Reflections on Chapter 6 of Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders.
When I consider the life of The Apostle Paul it is difficult to remain balanced. (I’m thinking of lessons & sermons in which I referenced his ministry.) I tended to focus on the tale of his conversion – that remarkably dynamic encounter midtrip to Damascus – overwhelming light, the voice of Jesus (Acts 9) … Or, fascinated by the record of capturing the attention of nearly an entire city (Acts 14, Pisidian Antioch) that became the basis of my message. Regardless of my imperfect approach, the text of those events in his life remain a rich resource to mine.
Something about reading Dr. Sanders’s insights and explanations of Paul’s comments on leadership caused me to pause, in a good way. If Paul were to hear some of our lessons about him or read any of the volumes of inspirational and instructional books written relative to him, I wonder what he would think?
As we view vignettes of our hero’s lives, we typically concentrate on the best moments – triumphs and celebrations. Maybe Paul would have us to know how he came to grasp these concepts of leadership.
To say the book of Acts is “fast paced” is an understatement. Luke takes us through the storied ministry of Paul, no doubt under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, at rate that leaves many of us breathless. To accomplish this feat there are details which, of necessity, are not recorded.
I suspect Paul would illuminate us to many back stage occurrences that preceded those magnificent episodes of ministry. Maybe he would speak of prayer times where he grappled with himself, new concepts, bold decisions, uncertain choices, faltering peers, rejecting historic accepted norms, results of poorly chosen steps … He might even mention some sleepless nights.
I am relatively certain that he learned the principles of Christ-like leadership one step at a time. Moreover, he learned without the aid of a New Testament to turn to, there were no text books brimming with insights and quips. I mean no disrespect at all, but we at least have to consider that the sometimes ugly, inconvenient process of “trial and error” was employed.
Towards the end of his epistle to the Romans he wrote, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (15:4) He certainly is commenting on Old Testament manuscripts. As we minister in this century, the letters he wrote have become part of the basis of our learning. We would do well to analyze his ancient statements; more so than latest material from the imaginations of men unconnected to the mind of Christ.
All the while we must bear in mind some key ideas. One, the gathering of New Testament leadership qualities and skills is a lifelong process. Two, most every “high light reel” of ministry is preceded by times of private, personal learning and struggle, prayer, study of scripture and application. Three, perseverance is a necessary factor. Yes, I realize there is more to it than this…
Paul prays for the Roman readers and it fits us today. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had…” Christ’s purpose was to lead us to The Father.
The Apostle continues, “… so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (15:5-6) Yes Lord, let this be the reason we attempt to learn and to lead.