Summary: This message was given to teach the church on how a church functions and to teach the importance of leadership in the church.
Introduction: This week and next the national stage has been all about leadership, as we’ve endured, I mean, watched the convention of the Democrats and this week the Republicans. There is a problem with our political leaders, and I don’t care which side of the aisle that you are referring to, there exists a crisis of leadership on the national level. I’m not sure when it started – maybe it was Nixon, but it may go back a lot further than that – where our national leaders are more interested in pushing their personal agenda’s and advancing their personal fortunes more than they are interested in what is best for this country as a whole. We see this crisis of leadership in the convictions of high ranking party officials on both sides for taking perks and being enticed to support projects based simply on securing their futures in Washington rather than our futures at home!
You see this crisis of leadership in corporate America too. There are CEO’s of investment groups and mortgage companies that are raking in multi-million dollar bonuses despite the company having a poor year of performance. Companies like Enron are still out there, doing whatever they can to enhance their own life-style while laying off others or not paying share-holders some of the profits that they deserve. There is a crisis of leadership.
You see this crisis of leadership in the home – where fathers are absent, or are married to their jobs or sleep in on Sundays while the rest of the family is left to find their own spiritual growth and development. This crisis has existed for sometime. The world craves authentic leadership at all levels, I think this is why Paul gives us this admonition in Romans 12:8b when he says, “If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.”
See, Paul recognized that there are people with the spiritual gift of leadership who have decided to use their leadership for lesser things than kingdom use. There were plenty of people in Paul’s day who used their influence, their leadership, to build up their own financial security, or to manipulate a situation to their own advantage, or even used their leadership for a good cause, were neglecting stewarding that spiritual gift to leverage great gains for the church. So, Paul admonishes the believers in Rome, if God has given you the gift of leadership – use it! Don’t sit on your hands…don’t just use it for personal gain or even community gain – use it to help the church be as effective as it can possibly be!
Transition: this crisis of leadership was probably pretty pronounced in the early church. While Jesus was physically on earth it was pretty obvious who was leading the movement that eventually became known as Christianity – it was Jesus Himself.
We see it over and over again in the Gospels where Jesus says something like this; “One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew…Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.” Mark 1:16-18
Or as we see in Luke 9:23, “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
And they did, mostly…follow him to the cross that is. Just an aside, not really the point of the message today but…if Jesus were to look at you today, would you qualify as one of his followers? What have you turned from in order to follow him? What kind of cross are you carrying? Where have you most recently followed him? Was it a conversation that he asked you to have, was it forgiveness he asked you to extend? Where has He been leading you? If you have a hard time with that question, you may not be following Jesus – oh you’re probably following someone alright, but it’s not Jesus!
Anyway, while Jesus was here he was the leader. But then Jesus left. He ascended into heaven, he left the disciples on earth with no one to follow – physically at least. Jesus did tell them that He was going to be leaving them. He said this in John 14:15-19, “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.”