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Unequally yoked, across the board

Excuse me, but attempting to lead his church by secular standards may be akin to a believer being married to an unbeliever. We've been over that one many times and know the questions Paul asked the Corinthians about being unequally yoked. When we limit the talk to marriage, we're missing a significant point.

The yoke thing involves our affiliation to life in general. It's an image that's somewhat foreign to exurban moderns, the yoke bar that links a team of oxen. When the animals aren't the same size or share a similar gate their task would be more difficult or not be accomplished at all. It was a vivid word picture with which first century believers could easily identify. When Paul used it as a reference point for the Christian life, Israel's history brought marriage and family to the forefront. When they had occupied the Promised Land, they were warned about marrying the locals who worshiped other gods. As a result of this interpretation, we've tended to apply the unequally yoked standard to marriage or relational partnerships. But, surely Paul meant all of our life pursuits and relationships.

The series of questions he asked is noteworthy in contrasting the Christian life with that of unbelievers.

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship

has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion

does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of

God with idols?

2 Corinthians 6: 14-16, ESV

The context develops the incompatibility of Christian thought, what we would call

today the Christian worldview, with that of the secular worldview. They just don't fit. The declaration "For we are the temple of the living God..." (v.16) puts an exclamation point on the entire thought. Even our ideas must recognize the incongruity of spiritual and secula thought.

That would include our concepts of leadership too. And, that's top shelf material right now when church people are struggling to define the church's role in culture and why the contemporary expressions of faith seem so disconnected from the world around us. So, we're in leadership mode right now, an intentional bent to bring Christian leaders into the twenty-first century. It's the stuff of books, seminars, graphs, charts, strategies, accountability groups, blogs, directed studies, doctoral theses, seminary majors, and just about every pastor and spiritual leaders reading list. Search leadership on Google and get 468 million possibilities in just .37 seconds. There are just 5.6 million hits in .50 seconds if you upgrade the search to spiritual leadership.

There's a good bit of material contrasting secular and spiritual leadership and I recommend reading through as much of the available information as possible. Most importantly, we must note several important reference points---

1. All truth is God's truth. When God's truth is discovered in a secular

environment we should applaud it, give glory to God, and incorporate his

standard in to our leadership learning. A blessing today is to note how many

believers are on the forefront of leadership teaching and learning. We must not

reject it just because it originates in a secular environment.

2. If leadership principles don't reflect biblical truth, we must ignore them.

3. Unbelievers do not welcome or recognize spiritual truth. Please reference

1 Corinthians 2:14 for a tutorial about how spiritual truth is misunderstood by

unbelievers. This is an important qualifier in applying secular truth in spiritual


4. Even the secular world is questioning many of the new leadership models

being proposed as solutions to flagging organizations. Spiritual leaders must

use great discernment when constructing their leadership process at church.

The temptation to use popular secular systems is great.

5. Character is the baseline of spiritual leadership. That character isn't the life or

legend of any great human leader. It is the character of Christ that must be

central to the spiritual leader.

One of my mentors, Reggie McNeal, always emphasized the importance of leadership in fulfilling the mission of Christ and his church. Assessing the state of the church in twenty-first century America he would usually state something to the effect that "leadership is everything". Over the years of his influence I knew he meant spiritual leadership defined by the person of Christ and supported in Scripture.

Over the years I have recommended one book over all the others. My book shelves are lined with volumes about leadership. But, one has always been the standard in my own teaching and coaching. It is Spiritual Leadership: Moving People onto God's Agenda by Henry and Richard Blackaby (B & H Book, 2001). Fourteen years after publication it remains a standard of understanding the role and character of spiritual leaders.

Here's the point. Leadership is the critical issue of church life today. But, the secular models that are so popular and appealing today will not provide the heart and methods of leading God's church.

You see, light and darkness just don't fellowship.

They are unequally yoked.

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