Summary: Paul demonstrates authentic leadership that unifies the church and leads the church to fulfilling its purpose of bringing people into the kingdom of God.
Authentic Spiritual Leadership
Rev. Sean Lester
March 22, 2009 pm
Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21
a. The Corinthian church had been in a crisis. Divisions had arisen over who the pre-eminent leaders were. Some said Paul, others said Apollos. But, Paul reveals to us in this passage that there were others in the church who were purporting themselves to be authorities over the church.
1. Confusion results when leadership office is viewed as the key to change. That is, people may think, “if I were the president, I would really change things.”
2. Mistakes result from leadership office being used to force change instead of being viewed as a servant office.
3. Division results when people are divided among loyalties.
b. Paul addresses the problem by defining leadership as servant hood.
a. Paul serves the Lord by spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.
b. Paul serves the Lord as a steward of the secret things of God. It is a responsibility that he carries.
Proposition: Paul demonstrates authentic leadership that unifies the church and leads the church to fulfilling its purpose of bringing people into the kingdom of God.
Interrogative: What are the marks of an authentic leader?
Transition: The first mark of authenticity is that the leader has accepted responsibility for the task that has been given.
I. Responsibility (vs. 1-8)
a. Paul said that those who have been given a trust move prove faithful. In his case, he had been entrusted with the task of proclaiming salvation to the gentiles, organizing churches, and for explaining how the Gospel applies to Christian living. That doesn’t mean that Paul claimed to be above reproach, but he does say that the one who gives the task is also responsible for judging his faithfulness to it. Paul was given his task by the Lord and that trust was confirmed by the apostles who had been assembled in Jerusalem. Paul had taken that responsibility seriously and we know that he traveled extensively in carrying out his mission.
b. The trust of the ministry comes to someone who has pursued it. Training is obtained. Experience is gained. Skills are demonstrated. Character is measured. The same pattern is demonstrated in any career.
c. An army officer must first demonstrate the desire to learn through formal education. He must demonstrate stewardship of his physical abilities. He must go through the crucible of exhausting training. He must demonstrate good personal character. Then, after proving himself, he is offered a commission.
Transition: Merely holding leadership office doesn’t make one a leader. The authentic leader pays a price for accepting the responsibility.
II. Personal Sacrifice (vs. 9-14)
a. Paul isn’t showing off about the personal price he has paid. He is holding himself up to the standard of a leader. His stewardship of the gospel to the Gentiles caused him to face…
i. Dishonor by other believers
ii. Poverty and hunger
iii. Holding second jobs in addition to his ministry
iv. Showing kindness to hurtful people
b. Leaders blaze trails for others to follow. That is why you always find the leader in front. So, if there is resistance to moving forward, guess who gets confronted first? The mark of the authentic Spiritual leader is more than just the office, it is a matter of accepting the attacks that for those for whom the leader is responsible.
c. During basic training, when I was in the National Guard, one soldier had a personal crisis and acted out by hiding, with his weapon, in a closet. His actions caused the entire base to be shut down. After he was found, I was assigned to keep an eye on him for the next few days. I waited for him to be thrown out, but it never happened. It wasn’t the first time this soldier had acted like an idiot. I went to one of the drill sergeants and asked why he was still here. The sergeant said something about the new way of thinking, that we were short on personnel. A few weeks later, on the way back from a week in the field, another drill sergeant sat near me and mentioned that he had heard that I questioned allowing that soldier to remain in the army. He said this, “when you and I are ambushed, we will hunker down and try to think about how to get out of the situation with our men. We will do what is the safest. Guys like this soldier are crazy enough to charge the enemy, perhaps scaring them but definitely confusing them. They will be the heroes who will win the battle because they think so little of their own lives. They are the ones who win the Medal of Honor.”
Transition: Of course, merely being crazy doesn’t make one a leader, either. The authentic spiritual leader has an emotional investment in those who are entrusted to him.