Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Leadership Strategy of Jesus

After attending a recent major leadership conference, my mind is swimming with thoughts, questions and new ideas. I keep looking at how Jesus began such an amazing organization as the New Testament Church. Obviously, the church is more than an organization, yet it must be organized to truly be effective and to please God.

So, how did Jesus start this thing and make it so strong that it has lasted through persecution, apathy and many wrong turns? From the very beginning of the church is Acts 2, Christ has been the head of the church, through easy, pleasant times, as well as embarrassing, hurtful and heart-breaking times. It has endured because He is the ultimate leader.

1. Jesus had a hand-picked team of "leaders-in-training". He obviously knew each one before he called them (See the calling of Nathaniel); something we cannot do. This does show us, though, that even though Christ doesn't play favorites, He did concentrate His greatest efforts on equipping those He knew were right for the job.

2. His trainees had only a minor understanding. They had been taught the same things that every other Jewish boy had been taught about the Messiah, how He would come, and the setting up of His Kingdom. Their belief that Jesus was this Messiah caused them to change their views on some very personal and deeply held scriptural beliefs. In other words, they were teachable.

3. He patiently taught and set the example for them to follow. He wasn't always directing His teaching at them, but they were with Him whenever He was teaching. They listened to what He said to others. They watched how He treated others. They made notes for later discussions as He went about His ministry. At first, you don't see them doing much that was useful. They were merely observing, questioning and learning.

4. Jesus took them aside for debriefing after the public teachings. When they got together after the crowds were gone, the trainees pulled out their notes and asked their questions. Jesus was sometimes amazed that they didn't understand these basic teachings and actions, but He patiently walked them through even when He felt the meaning was quite obvious. He drove home the point with them to be sure they understood.

5. Jesus challenged their faith. Without always saying what He was doing, Jesus would test His disciples' faith. He would walk on water and see if anyone wanted to join Him. He allowed storms to nearly sink them, then He would calm them with a word. He would ask them to feed thousands with food enough for only one. Pushing them like this caused their faith in Him to grow and strengthen for what was still to come.

6. He began to involve the trainees in small jobs. Find some food. Have the people sit down. Pick up the left-overs. Each of these jobs required some faith. Can you imagine asking people for food to feed thousands? How about telling them to sit down when you know full well that you only have enough food for one child? Leftovers?! One step out to look for left-overs may have taken more faith than you or I have ever practiced.

7. He chose three on which to give double the attention. Peter, James and John, seem to have been especially on the ball. Maybe it was their personalities, maybe it was their chemistry, or something Jesus knew that we don't - something made these guys stand out enough to bring them a little further with Jesus that the rest.

8. Jesus sent 72 of them with very specific instructions to go and do what they had learned so far. They went in teams of two; wise for safety, courage and accountability. They did exactly what Jesus told them to do; necessary to accomplish their mission. They were able to perform miracles in Jesus' Name; a reward for obedience and faithfulness.

9. He debriefed and refocussed them. They were so excited about what they were able to do that Jesus had to remind them that the real blessing was who they now are...that their names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. That amazing truth had to be refreshed in their minds to get them back on track with their mission. Stop and celebrate the victories, then move on toward the prize.

10. He prepared them for His departure. At the Last Supper, Jesus was giving some final instructions as well as explaining what was about to happen. He wanted them to know He was preparing to leave, and that they had learned what they were going to learn from Him. In some ways, Jesus was kicking the baby birds out of the nest so that they could see it was time for them to fly on their own...yet not completely on their own; He would always be there for them.

11. He left them for a while to see how they fared. When Jesus died on the cross, the trainees found themselves without a leader for the first time. They didn't do very well at filling in the gaps Jesus left when He died and was buried.

12. Jesus came back and encouraged them, refocussed them and commissioned them. It was time for the trainees to stand on all that they had learned. It had to be enough to get a movement to not only survive, but to expand and thrive. The church did so for the first 100 years at an amazing pace, and it is still here today!

Take each of these first sentences and make them command statements instead of descriptive points. This is the leadership strategy Jesus implemeted. I think He did pretty good. How about you?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Necessity of Creation

The Bible begins with an amazing claim:

"In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth." - Gen. 1:1

Is it just a poetic view of a majorly complex moment or series of events that the writer of Genesis states because of his simplistic understanding of God? Did the universe really form itself in some extended period of time based on an explosion and gasses, and hardening, and waiting, and growing, and evolving, and experimenting, and survival of the fittest? Or did God just say "Let there be,..." and there was?

Is it even important that we hold any belief in this matter as Christians, or is this just some silly cause with which people with nothing better to do consume themselves?

Let's look at the claims of scripture about creation, and how central it is to our faith.

Man was created in God's image (Gen. 1:27). The value of mankind, of each life as a reflection of the Creator, rests on this truth. We are not mere animals. We are the image of God, Himself!

God was grieved that He had created man when He sent the flood (Gen. 6:7) His right to destroy what He had created defends His continued holiness through this flood. Otherwise, He was just a murderer, and necessarily unholy.

All of Psalm 148 is about creation praising its Creator. This is merely a poem if there is no Creator, and the statements made therein are not necessarily true. At what point is scripture allowed to lie and still be a "Holy Word"?

ISA 40:28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
ISA 40:29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
ISA 40:30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
ISA 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.

If part of this scripture is untrue, all of it is. God cannot give you rest. He cannot renew the weary. And hope in Him is futile.

Revelation 4:11 tells us that the 24 elders fall to the ground and lay their crowns before God saying that He is worthy to receive glory, honor and power because He has created all things. Had He not created all things, He would not be worthy of honor and glory and power.

And Romans 1 tells us that wicked men surpress the truth of God for a lie; that truth which has been shown through what has been made (Rom. 1:20) so that men are without excuse. In other words, it is wickedness in men that would cause us to try to prove that creation is nothing more than an accident of "Nature". God has revealed Himself through what He has created, period. He exists. Creation is His evidence that He is there, and that He is God.

This is why so many work so hard to prove that everything just happened by nature: If we can take away the testimony of God, Himself, we rid the world of the very evidence that God exists. The theory of evolution is much less a scientific effort than it is a spiritual quest. To excuse all the sinful acts that the world loves so much, mankind is pouring its best efforts into "proving" that there is no God.

And if there is no creation, there is no "New Creation" as spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5:17. We are still the same lost, wasted, sinful beings we have always been, and our faith is futile.

But God did create everything in the beginning, and He continues to control all of His creation. This truth is solid, and cannot be compromised.