Leadership

Romans 12: 6, 8

However, since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to use them properly . . . the one who is in leadership, with diligence.

There is such a thing as Biblical Leadership. It actually makes an interesting study. The one point I want to bring to light today is that bossing isn’t leading. Christian leaders must lead by love.

It’s funny how Yahweh can use any circumstance of life to teach. I started watching a new TV show last week. The first episode includes a classic set up. There is a family of Mom, Dad, a son and a daughter. The eldest child is the boy. There is an apocalyptic event. The parents depart to go find help, leaving the two children with a group of other survivors. As the parents prepare to leave, they tell the eldest child to look after the younger and the younger to listen to the older. From that moment you see the dynamic which is about to unfold.

I immediately knew the older brother was going to try to boss the younger sister and that the sister would be a free spirit who would constantly rebel against the rules and restrictions the brother would try to impose. If only they could see from a distance and not fall into the trap which would strain their relationship.

As I watched this introduction to their situation, I heard this thought, “Bossing isn’t leading.” What a challenge those words can impose upon us. Perhaps you have the burden of leading or of being responsible for others. How does one walk the tight rope of responsibility and leadership?

Christian leadership is better couched in the term “edification.” In other words, Christian leaders are supposed to build up others. Look at Ephesians 4: 29 from the NIV Bible, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Hence, Christian leaders are meant to lead by love. No one suggests this model is easy, but it is Jesus’ model. It is the way, and I believe we are much more inclined, and able, when we think about it consciously. Now that we know, we can endeavor to be the older brother who nurtures his charge into a positive growth cycle rather than repressing them and their development.

Marching Orders

Romans 12: 9 – 13

Love must be free of hypocrisy. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

You have been called to this day and to this moment. These are the most unprecedented times in our history. So many issues clamor for our attention. We, however, in Christ, are up to the task. I have had a saying for many years that leadership comes from below. It has to because it is only in the trenches that we really know what the situations are. So, we always need leadership at the lowest levels and need those leaders to learn and grow. You are those people. Most of you don’t hold high political positions nor church positions. None the less, you are the leaders of the world. The “leaders” take their cues from us. We tell them in our actions and with our words who we are and what we value. So, these are the marching orders God has given us to help us lead a nation, a corporation, a church and a family. These are the rules by which we are to interact within organizations.

We should cling to these leadership guidelines and share them with others. We should require our businesses and volunteer organizations to adopt this paradigm. It is rule, not by the majority, not by an elite group. It is not rule by the few or the many but rather, rule by love. Love is the ultimate leadership characteristic and it must be taught and required. We, you and I, must learn to be devoted to one another, to give preference to the other, to honor one another, be diligent, fervent, devoted servants of our Lord, to persevere, to pray continually and to be generous in all things. As we do these things, we should also teach others to do the same. We should demand this pattern of behavior out of our friends and family. We should show our political, business and church leaders what we expect of them as we set the example. Let us follow Paul’s example and teaching.

We have been silent too long. We have been apathetic, lazy and worldly too long. It is time for us to stand up and be counted, not by our words, but by our deeds. We need to become the church made of living stones which bring glory to Jesus through our loving acts of kindness. Rise up. You have your marching orders.

Civility

1 Timothy 3: 7

And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Paul, in writing to Timothy, gave direction regarding the qualifications for church leaders. This verse points out one of the requirements, i.e. that he must have a good reputation outside of the church. I don’t know that we discuss these requirements often, in the general church but perhaps we should. Even if you have been privy to the discussions, is a person’s reputation outside the church something often considered?

When we contemplate this requirement for church leaders we must certainly pause. I know it has given me pause today. I think we are preferring the exact opposite result. We are listening to, choosing and following people who not only do not enjoy a good reputation outside the church but who, instead, alienate those outside the church.

This requirement makes a strong demand upon each one of us. It means that we are not given license to discriminate, and certainly not disparage, any group of people. This is an absolute and it is high time the church adopted love and its central theme. Love means we do not get to disclaim any group of people. One, especially, cannot be a church leader if he or she creates animosity or harm in any segment of the “outside the church” population.

I recall some of the men I have heard speak over the years, whose diatribe is an accusation, conviction and condemnation against a segment of the population. NO MORE, I say. Today is the day we must end this practice. No longer should you tolerate a leader whose rhetoric condemns those outside the church. You, my beloved, are called, this day, to stand up for those outside the church. You are responsible for only allowing leaders who are respected by those outside the church. This is the litmus test. It always was but we have neglected it out of laziness and our own comfort and prejudices. No longer is it acceptable for the church to stand against God’s kids, and I mean any of God’s children, not just the favored and blessed few who have been fortunate enough to come to know Jesus.

Furthermore, we, by our acceptance of abrasive, hate filled leaders are pushing people away from the invitation to Christ. We make grand gestures of missionary trips to remote parts of the world while we allow our leaders to advance positions of judgment and condemnation in our own backyards. Do not misunderstand me. I completely support free speech. I will defend your right to say what you think. However, if you cannot express your opinion in a way which allows you to retain the respect of others, I will not support you for a leadership position in the church. If your rhetoric smells of racism, bigotry, sexism, ageism, or any other intolerant ism, I will defend your right to spew that garbage but I will not allow you to speak for me and I will challenge your right to speak for God.

My God is love. He so loves “the world”, people, that he condemned His own precious son to die a horrific death. It is high time we listened to Paul’s admonition to Timothy and only support those as leaders who can preach a gospel of love and acceptance. We do not have to agree with one another. We don’t even have to adopt the party line. We do have to treat each other with human civility and kindness. It doesn’t matter which side of any debate you choose, that is not the point. The point is that Jesus died for each and every one of us and that includes those people outside the church, especially those outside the church. It is time we took the responsibility of social leadership which means embracing people of differing customs and opinions with grace and humility. Therefore, you and I have the responsibility to elect leaders in our churches, and even of other social and governmental organizations who can respect others and listen to them. If they cannot love the world, as God did, then Paul would have us reject them as leaders.

We can remodel our churches and make them a viable force for good in society if we will make this one requirement mandatory. If we will do this, the church can again become an important player in society instead of the institution of last resort.

And last, whatever your scars, blemishes, spots and wrinkles; despite your sins, beliefs and shortcomings; without regard to whether or not you are saved, you are a child of the living God. He loves you and so do I. Do not feel alone and unaccepted. Do not allow yourself to be isolated by judgment and condemnation. Of all the voices out there, only one of those gave his life for you. Listen to that voice and damn the others. Reach out to the Father who gave all for you. Let him bathe you in His continual love and mercy.

The Way of Wisdom

Proverb 11: 11

By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.

So, yesterday was election day in the United States. Job done, right? No way. No matter what country you live in, registering your vote is the smallest part of the job. You can bless your city, country or province or you can curse it. Which shall it be?

Most of us do not understand the power we have as Christians to bring blessing everywhere we go. By our blessing, we are also blessed and this is no clearer than in the administration of government. Whether your candidate won or not, the real job begins now. We are taught to pray for our leaders, “First of all, I encourage you to make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and prayers of thanks for all people, for rulers, and for everyone who has authority over us. Pray for these people so that we can have a quiet and peaceful life always lived in a godly and reverent way. This is good and pleases God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2: 1 – 3). What this means is that we should be praying for every leader of every organization we are members of including our churches. Why? We make our lives a whole lot better if we do. In the book of Acts, “They had the disciples in each church choose spiritual leaders, and with prayer and fasting they entrusted the leaders to the Lord in whom they believed” (Acts 14: 23). These people entrusted their leaders to the Lord Jesus and we must do the same. This would be our spiritual leaders, of course, but also our bosses, presidents, governors, the president of the PTA, the leader of the Bible Study and every other person you can think of who is in a leadership position. It is the Lord Jesus who gives us all the grace to do whatever we are called to do. He is what makes a great leader. And if you are involved in choosing a leader for your organization or for a government office the best thing you can do is to pray. Some people pray for their candidate to win but after the election is over, that is when the prayer is most needed. No matter who wins, they are not qualified to lead. Only Jesus is fully qualified so we need all of our leaders following him. We need all of our leaders blessed and ministered to by him. I don’t care who the person is, it is almost immaterial. The key is for that person be able to hear the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We like to elect Christians to political office but a Christian who does not hear and listen to the voice of God will be just as lost in the fog as a non-Christian. We need people in all of our organizations who can, and will, hearken to the voice of the Lord. If an unsaved person was elected in your jurisdiction, then you will want to begin to pray for that person’s soul. I don’t mean that you should begin praying condemnation prayers over them. I mean you should pray compassion prayers for them. Pray for them like they were your only child. We all need a touch from Jesus. They are no different from us in that respect. Even if the individual is a person of God, don’t you think they will be tried and tested? Of course they will and they need our support every day. By your blessing of them, you will be blessed.

You can speak ill of your leaders or you can speak well of them and pray for them. If you constantly run down your boss, your political leaders and your church leaders, what do you suppose you will get? Remember, words are power containers. You are going to end up unhappy and oppressed. Then who are you going to blame? You are going to get what you sow. Therefore, pray for everyone who in anyway provides leadership in your life. Pray and curse not. This is the way of wisdom.

And while you are at it, pray for me too. It is only when God speaks through my fingertips and keyboard that I have anything valid to say and to send to you, so pray for me and I promise I will pray for you.

Leadership 101

1 Thessalonians 5: 11

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

I wrote in the spring on Hebrews 3: 13 which reads, “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Over these last four months God has been showing me, increasingly, how important it is to be an encourager. Additionally, He has shown me that encouragement is one of Jesus’ leadership traits. Before this year I would likely not have included encouragement in a list of leadership traits. I would have been wrong. The Lord is showing that in order to become the leader He has ordained you to be, you must embrace the responsibility of encouragement.

Encouragement, as we see from today’s verse, builds a person up. A large part of leadership is building up others. All too often our model of leadership is in the correcting of others. I found an amazing quote in a book I am reading. The book is Becoming the Person You Want to Be by Dr. Jim Richards. Dr. Richards wrote, “As leaders we have assumed people didn’t really want to move forward. We have blamed their lack of faith. We have questioned their commitment. We have told them they needed to try harder, pray more, cry out to God, and a plethora of other ‘spiritual gymnastics.’ But the truth is we have never given them the right key.” In other words, when people are not succeeding at the level we are or at the level we think they should be, we question their motivation, their commitment and even their faith. Richards points out that most often those people simply have not been given the appropriate tools for success.

As ministers, we can certainly be guilty of this. Our parishioners’ lack of success is a negative reflection on us. If we do not have an answer then we can easily blame the lack of success on their faith or their commitment. Perhaps, though, if the student is not learning, we should inquire of the teacher. I admit to being challenged by this passage from Dr. Richards because I want to be the leader God called me to be. Bit by bit I am learning that only comes with the power to encourage others. We must become builders of people. 

Yahweh, our Father, has called every one of us as a builder of the kingdom. The Kingdom of God, however, is not made of brick and mortar. It is not built of evangelical trips to the Congo. It is not even in the Holy Sacraments. The Kingdom of God is Yahweh’s people. Until we place a value on the building up of God’s people we will continue to miss the mark. 

Every one of you has been called to great things in the Kingdom of God. Don’t doubt it. Let us help each other to become all that God as ordained us to be. We can be the leaders, mentors and teachers who help people attain their highest ambitions. Let’s encourage one another in this pursuit.

Compassion

Luke 7: 13

When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”

I have lately been strongly impressed with the importance of compassion in Christ’s ministry and his personality. There are seventeen places in the New Testament which speak about compassion. That is a significant number of entries. It turns out that Jesus got his compassion from his father. Romans 9: 15 reads, “For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” The point is that compassion is a behavioral and personality characteristic which is important to our heavenly father. 

The dictionary defines compassion as “the deep feeling of sharing the suffering of another in the inclination to give aid or support, or to show mercy.” Wow! That is a powerful ideology and doesn’t it sound exactly like Jesus? Now we see why so many times the scriptures say that Jesus was “moved” by compassion. Compassion is not the same as pity. Compassion invokes action. When we look again at Romans 9: 15, where Yahweh is talking about showing mercy and compassion, we can now comprehend that His compassion stimulated Him to action. Because of His great compassion He moves on our behalf. 

In today’s verse we see that Jesus felt compassion for a woman. If we will read one verse more we will find that he then did something. He didn’t just feel sad for her and say, “Oh, I am so sorry for your suffering.” He did something. He raised her son, restoring him from death to life. Okay, that is doing something!

Compassion, encouragement, love, acceptance, forgiveness and forbearance, these are the bricks and mortar of Christianity. It isn’t in how many Bible verses you can quote. It isn’t in how much service you offer at church. The life of Christ in you is seen in how you extend the love of God to those around you. I see so clearly today how Jesus comes along side us and is filled with joy when we, out of the overflow of our hearts, express his essential nature. This isn’t something we do. It actually is allowing the life of Christ within you, his nature, his compassion, to flow out from you. It is a living testimony of the love of Christ in his people. And it is how you evangelize the world and disciple nations. Let Christ in all his glory be expressed through you.

Do you want to find the real church leaders, the one’s that the Holy Spirit recognizes? Go look for those people who reach out from themselves with compassion and encouragement. Look at who is actually praying for others rather than talking about it or discussing doctrine. See who responds when news is received. Who picks up the phone and calls just to offer an encouraging word or a prayer? Who is it that always seems to find a way to bless their friends, neighbors and even people they don’t know? Those are the true leaders in the body of Christ. They are not always the celebrated in the earth but the angels know their names. God bless you, the encouragers, the compassionate, the beloved.

Advisable Reliance

2 Chronicles 32: 8

And the people relied on the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

Here is another significant lesson for winning spiritual warfare. Find someone you can rely on. Brother, you are a sitting duck if you don’t have someone you can rely on in the day of trouble. I don’t care who you are or who you think you are, you need someone to lean on. You may be the biggest preacher in town but the day will come when you are under attack and you will need someone’s words other than your own. You will need someone to listen to who is an encourager and a bold believer. Do I preach to myself? Sure, but I also have a plethora of people I listen to regularly and on whom I can rely in the day of trouble.

The second part of this is for goodness sake learn to rely on those who are speaking faith in the face of trouble. Jesus said, “Sure you’re gonna have trouble but take heart because I have already won” (paraphrase of John 16: 33). You are meant to overcome those troubles through the victory of Jesus. That’s the plan but when you are under the barrage of missile attacks it is often difficult to remember that. When the onslaught is heavy enough you will even forget which scriptures you know to rely upon. I will even think to myself, “Now, what do I tell other people when they are going through this?” In those times you need the advice of wise, Christian counselors; those who themselves rely on the scriptures. They will feed you the scriptures you need so don’t hesitate to call on them. In the very first Psalm King David starts us off with this advice. Verse 1 reads, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” I take that to mean “make sure that the counsel you receive is from Godly people who can speak truth.”

And then here is the real key. Make sure you are listening to these sage individuals. We want to know that they are listening God and that their advice is scriptural. And you are still responsible to God for the advice you take but the point is that you need to have someone that you can trust and listen to and you need to sublimate your ego and take advice and counsel. If you are an island then you are in error. God did not make us to be rugged individualists. He made us to be a family of believers. We are supposed to rely on one another as the collective members of one body.

If you never learn to submit to the instruction of others you will always be a target and you will never be a leader. Only those who learn how to follow responsibly ever become leaders. If you can’t quiet your ego long enough to take advice then you will never have the gentility to lead others. You will never appreciate what a good leader looks like. We learn to lead by following good leaders.

We all need those who can help us through the storm. In today’s passage the people listened to the direction of Hezekiah. They relied on his Godly counsel. And they not only weathered the storm but they came out victorious. This is the way and the counsel of God. Seek the wise, scriptural counsel of Godly counselors in the time of trouble and you also will prevail.