This year we celebrate the dawn of the Reformation which began with Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31st of 1517. As we look back over the last 500 years of Christendom, it is important to note that without the unrelenting and convictional leadership of Martin Luther, his predecessors Jon Huss and John Wycliffe, and his contemporaries John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli we may have remained in the dark ages without access to the text of Scripture in our own languages while still embracing the erroneous beliefs that the church and its hierarchy are soteriological and that a placeholder in glory can be purchased.
Spurgeon, writing on Luther’s discovery of Hebrews 10:38 notes, “This one sentence, ‘The just shall live by his faith,’ produced the Reformation. Out of this one line, as from the opening of one of the Apocalyptic seals, came forth all that sounding of gospel trumpets, and all that singing of gospel songs, which made in the world a sound like the noise of many waters. This one seed, forgotten and hidden away in the dark mediæval times, was brought forth, dropped into the human heart, made by the Spirit of God to grow, and in the end to produce great results.” With this illimunation, Luther could not keep quiet and led a movement that changed the world and continues centuries later.
The Reformation was unified under the doctrines of Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Gratia, and Sola Scriptura placing the beleiver’s emphasis on Christ alone as the sole provider of faith and grace based on the Sacred Text and only for His glory. Many have suffered and died holding fast to these basic tenants of the Christian faith. The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation highlights these men as tools in the hands of a God who continually “re-forms” His church to reflect the original, inerrant teachings of the Prophets, the Apostles, and Christ. Reformational leadership, therefore, is about leading faithfully, based on truth, no matter the cost.
-Soli Deo Gloria
Eschatology is a branch of theology which attempts to explain the “last days”, “end times”, or more specifically the events surrounding the return of Jesus Christ to bring both judgement and rest. The term “eschatology” is seldom paired with “leadership” as they may, at first glance, be a strange blend of concepts. As the Apostle Paul penned his letters to the fledgling church in Thessalonica, he expressed great concern that false ideas regarding the return of Christ had crept in after his abrupt departure. In 1 Thes 4:16-17, Paul writes, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” With these powerful words of encouragement, Paul wanted these new believers to think eternally as they dealt with great persecution each day.
The eschatological leadership that Paul displayed should also be embraced by contemporary Christian leaders. In leading others, we should always keep in mind the eternal implications of our decisions, our actions, our words, and our plans. This earth with all its beauty and greatness is yet only temporal. Therefore, leading in a way that points to the culmination of history changes lives and has a tremendous multiplication factor. The Christian leader is well aware that genuine and lasting peace, contentment, and joy can only be found at the foot of the cross where we submit all that we have, all that we are, and all that we wish to be to the sovereign will of God. Hence, leading in any other way than one which points to this cross and its eternal message would be a travesty. In James letter, he notes that we “are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Let us use this “little time” to point others to the importance of the end of time and thereafter.
-Soli Deo Gloria
“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” -Proverbs 6:6-8
One common thread among all respected leaders is a strong work ethic. A lazy man is seldom respected and should not expect his words to fall on willing ears. Solomon understood this concept by taking us down to the small eusocial insect; the ant. The ant, although tiny and with little to defend itself, works very hard while producing massive colonies. This condescension is designed to let mankind know that they have no excuse for their laziness and will produce less than the ant if they continue in their slothfulness.
The path of laziness in postmodern times is very tempting with the continual allure of our ubiquitous digital gods and their host of apps waiting to entertain us in a disconnected virtual world. Although we can quickly present an array of “worthy” excuses for kneeling before these iDols we hold so close, we may consider that there is a world in shambles around us that could really use our help. Although our gadgets have many worthy advantages, they can also become the greatest thieves of time by taking us away from fellowship, good conversation, helping someone in need, praying for those around us, and our personal times of uninterrupted study. I write these words introspectively as one who far too often indulges in this time slayer. As leaders, “… let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1).
-Soli Deo Gloria
“And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also… “(Acts 17:6)
During the Apostle Paul’s brief stay in Thessalonica, he (and Silas) did something so atrocious and vile that the locals riled the crowds to destroy them. What did Paul say to cause such an uproar worthy of death? The Acts narrative presents the condemning evidence, “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ” (Acts 17:2-3). The anger at these words was so great that once the crowd realized that Paul had left town they sought to harm Jason and other new converts that were known to provide shelter for Paul. This gospel proclamation caused such anger, bitterness, and jealousy among many of the hearers that they believed the world to have been turned upside down.
Paul understood the inherent dangers of speaking these words as he had previously been beaten, stoned, and left for dead for doing so. Paul, knowing that presenting Christ could lead to torture or even death was unhindered and unrelenting as he carried with him the only remedy for man’s depravity and hopelessness. This message carries the same power and potentially the same consequences 2000 years later as it has truly turned the world upside down while it turns many souls right side up. Modern Christian leaders are commanded to present this same truth regardless of the consequences as the message is truly the difference between life and death.
-Soli Deo Gloria
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
“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
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
“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
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
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