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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

HonorI don’t pretend to understand the honor codes of Old Testament times. The stories that surround the lives of Saul and David are most complicated of all. Saul wants to kill David and chases him all of the country and despite opportunity, David refuses to kill “God’s anointed.” And even later, after Saul’s death, an Amalekite takes responsibility for a mercy killing of Saul but dies for it:

David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?”Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.'” [2 Samuel 1:14-16, NIV]

The first four chapters of 2nd Samuel are filled with revenge and death and killings in the name of honor. It is outside the norms of our culture in general, although certain societies and gangs still practice the eye for an eye practice. But, in no way do I see the anointing of God prevent or protect a leader. We have cast aside any idea that a leader, whether in that position by force or vote, could be a designee of God.

There are some basic honor codes that humans seem to try to abide by: the fair treatment of prisoners of war, the military “code of conduct,” dealings with the Red Cross and other first responders, and perhaps some locally created codes within companies or organizations, often watered down into “value statements.”

In the end, people codify behaviors based on what often appears to be a moving target: what is right, what is good, what is fair? Eventually, these determinations may become laws but often, they are simply, agreed upon or understood. Unless a person is a sociopath or in some other way, without conscience. For it is, in the end, the inner voice that agrees and supports the code. Or not.

anointedAnd yet, in David’s time, this code could be trumped by God or in the name of God’s anointed.

The one thing that came out of this reading and meandering thoughts was that our modern society puts little respect into the roles of our leaders. Perhaps it’s the democratic process that seems to somehow cheapen their position. After all, the voters could have been deluded or simply wrong and therefore, we do not need to honor this man or woman. And besides, we can count the days, eventually, they’ll be voted out (or in again) soon.

I’m just wondering if things would go differently if we all rallied behind our leaders. If we simply accepted that this person, in this now, as God’s anointed, would things go better? Oh, pie in the sky, I know. But so much energy is spent derailing leaders, from presidents to local mayors, it’s a wonder anything gets done at all.

 

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lead by exampleIs this cultural or simply part of human DNA? We seem to continually repeat our mistakes over and over again. And unfortunately, I see this both on a national and international level as well as in my own micro-world.

When that whole generation had passed away, another generation came after them who didn’t know the Lord or the things that he had done for Israel. . . . [And] then when the leader died, they would once again act in ways that weren’t as good as their ancestors’, going after other gods, to serve them and to worship them. They wouldn’t drop their bad practices or hardheaded ways. [Judges 2:10, 19, CEB]

The learnings from one generation to another are not happening. Parents are not telling or did not tell their children about the work of God in their lives in an authentic way; instead, they pass this job to Sunday Schools and Vacation Bible Weeks. In my mind, not only do we fail to tell the Bible stories, we a) water them down to make them PG and b) we don’t personalize them. Every story has a message for humanity. Every story has a message for me and my family. The Bible is not Disney World.

Miracles require effort and devotion, faith and trust. They require accessibility and openness.

I know some people have disagreed with me about telling our children about my past, particularly the darker side, but I have always felt  it was important for them to know that I am a different person today because of my faith, and that essentially, my lifestyle before Christ would have led very quickly to illness and death.

But I also think about our church and how we depend so heavily on our charismatic pastor and we are not raising up leaders to serve with him so that we don’t follow the footsteps of the Israelites who only succeeded while a particular leader was in place. It is everyone’s responsibility to tell the story, to walk the walk, to lead and train and grow. As the pastor tells his story, we must also tell our own.

authenticityOne of the ways to do this is mentoring (or discipleship). I have generally avoided this practice because it sounds so daunting, to take on a tenderfoot on the journey, to help someone else grow, to embrace him/her as family. I’m already struggling with my own adult children after all, how can I take on another, and what if I fail? But here’s the truth: all I have to do is “bring them along” when I go and do. I can’t pretend to be more than I am (nor should I assume I am less). New believers learn by being around old believers. New leaders step up when they watch old leaders in every day life, every day challenges, every day decisions, every day blunders.

Jesus didn’t turn on the leadership persona or the faith role just when the disciples were around. He lived and breathed what he knew. He healed because he could. He told stories because they meant something to him. He expressed mercy and grace because that was part of his genetic code.

We do not have to be infallible to demonstrate love and grace. In fact, authenticity goes farther. Mistakes confessed give hope to those who believe they are not worthy or that they are “too late” to change or that they can’t change. Our frailty revealed is courage demonstrated.

Generations ahead are depending on us now.

 

 

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What is it about the laying on of hands that is so potent that Paul must give warning about it? Some translations imply it’s the implied authority that the laying on hands imparts, but I think there might be more to it than that: it might have to do with power.

I Timothy 5:22
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

When the elders or leaders lay hands on Timothy, he was empowered or anointed or sent forth to do the work to which he was called. The people who touched him agreed with this call and witnessed it. They shared some part of themselves through that touch. And with it all, came the “gift” that was his and needed for the work ahead.

On occasion, we still see the laying on the hands in our contemporary churches. Sometimes, it is done to send out someone on a missionary journey or a new project. But more often, it is done in the name of healing. And isn’t it because we want that act to evoke a change? We desire for our health, let’s say, to give strength to the one who is sick. Or, maybe, we can be a conduit for a greater power, that of God Himself through the Holy Spirit within us.

But why doesn’t it seem to work?

Perhaps we lay hands too quickly. Perhaps we have missed the true transaction. Perhaps we should step back and consider why we are reaching out.

The laying on of hands should be intentional. I intend to make my next act more meaningful. I will ask for the explicit participation of the Holy Spirit beforehand. I will prepare my heart and clear my mind and purposefully extend the promise of the Christ.

Who am I to do this? No one, but a follower of the Christ who walks ahead of me and shows the way.

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I should write a book: “My Favorite Bible Metaphors.” There are a zillion ways that Jesus used to communicate with the people about faith and the Kingdom of God from seeds to light to fish to sheep to salt to cooking. These word pictures were then passed down through stories. They still work today.

Galatians 5:7, 9
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? . . . “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

One of my good friends bakes bread several times a week to provide this staple for her family. Her father baked it for their family when she was growing up and it’s a tradition she has continued. Whenever I think of yeast-rising bread, I think of her.

I did my own stint at bread making some years ago. At first, the hand method (which is preferable) and eventually to a bread machine. The smell would envelop our house. I actually gave up the practice because my husband and I were devouring a loaf a day and our waists followed suit. But it might be time, with teens in the house, to return to this simple practice of adding yeast, working dough, watching it rise, and then shaping into a tasty loaf. There’s something a little “zen” about it.

Bread of all kinds is staple for all cultures. Everyone understands the yeast/dough image. It only takes a small amount of yeast to transform bread from flour, salt and water. Yeast affects all the dough. It too transforms itself to have the effect.

As a metaphor, it is a simple message. In Galatians, Paul refers to the “yeast” of a misleading but charismatic preacher who was drawing the original Christ believers back toward Jewish law, particularly circumcision.

It only takes one person to change a group. It only takes one to deadlock a jury. It only takes one to break consensus. It only takes one to undermine a team. It only takes one to start a war. But it also works the other way, it can be the one who motivates a group to higher challenges, or one to bring a family back together, or one to inspire a nation, or one to raise the flag of peace, or one to be the watchman crying out a warning.

Many years ago, I was on a women’s retreat and we were all assigned to a certain discussion group that would meet and discuss the teaching sessions. (For those in the know, this format is used in a variety of parachurch organizations like Cursillo, Walk to Emmaus, Tres Dias, and so forth.) The first day I was sure I was assigned to the wrong group. Each woman came with so much baggage, even the assigned facilitators were a mess. The first couple of discussion sessions were painfully dull or fraught with misunderstandings and confusion. I cried. Can’t anyone see I’m miserable? Can’t I change to that happy group over there? Can’t I be with the fun group on the far side of the room, or the clever group behind us? Finally, God “smacked me up side the head!” And I literally heard a voice from within say, “It’s you! You! You are not being the yeast or the salt.” I had come to that retreat experience with some expectations, not realizing that I wasn’t entering the story. I was sitting back and waiting for story to come to me. When I finally engaged fully and lovingly, everything changed. By the end of that weekend, our group became the most impacted, the most cohesive, warm, and authentic. There was much healing.

Lord, give me courage to be yeast in the right circumstances. And when it’s yeast coming against me, help me jump out of the bowl. 🙂

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The Hogwarts Sorting Hat was used to determine which “house” a new student would have allegiance to during his/her years in school. I have seen Christians do much the same thing by taking tests and classes and workshops to “determine” their “gifts.” Not Hogwarts but hogwash!

I Corinthians 12:29-31a
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

I can call this search process hogwash because I’ve done it. I’ve done it more times than I’d like to confess. And like the MBTI, the results come out pretty much the same every time. Why do I keep putting on this sorting hat? Obviously, I’m hoping there is a paper test that will anoint me as an apostle or faith healer (those have drama) instead of an administrator! For heaven’s sake, all that energy on the giftings and I’ve been missing the whole point: “. . . earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces . . .” [vs 31a, Amplified].

Roles in a church or in any organization appear as the need arises. The question is not how each person is anointed for all time, but are we willing to step up when we are needed? Are some people better at some things than others? Of course. But, I don’t believe we are limited to that one role, ever! The problem I’ve seen is that we limit ourselves to what we “think” that role will look like. God is creative.

Right now, too many in the church are operating purely out of tradition and habit. Church is a building. Church has a “pastor” who speaks from 15-40 minutes from the front of the church. There are songs that are sung – the number or time is set. It goes on and on.

What is the best gift and what are the greater graces that we are called to cultivate? Is the church of today partnering with us in this journey. Or, are we all sitting under the sorting hat first? Are we sorted into roles and denominations? Are we sorted into leaders and followers? Are we sorted into pre-millennial and post-millennial? Are we sorted by country and color? Are we sorted by political party? And worse still. . . are we acting like the sorting hat itself? Are we sorting others?

I’m taking off my sorting hat today. I will not sort people around me. Nor will I be sorted.

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But what if, what if? Isn’t that the first thing that goes through our minds? What if the authorities are BAD. . . evil . . . self-aggrandizing? What if the leader is arrogant or narcissistic or egotistical? So much can go wrong! When was the last time you trusted, much less respected, a leader?

Romans 13:1
LET EVERY person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God’s appointment.
Proverbs 8:15
By me [God], kings reign and rulers decree justice.
[Amplified]

So, here’s the only thing that helps me get through this section of Romans: the story of Nebuchadnezzar [Daniel 3 and 4]. He ruled for 50 years and did all kinds of great things for Babylon. But he was also cruel and dictatorial and ultimately, quite power hungry. Toward the end of his reign, he went mad for seven years. He thought he was all powerful but God ultimately showed this king how small he was in the eyes of God.

Evil authorities do gain and abuse power and for us, as we live through such times, it seems like forever. But my faith is strong enough to find security in knowing that truth is still more powerful than evil. Sometimes evil is allowed to rise to bring forth the consciousness of a sleepy people.

In the face of evil leaders, it is our job to call forth the judgment and justice of God who can see the greater picture. We must not grow weary; we must not grow discouraged.

For years, throughout the sixties, seventies, and eighties… honestly, for 30 years, my mother talked about the wall coming down in Germany. She went on and on about the fall . . . someday. Oh, my brother and I would just poo-poo her. I mean, communism and its leaders were powerful beyond all measure. They used equal amounts of force, fear, and financial control over the people. It was here to stay.

But, we all know the end to this story. The Berlin wall did fall. Communism lost its grip on many countries and freedoms were returned. It’s not all goodness and light, I know that. Nor do all of these countries have the best leaders now, but there is always hope and change. We must never believe that situations are hopeless. Things can change in a day or an hour.

God is sovereign. And that’s the authority I respect above all.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. [Romans 12:19]

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We have “faculties, talents and qualities” that contribute to our uniqueness. They are gifts. Some of these gifts travel through our family lines, some appear supernaturally, some are discovered after years of disuse, but all are from God and given in grace. Exercising those gifts is a choice.

Romans 12:6-8
Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy . . . practical service . . . teaching . . . encouraging . . . contributing to the needs of others . . . leadership . . . showing mercy . . . .
Amplified and NIV combined

Out of this list, I can manifest some of these attributes by sheer will. I can serve others or encourage, I can even contribute to the needs of others and I am working on showing mercy. These are all good things to have and employ. We would all do well to work on these areas of our lives.

Some people are simply gifted with these attributes and the expression of these gifts is instinctive. And yet, lots of the same folks don’t seem to realize they have the gifts and as a result, the gifts are under-used and the community suffers. Maybe it’s because people don’t even realize how important they are to the body of Christ . . . to the koinonia.

Paul specifically noted these gifts and although I’m sure the list is not necessarily exclusive, clearly these attributes are essential to any team or group (Christian or not, I’d say). There is always a need for visionaries (prophesying) while others handle the practicalities. Some must teach while those who struggle need to be encouraged by those who can see future success in anyone. There are those who understand and multiply resources for the good of all and there are those who can see the big picture and put the puzzle pieces together. And in a thriving group, there will be those whose mercy weaves compassion, gentleness, and forgiveness throughout.

What are your gifts? Do you have one or many? What is the gift of the one beside you? What is mine?

Remember, these gifts are given by grace. Whenever grace is involved, it means there is no “worthiness” involved. The gifts are undeserved and cannot be bought or earned. And yet, all are needed for a fully functioning koinonia.

If you are an encourager, then I exhort you to draw forth the natural gifts of those around you. It may be this role that is most essential to building a truly viable community.

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