When is a revival needed? When carelessness and unconcern keep the people asleep.
Author: Billy Sunday
Revival is the visitation of God which brings to life Christians who have been sleeping and restores a deep sense of God’s near presence and holiness. Thence springs a vivid sense of sin and a profound exercise of heart in repentance, praise, and love, with an evangelistic outflow.
Author: J.I. Packer
When the light shines, it exposes even the dark and shadowy things and turns them into pure reflections of light. This is why they sing, Awake, you sleeper! Rise from your grave, And the Anointed One will shine on you. (Ephesians 5:13, 14 The Voice)
I remember and wait for this thought:
How enduring is God’s loyal love;
the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion.
Here they are, every morning, new!
Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day.
Have courage, for the Eternal is all that I will need.
My soul boasts, “Hope in God; just wait.”
(Lamentations 3:22-24 The Voice)
“You know what, Nana? Leaders need helpers. A leader needs helpers cuz if they don’t have helpers they don’t have anyone to lead.”
I was playing dolls with my four-year old granddaughter when she said this out of the blue. I don’t know where it came from; perhaps she was processing what it meant to have a turn being “the helper” at preschool, but knowing the Lord’s love of revealing wisdom to children he may have just been joining us on the living room floor.
I have myself been processing what leadership and helpership mean in the context of learning to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21).
Am I the only one who has images of whips and ridiculous leather costumes or Inquisitor’s tools pop unbidden into my less than pure mind when I hear the word “submission?”
Am I the only one who is embarrassed by what non-Christians must see when they look at competitiveness and ambition between “ministries” seeking more bums in seats?
Am I the only one who tires of authoritarian-style leadership where the gulf between platform people and audience people grows wider?
Am I the only one who groans at the disrespect and harsh criticism of people in the public eye lobbed by self-labeled experts who have no actual relationship with those they seem to need to fix?
Am I the only one who cringes when I hear another stern message that lords anatomy over character and calls for people making up half the population of the world to sit down and shut up without mentioning their own obligation to submit to one another and to love sacrificially like Jesus?
Am I the only one to sigh with disappointment when members of that population lob scathing incendiaries right back?
Am I the only one who tires of arguments about who merits the role of leader -or leader of leaders- in a hierarchical system that places official credentials above the ability to love -or on the other hand, the ability to demonstrate well-intended kindness above both knowledge of the scriptures and the character of God in an intimate relationship with the Holy?
Who is a leader in the big C Church?
Perhaps a leader is someone who helps his or her helpers.
No doubt there is a need for leadership. In the days of Judges when everyone “did what was right in their own eyes” not many people “did right” by others and me-first divisions resulted in all sorts of nastiness. Paul wrote that not many should strive to become teachers realizing that a higher degree of accountability would be applied to teachers, but implied that some definitely should become teachers like Priscilla and Aquila whom he honoured. He also gave lists of qualities to look for in leaders and the kind of gifts needed in leadership (none of which were of any use without the essential qualification of the ability to love). The Bible states clearly that consideration, honour and respect (including, in some cases, financial respect) ought to be given to leaders.
I heard a recognized leader (one who promotes others above himself) say that all sorts of people from unexpected (usually anti-Christian) backgrounds were showing up at their gatherings. His response? “Everyone is welcome! Not everyone gets to preach.”
A man I admire asked me to proof-read his resumé when he applied for a position as lead pastor of a church. I was impressed that he said, essentially, “These are my gifts, and these are not.”
“When it comes to [one area in particular],” he wrote light-heartedly, “I believe in the priesthood of believers and raising up others ready to use their gifts.” He went on to say, “I do not own the pulpit and if someone in the congregation is demonstrating a gift for building up others through public speaking, I will encourage them to do so.” Then he added, “I believe in the priesthood of all believers, but not in the leadership of all believers -until they are equipped.”
Who determines when leaders are ready? A board of examiners from the school for hoop-jumpers? Well for some this might be the process God chose for them to learn to give up their own desires and to go the second mile. For others such methods become a way to disqualify those not intellectually-oriented enough to attend seminary, but who still have a lot of wisdom to share. While recognizing and respecting a dire need for teachers with the calling to study and to teach accurately, I seriously wonder if the Lord meant leadership to be confined to those with the ability to be sermonizers.
I don’t know who said this (care to help me here?) but I love this quote: A man who leads when no one follows is going for a walk.
I wonder if a true leader is chosen by those who, by a willingness to help him or her, demonstrate the willingness to follow. I wonder if a willingness to both lead and follow is the result of the willingness to be helped. I wonder if recognizing a leader is recognizing in someone the ability to raise others up to become leaders themselves by helping to develop whatever gifts God has placed in them.
My little granddaughter taught me to play a new game I was not familiar with. I helped her set up the board and the cards when she showed me where they went. She had no problem respectfully correcting me when I did something wrong. I had no problem submitting to her leadership. She was the expert here. When we were finished the game, she submitted to my expertise and helped set the table to get ready for a meal featuring her favourite entré , macaroni and cheese. Helpers helping helpers. Leaders submitting to each other.
A little child shall lead them.
Thank you, Abba, that You reveal yourself in whomever You choose. No wonder Jesus did a happy dance when He saw You do this.
At that moment Jesus himself was inspired with joy, and exclaimed, “O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, I thank you for hiding these things from the clever and the intelligent and for showing them to mere children! Yes, I thank you, Father, that this was your will.” (Luke 10:21 Phillips)
Foibles. Even the great have them.
Sometimes the great have more than foibles; they have character flaws that in any other circumstance, but the one that thrust them into the role of hero, could have them hung from the gallows. When we are desperate enough to need a hero we are willing to waive that factor.
We tend to deify heroes when we are depending on them and vilify them when we are done. Rarely do we offer them the privilege of being neither gods nor devils, but instead recognize them as fellow-pilgrims who struggle with temptations (some greater than any of us will ever know). I’ve been thinking about fallen leaders and grace. I’ve no one in particular in mind; there have been so many.
No doubt a higher level of responsibility requires greater purity of thought and character. When a leader falls he drags a lot of people down with him. Collateral damage can be significant. But sometimes the pedestal is not of his own making. I read this interesting verse about John the Baptist today:
A man named John, who was sent by God, was the first to clearly articulate the source of this Light. This baptizer put in plain words the elusive mystery of the Divine Light so all might believe through him. Some wondered whether he might be the Light, but John was not the Light. He merely pointed to the Light. The true Light, who shines upon the heart of everyone, was coming into the cosmos. (John 1:6-9 The Voice)
It seems that some who felt drawn to his message were tempted to think he was The Light. Jesus said that up until that point there was no one born of woman who was greater than John, but even John succumbed to one of the greatest sins for a man in his position -doubting God’s word. In Matthew 3 we are told he saw the dove descend from heaven, he heard the Voice declare, “This is My beloved son.” Nothing subtle requiring interpretation there. Yet later, in a moment of weakness, when he is in prison, (Matthew 11) he sends his own groupies to ask Jesus if he is actually the Light or should they look for someone else. (Like Elijah he seemed to be seriously intimidated by the King’s wife.) I wonder how confused this must have left John’s followers?
I don’t remember this part of his character being taught in Sunday School. Most of the time we were told to be like John the Baptist (who also doubted), be like Esther (who also used sex to collaborate with the enemy), be like Gideon (who also created a false item of worship), be like Hezekiah (who also didn’t care about his sons’ well-being), be like David (who also conspired to murder to cover up adultery)… The teacher ignored the parts about their failures as one-sided flannel board avatars were placed up on the easel.
We still do it. We take a leader with remarkable gifts of encouragement, or teaching, or healing or prophesying and stick them way up in the air on a pedestal with barely enough room for feet of clay. Then we hang our hopes on them. No doubt many servants of God are tempted to use this position for self-aggrandizement -especially those with unhealed wounds of rejection- and by so doing hasten their own fall. Some folks, who consider it their calling in life to point out weaknesses, and to make sure no one is disappointed like they once were, drag people in public life down themselves and hit them with their own shoes, as if proof of failure in one area invalidated everything they ever did or said.
Confronted with the evidence of John’s weakness, Jesus chose to publicly honour him, to point out that others in the crowd were also guilty of unbelief and to replace John’s words of doubt and fear with words of truth.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)
I wonder if the only way a leader can survive on a tiny platform in the air, not of his or her own making, is to know who they are and who they are not and just keep pointing to Jesus Christ. I wonder if, in some instances, a public fall may actually be a manifestation of grace to shift people’s adoration away from the hero and toward the Saviour Himself. I wonder if the best way to support leaders is to earnestly pray they will be kept from the evil one and not be led into temptation. We need to stop turning them into false idols, take our eyes off them and look instead toward the Light.
It was when I was happiest that I longed most.
The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing
to find the place where all the beauty came from.