Tuesday, August 05, 2014

CP 257 On deciding who gets to lead...

CP 257 On deciding who gets to lead...
Recently the text for one of my sermons was from the book we know as The Acts of the Apostles. It’s about the way the Holy Spirit has used and empowered the 12 Apostles to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, beginning in Jerusalem. The number of disciples has increased rapidly. Those who join are mostly Jews, but some are of Greek parts of the world as distinct from the traditional Hebrew areas such as Jerusalem and Judea. It’s no surprise that trouble arises concerning fairness in food distribution. It is an administrative problem but someone needs to be in charge. Not wanting to be distracted from prayer and preaching the Word of Christ, the Apostles decide a committee is needed to organise the waiting on tables!
“Brothers, choose 7 men from among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.” Acts 6:3
Simple enough… until I asked my congregation, (yes, including the women!) ‘If being full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom is the necessary qualification for that task, could you let someone put your name forward for selection?” Not a single hand went up. Not a soul felt free to say, ‘Yes’. I waited… and waited… Eventually some wag in the pews called out, ‘You’re on your own, Fred.’ There are some pretty good organisers in our little church, but not one volunteer if the applicant needed to be, ‘full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom’.
Thinking about that phrase, I reckon most of us, including we Pastors, haven’t got much idea what the Apostles even meant. Known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom? We are not sure at all. We seem foggy about it. If my assessment is right, then our unsureness is both strange and disturbing, given that being full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom is the foundational thing people should be able to discern in those who lead. It’s one of those sine qua non things, you know, from Latin. It means, ‘without which nothing’. You can’t do the job without it! You can have lots of abilities, skills and talents, but this is the must have, this you absolutely need… be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
A couple of things occur to me. The first is this: If whoever organises the kitchen is meant to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, then it is also true for all the other service positions, like Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer, Elder / Deacon, Guild Leader, Youth Leader or Sunday School Teacher. And we had better not forget the Pastor! Especially the Pastor! In regard to the Pastor, I suspect that we make an assumption that if he has come through the seminary and been approved for The Ministry, then he must be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. What if that assumption is wrong? I certainly couldn’t claim that when I started 35 years ago. In fact, I was trained to be wary and suspicious about anyone who emphasised the Holy Spirit.
Of course, all of this applies to what we regard as important when it comes to (selection of) those who are to lead as Bishops, Theology Teachers, Mission Directors, Christian School Teachers and so on. ‘Known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom’… that is criterion number one. I can list for you all my professional qualifications, my interests and abilities and achievements, but that Apostolic basis for eligibility for service always stands.
There is an important Bible principle at play here. It is this: As the leader, so the people! If you are confused then so are we. I challenge our Bishops to lead us into ‘knowing and growing’. Clearly we need to understand what is meant. I’m sure it has to do with Christ-centred living faith in God, along with a Christ Jesus-driven passionate love for the Body of Christ and the nations. Equally it will have to do with a Christ-centred grace-full awareness of the scriptures. It will involve a Christ Jesus-driven openness to the sovereign freedom of the Holy Spirit to work among us. Will our leaders please teach us?
An aside…note that two of those who were chosen to head up the kitchen detail, Philip and Steven, came to be powerful evangelist / teachers in the church’s unfolding story!
Something else… You know, in spite of the reaction of our little church in Campbelltown to my challenge, I see this humble yet passionate holding of Jesus Christ in all things in my people all the time. The best people to discern the matter are those who gently serve from Christ’s heart within them. However, all of us can grow in our awareness of what it means to quench or grieve the Spirit, and conversely, to be filled with the Spirit.
Finally, a warning. If those who hold office, at any level in the church, do so without the fullness of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, one of two things will happen. The first is that holding the office becomes about power and control, which inevitably will lead to spiritual abuse and bullying. The second is that leadership will become ineffectual, leaving a vacuum into which confusion tumbles and selfish ambition grows. Either way, the focus drops away from Jesus Christ crucified and Lord. Direction and authority is lost. We don’t want either. The world isn’t going to be blessed by either. So let’s seek to know, and grow, into the fullness and wisdom of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Keep chewing in Him… Fred


Blogger Robert Knock said...

Wow Fred
Wonderfully put and I am afraid the vacuum we are in is because of the lack of the Spirit and more for the power. Bullying becuase you do not agreee is prevalent not just in higher circles but in our very own cngregations too.
God bless you brother and I pray I grow in the Spirit as much as you will too.
Rob Knock

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always thought that the Lutheran Church did not know what to do with the Holy Spirit. Oh Shock, horror, we might have to speak in tongues (other than German !!)
And I do know that people who happily wash dishes or mow the lawn or teach Sunday School or ....... are already filled with the Holy Spirit. We can't do any of those things to the glory of God and the good of all people without being filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom.
God bless, VR

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with putting your hand up is the fear that others will think you have an inflated opinion of yourself. I do believe that I have God's Holy Spirit residing in me and also feel very humbled by that fact.

2:02 PM  

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