4 Things Kingdom Leaders do: Part 3 (by Manik Corea)

We have already looked at 2 important tasks that godly leaders must be devoted to: visionary leadership and obedient action. Today, we look at no.3 – persevering and growing in the midst of opposition.

If there’s one thing that is guaranteed of godly and visionary leaders, it is that they will be attacked, complained about, spoken against, criticized unjustly and sometimes wholly despised. Thankfully, not usually all at once!

Leadership of God’s people can be challenging – just ask Moses (Numbers 11:11-12). A leader is called to walk ahead of others – which also means becoming a walking target for those behind you.

Furthermore, we know and expect opposition from the world we live in, which in our day is increasingly antagonistic and downright hostile to Christians, if not already persecuting. We can’t say we have not been warned, given Jesus’ words in John 15:18, 20:

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first…..Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you.” (NLT).

How should we then lead as Jesus-called leaders in this day and age? We must persevere in doing God’s will, despite the challenges outside and inside the church. What matters most is that we please God over man, to whom we are ultimately accountable (Acts 4:19-20; Galatians 1:10; Hebrews 13:17).

But let us also realize we are all yet imperfect leaders called to lead imperfect people! We see things from partial perspectives. We judge from flawed experience or prejudiced attitudes that can blind us. We may easily take offense or react to personalities, behavior and viewpoints that trigger unsavory responses. We cannot therefore take ourselves too seriously.

There is an anecdotal story of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who was met on a narrow path by a Caucasian man walking in the opposite direction. The man pushed forward, glared at Tutu and said, ‘I don’t make way for gorillas.’ At which Tutu stepped aside, and retorted, ‘Ah, yes, but I do.’

Humorous reactions aside, Kingdom-leaders must grow in grace to deal with (sometimes unjust) criticism and to endure opposition. Here are 2 things I have learnt through much struggle, that has helped me deal with and grow from opposition and criticism:

  1. When criticized, directly or indirectly, seek God’s help not to immediately respond with commensurate anger or frustration or to defend oneself.

The fruit of the Spirit includes gentleness and self-control. We are instructed to learn to be slow to speak and to be angry (James 1:19).

The Proverbs are full of godly counsel regarding our reactions to what others do and say to us. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (see also Proverbs 15:1; 17:27). Reflect before you speak. Let silence and prayer become your default first reaction.

2 Seek the counsel and prayers of others

Leaders who try to manage criticism and opposition on their own usually end up regretting the things they do and say. I write from personal experience. I am proud and strong-willed in that way, and so it takes a lot for me to seek and ask for advice, counsel and help. But we so need the wisdom of the community of other disciples, and the readiness to receive wise instruction.

I am blessed with great counselors. My wife often speaks home-truths to me. I have had (and still do) wonderful mentors and peers who help me to see my faults and to help me be gracious in response when not in the wrong.

One lesson I have been slow to learn, is to hear out the criticism or challenge, and to consider carefully if there could be truth that I need to hear. A great suggestion I recently heard is, when criticized, to go to a trust-worthy friend, and ask this question: “Someone said this about me. Do you see this as well? Is there something to this?”

Hateful critics will seek to tear down, but godly leaders seek to build up and be peace-makers. There is no reason Jesus gives us for hurling stones back or to give as good as we get. ‘Bless, do not curse’ (Romans 12:14 and Matthew 5:44).

Pray, seek counsel, act in humility. In all things, flee to Jesus and learn from Him (Hebrews 12:3-4).

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4 Things Kingdom Leaders do: Part 3 (by Manik Corea)

4 Things Kingdom Leaders do: Part 2 (by Manik Corea)

Last week, we started to look at 4 principle things a Christ-pleasing leader should consistently do, as he seeks to lead and raise other leaders. First key task: to seek and pursue a godly vision for one’s life and call.

There are important practical steps for leaders in communicating godly vision to those they lead – i.e. capturing, concretizing and casting the vision in a way that calls everyone in the direction God intends.

But the most crucial and critical piece in fulfilling godly vision is its practice. We are called to walk by faith. ‘Walking’ is of course, a doing word. This is our second principle work of kingdom leadership: active obedience to God’s command.

All true disciples, like Jesus, will seek to do the will of the Father.[1] This may seem commonsensical, but it is amazing how easily, when taking the reins of leadership and responsibility, we then find a host of other competing demands.

The tasks, burdens, responsibilities and challenges of leadership are many. The Apostle Paul told in his letter of the heavy burden of leadership that he carried and the loneliness it sometimes entailed (2 Corinthians 11:28-29; Galatians 4:19; 2 Timothy 1:15).

But there are temptations too. I was taught that every leader must beware of the 3 ‘G’s – i.e. Girls (or ‘Guys’ for the ladies), Gold and Glory

We are tempted to think leadership is a matter of titles, remuneration, authority, talents or creative abilities. We easily lose sight of Jesus in the egoistical exhilaration of having people who look up and listen to you. Or people may start to undermine and criticize our leadership and we become reactive or crowd-pleasing.

So, how can a leader keep his way pure?

Three things are needful:

  1. Stay fixed and focused on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 is a reminder to keep our eyes firmly on our Lord, who sought the joy of godly obedience while enduring the cross. We are called to throw aside every encumbrance in pursuit of our Lord’s pleasure and glory. Our work of faith, first and foremost, is to trust and obey Jesus and find joy.
  2. Order your personal life. In NAMS, all Companions vow to God to keep the personal holy habits of daily abiding in God’s word and prayer, giving towards global mission, making disciples and retreating 4 times a year with Christ. These should be minimal for any serious follower of Jesus. But the onus is on us leaders as God’s fellow workers, to really be steeped in discipling and leading ourselves from the inside out!
  3. Be accountable. We who are ‘born-again’ are born into a family. A great cloud of witnesses, Hebrews 12:1 tells us, is watching. Therefore, we can lay aside the entanglements of sin with each other’s support, counsel, prayers and watch. A well trained leader will answer to those over him in the Lord.

Ultimately, such a walk will demand consistency. John Maxwell said, “Leadership develops daily, not in a day.”[2] Not least Jesus-shaped leadership. It is only by faithful obedience to Christ’ commands that we can effectively help others to obey.

Jon Shuler, NAMS founder and spiritual father to me and many, often reminds me that we can only bring people to where we already are.

We are not called simply to instruct people like professors or bark orders like drill sergeants. We are call to lead people on by journeying with and ahead of them. As has been said, “A boss says ‘go’. A leader says ‘let’s go.’”

The tragedy in our churches is that they are full of Christians who know what God wants and may even sing lustily about it at worship services. But God requires more than assent or even decision. The tragedy of today’s evangelical Christianity may well be calling people to profession, but not to obedience.

Most already know more than they choose to practice. When all is said and done in God’s kingdom, more will have been found to be said than done.

But love for Christ is proved by our obedience (John 14:15). A Christ-formed leader will therefore be a ‘doer’ of the word, not merely parroting that word to others (James 1:22).

What will it take to ensure this is the case in your own leadership call?

 

[1] Matthew 7:21; Mark 3:35; Luke 6:46; John 4:24, 6:38-40, 7:17.

[2] John Maxwell, subtitle to chapter 3 title, ‘The Law of Process’ in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised, 2007).

4 Things Kingdom Leaders do: Part 2 (by Manik Corea)

4 Things Kingdom Leaders do: Part 1 (by Manik Corea)

In the previous weeks, we have already established that at the heart of Christian leadership is a call to sacrificial servant-hood. As leaders, we will see ourselves fundamentally as servants of God and stewards entrusted with the things of God. God is our only Master.

Now, leadership has been defined as ‘the ability of one person to influence others to follow his or her lead.’[1] The Christian leader is called to influence others, believer and unbeliever alike, towards the goal of living for Christ. Making Christ the greatest treasure and absolute centre of our lives, we seek to present him to others so that we can bring all (if possible) to maturity in Christ (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21; 3:8-11; Colossians 1:27-29).

How is this godly influence exercised and worked out? In the next weeks, I want to look at 4 principle works that any leader in God’s kingdom must be committed to doing and to help others do the same, in order to know Christ, and to make Him known. These are:

  1. See and share a godly vision of life
  2. Be passionate about obeying, following and teaching the commands of God
  3. Be ready to endure opposition and persecution for Christ
  4. Raise other leaders after him.

In short: vision, passion, endurance and succession. First then: vision.

What is the difference between a great leader and a good leader?

Perspective! A great leader sees better and further than his contemporaries, and is committed to leading them there. Jesus-shaped leaders are seeking to see God’s vision for all their life and then to pursue it with all their heart.

Isaiah 6 is often looked at and used as a passage about the ‘call of God’ – particularly  the challenge of God’s missionary questions in verse 8: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’

But Isaiah’s vision has a more to teach us than just the question of ‘going’. It is first and foremost, about the effect on Isaiah of his ‘seeing’ the Lord.

The first verse of Isaiah 6 tells us that a national tragedy had occurred – King Uzziah had died. He had been a good king for Israel, particular in the early days of his reign (see 2 Chronicles 26). But now he was gone. However, God granted Isaiah to see something far greater – a vision of God on his throne in the temple.

What he saw and heard shook Isaiah to the core – met by the manifest glory and holiness of God, his utter sinfulness was made bare.

Isaiah saw himself in the light of God, and felt utterly unworthy. He cried ‘woe is me.’ In our celebrity culture today, many people seem to be crying the opposite – ‘Wow is me!’ But right vision of God will always result in clarity of who we are in truth. It is the need of the hour.

Having confessed and been cleansed by an act of grace (vs 5-7), Isaiah is then consecrated for representative mission by God, for God (vs 8-9). The process is clear – vision leads to conviction, confession, cleansing, and finally consecration.

I am certain that Isaiah’s vision of God branded itself on his consciousness and no doubt influenced his prophetic ministry from then on. We need similarly to see and encounter God often in our lives. As Edmund Chan has said, ‘The greatest need of leadership is a fresh vision of God coming out of a fresh encounter with God.’

A godly leader is one who sees and seeks God for who He is – the author, controller and director of our lives. We live out His vision for ourselves and those He gives us to lead. ‘God is not the supporting actor in our stories; we have bit parts in his.’[2]

Three times in Acts, we hear Paul relating the vision and call of his Damascus Road arrest by the Risen Christ.[3] It shaped henceforth the absolute direction and content of his life, such that at his trial before King Agrippa, he was able to declare that ‘I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared….that they should repent and turn to God.’ (Acts 26:19-20).

What is God’s vision for your life? Your family? Your ministry? What is your vision for this day he has given you? Godly leadership will seek to follow and fulfill God’s vision over and above every other competing and compelling sight.

[1] J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 27.

[2] Kevin J. Vanhoozer “Letter to an Aspiring Theologian: How to Speak of God Truly.”, page 31. First Things, Aug/Sep 2018/

[3] Acts 9:3-8; 22:6-11; 26:12-19

4 Things Kingdom Leaders do: Part 1 (by Manik Corea)

Jesus-shaped Leaders – The 5 ‘C’s: Part 5 (by Manik Corea)

We have come to the last ‘C’ of ‘Jesus-shaped Leadership.’ Last week, we looked at ‘Competence’ – the need to develop life-skills, gifting and ability so that we can become the effective, Christ-like leaders Jesus desires us to be.

To tie together all the preceding requirements for raising healthy and multiplying leaders, I would like to end with the word ‘Commitment’. Christian leadership is akin to a marathon, and we must prepare leaders for the long-haul.

Year ago at school, I trialed in the heats of a 1.5km long-distance race. The winners would complete in the annual school Sports Day. In my mind, I had the perfect strategy to win – lead from the front all the way to the end.

When the race started, I shot to the front, while everyone else paced themselves slowly for first of the four laps round the track. I built up a commanding lead and was way out in front. During the second lap however, fatigue caught up with me. So did everyone else! I began to fall behind and by the end, I was in last position. I gave up the race by the middle of the third lap, slinking away to cower in embarrassment in the stands. I had learnt a valuable lesson the hard way: it is easier to start a race then complete it.

Jesus-shaped leaders are called to last the distance and to finish the race of faith He has started us on.

Seeking to be, and to raise leaders who are shaped by the call and Spirit of Jesus, will demand our total commitment. This is in any case, engendered in the call to consistent and genuine discipleship.

We see this for example in the Lukan version of the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-15). When Jesus elaborates on the good soil that yielded a hundredfold harvest, He spoke of those who ‘hold fast to the word in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.’ Only in Luke do we see Jesus explain that disciples who are receptive of His Word and gospel will ‘bear fruit in patience.’ (Though this is certainly implied in other synoptic gospels in the idea of the growth to harvest from seed to fruit.)

In Luke 9:23, Jesus states that carrying the cross and following Him is a daily affair. Consistency is called for and there are no quick 3-step process to becoming fruit-bearing, multiplying disciples. It is a daily call and vocation.

Neither can you become a Jesus-shaped leader in a day. Or produce such.

God is patient with us, and we must be with each other. This being and becoming servant leaders is a life-term project. And it will require us to be pruned for greater growth and to be trained by trials and temptations. We must develop a perspective that is eternal, not temporary; kingdom-of-God-centered, not worldly; glorifying to God, not pleasing to self.

For all this, we need to learn to have patience, perseverance and endurance. Scripture is replete with calls for the patient endurance of faith and its development in time and trial (see Romans 5:3-4; Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 12:1-2; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; Revelation 1:9).

Leadership, like discipleship, takes the long-term view of life. It will be in the words of nihilistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’[1]

Being a leader in God’s church is not easy thing. It is demanding – carrying with it the responsibilities concomitant with the particular level of influence and gifting. Jesus stated this clearly in his maxim, ‘To whom much is given, much will be required.’ (Luke 12:48).

And such leadership will demand a commitment and perseverance that is a necessary pre-condition for bearing much fruit in the Kingdom of God. Let us then seek above all to be, and to raise, committed leaders called to run the race with patience and endurance, by God’s grace.

In the last weeks, we have seen then that these 5 ‘C’s together characterize Jesus-shaped leadership. Such leaders, in summary, are to be 1) Called by God, 2) transformed in their Character by Him, 3) filled with His anointing Charism, 4) growing in greater Competency as leaders and 5) remaining steadfast and Committed to a way of life that glorifies Him.

By His power and grace alone, so let us lead.

 

[1] Section five of Nietzsche’s book ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ (Gutenberg.)

 

 

 

 

Jesus-shaped Leaders – The 5 ‘C’s: Part 5 (by Manik Corea)

Jesus-shaped Leaders – The 5 ‘C’s: Part 4 (by Manik Corea)

We are into the 4th of our series on what I’m calling the 5 ‘C’s of Christian leadership. Thus far, we have seen that healthy Christian leadership is dependent on the call of God, the character of the individual and the charism (gift) of the Holy Spirit. Today, we look at Competence – or the skills or abilities that are required to be effective leaders in God’s kingdom, and the method Jesus used to develop the skills and competency of his disciples.

In 2012, my wife and I began the planting of a NAMS base community in Bangkok, Thailand called All Nations. The year before, I had a vivid dream. We were at a NAMS training event. At the end of the meeting, I was sat with a bunch of Asian looking people, talking about starting this new disciple-making community. In the dream, I said that learning to follow Jesus is more ‘caught than taught.’ I also remember distinctively telling them: ”We teach by doing, we do by teaching’. And then I woke up.

When I reflected and prayed about it, I felt the Lord reveal that our base community must model and make disciples. ‘Being with’ would lead to ‘becoming like’.

NAMS bases are to be places where people get infected by the discipleship-virus of Jesus, and become contagious. But they will only learn from what they see us doing, and we can only get people to do by us showing and training them. And this will involved raising competent leaders with us.

‘Show and tell’ then, is not just for school children – it has kingdom implications.

Jesus’ way of developing competent leaders was a call for his disciples to be where he was (Mark 3:14). Jesus’ school of discipleship was no theoretical study in a controlled environment. It was life lived at large. His disciples had front-row seats of the Master at work: watching him, interacting with and assisting him. Jesus would demonstrate, discuss, train, give assignments, debrief and retreat with, and ultimately commission his disciples to the same work as Him.

Jesus had an end-vision for us that sees further than we can. Indeed, he called his disciples on the basis not of who they were, but what he intended them to be.

The first and the last recorded words that Jesus spoke to Peter were the same: ‘Follow me.’[1] Post-resurrection, he assures the crest-fallen thrice-denying Peter, that he was still called to feed and care for the Lord’s lambs and sheep. Jesus saw beyond Peter’s failures in the past to what he intended by the Spirit’s power for Peter to become.

And we, like Peter, must keep your eyes on Jesus.

Discipleship and leadership in God’s kingdom is always relational and particular. This means we cannot cookie-cut and mass produce either. Each one is uniquely called, gifted and therefore to be trained and deployed. But the process of discovering and honing those spiritual gifts and abilities require the being in community and under authority of godly leadership.

Like Jesus, we will identify a few people we intentionally spend our lives with. Of them, we might just have one or three (Jesus had James, John and Peter) that we specially and specifically mentor for more focused leadership development. There are seasons for intentional mentoring and calling some aside. I have been blessed and grown so much from occasional seasons spent with my mentors and influential leaders.

Competency therefore in terms of Jesus-shaped leadership is about focused development of our fullest gifting and potential. It is helping people to become what Jesus is calling them to be.

It would involve developing a number of life and leadership skills – self-understanding, self-management, interpersonal skills and ability, goal setting, the concretizing and communication of vision as God gives it, and the ability to call people to the task at hand in obedience to all that God commands. But it has to happen in the context of our larger relationship as disciples of Jesus in community and on mission with him.

To raise competent disciple-making leaders will involve leaders doing all they can to develop other leaders, a few at a time.

Show and tell. Call out and encourage the gifts and life-skills of new leaders. Mentor and disciple them. That’s the Jesus-way.

 

[1] Mark 1:17; John 21:22

Jesus-shaped Leaders – The 5 ‘C’s: Part 4 (by Manik Corea)

Jesus-shaped Leaders – The 5 ‘C’s: Part 3 (by Manik Corea)

We are into the 3rd of our series on 5 ‘C’s of Christian leadership. We have seen previously that Jesus-shaped leadership requires a divine Calling and the test of proven Character. Today, we will speak of ‘Charism’ – the gifting and anointing of the Holy Spirit.

The role of the Holy Spirit in the raising, empowering and sustaining of leaders for God’s work and purpose cannot be overplayed.

When I was made a presbyter in the Anglican Church, as is traditional in the ordination service, an ancient hymn was sung called ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ (or ‘Come Creator Spirit’).  It was an invocation to the Holy Spirit of God to fill the ones being so-called and set apart:

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,

and lighten with celestial fire.

Thou the anointing Spirit art,

who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.

It was a very sacred moment for me, as I knelt before the bishop.

In fact, ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is one of the most ancient, pithy prayers of the church. It still needs to be prayed today.

From earliest days of the church, all who were set apart to leadership in the church had hands laid on them or were prayed for to be anointed of God’s Spirit (see for example Acts 6:76; 13:3; 14:23; 1 Timothy 1:6).

Divine charism and human character-transformation are intricately and inseparably related. Without the Holy Spirit, we are shapeless and flat, like balloons devoid of air. The real presence of God in us is what ultimately sets us apart, gives us freedom, life and brings a thousand other blessings. Without Him, we flatter to deceive.

When I was a teenager going to junior-college in Singapore (our equivalent of high-school or sixth-form college), I was the leader of a Christian fellowship of students that met for worship, prayer and bible study and sought to be evangelize in our school. I recall one evening when the leaders had gathered for prayer after a busy season of Christian activity.

In that time of prayer as we sought the Lord, one of our number had a vision. He described a box covered by jewels and precious stones. A hand then opened the box, which was filled to the brim with sand. After the vision was described, someone else shared an interpretation. He said, ‘Our works and lives to God looked like that. We were so busy with activities for God that we had neglected to tend our inner life and walk with him. Our works looked good, but they were in reality to him like a box of sand.’ The Spirit convicted us and led us to a time of repentance.

The lesson from that night of prayer is one I often need reminding of. How frequently I’ve striven and sought to lead and work by my own strength and wisdom, instead of seeking the unction of God’s Spirit to line up with his will, accomplish his work and display his glory.

It is noteworthy, then in Acts 6, when the Apostles decided a broadening of leadership was necessary so that they could focused on preaching and prayer (conjoined twins in any apostolic work), they called the church to find men who were ‘of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.’ (Acts 6:3).

Character (‘of good repute’) and charism (‘full of the Holy Spirit’) go together and aided by wisdom, enabled them to be called to this specific hands-on ministry.

The presence and fullness of the Holy Spirit in us will tell. The Epistles constantly exhorts that we be filled by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18 – Greek present imperative, i.e. ‘go on being filled’) and keep in step with Him (Galatians 5:16). By that same Spirit, we are empowered for life (Ephesians 3:16), adopted as his own (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) and can preach the Gospel in word and deed (Romans 15:18-19).

Leadership without charism then is simply man-made ability. But empowered by Him, we are death-defiant. ‘If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.’ (Romans 8:11.)

So may it be with you and me today. Come, Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus-shaped Leaders – The 5 ‘C’s: Part 3 (by Manik Corea)