A few weeks ago I wrote a 5 part study on the parable of the Samaritan. Following that in a related post we looked at the idea of what it might mean to love our enemies. In a way this all points toward the idea of loving our neighbor.
Jesus uses the parable of the Samaritan in response to a Jewish lawyer who had asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus answered that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of our heart, strength and mind. The second follows; that is to love our neighbor. The lawyer then asks who is our neighbor. Jesus uses the parable to make the point that every person, yes even our enemy, is our neighbor.
Today I want to look at what we might call Christian leadership. Really at the end of the day that should be our goal as believers if we want to lead. This is not as simple as “lead like Jesus” although obviously we want to look at Jesus who was without a doubt the greatest, most effective leader of all time. And He still is.
So what does it mean to be a Christian leader? How do we do it?
Think about the following short list of people who could be considered great leaders in history. People who were effective by my working definition of effective leadership: “An effective leader is someone who has followers and gets them, through his/her leadership, to accomplish something. The more followers they have and/or the greater the accomplishment; the more effective the leader.” Some of these are more moral than others but we’ll leave out the completely immoral examples. Here’s the list:
Martin Luther King Jr
Pope John Paul II
Joan of Arc
Now I could list a ton more people in every context. Religious, business, countries and causes. This is just a few that came to mind right away that I think most people would say had a huge impact. They had lots of followers and accomplished real change in their context.
Obviously most of us, or more accurately probably none of us, will be on any future list like this. But I think we can learn something here about leadership from these folks. What do they have in common? What made them effective leaders?
I’m blessed to have a lot of different types of friends from different walks of life. Lately I’ve been asking some of them on social media questions about their opinions of leadership. It’s been really good to hear different perspectives on who people see as a great leader, who they think is an effective leader and what they think constitutes good measurements of effective leadership.
As I shared last time, I think we often seem to lump a lot of different things into the idea of leadership and because of that sort of overthink it. It’s not that any of these ideas are bad. I’m just not sure they are leadership in the purest form of the word. Also a lot of times they don’t really add up. We mention things that we think make a great leader but then we mention “great” leaders that frankly don’t exhibit many of those things. This is especially true when we list great world leaders.
The other day I was happened on a video win which Dave Ramsey was talking with Anthony ONeal about a recent dating experience he had. First a quick background in case you are not familiar with Ramsey and his people. The short version is that they help people get out of and stay out of debt. Anthony works with younger folks and is a young single man. One of the keys to getting and staying out of debt is having a budget . . . that you actually follow. I’ve talked before about as a single person having a “dating” line item in your budget. Suffice it to say that if you are single and want to date, then why not have a budget for that.
At any rate, here’s the story. Anthony goes out with a young woman on a date. They have a good time. At the end of the date they both want there to be a second date. The woman suggested that she would really like to go to a particular restaurant in town. Anthony says he will look into it.
One of the problems in our culture when it comes to singleness is that the word single is too broad. It means far too many things. As I’ve stated before here, this is especially a problem in Christian culture because there are varying scriptural instructions for different groups of unmarried people. There are at least the following biblical examples of marital status: The married, the divorced, the widowed, those not yet married, those celibate by birth, those celibate because of the fall of man and those who are called and choose Celibacy for the Kingdom. Needless to say, all of these are different.
But in our culture we have added a group that amazingly I’ve never directly addressed here at the blog. That is those couples that live in cohabitation.
Recently I’ve been thinking some about virtue. That is, what is virtuous and what isn’t. For example, I’ve written about how being “nice” is not a virtue while being good is. All of this may seem like semantics or splitting hairs but it’s more than that. How we view these things impacts how we live our lives. It impacts how we view ourselves and our context, including if our context happens to be singleness. I want to tackle a few more of these thoughts in the context of singleness.
Today I want to talk bout the idea of meekness. Meekness is indeed a virtue. So much so in fact that Jesus says in Matthew 5 that the meek shall inherit the earth. But we are very confused in our culture, even in our Christian culture, about what meekness is.
Many of you may remember the movie Jerry Maguire. In it Jerry is a sports agent and his assistant Dorothy falls in love with him. Jerry at first loves her but isn’t what one might call “in love” with her.** But at the end, Jerry realizes that he and Dorothy belong together. He goes to her and says, “You complete me.” They live happily ever after.
Now from a theological standpoint, there’s all sorts of things wrong here. As I’ve mentioned over and over here, what we often do in Christian culture is just take secular beliefs and dress them up into Christian ones. For example we take the romantic idea of the one, dress it up and turn it into the “one God has for us.” These examples go on and on.
But today I want to talk about the idea of two people completing each other. We talk about this all the time. Many times we hear how a person couldn’t be who they are without their spouse. We talk about how a person couldn’t do the ministry work they do without their spouse.
For the last several years we’ve been hearing from all sorts of places about how millennials are leaving or have left the church. In reality at some level church membership and attendance is down across all generations.
This gallup report shows a lot of interesting statistics about church membership. The bottom line however is that it has dropped significantly over the last 20 years. Not only that, but when we look at millennials (those born from 1980-2000 – those aged 19-39), they have lower numbers than previous generations had at their age. Only 42% of millennials are church members.
While the number of millennials who claim a religion at all is lower at 68% than the average of all Americans (77%) their church membership is even lower.
Now we could list a lot of reasons for the drop in church membership – not only for the millennials but for the country as a whole. But there is one reason that I’ve tried to hammer here over and over and yet no one seems to recognize it. That is, that single people, by and large, don’t go to church.
One of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately as I’ve been reading some scripture is idea of choice in the face of different contexts. The particular scripture that started this thought was 1 Peter 2:13-20. Here Peter instructs even servants to submit to their masters. . . even the bad ones.
Now obviously our culture and history has a lot of impact on how we read that. But Peter’s point isn’t that slavery is good. Or that unreasonable masters are ok. The point is that regardless of my circumstances and context, I’m called to act as Christ would. Peter and the early Church Fathers backed this up with their lives. They actually did endure extreme injustice with joy. In reading their writings, and writings about them, you can’t really help but be amazed by it all.
This is true for every area of our lives of course. Our income level, our job, what country and situation we live in. But for the sake of this blog it also relates to singleness, dating and marriage.