up by controlling others, breaking God’s law, and going off on his own winsome adventures.  There was pride, of course, in his heart but that fed on self-loathing and self-pity.  Judas probably loathed himself so much after betraying Jesus that he ended his life in self-destruction.

            Jesus never self-loathed.  He was strong in Himself because He knew that God loved and approved of Him.  As a consequence, He never sinned and attacked anyone else.  He even helped unworthy, sinful people like us to boldly approach God’s throne (Romans 5:6-8, Hebrews 4:16).  Paul didn’t self-loath because he knew his position as an apostle and refused to let others undermine his sense of self-worth (2 Corinthians 10:12-13).  The Bible speaks to the wound of self-loathing by reminding us that having put us right with God, Jesus now makes us temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  We are so loved by Him that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:37-39)!  Let these words speak to self-loathing in your heart, that God’s love will overwhelm your pain. 

Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, please heal me of self-loathing and the scars that I have been carrying.  The people who did that to me, whose names I bring to You now, put these lies in my heart.  Please forgive them, help me to forgive them, and heal them by the blood of Jesus.  Forgive me for the times when I have treated others as insignificant out of my own wounds.  Help them to forgive me. I now surrender to You the lies in my heart that have produced self loathing; I renounce them in Jesus Christ’s name, and speak Your truth over myself that I am loved by You and a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Help me to love myself as You love me.   I pray this in the name and authority of Jesus Christ, Amen.

~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Beware Your Help Online

Today’s increase in sexual ‘freedoms’ and looseness is taking on a force of its own that even the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s never imagined.  With this and the rise of the Internet, there has been a commensurate increase in the number of online ‘ministries’ that offer people help with issues like unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA).  On social media, there are closed and open groups offering ‘fraternity’ with others who have SSA and others with testimonies who claim to have left that scene and wish to offer ‘hope’ to others also struggling with the same.   I must be honest here in confessing that I was once a member of many such groups.  I did benefit from them to a very limited extent, but since being a leader of an SSA ministry once upon a time, having read every book under God’s sun about the subject, having attended national and international conferences on SSA, having been a speaker at such conferences, having once publicly shared my testimony, and then walked away from doing all of the above, I have looked back on these online tools and want to share my concerns about them.  While no doubt many of them are well-intentioned I am concerned about the role that they are playing and what are some more effective methods of helping people with SSA.

Who Are These People?

When I joined many of these groups, one thing is not always clear: what are the theological backgrounds of the people running them.  Are they Catholic?  Are they Protestant?  Or some odd mingling of both?  How firmly do they hold to the authority and the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture?  Are they charismatic and have faulty views of healing?  What are the theological traditions that such people hold to, and how does that build or undermine their methods and messages?  A person’s theological framework will affect their methods, for good or ill.

Another question popped up: what is the personal maturity of the people involved in creating and moderating such groups?  Have they gone through their own journey with healing and deliverance out of same-sex attraction?  Have they sufficient counselling or pastoral qualifications to do such things?  Do they even believe in those things, practice them, and recommend solid Christian resources to achieve those outcomes?  I remember joining one online ‘ministry’ to help people with same-sex attraction where a mentor ran off into the gay scene, and it turned out no one had vetted him properly.  The young man that he was mentoring eventually did the same.  (No consequences were metered out for that and the whole thing was hushed up.)

Are They Qualified?

Many online groups have little or no screens or filters to ensure that those with SSA are really properly being ‘pastored’ to properly, and that the ministry leaders have healthy boundaries with the people they’re ‘helping’.  This brings into play all manner of complex ethical and legal questions, which don’t ever get addressed.  Many times you don’t even know who is on the other end of the computer (you don’t even get a name), and yet you end up divulging personal information with that stranger who may be predatory in nature.  You don’t know who he/she is sharing that information with, who knows who, and how it may even be used to damage or embarrass you.  If this stuff you’re sharing is so sensitive and precious, why expose it to so many unknowns?  One ministry even recommended weekends away with others of the same sex with SSA, where they were reputed to have naked ‘bonding’ sessions – but attendees were sworn to secrecy like the Freemasons.  That itself is enough for concern.

You need to carefully look at what help you’re getting.  Get names of people and organisations.  Read what books they’ve published and shop around before you settle on talking to someone.  People like Joe Dallas are solid and they are open and it’s obvious what they do.  Pray to God for discernment, as per James chapter 1 and don’t share with someone unless you’re absolutely certain that they’re trustworthy.  Otherwise such people may be preying on your vulnerabilities and be wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Even in your desperation, be careful

Because many people with SSA are so desperate to get any help they can (like someone desperate to overcome terminal cancer), such individuals easily fall prey to quacks who may not know what they’re doing.  They rush to join a Facebook group with others who have SSA and share far too much than they should because they all have SSA in common.  Worse, they make risky decisions about divulging sensitive information about their past without the input of more mature, wise minds.  This is stuff that they should have told a safe soul, not plastered all over the Internet.  One person I know decided to make public the sexual abuse that he had suffered as a child on Facebook; he did this hoping to ‘encourage’ others with the same history.  While the intention was good, he hadn’t received any input from wiser minds, who would have told him to think twice.  What shocked me is how many people congratulated him for his ‘incredible act of courage and bravery’ when the whole thing was truly reckless and put him in great danger of being targeted by the Evil One. 

Online groups are not therapy

Such groups can be unhealthy because they are not therapy, and therapy is usually what SSA people need – and not only for SSA but for all the other issues in their life.  In lieu of therapy, the online group offers an alternative: mutual sharing.  “Feeling triggered?  Come and share so we can encourage you”, they say.  But mutual sharing is not the answer; some sharing is downright unhelpful, because it can trigger weaker minds to go to dark places.  “All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial”, said the apostle Paul.  Those sharing can also be triggered, and before you know it everyone’s triggering one another.  The problem here is that others in the group are not therapists and far too often the conversations in those groups become nasty, with backbiting, judgementalism, and meltdowns.  The moderators of these groups cannot censure and stop every conversation, and even if they do, it often comes too late after much damage has been caused.  Isn’t that the last thing that people with SSA need?  Why be around people who are going to trigger you and re-abuse you in the same way as those in your family of origin (which is actually what took you to SSA in the first place)? 

Too much of the victim mindset

And while many in the groups share their “struggles” what actually happens is that others encourage them to be stuck in a victim-mindset.  One group that I visited had a man complaining that someone at church had spoken to him rudely, and that as a consequence he was going to knock himself out in a non-stop pornography binge.  After gaining a sympathetic hearing and some general advice about ‘taking it to the Lord’ and just reading more Bible, he was still blaming the man at church.  He was told to get that ‘horrible creature’ to ask forgiveness and then everything would be fine.  No one ever encouraged him to go deeper and find out in his past what triggered him in the present.  No one gently challenged him to take responsibility for his own actions and temptations and to work through it.  He was given more license to self-pity and blame others for his predicament.  I used to do that sort of thing myself a long time ago and all it does is keep people stuck in immaturity and holds them back from taking responsibility for their own choices.  And that is why healing eludes so many people with SSA.

Question all the ‘testimonies’

There are also an increasing number of people sharing their testimonies of having ‘left’ homosexuality.  Some of the people doing this, sadly, demonstrate a shallow understanding of Scripture and little history of having walked with the Lord solidly and into greater maturity since doing so.  Most have not even begun a journey of healing and deliverance (judging by what they’ve said about themselves); still others have embraced various forms of Once-Saved-Always-Saved doctrines that deny the need for obedience after salvation.  Many espouse teachings that are sympathetic to gay marriage and undermine the Word of God about marriage being only between a man and a woman.  Some have only left the gay scene only a few months ago but have been dangerously encouraged to share their stories far too prematurely, and seem to just love the attention that they’re getting from having “stepped out in faith”.  Just because Revelation 12 says that God’s saints will be saved by their testimony doesn’t mean that every testimony honours Christ and therefore should be shared.  Some are best kept hidden, or revealed at a time when the person has matured in his/her faith.  Remember that not all who are seeking are lost, and not all who have been ‘found’ are saved, even if their words say something else to the contrary.  What damage this will do to the Gospel will be revealed in time to come,  but its occurrence is a major cause for concern.

Only SSA?  Nothing else?

The other issue with the online groups is that by focussing so much on SSA, they neglect other issues in a person’s life, like anger, pride, wounds from the past, etc.  Trying to fix SSA in isolation is like trying to take way someone’s tickling cough when their body is rapidly deteriorating from pneumonia.  SSA is not the total sum of a person’s life, or their sin.  They need all their life examined, and what they don’t need is a Facebook group with unknown total strangers to air their dirty laundry with, but an intimate walk with God the Father and safe brothers and sisters in the Lord to do it with.  They need a good Christian therapist, with whom they can dig around in their past and find healing for it.  They need deliverance ministries and prayer ministries, which can help such people to close the doors and landing strips that have been opened up to Satan.  They need to be shown how to look after themselves and take responsibility for their own walk, instead of passively blaming others when the going gets tough.

Understandably, none of this would happen if churches were already looking after individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction (or any other issue for that matter).  Because pastors freak out at ‘unwanted’ people with unwanted problems, the same-sex attracted feel like they belong nowhere; the church won’t help them, and the world is telling them to go live in sin.  So where do they go?  The local church must get its act together, but the answer for SSA people is not online forums but patience and dependence on God’s Spirit to lead them to the right people. 

18 February 2018 Pastor Haydn’s Sermon – What is Church?: A Kaleidoscope

The early church at Thessalonica was like a pebble in a pond – as Christ suffered, so did the apostle Paul, as did the Thessalonians, as will we.  And because of that, other Christians at that time were encouraged (1:7) and Christ was powerfully advertised to the world (1:8). Is that what we in the church are like today, or have we gone soft through worldly comfort?  Have we truly turned from the dumb idols that we secretly worship (like others’ approval and smug self-satisfaction, or love of comfort) to whole-heartedly follow the true and living God (1:9-10)?  Have we learned the joy of the Spirit through much affliction?  If not, it’s likely to be the reason why we’re not really looking like a church.  Here is my sermon on this from 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 (c.f. Ruth 1:11-18).

God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Pastor Haydn’s Devotion – Overcoming Anger (18th of February 2018)

Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –

Overcoming Anger

We look at the news and see how anger is all through our world.  Yet often we’re rightfully angry about things – it was revealed this week that our deputy prime minister in Australia (Barnaby Joyce) has had an affair with a staffer, got her pregnant, and is now leaving his family to be with this new woman.  We keep being told that the whole issue a private affair and not a matter for public discussion; yet the more we hear that, the more outraged we seem to feel. If we cannot trust a government leader about his private life, what can he be trusted with?

            We can also be angry about more mundane and day-to-day things too, like the slowness of traffic.  These things upset us in the present, but do we ever stop to think why some of these things bother us so much?  Perhaps you feel angry about the government cutting the pension payment, and yet open displays of racism hardly affect you at all.  Why do you get ropable about some things, but could casually care less about other matters?

            I have been thinking this concerning myself, and what I have noticed is that what I feel upset about now in the present has some connection to my childhood past.  For instance, I feel irate whenever I feel nagged by someone, since my childhood is littered with memories when my father would rush me in all that I attempted to do – and then cursed me when I failed to do things ‘quick enough’ to the standard that he demanded.  Racism doesn’t affect me like it would somebody else, for instance, because I wasn’t personally a target of it when I was a child. 

            Anger is an emotion that is powerful in the present because, if it is not expressed in safe ways (like writing a letter, shouting under water, or hitting rocks with a stick in the middle of nowhere) then it will eke out in destructive ways and hurt the people who love you.  Anger comes out with snide words, hurtful jokes, rude glances, cynicism, impatient sighs, or brooding silences that you can cut with a knife.  It actually hurts us too because our bodies can suffer somatic pain and illness as a result of its build-up.  And since our world discourages any expressions of anger and tells us just to shove it all down and pretend like everything’s OK, we wonder why people are so angry these days.  Yet trying to curb our anger in the present without having reckoned with its roots in the past will be like putting cracking icebergs with a toothpick.

            Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us something very revolutionary about anger: Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil (NKJV).  Notice Paul does not say “Do not be angry; that’s not Christian”.  He says it’s OK to be angry, but not to start the next day having ‘done business’, keeping short accounts with God and others by forgiving. 

The question is for you and I is: how many suns have set on our anger?  It’s OK to feel angry when others have hurt us in the present, but where does that have its hooks in the past?  Have you safe ways to express your anger at what happened in the past, so that you can forgive those who’ve hurt you from deep inside your heart?  Have you taken responsibility for the hurtful things that you’ve done to others and said sorry?  May we start today and take our anger and wounds to God, so that He can restore us.  Let’s pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, I admit that I have so often been angry.  I have been hurt by others and I have hurt others out of my own pain.  My anger has eked out in ungodly ways, and that has hurt me too.  Forgive me, Heavenly Father.  Show me where my anger comes from in the past, so that I may forgive those who wounded me both in the past and in the present.  Help me to forgive others as You have forgiven me, so that You may forgive me as I forgive them.  Forgive me for shutting out my feelings; help me to accept my humanity (including my emotions) and to be honest about my anger, so that I can be set free from it.  Thank You for being patient with me, and please liberate me to love others from the bottom of my heart. 

I pray this in the name and authority of Jesus Christ, Amen.

~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Pastor Haydn’s Devotion – Overcoming Humourlessness (11th of February 2018)

Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –

Overcoming Humourlessness

grumpycat In the last few years, the culture that we’re living in has becoming increasingly hostile to Christian voices.  As a result, many Christians have decided to hit back in these “culture wars” and to “reclaim territory lost” by assertively and often aggressively advocating the Christian worldview.  In many ways this has won certain victories and brought about biblical clarity on issues of contention.  The problem though when you’re constantly in fighting mode is that there’s not much space for joy and mirth.  In your mind, there’s always a battle to be fought, and you can become an angry Keyboard Ninja on the computer, never getting sleep and always going on the offensive.  Such people tend to laugh only in moments of cynicism and ridicule.

This can happen too with people – Christian or no – who are carrying with them the scars of unresolved trauma and abuse.  If that happened to you when you were a kid, then you learned quickly to stop laughing.  Why laugh when your needs weren’t being met?  What’s there to laugh at when no one understands your loneliness, fears, aches, and longings?  When the adults in your childhood weren’t being responsible in the ways that they were supposed to (and thought that was amusing somehow), then you had to grow up too fast and be more mature than the “grown ups”.  In those circumstances, humour seemed strangely out of place and even inappropriate.  Maybe you developed a dark sense of humour about adults, like the plotlines in books by Roald Dahl, and can no longer laugh at little things – or yourself. 

I was like that myself, until I began going on a journey of healing with God to undo many of my own childhood traumas.  When healing began, I was astonished at how I began to not only laugh at things, but actually saw the light and fun side of life.  Gary Larsson’s Far Side comics made me laugh myself sore, and what a relief it was.  I could even laugh at myself, and with others. 

Jesus actually had a very cutting sense of humour that penetrated His enemies’ attacks.  The book The Humour of Christ by Elton Trueblood shows how our Lord used laughable word pictures to expose hypocrisy with statements like, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:5).  You’re supposed to imagine, for instance, an overweight fitness instructor picking holes in your fitness routine.

Yet it wasn’t just Jesus in the Bible who was funny.  The book of Judges recalls the king of Moab, who was so enormously fat that when the left-handed assassin Ehud stabbed the king, his fat rolled over the sword hilt (3:21-22).  The book of Esther has pagan authorities issuing edicts that are verbose and bombastic to show how vapid worldly authority is.  Abigail, the woman who eventually married David, is originally married to a man called Nabal, whose name in Hebrew means fool, or skin bottle (bladder, 1 Samuel 25).  We’re meant to laugh because our Heavenly Father is a God of joy, who wants us to be joyful and not weighed down by fear and anger.

Perhaps you, like me, have wounds that have prevented you from seeing the bright side of life and the funny things about ourselves.  We need to bring this to God and ask Him to liberate us from joylessness and humourlessness.  God can do this in our lives, so that we can enjoy life to the full (John 10:10). Let’s pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, I find it hard to laugh and enjoy the lighter side of life.  Forgive me and help me to not take life so seriously, to take time out to do things that are fun and delightful, and to enjoy Your creation.  You are joyful and laugh (Psalm 16:11), and I want to be like You.  Please heal me in the places where I am hurt, in those areas of my heart where I have shut out laughter.  Forgive me where I have used my laughter to mock and deride others; help me to laugh at myself in good ways.   Please be my laughter and joy, and come to laugh with me.  I pray this in the name and authority of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.