Christianity 201

November 20, 2022

Overcoming an Overly Critical Spirit

But build one another up every day. Do it as long as there is still time. – Hebrews 3:13a (NIRV)

I’ve often joked that, “I know my spiritual gift, I have the gift of criticism.” It makes people laugh, but in seriousness, our criticisms can really hurt people. In today’s climage of polarity, much energy is spent (especially online) by the people on Team ‘A’ criticizing the people on Team ‘B,’ and it works both ways.

Most of today’s thoughts are based on a sermon shared earlier this morning by Rev. Dwane Parsons, a pastor at Grace Church in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada.

What causes us to have a critical spirit? It could be that

  • It resonates with our sinful nature, what scripture calls “the old man.”
  • We’re frustrated, and therefore try to control people and circumstances which ultimately we cannot
  • We have our own insecurities and jealousies
  • We hold a misplaced perfectionism (which we’ve either developed or inherited) and try to impose that standard on others

You see these and other factors manifested in the way the Pharisees react to Jesus.

What can we do?

First, stop walking through life like a whiner. Most people reading this are part of the “first world.” We have our basic necessities met each day, and many of our desires as well. Our personal theme should be, “I’m blessed.”

Philippians 2:4 reminds us to “Do everything without complaining and arguing.” (NLT)

Second, we can work to see the positive, in each situation and in each person. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us, Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. (GNT)

The NASB on that verse is interesting as it adds (amplifies) somewhat rendering the last part of the verse as, “… if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Reading this and thinking about the whole issue of timing, I couldn’t help but think of Proverbs 25:11, “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.” (NLT)

In Colossians 4:6 we’re reminded to, Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. (MSG)

Third, Ask the Lord to help you overcome your critical behaviour. Romans 12:3 reminds us, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (NIV)

A key phrase there is “sober judgment.” Sometimes our judgement is irrational judgement or emotional judgement.

Fourth, model encouragement to others. Here’s a quote from this morning’s message I found interesting: “You may be criticizing the gift of God in someone’s life.” Also, we might be normalizing criticism in front of new believers when we criticize someone unfairly. (Christian leaders: Certain negative remarks and assessments should, if necessary, stay between others in Christian leadership and not be shared in a forum where they might be more broadly heard or seen.)

Build a Legacy of Encouragement

Remember that encouragement, teaching, serving and showing mercy are spiritual gifts; criticism is not on the list. So much for my aforementioned ‘gift of criticism.’ Check out Romans 12:6-8, it’s not there.

Also, it comes back to you. Encouragement others benefits you as much as it does the person you encourage. Proverbs 11:25 is a verse I hadn’t considered before, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (NIV)

Here’s another vantage point on this subject, Nobody builds a legacy on criticism, but you might as an encourager. Here Pastor Dwane shared an interesting quotation by musician Jean Sibelius that, “A statue has never been built in honour of a critic.” So true.

Finally, a legacy of encouragement opens doors for ministry. We’re thinking here of the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to Tychicus and Titus in Colossians 4:7-8 and 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3. Paul’s letters are often letters of introduction for people he is sending or commissioning.


During the course of the message, I believe a point was very quickly raised about encouraging people who don’t receive our encouragement. In my head at that moment I heard some lyrics by ’80s Christian musician Margaret Becker:

It’s never for nothing
When we love with no return
Light your candle in the darkness
‘Cause it’s never for nothing.

We’re not responsible for outcomes, but we are responsible to remain faithful to encourage others.


And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

November 6, 2022

The Injury of Precious Souls

Whatever direction our devotional study might have taken today, please forgive me, but I felt it was more important to do this instead…

A few weeks ago I was exposed to a story involving one of those incidents which is (unfortunately) all too common in church life. An individual acting under her perceived authority in a particular area of church management had been extremely abrupt with another member of the church, the latter who (also unfortunately) is a relatively new Christian.

The story is one of those ‘tempest in a teapot’ things that doesn’t affect the day-to-day operation of the church, but it was significant enough that it somewhat sickened me to think that the latter person had been deeply affected (i.e. hurt) the by the actions of the former person, to the point they decided to relinquish their own volunteer service in that area.

This second person is a woman. While she is in no way unattractive, whenever I look at her, I see something else. I see a precious soul. The C.S. Lewis quotation again comes to mind:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors…”

Furthermore, as a new Christian, she is also a fragile soul, as in the end, are all of us. And so this verse came to mind:

[Jesus: ] “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. – Mark 9:42

While the NIV use of “stumble” gets stuck in our minds, other translations (including a range as wide as NLT to NASB) render this as “sin.” We tend to think of the verse in that way; someone overtly leading someone into sin by introducing them to some horrific behavior or setting an incredibly poor (or hypocritical) example of what it means to live the Christian life.

But the enemy can work in more subtle ways. The HCSB reads, “…whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones…” and over the years I have seen some otherwise exemplary people drive others out of local churches through words that should not have been spoken.

Confession time: I did it myself once, though it was years later that I was informed of the details. He was a young person — I wince at that as I type it — who was volunteering in our sound (tech) department, and there were a lot of hiccups at the 9:30 AM service. I remember being firm and saying, “These problems will be fixed at the 11:00 AM service.”

While I don’t think it was anymore harsh than that, again, we need to remember that some people are fragile souls. He wasn’t a regular volunteer; I think he was just starting to come on board, but then someone else was away, so he got tagged as the principle sound mixer that day, and he wasn’t really on my radar.

Years later someone told me — and as I type this I hope it wasn’t true — that he left the church that day. So many years had gone by that I’d even forgotten his name, and his father, who had attended the church, had married and left the area. To this day I’d like to pick up some of those pieces, but his service was so short-lived that others couldn’t recall him when I described him to them. Ouch!

In the second part of a verse that’s contextually in a passage about judging others, Paul writes this:

…[M]ake up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. – Romans 14:13b NIV

Returning to my original story, I don’t think people realize the damage they can do others, especially those who are new in their Christian walk. I don’t believe that they would ever consider for a moment that their words would cause someone to leave the church. I know I didn’t.

The words of Jesus on this from Mark’s gospel (above) are echoed by all the synoptic gospel writers. Luke writes:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.  (17:6,7 NRSV)

as does Matthew:

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!  (18:6,7 NIV)

Guard yourself against the possibility of inadvertently injuring a precious soul.

November 3, 2022

Lessons We Can Learn

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.Romans 15:4 NIV

NLT.Heb.11.32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39a All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith…

Scripture offers a wealth of examples of those who trusted God through difficult circumstances, including those recorded in the First Testament, who never lived to see all of the fruition of their faith, which only arrived with the appearing of Jesus Christ.

It’s important, I believe, to use the term narrative to describe their exploits, because in our time, the word stories conveys a fictional or mythical “once upon a time” sense.

These narratives need to be rehearsed periodically because we live in a time in history when Biblical literacy is on the decline, and familiarity with these Bible personalities is ebbing away.

There is a term used among professional classical musicians, “knowing the literature,” or having “knowledge of the literature.” It refers to the situation that there are certain piano concertos which every great pianist knows by heart; there are symphonies that every clarinet player can play without printed music. A lifetime of interaction with those compositions means that the mere mention of those pieces starts an internal audio file playing.

Are we as familiar with the Bible’s literature?

Years ago an acquaintance was describing his ordination exam. This is where a candidate is tested by a body of senior pastors and denominational leaders to see if they are fit for the term, “Reverend.” The chairperson started out by asking, “Tell us about John’s gospel, chapter one.” The next question was “Tell us about John’s Gospel, chapter two.” And so on. You get the pattern.

I don’t know if he had been given any warning that the ordination council would take that route, but that day he needed to have that level of familiarity with John’s Gospel.

Sometimes the Bible narratives — and here you might want to compare not just the Hebrews passage cited above, but all of Hebrews 11 — are written with a concision or brevity that requires us to interpolate details not provided.

A month ago I listened to a sermon wherein the account in Mark’s gospel was very stark. The pastor speculated as to the circumstances surrounding an encounter with Jesus, even to the point of giving the key character in the narrative a name.

A friend who was there objected strenuously to this speculative manner of presenting the encounter. When I told him that this is called narrative preaching, he very much condemned the entire genre.

But I believe it’s important to do whatever we can — within limits, of course — to spark these Bible snapshots to life. If the Bible teacher pictures an overcast day, it doesn’t threaten the integrity of the story to add that. What matters is that the core elements of the narrative remain intact.

We do this to help people remember the scene presented.

We do this to help people be able to apply the principles waiting to be extracted from the Bible text.

Our key verse in Romans (above) reminds us that all these narratives were written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

The best narrative preaching I’ve ever witnessed is that which invites the listener to through the use of their imagination, place themselves in the middle of the scene. That’s when the genre is being utilized at its best, where the hearer finds themselves immersed in the unfolding drama.

In Christian Education, one approach is to read the text like the one we heard preached that day (a) from the point of view of the person having the encounter with Jesus, (b) from the viewpoint of the disciples, (c) from the vantage point of the crowd and (d) from the perspective of the person having the encounter with Jesus.

If you wish to try this exercise, a great text is Jesus healing the man born blind, because you’ve also got (e) the man’s parents, and (f) the Pharisees.

Again, the goal is to remember and then to apply.


Related reading:

Several years ago we shared this quotation:

“A spiritual community that does not transmit its sacred writings to its children is one generation away from extinction.”

Read more at Generation Lost from 2014.

also, consider this quotation:

Of all the major religions of the world, Christians are the least acquainted with their own sacred writings.

Read more at Jesus Began with Text from 2012


Our roving Thursday devotional correspondent, Clarke Dixon is on assignment and will be back next week.

 

July 4, 2018

Follower’s Default: Blaming the Leadership

In preparing material at Thinking Out Loud, I visited the blog of Ron Jacobs, only to discover it is presently inactive. This was the last item posted, and I thought it would be a good fit here at C201.

Lessons In Followership

“And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” Exodus 16:2-3

I feel for Moses. This situation is not his idea nor is it of his making. It is the result of following God. Much has and will be written about the leadership lessons and abilities of Moses. But I want to focus on the other half of the leadership equation. The followers.

The Israelites complain and grumble against Moses and Aaron. Why? Why do they not realize and remember that the entire vision of this exodus from slavery, from Egypt is from and directed by God? Yet they yell at Moses and Aaron and not at God.

It is human nature to complain to those we see-the leaders.
Even though God is in control and is responsible, it is our broken nature that complains and grumbles to man.

Leaving Egypt was God’s plan.
The plagues were God’s plan.
Hardening pharaohs heart was God’s plan.
Leading them to the sea was God’s plan.
Pharaohs Army pursuing them was God’s plan.

None of this was the fault of Moses or Aaron. And yet they complain to them as if it is.

The mistake of the follower is to blame those who are at the front, but not who is ultimately in control.

Leaders have a responsibility to hold the truth that they are, “Not God” in all they do. But do not followers have a responsibility to hold this same truth about their leaders?

The leader doesn’t part the sea, he or she merely holds up the staff
Bitter water is made clean by God’s hand.
Manna comes from heaven, not from man.

What is the responsibility of followers to their leaders?

The Israelites are a broken people.
They thought and acted like slaves.
They complained out of their brokenness.
They grumbled out of their hurt.

But it is not the leader’s responsibility to heal their brokenness. Followers must take responsibility for that themselves. I have often criticized leaders out of my own brokenness. Followers have just as much responsibility to work on their character as leaders do

The world suffers from the brokenness of leaders daily. It is on display in social media feeds continuously. But what is missing is an honest look at the brokenness of followers.

Broken followers must deal with their hurts, habits, and hang-ups and not project them onto their leaders. Broken followers will complain to leaders, again and again, looking for the leader to provide what only God can give.

Broken followers hunger for what the leader cannot give.
Broken followers thirst for what the leader does not possess.
They fear and seek protection that the leader cannot provide.

Followers must not look to leaders to do what only God can do.

February 9, 2017

Leading Like Jezebel in Thyatira

by Clarke Dixon

You have influence! In every relationship, in fact every encounter, you influence and are influenced. Even where there seems to be disengagement, there is still influence. As we continue our trip through the seven churches of Revelation,we meet a person of incredible influence in Thyatira. Not good influence, but incredible:

I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. Revelation 2:20-21

You may have a Jezebel in your life, exerting incredible influence. Not good influence, but incredible. You may be the Jezebel in someone else’s life. Jezebel is not likely the real name of the woman in this church. Instead this is a nickname, pointing back to the wife of King Ahab in the Old Testament. The original Jezebel had incredible influence over the King. Not good influence, in that he was influenced away from Godly worship, but incredible. We have the capacity to influence and be influenced away from a God-focus. Therefore we need to take influence very seriously. So what are the leadership lessons we can learn from Jezebel?

One person’s influence can be extremely important. When you think of the great themes and scope of the Book of Revelation, it is remarkable that this one woman should get a mention. We are not told if she has an official leadership position. That does not matter, for we can wield incredible influence without an official position. I’ve seen some people wield incredible influence on individuals, and an entire church, even after they have passed away! Do not underestimate the kind of influence a Jezebel can have in your life, in your family, or in the life of your church. And don’t underestimate the power you exert over others. You do have influence. Are you using your influence to draw people toward Christ’s Kingdom, or away?

To claim to speak on behalf of God is a very big claim. Jezebel “calls herself a prophet” (verse 20). Broadly defined, a prophet is someone who speaks on behalf of God. Jezebel was not doing that at all. Her advice directly contradicted that of the apostles at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 to stay away from idolatry and sexual immorality. Her advice directly contradicted the commands and wisdom of all the Scriptures from Genesis on. Do we allow people to “speak on behalf of God” in our lives who have no right to? Are the spiritual leaders of our lives full of Biblical truth and the Holy Spirit? Or are we sometimes the ones to get preachy without a good grasp of Biblical truth and fullness of the Holy Spirit?

That you reap what you sow is still true, and so what you sow as a person of influence is very important. Jezebel will reap what she has sown: “Beware, I am throwing her on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings” (Revelation 2:22).

Grace is a wonderful theme in the Bible and comes to its most profound expression in Jesus. In Jesus, we do not reap what we sow, we reap what He has already sown in his death and resurrection. He sows love, mercy, and forgiveness. We reap eternal life. We also reap what the Holy Spirit sows, a Kingdom life, a life marked by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. But we might take a Jezebel detour. We might insist on doing the farming ourselves, throwing away the Holy Spirit’s seed, preferring to sow our own seed instead. Don’t be surprised by the weeds. If people are allowed to have a Jezebel influence in our lives, don’t be surprised by consequences. If we lead like Jezebel, don’t be surprised if like Jezebel, we reap what we sow. Let us reap what the Spirit sows instead.

Shepherding is a great image for leadership. The concept of leadership carries through the letter to Thyatira:

 To everyone who conquers and continues to do my works to the end,
I will give authority over the nations;
to rule them with an iron rod,
as when clay pots are shattered—
even as I also received authority from my Father. Revelation 2:26-28

“To rule” in verse 27 is literally “to shepherd” and reflects the Greek translation of Psalm 2:9 quoted here. Christian leadership is not just influence for the sake of having power, it is about shepherding. It is not so much power over, but responsibility for. There are three aspects of shepherding to think about.

First, the shepherd is not the owner of the sheep, but is accountable to the owner. All leaders are accountable to God, even if they do not believe in Him.

Second, care of the sheep is an important aspect of the shepherd’s work. We can think of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, he makes me to lie down in green pastures.” The good shepherd leads the the sheep to good pasture.

Third, the shepherd is to have concern for the safety of the sheep. Looking to Psalm 23 again: “your rod and your staff — they comfort me.” Thy rod and staff comfort me because with them you can chase away predators.

Keeping in mind these aspects of shepherding, we can clearly see that Jezebel was no shepherd. In not repenting, she was not being accountable to God. She had no care or concern for the sheep. In fact she was leading them into danger. In contrast, Jesus is the good shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep (John 10). Are there Jezebels in your life who throw off accountability, who are influencing you though they have no care or concern for you? Are you a Jezebel, or do you shepherd people?

You are, whether your realize it or not, a person of incredible influence. But is it good? Are you a good shepherd, like Jesus? Or a wolf in shepherd’s clothing, like Jezebel?


Read more at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

June 30, 2015

The Sin of Self-Importance

We end the month with a return visit to a blog with an unusual name, re-Ver(sing) Verses.  I love the format used there each day, when you click the title below, take a minute to look through other recent devotionals. (The format is also a good model how of to present Bible study material.)

3 John 1:9

 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us.

3 John 1:9 | NIV | Other Versions | Context

Brief

By the time John got to writing the book of 3 John, it was understood that he was already very old, nearing a hundred. By then all the other apostles had been martyred – indeed, according to history (not the Bible), it was said that all the apostles except for John were martyred. Imagine living till that age? Almost ever single one of your peer would most likely have departed. While you will likely have a lot of friends, most of them would be a lot younger than you, and your friendship is based on your mentorship to them. Hence why the title of ‘the Elder’ that John calls himself by is doubly apt – whether or not he truly was an Elder in title or not, or simply in connotation. We know little about the Early Church except from what little the authors of the New Testament tells us, but most of those writers – Paul, Peter etc were all prominent leaders who regularly speak to different churches or visit different churches. Little is known about what goes on in a normal, regular church with a normal, regular leader. In 3 John we were given a glimpse of 3 obscure leaders in the early church days – Gaius, to whom John addressed the book of 3 John to, Diotrephes, who is our character of interest today, and Demetrius, who was the least mentioned but probably most commended. In this study we will focus on the very obscure Diotrephes from the very obscure book, and identify the common traits in a church leader that John has condemned as evil – that which we should not imitate.

Analysis

I wrote to the church – the assumption here is that this was the same church that Gaius was most likely a part of. The idea here was likely, John wrote something to the church, most likely some greetings and teachings, only to be rejected by Diotrephes. In order to reject them, he would have to be of a certain ministerial position – a position of certain authority and leadership powers, at least within the church itself. As a result of Diotrephes, the letter was likely destroyed or not read out to the church, and hence, John was now writing to Gaius, most likely another church leader, so that his message can be passed on to the Church. This was perhaps also an explanation for what he did not bring up the matter of Diotrephes with the Church but with Gaius, as any letter to the church would probably end up with Diotrephes and not paid heed to.

but Diotrephes, who loves to be first – the love of preeminence is pointed out specifically by John here. If Diotrephes is, as we assumed, a man holding a certain office in the church, likely pastoral, and likely amongst a core few key positions, there will certainly be a certain importance to this man. Indeed, even till today, we do afford our pastors and ministers higher importance as a respect of their positions. However, Diotrephes was likely being too self-important, even to the point of abusing his authority. It was out of his own pride, ambition, and self-interest. There are some scholars who believe that Diotrephes preferred a different gospel to the one the apostles preached, and thus did not welcome John, but that is something I cannot speculate on.

will not welcome us – there are two possibilities here, firstly, that John was physically unwelcome when he tried to visit the church, and secondly, his voice and words were unwelcome as Diotrephes disregarded his letter, paid no heed to his words, and withheld the letter from being read to the Church. Either way, this emphasizes the tyrannical rule that Diotrephes has over the church. While a church leader was meant to lead while walking in the truth (like Gaius, as praised by John in v2), Diotrephes not only rejected them and sought preeminence, he also had malicious words for them and chased some of them out of the church. John had harsh words for Diotrephes, implying that he was evil, and he implores Gaius never to follow his example – do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God [3 John 1:11].

Conclusion

Wow, this is like First Century AD Church politics, no? How dramatic, really. We see John, most likely a reputed figure in the Christian world and a mentor figure over several church leaders – the last of apostles, an old man with lots of respect reserved for him, being undermined by a pompous Diotrephes, who had some power in a church where Gaius, a commendable man, was also in. How complicated, but in truth, it happened in the first century, and it’s still happening today. Many times in the midst of our love for preeminence – let’s face it, we all like to be important – we lose sight of what is most important, what the church is about. We lose sight of God, and John’s warning is harsh – do good, or you are not from God.

As much as 3 John was a letter that commends Gaius, and as much as it reads, for a bit, like a complaint letter against Diotrephes to Gaius, the message is clear: lead the church properly, righteously, with the love of God. Do not imitate what is evil, but imitate what is good. And that Diotrephes?

Evil man!

For us modern day Christians, we may not be church leaders, but let us not become modern day Diotrephes, but instead imitate the good of Gaius and Demetrius.

 

February 6, 2011

We’re ALL Leaders

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:59 pm
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Derek and PJ blog at Neutral Gets You Nowhere.  (Love that title!)  This one appeared a few days ago at their blog under the title, You’re Being Followed:

A leader is more than someone whom others follow.

I’ve heard that definition repeated throughout the halls of corporate America and in professional development seminars for several years now. I think it’s supposed to make everyone feel good about their potential to lead other people.

Technically, I guess it’s accurate. We are all leaders in a sense.

When a friend picks up a new hobby to spend time with you or because you looked like you were having fun doing it, you’re leading them. When your sister starts getting her hair cut at the same salon as you, it’s because you led her there. When your children dress, laugh, act, and eat like you, it’s because of your leadership. There are people whose names you’ll never know and whose faces you’ve never seen who have shaped particular aspects of their identity to be like you. Maybe they spotted you pumping gas and liked your shades so they bought a pair. Maybe they heard your contagious laugh in the next booth at a restaurant and decided to be more jovial and outgoing. Maybe they saw you with a grocery cart full of potato chips and ice cream and made the choice right then and there to get in shape and eat healthy. The point is this: you are being followed.

Because we are all leaders, we have an implied responsibility to be good ones.

Ask yourself: where am I leading the people who follow me? Is it toward God? Away from him? Am I leading anywhere at all, or just standing still?

Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Community Church in Georgia, has this to say about leadership in his upcoming book The Next Generation Leader:

“Your talent and giftedness as a leader have the potential to take you farther than your character can sustain you. That ought to scare you. The fact that people choose to follow you is not necessarily an indicator that you deserve to be followed. There is a significant difference between having a following and being worth following. The truth is that talented, charismatic, visionary people will almost always have a following. Whether they are worth following is a different question, predicated upon a different set of values.

To become a leader worth following, you must give time and attention to the inner man. To leave a legacy that goes beyond accomplishment alone, a leader must devote himself to the matters of the heart.”

Don’t worry about becoming a leader. You already are one. Worry about being a leader that glorifies God and encourages people to follow Him.

October 3, 2010

Leading Others to Growth

When I first read this post on Kevin Rogers blog, The Orphan Age, my first reaction was that it would fit well on any number of general leadership blogs.   But the more I thought about how it applies to the discipleship process and mentoring (or what we sometimes call Paul-Timothy relationships), or church life in general, I realized there’s something here that everyone — not just people in leadership — needs to see.

By Kevin Rogers

Some lead according to their stature and height.  They build a ceiling on vision just above their own head.  As long as other leaders and followers are shorter in stature, they can live comfortably in the containment of the leader’s vision.

The Pharisees led people with a clearly defined ceiling on God’s House.  If they stretched up on tippy-toe, they could touch the ceiling.  They felt taller than others and thought they were authorized to define maximum growth potential.

In a small aquarium fish will only grow to a size suitable to their environment.  The same fish in the wild can grow several times larger.

Indoor plants will only grow to the maximum potential of the soil pot they are planted in.  They can grow several times larger when they have more resources.

On the birch tree in my front yard, there were two posts in the ground alongside the slender trunk of the young tree.  The tree had the advantage of stabilizers while it grew to maturity.

Your role in leading leaders is to come alongside and join to them to provide stability so they can grow straight and tall.

It’s not your job to put a ceiling on how big they can grow, unless you want to keep them small like goldfish in a bowl.

Advice from Ross Perot about how to treat your people: “Never ask anyone to do what you haven’t done before and wouldn’t do again. That’s a pretty fundamental rule in leadership…treat them like you treat yourself. Things you don’t like, they don’t like. You don’t like to be jerked around, they don’t either. You don’t like to be talked down to, and they don’t either. You would rather work with somebody than for somebody. So would they. You hate people who pound on your head after you gave everything you had and failed…It’s that simple.”

~ Bits & Pieces, August, 20, 1992, p. 3.