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Some thoughts on Spiritual Leadership

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Yesterday, I had the privilege of addressing some Pastors from the Fellowship of Fundamental Bible Churches at a Pastor's Prayer Breakfast in New Jersey. We met at the Cracker Barrel in Pennsville and then headed over to Bethel Bible Baptist Church in Carneys Point (Pastored by Ron Whitehead) for the message and time of prayer.

While the fellowship was enjoyable, it was unfortunate that more Pastors could not have made the Prayer Breakfast.

I know I have not written much on here lately, but I thought I would post some of the key thoughts from the message for my readers. Feel free to comment, adapt, criticize, etc.

We live in a day and age in which leadership is talked about often, but demonstrated much less often. A search on Google for leadership shows about 164,000,000 (that's 164 MILLION) hits. An Amazon search shows over 300,000 results when that term is searched for in books.

Even if you narrow the focus to spiritual leadership, there is still much that is said about this important topic.

I have appreciated some of the resources that men of God have written over the years on this subject. J. Oswald Sander's book, Spiritual Leadership, is one of those books that I try to read at least every other year.

In Mark 10:35-45, we find some important teaching regarding Spiritual Leadership.

The context, of course, is the request by James and John for positions of authority and leadership at the right and left hand of Christ in His glory. The Matthew passage adds the details that the mother of James and John (Salome, the sister of Mary and aunt of Jesus) was also involved in this request.

When Christ responds to James and John, He does so by reminding us all of some important truths about spiritual leadership.

I. Spiritual Leadership is Burdensome

Jesus' initial comments draw them to the fact that rather than Spiritual Leadership being something glamorous, it is, in fact, something burdensome.

Mark 10:38 - But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

Both the drinking of the cup and the being baptized with the baptism refer to the concept of suffering and difficulty. Remember the prayer of Christ in Gethsemane, where he asks to "let this cup pass from me."

While their are great joys in spiritual leadreship, Christ also reminds us that there are great burdens in spiritual leadership as well. There are joys when "my children walk in truth." But there are heartbreaks when those you love and give your lives to choose to walk in disobedience and make wrong choice after wrong choice.

Paul also speaks of the burdens of spiritual leadership, speaking of the "conflict" (agon) he has for the Colossians and Laodiceans (Col. 2:1) and mentioning "the care of all the churches" as the concluding aspect of his list of difficulties he has faced for Christ in 2 Corinthians 11:28.

When we think of spiritual leadership and when we experience burdens in spiritual leadership, we should not be not be shocked or disappointed, but rather recognize tht this is part of the package - and rejoice that we can heed the admonition of Peter in 1 Peter 5:7
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Not only is Spiritual Leadership Burdensome, Christ also reminds us that Spiritual Leadership is Bestowed.

II. Spiritual Leadership is Bestowed

While many often seek Spiritual Leadership and clearly, "if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work" (1 Timothy 3:1), the reality is that ultimately, Spiritual Leadership is not something that we strive to for ourself, but rather is something given or bestowed by God.

Mark 10:40 - But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

This truth should help to remind us to be careful of not seeking promotion or great things for ourselves, but rather to seek to be obedient to Christ and to live according to His will and recognize that God is the one who places us where He will.

Psalm 75:6-7 - For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

Jeremiah 45:5a - And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not:

The final lesson is one about which there has been much talk, but is one that is essential if we are to function as spiritual leaders in whatever roles that Christ has given to us.

III. Spiritual Leadership is backwards from the world.

Mark 10:42-44 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

While the world often encourages us to "look out for number one" and views roles of leadership as symbols of power, Christ encourages us to understand that spiritual leadership is backwards from that model - that spiritual leadership focuses on service rather than on being served. Spiritual leadership is concerned with ministering rather than being ministered to.

There is always a danger of believing that being a leader somehow makes you superior or should give you an advantage, but the reality is that being a leader gives us responsibility and should force us to focus on serving.

As a Pastor, we must serve those in our church and in our community as we serve Christ. As a husband, we must serve our wives and be sensitive to their needs as we lead them. As a father, we must serve our children and lead them to what is best, not just to what is easy or desired.

The easy way can fall towards two extremes. The first extreme is to give in to our desire to be served and fail to heed Peter's warning not to "lord it over God's heritage" (1 Peter 5:3), the other extreme is just give those we serve what they want instead of what they need in an attempt to not make waves. We would be wise to avoid both extremes in our role of serving others.

The closing verse of this section remind us of the Perfect Spiritual Leader - Jesus Christ Himself.

Mr 10:45 - For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

May we seek to follow His example of spiritual leadership.

Just my thoughts,



Don Johnson said...

Hi Frank, that's good stuff...

On the last point, though, there is a tricky balance. The way many people understand 'servant-leadership' is that the 'servant-leader' yields to those he leads and essentially is a doormat. Obviously to the extent that is true, the leadership part of the formula has been abandoned.

The leader in the church or home should be a servant, yes, but he is a leader and he can't forget that. And he can't let his kids caterwauling to the contrary affect his withstanding, eh?

Hard to balance that, because I tend to be a dictator! So both sides need to be remembered.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3