Spiritual Warfare and Christian Leadership

toucheContinued from here.

One of the most challenging aspects of Christian leadership for me is dealing with spiritual attack. I have learned that the more ground I gain for the Kingdom of God as a leader, the more spiritual attack I can expect. Some spiritual attack is more annoying than anything else, such as when my The Armor of God Summer Bible study at my church experienced a wide variety of technical difficulties whenever we tried to air the video for that session. Other spiritual attacks, however, come at a much larger scale.

The spiritual attacks I find most challenging are those aimed at the ones I love. I expected to get slammed personally when I accepted a position as the executive director of a statewide Christian ministry. However, I did not expect the lives of my family and friends to blow up. It’s one thing to endure my own pain to follow God. It takes a deeper level of trust to continue leading in obedience to God as you watch those you love experiencing spiritual attack because of your own choices, especially when those under attack do not have as deep a relationship with God, leaving them much more vulnerable.

As your relationship with God deepens and you are placed into larger areas of leadership responsibility, I encourage you to build a strong prayer base. Recruit people to be prayer warriors on behalf of you, your loved ones, and your ministry (whether it is big or small) so all you do is saturated in prayer. Being covered in prayer provides a safety net when the enemy’s attacks knock you off your feet.

Most importantly, count the cost of following Jesus and decide once and for all whether the cost is worth it to you. This was the advice that Jesus gave. Once you decide that a relationship with God is worth the cost, never again question your commitment, no matter how many times the enemy slams you down. I have learned firsthand that a close, deep, personal, and intimate relationship with God is worth any cost, which is why I am willing to walk into the pain of others. He is worth it.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace being touched by a fencing sword and saying, “Touche.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Why Walk into the Pain of Others?

whyContinued from here.

After reading my last blog entry, you might be asking why anyone would be willing to yoke together with another person who is deeply in pain and walk into that pain voluntarily. The short answer is love.

As you grow to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, you grow to care about what—and who—God cares about. God deeply cares about the people who are in bondage to deep emotional pain, and He knows the only way for them to walk out of this bondage is for someone to walk God right smack dab into the center that pain. This requires a sacrifice from you, which is why Jesus said “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The cross we must bear is walking into the pain of others so they can walk out with a relationship with God.

Only love will motivate someone to walk into someone else’s pain, and that love comes from God. The authors of my textbook, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission), offer these words of wisdom:

Given all this pain or potential pain, why would any sensible person voluntarily stand on its receiving end? The only reason that makes any sense is the call to emulate the Savior, who offered himself as a ransom for many…Only a heart like that of Jesus can bear the pain.”

Only a true disciple of Christ is going to be willing to walk into the pain of others because there’s nothing else appealing about the process. Life brings each of us enough pain. Why would we want to voluntarily walk into someone else’s pain as well? The only reason is love – pure and simple love.

If you call yourself a Christian, then you are called into leadership – to influence others to seek the same God you have found. Your call might be at a worldwide level like Beth Moore or Joyce Meyer, or it might just be for your own children, friend, or neighbor. Either way, you are a Christian leader and need to take that responsibility seriously.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Leadership Challenge: Bearing the Pain of Others

cryContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I shared six reasons why people shy away from Christian leadership, as identified in my Global Missions textbook, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission). The final point was bearing the pain of others. This is the one that God has been teaching me about over the last several months, so I’d like to devote an entire blog entry to this topic.

The textbook includes the following quote:

You can exercise and sustain personal leadership only to the extent of our capacity to bear pain.”

What exactly does this mean? When you chose to lead (or influence) someone toward a relationship with God, you yoke together with that person, which connects you with that person’s pain. For example, let’s say you choose to yoke together with someone with an addiction. Addiction does not happen in a vacuum – it’s a way to manage and avoid pain. The addiction itself is the symptom: the root of the problem is the pain that only God can fully heal. Leading an addict to Christ involves yoking together with that person and being willing to walk into that pain with him. As you do, you bring the power of God with you, which is the only solution to the problem of the pain.

Many people don’t want to walk in the pain, so they resist becoming a leader of someone in deep emotional pain. However, that’s not how Jesus lived. He was willing to walk in the pain with the Samaritan woman at the well. As a result, not only did he walk the power of God into her pain, but the power of God extended to the entire city!

While some people might be reached through evangelistic efforts that don’t involve yoking together in the pain, many will not. The “noise” of their pain is so loud that it drowns out the evangelistic message shouted from a distance. For those in deep emotional pain to “hear” the gospel, they need a leader to yoke together with them and walk into their pain with God so they can walk out of the pain together and into freedom.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying and kneeling in the tears of a large crying emoticon. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Challenges of Being a Christian Leader

Continued from here.

Why do people shy away from being Christian leaders? My textbook for my Global Missions class, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission), lists several reasons for this reluctance.

First, people see the role as fatiguing. The leader has to fill in the gaps when others won’t do a task that needs to be completed, so Christian leadership can be tiring. In other words, leadership seems like too much work to many people.

Second, the leader is responsible for sorting out conflicting duties. I’ll share an example I have dealt with as leader of a Bible study in my local church. One priority is ensuring access to studying God’s Word to everyone. Another priority is ensuring the needs of the participants are met. I was leading a women’s Bible study that a man wanted to join because he was interested in the topic, and the church did not offer any men’s Bible studies at the time. Several women in the group were not comfortable with having a man in the Bible study because they wanted to talk about topics were not appropriate in mixed company. As the leader, I had to make the decision about which priority outweighed the other.

Third, people don’t want the responsibility of being the “bad guy.” In the example I just shared, I had to be the “bad guy” either to the man who wanted to join the group or the women who did not want a man in the group. No matter what I decided, I bore the responsibility of sharing the “bad news.”

Fourth, leading people is not always fun, particularly when they make the job a chore. This is why the Bible tells us to behave in a way that leading us is a joy and not a burden.

The fifth point ties into the second – the leader is responsible for making decisions in times of crisis. While those being led react to their floods of emotions, the leader must stay calm, despite how s/he feels, and make tough decisions in less-than-ideal circumstances.

The final point made in my textbook will be the topic of my next blog entry: bearing the pain of others.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission). Courtesy Amazon.com.]

 

The Joys & Challenges of Christian Leadership

lets_goIf you are a Christian, you are, by definition, a leader. I suspect many of you do not believe this about yourself, but the Bible is clear that to be a disciple of Christ, you must be a leader. The last words Jesus said before ascending into heaven were…

”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matt. 28:19-20

Those words were not only for the original twelve disciples, only for pastors, or only for Christians with a special calling: they apply to you and to me as well.

Many people shy away from their responsibilities as Christian leaders because they mistakenly believe being a leader = leading a church or large ministry. However, at its most basic level, a leader is simply an influencer. When I influence you to deepen your relationship with God, I am leading you to God, which makes me a leader.

As a Christian, you have a responsibility to influence others toward a relationship with God, which is the primary reason you are still on this earth. I used to wonder why God didn’t simply take me to heaven when I became a Christian instead of having to endure the pains of life. The answer is that my conversion to Christianity was not only about myself. If I am satisfied that I get to go to heaven when I die and don’t care about anyone else developing a relationship with God, I’m not behaving in a Christlike manner. Jesus died for everyone I come into contact with. Because I love Jesus, it’s my responsibility to influence others to develop a relationship with him as well. That makes me a leader, even if I only influence my child, friend, or neighbor toward considering a relationship with God..

If you are a Christian, then you are, by definition, a leader. This blog series is for you!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running and saying, “Let’s Go!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritual Maturity Series Wrap Up

doneContinued from here.

I have a feeling that this blog series might have stepped on some toes. To quote a pastor I respect, before God steps on your toes through what I write on this blog, He clobbers me with it first. Everything I have shared in this series is what God has taught me over the years, and I certainly don’t do it perfectly. I fall, and then I get up, and then I fall again. I tell God that I am not capable to living as He commands me to live, so I am fully dependent upon Him to empower me to do so. Otherwise, I will keep falling. And then I get up and try again.

To quote Beth Moore, I learned all I have written on a “field trip,” which is much harder than reading about someone else’s experiences and making changes without God messing with my circumstances. I have had to learn much of what God has taught me the “hard way.” This blog is my gift to you so you can learn through reading what I learned through experience.

Far too many Christians want just enough of God to avoid going to hell when they die. Eternal life with God is not the only reason Christ died for us – He came to restore us into relationship with God, and that starts now, not after we die. There’s not much attractive to those who are separated from God when we don’t transform into Christ’s image. Perpetually immature Christians don’t seem much different from the World around them other than going to a church service on Sundays.

If the Church would grow up into Christlikeness, many more people would be attracted to God. The Body of Christ needs to stop behaving like self-centered children and, instead, grow up into a “mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:15). I’m not claiming that becoming a disciple of Christ is easy, but it is simple. It happens by saying, “Yes, Lord,” and doing what God says to do in the Bible, regardless of how we feel about it and regardless of what anyone else thinks. Relatively few people choose to live as true disciples of Christ, but those who do are blessed beyond measure as they become a blessing to others.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace clapping her hands and saying, “Done and Done.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritually Mature People Disciple Others

need_an_adultContinued from here.

The most spiritually mature people disciple others. It’s no longer enough for them to grow in their own relationship with God – they deeply desire to help others grow as well. Spiritually mature people are not satisfied with a “selfish faith,” keeping the wonders and riches of an intimate relationship with God to themselves. They want others to experience this as well!

Because spiritually mature people have grown from being self-absorbed spiritual children to adulthood, they are able to recognize someone else’s level of spiritual maturity and guide them gently toward the next step in deepening their relationship with God. Speaking the truth in love, they guide less mature Christians to grow up and mature in Christ. This is what it means to fulfill the Great Commission, which were Jesus’ last instructions before ascending into heaven:

Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” ~ Matt. 28:18-20

While some people believe the Great Commission is only about converting people to Christianity, it runs so much deeper than that. Jesus didn’t say to get people to accept him as Savior so they can avoid going to hell when they die. Instead, he said to “make disciples” and to teach them to obey God. That’s the Great Commission to all of us, and it’s our responsibility as we mature spiritually to care about the spiritual maturity of others. How will they learn to grow up in Christ without others teaching them how to do so?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace saying, “I need an adult.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]