13 Jun 2010
These days we seem to have a disease in the Church, the disease of the easy believe. Just today a lady from our church said that she had been interacting with a few young Christians who testify that they have received Christ as Savior but believe that they can live any way that pleases them.
It seems that the entire Church in North America is plagued to an extent with this disease. Church members are largely focused on what the Church can provide for them. Can it educate their children? Can it provide a warm and friendly fellowship to meet their social needs? Can it provide a sense of well being at least one time a week? Will it provide a place where they might benefit by association and provide the appearance of a somewhat righteous or perhaps even spiritual life?
Yes, we have some serving in the Church. Some are serving for the right purposes. Yet it is beyond debate that there is a continuum that ranges from the young “Christian” woman who has just moved in to live with her boyfriend, to the widow who spends the majority of her time in the Word and praying for her church family. What are the driving forces behind where people are positioned on this continuum?
What are the causes of the effects we see on this continuum? Before we go after the sheep we should take a hard look at the shepherds. This is not a mirror from the carnival that makes you look slimmer. This mirror is full of hard truth. It is this mirror that tells us over time the flock will look like the shepherd. Jesus washed the disciple’s feet and told them that He was doing it as an example. He told them that they should do likewise. For nearly three years His life was providing an example for His followers. But it is important to note Jesus’ heart. He did not provide an example for His disciples as a strategy for training. He provided an example for His disciples because His example was Who HE was! He did not have to remember to be sure He gave His disciples a good example. His example flowed effortlessly out of His relationship with His Father.
The hard truth is, if you are a pastor or leader in the Church, and you desire for those in your flock to move up on the continuum of loving the Lord with all their hearts, you must provide an example and your example, if it is to have God’s desired impact on your flock, must of necessity flow out of your relationship with your Father. Teaching, preaching, loving the flock and other aspects of ministry are certainly a part of the context, but your example will have the most powerful impact upon the lives of your people! This is a law of spiritual returns. Sometimes we do not see this law in action, but like the law of gravity, though unseen, is more real than much we are able to see.
The continuum we are examining is not on the level. It is tilted in a way that the natural gravitational forces [the things of this world] cause all of us to slide downward. As a church leader, you are, in effect, swimming upstream. Now we should all face the music. Most of us would rather work where we can paddle a bit downstream. Most of us would rather live where people do what we say and not necessarily what we do. Sometimes we hope that our followers do not see everything that is in our heart.
If this is true of you, “do what I say but don’t mimic my heart”, you may have a touch of the downstream disease. Jesus said “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” He went on to talk about losing our lives for His sake. This is the real upstream deal. This describes accurately the war that we are reborn to be fighting. In Romans 12:1-2 Paul spoke about believers becoming a living sacrifice. We will not find our sheep seeking to climb up on a living altar on their own, even if we preach it strong and often. They are followers. They must have an example to follow. It was Paul who said: “follow me as I follow Christ.” It is really all about following!
Since it is clear that as leaders, our walk more than our talk, is key; we must examine what we can do internally in our lives if we desire to improve the impact on those we have been called to lead. In the life and ministry of Jesus on this earth we see a particular sin that greatly incensed Him. It was the sin of hypocrisy! He gave particular attention regarding this sin to the religious leaders of His day. Leaders pride is at the root of hypocrisy and pride often rides in the parade on the float of religious leadership!
No, things are not different today! If we would have the eternal impact that God has planned for our lives and ministry we must intensely embrace humility which yields authenticity. Authenticity is one of the most powerful magnetic forces to draw people known to man. Humble authentic leadership will not be resisted any more than metal filings can go their own way in the presence of a strong magnetic force!
Crawford Loritts Jr. in his book Leadership As An Identity makes the point that for eternal impact, we must serve others because of who we are in Christ, not as a strategy to get them to do what we want to enhance our enterprise. [Every Christian leader should read this book!] In a similar way everything we do in ministry must flow out of our personal private love, obedience, and intimate relationship with our Savior if we are to have eternal impact in the economy of God. Herein resides a direct cause and effect relationship; no matter what your gifts, God knows theses full well. His purpose, that to which you have been called, will be fulfilled only to the extent of your true and pure love for Him. This means the consistent rejection of your innate desire to promote yourself, as we will not love and bring glory to God while subtly or even sub-consciously attempting to bring glory to self. God is clear; He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Opposition with defeat, or grace with God’s favor, which will it be for you?
Have you ever prayed to grow in humility? He tells us in His word:
[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. - Philippians 2:13 (AMP) I believe God promises to put the car in “drive” but He also wants us to advance the accelerator with strong desires and prayers to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
Have you ask God to reveal your pride? Have you ask Him to strengthen you to stamp out the forest fire of pride that still smolders in the dark valleys of your heart? Have you asked God to show you the next step in your growing more intimate with Him? He is again on this matter quite clear: “We have not because we ask not.” Ask, Seek, Knock! God will answer. We can depend on it!
For God sets Himself against the proud (the insolent, the overbearing, the disdainful, the presumptuous, the boastful)—[and He opposes, frustrates, and defeats them], but gives grace (favor, blessing) to the humble. - 1Peter 5:5b (AMP)