QUALITY OF CHRISTIAN LEADERS (Matthew 20:20-28)
by Frank L. Herb, pastor of the Bible Fellowship Church of Coopersburg
(The following is an outline of the message delivered on Friday evening, November 18, 1983, during the Pastors, Elders and Deacons Retreat at Pinebrook Bible Conference)
Effective leadership is in great demand both in industry and in the church. Wanted are aggressive and objective oriented leaders. Unfortunately, sometimes people are little more than means to end.
Many churches are discontented with leaders. "The minister of the local church was not exactly popular. Then one Sunday he announced: ‘The Lord Jesus has told me that he has work for me elsewhere and that I am to move on to another church,’ Whereupon the congregation rose spontaneously and sang,"What a friend we have in Jesus..."
Often we think the enthusiasm of youth will solve our leadership problems. A farmer who was looking for a new farmhand said: "We finally settled on an apparently well-qualified young man, who answered our ad from out of state. The day of arrival he drove his souped-up car to the front gate, quickly surveyed the farm layout, came jauntily up the walk and breezed in. He introduced himself, gave his views on the world situation, suggested a number of farm improvements, and topped it off with a glowing account of his accomplishments to date - all in the span of a few minutes. As the door closed behind our new hired hand, my visiting brother shook his head slowly and remarked, ‘I'11 say one thing; either your troubles are over - or they've just begun!’”
What is it that makes a leader? What is different about him? Someone said "The difference between men is not great - but the difference makes a great difference."
In preparing for this message I cane across many helpful things. John MacArthur said: The 3 most important characteristics of a leader are:
1. A leader must be trustworthy
2. A leader must take initiative
3. A leader must use good judgment.
(a) In consultation with spiritually mature people
(b) energized by the Holy Spirit.
One of the best things I came across was an article by former president Dwight D. Eisenhower - entitled "What Is Leadership?" He said "I have long suspected that men who possess the capacity for leadership are always among us - waiting in the wings - but it sometimes takes a great crisis to bring them to prominence. The turbulent period in which I have lived has produced its share of outstanding leaders, and it has been my good fortune to know a number of them. Because of this the Editors of the Reader's Digest have asked me to comment on the qualities I have observed in these men. What is it - what is the combination of characteristics that makes a Leader?"
Qualities of Christian Leadership
Aside from the personal charisma that certain people have he listed six factors that he was convinced are the essence of leadership:
1. Single-minded and selfless dedication to the task at hand.
2. Courage and conviction.
3. Fortitude of Spirit - the ability to stand firm under reverses.
4. A sense of humility - something he observed in every leader whom he had deeply admired.
5. A willingness to work hard - thorough homework.
6. Power of persuasion.
I would like to follow this order of things but add the spiritual dimension to it. In order to add the spiritual dimension I should go back one step and begin with consecration to the Lord as being the first quality for a Christian leader. Then we will add the spiritual dimension to these other six and suggest some other qualities as well.
I. Consecration to the Commander in Chief
This is the heart of the matter for the Christian. I do not need to multiply texts to support that with you - you know Rom. 12:1-2 and many others that come to mind.
A Christian Leader is a man under authority. One of the key words to describe him is "Servant." Christ is the perfect example - the Servant of Jehovah. Paul - a servant of Jesus Christ a called apostle.
"Looking into the rugged face of the late General Booth one day, Wilbur Chapman asked this question: ‘General Booth, tell me what has been the secret of your success?' As the old man hesitated a few seconds before making his reply, a teardrop came into his eye and stole down his cheek. Then brushing back the hair from a brow furrowed through years of trials, conflicts and victories, said quietly, 'I will tell you the secret, God has had all there was of me to have. There, have been men of greater opportunities; but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart, and a vision of what Jesus Christ could do, I made up my mind that God would have all of William Booth there was.’ "
II. Single-minded and Selfless Dedication to the Task at Hand
What is the work the commander in chief has set before us? Are we giving ourselves with all the energy we have to the accomplishing of that task?
1. Our Lord came to do the will of the Father
Lo I come to do Thy will
I have a baptism to be baptized with and now I am straightened until it be accomplished
He not only provided redemption but painstakingly trained men to carry on the missionary task after He would leave the world.
2. Paul desired to know God and to make Him known
3. Nehemiah wanted to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem
4. Do we know what God wants us to do and are we committed to getting the job done?
B. We tend to go out in all directions at the same time. We get nothing done because we have no goal. We cannot lead others toward a goal because we have no goal or at least no plans as to how to accomplish it if we should have on.
III. Courage and Conviction
We must be convinced that what we are about is truly of God.
1. In a world controlled by secularists we will be looked at as ignorant fools, men making much ado about nothing.
2. Some view us as a kind of cult because even the church at large is out of touch with God's purposes for this world.
3. You will not be able to convince others unless you are convinced yourself.
B. We must have the courage to hang in there when the going gets tough. Remember Daniel facing the den of lions.
IV. Closely related to courage and Conviction is Fortitude of spirit - The Ability to Stand Firm Under Reverses.
A. Nehemiah an example of this kind of fortitude. He faced every kind of attack: mockery, conspiracy, defeatism, intrigue, slander, treachery, subversion, internal strife. He never lost sight of the goal and would not be diverted from it.
B. There is something of the prophetic spirit needed. Conviction and fortitude are needed of the sort which will and to have the strength to hang in there. Someone has said, “Sight is a faculty, seeing is an art."
C. We are too often squeezed into the world’s mold. Our resistance to evil breaks down. The vision is lost.
"To explain why he continues, after 30 years, to battle for his vision of a Navy whose major fighting ships are nuclear powered, Adm. Hyman G. Rickover tells an odd and touching story, a parable about an ancient philosopher who came to a city to save its people from their sins. The inhabitants of the city, who at first listened to the philosopher, gradually turned away. One day a child asked the learned man why he went on- did he not see that his mission was hopeless? As Rickover tells it, the philosopher replied, 'In the beginning I thought I could change men. If I still shout, it is only to prevent men from changing me.' "
D. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, Let us not be a casualty in this war!
V. A Sense of Humility
Conviction: and Humility - They are emphasized by Christ. See Matt.20:20-27, Matt. 18:1-5, John 17:12-17
B. We must not be impressed with ourselves but with our Lord. It is not our personal knowledge and intelligence that we defend but rather His revelation and commission.
"A big, mean lion met a monkey in the jungle. The lion pounced on the poor monkey and asked, 'Who is king of the jungle?' The frightened monkey replied,'You. are O mighty Lion.' So the lion let him go.
The next animal the lion met was a zebra. He pounced on it and roared,'Who is king of the jungle?' The frightened zebra replied, 'You are, O mighty lion.' So the lion let him go.
The lion next met an elephant and asked the same question. The elephant grabbed the lion, twirled him around and threw him 50 feet. The lion picked himself up and huffed, 'Just because you don't know the answer is no reason to get rough."'
C. There will always be someone around the corner greater than us. It behooves us to be humble. Our greatness is in Him.
VI. Willingness to Do Hard Work - Thorough Homework
A. Paul to Timothy - study - give yourself to the work.
B. The best way to make your dreams came true is to wake up.
C. Leadership is for those who are prepared to lead.
Eisenhower said:"I have often heard it said of some individual 'Oh, he'll get by on his personality.' Well, he may 'get by' for a time, but if a charming personality is all he has, the day will come when he will find himself looking for a job."
"Occasionally, I have heard some young man say cynically that advancement is usually the result of 'getting the lucky breaks.' This is a defeatist attitude that I deplore. It would be less than honest to say that good fortune -being there, in the right place, when the lightening strikes - does not play its part. Yet when opportunity comes, even by chance, the man must be prepared, must be able to deliver; otherwise, his triumph will be short lived. A steady rise to a position of preeminence most often comes with hard work, constant effort at self improvement and devotion to principle."
D. Along with hard work to excel at the appointed task, we are also called upon to attend to our own spiritual and intellectual culture. Paul said take heed to thyself and the doctrine.
VII. The Power of Persuasion
A. We must be able to communicate if we would have people share our burden and enter into the task.
The soprano asked the visiting preacher for his sermon subject so she could sing an appropriate solo after the message. When he hesitated, she said, ‘Never mind, I’ll listen attentively and select one.’ She sang Sometime, Somewhere, We’ll Understand.
B. It is not just a matter of conveying truth but conveying truth to people with a view to accomplishing some task, Many who can not swing the crowd are very persuasive one on one.
One could go on to speak of other things such as; vision, faith, example, etc. but let us come back in closing to where we started.
We have these qualities in varied degrees but above all is our surrender to our Lord. This lies at the heart of all these things.
Felix Mendelssohn has always wanted to play the organ in the cathedral at Freiburg. Germany. With the simplicity of great men, he wandered incognito into the cathedral. He asked the caretaker if he might have the privilege of playing the organ. The caretaker refused him protesting that the organ was priceless and could be played only by a master musician. Mendelssohn was patient and persistent. Finally the caretaker said, "very well then, but only one small tune."
Mendelssohn began laying his long slender hands upon the keyboard slowly and mildly feeling out the quality of the notes on the great organ until he was himself overcome with its richness and let himself go in a burst of glorious symphony. The old caretaker stood amazed and lifted up his eyes to the arches resounding with the heavenly music. The pillars and foundations of the cathedral shook with the thunders of the inspired playing.
Tears began to trickle down the cheeks of the caretaker, "Tell me your name,"he said. "Felix Mendelssohn," was the reply. "Forgive me," said the caretaker, "for I refused the greatest musician of Germany the right to play this organ. I never dreamed the organ could be so wonderful until I heard you play it. Sir, you have brought music out of this organ that no one ever dreamed was there before."
So it is with us. There is music within us that can never be realized apart from surrender to the Master. He can bring harmony and usefulness out of our lives if we but yield to Him.