Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You Can't Lead if You Won't Follow

As a leader, I’ve learned that some people in the church understand spiritual authority, but many don’t. What a pleasure to lead those people that understand this concept! How difficult and energy-zapping it is to lead those who don’t! Let’s face it--most people have a problem with authority because nobody likes being told what to do. But this is the way God has organized His kingdom. Apostles, pastors, prophets, teachers, elders—God appoints and anoints people to lead and we are to follow.

David understood God’s delegated authority when he refused to kill Saul (even though Saul would have taken him out in a heartbeat!). He even repented for tearing off a piece of his robe. After doing so, he said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." 1 Sam 24:6 David set the bar high for all of us. We must respect those in authority over us and never cause them harm by our words or actions.*

More importantly, we must NOT be like Saul—taking advantage of our position because of pride and insecurity. Several years ago I taught from Watchman Nee’s book Spiritual Authority and it had a profound effect on the way I view leadership in the church. As leaders, we must realize the importance of staying under God’s authority. Too often we’ve seen pastors fall when they come out from under the protective umbrella of God’s covering and arrogantly try to lead in their own strength and know-how.

As Nee puts it, “One is not fit to be God’s delegated authority unless he himself first knows how to be under authority.” Also, it is “obedience that qualifies us to be God’s delegated authority.” Along with obedience, we must “lose our cleverness and opinion,” and allow God to break us of self. The only way to live in this state of mind is to constantly stay in communion with God. It is in this place of intimacy that we “clearly see our own faults” and our need for Him.

As leaders, our followers will benefit from our leadership to the extent that we have surrendered to God and been changed by His activity in our lives. In Watchman Nee’s A Balanced Christian Life, he explains this point. “Unless we are delivered, we cannot expect other people to be delivered. If we do not have vision, how can we expect others to see God’s way? Except we walk in it, no one else will be able to follow. Today God wishes to deal with us first. And after He has gotten some of us, we can then expect to gain other people.”

Oh God, give me the grace to be led by you and to lead others well!

*I’m not saying there’s no occasion to remove someone from their position in the church. That’s why we have things like church by-laws. I’m just saying we must tread very cautiously when it comes to these delicate matters—with a heart and attitude like David.

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