In a previous post I began to offer a conversation about what actual Christian leadership might look like right now in our current American Culture. This is an ongoing conversation I’m having with some people and I’m sort of sharing out if you will. I want to be clear that I’m not pretending to have all of the right answers. But I think that we need to think about this because what I see is a large lack of leadership out there.
In part one I said the first thing we need to understand is that the most important battle is within. It all starts there. It’s not out there somewhere in some fight against the ever easy to blame “they”. It’s the battle in our own hearts to follow Jesus and actually be about His Kingdom first.
Today I want to think about a second important thing. That is this: What narrative are you living in and out of?
Today I want to begin to talk about one of the most used passages in scripture. It tells of the encounter between a wealthy, moral young man and Jesus.
The story is told in Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18. They all tell the same story. A man comes up to Jesus and says to Jesus, “Good teacher. What things must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds by asking why he calls him good? He says God is good, and if you want to be good, follow the commandments.
The man answers that he has kept all of the commandments since his youth. He does not lie, murder, commit adultery etc. It then says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. He said this, “One thing you lack. Go and sell all your possessions, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come and follow me.” The man then went away sad because he had great wealth.
In Matthew 20 Jesus tells another parable. It is the story of the landowner and the workers that he hires at different times during the day. In the parable the landowner goes and hires men first thing in the morning and tells them he will pay them the daily wage. They agree and get to work. Then at 9 AM, 3 PM and 5 PM he goes out and finds others promising them a just wage for their work if they start right away. They all go. At the end of the day he pays them all. He starts with those hired at 5 and pays them a full day’s wage. Then he does the same with those he hired at 3 and at 9. Finally when it comes to those he hired first, they think that he will pay them more. But he doesn’t. They complain about the “injustice” because they got paid the same as those who started only a short while ago. The landowner says that it is not unfair. He paid them what they agreed to. He says who are they to challenge what he does with his own money and asks if they are envious of his generosity.
Now people can read this a lot of ways. It’s actually a really tough parable. I think first when we read scripture it’s important to think about what it meant to that group of people at that time. Jesus was in the middle of many confrontations with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. The heat is getting turned up as we are approaching the time when they would look to kill Jesus. One of the things that they are most mad about is that all sorts of “sinners” seem to be allowed into this kingdom that Jesus keeps talking about and they seem to be on the outside and they don’t like it. After all, they’ve followed all the rules. They’ve been in this since the beginning. They should be first, not last.
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?
Last week we began to look at the parable of the sower from Luke 8. Today I want to take a closer look at what these soils look like.
The first soil is that by the road. This is the soil that the seed falls on but then the devil comes and steals the word before it can take root.
This soil is what we might call the people who reject the word outright. They have a hard heart and therefore the word just stays on the surface. It’s like when I seed my lawn and some of the seed gets on the driveway or sidewalk. It has no chance.
I’ve been sharing a series here on the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s a well known story that we typically think of as a call to be a good person to others. In the first post I shared that I’m not so sure that is what the parable is actually about. In the second I asked us to think about why we don’t stop – why we pass by someone we should help. Today, I want to look at the whole thing completely differently and most likely in a way you’ve never thought about it before. I certainly had never thought about it this way before in my 30 years of knowing and sharing this story.
Many of the early Church Fathers from the first 300 years or so of Christianity saw this story in a different way. They saw it as having something to say about the story of the gospel and Christ.
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.
I have spent a lot of time here railing against what I have called the Church’s Nuclear Family Idol. What I’m realizing is that there are a lot of people in certain corners of the church that are railing against that idol but in a different way. Therefore I feel the need to clarify two things – 1. What I’m speaking against and what I’m not and 2. What is the rightful place of the nuclear family in the church.
Have you ever gone into the Christian Fiction section in a bookstore. It’s sort of unbelievable. First of all, I still have not figured out what exactly counts as Christian fiction. Why do we have our own section – why can’t it just be in the fiction section but written by Christians? Is there a Jewish fiction section?? The truth is that we have our own section because we want it, and we are the only people that would possibly read it.
But the most disturbing thing about the Christian fiction section is the focus on what can best be described as Christian romance novels. It’s incredible. I would wager that close to 70% of the books in this section fit that category. Probably more. More amazing is that of those romance novels, probably 80% are either western or amish. Talk about a limited audience.
We’re in obvious need of better literature but that isn’t why I bring this all up. I bring it up because rather than lead in what love, marriage, and singleness looks like (let alone what good literature looks like) we in western Christian culture have adopted what the world says and then arranged our theology and practices to accommodate it. The impact of this runs much deeper than we realize and impacts not only Christians but everyone else.
We have made romance the thing. We don’t say that directly of course. We’re more “holy” than that. Instead we couch it in what I call Reformed Romance. This is where we sort of combine secular romance and shaky Calvinism.
One of the things we are taught in Christian culture or at least the evangelical/protestant version of it, is that in every area of life we should ask what does the bible say about it? In other words if I have a question in a certain context, I can look to the bible to find the answer to that question. This is because not only is the bible inspired, inerrant, and authoritative, it is also sufficient.
This is supposed to work on all moral issues obviously, but the idea here is that it also works for everything else. The bible is the “road map” that we are to follow. It is God’s instruction to us. In it is everything we need. Some will go so far to say that not only is a way to hear God’s voice, but it is the only way.
Now this works pretty well on a lot of moral issues. It can even work when you think about how we as people are supposed to treat each other. However, we can sort of start to run into some problems in certain contexts of life.