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God’s Path of Developing Leaders Pt 3

Filed under: Leadership — Pastor David Jun 27, 2012 @ 11:39 am

“It takes trials to grow as a leader.”  John Maxwell

Leaders develop over time. This is a fact. There is not a leader in the Bible who was given God’s assignment and then, the next day, accomplished that assignment. It can often take years to accomplish the mission God gives you in your life.  Noah was called to build an ark and collect the animals of the earth, this took over a 100 years. Moses waited 80 years before he became the leader who was ready to fulfill God’s mission of the Promised Land.  Peter and the disciples waited three years before they were actually leading the church after Jesus prepared them. This process is outlined by Peter step by step (2 Peter 1:5-9). Leaders grow when faith is thriving! This growth leads to a deep passion for God’s glory and other’s good… moral excellence. Next in this process will be a hunger and desire to seek and to learn what it is that God wants them to do with their life.  Once this is known, the subject, the people, the skills for leading others, the information important to success will be sought out and learned with a hunger and a thirst. It is important, however, that the knowledge must be matched by character, which is obedience to God. How does God deepen a leader? He takes them through these two words on Peter’s list, “self-control and perseverance”.  These words are revealed through the leader’s personal daily discipline and their commitment to this discipline even when faced with the hardest of circumstances. Trials will be what develop or destroy the growing leader.

It was said of Jesus that “He learned obedience from the things He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). The perfect Son of God, our Example and the Source of all that we have in God, went through fiery trials in order to show us how live under stress and pain. He endured 40 days of fasting and temptation.  He was subjected there to Satan’s lies and innuendoes. He was then rejected by His own home town after revealing to them His vision for deliverance and blessing. (Luke 4:18-19). They tried to kill Him on that very day! The leader of the nation heard Him speak, saw His many miracles, and still scrutinized Him all the more. They did not worship Him nor did they adore Him as He deserved. They harassed Him, schemed together against Him. They were always following Him with the motive and agenda to finding fault. Finally, they plotted and murdered Jesus by getting one of His inner circle friendships to betray Him. How wearisome this must have been. How painful to be constantly rejected. However, we find Jesus constantly practicing His disciplines.  Prayer, training leaders, accomplishing the mission, preaching, healing, doing good works, and in every circumstance honoring the Father. He had self-control and perseverance. Nothing deterred Him or stopped Him. He is the Example for us as to how God trains the leader He uses.

Jesus example is very clear; the first step in our leadership development will be… self-discipline. This discipline will be seen in our lifestyle of purpose, planning, and deliberate actions that daily take place in our schedule. The leader will have their time of prayer and private receiving from God. Ralph Neighbour called this “spending time in the listening room.” Then, there will also be the disciplined time he spends with other leaders mentoring them and giving his life away to them. He will also, when called to, be preparing his messages for the church. Then, as we see in Jesus’ life, there must time to be with those who are not yet believers. What we see Jesus do, is also what the current leader will do.  All of these decisions take time and must be deliberate.

Let me focus on one aspect of this list, namely, sharing our faith with those who are not yet believers in Christ. I had to personally confront this area of my life about three years ago. I was not doing this. My schedule was full of leaders, personal study, and private time with God, but no time with unbelievers. I had no one in my personal life and schedule, who was not a believer, yet I expected the people in our church to bring their unbelieving friends and family members to the meetings and I would share the Gospel with them. I felt that I was reaching unbelievers that way. But Jesus, Himself, literally spent time with those who needed to be reached!

So how does one go about applying this discipline after it has been neglected for so long? It is difficult, I will admit. But here is what I did and I firmly believe that you can do it too! I began to greet and meet my local neighbors any and every day that I was outside or walking.  I did this until I realized that I had built a casual relationship with more than twenty of my neighbors.  Then, as it seemed appropriate and as God led me, (I was also praying for each of my neighbors as well), I would try to bring up a spiritual matter in our conversations. I would guide our friendly conversations into spiritual conversations by asking a question related to our discussion that connected them to God. We talked about the church and all the hypocrites that attend, the Bible and if it is true or not, the nature of sin, the death of Jesus, the power of being forgiven, and many more topics that would emerge. This connection to the unbelievers around me was a result of an act of discipline. Daily, deliberate decisions that involved me in their world and in how they understood Christ. This has powerfully engaged me in the personal battle for souls. But it is done best when it is a daily deliberate decision, not just a random spontaneous action. Try it and see what happens.

Perseverance is the second step. This means doing these deliberate actions in the face of pain, or stress. It is not easy to pray every day. But it is a must! Jesus said that we must pray at all times or we will lose heart (Luke 18:1).  In 1 Tim. 2:1, Paul called on us to prioritize this discipline into our daily lives, saying it must be “first of all” the things we do. Twice Paul called for us to be “devoted to prayer” (Rom. 12:12, Col. 4:2).  Physical, social, emotional, and spiritual trials call us to this type of prayer. The Psalms are full of both pain… and prayer. Read again Psalm 102 and feel the “prayer of the afflicted when he is faint and pours out his compliant before the LORD.” Have you ever prayed as though you are praying with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? This type of praying is a painful and agonizing prayer that weakens our bodies! Usually we find ourselves praying like this over someone we love who is not right with God, or for someone we care about who is facing a powerful hardship, or even for ourselves as we fear for our lives or well-being, or when our ministry is in danger, or our family is facing a deep need. Trials call the best prayers from us!  These trials develop a depth that nothing else can. Trials force us to think deeper about why we are doing what we are doing, how we are doing what we are doing, and with whom we are doing what we are doing. Trials cause reflection, reevaluation, and restructuring in our lives. Trials cause us to remove the lesser things from our schedule and to guard the less important- time consuming demands from devouring our energy. Through the pain, we are able to clarify our purpose and refine our process. That is what God is doing through the painful trial, and how He is maturing us.

Are you in the fire of a trial right now? Has pain been refining you or discouraging you? Let the disciplines in your daily life shape you for when the trials come, and let the trials shape you for improving your character and service to others. Self-discipline and perseverance go together. Let this mighty team of “self-discipline and perseverance” work a deeper quality into your leadership.

Father, you have placed us in the same school as Your dear Son. We, too, are learning obedience through what we suffer. Forgive us when we complain and miss the lessons You are teaching us. We want to learn all we can while we go through each trial in life. Let the trials benefit us as You mean for them to deepen our leadership. Do not let us make it through the trial without gaining the character quality You have for us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.    

God’s Path of Developing Leaders, Part 2

Filed under: Leadership — Pastor David Jun 15, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

“In India, certainly there is no dearth of knowledge…We have achieved much in spite of our weaknesses. Yet India has not become the country it should have become… was it character that was missing?” Dr. Shantanu Dutta

The developing qualities of great leadership are given to us by Peter (one of the greatest leaders of the first century church) in 2 Peter 1:5-7. He speaks of the need for diligence in this process, the hard work and careful consideration in forming what the leader is becoming. He began with “faith” as the fountain out of which all great leaders emerge. Then he strikes the anvil again forming the hot faith into “moral excellence” or a passion for loving God with all the heart and strength from that leader (see last month’s issue). Next comes the word “knowledge.” This is a whole new world. I call it a “world”, for so it is. It is a room filled with books and research, of listening to great men expound their thoughts and reflect their genius. In that room the leader begins to think broadly and deeply about many things. This stage for the leader is exciting and filled with new things all around. As it has been said, “Knowledge is power.” The leader begins to feel a new power in what he is learning.

But Paul (another great leader from the first century church) warns that knowledge makes one proud (1 Cor. 8:1). That is a shocking insight. Especially for passionate students who thought that knowledge was the mark of spirituality.  This idea leads one to conclude that the more one knows the greater they are in spirituality. That is not necessarily true according to Paul. How did this error in thinking become so common?

“Beginning from school days, we have always been taught to associate knowledge with spirituality…In India we have gods and goddesses for knowledge.” (Dr. Shantanu Dutta in his excellent book “India, Waiting for the Dawn”).  One of Gandhi’s concerns was that India would be a nation that had “knowledge without character.” When thinking of someone who is brilliant, we may think of Albert Einstein, for he was a genius on many levels. His great intellect opened up for the world atomic theory. Suddenly we had the capacity to build a bomb that destroyed whole cities in an instant.  The great knowledge that was attained was used to destroy the world, the trust, and the feeling of safety between nations. This fear lingers to this day between nations. Reflecting on what atomic theory produced, Albert Einstein sadly commented, “If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”

“Knowledge is power” and in the hands of one with low or poor character it is outright dangerous power. Even knowledge about God and spiritual truth has been used to divide and destroy rather than build up one another.

But “knowledge” is the stage where great leaders develop their minds and their character. Every leader must enter this dangerous arena and learn all he/she can. Let the knowledge change our lives, and how we respect and understand other viewpoints. Let knowledge open our minds and not close our hearts to others. Knowledge should be useful for life and for solving problems. It is dangerous and deadly when it is used to prove a point, win an argument, or assure one of a position of power. Knowledge is to be a servant that is helping, understanding, listening to what the real problems are and finding the best way to solving those problems. That leader will be called to the table where his/ her opinion will be of value.  The world, the church, and India itself is crying for such leaders.

Leaders must be intelligent. There needs to be intelligence and data and information accumulated if the leaders are going to wisely asses and address the real issues.  Ignorance is a blight, a curse, and a scourge to this world. We have a saying, “If you think education is expensive try ignorance.” How true. The cunning and shrewd take advantage of those who are ignorant every day. Jesus instructed us to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16). We must be wiser than the clever men (Jesus called them wolves) of this world trying to outwit the simple minded person. Financially, morally, or legally we are to be wiser than the sharks who cruise around us and seek to devour those who are unprepared or unaware.

One pastor was asked to debate with a Muslim imam before the whole city. The sad reality was seen before all who attended the debate when the imam knew the Bible better than the pastor, and the pastor knew nothing of the Quran. This was a major setback for the church in that city in reaching their community for Christ. Another leader of a famous Christian organization was asked by an atheist what he knew about evolution and why he believed in the Bible. He was unable to effectively answer this question. It made Christians look like uneducated opinionated people, rather than humble servants with wise insight about creation and our Creator.  We must do better than this.

So here is the tension. One, a life of knowledge but soaked with pride. Two, a life with ignorance and ineffectiveness. What shall we do?

How can we build a life of knowledge without jeopardizing our character?  And how can we avoid the trap Gandhi warned about in “knowledge without character”? Jesus gave us a clue when He said, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (John 13:17). Did you catch that insight?  When we apply what we learn to how we live, knowledge is a blessing, an enriching quality that lifts the leader and aids him/ her in serving the ones he/she leads. That leader will be able to answer the atheist, the debater, and the wise of this world. They will have the wisdom that is from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, kind, and one that is marked by their own spiritual transformation. They are not telling others what to do without doing it first themselves. They are ready to give a defense because they have prepared themselves and have done the hard work of research (1 Pet. 3:15).

Here is what I do to insure the balance of knowledge and application: each day I read my Bible asking what I need to apply to my life. Obedience is the aim of my reading not knowledge. Knowledge equips me to obey God. Secondly, when I prepare a message I ask, what do I want them to know and what do I want them to do with this message? Make it a habit to learn then apply what you learn within the first 48 hours. Then share what you learned with someone else. May we grow in grace and knowledge of our Savior and Lord every day.

Father, You instruct us as Your children every day. I pray for a heart to learn and learn well. I hear Your voice behind me telling me this is the way You want me to go. My heart and my mind will wake up each day to take your instruction. May I obey as I learn. I want the attitude of Your Son to be my attitude. He always listened and did what You said. Please help me to do the same. In Jesus Name I ask it. Amen.   

 

God’s Path of Developing Leaders, Part 1

Filed under: Leadership — Pastor David Jun 1, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

“Leaders develop daily not in a day.” John Maxwell

Are leaders born or made? Where do leaders come from? We see them rise out of nowhere, grow, and become very influential. They seem to be mysteriously formed and come on the scene as if they were summoned for that special moment. Then we wonder will anyone so effective ever be found again? There will never be another John Wesley, or C. H. Spurgeon, or Billy Graham, or William Carey, or Sadhu Sundar Singh, or the humble and godly Bakht Singh, and countless others of present day and historical names of great Indian pastors and leaders.

How does God develop such leadership? How is He raising up future effective leaders? The path is similar for every fruitful leader. I know the circumstances may vary from leader to leader. No story is the same, for our God is very creative in how He develops leader. Consider Peter and how He developed Paul. The differences are many between these two towering leaders. At first glance it seems there is no pattern that can be seen. But underneath the story is an amazing pattern that connects Peter’s training (while under the training of the historical earthly Christ) and Paul’s training (with the early church after Christ’s departure).  Peter helps us see that pattern in 2 Pet. 1:5-9 and Paul notes the path in 1 Thess. 1:3 and 1 Cor.13:13. Paul summarized the divine path of leadership development  in three words: faith, hope, and love. Both men point us to the way God develops leaders. It is broadly understood  and seen  in the development  of our faith, our hope, and our love.

Peter shows the path of leadership development more specifically. He reveals this path in eight stages of formation. Faith leads to moral excellence which leads to knowledge which develops in self-control which is deepened in perseverance which transforms into godliness which develops when we grow in brotherly kindness and finally forms the leader into a mature fullness of love.

Let us start with the first word in this sequence: FAITH.

Where does Our Lord begin? He first called Peter by saying, “Follow Me and I will transform and change you to become fishers of men.” What is the first step of following Him? Every leader starts at the same point: Faith in Jesus. Do we follow Him if we do not trust Him? And in the same way, do others follow our leadership if they do not trust us? Trust and faith grow after we experience the character, competence, and love of Jesus Christ. Christ convinced Peter and Paul of this great reality. He was all that He said he was (character). He did all that said He could do (competence). His love for both of them was proved over and over (love). So whether we are being developed by the historic presence of Christ as Peter was or by  the resurrected Christ years later after His resurrection and ascension like Paul, we learn quickly about the His character, competence, and love.

We will not follow long if we do not have faith in His leadership. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Without faith we are overcome with doubts and fears (1 John 5:4-5). Christ forms the leader by showing him that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). He says the truth and confirms that His word is absolutely trustworthy. Once Billy Graham was asked if he believed the Bible story about Jonah being swallowed by a whale. He responded, “Not only do I believe that a big fish swallowed Jonah , but if the Bible said that Jonah swallowed a whale I would believe that too.” There comes a point when we trust God and what He has said.  This is a must for effective leadership. If a leader does not trust God and His word without reservation, he will rely on his own wisdom, charisma, or charm. But a leader does not overcome sin, defeat Satan, and rescue the perishing with human power. Spiritual leadership  is the work of faith unleashing God’s power (2 Thess. 1:11). Is God developing your faith? Is He testing it and maturing it? Then you are on the path of becoming a fruitful leader.

The second word on this path is MORAL EXCELLENCE.

Once faith in God and His word is settled, we are energized and motivated to learn and grow. We have a passion inside of us to learn all we can, do all we can, go wherever He sends us, obey all that He says. This second word is moral excellence (2 Pet. 1:5, arête meaning  “excellence in virtue, thought and feeling, and the course of action, excellence as a property or as a quality”). There is a spiritual desire deep within us to go after Him with all our heart and mind and soul. We love Him with everything inside of us.

Why is the next word in the path? Leadership that pleases the Lord requires everything within us. Spiritual leadership is not achieved by half measures. Thus, His grace that calls us to leadership fills our hearts with faith, then with this quality of passion for the excellence of Christ. We want nothing less and nothing else but complete conformity to His will. It is one thing to trust God and another to fully follow Him. Caleb and Joshua were such leaders. They wholly followed the Lord their God (Numbers 14:24).  The other leaders did not trust in God and had empty hearts. They were removed from leadership while Joshua and Caleb were honored and promoted. These two led the nation to  finally enter the Promised Land and victoriously defeat their enemies and posses their possessions. Joshua 14 is the record where Caleb cried, “Give me this mountain.” The same mountain where the giants lived that frightened the former generation to see themselves as grasshoppers, he shouts as one who fully followed the Lord. “Give me the place of darkness and I will turn it into the place where God is honored and worshipped.” Listen to that zeal, that passion for excellence.

These are the leaders who dream bold and daring dreams. These are the ones who risk it all and willingly step into the danger zones of the earth to reach those who are not yet reached. They all sing the same song, “Let me take up my cross and follow you, let me die if need be to serve your kingdom.” This step in the path is one that creates inside the leaders passion, courage, and the eagerness to risk for the Kingdom of God.  They speak like Esther, “If I perish I perish.” Are you driven for excellence in thought, morals, and goals? Are you passionately pursuing what God wants? Are you loving Him with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind? Then you are on the path. God is developing your leadership.

Father, I have heard your voice calling me to follow. I feel the fears grip me and doubts stop my feet from stepping onto this path. But then Your grace moves me to trust Your character, and Your call, and you move me to step out in spite of all my fears. I am following You. Suddenly Lord my soul is on fire ablaze with passion to run not just walk in this path. May my feet be those of the messengers who bring tidings of peace to those who sit in darkness and  still do not know You. Use my life to reach many for Your glory. In Jesus Name. Amen.