There is a terrible evil in our world and it is often called leadership. But the core value of many who lead, is the root belief that they know better where you should go, what you should do and how you should act than you do. They are masters of Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They define for us, make laws over us and create systems of control to make us like their solution to ‘our problem.’ But in the end it does not resolve problems, their solution is ‘the problem.’ As Ronald Regan said, “Government is not to solution to the problem, it is the problem.”
Come back with me for a moment to the Garden of Eden, and the fall of man. Adam and Eve had a close personal relationship with God, walking and talking with Him in the Garden. But along came Lucifer and, in effect, convinced Eve that if she only knew the difference between good and evil, she would be as God, and would be able to have power over her own life and decisions. And the rest is history.
It would appear that we got a good deal. We get to know the difference between good and evil, make quality decisions, do good things, know the future by postulating the effects of good and avoid tragedy by avoiding that which is bad. What a deal! The problem is, we lost the context. We lost the presence of the Eternal, and we are far too limited in knowledge and understanding to chart a course through the universe. We are not omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. We are human. And that is the problem with the world.
When we are led by the infinite mind of God, we can live within the safety of principled leadership. But when we live outside of that context, we are vulnerable to the shifting sands of popularity, philosophical nonsense and personal egocentricity. Yes, there are always those who define their world view with their self in the center and everything else in concentric circles outward from there. They are important. They are leaders. They know what is best. They will show us, by imposing it on us and by saving us from ourselves. (Sarcasm intended!)
It does not matter the context, whether it is a club, a church, a political party or our national government. When the leader does what they want without constraint and tries to convince us that they know what is best for us, we are in trouble. Egocentric leadership is dangerous. Very dangerous indeed. The arrogance of the superior mind will destroy not only itself, but the rest of us as well. That mindset, is from the root of evil, from the rebellion against God and the leadership He provided. God’s leadership involved making His infinite mind and power available to us – every one of us. His government structure is simple, to have a personal relationship with every individual. It is this concept of man in relationship with God that our Founding Fathers discovered when they said that we (each individual) is endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights… So God’s government structure is that He is personally connected to every human being, and because of that personal relationship, we are free from the need for an intermediary. Anything that gets in the between God and the individual is evil.
But along comes Lucifer and tells us, “No, God is lying to you. He knows that if you have the right information, you do not need Him any longer. It will be like being a God yourself.” And so we have leadership – at least some call it that. We have those who have accumulated more data, information or insight than we do and they will solve our problems, direct our course and lead us to the promise land. But look, the Garden is not ahead of us as we are being led to it, it diminishes in visual size behind us as we move away from it and the principles it provides. We were sold a lie.
It is a lie, because, by buying into the promise that someone of power can solve my problems and give me what I need, I am removing myself from the responsibility to get that supply directly from God Himself. Junior Gods do a poor imitation and always, yes always, fail to accomplish what they promise.
Why then do we vote for those who promise the most? Because we fail to understand the premise – they cannot do what they promise. They are lying. The supply for all things is in God alone and He has already given the supply to us, if we but had the wisdom to understand that.
Next election, how about voting for the person who promises little, but envisions much. How about looking for a leader, not who will solve all of your problems but who will be an encourager and coach in the process of your harvesting the answers for yourself out of the bountiful provisions of the Creator. In this sense, leaders should never take the place of God but always the place of serving those that they lead. They are not the answer, they are only ministers to support and encourage our progress and growth in our own personal accomplishments and freedom.
In January, 2000, I retired from my service as Pastor of one of the Great Churches of America. It was great, not because it was famous, or because it had political power. It was great because of the people who came and gathered to worship God and follow His purposes.
After two and a half decades of service there, in communicating my resignation, I wrote the following letter to the congregation. Please read it through. I just did and believe that I learned leadership from them. I came to change them and solve their problems. In the end, I was the one who was changed.
Here’s the letter:
It was about 45 years ago, at the age of 15 that I felt the Lord asking me to come to Reno to minister. I was a child and incapable of stepping out at that early age, but I never forgot the sense of being called to a place and to a purpose. It was from that simple encounter with God, that my life’s plans unfolded. Now, the years have gone by and we are about to celebrate our 25th anniversary of ministry to this community and beyond. It is rewarding to look back and see the path of divine destiny, the circumstances of Divine provision and the resulting history of His grace.
I remember driving into Reno with the moving truck stacked full of treasures, furniture and plain old stuff. It was an adventure of life changing proportions and frankly, I was scared. Today, I sense that same excitement and fear. What if…?
The future can be projected and planned but the element of uncertainty is always present. The best-laid plans of mice and men, we are told … Yet, for each of us, life holds both the unknown terror of night and the un-experienced dawning of days of wonder. We are always required to walk through the night to find the dawn. The challenge of change and adventure always has an element of risk.
So, we strike out on a new adventure. Twenty Five years of pastoral care has been one of the most rewarding experiences in our lives and we hold that experience with fondness of memories, as a truly monumental experience. It has not been easy. There have been battles, conflicts, dangers and the presence of the dragons of despair. But that is not the end of the matter, it is only the context in which good things have happened. Some testify that our presence has benefited them, but that is not a judgment I can make. I can only judge whether or not the experience was of value to me. It certainly was.
One of the illusions of ministry, if we are not careful, is the assumption that I am capable of changing other people or a congregation or even a community – you know ‘let’s take this city for Jesus!’ The subtle temptation is to assume that we as leaders in the church, are capable of knowing what is best for people and of leading them into it. Little do we understand, until later in life, that the issues of ministry was not the city, the congregation or the other people we presume to know what is best for, but the issue all along was – ME! God was after me and was using the ministry as His means of changing me into His image and likeness. I thought I was headed for fame and glory. God urged me on toward crucifixion – “to which you are also called,” – Paul wrote. I looked for the rewards of success and the symbols of accomplishment. God brought me to the realization of my need for Him and the beauty of knowing God. I honed my skills and sharpened my tools for conquest but He drew me near to Himself in times of bitter confusion and whispered in my ear the security of His love and the passion of His heart.
No, I have not taken the world for Jesus, not even Nevada, and not even Reno. What I have experienced is the subtle shift to God’s perspective as I prayed, “Give me this city,” He answered by giving me to the city. While I asked for strength to work for Him, He made me increasingly aware of my weakness without His abiding presence. While I clamored for the rewards of success, He gave me desperate people whose need for God was so great they pressed me into God and into the security of His everlasting arms. When I demanded justice, He provided grace. When I stirred the people for need of activity, He responded with peace and rest. God has been good – very good to me. I have served, but I have lost nothing in the giving of my life to this calling. I have been the benefactor and the student.
And so, as I conclude this phase of my life and move on into new forms of ministry, I do so with great thanksgiving. I thank those who have faithfully been a part of our lives for these many years. They have made it all worthwhile. I thank those who thought to reject us, even at times to be our enemies. They have pressed us to assessment, change and the grace of God. I thank my family for putting up with me, my schedule and my activities. They have proven to be my inspiration and valued counselors. I thank this community for allowing me to practice ministry on it and for surviving all of my good ideas. There are so many arenas of life that comprise the context of life and make us what we are. I am thankful for a context that has both challenged me and rewarded me. I am the better for having been here.
Lastly, and most important, I thank God for His eternal love, His abiding presence and His unchanging purpose that marches incessantly forward, slightly out of our focus and totally without our consent. It is God who rules in the hearts of men and who ultimately works all things after the counsel of His own will. To God be the glory – great things He has done.