Saturday, March 26, 2016

Picking Up The Cannonball

In a scene out of the 2004 movie, “The Alamo,” based upon the 1836 standoff between a group of Texan and Mexican men in San Antonio, Texas, “the Alamo is under attack and being defended by a motley force of volunteer militia under the command of Colonel William Travis. When Travis orders his men to pick up an un-detonated enemy cannonball to be reused, nobody obeys the command. ‘You’ll be pickin’ that up yourself,’ challenges one of the men.
“Colonel Travis does not hesitate. He steps forward, cuts the burning fuse from the cannonball, and carries it to his munitions captain himself, while the men stare at one another in disbelief. ‘Well, I’ll be,’ one says.”[1]

This is a picture of the next two biblical leadership principles we derive from the Pastoral Epistles. Leaders are to:

Run hard after godliness. And…

Show others how to live through your example—which also will draw others to Christ.

To be godly is not only to be like the God-man, Jesus Christ, it is also “to be devoted to God” with a “devotion-in-action.”[2] It is true that “there is great gain in godliness with contentment” (1 Tim. 6:6). Yet, godliness is not easy, which is why one must “train…for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). It often demands self-sacrificial love (Eph. 5:25), suffering (Phil. 2:5-8), not fighting back when that would be the natural thing to do (1 Pt. 2:23), forgiving when everything about the situation would lead in the opposite direction (Luke 23:34; Eph. 4:32). When we remember that leaders are to be a model for how to follow Christ (Heb. 13:7) and this would mean pursuing hard after holiness (Heb. 12:14)—which would include godliness—then we come to see that in many ways for a person to take on a leadership position means they are not only putting themselves in harm’s way (after all leaders are “shot at” far more than non-leaders), but they are placing themselves in situations where they are willing to pick up the cannonballs when no one else will—that is to do that which can be brave, hard, courageous, and godly—all to the benefit of those watch and to God’s glory.

The sixth and seventh principles help us not only focus in on that we should be an example (principle seven), but what that example involves (principle six). They are best dealt with, then, together.

These Truths Supported From The Pastoral Epistles
Paul teaches young Timothy that “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8) and so leaders are not only to work hard to the end of helping others come to know Christ and thus live such valuable and godly lives (1 Tim. 4:10), but are to live out such godliness themselves (1 Tim. 4:15)—a model which will have great impact on how those following them respond to Christ (1 Tim. 4:16). This means working hard to please our Master and Savior (2 Tim. 2:3-7), diligence in seeking to present one’s self to God as an approved workman, as one who rightly handles the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15), hot pursuit of the things pleasing to God and running away from those things that displease him (2 Tim. 2:19-22)—and even if this means great hardship, for the godly man also knows it brings great reward (2 Tim. 4:6-8)!

Likewise, Paul instructed the young leader, Titus, that leaders are to be “lover[s] of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8). In other words, run hard after godliness.

These Truths Supported From The Rest Of The Bible
It was the Apostle Paul who wrote to the Corinthians: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). The author of Hebrews reminded followers of Jesus that they were to “imitate…[the] faith” of their leaders (Heb. 13:7), which necessitates that leaders live a life worthy of modeling. Negatively, one of the problems of Old Testament Israel was that their ungodly leaders led the people astray (Jeremiah 23:9-40; Ezek. 34:1-10). And, of course, the ultimate example is Jesus Christ, the ideal and model person (cf. Heb. 2:5-8), who has shown us how to humble himself, to love, and to give sacrificially for the benefit of others (Philippians 2:5-11).

Practical Application Of These Truths
If we are leaders, here are just a few steps to take so we can start running hard after godliness.

1. We must start by holding the conviction that who we are is more important than what we know or what skills we have. This does not mean knowledge and skills are unimportant. It does mean that our relationship with God and the resultant godliness will shape our knowledge, skills, and our leadership to be the most fruitful. This is why most of the qualifications for eldership in the Pastoral Epistles focus much more on character than knowledge or skills (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). It is also why A. W. Tozer wrote the following in Worship: The Missing Jewel:
You should never have to be a different man or get a new voice and a new sense of solemnity when you enter the pulpit[, classroom, or counseling office]. You should be able to enter [it] with the same spirit & the same sense of reverence that you had just before when you were talking to someone about the common affairs of life…. Woe be to the church when the [leader] comes up to the pulpit[, classroom, or counseling office…! He must come down to [those places] always. Wesley, they said, habitually dwelt with God but came down at times to speak to the people. So should it be with all of us.

2. Pray Hebrews 13:20-21, which is a wonderful model to guide us in praying for godliness: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

3. Make sure you allow other people to speak into your life with gospel encouragement and accountability. Hebrews 3:12-13 reminds us of this: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

4. Stay much in God’s Word, not only as a student and teacher (2 Tim. 2:15), but also as a doer of the Word (James 1:22-25).  This is important since God uses his Word, the core of which is the gospel, in such a mighty way to strengthen and sanctify us (John 17:17; Rom. 16:25). Remember that godliness takes discipline (cf. 1 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 5:14).

5. We must remember there will be times in the middle of conflict that people wrongly perceive a lack of positive example in the leader. In these times it is very important he/she look to Christ for true identity. If this does not  happen, the leader can become too paralyzed to act.

6. One of the ways we can stay in on track as a godly example for others is to ask: “What does it feel like to be led by me?” Have close friends and your gospel-accountability-encouragement-partners also answer that question.


[1] From Leadership, 24, 2 (Spring 2005): 84.
[2] Jerry Bridges, The Practice Of Godliness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1987), 17-18.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Getting God's People Where He Wants Them To Be

Though it has been a few weeks since I posted the last discussion on biblical leadership, I am returning to that all-important subject. So far we have examined the first four components of leadership as set forth in the Pastoral Epistles and confirmed elsewhere in the Bible. We have discovered biblical leaders must do the following:

Lay before self and others our ultimate purpose—God’s glory by enjoying him.

Embody love as a key purpose in the church.

Attend to truth as a very important means of accomplishing our purposes in the Church.

Depend upon God with a humble, praying, Holy-Spirit-trusting, gospel-directed life.

This now brings us to the mid-way point in our discussion and to the heart of what leaders do. It has been said that, “Spiritual leadership [is] knowing where God wants people to be and taking the     initiative to get them there by God’s means in reliance on God’s power.”[1] This succinct statement uncovers the essence of what leaders do as communicated in our fifth leadership principle:

Escort others in the right direction courageously, even when it is hard.

This Truth Supported From The Pastoral Epistles
Because we live in a fallen, broken world that opposes God, often leading in the right direction means that we are calling people to go places that run counter to where they want to go at the moment. So, sometimes, we must graciously, but firmly, correct people when they are wrong (2 Tim. 2:24-26), call people away from the false teaching they are propagating (1 Tim. 1:3-4), and understand that not all will be convinced we are going the right direction—and so won’t go with us (1:19-20). The Christian leader is called to lead, not out of fear, but instead out of his God-given power, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7), not out of shame, but boldly (2 Tim. 1:8)—and the strength for this comes from the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1:12; 2:1). Biblical leaders must lead faithfully according to God’s truth, no matter how many agree or oppose him (2 Tim. 3:1-17; 4:1-5; Titus 1:9-16). In other words, true biblical leaders lead people in accordance with the gospel, the core of the Bible, and so lead them in the way God wants them to go (cf. 1 Tim. 1:11; Titus 2:1-15, esp. 15). The biblical leader gains his courage and hope not only from the Lord working in him (2 Tim. 1:7), but also from keeping his eyes on his ultimate prize—i.e. the eternal perspective (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

This fifth component of leadership reminds the leader he must have a good idea of where God wants him to take the church or the ministry he oversees and, keeping in mind the other principles of leadership, he must boldly lead in that direction.

This Truth Supported From The Rest Of The Bible
The Bible is full of leaders who have been called to lead courageously in the direction that God was calling his people to go and to keep going in dependence on God when things are hard.

Here are some examples. Moses was called to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, even when it was hard (e.g. Exodus 4-12, 15-17; 32-34) and when he was repeatedly opposed (e.g. Numbers 14, 16). Joshua was the successor to Moses as Israel’s leader and was called by God to follow God’s Word closely and so lead the people with strength and great courage, since God would be with him (Joshua 1:1-9). Nehemiah was called by God to give leadership to the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem so that God’s post-exilic people could be protected, and also to lead them in accordance with God’s Word (Neh. 1:4-11; 8:1), even though there was much opposition (e.g. Neh. 4, 6). And, of course, Jesus is our ultimate example of a leader who lived and led in accordance with God’s Word (John 4:34; 5:30; 8:28-29), to take God’s people where they needed to go (Eph. 5:25-27; Philippians 2:5-11; Heb. 12:2), even though he faced much opposition (e.g. John 1:10-11; 11:46-57; 18:1-19:42).

Practical Application Of This Truth
1. Leaders must develop a certain degree of competence in leading and managing (1 Tim. 3:4-5). This includes developing good skills at dealing with people and also setting purpose and mission for ministry and being able to cast vision in that direction.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t [only] drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders.  Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”  -From Milfred Minatrea at an April 8, 2006 workshop.

 “Choose whom to lose. By being clear upfront about who we are and are not, we will cause some people not to join us.  That is a good thing.  We want to clearly communicate our mission and values BEFORE people are invested relationally. Better to lose them up front.  It is kinder to them, and it is wise shepherding for us.” - Brad Brinson, Two Rivers Church

2. A sense of vision for purpose and mission tends to leak from a church or organization. This means that a leader is wise to keep the vision regularly in front of people.

3. When it comes to casting vision for the purpose and mission, it is necessary to be clear, simple, and memorable so people can get their heads and hearts around it and follow it.

4. Leaders are well-served by an ability to set goals along with other leaders and to guide others in implementing those goals.

5. Leaders lead well when they are led by the Spirit. See Luke 4:1, 18; Col. 1:9.
“Join God in what he is doing. When God is blessing something we should ask, “How can we pour jet fuel on what He has ignited?” We must ask, “How can we join God in what He is doing?” - Brad Brinson, Two Rivers Church

6. Some of the hardest areas in which a Christian leader will lead have to do with those where men outside and even inside the church may disagree. In such cases, we can run up against deeply-held beliefs on the part of others who very quickly become angered when they are opposed or when opposing the leader. The wise leader meets anger with grace and care, but also with firmness and confidence in what the Spirit has led him to do through the Word (cf. Prov. 15:1; 1 Tim. 3:2, 3; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).
“Be patient with immaturity, but [deal quickly with] rebellion. We all make mistakes.  Teachable people welcome coaching when they blow it and get better. But if you encounter a person refusing correction- [do not give undo time to them].  They are a train wreck waiting to happen.  Help them crash before they hurt others.” (See Titus 3:10) -Brad Brinson, Two Rivers Church

7. It is true that leaders should want to prepare and plan for projects well (Prov. 6:6-10) that they might be done with excellence (Prov. 14:35; 22:29; 31:10-31; Is. 60:5-9, 13-14; Dan. 6:1-5). However, the leader also must be careful not to fall into a perfectionism that is often fearful to “pull the trigger” on a ministry or project. It must be remembered that few things take off perfectly or without the need of being tweaked or fixed down the road. Perfectionism can kill the leader and his effectiveness, just as a lack of preparation can.

8. Do not be paralyzed by fear of situations or people (Psalm 56:3-4; 9-11; 2 Tim. 1:7). Our courage comes from God and is built upon our view of him and his presence with us (see Josh. 1:6-9; Is. 46:8-11).

9. Don’t fear the “big ask.” People will rarely rise above where you set the bar. However, often they will rise to the bar. The only way we can call people to where God wants them to be is often to give them the “big ask.”

10. As you lead people, you can remember that we can glean help from leaders who are not necessarily Christian leaders. However, don’t let the extra-biblical-material-on-leadership wag the missional/biblical dog. If we are to remain truly biblical leaders, we must not lose sight of how the Bible defines the world, people, us, and our task.

11. Understand that some will be better at this fifth aspect of leadership than others, but it is only one aspect of leadership. Some are super at this and yet fail since they fail in other key areas (see especially #’s 1, 2, and 6!).

12. Though God works through means and we must give attention to those means (e.g. planning: Prov. 6:6-10), we are not to trust ultimately in means, but in God. See Pss. 20:7; 44:4-7; 144:1.

13. Memorize and pray this fifth principle often.

[1] John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals.