10/2/2014 3:00:00 PM
You might have a fitting metaphor for Christian leadership sitting on your back porch.
I’ve greatly enjoyed the time I’ve spent the past several Sunday nights sharing leadership insights with our ministry leaders at World Harvest Church. One of the best insights I’ve come across recently comes in John MacArthur’s seminal book on the subject, The Book on Leadership
. It’s a study of the leadership characteristics of the apostle Paul, and one of MacArthur’s greatest gleanings from Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth is this: a leader is resilient
. Like a clay pot.
The relevant passing in 2 Corinthians is this:
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
- 2 Corinthians 4:5-6, ESV
Paul, MacArthur says, was much like a clay pot: humble, sturdy and expendable. And so are leaders who model themselves after Paul.
Clay is dirt baked hard, and you can’t get much more humble than that. God remembers that even when we forget, and we’re prone to forgetfulness on that score. Part of the reason Christianity and Christian leaders are so often ridiculed by the world is that the Gospel message is so simple and direct, and the (self-appointed) beautiful people of the world “know” that life is complicated and sophisticated. Just like in Paul’s day, God bypasses the anointed elites of the culture and gives His message for distribution to ordinary folks like you and me. Our weakness is an advantage in carrying the truth, because it gets us out of the way. The Southern gospel band Gold City puts it this way:
Hide me behind the cross,
Where my gains become as loss.
And only Your glory is in view.
Your power will be revealed
The more that I am concealed.
Hide me behind the cross
So the world sees only You.
Leaders are also like clay pots because they are sturdy. A clay pot can be used and abused and keeps coming back for more. It can be broken, but it will never wear out. Some self-appointed leaders, by contrast, are more like Faberge eggs than clay pots. They’ll crumble under even the slightest pressure. The Christian leader can’t afford such sensitivity. There’s a world to win, including many people who don’t want to be won. The pressure is high, and the people he or she has to work with can be exasperating.
Paul wasn’t like that, and neither was anyone who could hang with him:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but
not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
- 2 Corinthians 2:8-9, ESV
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the
forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with
rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was
shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on
frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from
robbers, danger from my own people, danger from
Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness,
danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and
hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger
and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
And, apart from other things, there is the daily
pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
- 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, ESV
A leader who relies on God for his or her strength can endure anything.
Lastly, Paul knew that when his time on earth was through, God would entrust the Gospel to someone else. He was expendable.
If that clay pot on your back porch breaks, it’s no great loss. There are plenty of more at the store. Similarly, Paul continually suffered for the sake of the Gospel (and ultimately gave his life for it). The same is true for anyone who serves Jesus Christ for very long at all.
If you’re concerned that you don’t have a story, don’t worry: you’ll get one soon enough, whether you want to endure what you have to endure to get it or not. It’s when we learn to accept suffering as part of our witness that God can begin to use us effectively.
- October 2, 2014