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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thoughts on Leadership

            I will start with a disclaimer:  although I lived in the greater St. Augustine, FL area for a number of years, I do not personally know Tim Tebow or his family, although I cannot help but think I am one introduction away, but by who, I have no idea.  Today, it came across my mind, while watching sports news, that he must be the most divisive athlete in the U.S. since Jackie Robinson.  With Robinson, the issue was race, and this country has seen sufficient healing with this regard that the way it was then is unimaginable to those of us who didn’t live through it (that was about two decades too far back for my memory).  With Tebow, the divisiveness comes from his faith combined with what the media has told us is his exceptional leadership ability at a time where there is more open hostility to believers in Jesus. 

            I live in a military area, and what we hear in the recruitment ads speaks about leadership.  This concept of leadership is nearly totally based on discipline and training.  I occasionally read articles about a military unit, and it seems it always has to be mentioned that, for those in the unit, what they do is a job, and not a matter of passion for the ideals of this country.  The ideals are respected, and mentally saluted, but it isn’t a matter of passion, the way a football team gets worked up before a game.  Of course, that type of emotional excitement only is functional for certain short periods of time, and totally the opposite of functional for many endeavors.  I say this, as my son is in the military working on electronics, where getting excited (upset) is a reason to go take a walk for a minute.

            Leadership is a fascinating subject for me.  I had the honor to be around about two persons in high school and three in college who had a gift for leadership.  One of the persons I knew in college is a believer, and has been involved in leading in traditional churches during his adult life.  I can clearly say that his gifting for leadership was on his life at 19, long before the denomination he is connected to accredited him as a leader.  I didn’t know him before he was a believer, so I have no clue how believing increased his leadership ability.  I fully well know from the other persons that exceptional leadership ability appears in them to be a natural gift, not a learned thing.  At my age, I don’t really know how to separate a natural ability to lead, and the spiritual gift of leadership Paul speaks of in Romans 12:8.

            I can further say that, when I was in high school and college, a gift of leadership, whether natural or spiritual, was more obvious then than when I became an adult, where our society, be it business, politics, church, or whatever, attributes leadership to a position, so it is really hard to tell whether there is giftedness behind it.  First Corinthians 12:10 tells about gifts (plural) of healing.  Further, nothing is indicated in scripture that the spiritual gifts spoken in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and First Corinthians 12 are the complete list.  Therefore, it is unsaid that there may be degrees of leadership ability.  One problem in the church in North America is the idea on both sides of the divide within the church on understanding spiritual gifts is that the discussion gravitates toward the gifts of tongues and prophecy, and doesn’t discuss the others much.  To that effect, when I walk over to the discussion of leadership, there is a problem on both sides of the previous controversy that leaders are oftentimes recognized by positions given by fellow humans.  One aspect about any spiritual gift is that, if it is truly given by God (I am not questioning God’s giving these gifts, I am using “if” in the sense of a logical if-then sentence), then the gifting upon a believer is not dependent upon whether an organization, or even any other believer recognizes it.  It is God’s gifting that makes one a pastor (Eph. 4), a discerner of spirits (1 Cor. 12:10), a giver (Rom. 12:8), or, possibly, one who possesses a gift God gives over and above the names he has elaborated for us. 

            A further problem with leadership giftings is beginning to show itself here in the West, with the rise of the megachurch, which could not have happened previously without the ability of most people to come many miles, experience the presentation called worship that is dependent on many modern technologies, and the highly able leader.  I avoided the word “gifted” there, in that we have seen such churches built around one person with extreme talent, or is it a spiritual gift, for leadership, and then the world has seen such organizations financially collapse if something happens to that person, and there is no other person who can fill his shoes.

            I come back, once again, to First Thessalonians 5:11, which tells us to edify each other.  Such a gifted person can speak to thousands, but it gets in the way, not only of those persons edifying each other, but in some cases even knowing each other.  I have come to believe that Jesus, who as God had more ability than any of us, chose to intensely mentor 12, and it appears mentor to a significantly lower degree, another 70.  Paul taught 24 young leaders in Ephesus.  We can have “iron sharpens iron” relationships with only a few others.  If you ask me a question that I haven’t thought about lately (or ever), it may take me a little while to think and study through it, and give a proper answer.  ESP is not a (Godly) spiritual gift, and to say that a traditional pastor preparing a sermon is answering the questions those listening to him/her have (knowingly or unknowingly) is implying that something like it is.  I have come to believe that the participatory Bible study, where everyone to wishes to knows what will be examined to examine beforehand for him/herself to prepare so as to help others, makes for a situation in which those who have not grown to the maturity to study for oneself, will ask spur of the moment questions which are far more likely to produce the “teachable moment” in which the right statement, which is actually the Spirit speaking into that persons’ spirit, happens. 

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