Publication: Pastoral Letter, July 2016
Dear Friend in Christ:
July reminds us that the United States is a nation that was set free from political tyranny by leaders who were willing to give their lives. A total of 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence; later, they were captured, tortured, lost wives, children, many were killed and others lost their fortunes. Their stories have often been forgotten but they were the leaders who gave us political liberty.
I could discuss Winston Churchill’s leadership in the years when England stood alone against the Nazis when London endured 57 consecutive nights of bombing and over 40,000 people were killed (1939-1941). The British people overcame extraordinary hardship; leadership made the difference. Whatever survives and succeeds always requires leadership that is willing to be courageous, take personal risk, and live beyond self.
I have recently read two books that impressed me. Our youngest son, Jonathan, gave me Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, how U.S. Navy Seals lead and win. The other book is Change Your Space, Change Your Culture by Rex Miller, co-authored by Mabel Casey and Mark Konchar. This book describes how a work environment affects production. Rex points out how new technology and design are affecting collaboration, a new kind of leadership. Rex is a “futurist.”
Futurists are prophetic. They are ahead of the times and current situations; they lay out a path to understand the painful transitions that are taking place. Jesus was in that sense, an incomparable “futurist”. By the Holy Spirit, He saw the times in which He lived, the times ahead, and gave us a path to true liberty. He took great risks and paid the price, not only to atone for our sins, but to lead us into an entirely new era.
THE ULTIMATE LEADER
There are many good books on leadership but none so great as the Holy Scriptures. There have been many great leaders but none so great and effective as Jesus. Those of us who believe and follow Jesus understand Him to be the revelation of God in all respects.
Jesus’ influence and power to affect history should not go unnoticed, even by non-believers. His impact upon lives over these 2000 years continues to spread. Jesus’ method was simple and clear; He made disciples who made disciples who made disciples. He taught by example and Word; He demonstrated what He taught and commanded them to do the same. He transformed ordinary men into extraordinary leaders. He still does.
Jesus’ principles are set forth clearly in Matthew chapters 5-7 and throughout the New Testament. He was not self-serving; He served the Father and those given to Him by the Father (see Matthew 23:11; Philippians 2:1-11). Jesus’ vision and mission included the entire world. Through His disciples, He continues to go there.
While we can never measure up to Jesus, we can learn from Him. He is our Savior and Lord, but also our model. We are free because of Jesus and we can set others free by the same power of the Holy Spirit Who led and enabled Jesus. Jesus understood His calling, His mission, and His means to accomplish it. We must learn again who Jesus was, is, and shall ever be; and, how He accomplished His amazing task. If we do, we can produce disciples who stand the test of time as His disciples did. Like Jesus, His disciples were not focused on themselves and they led at great cost. The transition is costly as we move from personal comfort to mission accomplishment.
If Christ is in us, then His mission is also. The same Holy Spirit that empowered and led Jesus is in us to do the same. He made the mission clear; if we are confused, it is not His fault (see Luke 19:10; Matthew 28:18-20). The mission is to seek and save the lost and make disciples who would be taught all that He commanded. His mission is beyond Himself, beyond the disciples, and beyond Israel. He promised that as we obeyed His command, He would be with us always. His mission takes us beyond ourselves, beyond where we currently are, beyond our culture, and beyond mere academic acceptance of the Gospel. His disciples understood that and so must we understand it (see Philippians 3:7-16).
The problem we now face is similar to the problem many Jews faced in Jesus’ days; the Jews made “proselytes” but missed their world mission. Converts were added, but the mission was not implemented (see Matthew 23:15). They added but did not multiply; Jesus multiplied.
It is commendable that many followers of Jesus are on mission, but still many more are not. Their concept of Christianity is limited to belonging to a local church and letting the staff or specific teams do the mission. The mission has yet to become personal for them. All true followers of Jesus will be on a mission. In order to accomplish this transition, from where so many are to where the Lord is calling us, will require leadership (see Luke 6:46).
Real leaders do not merely advocate, they demonstrate. The process is like this: they tell, they show, they work alongside with, they send, then hold accountable (see Luke 10:1-9; 17-24). While preaching and teaching are certainly biblical, leadership requires much more. It is personal demonstration, relational involvement, and holding accountable. We often measure leadership by those added rather than those multiplied. The Lord is calling us to multiply.
We currently face opposition from other groups who are multiplying. A casual observance of how radicals are multiplying should awaken us to understand our own mission and the consequence of failure, for our children, and those who will come after them. I am moved to be a better leader, not only advocating truth and demonstrating it, but to multiply the effect of truth in the lives of others. We owe that to our Lord, our heritage and our future.
GROWING OUR LEADERSHIP
In choosing disciples, Jesus did not look for those who were already accomplished. Rather, He chose ordinary men and made them extraordinary, proving the power of His principles, His demonstration, and His presence. The names of His disciples are forever inscribed on the foundation stones in heaven, thus testifying to His means of growing leaders. They are trophies of His obedience.
Jesus came to find us, save us, and grow us in maturity and mission. He did so with the original disciples and will do the same for us if we are committed to Him and His will. He wants to conform us to His image and give to us His gifts (see Romans 8:5-9; I Corinthians 12:11). He wants to equip us through the leaders that He has given (see Ephesians 4:1-16). Equipping is not for personal aggrandizement but to accomplish His mission. To do that, we need to be united, not merely for unity’s sake, but for the mission.
When we focus on ourselves or each other, we are distracted, and distraction leads to defeat. Distraction and division demonstrate a number of issues: We have not died to ourselves, we are not confident that Jesus can lead His Kingdom and the Church, we do not understand the principles or the mission. That was true of the disciples prior to the Cross; the Cross changed them and their focus, and the Cross will change us. The vital truth is this: we need each other to be on board with the mission as we face a deadly and brutal enemy.
So, how can we grow?
• Learn from someone who is battle tested.
• Study the Word of God, especially the lives of Jesus and the apostles.
• Desire to be equipped (see Ephesians 6; Romans 12; I Corinthians 12).
• Recruit followers of Jesus, not just members of the Church.
• Make close friends with whom you can pray honestly and discuss the Holy Word.
• Get out of your comfort zone and into the mission.
• Remember failure needs not be final; it should be a learning experience. (The U.S. Navy Seals have become what they are by learning from mistakes—we can too.)
If you would appreciate some homework, make a list of Jesus’ principles as you find them in the Gospel. Make a list of your ministry mistakes and own them without blaming others (it is called “repentance”). Such an exercise will lead us to humility and a more effective leadership. We can get better at following Jesus and leading others to Him.
The Lord has been gracious—very gracious to me, not because of who I am, but Who He is. He has protected and always provided. There is no fault in Him! But as I review my life and service, I wish that I could have done better at leading. Reading Extreme Ownership convicted me of a variety of deficits in my leadership. I am humbled that some have seen me as a leader and humbled by their trust. My desire is be a better leader in the years left for me and here’s how:
• Be fully on board with the mission as Jesus commanded it; own it!
• Avoid blaming others for my failures.
• Learn from errors in judgment and practice.
• Continue to study and get insights into Jesus’ life, methods, and ministry.
• Pray more with close friends, humble myself, and seek His face.
• Try to demonstrate more and advocate a little less.
• Allow Jesus and His Kingdom to reign in me; embrace whatever and whoever He embraces without getting in His way.
THE PRICE OF FREEDOM
As we celebrate our freedom this month, both spiritual and political, let us not forget those who purchased it for us. I pray that we will not only honor them, but emulate them in truth, courage, and sacrifice. We are here because of them.
In these days, we also ask for your continued prayers and financial support. Thus far, 2016 has been a year of great shaking; we believe more will come. But we rejoice in the Unshakable Kingdom, and that is what we proclaim, in word and deed. Will you prayerfully stand with us in your giving this month?
Our CSMPUBLISHING.ORG website continues to grow in content. Not only can you find back issues of One-to-One and New Wine Magazine online, Pastoral Letters, ministry news and schedules, and audio Bible teaching, but also new blogs and resources! I hope you’ll visit us often. In addition, you can see the card enclosed with this lett er for further Bible teaching that we pray will be a blessing to you.
If the future is going to be blessed, more leadership will be required. We must be willing to risk, if we are going to save. We must seek if we are going to find. I pray that you will be a leader that is on a mission with Jesus! We can all lead if we follow Jesus.
Scripture References: Matthew 5-7; Matthew 23:11; Philippians 2:1-11; Luke 19:10; Matthew 28:18-20; Philippians 3:7-16; Matthew 23:15; Luke 6:46; Luke 10:1-9, 17-24; Romans 8:5-9; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 4:1-16; Ephesians 6; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12