As a Leader
By Pastor Mark McNees
This message was originally given at Element3 Church in Tallahassee FL. To download this message’s corresponding PowerPoint, audio, and artistic elements for free please visit www.element3.org
“Okay, I’m going to do something right this time. I’ll just start my own group. I can do this right? I mean there are no special rules or anything to lead a group, at least that I can see. Okay, how about E3 Rocks and if you don’t believe me, you can stuff it? No, it’s probably not the proper impression to make. How about, E3 is awesome and if you disagree, that’s cool, but I think you’re wrong. Yeah, that works, right? No. Okay, maybe just Element 3, where faith, authenticity and emerging culture meet. Yeah, that’s a good group. Now I have to invite my friends.”
Reading from God’s Word:
1 Kings 17:1 1 Now Elijah, who was from Tish-be in Gil-e-ad, told King Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!”
1 Kings 17:2-7 2 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 3 “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. 4 Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.”
5 So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.
1 Kings 17:8-11 8 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 9 “Go and live in the village of Za-re-phath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”10 So he went to Za-re-phath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”
1 Kings 17:12-16 12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”
13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”
15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many days.
16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.
Thank you Steve O. So, a lot going on there and again we’re looking at Elijah. Over the past 2 weeks, we looked at chapter 18 and 19. What we’re doing is going back to chapter 17 and seeing how it all began; where did he start his journey as a leader.
You often need to state things that will not be well received.
So, what we’ve been looking at and the journey that Lindsay’s been going on, if you’ve been catching it is, she started a profile. She’s been going through it and last week, she joined a group as a follower. That didn’t work out so well for her. This week she decided she’s going to take some leadership initiative and start her own group. It’s interesting as you look at Elijah and how he started. He really came onto the scene out of nowhere. It’s kind of interesting that before 1 Kings 17, there’s no mention of Elijah. It’s pretty important here. t says that Elijah came from Tish-be in Gil-e-ad and what that’s saying, a lot of scholars think that Elijah was actually a gentile, a foreigner. That he wasn’t Jewish because of this region that he came from. It’s interesting that God would call on someone who was an unusual pick. God was calling somebody outside of his chosen people to bring His people back to him. Another thing that’s really interesting is that what was going through the nation of Israel, being propagated by Jezebel is Baal. Baal was the God of rain and harvest. So, it’s kind of interesting as Elijah comes up, as we see in verse 1, he comes up to King Ahab and he’s going to have to tell him something that he’s definitely not going to want to hear. Picture you coming out of a place and going into a kingdom that you’re not really part of, going up to the most powerful man in the region and telling him, look you know what, it’s not going to rain until I say it’s going to rain. Oh yeah? I’m going to help you say it’s going to rain. But, there’s so much imagery going on here, because really it has very little to do with the rain and has everything to do with worship. What God is trying to do through Elijah is to bring His people back to worshipping him, the one true God. You see, they were worshiping Baal. “Baal bring us rain. Bring us a great harvest.” It’s interesting that God tells Elijah to go to King Ahab and say “You know what? I’m the true God of rain and harvest and everything else. And you know what? Baal’s not going to be able to help you. In fact, we’re going to cut off the rain until you turn from worshiping this false idol and you begin to worship me.” Now this has a lot of impact for us in our daily lives because most of us here are not the boss, the CEO, a president or anything like that. All of us are in a position where we have to lead up. I think that we all feel really uncomfortable doing that. Don’t you? I mean it’s hard to go to somebody who has authority over you, maybe a title or position or something like that and go to them and tell them when they are missing the mark. You get filled with all sorts of insecurity. A lot of times you go in your mind and you know something isn’t right, but you really feel that you have the answer. Maybe that God has given you a word on it or you’ve experienced a past experience or something like that and you can speak into this situation. But, a lot of times you sit back and say “Who am I to say?” “Who am I to go up to this person and give them my experience or tell them what I think when all they’re going to do is say who are you? And you’re going to look really stupid.” The truth is that all of us have been given experiences and knowledge and we’re meant to be working together. God often gives us direction and insight that other people have not been given. When he entrusts us with that, we need to help each other guide and to be moving toward the place where God wants us in our lives. Elijah, just think about all the insecurities and the conversations that he must have had with God before going to King Ahab. God tells him “Hey Go tell the King.” “What are you talking about? I’m not even a Jew, I’m not part of this. It’s not my problem. Who am I? I’m just a guy. Who am I to go to the King? He’s probably going to kill me and you want me to tell him it’s not going to rain until I say it’s going to rain? Are you kidding me? That’s ridiculous, God.” But, you know what? Elijah, wanting to be a man of God, follow God and recognize Him as the one true God, realized that to be one of God’s prophets, to be one of God’s leaders, that he was going to have to tell truth to people that they don’t want to hear. I think that is so important, that every one of us in our lives as leaders, and every single one of us is a leader here. Leadership basically is influence and using your influence for good. When you want to use your influence and talk to people and encourage them, many times you have to tell them something that they don’t want to hear. The distinction between a great leader and a leader who’s not fulfilling what God has called him to do, is one who is willing to take that relational risk or whatever risk that is, to go and say, I think you’re missing the mark here and speaking into people’s lives. A lot of times, we think that love is silent, but love isn’t silent. Love is taking the risk to tell somebody you love the truth. To take the relational right that they may break off this relationship. We’re all scared of that. Nobody wants to have these hard conversations. Nobody wants to go and say “You know what, I think you’ve been drinking too much and it’s not good for you” or “I think your eating habits are causing your body damage and I want to help you because I want you around for a long time and I want you to be able to feel and fulfill everything that God has envisioned for you. I think you need to exercise and I’m willing to exercise with you” or “You know what, I’ve seen that you’re kind of stale in your spiritual life. Have you been in the bible? Have you been reading the bible?” Having these hard conversations. What are you doing? What you’re doing is being used by God to help people go farther and become closer to the profile or the life that God has envisioned to each and every one of us to achieve. But, it takes risk and it takes hard conversations and us as a community need to be open to those conversations, not only to giving and instigating them, but also being told things so we can grow as a community.
You need to rely on God’s provision.
It goes on after he tells King Ahab. It’s interesting what happens next. God tells him to take off basically. God says look, you’ve done what I told you to do and probably for his own protection, God is protecting Elijah and tells him to go to a specific place. He goes to that place and He says I’m going to have ravens come and take care of you. Elijah’s probably like, “Great, I’m going to have ravens, this is a really good plan, really solid God, thanks a lot. Ravens coming and I’m going to sit at a brook and you’re going to provide my needs.” But, what is God doing? God is protecting Elijah, but he’s also molding him for much bigger things in the future. This is one of Elijah’s first steps into really seeing the power of God. The interesting thing is that God chose ravens for a reason. You know many times when you read the bible, you read over things like that. Ravens, why ravens? Ravens don’t even take care of their young. It talks about that in Job and Elijah would have been familiar with different scripture. He would have definitely been familiar with ravens. That ravens are the least likely candidate to be able to come and bring food for you. What’s God doing? He’s saying “Look , I’m going to use this lease, this unusual bird that doesn’t even take care of it’s young, so you have no doubt that I am the one who is providing for your needs. What he’s doing here is stretching him and molding him.
As we go and we move as leaders and we put ourselves in situations where we’re relying on God, there’s going to be times where that is a challenge. I remember before this church launched. Things were going well and we were coming together as a core group and I remember a really painful instance that I was faced with a decision. Am I going to trust God’s providence and God’s resources or am I going to trust what I can see in front of me? After one of the core group meetings one day, one of the core group members pulled me aside and brought me into a little hallway and said “I don’t like the direction that this is going. If you don’t change it and start doing it this way, I’m going to take my money and go and you need my money to survive.” Right there, I was faced with a decision. Do I truly believe that this is God’s word? Is this truly God’s church and he’s going to take care of it through means that I don’t see and I don’t understand, or am I going to say “Okay, I can’t see how we can survive without your money.” The guy was right, that if that monthly check that he was writing left, there was no way that we were going to ever be able to launch this church. This was a big decision. I just remember this quiet voice saying “Which way are you going to pick?” I’m glad to say that I said “You know what, this isn’t my church, this isn’t your church, this is God’s church and if this is of God, God will resource it and He doesn’t need your money.” You know what? God brought his resources. I can go back time and time again where we didn’t know how we were going to financially make it or how we were going to make it facility-wise. We didn’t know how we were going to make it emotionally, spiritually or intellectually. Each time, through encouragement and leadership from people on wise counsel or just people who are invested and are owners in this place have stood up and said “You know what? We have to trust that God’s going to send the ravens and provide for His church. We need to rely on God and we can never ever step away from that.” Because once you step away from that, I believe God says “You got it? Run with it. Good luck.” There is no way you can be a leader of God without total reliance on Him.
You need to encourage people to live beyond themselves.
It’s interesting that Elijah goes on and he does what he’s told. He goes to this river and the ravens are coming. That must have been just and amazing thing right? Every morning and evening, here come the ravens. I don’t know what I’d think about the cleanliness of ravens bringing me food, but if you’re hungry, it’s alright. Then, it goes on to verse 7 “But after a while the brook dried up.” Your brook ever dried up? I mean this is talking about a physical brook. I can imagine Elijah sitting there and going “God, you told me to come here. You told me the ravens were going to come. You told me to come to this river and now it’s dry.” How often do we find ourselves in that place? That we with best intentions, following God with all our heart, soul, strength and minds, everything that we have and we’re going there and we’re relying on Him and then our brook dries up. What do you do? I think it’s those times, and they happen, we have to get outside of our circumstantial faith. This has been the theme and I don’t know if you’ve caught it, but transcending the circumstance and understanding that God is way bigger than whatever circumstance that you happen to be facing at that time. God was bigger than the brook drying up and when in our personal lives, in our leadership lives, professional lives and relationship lives, when our brook dries up we have two choices. We can have a situational day and just implode or we can have faith as large as God. We can say “You know what, I can’t see what’s going on right now. All I can see is I’m thirsty and hungry and the ravens haven’t come, the stupid brook is dried up and I’m just going to sit here and stew.” You know, a couple of weeks ago, that’s what Elijah did. He got under the broom tree, but he got past that. I love Elijah because you get this picture of this leader, this follower, this worshipper who doesn’t do everything right, but he’s doing the best he can.
So what happens? Well, he goes on and he goes where God tells him to go next. Do you ever think that God moves you? Do you think this could ever be in God’s plan, that God will move you to a place just to get you to the ultimate place? In our minds, it’s so hard to see that. It’s so hard to see that my brook drying up is the best thing for me. That my brook drying up is actually a blessing from God. This is precisely what it was for Elijah, because God had much bigger things in store for him. The plan for Elijah wasn’t to go and sit and get fed by ravens and drink out of a brook for the rest of his life, get fat and die. That wasn’t the big plan for Elijah. God had much bigger things in store for him, but in order to do that, the brook had to dry up and it dried up. He moved him on. It’s interesting as he’s being developed as a leader and he says “Look, I’m going to put people around you who are going to assist you, to show my power.” That’s precisely what he did in verse 10, he goes and he finds the widow and he says “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” This made me laugh. One of my all time favorite, Mr. T lines, from the A-Team is he goes to this café and he sits down. The server comes and says “Would you like a cup of coffee?” He says “Yeah.“ She says “How would you like it?” He says “In a cup, fool!” That’s what Elijah’s doing. “I’d like a little water in a cup, fool.” Of course, how else are you going to bring water? Would you please bring me a little water in a cup. As she was going to get it, he called to her, “bring me a bite of bread too.” Now, this is just so insensitive of Elijah. I mean, widows, this is the 8th century BC, before Christ, and widows back then, there was no social security or insurance. Widows were the poorest of the poor. When there was a drought and famine would come, widows would be the hardest hit. He’s going to someone who can’t give. There’s no way. He knew that before he asked the question. But, for some reason God says go to this widow and ask her to give. Give more than she can possibly give. That’s precisely what he does. He goes and he asks her and she replies that “Look, I’ve only got enough for me and my son, for one more meal and then we’re going to die.” He says “That’s fine. Make mine first.” Now, that sounds really insensitive right? Somebody just came up to you and you’re like “Hey can I have some water in a cup? Can I have a piece of bread?” And they say “I only have enough bread for my son and I, one more meal and then we’re going to die” and he says “That’s good, can you bring me the bread first?.” I mean this is terrible. “I’ll just help you along, you’re going to die anyway. I’m pretty healthy, I could probably make it another week.” Is that what he’s saying? No, that’s not what he’s saying. What the principle here is that he is encouraging her to live beyond herself, to see beyond her circumstance, which is pretty dire to see beyond that so she can experience God in His power. Her words are interesting. She says “I swear by the Lord, your God.” She’s not an Israelite, she’s a gentile. This person he’s calling into the Lord’s servant, doesn’t even believe in God. I have a hard time reconciling that. Aren’t just the good Christians meant to be doing what God is calling? No, in the bible you see time and time again, that when God’s people won’t do it, God will pull other people in and He will allow them to see and experience His power. Amazing things happen. Living beyond yourself is scary. That’s why leaders need to encourage. It’s hard. There’s not one person here who has extra time. Leaders say you need to put aside time to serve the Lord. We’re all busy, but don’t be afraid. That’s what Elijah tells her, don’t be afraid to give God your first. Don’t be afraid to get in and start moving forward in God’s plan. He will take care of you. Continually as leaders, we need to be encouraging people that God is big enough to handle our circumstance, whatever it might be. We need to encourage people to live beyond themselves, to live beyond themselves financially, emotionally, relationally, because when you do that, then you can experience God’s power. When you get to the end of yourself and you have to trust on God to bring the ravens, then there’s no doubt in your mind or anybody else’s that you have just had an encounter with the one true living God. In 1 Corinthians 4:20 “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” There’s a lot of talking that goes on, and I guess you know, that’s my job and that’s scary, but it’s true. The kingdom of God isn’t just a lot of talk. How do you live by God’s power? Well you have to go beyond your own power and nobody does that on their own. Not for long because it’s hard and scary. We need to help lead each other into the zone where only God exists and we have to rely only on his power, then we’ll experience Him more greatly than we ever have before. This is another thing that he does. He challenges her to grow. He’s stretching her faith. She doesn’t have any faith right now in God. He’s stretching her into that. Then, when she sees what happens, do you think her and her son were maybe convinced that God had some power? That the thing that happens is when you live in God’s power, everyone around you is effected. It moves everybody to grow. But, growth is hard. If growth wasn’t hard, they wouldn’t call it growing pains. It hurts on every level and every aspect of your life. It hurts spiritually. It’s hard to grow spiritually. It’s hard to grow intellectually. It takes sacrifice. It takes reading. It’s hard to grow emotionally. Think about how you’ve grown emotionally. You don’t respond the same way you do today then when you were 5 years old, do you? How did you grow? Through pain and experience. It was through hurt and doing stupid things. Physically, to grow physically, you go through pain and tear down your muscles so they can be built back up stronger. All of us need to be encouraged to grow, to be told time and time again you can make it, you can do it. That you know what, you are going forward and growing closer to the vision that God has for your life.
In James 1:2-4 2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
An opportunity for joy, that when the pain is great and you’re able to look beyond the circumstance that you’re in. You can say this is an opportunity for joy because God is stretching me. He’s molding me closer into what He has desired me to be. We need to be reminding one another, leading people to that reality, that God is bigger than our circumstance and moving all of us closer to his heart and mind and praising His name.
You need to train and release others to do God’s work.
Finally, I often say that the ultimate goal of leadership, human leadership, is to not be leading. That, true leadership is being able to resource and allow others to do the work. I remember when I was new in ministry. I was the pastor of a church called B2X, it meant born 2 times. I remember lying down one night and I put my head on the pillow and I had a realization. That there were tons of growth groups going on and I had nothing to do with them. That’s an exciting thing as a leader. A lot of leaders are insecure. They try to hold onto all the power of being needed and secretly, when they’re not there. Secretly, there’s this ugly thing in leaders that they hope it all falls apart. When they come back, everybody goes “Thank goodness you’re back, save us.” And it is, it’s an ugly little thing about leaders, but not God’s leaders. Godly leaders release, release, release and resource, resource, resource. If you jump back to Chapter 19, from last week. That’s why Elijah went out and found Elisha and put his cloak over him. What that symbolized was that Elisha was going to be Elijah’s apprentice. That he was going to teach him and eventually release him to be God’s spokesman. We need to be about reproducing ourselves as leaders. Reproducing ourselves so we can touch more lives than we could ever touch on our own with the reality of Jesus Christ.
I just want to end this in Romans 12:8b “If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. “ Take it seriously. Our influence on others should never be taken lightly. It’s a powerful thing that can be used for good or it can be used for evil. We need to take our leadership seriously. So, we can help people achieve and grow into what God has envisioned for their lives. God is bringing the whole world to a culmination point where they will recognize Him. The bible says that every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess. We have the opportunity to help people see and bow by themselves and bend their own knees, so they don’t have to do it on that fateful day when it’s too late. We are all leaders and leadership is hard. Because you have to tell people a lot of times what they don’t want to hear. You have to encourage people to live beyond themselves. You have to constantly encourage them. Then finally you have to release. You have to release and allow people to soar.
Let’s pray “Dear God, Thank you for your story of Elijah, that we’ve learned so much in the past three weeks about you through his life. What it means to be a worshipper of You, what it means to be a follower of You and what it takes to be one of Your leaders, God I just pray that we as a church will lead. That we will take that responsibility seriously, that we will encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. That we will have the hard conversations to help people treat their bodies as temples, to treat their minds as sponges to understand you, to not emotionally destroy themselves, but to also spiritually love you and understand you more and more. That we will ultimately love you with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and that we help others see you as you truly are, one loving God who is bigger than any circumstance that we could ever face. We love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”