Leadership in sync
Wouldn't you know it? The change button in our i0S has to be activated so that the start button will fully engage. As a result, usefulness is often calibrated by change readiness. Spiritual leaders can't be totally effective if they are resistant to change. Keeping them in sync is a first order for kingdom service, a prerequisite. Many servants are frustrated because they went to the starting gate before his changes had even begun in them.
Paul and Peter are two prime biblical examples. Paul, an orthodox Jew and educated Pharisee, persecutor of the early Christian community, became God's messenger to the Gentiles. What an ironic twist that God would commission an orthodox zealot as his spokesman to those living outside the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then, there's Peter, a rough Galilean fisherman unschooled but observant, who God sent as his messenger to the Jewish nation. That a hard scrapple man of the sea could represent the Father to the most religious people of the time was equally astounding. But, Scripture is clear about their missions. Paul confirmed it in his letter to the Galatians---
On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the
uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the
Galatians 2:7, ESV
Changes were in order for them both. Yes, each of them had experienced a life changing moment when Jesus called them. Neither was complete in their Christian maturity, but being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ their Lord was a lifetime, ever-changing process . When Jesus called them, Paul on the Damascus road and Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, their lives had been altered in dramatic ways. Change would characterize their lives even more as they ventured into the systems of people alien to them.
Of course, the Apostolic period of church history validates the success of their mission assignments and the advance of the gospel to the people to whom they had been commissioned. Today, looking back, we can marvel at God's wisdom in giving them work that tested them, moved them out of their comfort zones, and changed the world. A study of their lives, affirmed in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, reminds us that the internal change button was activated as they pursued their missions. No, they were not fully developed when God began to work through them. Still, the change mechanisms were operating and they were open to what God wanted to do in them to fulfill their calling.
Resistance to change is basic to human nature. It is especially so in a world that moves as fast and as multi-directional as ours. But, personal change is the first movement of the gospel realized in us. It is the essence of the gospel, the dynamic of being a new creation in Christ, the reality of his doing a continual new work in his people, our call to be new wine skins as vessels for the new wine, a lifetime of being transformed and conformed to the image of Christ.
Jesus touched on it when he challenged the crowds with talk about with self-denial, cross bearing, and following (see Luke 9:23). At the root human resistance to change is most often a crisis of personal autonomy, you know, who's in charge. There's another angle too. These actions---self-denial, cross bearing, and following---are continuous in the life of believers. Paul and Peter were changed forever when Jesus chose them and set them apart for spiritual leadership. But, they both understood the personal struggles of obedience in the long stretch of their ministries. They knew the change button would need to be functioning throughout their lives.
Spiritual leaders must keep the change and start processes in sync. Our effectiveness will be measured by our responsiveness to his guidance and readiness to go where he sends. It's a trip wire for many of us today. The confidence and self-assurance of leadership cannot ever produce self-absorption. And, we cannot ever become weary in the constant processes of being transformed to the image of his son.
Paul and Peter learned something from the change he was working in them.
That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power
through his Spirit in your inner being,
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his
eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1 Peter 5:10, ESV
They understood that God would give them what they needed to keep the two buttons in sync for the long-haul of their spiritual leadership.