The Plan

So you’ve done it! You’ve gotten through my thoughts on leadership and you’ve almost finished! However, you might still be frustrated with me. After looking back on what you’ve read, you might have realized that I spent the majority of my time showing and explaining to you how you can lead yourself better. Yet, outside of my last post, I’ve neglected to give you much, if any, practical instruction on how you should lead others well. There is great reason for my doing that though. In the very first post, I started off with what I think is a very intriguing statement. I said that “no person can lead unless they are already being led by something.” I then spent that entire post trying to convince you to be led by God so that you can lead others.

The next three lessons spoke to that, because it is more important for you to lay as your foundation that discipline in which you lead yourself well before you actually jump into leadership. And don’t think that just because you are already in a position of leadership that you are free from this. I myself have been in your position before. I had worked in a student ministry for two years until I realized that my foundation for the leadership and responsibility I had might as well have been the Everglades. I took a step back, or a couple steps rather, and began working on myself. Even now, I am still in that stage of life, and have been and will continue to be very careful about taking a leadership role before my foundation is fully laid on solid ground.

However, we have already gone over the main steps to how this is accomplished, and have jumped into how we are to lead others, and lead them well. Obviously, we have not covered everything that there is to know about leading yourself. Still, we have to move into how to lead others as well. In this post, I would like to share just a couple of thoughts on how you (and I) can lead others in a very practical sense. This is the plan for how you can lead others and lead them well.

1-> Demonstrate the lifestyle of discipleship. Discipleship isn’t just an action that is taken, it is a lifestyle that is lived. Everything about you, including what you do, the relationships you allow yourself to have with others, what you think about, how you conduct yourself, everything, must be made subject to your longing to disciple others. If you are not fully committed, how can you expect them to be?

2-> Actively seek people to disciple. This applies to you even if you are a youth pastor. You inherit students that you disciple, but you still have to look for people within that group that you specifically want to pour into. Especially if you are responsible for a large group of students (say you have 50 in your student ministry), you can’t pour into all of them at the same time. Jesus gave Himself to twelve, and that’s stretching it (He’s God. He can do that). Choose certain people on purpose that you can give everything to while you still lead others in a more general sense. Now, if your student ministry have three kids in it and one is mentally ill while the other two end up getting married out of wedlock (this actually happened to me at the very beginning of my two year involvement in youth ministry leadership that I mentioned earlier. Now we have 50+ students meeting in two locations. God is good!), then your options are kind of limited. Situations like that make your decision really easy. But you have to make a decision nonetheless.

3-> Start caring. Begin showing that you care about these people, which is actually way easier said than done (try really, truly caring about someone who interrupts you every 20 seconds and two people who will be having sex an hour after listening to your lesson on purity). Regardless, you have to truly love these people, and you have to show it. Don’t lie to yourself and say that ‘they know that I care about them.’ No they don’t! No one will ever believe that you care about them until you start proving it through how you treat them.

4-> Show them where you’re going with this. In other words, cast the vision. You know what you want the end result to be. You want them to end up being in your position, discipling others. Do they know that? If you don’t lay it out for them, and continually remind them of where they’re headed, probably not. Also, if you don’t do this now, then later when they’re ready to take that step, they won’t take it. Even if you encourage them to do it later, to them it seems like you’ve used them without telling them (whereas you still want to use them, but definitely let them know about it). If they don’t recognize where this is going before it gets there, then the end result that you and God desire won’t happen.

5-> Start developing. To illustrate how to do this effectively, I’m totally stealing from my professor Dr. Earley a strategy that I learned from him (which, he’s an osu fan, so I feel justified in stealing from him. Then again, I’m also giving him credit for the material, so academically I’m still solid). Anyway, he uses a four-step process of what he calls “multiplication,” but what I’d rather call either “intentional discipleship” or “intentional leadership.” I’ll simplify it down for you:

1: MODEL IT – They watch me as I do it.

2: MENTOR IT – They do it and I watch, assist, correct, and encourage.

3: MOTIVATE IT – They do it and I encourage from a distance.

4: MULTIPLY IT – They take someone else through the process.

Practically apply each of these to your leadership situation when you get to the point when you can do so.

6-> Let them go for it. You’ll know when they’re ready to reach the goal that you both have set because they will jump right into it. However, the majority of the time, the problem here lies with you holding them back. It would seem silly that you would do such a thing, since you’re the one who originally cast this vision for them, but making a disciple is described in Scripture as making a child.

“To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

–       1 Timothy 1:2

Paul calls Timothy, whom he has both witnessed to and seen saved, as well as disciple, his child. When a parent tries to let go of a child, in any circumstance through life, it is extremely difficult. I’m not a parent, but I know how hard it is to be with my family and then have to leave them, and I can’t imagine having to do that with my own children. Thus, it is difficult to let a disciple, a child of yours, to move on into increased responsibility and leadership. This does not have to be devoid of you, but you will have to let go and there will be changes. But this is your goal getting accomplished. This is leadership. So let go.

And that’s it. That’s all I have. I hope that you have been encouraged, and that you have learned something. If you have simply read through these, I would encourage you to go back and actually apply what has been said here. I hope that the Lord will use this for some good, and not just a grade. May the Lord bless you in all your areas of influence.

Love, Jon

The Point

What was the most important ministry of Jesus? It is a question that you normally do not hear, mostly because most people do not normally rank the various ministries of Christ. However, hopefully you can tell from reading the past four entries that I am not exactly what you might call a normal human being. So, we’re going to go there! If we were to chalk up a list of Christ’s most important ministries that He had while He was on earth, what would top the list? What would be the number one seed if we bracketed them up (sorry, it’s March)?

Certainly His love would make the list. He is love! The man is the definition of love. We do not even have to go to Webster or UrbanDictionary for that one. Jesus Christ emulated love everywhere He went. He loved everyone and proved it by sacrificing His own life and His own comfortable place in heaven to come down with the expressed purpose to die for the same people who spat in His face on His way to Calvary. But, is the love of Christ His most important ministry?

If you say no, then you might say that instead, teaching people was His most important ministry. Jesus was always teaching somebody, somewhere. In fact, the man never stopped teaching! He used every opportunity available to teach somebody something. He would use random situations to teach His disciples. I bet half the reason that they were so confused all of the time was because their teacher would try to help them learn a principle or a lesson while they were simply traveling. Christ looked at the simple things in life and then used them to teach others. Still, are His teachings His most important ministry?

So then what is it? What is our Savior’s most important ministry? Well, I would submit to you that while He loved everyone and taught many, He only equipped a few. Specifically, He equipped twelve (or eleven) to continue on His ministry even after He ascended into heaven. He could have done everything else that He ended up doing. He could have even died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven, but without the Church spreading the message of the gospel to people, a couple years later no one would have really cared about Jesus. He poured His life into twelve men so that they could build upon the extraordinary foundation that they received by ministering with Christ for three years and found what eventually because the Church that we have today. Every other ministry of His succumbs to this one, because without it, no one would have ever known about his other ministries.

The same goes for you as well. Your most important ministry will be equipping others, or in other words, discipleship. This is the point of everything that you do as a Christian, beyond just worshipping God, you are to emulate Christ so that others emulate Christ. You might even become a famous Christian leader. You can have books written about your influence, and critics questioning your philosophies of ministry, and people who call you their hero. But eventually, no one is going to read those books, and the critics will all forget about you, and no one will know who you even are, much less call you their hero. There are people in the Old Testament who lived for almost an entire millennium, and all that we know about them is their name, how long they lived, and who their descendants were. I do not care how famous you get, you will not last!

However, you can be influential to a couple of people throughout the course of your life, and though those people may call you their hero, that is not what will last. What will last is how they respond to how you discipled them. What will last is not the books that they write about you, but the rewards that those people store up in heaven because of your influence. What will last is not the philosophies that you came up with that originally brought them to Christ, but the soul that was rescued from eternal damnation because you stepped up and carried out the Great Commission to their benefit. And beyond that, any souls that are birthed out of that soul, and any soul that is birthed out of that soul, and so on, all the way down the line of disciples, will be a part of your legacy as a Christian leader.

Therefore, you should not strive for those things which will not last, and instead should strive to pour your life into the discipleship of others, so that you might leave a legacy is not necessarily about you as much as it is about the lives changed because your changed life was poured into there’s. Those people will then pour into the lives of other people, who will consequently pour into the lives of more people, and soon, you have impacted hundred, maybe thousands, just through your lowly little life here on earth that the Lord blesses you with. Paul talks to Timothy about this very thing in his second epistle to the young pastor:

“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

– 2 Timothy 2:2

When Jesus founded His Church, He knew that this would happen. He knew that it would multiply and grow bigger and bigger, because this is the way that the Church works. People hear about Christ, enter into a relationship with Him, grow in Him through discipleship, then go and repeat the process with other people. With each person, the impact gets larger. In fact, if everyone did as Jesus did and poured their entire lives into twelve different people, and those people did the same thing, and those people did the same thing, it would only take eight and a half generations to reach the entire population of mankind with the gospel of Christ. Yet, how many generations have we had since the time of Christ (I’ll let you do the math on that one)?

As a Christian, and especially as a Christian leader, it is your responsibility to disciple others. We are commanded in Scripture to do so, and we know that without discipleship the church would not just stop growing, but it would die as well. If you look at a church that is completely dead and not growing at all, then you will see that one of the central things that they are missing amongst their body of believers is discipleship. It is essential for the growth of the church as well as your effectiveness as a spiritual leader.

However, how does one go about discipling others? This all sounds great, but how do you get started? Well, first of all, you must know who you would like to disciple. If you have no one in mind, then pray for opportunities to be able to disciple someone and the courage to stand up boldly and work with them on it. But if you do, then the first step beyond simply identifying that person is to be intentional with approaching them about discipleship. Seriously. Ask them. Talk to them about it. Bring it up. Go to them and speak with them about how you see potential in them to be a great spiritual leader. And actually mean that when you say it. Do not just pick some people who have zero potential, because then the Lord still has some more work to do with them before you can really impact them through discipleship.

Still, the point is to equip others to be able to equip others to be able to equip others, etc, to emulate Christ in everything. In order to do that in the first place, you must be the one to seek them out. Christ did not just wake up one morning with twelve guys surrounding His house waiting to be taught. He called them all out individually, going to them and intentionally calling out for them to follow Him. Now, we don’t have that kind of authority, but can tell others what Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” This should be our message to people as we intentionally call them into discipleship.

The second step of discipleship is that we must actually teach them. This can be from a variety of things, but should at the very least include teaching them from the Word, as well as from our own experiences and our reflections on their experiences. These three things are a great foundation to start with when you are longing to start discipling someone. Teach them also that the purpose in you doing this with them is so that one day they can be in your place while discipling someone else. Establish this from the beginning, so that the goal is never in question, and constantly remind them of why you two are doing what you are doing in discipleship.

Thirdly, let them actually act upon what you are teaching them. Let them do something. Part of the problem today in discipleship is that when we sit down to make a disciple, we do not let them do anything. They are taught everything, but we give them no homework, and eventually no only do they forget everything that we said to the, but they also prevent them from actually acting upon what they did learn from what you taught them. They will become hearers of the Word and not doers. Teaching them something in Scripture about evangelism and then holding them back from practicing it because you think they are not ready is really holding them back from what they need to do! Do not hold them back, but instead give them homework that comes straight out of the commands of Scripture and watch the Spirit of the Lord do His thing in their lives. Watch them grow into doers of the Word, to the point that they too are making their own disciples as well.

This is the point of it all. When discipleship does not come full circle then we have impacted no one in a lasting way. As a spiritual leader, I am assuming that you want to impact many people for the cause of Christ. This is the way that Christ Himself did it. Now it’s your turn.

The Structure

Are you finding it immensely difficult to keep up with the demands of this blog? Do you read and re-read each post and think, how in the word does he expect me to be able to do THAT? Your that might be emulating the person of Christ, or keeping your integrity, or obeying the commandments of God, or even praying 90 minutes a day (hey, I didn’t exactly ask you to do that one, ok?). You might also be trying to figure out what a duck and eagle has to do with integrity, but that’s understandable. Still, you’re looking at me (or your screen) like I think these are the easiest things in the world to accomplish. Good thing this is a blog, because you might even hit me if I were across from a table from you or behind a pulpit right now. Seriously, some of you could be so incredibly frustrated with me because of my so-called expectations that you would turn violent with a that-guy-is-wearing-an-osu-shirt kind of attitude (I might potentially be from Michigan…). So you ask, why would you just lay all this on us as if you expect us to be able to follow every last word we read?

Funny you should ask that, because I was wondering the same thing! In fact, as I read through Scripture, I feel like I just need to quit life, move to Chicago or something, and start over again. Especially when I read sections such as Colossians 3, which I quoted in the last post, I just feel like crying because of how wicked and wretched that my life looks in comparison. There is so much that we all have yet to grow in, so many areas that we all could use some help in.

Paul wrestled with a similar issue in Romans 7. In verses 15-25 he focuses in on the conflict that he sees in his own life between what he wants to do and what he actually does. He longs, like you do, to act on my past three blog posts (…because I’m sure he’s read them), and more importantly, to act on what he reads in Scripture and what he knows that the Lord wills for him to do:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

–       Romans 7:15-25, ESV

When reading this passage, I feel like every Christian who reads this is screaming inside WHOA, THIS IS ME! (I also find that at some point I have to go back and re-read a sentence or two because I just didn’t get it the first time.) Paul relates so well to us in this passage because every Christian who is growing at some point goes through this. In fact, many Christians continue in this state their entire lives. Still, this is not the life that the Lord intended for us to live. We are not supposed to feel like captives to sin, but free from sin. The very next passage in the book of Romans talks about the solution to this predicament. YES, there is a solution! You do not have to do all of this alone! You can stop sending me ferocious emails!

There is indeed a solution to the problem of feeling like you can never get over the hump of sin. Certainly, this solution does not leave you completely perfect in every way, all the time, for the rest of your life, but it does bring immense help to your situation and can encourage you when you feel overwhelmed like Paul did and as I often do, and as I’m sure you do as well. Verse 25 ends chapter 7, and in chapter 8 Paul introduces the impact that the Holy Spirit has on a person:

“You, however, are not in the flesh bit in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also live in your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

–       Romans 8:9-11, ESV

The Holy Spirit is available to us as believers to help us solve our problem of sin. Because we now live in the Spirit, our flesh has died. It is gone; our old, sinful self has died and we have been raised with Christ into righteousness. Don’t feel like you have all of these things to do in order to be a great spiritual leader without also feeling comfort that the Holy Spirit dwells within you to aid you in every single step of it. He will assist you as you try to obey the commands of Scripture, and as you discipline yourself to pray, and as you attempt to keep your integrity, and later as you try your hand at discipleship and specifically learn how to lead well.

But don’t just be comforted by the presence of the Spirit in your life, use Him. He’s there for a reason. The Lord did not just give Him to you so that you could be comforted, but so that He could actively help you where you need help. You need to be accountable to the Spirit in your life. As a spiritual leader, you need to submit yourself to the will of the Spirit, both now and in the moment when you are surrounded by temptation. You’ve heard of accountability, and that’s exactly what this is. You need to stay accountable to the Holy Spirit every single day.

What does an accountability partner do? He is there for you when you are in the midst of temptation. He is willing to give you advice exactly when you need it. He is willing to meet with you where you are and speak into your life. He is there to encourage you when you are broken. He is ready to call you out when you mess up. He asks the hard questions and listens to your confessions of sin, then forgives you and moves to set you back on the path of righteousness. The Spirit of God is actively doing all of these things in the life of every Christian. However, you have to pursue him in some instances. Certainly, He will pursue you always, especially when you don’t want Him to. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). But, if we are not confessing our sins to Him and receiving His renewed grace and mercy as He lovingly shows us the way back to where we know that we ought to be in our relationship with Him and our obedience to His will, then He is not so much an accountability partner as He is our personal guilt machine. He ends up being a thorn to us because all we get from Him is guilt without ever experiencing the mercy and grace and love and forgiveness that He readily offers for those who run to Him. So, you must be accountable to the Holy Spirit.

Still, there is still a great need for accountability to other men or women of God. While the Holy Spirit is certainly enough to keep us on the path of His will, more accountability to those that He puts in our lives within the Church cannot hurt your cause. In fact, it is a must for every Spiritual leader. We can ignore the Spirit all too easily. It is much more difficult to ignore someone that we can see (and someone that can hit us in the mouth if need be… ok, maybe not that one). But still, Christian leaders definitely need accountability with more than just the Spirit, because it only continues to help us as we work to grow into men and women of God and as leaders in His ministry. If you are willing to do absolutely anything to grow closer to the Lord, then you should be willing to submit yourself to accountability partners beyond the Holy Spirit.

There are various ways of doing accountability with other people, but I have some general suggestions concerning the topic. My own experience with accountability, particularly spiritual accountability, is a continual blessing to me. I have five accountability partners, some pastors, others older men in the church, some my own peers at LU. These men are all great men of God that I respect and cherish. I learn so much from all of them, and am so grateful to them for how they have served me in the time that I have known them. I meet with at least two of them on separate occasions every week, usually for lunch. They keep me accountable for some of the main areas of sin that I struggle with, as well as how my growth in the Lord is going. We have systems set up for consequences for when I mess up, and on the reverse side of that rewards for when I don’t mess up. I’m not saying that that’s good for every situation, but there are a few situations that it helps in. It reminds me that there are real consequences for my sin, apart from just our system, but in my future, even my immediate future, sin always has its consequences. That, and if it prevents me from actually committing the sin, that’s not such a bad thing either. Still, even that reminds me that not sinning and seeking after righteousness has great rewards as well, especially from the Lord! These men hold me to what I tell them I am going to do, and keep up with me throughout the week apart from when we’re meeting to encourage me in the areas that I struggle and rejoice with me in the areas that I am thriving. Not having them would set me back so far that I don’t even what to think about where I’d be.

So, even though I do have the Spirit and am accountable to Him, I am also accountable to men of God in my life, to my benefit! I would encourage you, if you are not already, to first seek accountability with the Spirit every day, even throughout the day. In the moment that you sin, immediately go to the Spirit for accountability with Him. In addition to that, get some form of accountability with a strong Christian. This should be with someone who is older than you, who is more spiritually mature than you are, and definitely someone who is of you gender. If you are married or in a relationship with someone, you need people outside of that relationship for your accountability partner. While in any relationship it is a great idea to communicate with one another, and especially in a marriage relationship, where it is very important that you hold each other accountable, it is likewise important that you find someone else to keep you accountable as well. If you are not married, I know from experience that it is not a good idea to be held accountable by your girlfriend or boyfriend, or even someone from the opposite gender that you are not in a relationship with (unless you want to be in a relationship with that person AND you want that relationship to end horrifically).

So, are you being held accountable for your actions currently? Especially in leadership positions, this is of extreme importance, and is an irreplaceable benefit to you and your ministry. Bring it to the point that you ask yourself every time you are tempted to sin if you are willing to talk to both the Spirit and your accountability partners about your decision later. If so, ask yourself if you are willing to talk to both the Spirit and your accountability partners about your decision about your decision later. If so…never mind. Just make sure that you do have accountability, and do so quickly! If you’re like me, then you’ll probably sin within the next five minutes or so! But seriously, do make yourself accountable to the Spirit of God and to other people as well. This will be of immense help as you try to keep your integrity intact. This will also help you bridge your obedience to Scripture and your integrity, along with your connection to God. Thus, accountability is the structure that rests upon the foundation of obedience to the Word and supports the integrity that you so desperately desire. Build it up, and enjoy the results that it has on you and those you lead.

The Honest Truth

Undeniably one of the most influential leaders in the history of…well, history, is Abraham Lincoln. The man took a great stand against slavery and led the United States through a civil war. He made all kinds of incredibly difficult decisions. He made a speech that became one of the most famous words spoken by any man, ever. But beyond all of these things, the late President had an extraordinary amount of wisdom hidden underneath of that top hat. He once made a statement that happens to highlight the focus of this entry:

Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

So what does your tree look like to other people, and how does that relate to what they see in your shadow as well? Does you shadow look more like a huge oak tree, when in reality you’re only a sunflower? Is the image that you give people of yourself reflective of the image that God sees when He looks at you? Do you have integrity?

One of my high school teachers spent almost an entire week on the topic of integrity. The class itself was a government class, so it was pretty ironic that he taught on integrity, but regardless, he had some decent points. One of them was NOT the illustration he gave using a duck and an eagle. Somehow, he illustrated how some people have integrity and are eagles, and some people don’t have integrity and are ducks. I don’t remember where on earth he got that from, but I promise not to use any weird metaphors like that on you. Still, he did say something that I found intriguing. He defined integrity as a fancy word for honesty, and taught us that if we were honest with everything that we said, including to ourselves, then we had integrity. I have often wondered about that (along with the duck and eagle thing), and whether or not that is really what integrity means. I think that integrity is one of those words that everyone uses but has no real good idea of what it actually means. Webster’s dictionary defines integrity as “Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” To me, this really says just about nothing, but Webster tends to be good at that. We’ll go to a much more reliable source and ask UrbanDictionary, which defines integrity as “Doing the right thing even when nobody’s looking.” Ah…something we can actually understand.

However, these definitions only hit on part of the answer we’re looking for. Henry Blackaby gives what I think is a fairly accurate definition with the combination of two of his quotes:

“Integrity is not a gift. It is a reward of discipline, honesty, consistency, and doing what is right no matter the cost.” and “Integrity is not automatic. It is a character trait that leaders consciously cultivate in their lives…it happens on purpose.”

Thus, integrity is not something that we have based on one single act. We cannot obtain integrity by doing one thing right even when others aren’t looking, nor can we have integrity by simply having morals…or…painting…or something like that.

Integrity, as Blackaby points out, is a character trait that is both purposeful and continuous. It is the result of not just being honest, but of being disciplined and consistent in everything that we do. This is so incredibly important to the Christian leader because it gives credibility to our authority. Leaders influence other people to do things. Christian leaders influence people to grow closer to the Lord through obedience to Him. But if you do not have integrity, then you do not have influence. And if you have no influence on the lives of people, how exactly are you still leading them?

It was Warren Weirsbe who said that “Apart from character [or integrity], ministry is only religious activity, or even worse, religious business… No amount of reputation can substitute for character.” You cannot simply have a great reputation to have great influence. Eventually, people will find you out for who you really are. They’ll be able to see past the shadow to see you for who you really are. And the problem with that is, once they see you for who you really are, they completely ignore the shadow. Even though before they saw the real thing they could only focus on the shadow and ignored the real you, once they see you in reality, they’ll never be able to look back. When you mess up once, rarely will you get a second chance. Even though in a church setting there is the process of church discipline and then forgiveness and restoration, outside of the church there is no such thing. If you as a spiritual leader offend a nonbeliever because they see you for who you really are, you won’t get a second chance with them, and they may never give the Lord a second chance either. How important is a single soul to you, much less God? If you have any respect for the souls of those who disbelieve God, or even those who have never heard of Him before, then you will strive for integrity with everything you have.

However, striving for integrity does not mean that you should strive to hide the person who you really are so that people will never be able to see past your shadow. For one, people will probably be able to figure you out regardless of what efforts you make to hide your lack of integrity. Instead, striving after integrity means that you are determined to get people to see past your shadow and get them to see you for who you really are. That person, though, should not be someone that will turn them away from Jesus, but one that points them directly to Christ, and nobody else, including you. As Blackaby speaks on this topic once more, we learn that “An unmistakable sense of authority accompanies leaders with integrity.” When people see you for who you really are, and the person that you really are points them to the Lord, then you have an incredible amount of authority and influence that can change a person’s life to likewise reflect that of Christ.

So, you want this kind of integrity, but how do you get there? What do you do to get integrity? There are two different uncomplicated but still ridiculously complicated things that you can do right now in order to gain the integrity that both you and the Lord desire for your life:

1-> Search through the Word of God for what He has to say about what your life should look like. Look at the life of Jesus, and try to reflect it as best as you can. Look at the lives of great leaders in the Bible and emulate their lives. Then take a look at the commands that the Lord has made in Scripture and make the radical changes necessary in your life that the Lord requires from them. One such place that is a great place to start is in Colossians 3:12-17:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

–       Colossians 3:12-17, ESV

There are more great passages similar to that one (Romans 12:9-21, Ephesians 5:1-21), but dig in yourself as well, and find out what Christ desires that you act and look like as His follower. Beyond that, if you are leading other, then at some point you probably teach or preach to either other Christians or nonbelievers, or both. So, if you are preaching or teaching, then make sure that what you say is also what you do. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:23).

2-> In addition to what the Word of God says, you have your own personal convictions that may or may not be based on Scripture. You need to be able to stay consistent with these as well.

Make sure to check yourself, not only based on the Word, but also based on what you believe morally and how you interpret Scripture. You must be consistent in both areas. Otherwise, you could be teaching on one verse in the Scripture, interpreting it one way and believing a completely different thing about it. Or, you could be telling people to act in a certain way when you yourself do not act that way. That is not integrity, that’s inconsistency.

So what are you going to do? You should already be going through the Word of God, looking for His commandments, and pursuing obedience in those areas of your life out of love for God and a delight in His rules. Stay consistent in that, and make sure that you are not trying to hide that. If you’re not there yet, then go back and re-read the first paragraph or so of my previous post. Please don’t neglect this. Those who depend on your leadership need the real you, not your shadow. Stop trying to be someone you’re not for the sake of reputation, and start trying to be the person that God wants you to be for the sake of souls. Emulate the honest truth of who you are.

The Connection

So you’ve taken a couple of months since reading the previous post and have gotten to the point that you are delighting in the commands of God and actually obeying what Scripture teaches and seeing the results of that in your life! Excellent! If not, then you probably just took a few minutes, if that, to reflect on the previous post, and then have since moved on to the next one. Well, that is mighty fine, because that is precisely what I did in writing these posts! However, it would still be beneficial for you to take some time before moving on to really make an attempt at getting into the Word and seeing what areas of your life do not yet match up with how the Lord wants you to live. That does not have to be a couple of months, but that would also be incredibly beneficial.

Regardless, for those of us who are ready, we will move on to the next section of this blog.

“The greatest thing anyone can do for God and for man is to pray. It is not the only thing, but it is the chief thing.” I heard this statement said in a class at Liberty University that the Lord used to completely change my life. The class was taught by a wonderful man of God named Dave Earley, and the Lord used him to get through to me on a variety of areas that needed changing in my walk with Him. One area that God turned me around on was in my prayer life. I had a pretty normal Christian prayer life up to that point in my life. I would pray before meals, and in church, and when requested to by pastors and professors. I would sometimes even pray to God in the middle of the day when I wanted something, like before I had a big test and wanted a good grade, or when I was tired and needed energy, or when I was in trouble and was looking for mercy, or when I saw an oh*o state fan and prayed for the strength to not commit any violent crimes. I prayed on what I would call an ‘eventual’ basis. If I told someone I would pray for them, I would go into a brief little prayer that minute for them, because I knew that if I waited it would never get done. If I had a big trip or a big decision or a big event, I would pray for that right before I had to make the decision, or right before I left on the trip, so that the Lord would be on my side. However, my prayer life beyond these things was virtually nonexistent.

That all changed with the lecture that Dr. Earley gave on prayer. The class was actually a Pastoral Leadership class, so the point of his lecture, like the point of this blog, was to equip spiritual leaders with what they need to lead others well. Yet, much of leading others well consists of leading yourself well. So, one of his very first lectures was on prayer, and the Spirit moved in a powerful way with me both during it and after hearing it.

He started off with quotes from famous Christian leaders; quotes that inspired us to both see the importance of prayer and to act against the lack of it that we saw in our lives. He gave us examples from his own life and from the lives of others that showed us how powerful prayer really can be. Then he gave us a challenge to set up a prayer plan, one that specified at what times we would pray, how much time we would pray, where we would pray, and what we would pray about. By the end of class, I was in tears. I immediately left the room and went to a prayer chapel that we had on campus and for two hours sat there crafting my prayer plan. Being the organizational freak that I am, it ended up being incredibly complicating and probably way oversophisticated, but it laid out everything for me. And the Lord used that plan to get me on my knees for an extraordinary amount of time (when you compare it to what I previously was doing). For 90 minutes a day my face was pushed against the floor as I cried out to God for my own spiritual growth, for my peers, for the unsaved, for Christians around the world, for my family, for my community, for anyone that I could find a need for (which pretty much includes everybody). In fact, if you are reading this right now as a person who has known me for a while, then odds are that I was on my knees praying for you at some point or another, if not multiple times a month. The Lord often had me in tears, especially for those that I care about the most. And I started to see the Lord answer my prayers in extraordinary ways! In addition to all of this, I spent an hour in the Word each day as well. And all of this went on for a good three months, until circumstances caused me to revise my prayer plan.

So I have known what it means to truly be on my knees and spend time, even a great amount of time, with the Lord. Even now, though I am not able to spend an hour and a half with the Lord every day, I am able to pray throughout the day and retain a thriving prayer life with the Lord that has seen God come through on multiple occasions. I have learned that it is of utmost importance, especially to the Christian leader, that one is with the Lord both for an extended period of time, as well as throughout the day, every single day. The purpose of this can be dumbed down to being two-fold, even though it could be drawn out to looking a lot more like an origami masterpiece.

1-> Christians, especially those in positions of spiritual leadership, need prayer for their own lives. You need to pray in order to keep away from sin. You need to pray to worship and tell God who He is and what you think of Him. You need to pray because it is the connection that you have with God; it connects you to the Creator of the Universe. You need to pray to give thanks to God. You need to pray so that you are in fellowship with the Lord and are acknowledging His presence. Without prayer, none of these things happen. How empty would your life be if you had none of these things? How empty is your life because you do not have any of these things?

2-> Those who are in spiritual leadership over others need to pray because they absolutely have to pray for the people that they are in leadership over. Even if the only spiritual leadership that you possess is over your children, you need to pray for them. Even if you are only discipling one person that you meet with once a week for coffee, you need to pray for that person! Intercession is a particularly important part of discipleship/leadership because you cannot lead a person effectively if you do not care about them enough to take them to God the Father on your knees, how can you lead them? How can you say that you care for a person that you are leading if you do not care enough about them to pray for them? How can you expect someone to follow you if you are not asking the Lord to allow them to follow you? How can you desire that a person grows without setting them before the one who causes them to grow?

Recently in my small group we discussed intercession out of the book of Nehemiah, which is subsequently one of my favorite books of Scripture. In chapter one, verses 5-11, we see a beautiful prayer that Nehemiah lays before the throne of God for the people of Israel. Just before this, he learned of the destruction that remained in Jerusalem despite it being years after the Israelites were allowed back into the country after being exiled in Babylon. His response was to weep and mourn for days (verse 4), and to fast and pray for his people. While praying, he set before the Lord this glorious word:

“O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the people, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O LORD, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

– Nehemiah 1:5-11a, ESV

Four observations can be made when looking at this text, and even the context of it, which I believe are especially important to today’s spiritual leader:

1-> Nehemiah is humble in every area of this prayer. He is humble for God in that he recognizes who He is and what He has done. He is humble in the way that he prays for his people. Notice that he mentions himself and even his own father’s household when he is confessing the sins of his people. We are often quick to note the sins of others, but rarely do we include ourselves in those sins. You can pray all you want to God about the sins of the people He has blessed you to lead, but where do you fit into all of that?

2-> He is worshipful in that he praises the Lord for who He is, what He has done, and what He is going to do. Nehemiah does not offer up prayer to God without worshipping Him in some way and focusing in on the truth of who He is.

3-> Nehemiah is desperate. He has wept, mourned, and fasted for these people for days. We do not know how long that this went on for, but it is of importance to note that when the book is introduced, Nehemiah says this all started in the month of Chislev (1:1). Just after the passage I quoted, when chapter 2 starts, it is said to be the month of Nisan (2:1). The separation between these months in our calendar would be between November/December to March/April. Furthermore, as Nehemiah learned of what all was going on in Jerusalem, he makes the statement that “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (verse 4). In addition to this, also in chapter 2 verse 1, Nehemiah says that he has never been sad in the presence of the King of Babylon. Thus, the end of verse 11 in chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2 could not have had a large time gap in it. So really the only time gap that we  know about is that of how long his brother, Hanani, who told him of Jerusalem, was with Nehemiah before he asked about the state of Israel. Still, Nehemiah spent a long time weeping and mourning, as well as fasting and praying before the Lord over this. He was completely desperate before his God, with no where else to look for for hope, and with no one else who could have possibly helped him, even the King of the Babylonian Empire.

4-> Nehemiah obviously loves and cares about the people that he is praying for. He fasted and prayed possibly for a couple of months over the situation at hand. He mourned and cried bitterly over them. Do you cry for the people that you lead? Do you care enough about them to mourn over their situations and circumstances? Especially with those who do not know the Lord, do you love them enough to fast for them? Do you pray for your people?

Without prayer, the people that God has given us to lead are not being prayed for. In addition to that, the person that is leading them is not connected to the God that is supposed to be the one leading him or her! If you are not connected to Christ in prayer, then where is your power to lead coming from? How can you expect for powerful things to happen in discipleship when nothing is happening in your own life?

If this is something that you are admittedly struggling with, then I would suggest you take the same steps that I took when the Lord got ahold of me on this issue: lay out a prayer plan that includes what times you are going to pray, how much time you are going to pray, where you are going to pray, and what you are going to pray about. In short, think of it as the 4 keys to more effective prayer:

Time(s)

Amount of Time

Place

Plan

Give it some thought, and then get on your knees before the Lord and do work with Him there. Connect with God, so that you are able to more effectively connect with others.

The Foundation

No person can lead unless they are already being led by something. For some people, they are led by a lust for money and power. For others, they have been led by their parents or other family members for the entirety of their childhood, so out of those experiences they lead others as well, even their own children. Many are led by their felt need for comfort and an established family, so they work hard every day, especially in positions of leadership, to make life comfortable for both themselves and their family. Almost everyone is led by the desire for companionship, and so we lead a life that is wholly geared towards meeting another person who can fulfill that desire. If you truly think about it, much of what we do is so that we can simply fall in love, because we are led by that desire.

Being led by something, whether it be good or bad, controls what we do and how we act. What leads us gives us purpose, but it also gives us a specific way that we are to accomplish that purpose. Thus, everyone who leads is led by something, because everyone has a purpose. That thing that leads us points us in either a good or bad direction, but at least it points us in a direction. So, some are pointed in a good direction and work to fulfill good purposes, while other strive to achieve bad purposes.

Christian spiritual leaders certainly have good purposes in mind when they seek to lead others, as is taught in Scripture. But what is it that is behind those purposes? What is it that is supposed to lead a spiritual leader? What causes one to lead others in the spiritual realm?

In Scripture, David was unquestionably a spiritual leader; he was the King of Israel! He led millions of people, and, being the ‘man after God’s own heart,’ the direction he led those people was definitely not a bad one. Despite succumbing to some pretty heavy sin, David led a nation to a place in its history that spiritually it had rarely seen. He was in constant worship of his God, as seen in the dozens of Psalms that he wrote. David led the nation of Israel into battle after battle, starting with his defeat of Goliath, pointing to the Lord all the way for each victory. He also led the country into financial success that would climax during the reign of his son, Solomon. In addition to that, he was the only leader of the Israelites to ever fulfill the promise of God to Israel for the boundaries that He had designated for them when they first came out of Egypt with Moses. Through the battles and wars that Israel fought under his leadership, David finally accomplished claiming the entirety of what was previously called ‘the promise land.’ He was an extraordinary leader, who succeeded in a variety of areas, including in how far he and his nation grew in their relations to God.

But what was the cause of all of this great leadership? What led David to be able to excel as a leader in the first place? What was the foundation of David’s leadership abilities?

We find the answer in Psalm 119, specifically in verses 33-40, though the whole of the psalm provides us with the same answer as well. Still, let’s focus in on this spectacular passage of Scripture to determine what David did to be such a successful leader of God’s people:

“Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.

Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.

Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!”

-Psalm 119:33-40, ESV

David prays fervently to the Lord in this passage that He might lead him in the path of God’s commandments. David longs desperately for the rules of God, that he might be able to obey Him. He delights in the law of the Lord! He longs for His precepts! David calls the rules of God good!

Now, how often do we feel that the rules that we find all throughout Scripture are good? How often do we delight in the law of our Savior? Have the commands of the Word of God ever been our true delight? Back in verse 14 of this same chapter, David says that “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. In verse 30, we read that he has “chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.” Again, in verse 48: “I will lift my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” More of the same in verses 54-55: “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law.” Do you worship God’s commands in a way that they overwhelm your lifestyle, take it over, and become a part of who you are? Do you find that you get more pleasure out of following the rules of God than anything else? Do you love God’s Word, His rules, and His will for your life?

Anyone, but especially one looking to become a spiritual leader, or one who already is a spiritual leader, should, before anything else, learn to love the rules of God. If you are in a position of leadership over anyone in a spiritual sense, and this is not you, then immediately you need to take a hard look at your lifestyle and how you are obeying the will of God in it. Change anything that you see does not honor God’s will, and continue from then on to focus on how you can constantly adapt your life to the commands found in Scripture. Constantly choosing to obey God’s Word will eventually make you delight in the law of our Lord.

Those who are not yet spiritually leading anyone but are preparing to do so need to lie this same thing as the foundation for everything else that they do to be better leaders in the future. Without this, everything else falls apart because nothing else will be genuine. Devoid of a love for God’s Word that rules one’s lifestyle, discipleship is pointless.

If you are not leading people from a love for Scripture and the person of God Himself, what are you leading them from? If you do not delight in God so much that you desperately long to obey his commands for your life, then why bother leading people to what you do delight in?

What leads you to lead others?