Monthly Archives: September 2013

Gospel Centered Leadership Part 2

What does it mean to be a Gospel Centered Leader?

gospel-centered2

Greg Breazeale has written a wonderful article about the effects of the gospel on a leader’s heart.  The gospel should have a profound effect on leaders and the way they understand who they are in Christ, as well as what they have been called to in Christ.  As each of us grow in our faith and spiritual disciplines, these are some wonderful marks that should characterize our lives.

Here are the final three characteristics:

They Have No “Game Face”

The Gospel doesn’t give us a game face to lead. The Gospel gives us a new heart filled with love and affection. It is not one more weapon in our leadership utility belt. The Gospel enables us to weep when it is time to weep and rejoice when it is time to rejoice. GCL’s don’t have to worry if they are performing correctly in a particular situation since their heart is buried in the Gospel. They are free to take the blame in situations and give praise in others. Their ultimate worth and value does not hinge on results or failure because, to be honest, they are not that concerned with themselves. They are free to be honest about a particular decision or result, admit failures and mistakes, and boldly trust in the God who took on flesh and died for them to carry them forward. GCL’s can afford to look bad in front of the team. They don’t have to take themselves too seriously. They can take a risk as quickly as they can admit a mistake.

Wisest Fool In The Room

The Gospel reveals to us that we are not wise. We must become fools in order to embrace wisdom. We become fools by embracing the foolishness of the Gospel. When leaders realize that it took Christ dying and rising again to save them, they never walk into a meeting with a swagger. They walk in confidently to be sure, but their only confidence is in the Gospel. They know that walking in their own wisdom only leads to pain and frustration. Proverbs is clear that being wise in one’s own sight is worse than a fool. Therefore a GCL is always learning and growing both in the Gospel and in leadership.

Takes Blame and Gives Credit

The Gospel is about an exchange, Christ takes our sin and we get His righteousness. He gets the blame for what we’ve done and we get the credit for what He has accomplished. Leaders are at their best when they are taking the blame and giving the credit to others. When things go wrong they are the first to take responsibility. When things go well they are the first to give the credit to those who work, prayed, planned, and performed.

And a final comment from the author.

Becoming A More Gospel-Centered Leader

How does one become a more Gospel-centered leader? Many ideas come to mind, but let me leave you with one: Exult in the Gospel. Only the Gospel can make you more Gospel-centered. Books on the Gospel, songs about the Gospel, and the culture built around Gospel-centeredness are gifts from God. But they are only echoes and scents (to borrow from CS Lewis) of the Gospel, not the Gospel itself. It is possible to love the idea of Gospel-centered leadership but not love the Gospel. So dwell in the Gospel. Exult in it. Learn about it. Meditate over it. Be open to radical changes God wants to make in you. Let it shape how you serve and lead those entrusted to you.

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The Gospel Centered Leader

What does it mean to be a Gospel Centered Leader?

gospel-centered2

Greg Breazeale has written a wonderful article about the effects of the gospel on a leader’s heart.  The gospel should have a profound effect on leaders and the way they understand who they are in Christ, as well as what they have been called to in Christ.  As each of us grow in our faith and spiritual disciplines, these are some wonderful marks that should characterize our lives.

One other important point, in a culture of gospel centered leadership, we should all give and receive the permission to lovingly hold one another accountable.  None of us are always at the top of our spiritual game, I am certainly not.  But I want you all to know that you have my permission to graciously call me to task if I do not reflect these characteristics in my life.  In other words, I commit to you that I will do my best not to be defensive or immature.  Pastors and all gospel centered leaders should be clear with the people they serve that it is safe to talk with them about concerns and disagreements.

Authenticity and accessibility are crucial marks of a gospel centered leader.

I will share 4 of the characteristics of  gospel centered leaders this week, and 3 next week.  Feel free to comment here or on Facebook to share your thoughts.

They Love The Gospel

GCL’s love the Gospel. They love to talk about it, sing about it, and tell it to others. The death and resurrection of Jesus, and their union with Him moves their heart like nothing else. They never tire of hearing the Gospel or preaching it to themselves. The Word of Christ (Colossians 3:16) dwells deeply and richly in them. They define themselves as people loved by God in and through the Person and Work of their Lord Jesus Christ. Their identity, value, worth, and significance—their life is found in Him. Everything must begin here. If you miss this, you will end up using the Gospel to make a name for yourself rather than using the Gospel to spread the fame of Jesus.

They Invite Critique

GCL’s know that it took God in the flesh dying and rising again to save them. Therefore they know they are not beyond critique and error. They find ways to receive feedback and critique from their friends, spouse, staff, or co-workers. If their identity rests only Christ and if they are convinced that God is for them, as the Gospel clearly reminds them (Romans 8:32), then no amount of negative or positive feedback can shake their foundation. GCL’s work into their life and schedule other eyes and ears to help them lead as effectively as possible.

They Are Bold and Humble

The Gospel has shattered the pride of GCL’s, and yet empowered them to boldly trust in the grace and goodness of God when it comes to how they lead. They can make hard decisions without fearing the opinions of others but also admit their mistakes and seek restitution. They don’t slump their shoulders or puff out their chests. They are humble and strong, bold and gentle, confident and self-deprecating. Only by trusting the Gospel can one become this kind of leader.

They Bear More Affliction Than They Give Out

The great mystery of the Gospel is that the one who owed us nothing gave us everything. The one who knew no sin was made to be sin to make us righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). The one who was rich became poor to make us rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). The blessed one became the Curse to lift the Curse from us (Galatians 3:18). Therefore the GCL will look and listen for ways to absorb affliction when he has every right to dish it out. Every leader has to bring affliction. They have to discipline, fire, layoff, cutback, reprimand, etc. But the Gospel shines brightly when leaders winsomely bear the bulk of the pain and blame, especially when they don’t have to. I am not suggesting that performance standards in the workplace or the church be lowered because of the Gospel. I am suggesting however that the Gospel calls us to, at times, shower underserved grace (and all grace is undeserved) on those we lead.

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10 things that can make or break you as a leader.

Here is a great reminder from Chuck Lawless regarding leaders and the way they use words in their interactions with others.  Whether we always consciously think of it or not, Sunday School small group volunteers are leaders.  The minute you do anything other than show up, sit down, listen, and leave, you have taken on a leadership role.  Often, I find the truth to be that leadership in church is mostly about your approach to your place in the Kingdom, rather than whether or not you have an official role or title.  If you come to Sunday School or worship intentionally looking to be a blessing, you are a leader.

Similarly, we have LOTS of men at PSBC who are functioning as deacons.  Our constitution and by-laws prescribe that only a limited number hold an official capacity on an annual basis, but one doesn’t need a title to do the work of an office, nor does one need a set of by-laws to validate his role in the Kingdom of God.

As leaders in Sunday school, consider the following 10 reminders from Chuck Lawless about how important your verbal interactions with people are.  The small, seemingly inconsequential interactions you have with people can make or break you as a leader.

wrecking-ball-hitting-building

 I’m convinced that if you want to learn about leaders, you should listen to their words.
Do they greet others? The best leaders I know say, “Good morning” and ask, “How are you?” They understand that relationships facilitate achieving a vision, but that’s not why they speak to others. They’re just kind people who know that others matter. They recognize the affirming power of a few words, for a few moments, to a few people. A leader who walks past others without greeting them is simply too self-absorbed.
Do they speak more about themselves or about others? The focus of a leader’s words reveals the leaning of the leader’s heart. In the course of a day, do you hear about the their activities, exploits, knowledge, renown more than you hear about others? Good leaders point to others, knowing that their responsibility is to build an organization bigger than themselves. Their very words honor the teams that makes their effectiveness possible.
Do they speak more about yesterday or about today and tomorrow? Leaders who consistently speak of the “way things were” may be stuck in the security of yesterday, perhaps even in a previous organization. Their passion for today and vision for tomorrow are likely weak, if not non-existent. They may well be leading on fumes while gasping for yesterday’s oxygen. Indeed, the backwards-only looking leader is not leading at all.
Do they compliment as well as correct? You may know these leaders. They talk with others only when a problem occurs. Others dread seeing them approaching because they know the leaders have little good to say. Lunches are only for discipline, not for friendship and encouragement. Their compliments are few and fleeting, regardless of how hard others work. Often, their team feels underappreciated—and perhaps even used.
Do they speak of faith and prayer? I realize that expressing faith and prayer in some work settings is not easy, but leaders with a genuine faith will allow that faith to influence their words. They will not hesitate to speak about their God and their family of faith. They may not always pray aloud but will offer genuine prayer support for their team. On the other hand, leaders who speak little of faith and prayer may well be operating in their own strength.
Do they criticize or ridicule people in front of others? Some leaders get frustrated with people and then express disapproval to anyone in hearing distance. Others never miss an opportunity to ridicule people who aren’t as “smart” as they are. Here’s the danger with this kind of leader: if they talk about others in front of you, they may well talk about you in front of others. These leaders should not be trusted.
Do they honor their spouse and family with their words? The best leaders lead first at home and adore their family—so much that they talks about them positively. Every word about their spouse is honorable. They almost cannot help but brag about their kids. Leaders who ridicule or shame their family publicly are neither godly family members nor good leaders.
Do they use ungodly speech? The Bible calls it “coarse and foolish talking or crude joking,” and it is improper (Eph. 5:4). Some leaders fall into this trap to “fit in” with others, but such talk does not strengthen leadership. In fact, consider how many leaders have lost their position because of words they could not explain away once spoken. The wisest leaders speak only those words that build up others (Eph. 4:29).
Do they lie? To state the obvious, leaders are not trustworthy if their words are not trusted. Nevertheless, some leaders exaggerate statistics, overstate accomplishments, and embellish stories. In the ministry world, we even have an accepted phrase for it: “ministerially speaking.” We inflate the data and then joke about it—as if the truthfulness of our words really doesn’t matter.
Do they laugh in their conversations? Good leaders enjoy what they’re doing. They have fun, but not via ungodliness. They make the workplace a place of enjoyment without compromising the vision or neglecting the task. They look forward to coming to work, as do their team members. These leaders have learned to laugh at themselves, with their team, and in the face of challenge. A leader who never laughs is likely a leader without true joy.

 

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Teaching the Gospel

I want to continue this week to build on last week’s theme of keeping the main thing…the main thing.  Last week we discussed the priority of  Bible teaching in Sunday School.  Today I want to share some thoughts with you about how important it is that the theme of the gospel permeate all of our teaching.

The gospel is the heart of the scriptures.  All of scripture points to, explains, and applies the gospel.  It makes sense then that our teaching ought to reflect the primacy of the gospel.

I used to wrongly believe that the gospel was the place where an individual’s Christian experience began, and then as spiritual maturity deepened, the Christian moved on to more complex truth.  I was wrong.  The gospel isn’t the diving board into the pool of Christianity.  It is the whole pool itself.  We cannot rightly interpret scripture if we do not understand the gospel.

Understanding the gospel happens at three levels.  It happens in the head, in the heart, and in the hands.  The gospel has truly been absorbed into one’s life when he or she can rightly explain the gospel, is deeply moved by the gospel, and is compelled to act by the gospel.

The gospel has not fully been taught through a Bible text unless the lesson addresses the head, the heart, and the hands.

head heart hands

 

As Tim Brister has said, ” The Bible is all about God’s story of redemption centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. In the church where I serve, we say the gospel is all about (1) who Jesus is, (2) what Jesus has done, and (3) why that matters.”

So when we consider the gospel’s influence on our lives as it relates to Bible teaching, the following thoughts from a recent article by Tim Brister are helpful:

Text • Context • Subtext

The text addresses biblical revelation. God reveals Himself through His written Word and in His Son, the Word made flesh. The gospel is the message, the text above all texts, that reveals God’s sovereign purposes in history to unite all things in Christ. Truly getting the gospel means we understand that the gospel is normative and supreme in God’s dealings with us, and we humbly submit to the authority of God’s Word and what it says about us and our need for Him. We are committed to knowing the gospel truly and articulating it clearly because God has spoken on the issue definitively.

The context addresses life orientation. These are matters pertaining to what lies outside of us and how our lives relate to them and orient around them. Context includes our relationships to other people, daily circumstances, seasons of life, spheres of existence, etc. Truly getting the gospel means we recognize that context is the place where the gospel is applied. Living in light of the gospel is learning to work out our new identity in Christ in specific places, in specific situations, and with specific people so that the reign and rule of King Jesus is manifested in His Lordship through the context of our existence.

The subtext addresses heart motivation. If context addresses what lies outside of us, subtext deals with what lies inside of us–our hearts. Subtext matters include motivation for actions, pursuit of pleasure, and aim in personal ambition. Subtext reveals the areas where unbelief remains in the life of a Christian, showing where functional idolatry and other forms of god-replacements are substituted for happiness, joy, peace, and contentment. Subtext is the canvas of our life story, and when we truly get the gospel, we see how the story of the gospel rewrites the story of our lives as we move from unbelief to belief in all matters of the heart.

I would sum these points up in the following way.  Biblical Revelation – Have you come face to face with Jesus the Savior through the Word of God?  Life Orientation – Have you been so moved by the Savior that you repented of living for your self and oriented your life towards Him?  Heart Motivation – Has your heart been changed by the Savior in such a way that what satisfies and brings you joy is now different than it was before you met Him?

If we teach the gospel correctly through the scriptures, people will think differently, live differently, and love differently.

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