John 3:30, “He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.” (AMP); The Message Bible reads like this: “This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” (MSG)
I am definitely one of those people that has to check and double-check everything I buy at the supermarket. Especially when it comes to dairy, meats, fresh fruit and vegetables. After all, when you’re raised in a house of two great cooks as parents, you come to believe that there really is an art to shopping for food. Some may not know any better, but truth is you can’t just grab the first apple or tomato you see! You have to learn to smell and squeeze the produce. And where did I get that from? My mom. She taught me how to do that as well as the importance of doing that. She taught me that you have to learn how to check for holes and dents in apples and peaches; you don’t just take the first one off the pile. You have to check to see how yellow those bananas are, or how green, or how black. In other words, there are ways to tell whether a fruit or vegetable is one you should buy. However, it’s much tougher to shop for a spiritual leader that’s a good one you can trust. Oh, but there is a way to tell!
Now if we are to be brutally honest, it’s getting tougher and tougher to know which spiritual leaders you can actually trust. After all, we’re living in a time when a lot of Christian heroes have let us down, right? People who say spiritual things, lead spiritual causes, give spiritual counsel, and then all of a sudden something happens that exposes their fleshy hypocrisy. In a way, it kind of makes a lot of us hold back and wonder who can we trust to govern, keep and protect our soul and that of our families?
Now, another truth we need to keep in mind is this, we’re not supposed to have our eyes on man in the first place! Jeremiah 17:5-6, “God’s Message: “Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.” (MSG). Surely you don’t want that to be your testimony!
The Bible makes it clear that our focus should never be on flesh! 1 Samuel 16:7, “But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.” (MSG). That word ‘eliminate’ is defined as: ‘to completely remove or get rid of; to reject or exclude from consideration or further participation.’ Its Latin Origin ‘eliminare’ literally means ‘to turn out of doors.’ You see, this man wasn’t just rejected, but he was completely removed, God got rid of him, He made sure he was excluded from any consideration or participation; he was in essence kicked out his own house, turned outdoors! Therefore, if God doesn’t entertain ‘flesh; looks and stature’, why should we?
So, our focus on spiritual leadership shouldn’t be on the flesh, but on the spirit! God does give His people leadership; He does raise up leadership for the benefit of the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13, “And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct], [and He did this] to fully equip and perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church]; until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity].” (MSG)
In other words, there are authentic spiritual leaders who are doing their job. God does want us to be able to get His teachings and see His love coming through people, but so many have let us down. How can you tell whether a pastor is a leader from God or a person who’s simply doing his own thing in God’s name?
Well, there’s one person that Jesus really held up as a model leader. It was John the Baptist. He said, “There has been no greater man born among women.” (Matthew 11:11) Now I cannot think of a stronger endorsement than that. Jesus said John the Baptist was the real deal; a real spiritual leader, worthy of following. And why was John the Baptist an ideal leader? In John 3:30, speaking of Jesus, John said this, “He must become greater; I must become less.” The King James Version says, “He must increase; I must decrease.” 2 other translations read like this:
“Jesus must become more important, while I become less important.” (CEV);
“He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance.” (GWT);
You know how to test a spiritual leader? Well, one of the tests is this: Does he/she leave you thinking more about him/her or more about Jesus? Where is the spotlight focusing most and shining brightest, on him/herself, or God? Is it more about his organization, his goals, his ministry, his programs, or more about Jesus and the Great Commission He assigned for us to fulfill? An authentic man or woman of God, like John the Baptist, puts himself or herself in the background, on the sidelines, making sure that JESUS is the one who’s made to be Greater and More Important, in the very center. However, the leader doing his own thing is heavy on sentences that have: “I”, “me”, and “mine” in them, but rarely, “HIM”.
Is this the only test? No, but it’s a pretty good start. If you’re in leadership, measure yourself that way. Who is getting the attention, you the leader or the Savior? The real spiritual leaders, the ones you can trust, are the ones who put Jesus in the spotlight and make you think about Him and forget about them. They’re not seeking accolades and applause and amen’s. They don’t need their names called for everything, anything and nothing. They don’t need their picture posted on every wall nor do they need their name written on every piece of paper. They don’t need a chair the size of the Throne of God. Their main focus is that you focus mainly on Jesus! If that’s not the type of leader you are under, get out now!
Years ago I read about a man who maybe a hundred years ago had lived in the countryside in England. He traveled to London and wrote to his wife and said, “Honey, today I went to two of the great churches of London. This morning I heard Dr. Cartwright and he is a great preacher. Tonight I went to Metropolitan Tabernacle and I heard Mr. Charles Spurgeon.” He said, “Mr. Spurgeon has a great Savior.” Leaders, after you’re done speaking, teaching or preaching, do you want them to remember a great preacher, or do you leave them thinking about a great Savior? I never like to leave a church or service feeling like I was just greatly entertained by an outstanding cast of performers. I don’t want to remember the songs, the dances, the praise breaks, the garments, the titles, the beauty of the sanctuary. But what I want to leave with is conviction that I can be a better believer than I have been. It’s rare these days that I actually hear sermons that speak on holiness, sanctification, repentance, sin, hell, consequences of bad choices, or even chastisement. Instead, messages focus more on houses, cars, land, spouses, promotions, increase, harvest, blessings, abundance, and the like. But what happened to using the Word to do what it was originally designed to do? And what’s that you ask? Well, 2 Timothy informs us:
2 Timothy 3:14-17, “But as for you, continue in the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced [holding tightly to the truths], knowing from whom you learned them, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings (Hebrew Scriptures) which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus [surrendering your entire self to Him and having absolute confidence in His wisdom, power and goodness]. All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (AMP)
The Message Bible says it like this: “But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (MSG)
For some reason I don’t think the Word is being preached or taught in this manner anymore. Because everyone is happy, over-joyed and excited to leave church when the Word is done. However, the Word says when the Word comes forth it will “instruct, convict, correct, train, and expose” So if that’s how the Word is coming forth, why are we so happy after every sermon, every week? We should leave after the Word feeling as though we’ve received instructions since we’ve been convicted and corrected of wrongs, and now we’re being trained to be better since our worst has been exposed. We should leave with pad and pen in hand and a list of what we need to make our own lives better.
Now, I certainly don’t believe you should spend Sunday after Sunday being busted upside the head with the Bible. But shouldn’t something be said week after week that makes you better week after week? And not “feel” better, but “be and do better.” There is indeed a difference.
Maybe you’ve been burned by Christians, by a Christian leader, many of us have. I’ve certainly had the experience of being hurt by spiritual leadership. But don’t let them cause you to miss Jesus in the midst of it all. Sometimes I think we get so lost in “Following Them”, that we forget Jesus said, “Follow Me.” Does that mean we ignore spiritual leadership? Absolutely not! Romans 13:1-7, “Every person must obey the leaders of the land. There is no power given but from God, and all leaders are allowed by God. The person who does not obey the leaders of the land is working against what God has done. Anyone who does that will be punished. Those who do right do not have to be afraid of the leaders. Those who do wrong are afraid of them. Do you want to be free from fear of them? Then do what is right. You will be respected instead. Leaders are God’s servants to help you. If you do wrong, you should be afraid. They have the power to punish you. They work for God. They do what God wants done to those who do wrong. You must obey the leaders of the land, not only to keep from God’s anger, but so your own heart will have peace. It is right for you to pay taxes because the leaders of the land are servants for God who care for these things. Pay taxes to whom taxes are to be paid. Be afraid of those you should fear. Respect those you should respect.” (NLV);
Hebrews 13:17, “Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?” (MSG).
In other words, leadership be it in the church or in the land is to be respected. Now, you don’t have much say so in the leaders of the land, but you have a lot of say so under which leader you submit to in any given church. You are not their by force but by choice, so choose your place of worship wisely. Don’t make a selection as though it were an arena, museum, palace, stage or theater. But ask God for godly wisdom that you make the right choice to serve in the right house of worship under the right leader.
And what are some signs that you have the right leader? Just listen to Scripture:
Matthew 17:6-8, “When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.” When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.” (MSG) You need to be submitted under a leader that makes you see Only Jesus. Not them, their accomplishments, titles, positions, vestments, rings, robes, initials, degrees, collars, etc…But Only Jesus!
1 Corinthians 2:2, “You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.” (MSG) You need to be submitted under a leader whose preaching and teaching is about who Jesus is and what Jesus did. Not who they are (or think they are) not on what they’ve done (or think they’ve done). But a leader who keeps the name of Jesus on his/her lips when preaching or teaching. Not someone using Greek, Latin, and Hebrew in every other sentence, and certainly not someone who you need to keep the Webster’s Dictionary on hand every other 2 lines to know what 23 letter words they keep using every 5 minutes to be verbally impressive! A good leader keeps it “plain and simple.” And to those of my preacher friends who stand flat foot and preach and teach the ‘plain and simple’ Gospel, without hoop and holler, please do not compare yourselves to those who do. A hoop and holler are not the equivalent or evidence of the Holy Ghost, it is but a person’s preferred style of execution. It’s apart of their personality in how they choose to deliver. So, never feel as though you are not making the same, or even a greater impact on the lives of your hearers, just because your delivery is packaged differently. You don’t have to yell, scream, sweat, do back-flips, bang the podium, spin around in circles with fancy footwork, flying hands and spit spreading everywhere. You can still, speak what God gave you and go sit down without breaking a sweat, and still watch souls be added to the Kingdom of God. Remember, whatever your ‘preferred style’, the importance is on the Message being delivered in its most plain and simple form. Look at it like this: If a person who’s diabetic has their glucose levels shoot up through the roof, do you really think at a time like that, they want someone to hand them a pen of insulin and teach a 2 hour, detailed tutorial on the history of insulin, before they use it? No, they need a straight shot! Stick pen now! And truthfully there are a lot of people coming to our churches that are leaving empty because we’ve over-complicated the message. You can’t properly apply what you don’t clearly understand. Therefore, I reiterate, what your ‘preferred style’ is, for the sake of the people’s soul and eternity, keep it ‘plain and simple.’
Galatians 1:10-12, “Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or curry favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave. Know this—I am most emphatic here, friends—this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism. I didn’t receive it through the traditions, and I wasn’t taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that is void of intimidation and manipulation. A leader that doesn’t need and seek applause and popularity. A leader that doesn’t attempt to impress with 9 titles and 14 initials (half of which were bought, not earned). A leader that hears from God and speaks the unadulterated Word of God to His people. A leader who is not into people pleasing, is sure to help you grow to your full potential.
Colossians 3:23-25, “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that knows who the real Master is (and that it clearly is not them). Working in the church they pastor, still means you are working for God! Avoid leaders who make you feel as though you work personally for them. The work of the ministry has nothing to do with mere man. The work of the ministry is adding souls to the Kingdom. And even in this work, we are to put forth our best effort, remembering WHO it is we’re working for. Avoid leaders who act as though the Church is their personal incorporation. A leader of humility and servanthood is who you sit under submissively. A leader that does his/her best which brings out the very same in you! That’s the leader you follow.
2 Timothy 4:3-4, “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that will feed you the unadulterated Word of God. I love the word “unadulterated” because it’s simply defined as “having no inferior added substance.” In other words, you need a leader that will call it “Adultery”, not “An Affair”; “Sin” and not “An Issue”. You need a leader that possesses the wisdom of when to cover you and when to expose you. You need the bread of life, not a cake of compromise. A leader that will tell you when you’re wrong, not help you try to justify it as right. You need a leader that will continue to serve you the Solid Meat of the Word even when your flesh only wants to Digest Spiritual Junk Food!
Galatians 2:19-21, “What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.” (MSG) You need a leader just like that!
If you see a leader who leaves you thinking about Jesus, in the crowded spiritual supermarket that you and I shop in, you’ll know that’s one worth buying into. So, after this little lesson, it is my prayer that you will carefully, thoroughly, honestly re-evaluate your spiritual leadership. Make sure you are in the right house with the right head. The loss of your soul is too costly!
Remember our opening text:
John 3:30, “He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.”; (AMP);
“This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” (MSG);
“Jesus must become more important, while I become less important.” (CEV);
“He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance.” (GWT).
There are many things you can use to measure good leadership, but why not follow the ruler Jesus Himself used? He used John the Baptist because He wasn’t out to compete with Him, he was out to make Jesus the most prominent; the center; and the most important, even if that meant he was to decrease; slip off to the sidelines and become less important. If you dare find a leader like that, follow him/her closely, you’ve indeed found the right one!
Charles H. Spurgeon Quotes:
“A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.”
“That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.”
“Satan, he can make men dance upon the brink of hell as though they were on the verge of heaven.”
“I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church.”
“The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the devil. The preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound of which makes hell shake.”
“The Word of God is like a Lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose and the lion will defend itself”
“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible”
“If you are idle in Christ’s work, you are active in the devil’s work”
“If sinners be damned at least let them leap to hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped around their knees. If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let no one go unwarned or unprayed for.”
“People, like sheep, tend to follow a leader – occasionally in the right direction.” (Alexander Chase)
“According to Scripture, virtually everything that truly qualifies a person for leadership is directly related to character.” (John MacArthur)
“Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” (Bill Bradley)
“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” (Tom Peters)
“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” (Max Lucado)
“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” (John C. Maxwell)
“To become a leader worth following, you must give time and attention to the inner man. To leave a legacy that goes beyond accomplishments alone, a leader must devote himself to matters of the heart.” (Andy Stanley)
“Christian leadership is a privilege of being in the service of influencing God’s people to achieve divine vision and purpose.” (Tionge Matela Msiska)
“Most Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead. Many Christian empire-builders have been people unable to give and receive love.” (Henri Nouwen)
“A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see.” (Leroy Eims)
“Leadership is not about positions and having people bow to you. It’s not about having titles conferred on you. Leadership is about service. It is about helping people fulfill their God-given purpose.” (Pastor Mensa Otabil)
“To keep the wrong leader in the wrong place prevents the right leader from being in the right place.” (Aubrey Malphurs)
“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” (Author Unknown)
“Those of us who have been privileged to receive education, skills and experiences and even power must be role models for the next generation of leadership.” (Wangar Maathai)
“Leadership is all about people. It is not about organizations. It is not about plans. It is not about strategies. It is all about people-motivating people to get the job done. You have to be people-centered.” (Colin Powell)
“Your gifts are not about you; leadership is not about you; your purpose is not about you. A life of significance is about serving those who need your gifts, your leadership, your purpose.” (Kevin Hall)
“A big part of leadership is recognizing that your fruit often grows on other people’s trees.” (Todd Adkins)
“True leadership is the authority given by the trust of the followers to use power for the benefit of all.” (Dr. Myles Munroe)
“Every local church has a leader, but it seems so few local churches are being led.” (Andy Stanley)
“Leadership in church is one of the biggest challenges that the church is facing because without strong leadership, the church rarely lives out its redemptive potentials.” (Bill Hybels)
“Spiritual leadership is knowing where God wants people to to be and taking the initiative to get them there by God’s means in reliance on God’s power.” (John Piper)
“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” (John Maxwell)
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” (James C. Humes)
“The true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis.” (Brian Tracy)
“The story of the church, as depicted in the book of Acts, is one of a community of faith directed by a team of leaders working together toward a common vision. Had the church relied upon a single, incredibly gifted, magnetic individual to replace Jesus, the church would surely have collapsed.” (George Barna)
“Integrity is the most valuable and respected quality of leadership. Always keep your word.” (Brian Tracy)
“If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.” (Bishop Dale C. Bronner)
Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged #ShareTheWord
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