Thursday, 8 December 2011


What a huge need there is for people to serve as leaders. If you want evidence of the shortage of potential leaders, look at the painful process by which the United Nations struggled to find a new Secretary General or the process by which the USA and other countries select the handful of people who are fit and willing to stand for the highest political offices. There is a need for Christians to take up leadership too, not as an honour or a prize but as a way of serving the Body of Christ with the gifts and ministries given them. Many will become leaders, especially in their local church, who never expected it.

We need more of an emphasis in the church on the training of leaders, old and young. I am often reminded that those leaders of the church in Thessalonica with whom Paul corresponded were just a few weeks old in the faith. Training can start young. I am committed to the task of training people for leadership right where they happen to be while at the same time presenting them with the truth of a world vision. What a power house the church would be if we could find an amalgamation of the kind of biblical teaching that creates dynamic spiritual leaders in home countries with the kind of vision which we read about in Acts 1:8. This would lead the church into a greater forward thrust into world missions. There is a need for leaders who will "mobilise the people of God for adventurous and imaginative mission". (Paul Beasley-Murray in "A Call to Excellence") May God give them to us.


Much of what I have to say in this chapter concerns the tough reality of being a leader in the church and mission work today, but I won't finish without reminding you of the glorious resources available to leaders in Christ. Over the years as director of Operation Mobilisation I have spent much time in the training of leaders. Sometimes when speaking at a leaders' conference I will deal with the special spiritual and character qualities needed by leaders in God's work. These are important and I will write about them later in the chapter. Sometimes I even get down to the details of how to make decisions as a leader and how to organise yourself. This too is important. Most often, however, I find myself speaking to leaders about the need for them to work on the basics of the Christian life - their own walk with God and spiritual development. Nothing is more important for leaders than this. It follows that in their relationships with others, leaders must do everything possible to edify, build up and help people come more and more into conformity with Jesus Christ; giving full consideration to the different circumstances in which people work in the organisations and movements that have been raised up by God to work together in the task of world evangelism.

Most of all what I want to emphasise when speaking to leaders is, "Be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) because it is the Spirit who is the director of all Christian work. Oswald J Sanders in his book "Spiritual Leadership" calls his chapter on the Holy Spirit "The Indispensable Requirement". He says that there may be many desirable qualities for spiritual leaders but only one is indispensable - that they should be Spirit-filled. I am convinced that there needs to be a greater consciousness of the Holy Spirit and His work in believers. Each one must be taught that it is a privilege to know daily the fullness of the Holy Spirit as He exalts the Lord Jesus and is sovereign director of our lives and our affairs. This fullness is not only to do with the emotions and the inner spiritual life. It is also to do with the quiet reality of how we live our lives from day to day (see Galatians 5:22-25) and with the making of plans and the development of strategy in our Christian work. I am especially concerned to say to leaders that we must depend more on the Holy Spirit for directing us as we move forward in mission work. It is so clear from the book of Acts that the Holy Spirit directs missions work.

"But you will receive power when the Holy
Spirit comes on you; and you will be my
witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and
Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

"While they were worshipping the Lord and
fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me
Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I
have called them.'" (Acts 13:2)

The book of Acts also makes it clear that those who lead missions work need to be filled with the Spirit. J Oswald Sanders says,

"It stands clear in the book of Acts that the
leaders who significantly influenced the
Christian movement were men who were
filled with the Holy Spirit. It is recorded of
Him who commanded his disciples to tarry
in Jerusalem until they were endued with
power from on high that He was Himself
"anointed...with the Holy Spirit and with power"
(10:38). The privileged one hundred twenty in
the upper room were all filled with the Spirit
(2:4). Peter was filled with the Spirit when he
addressed the Sanhedrin (4:8). Stephen, filled
with the Spirit, was able to bear irresistible
witness to Christ and to die as a radiant martyr
(6:3,5; 7:55). It was in the Spirit's fullness that
Paul commenced and exercised his unique
ministry (9:17; 13:9). His missionary
companion Barnabas was filled with the
Spirit (11:24). He would be strangely blind
who did not discern in that fact the
fundamental criterion and equipment for
spiritual leadership."

Some people regret the passing of the fervour often associated with an early experience of the fullness of the Holy Spirit but as H A Hodges says in his book "Unseen Warfare" this loss of fervour may be a sign of getting beyond the early stages and of "growing up". If you are going to be a Christian leader you have to grow up. You have to settle into a steady routine of having the Spirit guide you in the daily pursuit of your work and your plans just as we have seen in the book of Acts. This should be a constant daily filling but not a restless search for new "experiences". Many people feel that they need a fresh touch in their life and they go from conference to conference seeking something new. Of course I am not excluding the possibility of crisis experiences with God but there needs to be a "continuing programme for spiritual growth" to quote the subtitle of Ralph Shallis's book "From Now On". When God saved you and put the Holy Spirit into your life He put the ball into your court. He may be waiting for you to hit it back. To use another analogy, it may be that God is urging you, as Nehemiah urged the people of Israel, to "rise and build" (Nehemiah 2:18).

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