Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Spiritual Leadership

Leadership in Christian terms.
Colin Burgess.

Not having any real experience in leadership as an elder, or organizer within a church I am writing this essay from the outside looking in. A lot of people could write on this topic objectively , but I must write on it subjectively using a book by John Macarthur “CALLED TO LEAD, [26] Leadership lessons from the life of the Apostle Paul.” 

What this book taught me first, and foremost is in order to lead effectively you must first be a good subordinate.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to become first among you, let him be your slave ---- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” - Matthew 20:25-28
Leadership certainly does not require the despising of oneself, or a false humility, but it does require a proper estimation of oneself in order to know ones strengths, and weaknesses. By knowing our strengths we know what we ourselves can do. By knowing our weaknesses we will know how to delegate tasks.
(Romans 12:3)
As a side note it is important to understand the typological principle of interpreting scripture.
In the book ‘Doctrine’ by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears we see this principle delineated on pg 45.
“Types are Old Testament representative figures, institutions, or events that foreshadow Jesus.”
It then gets into these types, such as Adam, the priesthood, and the judges. Never do we see one person completely taking on all roles, but one person operating in one or two ways, and never perfectly filling the role in which they pre-figure what Christ is the substance of.
In a way the pastors, elders, governments, our bosses, and our parents all imperfectly pre-figure the perfect leadership of Jesus Christ, and I believe Jesus has set up these temporary institutions for us to submit to within the parameters of godliness, and to do otherwise is rebelling against the hand of God.
We as Christians should believe in ‘Sola-scriptura’, rather than ‘Solo-scriptura.’ Which is to say, the Bible is the final court of arbitration, but we have other sources we recognize as authoritative.
By not praying for leaders as subordinates we are part of the problem if they do not live up to our expectations, or perhaps upon closer examination of ourselves our expectations are not godly.
One thing that came up in the FMC course which may be in contrast to the book is, ‘should worldly leadership principles be implemented in church leadership?’
John Macarthur seems to say ‘no’ for a valid reason, and I will quote a passage from the introduction on
pg vii.
‘Again, I think it’s a serious mistake for Christians in leadership to pass over these biblical examples of leadership and turn instead to secular models of leadership in pursuit of style-obsessed formulae they think will make them better leaders with leadership techniques and management styles gleaned from worldly “experts.” I recently read a Christian book that analyzes the entrepreneurial and administrative techniques used at Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s, Dell Computers, General foods, and several other prestigious secular corporations. The authors of that book occasionally try to insert a biblical proof-text or two to buttress some of the principles they teach, but for the most part, they uncritically accept whatever seems to produce “success” as a good model for church leaders to imitate.’
Then to drive the point home the author goes on to ask on the next page…
‘Can this approach of mimicking whatever is currently fashionable in secular management theory possibly be reconciled with Jesus’ statement that His kingdom operates by a markedly different style of leadership from the “rulers of the Gentiles”?’
I am certain that the FMC course participants would agree once the logic is taken to its full conclusion that ‘you can’t exemplify biblical leadership and follow the trends of Madison Avenue at the same time.’ I do not in anyway want to write criticizing the other students, because in some cases from their vantage point due to individual experience, and education the secular worlds principles do work, and I do not disagree with that.
What must be asked is, ‘which came first? The chicken or the egg?’ I would say it is the world that plagiarised the biblical principles of leadership, but made the motive in implementing them money driven, the standard of success skewed, and no longer Christ as the objective.
It is now the church that must take these teachings back, and not seek CEO’s of the worlds most successful companies for wisdom God has already given to us. We are called to be change agents in the world we live in.
(Romans 12:1-2).
So in a way having well established leadership, and people submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ we are becoming microcosms in the world we live in going back to a theocracy which is emblematic of Jesus being our supreme leader.
Throughout the ministry of the Apostle Paul we see the examples he put forth, and we rightly say these are good examples since he was a Spirit filled leader, and he had an audience of one.
This book covered 26 principles. I am going to pick out 5 as the ones that apply to me as a layperson in the church, and as a Christian in the public eye because no matter what we influence, and lead people.
So in the following when I refer to ‘leader’ I mean any Christian in the world being a reflection of God, and perhaps the essentials of what we must have before considering a further role in leadership.
1. 1. A leader is trustworthy.
It was only because of Paul’s trustworthiness Julius the soldier who Paul was in the custody of gave him so many liberties. The fact Paul was trustworthy is shown in Acts 24:23 when Felix ‘commanded the centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty.
You cannot inspire devotion without being trustworthy. How you spend your free time, how you spend your money demonstrates your trustworthiness in other matters.
2. 3. A leader uses good judgement.
While leaders are never dice rollers, they are people who may have to take a calculated risk. What the calculations are based on for a godly leader would be hopefully time spent in prayer, and reading scripture then further on a pattern of following God.
In Acts 27:10 we see Paul giving his advice “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and
bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.”
Instead of listening to sound advice ‘
the centurion followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.‘
Rejecting Paul’s advice resulted in the crew throwing the ‘cargo’ and ‘tackle overboard, with their own hands.’ (vs. 18-19) The crew, and the helmsman truly had to pay the consequences of rejecting godly wisdom. Paul’s wisdom was far from being arbitrary, but it was rooted in the very source of truth Jesus Christ with whom he had spent much time with prior, and had seen firsthand the results of obedience to God.
3. 5. A leader strengthens others.
After the ship had crashed, and all valuables were lost Paul never took this opportunity to give an ‘I told you so speech.”, but instead said with Gods authority ‘that there would be no loss of life on board’. (vs. 25)
He wasn’t tickling their ears with empty promises of health, wealth, and prosperity, but he gave them hope that things would be better eventually.
4. 7. A leader never compromises the absolutes.
This is about the best advice any young Christian could get. If I were to lead someone to Christ giving them this advice would be comparable to giving a police cadet instructions how to use their issued kit. Going back, yet using the New Testament we can look at Noah. 2 Peter 3:3-7 seems to infer Noah was ridiculed. This did not deter him from his God given objective. Just as it is with us. God has in some cases given us clear, and concise commands, and we are to adhere to them. In some cases the commands of God are not so clear, and obvious. Such as the direction of the church. This takes us back to rules of leadership 1, and 3.

If a leader has not built his reputation as being trustworthy, and discerning then it is wise not to allow this person to lead a church, or direct a goal within a church, such as being in charge of a ministry, or a building project. This I suppose is where the accountability of an elder board, and prayerful watchmen in the church come into play holding their leaders to a certain, and reasonable standard. If a leader has proven to be trustworthy, and discerning they should still not be unquestioned, but a time comes when people need to stop slandering, or questioning their leaders out of whatever motives, and just get the job done. One thing for everyone to remember: Truth is always the same regardless of the size of the latest lobby group, or how loud people are screaming. The support flows from the bottom of the chain up, and the accountability starts at the top all the way down the chain of command.
5. 26 A leader is Christ like.
It is at this point we revert back to the first point as put on page 144 of ‘Called to lead.’
‘Leadership is about character, honour, decency, integrity, faithfulness, holiness, moral purity, and many other qualities.’
If you led a hundred fund raisers for the church, made a million dollars every event, and built 100 orphanages in all the most oppressed countries in the world, yet did it out of impure, or insincere motives you missed the point. Others have definitely benefited from your selfish motives, but if in your heart they were not Christ driven I would say you have received your reward in full here on earth. 

For many people we as Christians are the closest thing to God the world will see this side of heaven, and I am certain they can smell impure motives on our breath, and if our lives do not reflect Jesus all that is seen is a whitewashed tomb. The world loves to remember the scandals of church leaders, and they quickly forget anything good the church has done.
Our example is of course Jesus Christ, and with Paul we ought to say, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16). The answer is “Our sufficiency is from God.” (3:5)
Pondering the Principles
1. We have seen that church leadership is a sacred task that requires the highest level of spiritual credibility and maturity. Sadly, some people pursue church leadership for wrong motives such as money, job security, or prestige. If you are in a position of spiritual leadership, what are your motives? Peter said, "Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock" (1 Pet. 5:2-3, NASB). Guard your motives carefully so that you will receive an "unfading crown of glory" (v. 4) when Jesus returns.

2. Diligent qualified leaders are a precious commodity in any church. Paul said, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching" (1 Tim. 5:17, NASB). Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you" (NASB). Your leaders have a difficult task for which they are personally accountable to the Lord. Be sure to honour them by supplying their financial needs and add joy to their ministry by submitting to their oversight. Pray for them and encourage them often. Take time to send them a note of encouragement.

3. Hugh Latimer vividly addressed the lack of passion among the ministers of his day (see pp. 11-12), and what he said is just as appropriate today. No matter what area of ministry you serve in, the subtle threat of complacency or compromise is always present. Read 2 Timothy 1:6-14. How did Paul encourage Timothy when Timothy's zeal was apparently waning? How might you encourage others in that situation? If you are lacking passion for your ministry, fervently pray that God will give you a renewed sense of urgency and commitment to His work. Remember, "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Tim. 1:7, NASB).
- John MacArthur
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