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That's what spiritual maturity is--It's not just being a Christian for a little while. It's being able to discern the difference between right and wrong, because you have practiced applying the principles of God's Word in your every-day life. It's being able to discern the difference between the better and the best course of action, because you have learned to follow the lead of God's Spirit through His Word.

I like the way Kevin Miller, one of the editors of Leadership Journal, described this kind of leadership recently. He talks about his days as a kid driving down the street to Hooper Wolfe's hardware store with his dad. "Hooper Wolfe's," he says, "had an old wood door, painted white--except where the paint was worn off near the handle. You walked in, and you could hardly move. There were two narrow aisles. The counters were filled with merchandise, shelves were overflowing, and stuff was hanging from the ceiling. You'd think, 'No way am I going to find anything in here.'

"But you didn't need to. As soon as you walked in, Clarence from behind the counter would say, 'Help you today?' My dad would say something like, 'I want to hang a light out back.'

"Clarence would come out from behind the counter and ask questions. 'Where you going to hang it? Over the patio? Well then'--and he would start rummaging through shelves until he pulled off just the right light--'you want a light like this. And don't use these bolts here; they're good for indoor stuff, but for outdoor, you want something galvanized.'

"Then Clarence would pull a flat carpenter's pencil off his ear and get out a little piece of paper and sketch it all out. 'The conduit goes here...and make sure you don't mount the light too close to the soffit,' etc."

Then Kevin Miller compares that experience in his childhood to going to Home Depot today as an adult. He says, "Unlike Hooper Wolfe's, where you had to parallel park on the street, there's an ocean of parking. And inside, Home Depot is huge. The ceilings are 30 feet high. Home Depot has forty times the inventory of Hooper Wolfe's. It all looks great under bright, argon lights.

"There is a guy in an orange apron a block away. If you run him down, he's likely to say, 'Sorry. I usually work in paints. I'm just covering in electrical because someone called in sick.' So you're pretty much on your own."

The church doesn't need guys in orange aprons just doing a job. The church needs Clarence's, people who know more than we do, able and willing to guide us in building our lives. Kevin Miller calls it "the Clarence Principle": the older teach the younger, and those more mature in the faith guide those who are newer in the faith.

(Kevin Miller, Wheaton, Illinois. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Leading Under Fire, 8/5/2011)

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