knowing the heart of God

5 06 2008

The Christian leader of the future is the one who truly knows the heart of God as it has become flesh, “a heart of flesh,” in Jesus.  Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begins to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God.  This sounds very simple and maybe even trite, but very few people know that they are loved without any condition or limits

with all the secrets to leadership, the irrefutable laws, and magic potions that we have concocted for leadership in the 21st century, we fail to see the simplicity at the heart of the Christian leader.  everyone is out there looking for the new radical, or the next visionary that is going to change the world on its head and, in the Christian sphere, bring a bunch of people back to Christ.  funny that we go looking for the experience, the know-how, and the typically-bred leaders as the ones that can lead the revolution.

i think Nouwen’s words here are so far beyond us that we don’t even truly understand what is being said.  what if the leaders that are going to make the biggest differences are the ones that are living sacrificial lives on the street, hanging out with the destitute in society, and learning what it means to live the simple life?  as leaders and attempted visionaries, i believe that we have faltered because we have lost the heart of the matter, which is the heart of God.  we need to come back to the simple message that unites all people in all places, because it has the power to change everything: love.

we’ve gone far beyond the heart of the matter and lost our focus most of the time, but there is still time, there still is hope.  but we need to be willing to deal with the heart of God and build from that, his heart of love.  D.A. Carson, in a conversation with a friend of mine this past week, was quoted as saying that the advice he would give to a new generation of Christian leaders is that:

The challenge for each new generation is to address the margins from the center, and not simply assume the center

so profound.  the center is the gospel of love preached by Jesus Christ, and we as new generational leaders must go out and proclaim the center, so that the world might understand a love that truly has no condition or limit.





the servant leader

5 06 2008

It is servant leadership…in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader

this follows closely on the heels of yesterday’s post about the responsibility of the leader to the community and the community to the leader.

a current struggle of mine is in regards to the role of the community in supporting their leader, beyond nodding the head during the sermon on Sunday morning, or shaking his hand on the way in or out.  in one sense the pastor or minister is an employee of the church, or the larger organization, that serves the community when they show up to “worship” with all the baggage out there.  if we hold just to this view, than the leader is just there to give the listener the product, or the message wrapped up with a nice little bow, and then withdraw until the next time or the next need shows up.  this is wrong, purely flawed.

the leader, assuming that he or she has an ounce of humility to lower themselves to some degree of servitude, is as much a part of the community as the man or woman who walks in with worries.  to take the position that the leader is above all others and therefore to be left alone at the top and to deal in a power exhortation downwards, is a corrupt view of the western Christian Church.  on a whole, pastors are left on an island by their people, the very ones who sing the praises of the preacher, or of the visit that the pastor made to the hospital during the past week.  one wonders if it’s that this is expected or that it is genuinely appreciated and valued.  what would it look like if your pastor was in the hospital?

we cannot ignore that the pastor is to minister to the people and is in place to lead the community of faith towards worship.  but the pastor is as much a member of that community that hurts, struggles, and doubts from day to day.  the pastor is not some perfect man on a pedestal, waiting to be worshiped and adored by his people because he did what was expected.  the pastor is as much in need of the very words that were spoken in the message as the man sitting three rows from the back, or the woman feverishly taking notes in the second row.  the pastor is a member of the body, is one with all other believers, not above or below, but has humbly accepted the role of leading the people to worship of the God on high.  the pastor is not greater, for he needs the people as much as they need their leader.

the question is, when will we start treating our leaders, pastors, and ministers as such?  when will we lose the stigmatism of a leader that doesn’t need the fellowship of his or her brothers and sisters as much as we need to hear the teachings and wisdom that God has given to the leader?

wake up people, we’ve got to learn to love our leaders as much as they love us.