How To Inherit The Earth: Submitting Ourselves to a Servant Savior by Scott Bessenecker, the Associate Director for Missions for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, is simply the best book I’ve read in years on spiritual influence. I wish I had understood and practiced the things that he unpacks in this small book about the ways of Jesus, in my early days of walking with the Lord and launching out into a life of service.
If you want to be a better, smarter, and more respected spiritual leader, may I recommend any number of books besides this one! The list of books whose quality is, in my opinion, disclosed by an excessive use of words like “strategic” and “successful,” is endless. You can search for them under keywords like “super-sizing” or “turbo charging” your ministry. Pastors and ministry leaders gobble up books like those hoping to learn the Six Secrets, the Seven Habits, or Twenty-one Laws of great leadership. Continue reading →
This post, exposing a controlling model of spiritual leadership and proposing a more Christ-like alternative, borrows from chapter 5 of “Learning Leadership Lessons from 2 Corinthians.” The tendency toward dictatorial leadership is nothing new. Spiritual leaders have always been tempted to try to control and coerce people for one reason or another. The sincere, albeit gravely mistaken, ones either thought that God required it or people needed it. Others, with less than noble motives, eat up the power to steer people where they want. It makes them feel and look important.
In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul was dealing with the rumor that was circulating in the region that he was no longer an apostle at all. Considering all that he’d invested in this high-maintenance church it must have been quite a hard blow. The way he handled these attacks is a great model of leadership to any generation. If we follow his train of thought, his exhortations, and pleas in the letter we can learn a lot of life-saving leadership lessons for ourselves.
Among other things he felt compelled to address was the accusation that he practiced a controlling leadership style. His response is a good reminder to any spiritual leader of any age about the relationship God demands between the leader and the led. Continue reading →
This is chapter 2 in my “Learning Leadership Lessons from 2 Corinthians” that you can find here.
2 Corinthians contains more references to “trouble” and “tribulation” that any other book in the New Testament. But it also contains more in it about God’s “comfort” than any other. While the term “tribulation” is used 9 times, the term, “comfort” appears 29 times! There must be at least three times as much comfort available to us as there is trouble awaiting us!
The first thing we learn about comfort is that God doesn’t comfort us in order to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters! This is particularly true of spiritual leaders. It is crucial for a leader to model and teach how a person receives comfort from God in the middle of difficulty. Paul is telling us that the leader has to suffer so he can access the help of God, and thus be able to mentor others in how to access that same help for himself. The leader whose closest contact with personal pain is what they read in a book won’t very well be able to help the hurting!
I recall a painful rejection of a very close friend and colleague. I went out to one of my favorite prayer spots along the railroad tracks among the broccoli fields overlooking the ocean. At one point I just sat down on the tracks and wept over the experience. Prior to that, I hadn’t ever really taken particular note of the Psalm that says, “God is close to the brokenhearted.” But at that moment of pain, the Holy Spirit brought those words to me, and I took comfort in them. How often, when consoling other brokenhearted people, I’ve drawn on that verse, and the experience that brought the truth of it to my attention. He comforted me in my troubles, so that I could comfort those in trouble with the comfort I myself had received from Him! Continue reading →
In a previous post I described a prophetic dream I had. Remember, there was a young, overweight boy that jumped on my back to carry him to the other side of a public pool and then, after a short gasp of breath, back again. I was wearing a flappy shirt, which made the journey even more unachievable. The Lord showed me that the cumbersome shirt represented sinful habits that I had to shed in order to survive.
As I prayed about it, I saw that it was a two-for-one dream, and that there was another spiritual leadership lesson that I needed to learn. The first lesson was about being encumbered by sin and the second had to do with being weighed down by people who expected me to transport them through life and ultimately to heaven. The Spirit convicted me that as a pastor I had been trying to carry people on my back. He showed me that I shouldn’t be doing their swimming for them. I can’t really – not for very long anyway – swim for two. I’m no Cruise Ship for Christians, and can’t do for them what they should be doing for themselves. Not only is it unscriptural, it’s untenable, and it’s dangerous! Continue reading →
We have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom, but according to God’s grace. 2 Corinthians 1:12
My friend Robby has a plaque in his office that says, “The leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” A lot of people know the way, but don’t consistently go that way before they start trying to show others the way. Nobody’s perfect; we’ll all stumble and fall but there’s an irreducible minimum of personal holiness that’s required for the spiritual servant leader. Jesus said, “I sanctify myself that they too may be sanctified” (John 17). People are more apt to do what you do more than do what you say they ought to do. You may be a shepherd, but first you’re a sheep. You have to follow the Great Shepherd before you can tell others how to follow Him.
It takes more than charisma to lead people in the Jesus way. Oswald Chambers wrote, “It’s an easy business to preach – an appallingly easy thing to tell other people what to do. It is another thing to have God’s message turned into a boomerang.” In Paul’s qualifications for elders and deacons in Timothy and Titus, you’ll notice that, with the exception of “able to teach,” all the things he lists are personal obedience issues – above reproach, self-control, respectable, etc. Continue reading →
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15
My main goal is to have the same goals as God. I want what matters to God to matter to me. From what I can see from the most zoomed out vantage point of the Bible, His chief goal can be summed up as, “The glory of God and the good of people.” I think that is what this human experiment is all about. That’s what He’s after – and is after us to be after. He wants everything that we do to somehow be connected to glory for God and good for people. Continue reading →
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
Many years ago we had a woman in our church family named “Tess.” She was a challenge to pastor (to say the very least!). Tess had no small “personality disorder,” and though sincere in her faith, she was socially challenged. Her “disorder” frankly gave me a headache as I tried to clean up one relationship mess after another, which seemed to follow her everywhere she went. I found myself resenting her and wishing she’d suddenly get a calling to the church down the street. Continue reading →