Eternity Focused Leadership Development

Moving towards the transition of the organization, an assessment was in order to consider the condition of top leaders and rising stars. A consultant was engaged for the benefit of a third party perspective and time was short before Jesus would turn over the reigns. Following an exhaustive process, the consultant met with Jesus to report his findings.

“Jesus,” the consultant said somewhat reluctantly, “this organization has some problems and the result is alarming as you prepare to transition.”

“What do you mean?” Jesus asked, as if He didn’t know and clearly not alarmed with the negative tone of the consultant.

“Well, your personnel largely aren’t ready,” the consultant continued. “After three years of intensive leadership development and vision casting, most of them just don’t get it.”

Going along with it, Jesus asked, “do you have any examples?”

“Sure,” the consultant replied while pulling out his report to apparently refresh his memory on the details. “First, there are James and John. What I found was that they are in no position to lead. They are simply interested in themselves and their own advancement. I just don’t see where they are ready to be the kind of servant leader you require to continue the culture and DNA of the organization. Remember, they even got their mom to try to influence you for their benefit. (Matthew 20:20-28)

Then, there’s Peter. This guy is going to get you sued. He is very undisciplined and emotionally immature. Talented and bold, for sure, but sloppy.  I recommend a personal coach and some risk management training. (John 18:10)

Thomas is negative; he isn’t fully on board with the direction you have set. He has questions and he voices those doubts, which is detrimental to the morale of the organization. (John 20:25)

The one guy that you have who it diligent and can be trusted to look over organizational resources is Judas. He gets it; he is the most mature, responsible and prepared guy you have to take this thing forward.” (John 13:29)

“Thank you for your time, consideration and report,” Jesus replied as He appeared slightly amused at the conclusions.

“I really appreciate your help, but I’m going with my guys. All that you pointed out about James, John, Peter and Thomas was factually accurate. This is different, though.

For the last three years, I wasn’t trying to perfect their maturity; that will come with suffering and persecution. I was always looking at their heart. You see, My purpose has been and always will be about their heart. I’ve seen their hearts and I know that they will finish what I’ve started.

They will persevere through the difficulty to hand this movement off to the next generation and their passion is worthy of my trust for the purpose of My Kingdom. They have given their hearts to Me and My purposes; that makes them ready to represent me going forward. I trust them; we can work out their other stuff as we go.”

The Cost of Ministry

I have a friend who is the most talented salesperson and one of the most gifted minds in business that I have ever known. He has the capacity to make money with seemingly effortless ease. He also has struggled personally to an extreme that is rare and, in the middle of it all loves Jesus and pursues God as fervently as anyone I know. From that place of ability, struggle, relationship and pursuit, there appears to be an invitation from God for this friend to step into ministry.

“Ministry,” by definition, is service to others. In this context, that service is related to eternal things grounded in the Word of God. That calling, to serve, doesn’t require special schools or a job at a 501(c)3, as 2 Corinthians 5 makes clear. In that chapter, Paul teaches that once we are reconciled to Christ, we are ministers of reconciliation. It isn’t dependent on a profession, but a relationship.

In the unfolding of this calling, my friend called me in tears. The tears come from the pain of dying to himself. What God is doing within him requires that any pride and any needs for attention or affirmation from the service of reconciliation must die. He has realized that the reason God is talking to him about that is because it needs to be talked about when he considers himself.

Ministry will eat you up. A desire to serve without the ongoing death of your soul will pervert your service. It will be a service to needs for the filling of your voids instead of in submission to the purposes of Jesus. What God was doing with and in my friend is a favor to my friend and a requirement of true service. It can’t be about us, or it wasn’t ministry in the first place because it wasn’t about serving.

Our soul has wants and needs that will be satisfied in the grace of Jesus and the Holy Spirit fills us and fills us again. The grace of Jesus will lead us to the love of the Father and that love is a perfect satisfier. That perfect love fills us and affirms us and satisfies temporal voids with eternal relationship. The shortcut can be ministry.

If we serve others in their effort or need to be reconciled to the Father through the Son, they often times will ascribe value to us in the process. They will affirm the “anointing” or gifts of the servant. If there is anything in the minister’s soul that feeds, it can stir an addictive cycle of attention seeking in Jesus name.

Want to serve? Have to die first. Want to minister? It will cost you everything, starting with yourself. You’ll never regret it but if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable then you are probably missing it.

 

We All Want to Preach

We all want to preach because it’s easier than the real deal. We want to have it figured out and tell others the answers. We want to master the incomprehensible so that we can control the limited reflection of eternity we have wrestled into our inadequate perspective. Then we can’t fail because we figured out the rules, keep them and tell others what they are and how to follow them.

The difference between preachy church goers and social media proclaiming of various political and social perspectives is the misuse of authority. That is, those that want to preach what they claim and hope to be eternal truth use the Bible to justify their vague understanding. Present company included.

At the same time, as an audience we want someone to have it figured out. If we can read a book, hear a sermon, attend a seminar or digest some other form of secondary understanding, we won’t have to allow the Source to examine us to produce intimate understanding. That is, if we can “be fed” by someone, we can avoid the hunt.

The net result is a Christian culture of pontificating which entertains heresy in order to foster freshness. A specific and untapped niche for the advancement of a platform is valued above the transformation available to us personally or others uniquely. Finding the place from which we can be heard to “help people” understand and do what is good and right is the controllable and satisfying place of ministry malpractice.

If we gain some understanding of the Word, it is not God’s way of giving us a ministry; it is His grace offering to transform us personally. He will do the same for others, but they will have to go to the same Source for the same introspective examination of their soul. The Word is an invitation into knowing God, not fodder for a sermon.

When we truly know Him in the glimpses we can handle of Him, we are undone. The paradox of His might and His mercy becomes an endearing and transformative catalyst for our growth. The deepest understanding of HIs Word often leaves us speechless and sometimes in tears; completely undone as we realize our own humanity compared to His magnificent Divinity.

Ministry, then, is to afford others the same. It is an invitation into the search which produces intimacy with Him and not impressions of us. Our messages, preaching, blogs, programs should simply hope to tell only of our lack to afford His glory to be evident. It’s His glory that carries the message that people need to hear.

The Grace of Submission

Something being good for us doesn’t automatically equate to our embracing or practice of it as a habit or belief. One of the most neglected dynamics afforded us for our benefit is the posture of submission. While many of us are entirely comfortable with the thought of submitting our lives to God, many of us are “out” when asked to submit to people. Here is the problem; God often works through delegated authority and that delegated authority is man (or woman).

Authority is intended to be sacrificial. That means that those in authority should primarily filter their choices through the evaluation of whether or not they are for the benefit of others. Their responsibility is to make a way for others so that they (the others) are benefitted from their place of submission.

Submission, then, seeks a benefit. While we all too often view submission as a place that is inferior with the authority lording over it, that perspective is not the intended correlation of authority and submission. It is intended by design to be in the wake of the path that has been made. The benefit from that place is that the submitted party doesn’t have to clear the path and isn’t the first one to take the hits when trouble comes. The authority, from out front, clears the way and takes the hits for the benefit of those that are submitted.

Submission requires a lens of grace. First, for how we see ourselves and then for how we see others (in this case others that might be in positions of authority). Here is what I know; there is no perfect person other than Jesus so whoever is “in charge” has flaws. That doesn’t invalidate their potential benefit to those that submit.

Without grace, the potentially submitted will be too insecure to trust those that might otherwise choose to sacrifice for their benefit from a place of authority. They (the potentially submitted) will be afraid of the potential negative outcomes or exposure of their own flaws and will control or manipulate imaginations and fears to leave only a shadow of submission in the reality of rebellion.

In the absence of grace to affirm the potentially submitted party’s identity beyond their own flaws, they won’t be willing to look past the flaws of even well intended sacrificial authority. Their fears and imaginations will direct their judgement at every turn and the fits and spurts of peace they know in the wake of benefit will be hijacked.

Jesus sacrificed for our benefit. Belief in His authority, sacrifice and benefit results in lives that are turned over to Him. Submission to Him goes beyond our knowledge of Him and demands that our choices reflect a will willing to release control to Him. An inability to submit to His legitimate delegated authority in all of its flaws likely indicates a lack of true submission to and trust in Him in the first place.

 

Two Kinds of Wisdom

We all want wisdom and many of us proclaim wisdom once we think we have something figured out. Those premature declarations are indicators that we’ve attained the wrong or incomplete version of wisdom, however. Wisdom, by definition, comes in two forms; man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. When we declare our wisdom, we settle for the inferiority of man’s wisdom over the eternal potential of God’s wisdom.

In order to realize the life of Jesus available from within us, we are invited to die to the preferences of our soul (our mind, will and emotions). If/when we will give up our opinions and desires, we can be informed by Holy Spirit’s perspective and not limited to our own. If we will die to ourselves, we will live and enjoy His wisdom and not our cheap substitute.

Wisdom that is me and not Him is “not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (James 3:15)

The description of my wisdom is given in three terms but they don’t mean the same thing. They can’t mean the same thing, since “unspiritual” and “demonic” are contradictory on their face. Human wisdom, if given priority over the availability of God’s wisdom which is available by submitting our soul has the following progressive (or regressive?) attributes:

  • Earthly – basic wisdom from existing on earth; if you touch fire, it will burn, so don’t touch fire.
  • Unspiritual – “sensuous nature with its subjection to appetite and passion.” This means driven by your own will and emotions, or soul. Beyond just the wisdom of the flesh, this is trusting the wisdom of the soul. It is, in effect, choosing to be your own small “g” god in those areas where you rely on your perspective.
  • Demonic – this is influenced or tormented by the perspective of an enemy that comes against the purposes of God and is intent on destroying you. Nobody would willingly choose this form of wisdom out of the gate; it is a progressive slide where the consequences of soul-ish wisdom lead to a greater depravity and give permission to evil. Sin has a progressive nature (it waits to devour you).

James goes on to say “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (3:17) “Good fruits” include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” from Galatians.

That means that God’s wisdom isn’t just knowledge or ability; it is the feeling that comes with contentment as described in James and Galatians. It is without anxiety, fear, worry, shame and guilt. Wisdom from God comes at the expense of your preference but gives you life in abundance where otherwise we are limited to the boundaries of our soul.

The Glory of Shutting Up

Somewhere along the way, we have largely embraced a cultural value and belief that we need to be heard. We need to have a voice to proclaim our perspective. We need to be afforded a seat at the table to weigh in on whatever subject we deem ourselves interested and opinionated.

It’s not true. We don’t need to be heard. Often times, it’s actually to our advantage to not be heard. The position of no position is peaceful compared to the contentious places of preference.

In Matthew 16, Jesus begins to teach His guys this lesson. He begins to teach them the Kingdom. Verse 21 says that Jesus “began to show” His disciples that He “must” suffer, be killed and be raised.

Peter actually starts to argue with Him. Peter needed to be heard, with what most of us would have concluded to be a noble position, but we would see in the reaction of Jesus that it was anything but noble. Peter said that he wouldn’t allow Jesus to suffer and be killed and Jesus shut him down; actually called him Satan.

Jesus tells Peter that his perspective is wrong; he’s looking at things from man’s perspective, not God’s perspective. Jesus goes on to say that to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, which actually means to forget about ourselves. It means to not focus on us or the opinions we foster within us. Those opinions don’t need to be heard.

We are invited to die to the preferences of our soul (vs. 25-26) just like Jesus was. We get to not have an opinion. We get to enjoy the benefits of sacrifice, if we will reject the apparent satisfaction of being heard or considered or preferred. If we’ll allow ourselves to lose, we will win.

Glory comes on the other side of crucifixion. Where we willingly allow ourselves not to matter and deny our desire to advance the preferences of our soul, the glory of God can come through us. Where we will sacrifice our mind, will and emotions, His Spirit will be put on display through us.

Jesus didn’t come to provide a history lesson or abstract idea; He came to unleash His Kingdom and His plan for multiplication of that Kingdom is us. We are invited to follow Him in His ways; the ways of His Kingdom. Not our ways and our need to be heard. His ways are better, but they come at the cost of our preferences.