Leadership Altars

1 Kings 3: 3 – 5, 15

Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David. . . And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there . . . Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.”

Then Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and made peace offerings, and held a feast for all his servants.

The point of this story is the bookends. The story begins with Solomon’s sacrifices to God. Then, God appeared to him in a dream offering to grant any wish of Solomon’s desire. Then, at the end of the story, Solomon appeared before the Ark of the Covenant and made more offerings and threw a feast. It is a story of honor and sacrifice, of devotion and blessing. It is also a story of leadership. The two points I wish us to take away from this story is first, the relationship between offerings and sacrifice and God’s outpouring and two, Kingdom Leadership.

I have to believe that God showing up and speaking to Solomon in the dream was directly related to Solomon’s sacrifices and offerings. The offerings reveal Solomon’s earnest seeking of God’s wisdom. He was overwhelmed by his responsibility as the leader of the nation. Knowing it was a monumental responsibility, he sought God, making offering upon offering, humbling himself before his God. And God responded to Solomon. What would you ask for if God told you He would grant your desire? Solomon asked for the wisdom to rule God’s people justly. Wow! Not what I would have thought of.

Solomon’s leadership position drove him to prayer and to seeking God. There is no leadership teaching more impactful than this truth. Leadership should mean seeking God’s face on behalf of one’s flock. Second, in Solomon’s seeking, he made offerings to God. He laid thousands of gifts upon the altar believing that the God of Israel would honor his sacrifice. He was right. Third, Solomon’s response to God’s grant was to give more offerings and to throw a party for his servants. He blessed his servants with the blessing God gave him. He both honored God and blessed his people.

God gave Solomon what he asked for and much more besides but on both ends of this enormous blessing we find Solomon filling the altar with gifts to his King. Is it coincidence?


Proverb 20: 28

Good leadership is built on love and truth, for kindness and integrity are what keep leaders in their position of trust.

Leadership is a challenge whether you hold a position of authority in the workplace or in an organization or team. No matter where you are tasked with leadership there are some common concerns. We often ask, “What makes a good leader” and “Are leaders born or made?” If you are challenged by leadership issues don’t feel alone. Every leader has struggled at one time or another. Think about this, even Yahweh had problems trying to lead the Israelites out of bondage into a land flowing with milk and honey. One might think that should be a fairly easy task. Who doesn’t want to leave slavery for abundance? If God had problems, then I guess it is okay if we struggle a bit too.

Solomon wrote this. He was the leader of a nation and worse, had to follow in David’s footsteps. Those were some mighty big shoes to fill. I am sure Solomon felt the pain of comparison with his father. None the less, he did survive and became a great leader. We will look a little more closely at his journey tomorrow. For today, we glean from his experience what makes a good leader.

Notice that power is not what Solomon based leadership on. Power can figure in, no doubt, but even if a person has power that does not necessarily make him/her a good leader. One can be a leader because of position or power but a good leader is the one whom people want to follow. Solomon wrote about good leadership, and he ascribed it to first love and then truth. How often do you think people are taught these two guiding principles for leadership? The next two keys to good leadership are kindness and integrity.

These may all seem familiar, but we can ask, what is integrity? Here is a definition I found, “Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.” Clearly it is aligned with truth, but it also means doing what you say you are going to do. People of integrity don’t say they are going to do something and then change their minds at the last moment when it is no longer convenient. They are people of their word.

Good leadership is kindness. Be nice to people in word and deed. This goes right back to some of what we looked at earlier about putting other people’s needs before your own. Leaders are supposed to look after the needs of their flock rather than asking the flock to meet their needs. Leadership is sacrificial. Above all leadership is love.

Jesus gave us the perfect model of leadership. Sometimes I am amazed at how the early disciples left what they were doing and followed him. I think he conveyed love and acceptance in his voice and demeanor. He hired some of the worst reprobates, but they followed him because of his love. He told them the truth, even when it hurt, but they still honored him.

Leadership is hard. Jesus lost one too. You are going to have people who are deceived and give in to wrong thinking too. The best any of us can do is to love our people, even if they don’t deserve it, to show them kindness, deal with them in truth and always, always be people of unflinching integrity. Yes, leaders make mistakes too. When we do, integrity demands that we own up to it but then you move forward. Be honest, truthful and care for those given into your care. Pray without ceasing for yourself as a leader and for your flock. And, may God strengthen you and carry you by His might.


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.


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.