Leading Counter-Culturally

Truth always carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong. -Francis A. Schaeffer

In the 1960s and 70s, the counter-culture opposed Biblical values and instead expressed the notion of “freedom” through a hedonistic emphasis on free “love,” drugs, and resistance to authority. This movement was considered counter-culture because society at large did not embrace this lifestyle. Fast forward 50 years and these micro tendencies of the past generation eventually became the accepted and exalted societal norm. While this bygone era released the seeds of this movement, it has become woven it to contemporary laws and worldviews. Therefore, being counter-culture today is holding fast to Biblical truth.

Consequently, today’s Christian leaders have a choice to make. Do we follow the flow of society for the sake of relevance? Do we go along to get along? In the Scriptures, we find a familiar narrative regarding a man named Daniel who was faithful and unrelenting in serving and openly worshipping God. This was not a great challenge for Daniel until the government of his day decreed that any worship (outside of worshipping King Darius) was punishable by death. Daniel could have quietly maintained his position of honor and favor with the King but instead chose to continue to worship his God and accept the consequences of his actions. For Daniel, leading counter-culturally was non-negotiable as it should be for us today. Christian leaders never hold a finger to the cultural winds to find direction but instead seek the source of the wind for divine guidance.

-Soli Deo Gloria

Leading Coram Deo

“Integrity is found where men and women live their lives in a pattern of consistency. It is a pattern that functions the same basic way in church and out of church. It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.” -R.C. Sproul

Dr. Sproul has often used the Latin expression Coram Deo (before the face of God) in his sermons and writing to bring home the point that all of our existence take place before an audience of One, the sovereign God of the universe. Sproul writes, “This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.” Over 500 years ago, Martin Luther also used this phrase to encourage the saints to to live in a way that honors Christ.

As Christian leaders, let us resolve to “lead” Coram Deo or before the face of God by living out his calling for our lives with integrity, consistency, humility, and with an unviolated conscience. Corum Deo leadership shows followers or onlookers that we love our Lord and seek to remain faithful to His Word. Coram Deo Leadership is, therefore, Servant Leadership as we put others before ourselves that “…they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

-Soli Deo Gloria

Pauline Leadership, The Road Less Traveled

Studying the life of the Apostle Paul provides a plethora of examples for modern Christian leaders to emulate. As the author of most of the New Testament epistles, Paul was used by God in a powerful way to present the gospel and the “Law of Christ” (1 Cor 9:21, Gal 6:2) to Gentile and Jew alike. Paul’s journeys, although extremely effective in spreading the gospel to the nations, are not ones that many today would welcome.

Paul traveled over 10,000 miles through the roughest terrains and most treacherous seas while facing bandits, poverty, ridicule, the abandonment of so-called brothers, and the severest of verbal and physical persecution. Throughout this torment, Paul joyfully continued from one town to the next knowing each may be his last. As a former hater and persecutor of Christians, Paul was now on the other end of the spectrum living for Christ and facing the challenges inherent with faithfulness. He instructs his young protege, Timothy regarding this truth, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Tim 3:12).

Paul suffered for Christ and considered it a badge of honor. In doing so, he provides encouragement for contemporary leaders to live boldly, faithfully, and humbly regardless of the severity of circumstance knowing that a sovereign God is in control “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). Therefore, Christian leaders, continue to run the race without fear, knowing that our Savior is more powerful than any temporal circumstance.

-Soli Deo Gloria

A Leader’s Moral Compass

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim 3:1-7)

While reading this pericope, you may think that this imperative does not apply to you because you are not an overseer (elder, bishop, pastor, etc.). It is true that most of us are not called nor qualified for eldership within the church, but that does not negate our responsibility to seek the highest moral character and lead accordingly in our own spheres. Our moral compass must always be pointed to the concrete truth of God’s word if we are to be effective leaders. The Scriptures provide “True North” throughout the canon with the character traits wonderfully encapsulated in this passage.

This list written by Paul to Timothy reveals the qualifications for elders as a litmus test to see if they are fit for this office. For the rest of us, we should use this list for introspection to see if we are leading in a sanctified manner with godly character. Are we leading above reproach, soberly, with purity, with self-control, respectably, hospitably, by teaching others, with gentleness and without greed? As Christian leaders, let us embrace these attributes of elders in our own lives and seek to live (and lead) holy as He is holy (1 Pet 1:15).

-Soli Deo Gloria

Leading in Postmodernity (Part 2)

Words matter! As we continue the discussion regarding leadership in the Postmodern Era, it is important to note that this battle over terminology (and its degradation) is nothing new. However, those who win the battle over definitions (the redefining and/or undefining of words and phrases) will set the moral, spiritual, and ethical tones for a culture and these trends are extremely difficult to reverse.

Acclaimed nineteenth-century Philosopher and deconstructionist of the Modern Era, Friedrich Nietzsche, was successful in beginning the Postmodern movement away from absolute truth. He did not mince words in this regard while presenting the following in his work, Truth and the Extra-Moral Sense:

“What then is truth? a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms-in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is the way they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.”

It is crucial that Christian leaders not capitulate in this war on words as definitions, especially those regarding truth and morality, hold life-transforming meaning. If we give in and fail to lead on this front, we forsake the Creator, who is also known as the Word. So important is this concept that this Apostle John’s opening salvo began with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Thankfully, this Word will never be deconstructed.

-Soli Deo Gloria

Leading in Postmodernity

In the current age of chaos, confusion, and ever-shifting cultural mores, Christian leaders have the daunting responsibility of presenting objective truth to a society basking in the muddy waters of postmodern ambiguity.

Os Guinness in his book The American Hour notes,

“Under postmodern conditions, words lose their authority and become accessory to images. The past is no longer a heritage, but a debris-strewn ruin to be ransacked for a bric-a-brac of beliefs that is as incoherent as it is inconsequential…The grand flirtation with the meaninglessness of modernity goes on, but in a party mood. Religion is no longer transcendent, but a recreational pursuit for the connoisseurs of ‘spirituality.’ Art, homes, lifestyles, ideas, character, self-renewal, and even belief in God all become auxiliary to sales and the ceaseless consumption of styles.”

As Christian leaders leading in this postmodern era, it is incumbent upon us to ensure we do not give in to the redefining of established terminology to appease the culture. Right is right and wrong is wrong, and we need not blur the lines for the sake of relevance. In our conversations, it is best to address this redefining by presenting facts regarding the origin of words and how they are to be applied. As God is unchanging, so is His written Word and trying to continually adapt it for modern consumption only waters it down thus losing its original intent. Consequently, we should be Bereans in our studies and willing to teach, correct, and exhort even in this antithetical epoch.

-Soli Deo Gloria

Wisdom: The Leadership Requisite

“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:9)

When the young Solomon was anointed and appointed King, he quickly appreciated the gravity and heavy responsibility that this position would entail. So much so that when asked by God, “What shall I give you?,” he responded with understanding and discernment, better known as “wisdom.” Of all of the world’s riches available to the young King, he instead asked God for the ability to lead others wisely. As Christian leaders in our own spheres today, is this our primary interest? Do we diligently seek wisdom (which God promises to provide those who pray for it)?

In assessing our great responsibility before God to lead Soli Deo Gloria (for the glory of God alone), it is imperative that we beg for wisdom that our leadership not become a means to our own self-aggrandizement and eventual destruction. Our motives must remain focused on glorifying God and serving others. Without the wisdom of God (for there is no other), we are left to our own ignorant and feeble devices. The same Solomon that presented this request for wisdom before God, later writes, “Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king, and by steadfast love, his throne is upheld.” (Prov 15:22). As Christian leaders, may we desire, pursue, and pray for wisdom to lead those whom God has placed in our care.

-Soli Deo Gloria

 

Leading Sola Fide

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. -Hebrews 1:1-3

An argument can be made that everyone has faith. While this faith may be in one’s self, another person, an object, or a self-help guru, everyone puts his or her life’s focus on something and acts in a way to serve that object of affection. Jesus provided this warning, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:19-21). The treasure Jesus was referring to in this passage was the object of faith in one’s life. Christ’s imperative exhorted the hearers to place their faith in that which is eternal, as everything else will one day cease to exist. Christian leaders must be people of faith, faith in the God who created them and gifted them to serve in leadership. While the treasures of this world are a constant temptation, leaders must maintain a centrality of focus to refrain from leading others astray while providing a useful example of true and saving faith.

Anyone who has served in a leadership capacity for any amount of time can testify that conflict and uncertainty are often present. While it may seem easy to have strong faith during times of peace and success, it is during the trials when faith is tested the most. Christian leaders are blessed to have the Holy Spirit within them to drive them closer to Christ, and trials are God’s means for this to occur. While reading of the trials of Job, the persecution of Daniel, and the execution of Stephen, the Christian leader can take solace in knowing God will never abandon him nor forsake him in his darkest moments. The Christian leader can hold firmly to the promise of God that he will never leave or forsake his own (Deut 31:6, Heb 13:5). Under the severest hardships, leaders often feel alone and disregarded. During these times, their faith becomes stronger as they are carried through the fire, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were spared by God in the furnace (Dan 3:16-28). Christian leaders, may we lead by faith and never doubt the promises of God.

-Soli Deo Gloria

 

Leading Solus Christus

After a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the famous Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini is said to have told the orchestra: “I am nothing. You are nothing. Beethoven is everything.” If Toscanini could say that about a brilliant but dead composer, how much more should Christians say that about the living Savior, who, with respect to our salvation, is the composer, musician, and even the beautiful music itself. -Dr. Joel Beeke

Christian leaders, if we are living according to our calling, we are leading Solus Christus or ‘for Christ alone’. Although Christians should plan, pursue, and pray for God’s will in their vocations, their foremost emphasis should be on glorifying Christ. Some questions for Christian leaders to ask regarding their pursuits include:

Am I living a life which reflects the work of Christ in my life?

Do I seek Christ’s will first in leading others or is it more often an afterthought?

Am I willing to leave my vocation if it requires me to renounce my love for and calling from Christ?

Do I seek to put others before myself in humility as modeled by Christ?

Do others see Christ in me?

Am I in continual repentance for my sin based on Christ’s atoning work?

Am I ashamed to share Christ with others?

Am I willing to share of the gospel of Christ with those around me regardless of the potential consequences?

Are my actions and words in harmony as they relate to my Christian testimony?

Will I defend truth even if the consequences are severe?

Would I sacrifice all for the cause of Christ?

The sole purpose of Christian leadership is to glorify the Savior in all aspects of life and to live by faith as an example to those watching or willing to listen. Christian leaders, may we lead unashamed for our Savior in an increasingly antithetical world.

-Soli Deo Gloria

Leading Sola Scriptura

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Leadership philosophies and writings are ubiquitous in contemporary western society. A quick trip to Barnes and Noble will yield hundreds of books on leadership by gurus both young and old. As Christian leaders seek to improve their leadership acumen, they are presented with a wide array of materials from which to learn. The challenge in wading through the vast sea of knowledge on this topic is how to discern that which is worthy and effective. The Christian leader has a measuring instrument at the ready to determine what is useful and what may be discarded as sheer pablum: God’s Word.

Although secular texts have aided immensely in the research and application of leadership theory, the Sacred Text has stood the test of time with a leadership motif which flows throughout the entire canon. God has provided in His Word examples of both genuine leadership (Joshua 6) and poor leadership (Matthew 23). The illustrations and imperatives in Scripture are sufficient in providing us the image of the ideal Christian leader. Thankfully, many scholars have laboriously exegeted the texts over time and have provided academic works for our encouragement, instruction, and application. Both secular and yes, Christian writings on this topic must be held up to the light of Scripture to determine their validity in the realm of Christocentric leadership. Christian leaders, as we continue the leadership journey, may we continually raise the Bible as the standard and never compromise its veracity.

-Soli Deo Gloria

Leadership Multiplication

Throughout my studies in leadership theory, I was drawn to a wonderful work by Pastor and Author, Dr. Harry Reeder III titled, The Leadership Dynamic. Dr. Reeder’s text is both pithy and poignant with its goal of both correcting poor (worldly) leadership models and presenting grounded Biblical practices by which to build upon. Here is an excerpt:

“Why do Christians want to learn leadership from the world’s models when we know that ‘worldly wisdom’ inevitably conflicts with the Word of God and brings chaos and despair? Genuine, effective leadership must be learned from God’s word, developed through disciple making, nurtured in God’s church, and then transported into the world. When this happens, we can anticipate a consistent reproduction of multiplication leaders who have been transformed by Biblical leadership. It’s God’s chain reaction. A transformed leader produces more transformed leaders-leaders who have been mentored within the church, then sent out to impact the world. By God’s grace they will become change agents, and the process will continually repeat itself as God intended.”

This multiplication construct was used by Christ when he sent out a small number of personally trained followers to take the gospel to the nations. In the last 2000 years, billions of people have heard the gospel of Christ, and the multiplication continues. Christian leaders, as we have been blessed with leadership opportunities within our given spheres, may we train up others to continue to carry the gospel’s baton to future generations.

PS: Add this book to your collection!

-Soli Deo Gloria

 

Otherology 101

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.       -Phil 2:4

As a result of sin entering the world, mankind lacks the natural inclination to serve others. For this reason, the Apostle Paul instructs the Christians in Philippi to understand the interests of others. This “others” focus requires work, forethought, and follow through. Looking to the interests of others necessitates observation and dialogue with the intent of knowing people to better serve them. This “Otherology” or study of others aids Christian leaders in knowing how to meet needs and pray for those around them. This relational design creates an atmosphere of trust as the recipient knows that someone truly cares for and desires the best for them. Otherology is not rocket science, but it does require a degree of study as we cannot know what makes someone tick unless we spend meaningful time getting to know them.

C.H. Spurgeon writes, “Consider how you can help others, and in what way you can prosper them both in temporal things and in spiritual. You are members of a body, so one member is not to think for itself alone, the unity of the whole body requires that every separate and distinct part of it should be in harmony with the whole.” Spurgeon’s point regarding meeting the “temporal” needs of others is important as these are often the impetus to a discussion about spiritual matters. In fact, Christ elucidates this point in his exposition on the final judgment, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matt 25:35-36). In this pericope, Jesus reveals that meeting the physical and emotional needs of others is commensurate with glorifying Him. Christian leaders, let us exert the time and energy necessary to get to know those in our spheres to serve them better.

-Soli Deo Gloria

Persuading through Power in Perspective

The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.  -John Stott

For many years, the phrase “knowledge is power” has been a mainstay in leadership circles as it promises leaders that they will have great authority over others if they acquire valuable information and control it for personal gain. This concept of “kingdom building” typically has a short life span as it diminishes trust with those needed the most to succeed in any given endeavor. Instead, Christian leaders should embrace knowledge only as it is linked with other Biblical traits such as wisdom, instruction, and insight (Prov 1) as these inform the leader on how best to wield knowledge and power. As these are all byproducts of the “fear of the Lord” (Prov 1:7), they reveal that anything acquired by them is to reflect God’s glory.

Consequently, as Christian leaders, it is critical to gain knowledge for use in persuading others. For this reason, Christian are commanded to study the Sacred Text (2 Tim 2:15). However, the goal in knowledge acquisition must always be Christocentric and never used as a source of dominating, belittling, or controlling others. Any power held by Christian leaders is provided by God and must be handled with extreme care lest it leads to arrogance, coercion, or self-aggrandizement. Power, in the hands of a humble Christian servant, can yield great fruit and reflect God’s goodness. Christian leaders, may we seek knowledge, instruction, insight, and wisdom for use in reflecting the image of God by serving others.

-Soli Deo Gloria

The Eternality of Effective Leadership

“Everything humans build will one day be reduced to ruins, but our lives and our leadership will, in Christ, have eternal consequences and impact.” -Albert Mohler

Dr. Mohler’s work, The Conviction to Lead, focuses on encouraging Christians to lead with a passion for something much greater than the daily tasks of our temporal employment. Whether we are cleaning streets or seeking a path to exploring Mars, our calling (or vocation) must be examined in light of our impact on the souls around us. In writing to the Colossian church, the Apostle Paul noted, “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” (Col 3:17). The “whatever” Paul is referring to provides no limitations or qualifiers thus revealing the necessity of living every aspect of our lives Soli Deo Gloria (for the glory of God alone). Our vocations (whether in the home, community, church, school, workplace, etc.) therefore, are a means of grace designed by God to accomplish the more lofty tasks of evangelizing the lost and encouraging the faithful.

Patrick Henry College Professor Gene Veith encapsulates the God-ordained role of vocation and its practical implications in everyday life…

“God gives us this day our daily bread through the vocation of farmers, millers, bakers, and — we would add — the factory workers, truck drivers, grocery store employees, and the hands that prepared our meal. God creates and cares for new life by means of the vocations of mother and father, husband and wife. He protects us by means of police officers, judges, the military, and other Romans 13 vocations of those who “bear the sword.” God brings healing not primarily through miracles but through the vocation of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and the other medical vocations. God teaches through teachers, conveys His Word through preachers, gives the blessings of technology through engineers, and creates beauty through artists. God works through all the people who do things for us, day by day. And He also works through us, in whatever tasks, offices, and relationships He has called us to do.”

Christian leaders, as we enter the tasks presented before us each day, may we be mindful of the reality that they are a divine avenue by which we honor God by serving others.

-Soli Deo Gloria

Change Your “Sphere”

As universities around the country complete graduation ceremonies, a common theme among commencement speakers tends to be “Change Your World!” Although changing the world is a noble task, it is replete with hyperbole and sensationalism. While I can appreciate the motivation behind this passionate phrase, especially in the realm of Christocentric Leadership, I would recommend something less lofty but more tangible such as changing your “sphere.” Every leader, whether in the home, workplace, church, or community has a sphere or circle of influence around them which includes those most likely to listen and consider new or alternative ideas. It is these groups that we have the greatest likelihood of positively impacting and changing.

The sphere changing approach keeps our focus on the micro tasks of reaching those closest to us which has the ability to indirectly reach multitudes. It is important to understand that each of our spheres is connected to other spheres which are connected yet to others. Although Christ had the power to illuminate His gospel message immediately to the entire world, He chose instead to call and reach those within His proximity. Through the faithfulness of just over a dozen men over 2000 years ago, millions have heard the gospel and the world was changed. Additionally, a small group of Reformers in the 16th century worked within their spheres to change the minds of those around them producing a radically different Christian community which thrives to this day. As Christian leaders, let us work in our micro-environments to create a macro impact on the world around us.

-Soli Del Gloria

Integrity, Service, Excellence…

During my time in the U.S. Air Force, I became well accustomed to understanding and seeking to live out the official Core Values of “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.” These values are instilled in Airmen on their first day of Basic Training and preached continually both in the workplace and in the war zone. Although these attributes can be viewed in a secular context, it is important to note that they all maintain a foundation that goes much deeper than modern philosophical thought. The Scriptures attach these values to a source beyond ourselves and even our ability to perfectly keep them. As these values are derived from God, they should be carefully considered by Christian leaders in that they reflect the character of Christ who has absolute integrity, sacrificed Himself to save others while living a perfect or “excellent” life. Consider the following verses in this light:

Integrity First

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. (Prov 10:9)

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity… (Titus 2:7)

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. (Prov 11:3)

Service Before Self

And whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:44-45)

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1 Pet 4:10)

Excellence in All We Do

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might… (Eccl 9:10)

As Christian leaders, we can and should embrace the Core Values of the Air Force as they reflect the perfect servant-leader, Jesus Christ. Let us, therefore, walk in integrity, serve others, and “do all for the glory of God.”

-Soli Deo Gloria