IS IT POSSIBLE TO SERVE CHRIST WITHOUT CONTINUED NURTURING OF LEADERSHIP SKILLS?
· If Jesus preached the same message ministers preach today, He would have never been crucified (Leonard Ravenhill)
· It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching (Francis of Assisi)
· Showing mercy to the wolf is showing cruelty to the sheep (Puritan).
· There is no such thing as a self-made spiritual leader. A true leader influences others spiritually only because the Spirit works in and through him to a greater degree than in those he leads (J. Oswald Sanders)
· Spiritual leaders will first and foremost, have a calling from God. His work will not be his profession, but his calling (Zac Poonen)
· Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him (Napoleon Bonaparte)
TEXT: Jeremiah 27: 4 Give them a message for their masters and say, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Tell this to your masters: 5 With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please . . . 14 Do not listen to the words of the prophets who say to you, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they are prophesying lies to you. 15 ‘I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord. ‘They are prophesying lies in my name. Therefore, I will banish you and you will perish, both you and the prophets who prophesy to you.’ ”.
There is a deep longing for ‘welfare not evil’ as the menace and ravaging caused by Covid19 continues. Might there be a ray of truth in the maxim associated with John Maxwell that states that “Everything rises and falls on leadership“? John Maxwell goes on to say that knowing how to lead is only half the battle, a person’s character qualities activate and empower one’s leadership ability. Might these character qualities be the same as those found in the disciples of Jesus Christ? “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10). A Christian is a leader expected to declare God’s counsel at such a time as this. Christians everywhere have undiscovered and unused spiritual gifts that need to be developed, brought into service of the kingdom and used.
After more than five decades of following Christ, I’ve observed that commitment to Christianity can be mistaken with commitment to Christ. As a result, the vital gifts given to serve the believers are stifled and replaced with beliefs constituted from the prevailing worldview. Instead of day by day thinking informed by the teaching and character modeled by Christ, the reality is that worldly models and measures of success are normalized and protected. Time spent with Christians, doing what people define as the mission, is confused with time spent with Christ. “I think the responsibility of leadership in the church is not to do slick meetings and not to figure out how to get 5,000 people through a facility in a weekend. It is to produce a people like Jesus. Let’s be a people who are actually producing something on the ground that could totally annihilate the enemy in our city. That’s our job!” (Graham Cooke)
Jesus Christ expects His disciples to continually feed from him (John 15) and the production of fruit will be inevitable. Feeding from him is to read his word, pray according to the word, and fellowship with others who know the meaning of the New Covenant. Like Jeremiah, one has the direct voice of the Lord in the midst of numerous shining prophets.
CAN ONE BE A CHRISTIAN AND NOT A LEADER?
Keith Moss found that people have diverse definitions of leadership. In his doctoral study survey of church leaders, 64 respondents provided 53 different answers, and 13 did not even attempt a guess on the question, “What is a leader”. If a Christian’s definition of a leader is different from what Christ taught and modeled, then there is a problem. Christian leadership is not rooted in worldly notions of success, such as the love of money, high ranking status or power. Jesus Himself spoke against this when the mother of the sons of Zebedee sought special favor.
Was Jesus a leader? Then he came to make his disciples leaders like him.
Status of a child of God – If a Christian is one who has received the power to become a child of God, then their status is that of a leader. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1: 11-13). God’s child has to take time with the Father and so speaks the message as His representative on earth. Every earthly power, political, military or organizational is given by God and can be taken away. To be a child of God is to tell others that He is in charge.
Leading begins by clarifying who is being followed – Christ calls His leaders to be something before they are called to do something. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”(Matthew 4:19). Leading is being sent out to fish people. It is Christ and not the church as a fellowship or an organization that sends people on missions. Fishermen sent out to fish by Christ will emphasize the one who has called them. When a church does not recognize that all its members are Disciples of Christ, it can unconsciously contradict the mission of Christ. For example, in an organizational structure where top leadership is reserved for a select few, Christ’s gifts that would grow the church tend to be suppressed. Christians who sense God assigning them duties within the organization (Church) can feel like they are hitting a glass ceiling, a point at which they cannot exercise their leadership in the church among other believers. That creates confusion and temptation to use worldly strategies. Would Jeremiah have a ‘ministry’ in the church if he lived in our day?
Leaders are disciples – “Leaders are people who have made a commitment to personal integrity so that God can use them for His glory. They have chosen to make a difference for God by being made different by God” (Keith Moss). Leaders are disciples who are committed to personal growth. They have time set aside to be alone with God and that is their source of security and courage to be witnesses. While there are many excellent books, seminars, and degree courses on leadership, the primary manual for the Christian is the word of God.
The word of God that cannot be changed is what those who are Christ’s disciples/leaders trust. “Negativism and pessimism are self-fulfilling prophecies that have no place in a biblical worldview” (Jim Denison). A Christian is like Jeremiah, focused on the Lord and on the work set for him. Jeremiah was sent to a people that had lost their first love just like the church in Ephesus and thus had gotten attracted to other things. To remain in the first love makes the leadership of God’s faithful prophet a lonely journey. Any attractive promise of power can silence God’s prophet. It is easy to get into the trap of self-pity, self-doubt and desire to have an influence. Discipleship, in response to Jesus' love, compels one to pay careful attention to His voice and then do whatever he tells one to do. Any other voice must be viewed against that basic calling to be a Jesus disciple, a leader who tells the story of God. In all aspects of life, a Christian leader goes about their daily activities – business, family, and church – consistently telling others about the reason for their life. It is not possible to serve God without nurturing one's leadership skills. Are you nurturing and utilizing your leadership skills as commissioned by Christ?
“The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve” (John Stott)