But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! -- Galatians 5: 22-23 (NLT)
One of the more recent obsessions in the modern church is with leadership. As churches grew into mega-church sizes it became apparent that all of the functions that needed to be carried out were too many for the paid pastoral staffs. Ministries had to be created and people had to lead them. The resulting structure was one of training leaders to carry out a lot of the day to day work of the church. Annual conferences start springing up in the country and people flocked to them to try and learn how to be a more effective leader. The primary problem with these is that they were not rooted in Christian principles but rather in worldly leadership constructs. Sure there were always some Christian leaders on the list of presenters but the heavy draws were always someone famous for their leadership in the world. The promo video for the largest such conference this year proudly stated that it was in fact NOT a Christian conference. So the question then becomes can we still learn from the world how to become great Christian leaders and I believe the answer is an emphatic NO. The primary reason is we do not have to. God has provided us with His Word for all of our needs, including leadership training:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. -- 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (NLT)
God uses His Word to prepare us for every good work He has for us to do. But we become too distracted far too easily today. We buy into theories of church growth that compromise the Gospel so is it any wonder that we buy into leadership theories that are also filled with human wisdom. Remember, the things of the world are usually completely opposite of how God does things. The world encourages independence while God requires dependency. The world espouses watching out for number one while God requires us to watch out for the neediest in society. The world lavishes praise on great leaders while God is looking for great followers. In fact, here is the prescribed leadership philosophy of God:
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. -- 1Corinthians 11: 1 (NIV)
I could just stop here and be done with presenting leadership but we can go deeper than that into the Word of God to flesh out what are the core principles we need to develop inside of ourselves if we aspire to be better leaders. If you think you are not a leader, you are mistaken. The Great Commission requires all of us to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and LEAD them to the foot of the cross. Maybe you will never run a fortune 500 company but when you get to heaven and see the people there because of your leadership -- you will weep with joy!
So what then do we need to work on to become better leaders? Do we need to develop better vision? Do we need to learn to influence people better? Do we need to figure out how to get people to own our goals? No. Those are all worldly strains of thought. Well then who was the best leader ever? It wasn't Steve Jobs or Walt Disney. It isn't Colin Powell or Condi Rice. It wasn't Charlemagne or even Joshua. It was a carpenter from Nazareth who in just a three year ministry, with 12 misfit followers, turned the entire world upside down. Now that we have properly identified Jesus Christ as the best leader in the history of man; how do we become more like Him? How do we become more Christlike? It is through that process that we too will become better leaders. The answers to these questions lie in the fruit of the spirit found in the key verses today. When we look at leaders, this should be the measuring rod. When we aspire ourselves to become better leaders, these are the areas we need to concentrate on.
There are nine fruits listed in the key verses. For the purposes of this devotional and examining leadership I will divide them into three groups. Three of these fruits help us relate to ourselves and three others relate to how we deal with people. The final three deal with how we relate to God and ties them all together. Let us first deal with how we relate to others. The first fruit I want us to look at is gentleness. This is defined as not being rough, severe or violent. I started with gentleness to show the great chasm that exists between worldly thinking and Godly thinking. The world would probably not even list gentleness as a leadership trait -- in fact I would bet they would consider it a weakness. The world embraces toughness not meekness but the Bible says the meek inherit the earth! Why is this important for leaders?
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. -- Proverbs 15: 1 (NLT)
As a boss in the world, I can tell you that nothing destroys communication better than anger. When two sides are angrily arguing -- no one is listening. All we are doing is thinking what we want to say next. A gentle leader however avoids these pitfalls. This doesn't mean that you cannot be forceful when you need to be but even that can be done with gentleness. It is the world that insists that hard words have to be delivered harshly. I have never seen more ineffective leaders than those who simply do not know how to speak to people.
The second fruit that deals with others is kindness. Yet another trait the world would probably not list in relation to leadership. But as a leader I can attest to the fact that people who enjoy being around each other are far more productive than those picking up a check. More importantly, this speaks to whether or not we care about the people we seek to lead. Now I understand that the word could care less. Two years ago I remember a company I worked closely with laid off a third of their staff two days before Christmas. Ho-ho-ho. Even if it was a choice that had to be made, no one can convince me that it couldn't wait a week. But when ledger sheets and profit margins become more important than people, we have lost all sense of kindness and it can happen in the church too. We see churches grow to mega-church status and the first thing that is lost is kindness. The first thing lost is that sense of personal attentiveness. People beg for prayer and we tell them to make an appointment with the office. If we are not careful we can become more entrenched with the business of church and forget that people are the only reason we even have a church. This principle is Biblical:
Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you. -- Proverbs 11: 17 (NLT)
Have you ever worked for a cruel boss? Just a mean, mean person. Did that person inspire you or frighten you? Once again, you can get even the hardest of points across with the kindness of the Holy Spirit.
The final fruit from this group is possibly the hardest one to develop -- patience. I think of Jesus and Peter. How many times could the Lord have given up on Peter? But there was the Pentecost sermon in his future even if he was not aware of it. Likewise, we do not know what the future holds for some people. The Bible says the Word of God is a lamp unto my feet because faith needs to only see the next step God has for me. A great many worldly leaders might be tempted to throw people away at the first sign of failure but God doesn't throw anyone away! God doesn't want any to perish beloved. I thank God the woman who first witnessed to me didn't give up on me! It took many attempts with patience, kindness, and gentleness for her to break through my worldly pride. She would probably tell you that she is no leader but she led me to the foot of the cross where God saved me.
The next group of three deals with how we relate to ourselves. This time I will start with what might be the most difficult to master -- self-control. A leader must set an example. A leader sets the pace. Self discipline however is often very difficult because while the spirit is willing the flesh is weak. King David was leader over all of Israel. He was a man after the very heart of God. One night however he saw a woman bathing and he lost all self-control. His covetousness led to lust, which led to adultery and eventually murder. That is how quickly we can fall beloved and when we fall as leaders we hurt more than just ourselves. Ted Haggard was the head of the National Association of Evangelicals. He led a church with a congregation over 10,000 strong. He would constantly rail against homosexuality from the pulpit all the while secretly seeing a male prostitute for decades. But what we do in private the Bible says God will make public. No sin is secret -- God sees everything. I think about the people who followed him in his congregation. How many fell away from the faith over the scandal? How many never came back to church. How many people in the world saw the hypocrisy and turned away from considering God because of it. The Bible says to whom much is given, much is required. We are no longer our own beloved. We belong to the kingdom of God and our citizenship is in heaven. As such, we have a higher standard to live up to and if we are truly in a leadership position within the body of Christ then and even higher standard is imposed upon us. God does not expect perfection but He doesn't expect laziness and sloppiness either. The Bible says we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling yet we constantly become too lax in our walk. Far too many Christian leaders operate devoid of any fear of God. Self control requires attentiveness in the battlefield that is our mind:
We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. -- 2Corinthians 10: 5 (NLT)
Our flesh will tell us we need it. The world will say we deserve it. The devil will whisper that it isn't that big a deal. These thoughts are opposed to Christ and need to be taken into captivity and made obedient or dismissed. That is how we improve our self-control. The second fruit in this group is joy. Who wants to follow a miserable leader? Who aspires to be just like a miserable leader? The challenge here however is in differentiating between happiness, which is fleeting, and joy which is permanent. Even the Declaration of Independence says we are only guaranteed the opportunity to pursue happiness. Life and liberty? No problem. Happiness? We only have the right to pursue it. Well, what is happiness? For many it is money and fame. For snoopy it is a warm blanket. Everyone might have a different idea but they are all based on something external to ourselves and as such -- our happiness will always be fleeting. Did Whitney Houston seem very happy before she died? How about Heath Ledger? These were people who had made it big, had money and were quite famous. Yet they were both struggling with personal demons and their happiness remained elusive until they died. Joy however is not based on anything external. It is based on what is internal in our lives, namely the Holy Spirit of God living within us. This world is fading away beloved, so don't put the hopes of your happiness on anything it might offer you. What makes Paul and Silas sing hymns to God after being beaten to within an inch of their lives and imprisoned? Joy! Our joy is rooted not in who we are and not with anything in this world. It is rooted in who Jesus is and what He has already done for us. If He does nothing else for me, my joy remains unchanged because I deserved death but now I am guaranteed life! When people see someone who remains unaffected by the things that drag others down -- they will want to follow that! When people see a steady calm hand under pressure and a joy that cannot be shaken -- they will follow you.
Closely related to this is the final fruit for this group -- peace. Have you ever had to work under someone who seemingly had no peace? Everything is done in crisis mode? Policies and procedures seem to change on a capricious whim? The slightest thing that deviates from the norm is a cause for panic? No one wants to follow a nervous nellie. The peace God offers us transcends all human understanding. It is not rooted in anything from this world because the world is largely unpredictable. It changes all the time where God never changes. Half the country shuddered a few weeks ago because the man they thought should be president was not elected. Christians however have no need to doubt. God was not taken by surprise. God still is on the throne. The Nebuchadnezzar's of time are mere footnotes in history compared to God who transcends all time. A leader with the peace of God is not troubled by events in this world. It is not that we are indifferent to them but we do not let them trouble our heart, change who we are or what we believe in, or allow them to dictate to us.
"Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. -- John 14: 1 (NLT)
It is a leader's trust in God that allows them to weather the storms of life even handedly. It is what people want to see in those they follow. Peace, joy and self-control -- all desperately required for successful leadership. A leader who only leads in relation to others and ignores their own life and walk is doomed to fall. Gentleness, kindness, and patience - all desperately required for successful leadership. A leader who leads without caring about who they are leading will soon find themselves standing alone, no matter how righteous their walk might be. As important as these six areas are to successful leadership they all will fail without a proper grasp on how we are supposed to relate to God.
Goodness speaks to us having God's motivation. God is a good God. The Psalms say how great the goodness of God is. Likewise when we seek to lead we must be motivated by the goodness of God. In the world, leadership is often devoid of fundamental goodness. Even leadership that is fundamentally bad is often praised if the leadership itself was somehow implemented effectively. Jim Jones was a successful leader by the world's standards. He had many follow him even to the point of death. Yet there was nothing good in him and he led his people to take their own lives. Without the goodness of God we are leading without any eternal purpose. You might see temporal or worldly success but in the end it will be meaningless. Alexander the Great wept when he saw the breadth of his domain because he realized there were no more worlds left to conquer. Yet he was dead before he reached 34 years of age. For that brief moment in time he may have been an exceptional worldly leader but he had no eternal value. We seek to be great eternal leaders. That when our moment in the sands of these times runs out we will ascend to the third heavens and discover who is there because of our leading. That is the true test of leadership and it is founded in the goodness of God who wants all to come to repentance.
Secondly, we need to be motivated by love. By the love God has lavished upon us. Too often people are saved and they spend the remainder of their Christian existence sitting in a pew. Sitting on the love God has bestowed upon them. When the Bible speaks about this it is referred to as lighting a lamp and then hiding it under a bowl. Jesus Himself said that people would know us by our love for one another. What do they see? There is too much sniping and backbiting within the church. We are supposed to love others as well. For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to die for us! Our Christianity should not be the best kept secret. It should be the driving force behind who we are. Christianity is not about trying to fit Christ into our lives; it should be about making our lives about Christ.
"You have heard the law that says, "Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! -- Matthew 5: 43-44 (NLT)
Not eliminate your enemies. Not tolerate your enemies. LOVE your enemies. We can fall so short of this standard as Christians and as leaders. The worldly version of leadership teaches to best your enemies, usually at all costs. That is not Christian leadership. We are to be guided by the same love God showed us. People will see that and gravitate towards it. They will want to follow a leader like that. Lastly, we are to be faithful as leaders. We are not to compromise with the things of this world. We are not to compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember, the goal is not to get as many people following us as possible but to get as many people following God as possible. Too often in the implementation of church growth theories we think we have something to do with the increase when it is all supposed to be left up to God. The world may mock us as being rigid or even abuse us by calling us bigoted. We still must stay faithful to our calling, faithful to our God, and faithful that He will make the ways straight before us. I think our faithfulness as leaders will attract people. Many will want to follow the person who didn't change what they claimed to believe for expediency, fame, or even money. For the leader who allows their faith to lead them above what most people yearn for in this world.
The church's obsession with leadership has led them astray. It has led them to carnal thinking and worldly principles. That might lead to some temporal successes too. We live for more than that beloved. We live for the eternal glory. We do not need to look outside of the Bible for anything, let alone leadership principles. Developing the fruit of the spirit in our lives will result in growing more Christlike and Christ was the best leader this world has ever seen. Let us aspire to that. Follow me as I follow Christ; the essence of true leadership.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- November 15, 2012