Is Being a Christ-Centered Leader Worth Your Life?
Is being a Christ-centered leader worth your life? You are still feeling the effects of a Covid shutdown, the information, misinformation, and disinformation regarding your denomination, and the general care needed to keep people focused upon God’s love. With the unexpected challenges, chaos, and confusion being a Christ-centered leader, at this time, is taking a toll on many who are seeking to be faithful.
Some of you have navigated the challenges with courage and grace. Others of you have met unexpected obstacles and are stuck. Still others of you are weary. I get it. On any given day I can experience all three. That is why I am asking the question.
At your best, you have the opportunity to live within a community of grace-filled Jesus followers. In the midst of grace and care, you are leading and assisting people to become who God created them to be. You are leading by example by the way you live your life, even with all the distractions. But when your leadership is interrupted In the midst of the pressure and tension, there are moments when you ask yourself, “is what I am facing and trying to lead through worth my life?”
Let me state the obvious, you have to be a follower of Jesus to be a Christ-centered leader. In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching and training his followers to do greater things than he has done. He begins with the development of the inner life.
Use the pattern of Read, Reflect, Respond, Return as a tool to assist you in developing your inner life and in becoming the leader God created you to be.
Read Matthew 5:10-16
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
What is Jesus saying when he says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness? On the surface it sounds like Jesus is saying, “Go out and get yourselves persecuted because you won’t be real Christians until you do.” But nothing could be farther from the truth. That kind of thinking leads to a martyr complex that is based upon self-pity. It is self-centered and not Christ-centered.
A totally committed follower of Jesus is difficult to ignore. It is even more difficult to ignore a whole body of totally committed followers of Jesus. They understand life is Jesus. They live life not by a denomination, not by a specific understanding of the scripture, and not by a particular structure, but through Jesus. I feel strange even writing it, but that is who you are. And as you’ve heard me say, “who you are is how you lead.”
Working for Righteousness
Jesus followers focus on God’s righteousness. They work for righteousness, not just for individuals, but for the human community, and for all creation. Jesus followers are so involved in God’s business of righteousness they bear God’s image. They begin to look like God-loving people in the community and the world.
So, to be a Christ-centered leader means you are in a Parent-Child business with God. You have a common purpose, the salvation of the world. With Jesus, righteousness involved a change of heart and healthy human relationships. Healthy relationships are more than being nice to one another, it is to create people of goodwill. As God’s children, we love one another and the world from the heart, from the inside out.
Being a Christ-Centered Leader
When Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God on earth, he was not offering to make people more comfortable in their sins, missing the point of God’s love. He was calling them to a new life in love and to citizenship in his beloved community.
This is where the persecution comes in. There is a cost to being a Christ-centered leader. You have made an all-out commitment to lead God’s people. You are charged to be faithful whatever the cost. So, Jesus says, “Rejoice that you have been counted worthy to do God’s work. You are in a great company of prophets whose glorious past stretches back to the beginning of time and whose future has no end. So go to it. I’m with you.” The question is, “Is being a Christ-centered leader worth your life?”
Is Being a Christ-Centered Leader Worth Your Life?
In his book, The Sermon on the Mount, E. T. Thompson tells of Dr Turner, the pastor of the American Church in Berlin before World War II. He tells of Dr. Turner visiting Pastor Henrich Niemoeller, the father of Marin Niemoeller who defied Hitler and spent many months in a concentration camp. When the visit was over, Dr. Turner, Reverend Neimoeller, and Mrs. Niemoeller (Grandmother Niemoeller) stood at the door saying their goodbyes. Dr. Turner said, “Grandmother Niemoeller held my left hand in her two hands. The grandfather of Martin’s seven children patted my right hand and then put one hand on my shoulder. ‘When you go back to America, Do not let anyone pity the father and mother of Martin Niemoeller. Only pity any follower of Christ who does not know the joy that is set before those who endure the cross despising the shame. Yes, it is a terrible thing to have a son in a concentration camp, but Paula (Grandmother Niemoeller) and I know that. But there would be something more terrible for us, if God had needed a faithful martyr and our Martin had been unwilling.’”
That is what Jesus is saying. Persecution is a terrible thing, but unfaithfulness is far worse. So, here is the question, Is being a Christ-centered leader worth your life?
I should stop there, but since I am on a roll… The history of the Christian movement demonstrates that the intensity of persecution is geared, not to the moral level of the non-Christian, or persecutors, but to the intensity of the witness of the Christian community. The early followers of Jesus were not persecuted because the Romans were such bad people. In fact, the Romans were considered to be quite decent. The early followers were persecuted because they lived out their faith in Jesus in life-changing and world-changing ways.
I sometimes wonder why Christians today get off so easily. Is it because non-Christian Americans are that much better than non-Christian Romans? Or is it that our light is so dim that the world cannot see it? What are the things we do that are worth persecuting?
What Good is Your Witness?
It is not easy to follow Jesus. In fact, it is impossible to follow Jesus and be afraid to live and love like Jesus. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything… (Matthew 5:13). The Greek word for “lost its taste” means “to be foolish” or “to act foolishly.” In other words, “You are the salt of the earth, but if you act foolishly, what good is your witness?” If you are afraid to live and love like Jesus, what good is your witness?
It is hard to see how anyone could miss the meaning of such pointed words. Yet some people insist on putting a period after “you are the salt of the earth,” and act as if Jesus said nothing else. They turn a warning into a compliment. Jesus did not call us salt to describe us or to point to our saving and savoring abilities. Nonsense. He called us salt for one purpose, to warn us that we can lose our power to make a difference. When this happens, people will no longer bother to persecute you. They will do something even worse, they will ignore you and go on about their business.
Tension with the World
Whenever tension ceases to exist between the church and the world one of two things has happened. Either the world has been completely converted to Jesus, or the church has watered down and compromised its purpose. In compromising the church loses its influence and is ignored.
When God’s daughters and sons live in the midst of racial prejudice, poverty, national pride, militarism, gun violence, and exploitation, witnesses to God’s love, there is persecution. The faith of the followers of Jesus is so real and so present that the world, the city, the community, find it difficult to ignore.
Christian Community is Christ’s Light
In fact, Jesus says it can’t be done. “It is impossible to hide a city that is situated on a hill.” When God created the Christian community, God never had any intention of locating it in the sheltered cave. It was placed on an open hilltop where it might be an eternal witness to the way people should live their lives. “People don’t light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket, but upon the lampstand, and it shines on all those that are in the house” (Matthew 5:15).
The point here is not that you shouldn’t hide your light. It is deeper than that. The point is, no one ever lights a lamp and then hides it. Neither does God. The Christian community is God’s light which he lit up with the glory of his own Son, and he has no intention of hiding it. When you come into the fellowship of the church, you become part of that light. While you can determine the intensity of the light, you cannot escape the fact that you are part of the witness, for better or for worse. It is not a matter of whether or not you will shine, but how brightly you will shine. Jesus says to let your “light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
You are the Light of the World…
You are the light of the world. For what purpose? Are you the light so people experience your wonderful worship, hear your great sermons, be a part of your Sunday School class, see your beautiful sanctuary, hear your choir, see your financial report, or read your mission statement? No. You are the light of the world so people might see your good works and give glory to God. Jesus placed us, as the church, under the eternal obligation to live God’s message, whatever the cost.
Of course, you must preach the good news of Jesus, but at the same time, you must realize that the power of the spoken word lies in the demonstration of it. It is an expression of an experience in which the whole church participates. The preacher alone cannot bear witness to the message on behalf of the congregation. That would be vicarious spirituality. The whole congregation bears the testimony. Jesus is the light of the world; the church reflects that light as a city located on a hill. By the way in which you live your life, God’s love, the good news of Jesus, is made known to the world. That means every member of the body is a part of the witness, either strengthening it or weakening it.
Since you can’t escape shining and you cannot be hidden, your leadership should be credited to Jesus. Your leadership does not depend upon persecution or praise. Your leadership depends upon your trust in Jesus. Are people able to see the image of God clearly in you? The world has no way of seeing God except through the image of Jesus formed in your heart. So, what is following Jesus worth your leadership?
Is being a Christ-centered leader worth your life? To be centered upon Jesus is to live your life like Jesus. To live your life like Jesus means you will face adversity and persecution. But remember this, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…” Remember, who you are is how you lead.
Give God thanks for the people you met today. When during the day did you ask yourself “is this worth my life?” When during the day did you recognize you were the light shining in the situation or circumstance? How did you assist others in moving forward with their commitment to Jesus? Give God thanks for the opportunities you had to love others as you have been loved.
Blessed are you, O God, creator of the universe and giver of good gifts to your children. I am grateful for the assurance that you are with me when I face opposition and persecution. By your grace, give the courage and grace to lead others into and through the difficult moments of loving others as you have loved me. As one of your beloved children, help me become more the leader you need at this point and time in history. I offer who I am to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!