A Few "Leadership" Thoughts...
Saturday Morning, November 14, 1998
A little correspondence, ongoing with several, about how to deal in a group of Believers where much good is happening, but the Life of Christ is only being lived out by a 10% “committed nucleus.” This overall lukewarmness seems to be “unfortunate”—but acceptable to the leadership, in the sense that it is not being acted upon in any visible way, years on end. What to do? How to feel?
While in a fairly “contemporary” religious setting, probably considered far “advanced” from the norm today, I still have a dilemma that I don’t know quite how to deal with. While we meet often in homes and there is the freedom for far more “participation” from the members, the “priesthood,” than typically one would find, there is still a problem. Many lives are unchanged. There is shallowness, worldliness, wild teens, bad child-rearing, many folks that are hardly known (except during meetings), and other problems that the more traditional environments leave unchanged as well. There appears to be a logjam here—even between the leader and leaders—that is preventing a full corporate expression of Jesus’ Life. Yes, there are many of us who gather together for worship or prayer at “agreed upon” times and places (all in homes, of course). But it’s also very recognizable that only a FEW of us are actually laying down our lives for each other—and even that leaves a lot of room for improvement. What do we do with the many others who are among us and are seemingly content to “meter out” just enough sacrifice to make it a little less comfortable than the average bear? I’m not satisfied with that, and I’m sure (based on the letters to the Churches in Revelation) that Jesus is not either. But let me return my question to that of the leadership, since I feel like this is at LEAST where the solution must start.
My question is this: How should I view the man who is considered to be, and obviously is, the primary leader? (And I think the question could be broadened to this: “How should we view authors of good ‘christian’ books, ‘christian music artists,’ television and conference and traveling ‘christian’ speakers, and the lot? Though their lives are unknown to us, the things they SAY seem good.”)
The man I refer to is a wonderful teacher and a good friend and lives what seems to be a godly life, but does not get very involved in the daily lives of those that he is responsible for (Heb. 13:17). As I mentioned, the lives of those around him are a mess, but his teaching is excellent! He is wise as a counselor when problems are presented to him. He could write a better book than most that are on the shelves at the “christian” bookstores these days. Yet, his relationships wouldn’t reflect the changed lives. There does not seem to be an ever-widening circle of those that he is with daily, and those that they influence—becoming more and more like Jesus. He seldom gets out of his house and has no real alarm for the lives of those in his “church,” though it is often the topic of conversation and of sermons. How should I view this? Is it a problem that there is a spiritual mess around him, after all of these years? If you asked him, he’d tell you he cares. He prays often (I can attest to this) for the sins of apathy and worldliness and worse, that are a part of our “fellowship” and the “christian” world in general. So why does it continue on in evil, year after year? And why is he not doing anything more about it than “preaching” about it? Could it just be that his Gift or his training and experiences have limited his fruitfulness and involvement in changing these things, but that’s not really his fault?
This, obviously, is a very good question. For starters, it’s important to note that Jesus said, “Wisdom is proved right by her children.” It’s not “Wisdom” from GOD if the “children” (those born of this Truth and nurtured daily by this Truth, all embedded in relationship) can’t be found. If it’s really from God, there should be godly offspring. Those who are “IMITATORS of us, and the Lord.” Those who “follow US as we follow CHRIST.” There should be those who we have laid our lives down for “hand to hand, eye to eye, and mouth to mouth,” and they have had Life imparted to them through relationship. Not “information transferal.”
Generation after generation, men of Faith and Intimacy with God will be showing other “faithful men” into LIFE as well. If those around this man (for years as you’ve said?) are still not very “sharp” spiritually, then his discernment or willingness to stand up for Jesus isn’t as strong as his teaching (or songs he has written, or _____) would lead you to believe. Wisdom is proved right by her children. Look for the babies, not the information or emotions. Look for the fruit, not the leaves.
“‘…if they had stood in My Counsel, they would have proclaimed My words to My people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.
“‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD.
“‘I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in My name. They say, “I had a dream! I had a dream!” How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?…’” “‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
“‘Therefore,’ declares the LORD, ‘I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me’” (Jeremiah 23:22-30).
“The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading” (Lamentations 2:14).
It can’t be any more clear and radical than this. Why was Jesus Himself so blessed and celebrated by His Father? Here is the prophecy in Hebrews 1:9. Understand that this is how we too draw near to God through the Son. “How can two walk together unless they are in agreement?”
“You (Jesus) have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” (Hebrews 1:9).
If a man or woman, reputed to be a “strong christian” or a “visible leader” or whatever, is not passionately about changing lives from the midst of daily relationship, there is a serious problem. In fact, to hang around such a person, regardless of their seeming “wisdom,” would result in the weakening of Spiritual Life in you if you are with him much. No matter how enlightening or inspiring it may seem at the time, it is not Real if they are not laying down their lives for others in a daily, practical way, “in the midst” as Jesus was. I hope the Scriptures and these few brief thoughts are helpful in finding the Way in this. Sorry it’s painful for now. And please, don’t ever look down on or mistreat this brother. That’s obviously not Jesus’ way. Be redemptive!
Thanks so much for the response. I think that really helps give me some direction and a reference point for what seems like contradictions in the daily life of the fellowship. It’s just hard to imagine that the “quality of life” could be so much like the world and the religious stuff that is so prevalent, and yet the teaching is so good! I just have had the hardest time understanding how I should view it all! Applying the verses, I don’t think it’s so much that he is a “false prophet” as it is I’m afraid that he, like many other “shepherds,” got to the point where he just “preaches” against sin (even if correctly) rather than being hands-on with the flock. Does that make sense?
I wouldn’t have thought of him as a “false prophet” either, from the descriptive info you all have passed on. Not at all! However, if a man doesn’t turn people from their sin (he only says words about it and then doesn’t follow through) or grieve visibly “as in the pains of CHILDBIRTH” (to describe it the way Paul did)—then something IS wrong with his relationship with God. Make no mistake about it. It goes beyond “one gift versus another,” or “bad habits from a previous religious background.” If a child is dying, and you see it and you love them… you can’t help but be vigorously involved in the solution, night and day. If you only teach about the illness and the afterlife…but aren’t vigorously involved in trying to change it, then either you can’t See, or you don’t care. It is definitely a bigger statement than simply their experiences or giftings holding them back. It is really a GENETIC response…when we “stand in His Counsel.” Do they have a problem with GOD? Yes. “False Teacher”? I don’t think so.
I’m beginning to see the importance of all of this, as it relates to the Church as a whole, as well as my spiritual well being, and that of my family. Is it a waste of time to be in this situation here in this city?
I would definitely NOT suggest that he, or the situation, is a waste of time! It IS a problem that needs to be addressed, however. As a disciple of Jesus, we NEVER have the right to:
1) Blend in with that which does not bring pleasure to Father, or
2) Simply sit back and whine or judge it.
We must get involved. This is not an OBSTACLE to God’s Work, it IS God’s Work!
That doesn’t mean that you would never be free to do something different, somewhere else perhaps, but you’ve got to put your heart into trying to help. Even Nineveh can change! Jesus was able to say, “I would have gathered you…but YOU would not.” Giving up is not an option. It is for YOUR Good, too! The butterfly that is cut out of the cocoon prematurely, without having to do the work, will die instead of fly! God means for us to press through the challenges that HE puts in front of us, for the Time He has determined. Don’t look for shortcuts! However, if you don’t See it clearly, you won’t be much help.
Let’s look again at the primary leadership and their “less than effective involvement in changing the ‘quality of Life’ in the church, amongst teens and ‘periphery’ and all.”
(By the way, “periphery” should NOT exist! “The field is the WORLD,” Jesus said in the parable of the wheat and tares—NOT “the CHURCH,” as so many want us to believe He said! Reconcile this with the Holy Spirit’s command to “get the leaven out of the batch!” in 1 Corinthians 5.)
Back to the subject. : ) Is it okay, because one’s gift is, say, music or teaching, to NOT be involved in daily, gut-wrenching, visible activity in “wrestling to present everyone perfect in Christ”? Well, we all know that to not care for your family makes you worse than an infidel, no matter one’s environment growing up or what one’s gift may or may not be! Right?
Consider an earthly “father” biologically. Is he innocent before God for not wanting to spend time with his children, having no particular interest in involving himself with their friendships or activities, and offering little training beyond a weekly pep talk? This is abominable, regardless of his upbringing. He is still “worse than an infidel” in God’s Sight—no matter his previous experiences. Why? Because God has made known His Plan in every corner of His creation, from the lioness to the penguin, and there are no excuses for “seeing no need” for nurturing those in need or in danger. I’m still not suggesting anyone is a waste of time, or that the primary leadership doesn’t have wonderful things (by God’s Grace) to “bring to the table.” Yet it IS sin to only inform, but not nurture and protect and lay down one’s LIFE for the sheep daily. “Anyone that claims to be in Him, must walk as Jesus walked.” And, “He came to be WITH them, that He might send them out.” “The LIFE became the Light of men…” not the other way around. So, don’t give up—but they are not innocent. “ANYONE” that has stood in God’s Council will turn His People from their sins. And so, if the years roll by and they are NOT turning people from their sins, there is a serious problem in the leaders’ personal lives with Christ no matter HOW profound their teaching is. I’m not picking on anyone in particular (I’m sure they all have some tremendous qualities), but this is true for everyone, of course. Bye, for now. : )
I’m thinking through this prayerfully. I receive what you’ve said 100% and marvel that I didn’t see it before. How could I miss something so basic? I guess that’s why this equipping thing exists, eh? No kidding. : )
Now, I’m trying to figure out what to do about it. I really care about these folks, so I think I have an obligation before God to try to open his eyes also on this matter. I want to do so only with great humility and respect, as a lowly servant and helper, or co-explorer/learner, not as a teacher in any way, which would be absolutely ridiculous anyway in the circumstance. I forgot to say that what got me thinking along these lines of what to do was your analogy of a father. I liked this very much and may even share it with him. I got to thinking, “Well, what would I do if I knew and cared about a neglectful father like that?” I sensed immediately that I would want to “walk alongside” him, throw my arm across his shoulders as we tried to walk through better parenting together. I hope I’ll have that opportunity/privilege with him.
Be of good cheer! He’s RISEN and coming back for a “Bride that has made herself ready!”