Questioning God, Questioning Leaders

SONY DSCAre you hungry today?  The following words, from Hyper-Grace: The Dangerous Doctrine of a Happy God by D. R. Silva, are some tantalizing morsels to help satiate your longing.  I offer only a sample, but encourage you to read the whole book if your spirit bears witness with what is contained here.

Never let anyone convince you that God considers it “doubt,” “disloyalty” or “dishonor” if you question Him, or the leaders He has put into leadership positions.  Jesus welcomed and encouraged questions of all kinds (that’s how people learn!).

Never let anyone convince you that faith means to quit asking questions in favor of silent obedience to your leaders.  Not only is that a lie, but it’s blatant manipulation and behavior control.  The only ones who have done that kind of thing throughout history are cult leaders and tyrants who were afraid their followers would learn to think for themselves, because a single question can be the most powerful weapon against fear and tyranny, and one question has the power to topple an entire empire.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of a question.

question markYour questions are the greatest weapon you have against deception, manipulation and tyranny; never let anyone disarm you.

If your leaders are trying to teach you to fear them, it’s time to find new leaders.  The only reason they would want you to fear them is so you will do whatever they say without asking questions.  That’s not the church or Christianity that Jesus founded; that’s something else entirely.

Don’t let your leaders disguise fear as “respect” or “honor.”  There is a huge difference.  Respect and honor is something you give naturally, not something you have to be coerced and guilt-tripped into giving reluctantly.

Always line everything up with the person of Jesus.  You didn’t become a Christian to follow me or any other church leader; you became a Christian to follow Christ.  If something doesn’t line up with Him and what His life demonstrated for us (that is, those in the new covenant), you can safely conclude that it’s no good.  And if it’s tested and found no good, you will know not to hold on to it.  (I’ve written an entire book about this subject called It’s All About Jesus.)

. . . Being loyal to me as a person doesn’t mean you have to be loyal to all of my ideas; that goes for every other church leader as well.  If they mistake disagreement with disloyalty, then they have an ego problem.  Don’t let them try to bully you into thinking you’re the problem for not agreeing with them.

 

Leadership – Jesus’ Way

The team has returned safely and soundly from our journey to China.  From the start, I want to make clear that this was a good trip with a great team from here and great people with whom we were connected once we arrived in Hong Kong.  I have no regrets about having gone, or about taking a team with me.  Please keep this in mind as you read of God’s latest work in me in this post.  While there are many great experiences I could share from 2 ½ weeks of trip, I prefer to share a lesson that only came clear to me once I returned home.  I hope it will help some of you avoid the same pitfall as you walk in new places of leadership, whether at home or abroad.

From the time I began preparing for this trip, all the way through to the return home, I have felt that this was a much harder trip than the one I took last year.  I sensed the press of darkness against me in much greater measure than last year, but I had a greater part to play, so that wasn’t a total surprise; nevertheless, I just couldn’t understand the dis-ease inside.  In my mind, I knew it really was a good trip, but the overriding description for me was “hard.”  One way the Lord helped me begin to unravel this was by reminding me that Paul’s journeys were hard – beyond anything I experienced, for sure – but accomplished much for God, so they weren’t considered bad journeys, by any means.  That helped, but I knew there was more.

A week after my return home, the Holy Spirit made clear to me the very simple truth that I had missed from the beginning: As leader of the team, the trip was not about me.  Last year’s trip was so personally fulfilling that I wasn’t ready to return to America, even after 2 ½ weeks away.  It was during the process of leaving Hong Kong in ’08 the Lord made clear I would be back and would bring teams with me.  I was eager to follow through on this mandate from the Lord, but was surprised (even disappointed) that it wasn’t so exciting to me this time.  It’s not that it was boring, by any means, or that I didn’t have many opportunities to minister – more than last year, actually.  No, the disappointment I felt was strictly on a fleshly level (Ugh!).  The trip just wasn’t about me, but was about leading the team (by serving) and working with the others already in that land so that this specific mission could be a success.  It’s called dying to and denying self!

Luke 9:23 (NIV)  “Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Matthew 20:28 (Amplified)  “Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free].”

A leader isn’t in it for himself, but for the people he leads, regardless of the arena in which he leads.  My struggle came because I didn’t grasp the depth of this simple truth, so my flesh fought from beginning to end for personal gratification and enjoyment.  My whole purpose for being there, according to God’s plan, was simply to serve the others so they could corporately and individually fulfill God’s plan for them in China.  A very interesting note, now that I understand this, is that I don’t know that I would have done anything differently.  It’s just that my attitude would have been so different that I would have seen differently during both the preparations and the journey itself.

Now that I do see this, and now that the jet lag has finished its course, I am free to consider the next trip the Lord would call me to lead – without dread.  Remember, the Lord told me I would bring “teams” – plural.  This trip may have been the first, but it definitely wasn’t the only one in which I’ll lead a team to the nations.  Any future trips, however, will have so much less of my flesh in the mix, because I choose to follow Christ in serving those I lead – both in action and attitude.  By His Spirit, I will be made aware of my flesh trying to rise up and demand gratification, and I will deny its entrance!  My fulfillment will come from knowing that I have had the same attitude as Christ as I lived out the will of my Father.  That’s leadership in the pattern of Christ.

 Philippians 2:3-8 (NIV)  “3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

Lessons on the Way to China (Part 1)

This message is coming to you while I am in China.  Thanks to WordPress, I can schedule messages to be posted in advance; thus, you get a new post while I am bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of China.

Actually, I had the privilege of going to China last year about this same time, only I traveled alone to be with missionary friends there.  This year I am taking a team with me, at the direction of the Lord, so there has been a whole different dynamic at work in the preparations.  I have not only been preparing myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically, but have endeavored to help the others prepare in these ways, as well.  In the process, I have found myself in God’s classroom a lot, but with the perfect Teacher.  The lessons have been in the area of leadership for me, but they are applicable across the board.  If they don’t fit you right now, perhaps they will help you pray more effectively for those in leadership over you.

Though I am not on staff at my church, I represent my church in heading up this team, so I have worked closely with the pastor who oversees our missions ministry and has much experience in this area.  It is his first time having someone not on staff leading a trip, and it is my first time leading a trip, so this has been new territory for both of us.  (Read this as, “lots of chances to learn.”)  Because we didn’t clearly delineate all of our responsibilities for this trip up front, we ended up “working it out” as we went along.

Lesson #1 – Determine from the first who will be responsible for every known part of the trip preparation, never assuming anything.  (I don’t know that this is a spiritual principle, but it’s a really good common sense principle!)

Since he had much experience at this, I didn’t question the financial deadlines the pastor set up for the team members – at first.  With a critical deadline approaching, we were behind in the total money gathered, but were preparing to apply for the visas (not an inexpensive venture), after already purchasing the airline tickets.  I admit that I was fretting over the lack of funds, though that’s not a new lesson I need – just one I obviously need to re-learn.  It was only at this point, though, that it even occurred to me to ask about any deadlines for getting the trip money to the missionaries, since it is their trip we were taking.  Because he was on staff, I assumed he had already worked it out with them.  Since we both have a good personal relationship with them, he assumed we could send the money whenever we got it.  Both of us were very wrong in our assumptions.  When I contacted the missionaries, I found that the deadlines we had set didn’t allow enough time for us to meet their deadlines.  This is when the light bulb went on for me about what was happening in the spirit realm.

Lesson #2 – Lack of submission has consequences that flow from the head down, just as submission from the head has benefits that flow the same way.

The purpose of this team trip was to work with these missionaries, yet we were actually in rebellion to their authority, from the outset, by not checking with them and submitting to their deadlines and other procedures.  This was not intentional, but that made no difference in the spiritual realm.  The consequence was that the provision the Lord had for each of the team members seemed to be bottle-necked – which probably could have been avoided if the pastor and I had done Lesson #1 and communicated better.

As soon as I saw this, I made the decision that we would submit, not using any more of the funds until we had sent the money that was due to the missionaries – and we would ascertain and fulfill any other requirements in which we were negligent.  I repented to the Lord for having been in rebellion, and for restricting my team’s finances because of it.  I wrote to the missionaries, told them we didn’t have the money but would send it as soon as possible, and apologized for our failure to follow their procedures, assuring them we would right these wrongs.  It was also important to repent to my team, as they were doing what they could, seemingly without results.  I was determined that our team, starting with me, would be completely submitted to the authorities over us.

Lesson #3 – When the leader makes the determination to submit, no matter what difficulties the decision may cause, God’s provision (of whatever is needed) is loosed.

In this instance, from the moment the Holy Spirit helped me understand what was happening, and then helped me make the decision to submit, those things that had hindered the finances in the spiritual realm were loosed, and the money began to come in the natural.  The amazing, “only God” result was the first payment being mailed only one day late, and the final one actually one day early, all glory to God!

These aren’t the only lessons I have learned, by any means.  I suspect that while you are reading this post, I’m learning many more leadership lessons on Chinese soil!  Because I’ll be learning for the rest of my life, I won’t say, “Stay tuned for the rest of the story”; however, I will say, “Stay tuned for more of the story.”