This November at HERITAGE we're talking about leadership. In the Great Commission Jesus calls all of us to be leaders. But because we are also called to be FOLLOWERS of Christ, too many Christians fail to see the role that their own leadership plays in building God’s kingdom. To be fully formed disciples, though, we have to realize that Christ calls us to be leaders, too. Christian leadership, then, is about understanding the balance of leading others as we follow Christ.
As we learn how to follow Christ in leadership in November, we'll focus on four key aspects of Christian leadership: purpose, culture, vision and mindset.
So what does Christian leadership look like? On an individual level? On a church-wide level? And how can we become better leaders together? Those are big questions that require deep engagement, and we'll work to answer them as we move through November. But when we talk about leading others to follow Christ, the word that most often pops up is evangelism, the call to go and tell.
Go and tell are the first instructions to Christian leaders in the Great Commission. Usually we think of evangelism as sharing the tenets of our faith directly with others, the goal being to “convert” them to our set of beliefs and way of thinking.
Sharing our faith directly with others can be VERY intimidating, though. Few of us are comfortable walking up to our co-workers or approaching other parents at the baseball field and saying, “Have I ever told you about my faith in Jesus Christ?”While direct evangelism has its place, that's not always the best approach.
Have you ever had someone try to "evangelize” you? Maybe a stranger on the street asking, “Do you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?” In my experience usually the person asking you is daring you to say yes so they can follow up with more challenging questions about eschatology and atonement and redemption theory--so that they can brand you as a heretic if you don't subscribe to their particular (often uninformed) brand of Christian theology.
I’m a pastor and those appeals to salvation are aggressive, intimidating and off putting to me! I can’t imagine how any of my less religious friends might feel. In fact, I don't believe I personally know one person who has been won for Christ that way.
But what if our evangelistic goal wasn’t to “convert” strangers to a set of doctrines? What if our goal was to lead friends into a new way of living?
What if the goal of evangelism wasn’t for us to lead people to eternal salvation? What if we left that to God? What if instead, we were simply meant to use our relationships to introduce friends to a way of life that leads to God? What if our first evangelistic goal was to demonstrate a way of living day in and day out that is consistent with God’s purpose for our lives and theirs?
If that’s true, then we don’t all need to be sidewalk preachers or cubicle evangelists to be "Great Commission" Christian leaders.
What then does Christian leadership look like? Christian leadership is leading in relationship and by example. We lead when our actions match our words, or even better when our actions match Christ's words. Many of the misconceptions the world has about God are just reflections of observed Christian behavior that doesn't align with the message of Christ.
Sometimes I start preparing Sunday messages by asking a simple question: What can I say this week that’s true about God? In a world where much of what the world sees as "Christian" fails to live up to the standard of Christ, Christian leadership is simply finding opportunities to say something true about God.
Christian leadership is demonstrating patience and forgiveness in demanding work environments, not just to be nice, but because Christ is patient and forgiving. It is to be kind and gentle in a world where it sometimes pays to be rough around the edges. It is to love (everyone) even when loving (your enemy) is hard. It is to lead others to think about their role in their families, at their offices, and in their communities differently.
So when you have a chance to influence decision making, influence it toward honesty, integrity and compassion. When you have the chance, lead others to challenge values, even presumably “Christian” values, that too often fall short of the mission of Christ in the world.
Maybe that means helping others to see the value of generosity over fairness or cooperation over competition. Maybe it’s seeking the most peaceful solution to conflict or supporting direct and honest conversation rather than talking behind somebody’s back.
Leading others as you follow Christ is not about convincing others to believe as you believe, at least not at first. It’s about demonstrating obedience to a way of life that leads to health and wholeness and holiness in daily living.
Too often we think that Christianity is about making sacrifices in this world in order to receive rewards in the next. Nothing could be further from the truth!
As we work to be holy, healthy and whole by becoming more like Christ, we demonstrate the value and joy of obedience to God in this life.
We become strong Christian leaders when we align our purpose, culture, vision and mindset with Christ. We demonstrate Christian leadership when we find ways—through words and actions—to say something true about God.
We’ll say a few true things about God this week as we start our leadership emphasis by talking about Christian purpose.
See you Sunday.