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Monday, December 21, 2009

Christian Leadership

So I'm browsing through this giant Christian bookstore, which appears to have everything but a cappuccino bar. And I notice there is a plethora of books on leadership. It seems to be the mantra of today's Christian culture (at least in America.) I seem to recall my own church has a huge focus on leadership. It even offers special training for those who would be leaders.

There is strong evidence in this Christian bookstore that my church is not alone. It seems that many churches are espousing leadership in one form or another these days. At least as many of those churches are actually purporting to instruct on leadership.

It seems we have instructed the church today in nearly everything ... but becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. (Who could forget the "Women Thou Art Loosed" Cook Book?) We have filled the people with doctrines for success ... but not deity. We have given the Christians manuals in the form of self-help for marriage, diet, child-raising, relationships, therapy, physical exercise, careers, etc. But we haven't given them Emmanuel.

I was asked the other day the difference between Baptists and Presbyterians. It is not difficult to recognize someone from the different traditional church backgrounds. Nearly every congregation seems to develop a particular slant or system of traditions. And while most of those are Christ-based, some of them ultimately obscure the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. In other words, they don't make you like Jesus. Rather, submit yourself to their way of thinking and you will become like them. (I thought the goal was to become like Jesus!)

Is this wrong? Maybe not, but for us it should never be enough. As true Christians, we should be seeking to be like Jesus --- and not like men (or women) whom we think are righteous and holy. We want the kingdom of God --- and not the kingdom of American Christianity. (Or at least I think we do.)

The thing is we all need to be vigilant to submit ourselves exclusively and diligently to the Holy Spirit, the Words of Jesus Christ and the will of God, our Father. We should be constantly striving for the standards of the kingdom of God. What is the character and nature of God? Shouldn't those be considerations in all of our decision-making? Any focus or goal other than Christ Jesus would seem ripe to become a source of potential deception down the road somewhere.

The Bible says that in the last days, even the very elect will be deceived (Matthew 24:24). Who are the "very elect?" Aren't they the contemporary leaders of today's churches and para-church ministries? Aren't they those we would consider to be spiritually mature? Aren't they the authors of today's Christian books? And if they can be deceived, what is the source of their deception? Wouldn't it have to be a focus on something other than Christ Jesus?

Look at what Jesus did with common men. In just over three years, He transformed very average men and women into fearless disciples, who were literally filled with the Spirit of God. They were so filled, in fact, that they did not wince at suffering; they did not withdraw from sacrifice. They were fearless warriors for the kingdom of God. Isn't that where you and I want to be?

These ordinary people were equipped with spiritual authority over demons and they exercised power over even illnesses. They were living proof that Christ transforms ordinary people into extraordinary disciples. Couldn't three years of undiluted Jesus transform you and me the same way? These men were as average and as human as we are today. The difference between them and us is simply Jesus ... or rather the amount of Jesus. He is the only difference.

Of course one might argue that things were different in Bible times. After all, that was over 2,000 years ago. But God is unchanging. Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). Physically seeing Jesus isn't required --- or He would have stayed on the earth in His human form. No, the same Spirit that worked through Jesus to transform people then is the one that is poured out on you and me today. Said differently, we have everything we need to become as passionate and effective as the men and women who actually walked with Jesus over 2,000 years ago.

So what will make the difference? If the need in us is for an undiluted, uninhibited Jesus, all we need then are hearts that will not be satisfied with something ... or someone less than Him. You see, if we focus on the differences in the Christ-based religions, we can readily miss the point. The true purpose of any church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Those disciples should look like the ones raised up over 2,000 years ago too. God doesn't raise up denominations or ministries. Rather He raises up slaves of Jesus Christ.

When we recognize that the goal is not ministry or church growth .... but slavery, we can finally begin to see the power of Christ restored in our churches. So the pattern for leadership is really pretty simple. Leaders must be individuals whose burning passion is conformity to Jesus Christ. The issue is not one method or tradition over another. The only question is whether we can fill our churches with people who are sincerely seeking, with burning passion, Jesus Christ in all His fullness.

God can use just about any church structure if the people in it are genuinely seeking Him. But I would argue that there is no form of Christian leadership that can ultimately prevail without a singular focus on Jesus Christ. Now, how can I wade through the plethora of Christian books on leadership and church models to find that?

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