Friday, June 16, 2017

Who Leads, Who Follows ...

Speaking from the side of a mountain, offers the ability to have many listeners in the venue.  Speaking from a modest home in the time of Christ does not.  As crowds began to gather at the home of Peter in Capernaum, before things got out of hand, Jesus decides it would be better to move locations across the Sea of Galilee on to distant shores.  This will offer both a better venue for handling large crowds, as well as the change in locale for new local residents to hear firsthand what they may not have been able to travel to hear thus far.  It is solid and logical reasoning.  It is a good plan.  But does that matter?
In America today, we like the idea of having teams solve problems.  We are enamored with the concept, that where applying one mind to a problem may be OK, applying several minds is bound to make the solution better.  But does it?  When the mechanics of teamwork actually takes place, nearly all such gatherings produce (or identify) a leader.  Round tables of ideas are facilitated.  Brain storming is coached and guided.  Voting on suggestions is often requested at the behest of a natural leader who tends to call these meetings, guide them, and often create the first straw man idea from which the other team members will edit and critique.  If nature hates a vacuum, then so do I.  But I am not afraid to speak in groups, to share my opinion, and to listen to truly hear what someone else is saying.  Stick me in a team setting however that has no leader, and I will become one; or sit in my chair tortured, akin to listening to nails on a chalk board, for the waste of energy that occurs in a team setting with no direction.  I can follow.  But if there is no one to follow, I will lead.  I just cannot sit still and shut up, and do nothing.  I have learned this about myself.
This personality trait follows me into the church.  Put me in a group study situation, let the teacher pose a question, if there is silence, I will fill it.  It is not the silence I hate, it is the lack of participation from others.  It is seeing the teacher worried that no one is really listening or cares, or has a clue.  So I speak.  And then temptation begins.  It is all too easy for me to quietly take leadership of the class from the teacher, and begin posing my own questions, directing the conversation, and making a series of points.  This is a bridge too far.  It is not my place to teach where I have not been invited to do so.  Because I have opinions does not make them right, or dominant.  Because I can speak, does not mean that I should.  Perhaps my silence is exactly what was needed.  Wresting control from a struggling teacher is not my place, nor should it have ever entered my mind or lips.  Being the student is the place I should have maintained in the body of Christ, at least during the time I describe above.
It would seem though, that the temptation I struggle with in the church, is not isolated to me alone.  Speakers over time begin to think of themselves as the defacto leaders of any situation they enter in.  How many pastors are able to remain silent in someone else’s group study?  This problem is made worse, because the believers begin to look to the pastor for answers more than they look to the leader of the class to keep them on point, and arrive at the conclusion they were intended to study to reach.  It is easier to simply ask the pastor for the answer.  He is bound to know, right?  Why study if you can jump right there.  And in the mind of the pastor, they begin to think of themselves in this light.  As if it is their perpetual place to be, because of the role they have embraced.  At all times, in all situations.  Evangelists so much the more.  Evangelists have the added burden of passion (trying to get attention), and brevity (they are not here long and need to make their points before they depart).  So the mindset of leaders in ministry is that they should become perpetual leaders, almost never the follower.
This is human folly.  In the body of Christ, we are each enriched by the perspectives of others in the body.  No perspective should ever be considered dominant, or needed at the exclusion of others.  Each perspective is equally important, and should be equally treasured.  When attempting to learn more about our Lord and Savior, we should realize that each holds only one point of view.  All the other points of view, outside of our own, are what give us all a better perspective on Jesus, and how He interacts with His church.  In the church that Jesus owns, He is the only true leader.  Everyone of us is intended to follow Him, not each other, no matter what role we may play in His overall ministry.  This is a very flat organizational model.  It is also not one of consensus, but one of autocratic benevolence.  Jesus did not ask the disciples for ideas about what to do next, He consulted His Father in heaven, then took action.  Jesus did not need a team to support His ideas or plans.  He expressed His intention to move, it was now up to others how they responded, but no matter what they did, Jesus was moving.
Matthew records how this story progresses in his gospel in chapter eight, picking up in verse 18 saying … “Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.”  You will notice Jesus gave “commandment” to depart.  This was not a suggestion.  This was not a question.  This was a directive.  It was time to move.  But extending this notion a bit further.  When Jesus gives us direction, it is never a suggestion, or a request to vote by committee to determine what to do. If Jesus says it, it is a “commandment”.  Most of us think the only commandments in the Bible are back in Exodus limited to Ten items that form the basis of how to love.  But in fact, commandments are given all through scripture, every time there is a record of what Jesus asks, and where that might be applied to more than just the person He was speaking to.  Jesus does not manage His church through suggestions, or by committee, those are human constructs.  Jesus is the leader of His church, there are no other leaders, just Him.
Matthew continues in verse 19 saying … “And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. [verse 20] And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”  Looking at this interchange, our first inclination is that what Jesus said would have discouraged this scribe from following Him.  But in truth we don’t know that.  What we may be doing when we read this, is transferring our own fears about being homeless, and without possessions, on to the scribe who was pledging to follow Jesus.  In similar circumstances it is likely we who would have retreated from being a “full time” disciple.  And instead followed Jesus, only when He was in our area, you know, like a part time disciple, when it was convenient.  Just like it is today with all too many of us.  But it is possible, that this scribe was not like us, and was undeterred by Jesus’s truth in advertising.  It is possible the scribe was willing to be homeless, to be with Jesus full time, undeterred by setting aside his possessions to be with Jesus up close and personal.
Matthew continues in verse 21 saying … “And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. [verse 22] But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”  This one stings quite a bit more, but it is no less true than the other warning Jesus offered.  This one is beyond homelessness.  This one states a fundamental truth.  If you are not connected to Jesus, you are already dead.  Your body may still have spark in it.  But you have no life, only slavery to self and sin.  While you may claim a religion, without a direct connection to Jesus, you are as spiritually dead as any atheist would choose to be.  Following Jesus brings life.  The condition of your body is not the indicator of that.  Because the spark of life has gone out, does not mean you are truly dead, any more than being “alive” without a direct connection to Jesus means you have life.  Those who sleep in Jesus will one day experience resurrection in Jesus, with eternal life to follow.  Those who believe themselves to be alive today, without Jesus, face only pain and death to come.  A direct connection makes all the difference.
Then there is the family thing.  This request to delay the plans of Christ to cross the Sea of Galilee until after this man’s father could be buried were denied.  There was no exception made for family.  There was no “consideration” made.  Jesus needed to move, and He was going to.  The man could either follow Jesus, or turn away to tend to the cares of this world, even the sensitive concerns of burying a loved one like a parent.  Jesus was moving.  There was no time for distraction, even for concerns of the heart for family.  The connection to Jesus was more important than that.  More important than anything.  We do not know if this potential disciple got into the boat with Jesus to move, or chose to delay.  There is no indication of that.  The plan to move was made by Jesus.  The timing was immediate.  And so the plan moved forward.
Matthew continues in verse 23 saying … “And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. [verse 24] And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.”  Now comes an assessment of the plan of Jesus.  What was logical before seems utterly ill timed at present.  Getting into that boat, and leaving when they did, resulted in a full-blown storm strong enough to sink the ship (and the other ships that were attempting to follow, perhaps with these other two newly minted disciples in tow).  This plan was poorly timed at best.  Thinking in retrospect, we would criticize this plan, and blame the leader who forced it upon us (though He did no such thing).  This is how we react in the business world today.  It is the price of leadership, to be blamed for when things in life do not go smoothly.  It does not matter that conditions change beyond the control of the person who created the plan, it only matters that they did, and therefore someone must take the blame.  It was no different on those boats.  And what was worse, Jesus was taking a nap, as if there was not a care in the world.
Matthew continues in verse 25 saying … “And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. [verse 26] And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. [verse 27] But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”  The plans of God rarely make “sense” to humans, or from a human perspective.  We are finite.  God is not.  We see things through the lens of what is in our own best interest, God sees our greater interests.  The question boils down to who leads, who follows.  Too much of our religions are often subtly based on the idea that we get God to do what we want, throwing out scriptures to prove our points and demands.  But in truth, a direct connection to Jesus may lead us in completely other directions, with other methods, for reasons we fail to comprehend. 
These disciples were all led into boats.  Satan caused the storm.  Jesus repealed it.  Faith in God’s plan does not lead to our eternal disaster, even if this story had another outcome.  But trust in a leader who loves you with a passion you cannot even comprehend, may lead you to do what does not make sense, because He asks you to.  Imagine Abraham, being asked by God to sacrifice the only son he has.  This request is completely out of line from a Biblical perspective - case closed.  No scripture could have ever proved the validity of this request.  Abraham was being asked to murder, and by God.  He obeyed.  And his faith is memorialized because of it.  That does not change the request, or the nature of it.  It did not make sense.  But it has stood as an example of faith for thousands of years.  What God did to intervene for Abraham, He did not do for Himself.  He gave His Son for us, and held back His hand from intervention.  That plan makes even less sense.  But it is the plan He constructed to redeem you and I.  It reveals a love that is infinite in proportion.
Those of us, who believe it is our role to lead in ministry, must re-examine what that means.  We are not truly leaders, we are only servants with a bigger constituency.  We follow, not lead.  Our peers follow not lead.  There are no teams or committees.  Just bodies of believers who dedicate themselves to Jesus, and to a direct connection with Him.  He leads, We follow.  There is nothing more to it than that …

No comments:

Post a Comment