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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You Must First Be Led - Pt. I

And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23 ESV

Very few people like to be led; everyone wants to call the shots.

Notice I did not say, “Everyone wants to lead,” because leading and “calling the shots” can be two fundamentally different things. There many people out there who can bark orders and assign tasks, but how many people are truly leading?

I will contend that leaders are being led; they are following someone else. Someone else is leading them and they are in hot, passionate pursuit. This is not necessarily a Christian idea (though it can be most definitely attributed to the example of Jesus Christ, as we shall see) and I believe that whatever your discipline or way of life, that there is no avoiding it. If you are not led by someone, then you are not a leader. A great boss or manager, perhaps; but you are definitely not a leader.

But this leads to a very thought provoking question: What does it mean to be led?

Though I am sure many, many answers can be given (and feel free to write some of them in the comments section if I missed a glaring one) but I sat down and thought over all the lessons and experiences I have had with leadership, plus considered my personal knowledge of Scripture and came up with seven ideas that I think typify what it means to follow; what it means to be lead.

1. To be led means to submit one ’s self to be taught and disciplined.

Submission is often an ugly word in the English language; it conjures up images of doormats and mindless slavery. The Church tells wives to submit to their husbands (often neglecting the husband submitting to their wives AND children) in order to establish more of a social order rather than to demonstrate the relationship between Christ and his Church. What is the line of submission; when do I say, “no?” These are questions that do not have easy answers and anyone who offers them is lying. So, there is definitely merit to some people’s hesitancy to submit. However, I do believe if one is going to be a true leader, then one must learn how to be a leader from someone else and must open one’s self to be disciplined in one’s leadership.

Teaching is highly commended in Scripture; every church leadership gift comes with the prerequisite “able to teach.” Why is this? Well, teaching involves the transmission of ideas, values, and doctrines down to the next generation of hearers (and hopefully doers). A church leader must be able to teach in order to ensure that God’s message continues to be accurately handled and applied. We see this in the Old Testament where the Israelites were commanded through Moses to always keep the Law literally in front of their eyes. They were to be constantly learning from the Law of God in order to teach it to their children. When Jesus came, he did not end this practice and instead took it upon himself to listen to teaching as a child (Luke 2:46-47). Jesus would continue, as a human being, to learn from the Father and model what Father desired to his disciples, who in turn, were to model it to the rest of Israel and eventually the rest of the world. Paul repeatedly admonishes his readers to keep to the teaching that he and the rest of the church leaders had passed down, as a trust in the future of the Gospel. One of the signs of the Last Days is that men will cease to learn and will instead desire for their ears to be tickled and their appetites appeased.

Don’t limit who you learn from either; that could mean the difference between success and failure. As I have written before, much to my shame, one of the hardest groups of people for me to learn from is Southern, Conservative Christians (Baptist or not). I have, until recently read, and listened to everyone but these individuals. By doing this I have limited my leadership, especially considering my relationships in the local church involve those individuals. I have had to eat a lot of crow and have really been challenged by my pastor to work through my prejudice in this manner in order to get to the point where I am simply willing to learn. I am not going to say I am going to be perfect at doing this; I will likely screw up eventually…however, I want to learn from these men (and women) because they truly love and seek to serve Jesus Christ through his Church. Be open to learn from even groups of people you don’t understand or are slightly prejudice against and they may surprise you.
Part of the “becoming teachable” process involved me going to the pastor and asking for opportunities to minister, knowing that these issues would come up. I had to literally humble myself and take some heat in order to see the truth about my rebellion and my unwillingness to submit. This lead to me give up my right to guide my life in whatever way I pleased, but instead to give it over to the discipline of these godly leaders.

What do I mean by “discipline?” I mean that I have submitted myself for everything II Timothy 3:16 talks about, “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” I have not lost my free will or my free thinking, but I have chosen to embrace and for the time being incorporate the ideas, philosophies, and methods of someone else into my own life and service. I have literally given myself to be kept accountable and to be lovingly chastened and strengthen to be the man of God, the leader that God has called me to be.

I have given permission to my leader(s) to call me aside, to discipline me in truth and love, and to give valuable input and direction into my life. I am opening myself up not be controlled by others, but rather to be guided by them to the most godly and glorious life that they desire for me in Christ Jesus. I cannot do this if I am always bucking the system, making stupid, insensitive remarks, or being gloomy and negative. God has called me to so much more and he has the same calling for you, my friends.
This does not even take into account the self teaching and discipline involved in being led. I am constantly evaluating how I am leading and whether I am being led. I am constantly reading books, blogs, tweets, etc to learn and grow not just as leader but as a person. This requires the disciplines of study and contemplation; disciplines which most American Christians have difficulties. I must be willing to learn, make changes (I.e. sacrifice), adapt, and grow in my own walk with the Lord as I seek outside lessons and discipline. If I am to be in a position to be led; I must be learning and disciplining myself.

Here is the take away:

In order to be led you must give up your independence but not your individuality; you must be willing to learn whatever from whomever, wherever, whenever, and you must do so willingly and humbly.

To Be Continued…Next Time: “To be led means to connect one’s self to someone who will help to determine at least your immediate, if not your distant, future.”



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