Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Choosing Godly Leadership...

Every time you turn on the media you hear one voice after another proclaiming the virtues of the leadership of choice. Sometimes the voice is talking about a politician, and sometimes it is talking about a new product for consumers to buy. Everyone loves success. The culture around us feeds on climbing up the ladder of success, improving leadership skills, learning to deal with difficulties, and in the process producing results that influence the bottom line. The market driven culture around us has made a religion of leadership principles. Today, much of the church has bought into those principles and we have a market driven church. But God’s guidelines for leadership are far different. In fact, those in business who have succeeded often borrowed their leadership guidelines from the Bible. Today however, the tables have turned and the church is trying to learn from the world. It has caused an upheaval in the church culture of the 21st Century.
While the world looks for strong personalities, God often looked for the weak. Moses, though trained in a royal household, had some major problems. He was a murderer. He stuttered, or had poor speaking ability. He ran from confrontation. He did not see himself as a leader. But God did. God was not looking for the most confident but the most humble. He was not looking for outward beauty, but inward spirituality. He was not looking for someone who could ‘sermonize’, but someone who would follow directions from above. God wanted a man of faith who knew the voice of God, and did what God said.
David was an unlikely candidate for King. Even Jesse, his father thought all of his brothers were more likely candidates, leaving David in the field tending the sheep. But God saw something special in the young lad, even as he was growing up, qualities that marked him in the eyes of God of a position of greatness. David was an obedient son. He knew how to follow directions. His listened to his father. He willingly did the most humble job...tending smelly sheep. He took on the tasks given to him and did them with excellence. He learned early how to lead as he led the sheep. He developed skills for each task, protecting the flock, and protecting Israel from giants who challenged his God. He was not tall and handsome as King Saul had been, for the Bible describes him through Goliaths eyes as “was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking.” And it tells us that Goliath “disdained him”. ( 1 Samuel 17:42)
These were all men who were on the same page with God. They believed God and did what He directed them to do, and they did it with excellence.
It is unfortunate today that too many ‘spiritual leaders’ take their cues from the world around them. That does not make them spiritual leaders. I like what Dr. Henry Blackaby says about a spiritual leader. “A person can hold a religious position and be a leader but that doesn't make him a spiritual leader. Position does not identify your leadership role…..God's goal is to reveal Himself, so if we're leading but not leading people on to God's agenda, leading them to a relationship to Him where they are releasing their lives to Him, then we're not spiritual leaders.” But of course to be able to do this, each person needs a genuine relationship with God first of all, for a leader can not lead others to a place where he himself has never been. It’s hard to lead a revival if you’ve never been revived. It’s hard to be led of the Spirit of God if you have not been filled to overflowing yourself. Too often, we tell ourselves and those who are following, we need a vision….after all the bible says “without a vision the people perish.” But in reality this passage is poorly translated. We think of a vision as our idea of what God wants. But it is never ‘our idea’ that God wants. The NIV puts it this way…”Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;” (Proverbs 29:18) or in other words, ‘when the people do not hear from God, they do whatever they want., or are uncontrolled.” That’s certainly not vision as we think of it, but spiritual anarchy, self-will, and rebellion. So we don’t need a vision, don’t need to ‘cast a vision’...but instead we need to get a new revelation of God. When we see God for who He is, that revelation changes us. It makes each believer a leader, a minister. The mission of a spiritual leader is to lead others to God. If your mission is leading others to follow you, or a denomination, or a set of rules, and not getting people to follow God and his agenda, you are leading in the wrong direction. What you want does not matter!

Jesus Leadership Example.
Jesus took 12 raw recruits and made them into dynamic spiritual leaders. He did not choose men who were studied in the religious schools of their day. They did not have the ‘paper work’ that marked them as successes. He used blue collar workers: fishermen, tax collectors, laborers, and ordinary folk. He did not look for the ones who came from the ‘good’ families….but the ones who were willing to listen and learn. They were teachable. They were humble. They were hungry for God. When He was done with them, they turned the Roman Empire and the Jewish religious world upside down.
Jesus was never into ‘success’. Instead, He was into obedience. He was not into greatness, but servanthood. “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."( Mark 10:43-45)
Every week, churches are choosing new leadership for their pulpits. They have been trained by the world around them to look at the pedigree of the candidate. Does he have a Master’s degree? Has he written a book? Is he dynamic? Is he contemporary? Instead they should be looking at his spiritual life. Is he a man of prayer? Does he know the voice of God? Is he actively Holy Spirit filled? Is he humble? Is he a David or a Saul? Has he had a personal encounter with God that dramatically changed his life?
Every week, a pastor somewhere fails in his ministry. It devastates the church. It causes baby Christians to stumble. The world magnifies the failure for all to see. Sometimes the church does the same. What would Jesus do? How would He respond? He would have continued to follow his heavenly agenda, to lead men and women into a relationship with God. This calls for the church to become a hospital to our wounded world. While we are to not excuse or whitewash sin, we are to forgive it and learn from it.
The Political World
There is a vacuum of Godly leadership in the political realm. The mistakes of spiritual leaders of the past have not helped. But the nations must still choose a leader to guide it into the next few years. What is a Christian to do? Find the candidate that does not make you happy, but makes God happy. The candidate with godly principles in place in his life, will choose to guide the nation by Biblical principles. I would rather have a man who has a real relationship with God in charge than one who just says he does. How do we know the difference? How does he treat the most vulnerable in our society—the unborn? Is he humble, a servant, a man whose track record speaks of God’s agenda? If you choose a leader because he is handsome and well spoken, that is not part of God’s agenda. If you choose because it will mean you have to make fewer sacrifices, that’s not part of God’s agenda. God sent His only Son, to die for His agenda. Because He did, you have life! It takes a great deal of integrity to buck the crowd and listen to God and do the right thing even when it hurts. But that’s what spiritual leaders do. Spiritual leaders have one ear to heaven, and an eye on the needs around him. They have a sense of urgency to accomplish the task. They want to get on with it! Fear of man does not stand in their way. They fear God first. They want you to see God’s agenda as they do, whatever the cost. The moment we realize that God is Almighty God, and we are not….we begin to march to a different that begins in heaven. Following God makes great spiritual leaders. Our culture has grown fond of the idea that we can be little ‘gods.’ But it only makes little men when they discover God is still in charge of it all.
Church, it’s time to lead God’s way. It’s time to get back into the Word, and back to the presence of God, and back to the simplicity of following God. It’s time for spiritual leaders to find their way back to the spiritual altars of God, back to the Living Water, back to the Bread of Life. It’s time to turn our ears to heaven and turn off the clamor of the world around us. It’s time to begin leading as Jesus led. Godly leadership always begins with God.
“Jesus got them together to settle things down. "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around," he said, "and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage." (TMB) Matt 10:41-45
J. Johnson

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