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.
Today I want to start to take a look at Matthew 6. I want to look at what it meant in context, and to carry that truth in a direction that I think is really important today.
Matthew 6 is in the middle of what is known as the sermon on the mount. I want to be clear to state that it is always a little risky to pull parts of a sermon out. There is an actual rhythm and order to this sermon from Jesus. And this is in the middle. However, there are also truths that we can pull out from the parts.
Chapter 6 starts out with a main statement in verse 1 and then gives three examples to explain it in the following verses. Here is the overall point:
Don’t perform righteous deeds for other people to see them, if you do you will have no reward from God.
That’s the opening line in my language. Feel fee to check your version.
In part one of this study we began to look at the story of Jesus and the healing of Bartimaeus the blind man in Mark 10.
Jesus has entered the town of Jericho and the crowd has gathered. Bartimaeus a blind man and beggar is on the side of the road and hears that Jesus is going by. He cries out to Jesus. The crowd tells him to be quiet and stay out of the way. But Jesus stops and tells the crowd to bring him forward. They go and get him and Bartimaeus leaps at the chance and goes to Jesus. Jesus asks him what he wants and when he says he wants to see, knowing that Jesus can give him his sight, Jesus heals him. Bartimaeus is healed and follows Jesus along the road praising God.
Last time we looked at what this story tells us about Jesus. One of the things we mentioned was that it shows that Jesus loves and interacts with everyone. He is interested in every person from every background.
Today I want to look at what this truth about Jesus has to do with us.
I’ve had Romans 12:2 on my mind and heart a lot the last few weeks. In the first eleven chapters Paul is basically laying out theological truth after truth for the Roman Christians. He begins chapter with a transition of sorts. He is about to share how to live this out and what it might look like. But he starts with this in 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
It’s the second part that has had my attention lately. The idea of not being conformed to this world. Not being conformed to this age. In other words not being transformed away from Jesus but towards him. Not following the fads, directions, lifestyles, or flow of the culture. Really, we shouldn’t be following anyone but Jesus. And we should be leading. We can test what is happening around us and lead with what is good. We should be leading others towards Jesus, at least whoever might follow.
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?