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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Principles of Leadership

Since the work of the ministry is the transformation of lives into the image of Christ (the application of good news to people's lives), the apostle Paul was inspired to reveal his motive for writing this letter. Anyone desiring the work of ministry should consider what Paul presents in Romans 1:8-15, as here (among other places) are a list of qualities for spiritual leaders.

First, Paul expresses gratitude to God for God's work and gratitude for those to which he ministers (v. 8). Paul is acknowledging that God is doing the work and he is merely the messenger. For years my wife and I have prayed for the congregation God would have for us—little did we know that our congregation was not found within the four walls of a building, but on the streets, in the stores and parks—wherever there are people. God gave us gospel opportunities everywhere, and at first we did not see because our vision was too small-- we were waiting for an address. God showed us we had the whole world. Since that realization, we've had gospel opportunities in different cities, states—even countries! Another reason for his gratitude is that the faith of his audience has global impact; that is, others can learn from what God has done through them. The faith of those who believe become a testimony of what God is doing. Ministers for Christ should be thankful for what they do and for whom they serve.

The role of prayer is vital for spiritual leaders. Paul told the Romans that he prayed for them constantly, even asking God for the opportunity to come visit them, to give them a spiritual gift face-to-face. At first this may seem a little odd because we realize that Paul is pastoring people he has never met, but through prayer, God used this letter to deliver the very thing he desired to give them face-to-face. Paul's ministry is not too much unlike my own today. Nearly every day I have the privilege of meeting people from all over the world who are wanting to learn more about Jesus, have heard the gospel for the first time, or have questions about their spiritual journey. If I do not pray for them, my ministry is nothing more that glorified pen-pal service; but, since this is God's work and I partner with Him in prayer, those who write in are able to receive spiritual gifts they may not receive in any other way! Oh, the wonderful Internet! Like Paul, the servant of Christ must be prayerful, working in the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

One fact to recognize is that the pastor is not the sole and responsible party to carry the gospel into all the world. That is the task of every believer. Like Paul, we are obligated to every person we meet to give them the spiritual gift of the gospel. Our prayer life should be more than, “God bless the pastor,” but “God empower me with Your words to do Your work.” The leader should be your model for this service. Our prayers should include those we don't know, that God would prepare the hearts and minds of those we meet. Our prayer should be more than “let that guy over there get saved.” No, but, “Father, reconcile a lost soul, that he or she would walk before You in obedience to Your Word.”

Why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel? Because it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (1:16). There is no simpler definition of the gospel than this.

The Thessalonians received a letter from Paul much earlier in his ministry where we read how the power of God to salvation relates to leadership qualities (1 Thessalonians 2:1-3:13). The work of the gospel ministry is not in vain (2:1), gives boldness regardless of circumstances (2:2), is rooted in truth and approved by God (2:3-4). I have some very tender plants coming up in my garden and the heat is increasing. Until the plants are more mature, they must be well watered and protected. I've had to erect a shade to keep the sun from beating down on the plants because I want these specific ones to mature, grow and bear fruit. This is much like God's work. This reminds us that God protects His lasting work—He does not do a work that springs up only to be withered under pressure. God's work is enduring work. Jonathan Edwards wrote an entire book about this in, "The Religious Affection."

The application of the gospel is accomplished through word-smithing and manipulation through clever speech, the exercise influence over people (2:5), nor is the goal of the gospel to win friends and create a following of our own kind (2:6). I heard a preach once apologize for teaching God's Word, “if I am stepping on your toes, I am sorry—I was aiming for the heart.” People should respond to God's Word because that's what it is, and it accomplishes the glory of God for those who obey and believe (2:13).

There is a gentleness in gospel ministry, and affection for those who are served (2:7-8). Sure, we could be out doing something else, but investing in a complete and totals stranger out of obedience and love is where souls are won. The work of the ministry is hard (2:9) and it is not imposing on others who are doing the same (2:9). This relates back to the lasting quality of God's work. When we move in the Spirit, we do not need to ride on the shoulders of others, as if this were a pyramid scheme. Paul likens this gentleness to parenting: “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (2:10-12)

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