Last time we started looking at the idea of responsibility. We looked at the idea of individual responsibility and how we need to start seeing that it is individuals who are responsible and not the ever convenient “they”.
Today I want to take a look at why taking individual responsibly is healthy and not only that it is the only way to become a leader.
First of all, it’s important to hit again the fact that in the end, according to Christian theology we are individually responsible before God. Yes God will judge the nations but there will be people in each of those “nations” that get into the Kingdom and those that don’t. You aren’t going to stand before God and get away with “But. . . . ‘they’ did it”. Heck you won’t even be able to say, “I’m not responsible for that – you are”.
As we continue to think about what leadership as a Christian looks like in our culture today I want to talk about an idea that I think we too often seem to forget about. That is the idea of responsibility.
We live in a culture that doesn’t like to take responsibility. This is true both outside and inside the church. We like to talk a lot about other things. We talk about rights, as in my rights. We like to talk about blame, as in blaming others for my situation. Actually what we typically do is talk about my rights and others’ responsibilities.
But there are some key truths that we need to get ahold of if we are going to lead and make an impact.
Last time we looked at the idea in the first part of this century stemming from postmodernism (which was in motion far before then) that truth was relative to the individual and that we should somehow tolerate that idea and each other’s truths. We also looked at some of why that didn’t and doesn’t work out well. Today I want to look at how we might lead as Christians in the current context resulting from the failure of that idea.
First as a society, Christian or not, we need to understand this. At this point, we either have to figure out how to rescue absolute truth or we will have a continual war between the “truths”. Those truths will battle to become the absolute truths of society. Because that is how it works. Always.
As Christians what we need to do is a couple of things. Mainly we need to lead with actual Christian truth. All of it. Not part of it. Not the parts that line up with my “truths” but all of it.
One of the things that postmodernism sort of introduced in our culture is the idea that your truth is yours and mine is mine. This was sort of the battle cry of tolerance that was taught in early 2000’s (which now seems like a really long time ago). The idea at the time seemed to be that I’m ok and you’re ok. We’re all ok as we are. What we feel is ok. What we see as true is ok. We should tolerate differences not only of experience but we now could say that our different perspectives and experiences were actually different truths that were ok to live out of. Back then it was ok for everyone to not agree. In fact the idea was that no one should impose their belief or truth on anyone else.
Many in the church sort of went along with this. I don’t mean to say that most church leaders agreed that truth was relative. But I think the idea was that to get along and work in this new culture we should just sort of let that go and be loving and understanding. This idea of loving and understanding everyone isn’t a bad thing as far as it goes but by not standing up stronger we gave a lot of things that aren’t true a lot of ground. The results are that now even more believers are of the belief that there is no absolute truth and that half of millennial evangelicals think evangelization is wrong. After all that would be forcing our truth on others.
All of this has backfired spectacularly both inside and outside of the church in our culture.
I’ve been writing a lot about what Christian leadership might look like in our current context. When I say current context I mean mainly within the American culture and Church. Of course part of the problem is that in America there is no “the Church” per se, but that is something to be addressed at a later time.
One of the things that happens all the time in the current cultural conversation over Christianity is that we tend to set things that appear opposed against each other. Or another approach is to take two Christian ideas and say that we need to balance them.
Today I want to continue a series about what it looks like to lead as a Christian in today’s culture. We first looked at the importance of starting with looking at our own heart and what we are really all about. Then we looked at the importance of defining and living out of the narrative of God’s story vs. narratives dictated by current culture. Next we took an inward turn to look at taking care of our own business first.
Today I want to look at leading with Jesus and His truth.
Now that sounds sort of obvious. But I honestly don’t see a lot of it right now. What I see is a lot of Christians using Jesus to back up their side. I also see a lot of Christians saying true things about Jesus, but only the parts that they want to virtue signal with. I also think there are a lot of Christians who are sort of fixated on a particular part of Jesus and are just trying to follow that one part.
Finally I think there are people who are trying to show that Jesus is relevant to all that is going on right now in an attempt to win particular people over, or perhaps keep particular people from leaving Christianity.
But frankly this is creating confusion and it’s all hijacking Jesus. Now understand I’m not accusing everyone, or anyone in particular, of meaning to do that (although there are certainly people that are). It also risks splitting the body of Christ in places it just doesn’t have to be split.
What often ends up happening is that Jesus ends up being the support for a truth rather than the truth itself.
Today I want to venture into Matthew 7. Jesus is giving the sermon on the mount and this is the closing part of that sermon. As I’ve mentioned several times it’s important to see this entire sermon (Matthew 5-7) as one line of thought, building on itself. But we are pulling some truths out of it a piece at a time, which is also helpful.
In the opening of Matthew 7 Jesus is talking about the idea of judging others. Here is what He says
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Now this might be one of the most misused scriptures in the bible. People say this is Jesus saying that you should make no judgements. But as we’ll see this is not the main idea here.
In this series we’ve been talking about what it looks like to lead in today’s culture. We first said we need to check our own hearts. Then we looked at the need to live out of and lead people within the correct narrative.
Today before we go further out so to speak, I want to talk about going further in.
What I mean is that along with the first battle, the one in our heart, we need to make sure that we fight for those right around us. We need to make sure we take care of the home front so to speak.
The reality is that you are your own first responder. This is true in general of course. For example if there is a medical emergency you are going to respond before the ambulance gets there. If someone breaks into your home you will need to respond long before the police arrive. Do you have a plan? This is true for every area of life.
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?
A few months ago I wrote a series of posts about leadership. I’m not going to link them here but if you type leadership in the search function they’ll come up. I mentioned that it is one of the most misunderstood and overcomplicated ideas that people talk about.
Lately I’ve had some people reach out to me asking how we as Christians can lead right now in our culture and who they might look to in Christian leadership. You might be thinking, “why are they asking you?” Haha! Fair question. But in actuality I’ve been thinking a lot about this question.
The reason I’ve been thinking about it is twofold. First, I think in terms of Western Christianity we are at a major turning point. It’s not THE turning point for all of Christianity in history or anything. But it’s for sure an important moment. Secondly is that as I watch across the landscape I see very little actual leadership. What I see is a lot posturing, reacting, and fear based “leadership”. I see a lot of people wanting to be liked, and either trying to hold onto something that is already gone or just changing “christianity” to fit secular leadership. Both are really bad. I mean just awful.