Vision & Mission Conversations: “Taking Leadership Cues from Jesus”
Ps. 150 & Mt. 4: 12-25 ~ October 10, 2021 ~ Northwood United ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook
Last week, we commenced a journey exploring our vision and mission. And as we began the journey, we were reminded that being clear on our vision and mission is a critical component in focusing our ministry. Clarifying what we can, and cannot do; what we are called to do, and not to do. Dr. Joel Barker has offered insights into this type of work over the past half century. The first to popularize the concept of a paradigm shift in the corporate world in 1975, Barker made significant contributions to helping groups, organizations, and churches move ahead. In his book: The Power of Vision, Barker writes that “vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” And that is what Jesus’ people are called to do and be: not to just pass the time; not just dreaming…but actively changing the world as we move in the direction of God’s kingdom. So, as we continue rebuilding our ministry at this brief stop point…clarifying our vision and mission, the clarifying work we do truly makes the difference between the future being spent “passing the time” or “just being merely a dream”. Our time allows us to consider how God’s work of “changing the world” can occur through us. So, let us continue our conversations on this second week as we gather as people of thanksgiving, seeking to change the world in the ways Jesus calls us.
Last week, we began conversation with the foundational vision of our congregation. Words that you know quite well: “embracing the congregation with the love of Christ”. A few people filled in the feedback slips last week, but most decided to take time with it to prayerfully consider their response. The Board and I truly hope you will share your thoughts and dreams pertaining to this area. Please drop your comments in the Offering Box today or continue to email them in. This week we continue on and shift to the first of our four mission goals of how we saw this vision to be lived out. We begin today with leadership. The first objective of the 5-year mission plan, is to “be leaders as well, through the development, support, and empowerment of lay leadership.” And as we consider what this means and the place that it may continue to have in our midst, I thought that it might be wise for us to take some leadership cues from Jesus.
In Matthew’s gospel, this morning’s text is the first witness of Jesus’ leadership. Jesus calling the first disciples. But, before we dive into the text that Gwen just read, it is informative for us to first look at the story which precedes it. And the narrative in Matthew’s case, and in the case of the other two parallel gospels (Mark and Luke) is Jesus’ time spent in the wilderness. The first leadership cue Jesus offers is the importance of clarifying who you are and whose you are before venturing out. This was Jesus’ time spent in temptation with the devil, spent alone pondering who he was, considering whose he would be. The first leadership cue we take from Jesus is the importance of discerning who we are; it is the importance of discerning whose we are. This, of course, changes through the chapters in our life. Indeed, we wear many hats through our ages and stages. Yet, the importance to take time and clarify who we are through the journey is what Jesus is teaching. Before Jesus will go out and exercise his leadership of life-changing ministry, he will take time to be alone. He will pray and find God’s vision in his life; he will be tempted. And in the end, he will emerge as one with a deeper sense of who he is and the path he is called to follow. Time alone will allow him to emerge with clarity, strength and awareness. How do you gain a sense of your identity in life? Of course, it can be found in a myriad of different ways: time spent alone in the quiet of the morning before others arise as coffee perks; time spent walking your favourite trail; time in meditation and prayer; retreat time away. And this will not be a one-time thing. Later in Jesus’ ministry, we will see that he continues to tuck away for ‘time alone’ moments again and again: leaving to go up the mountain, or upon a lake. One consistent aspect of Jesus is his seeking clarity on who he is before he begins his public ministry…and as he continues through it. Jesus’ first leadership cue is the importance of understanding ourselves and how we are part of God’s unfolding plan.
After Jesus emerges from the wilderness, the text for this morning begins. The second leadership cue Jesus teaches is letting your Spirit shine. There is something ‘about’ this Jesus that causes people to follow. To be sure, it is not the position he holds because Jesus holds no title or position with the synagogue or with his followers. The Greek word for this ‘something’ he has is the spiritual gift of charism. It is where we derive the English word ‘charismatic’. Charism is the spiritual gift of an extraordinary power given by the Holy Spirit to a spiritual leader like Jesus. People followed Jesus, not because of his status or the office he held; they followed him because of the charism / the spirit that emanated from him. People could sense that there was ‘something about this Jesus’; they could sense that God was in him; that God was alive in him…and they followed that Spirit-presence.
Later on, we will discover that Jesus’ leadership was not an ‘authoritarian-style’; but rather was one of a ‘servant leadership’. A leader who would wash the feet of his friends before coming to the Upper Room meal; who would wipe tears of those in pain; who healed the lepers by placing his hands upon them; who dined with the outcasts ~ sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes; one who welcomed little children upon his knee. He was ‘with’ them…fully present. He was a servant among them. And, the Spirit of God radiated through his being…so powerfully that everyone followed. Inside each of you is God’s Spirit. The choice we make is in allowing that Spirit to shine…or holding it back. When you think of charismatic people in your life, what makes them someone who others are drawn to follow? Inevitably, our answers come up in the ways their Spirit shines. They are clear about what they are passionately called towards and they share it. What makes leaders like Mother Teresa, or Mahatma Gandhi, or David Suzuki, or the memorable teachers and coaches and ministers from your past? The common element is their Spirit that shines through…their charism…their passionate presence about what they are leading in. YOU are passionate about certain things in the world. There are some things that God is calling you to animate and share and give life to in the world. That is the place from which Jesus lead; that is place from which all successful leaders lead from. That is the place that you are called to lead from! What are you deeply passionate about? How are you exercising this in your circles? At your church? In your community? These are leadership questions that, I think, this goal of letting your spirit humbly shine around others.
The next leadership cue from Jesus is how his pursuit in this area of leadership changes others and leads them into a deeper relationship with God. In the text, Jesus called Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John and they were forever changed. Openness to the changing of our identity is the next leadership cue we find. These fellows were fishers. They knew boats and nets; they knew tides and fish patterns; they knew fishing. And after being touched by Jesus’ call, they were still ‘fishers’…yet, they became fishers of a different kind… ‘fishers of people’. Jesus’ leadership has always been one that draws people into a deeper encounter with God; it is a deepening; a strengthening; an enriching of who they already were. God needs each and every unique person created in order for the unfolding of the Kingdom to occur. And, let us be clear…we are ALL uniquely gifted. None of us are the same; each person is a blessed, unique creation. And each person is a necessary leader for God’s work to continue. In First Corinthians 12, Paul will articulate a long list of spiritual gifts…some of these gifts are ones which we are endowed, and others not. Paul speaks about uttering wisdom and knowledge, having faith, offering healing and prophecy, working miracles, listening and discerning, speaking and interpreting. There are so many ways that YOU are gifted for leadership. What do you think it is these days? There was something about Jesus’ leadership that was characterized by a great generosity. He truly wanted and helped others discover who they were made to be. He called them to follow; then he sent them to live out the mission as they were so enabled. Jesus’ cue for leadership here is the beautiful individuality that we each are blessed with. Helping us discern what that is and allowing it to be unleashed in the world.
The concluding cue of leadership I want to consider this morning is that the goal of leadership must always be understood as your transformation, not your production. We have all heard far too many stories of churches practicing ‘vampire theology’ where all they want is ‘new blood’. They want new people to sit on committees; new people with deep pockets to fund outdated visions and values. While producing ‘something’ is obviously a natural outcome, the goal of leadership should always be understood as transformational: transforming the community around us; transforming the person inside of us; transforming the world in the direction of the Kingdom of God. New things start; other things conclude….Jesus calls to us ALWAYS to move in the direction of the Kingdom of God. Leadership has always had a significant place in Jesus’ way because, he realized that those followers he touched today would be his leaders tomorrow…would be the living body of Christ into the millennia ahead. 15 centuries after the life of Jesus, St. Teresa of Avila would poetically articulate this vision of Jesus’ leadership in this way: "Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world."
And so, may we consider our call to be leaders! May we take time alone with God, considering who we are; whose we are; and how we are called. May we let God’s unique spirit in us shine, enlightening the world as we humbly serve and lead. May we be open to the changing nature of our lives as God calls us in new directions: fishers today…fishers of people tomorrow. And may we realize transformation on the journey: transformation of our lives, the community around us, transformation of the world in the direction of the Kingdom of God.