leadership


I just finished reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. I highly recommend it. Gave me a real sense of who both she and her husband are as people, not political figures.

The following statement of hers resonated deeply with me: “Meeting Nelson Mandela gave me the perspective I needed…that real change happens slowly, not just over months and years but over decades and lifetimes.”

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The following excerpt from When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough has been running through my mind all morning, soooo I decided to share it. Here it is:

“I want them [my sisters in Christ] to be who they were created to be, to be free to operate in their spiritual gifts, and to fulfill the purpose for which they were created and designed to fulfill. I want the Church to not only give them permission to pursue their calling, but to also actively encourage and support them in doing so. I want the Church to tell them they are on equal footing with men and don’t need to fit themselves into prescribed roles.

Needless to say, we have a long way to go to make this happen. There are a lot of battles which will need to be fought and many streams in which individuals will need to swim upstream. Much conflict and controversy will follow. Whoever chooses to fight these battles or swim up these streams will need to be ready and willing to face a torrent of opposition. It will take people who have the determination of James Madison, the visionary leadership of Elizabeth Stanton, the dedication of Susan B. Anthony, the perseverance of Martin Luther King Jr., the amazing selflessness of the Freedom Riders, and the passion of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Most of all though, it will take people whose hearts have been changed by Christ.”

If anyone is interested in reading more, here’s the link to purchase the book: https://www.amazon.com/When-Going-Flow-Enough-Upstream/dp/1625860714/

This post is a follow-up to my 9/22 post, plumb line.

Excerpt from When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough:

In keeping with the culture of the time, Huldah…was identified as both a prophet and a wife when first introduced in Scripture. This would seem to indicate that she successfully lived out both her role as prophet and her role as wife…

When considering what exceptional women Deborah and Huldah were in light of the culture in which they lived, it is important not to overlook what exceptional men Barak and Josiah were. Both men were unique figures in the history of Israel due to their willingness to submit to the leadership of a woman…

Josiah intentionally seeking spiritual counsel from a female prophet during a time when four male prophets (Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habbakuk) were living is nothing short of amazing. What is even more amazing is that King Josiah not only sought the counsel of a woman, he acted on it, instituting very radical reforms. Josiah must have seen something in Huldah similar to what Barak saw in Deborah. Scot McKnight, in The Blue Parakeet, states “Huldah is not chosen because no men were available; she is chosen because she is truly exceptional among the prophets.”

The following excerpt from When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough has been on my mind a lot the last several days. I don’t know why. Maybe someone needs to read it, so I decided to share it. Here it is:

When an individual gives his or her life to God, that individual becomes part of God’s family. The Holy Spirit then comes to live inside that believer and endows him or her with spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is an ability or talent that is given to an individual by God when he or she becomes part of God’s family. The Apostle Paul discussed spiritual gifts in his letter to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians), his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 12), and his letter to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 4).

 Important Point: There is no reference in any of Paul’s letters to gifts being distributed according to gender.

As I walked with Jesus I gradually came to the realization that I had been given the spiritual gift of leadership… As I tried to live out the purpose God had called me to, using the gifts he gave me, I ran into intense opposition. I crashed right into the stained glass ceiling. I was told that I was controlling (a bad thing) and that I was too strong of a leader (another bad thing)…I studied the difference between controlling and leading. I studied the difference between leading and managing.  I studied the difference between anointing and ordination. I read books on gender equality in the Church, and I studied the lives of women in the bible. As a result of all this I came to the unshakable conclusion that God is color blind and gender blind. He does not distribute gifts and assign purposes based on race or gender.

… as we grow into the people God created us to be, we become comfortable in our own skin. When we are comfortable in our own skin, we are able to unreservedly allow the people around us to be comfortable in their skin, to be who they are, who God created them to be. When we are not comfortable in our own skin, we often try to control our external circumstances and the people in our life in an effort to achieve that comfort. In her book Men and Women in the Church, Sarah Sumner, a noted author, international speaker, and dean of A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary, describes a time when she was impacted by people around her who were not comfortable in their own skins. “When I was a student at Trinity, one of my professors called me into his office and said to me in a warm, fatherly tone, ‘Sarah, do not show the full color of your plume; it will intimidate the men.’ She further stated ‘… every Christian woman is told not to lead too much.’”[i]

As I look back at the times I was told I was too strong of a leader and think about the people who told me this, I now understand that they were not comfortable in their own skins. If they were, they would not have been so threatened by me growing into the person and the leader God had anointed me to be.

[i] Sarah Sumner, Men And Women In The Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003) pp. 26-27

“… a great nation is a compassionate nation. … America has not met its obligations and its responsibilities to the poor. … One day we will have to stand before the God of history, and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we’ve built gargantuan bridges to span the seas. We built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Yes, we made our submarines to penetrate oceanic depths. We brought into being many other things with our scientific and technological power. It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, ‘That was not enough! But I was hungry and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me.’” Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral, Washington D.C.

I am currently reading American Gospel by Jon Meacham. The following excerpt grabbed me, speaking to me very loudly. I am sharing it with you because I am hoping that it speaks to some of you as well. Here it is:

“What is essential–and what has long been part of religious intellectual traditions–is to draw not only on scripture but on reason and experience when contemplating the nature and problems of the world. In the seventeenth-century battle between the Catholic hierarchy and Galileo over whether the earth revolved around the sun or vice versa, it was Galileo–a Christian–who understood better than his persecutors how to reconcile apparent contradictions between faith and science. ‘If Scripture cannot err,’ he said, ‘certain of its interpreters and commentators can and do so in many ways.’ In other words, if reason leads humankind to discover a truth that seems to be incompatible with the Bible, then the interpretation of scripture should give way to the rational conclusion. In this Galileo was echoing Augustine, who wrote, ‘If it happens that the authority of Sacred Scripture is set in opposition to clear and certain reasoning, this must mean that the person who interprets scripture does not understand it correctly.’ … Augustine’s work enables thinking Christians to take advantage of scientific and social advances without surrendering the authority of revelation. Guided by these lights, believers have (however slowly) removed the biblical support for the ideas that the earth, not the sun, is the physical center of the universe, that women are property–and that slavery is divinely sanctioned. The lesson is that purely religious arguments may not be sufficient to get us to the right result. The faithful should see that God meant for them to use reason as well as revelation as they make their way through the world.”

Any body, if it is to function properly and fulfill the purpose for which it was created, needs to be healthy. The body of Christ is no exception. If a local church is to be effective at continuing Christ’s work the world, it needs to be healthy

Note: Families tend to be classified as either functional (healthy) or dysfunctional (unhealthy). In reality, no family is one-hundred percent functional or one-hundred percent dysfunctional. Every family has functional characteristics and dysfunctional characteristics. It is a continuum, and each family falls somewhere on the continuum between functional and dysfunctional. In my opinion, the same holds true for church families. For the purpose of this discussion, church families will be referred to as functional or healthy if they have more functional characteristics than dysfunctional ones, and vice versa for dysfunctional or unhealthy.

Characteristics of a healthy (functional) church family:

1. Open communication is encouraged. Members feel free to talk about anything.
2. The structure and operating principles are not taken from a denominational blueprint. They are designed to fit the needs of that particular congregation and to aid that congregation in fulfilling its specific God-given purpose.
3. Members feel both accepted for who they are at present and supported to become who God created them to be.

My experience as a family therapist convinced me that any organization or system is only as healthy as its leaders. I saw this evidenced countless times with families. If the parents, the leaders of the family, were sick or dysfunctional, the whole system was sick or dysfunctional. When a parent or parents brought a child in for therapy, claiming the child was the problem in the family, I didn’t have to look long or hard to find the dysfunction in the parent or parents. As a result of these experiences, I have an unshakable belief that the marital relationship is the most important relationship in the family. It is the foundation of the family. The health of this relationship determines the health of the system. In order for this relationship to be fully functional, the mother needs to have a healthy relationship to herself, to God, and to the father; and the father needs to have a healthy relationship to himself, to God, and to the mother. If this is the case, the family is likely healthy, and the children have a better than average chance to be functional. If the opposite is true, the children will likely be stressed and will adapt in dysfunctional ways.

The same holds true for church families. I firmly believe that the relationships among the leaders of a congregation are the most important human relationships in a church. If the leaders of a particular church body or church family are sick or dysfunctional, the body will be contaminated, and the church family will likely be unhealthy. If the leaders are healthy and functional, the body will likely be healthy, and the church will have a better than average chance of bringing people into relationship with Jesus and helping them grow into mature Christians.

In my opinion, the health of leaders in a church family can be measured according to the same criteria as the health of parents in a biological family, that is, each leader needs to have relationships—with God, self, and the other leaders of that congregation—that are marked by love, trust, respect, and acceptance. When this is not the case, agendas other than God’s tend to take center stage.

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