Three words commonly used to describe Christian leaders in the New Testament are “servant”, “minister” and “steward”. These words are interrelated and, when I look at their definitions in a Bible concordance and dictionary, one role (in our day) to which I can liken them is that of a housemaid. A housemaid is someone (female) employed to do general domestic work. In large homes, there may be several housemaids with a “chief” housemaid to oversee them. A Christian leader can be likened to a chief housemaid that leads other housemaids in the management of projects and property for the owner of the house – Christ. It is striking how the early apostles described themselves; for instance:
Romans 1:1 “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle”;
James 1:1 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”;
2Peter 1:1 “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ”.
The repeated use of “servant” is not a coincidence! Do our leaders today truly see themselves as servants?
A chief housemaid does not own the house; she must follow her master’s (or mistress’) instructions to run effectively. Similarly, we must learn to obey God’s instructions to run His church and lead His people. We must never think or act like we “own” the ministry God has committed into our hands, because it truly does not belong to us. We must work out the implications of this ownership in every detail of our disposition even for “little things” – things like displaying our pictures on every corner of the physical buildings we use to represent the mission, something a servant or housemaid would not dare to do. We must always draw attention to Christ alone – the head of the church. We should have the same mind-set regarding the finances of the ministry. In the early years of Christ Lifeline, I used to worry a lot about how to get funds to execute “our” projects because we do not collect tithes and offerings, we only receive freewill donations from Partners. Then it dawned on me that Christ Lifeline is God’s project and He won’t let it suffer, more so, a housemaid doesn’t worry about funds. I started striving to take a cue from Apostle Paul where he said -“Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us” (2 Cor. 10:13 NLT). We should only worry about funds if we leave the boundaries of our assignment.
When you have the God-given privilege to lead a project, you must account for every penny and person he commits to you. Some ministers of God, especially in small ministries, fund ministry activities with personal finances but the flip side is, when they are in dire personal need they also “partake” of the ministry funds. They do this fearlessly claiming that they have given their “all” to the ministry and things will all “balance out”. Does a servant dare spend his Master’s funds without approval? About 3 years ago, an accountant assisted us to prepare the Ministry’s financial statements for the year and he came to say when he was done that he could not account for about 2,000 Naira; he however told me not to worry about it because the amount was “not material”. I looked at him sternly and informed him that ministry is different from other companies. We don’t provide accounts on the basis of materiality; we are to account for every penny. I asked him to go do a proper reconciliation and look for that difference. I could see that he was stunned, but the standards are high in Christianity. Titus 1:7 says “for a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God”.
One of the most challenging aspects of accountability in the kingdom where I still struggle has to do with people. Hebrews 13:17 (GNB) says “Obey your leaders and follow their orders. They watch over your souls without resting, since they must give to God an account of their service.” Many count the number of followers or members we have, but do we also account for their lives? Some church pastors lobby to be posted to large branches, and the desire of every Christian leader I have met in life is to increase the number of people they influence. Do we understand the gravity / implication of being “in charge” of God’s flock, that it goes beyond just counting the numbers to accounting for the lives of our members? As the chief “housemaid”, can we truly say we have assisted all the housemaids to properly execute the mandate for their lives as well as our collective mandate of reconciling men to God? 1Corithians 4:1-2 (GNB) says “You should think of us as Christ’s servants, who have been put in charge of God’s secret truths. The one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master.” Are we faithful Christ?
One other strategic area God will hold a Christian leader accountable, which is also one of the greatest tests of true leadership, is “reproduction”.
It may sound like a tough call, but that is the example we see with Jesus Christ. Jesus spent about 3 years with His 12 disciples when He was physically present on earth, and when He left, almost all of them could do what He did, some did even greater works. I like the way Apostle John described their experience with Jesus in 1 John 1:1 (GW). He said – “The Word of life existed from the beginning. We have heard it. We have seen it. We observed and touched it.” They went beyond just seeing Jesus’ works and hearing Him; they touched Him; they experienced Him; they observed His process and products. That is reproduction!
Unfortunately in our day, many followers just “see and hear”. That is why it is common to hear us start every “religious statement” with – “my mentor said” because we have not observed and experienced “what we see and hear”. Can followers today do 10% of what our leaders in the kingdom do, especially in the leader’s absence? Leaders in the Kingdom must consciously strive to develop better leaders. Many leaders in the world strive to ensure that their followers are not as knowledgeable or powerful as they are. In Christianity however, leaders ought to put structures in place to make their followers outperform them. The realm in which we operate is one where “a success” without many great successors is a failure and every leader must be committed to raising committed leaders.
Many leaders are like Herod, they want to make more followers; few leaders are like Moses, they want to identify more leaders; but great leaders are like Jesus, they pour themselves out in service to make more leaders that will perform like them, or even outperform them. This is the standard of accountability in Christian leadership and I trust God to assist you to operate at this level.
Please visit my blog, www.topealadenusi.com for more insightful messages on leadership.
Tope S. Aladenusi
An opinion poll was conducted recently with the focus on views and preferences about change. The survey sought to knowhow daring people can be, in moving from a routine exercise to a completely different one, especially with an uncertain result in view. Though it was conducted randomly, the sample population was carefully chosen to represent different groups of people. The topmost response was the concern of possibly incurring loss or misfortune. People were betrayed by their emotions, fearing some nonspecific danger, they chose to back out, rather than give the new exercise a shot.
As I thought about the anxiety displayed by people in this opinion poll, I was disturbed about how they could be so scared of a mission yet to be embarked on. I asked myself the following questions: Would there have been a faster way to travel if the thought of inventing an aeroplane was horrific? Would communication be this easy across great distances if the telephone and internet were so much dreaded that we stuck to the traditional means of sending human or bird messengers? Also, would there be salvation and eternal hope, if Jesus was not willing to die for the world, because He considered the possibility of not having a single person accept him as Saviour, a risk too great?
In this article, I am highlighting three lessons from the lives of few people who saw some manoeuvrings and identified them as opportunities instead of misfortune. The unique commonality was their approach or first moves. They were spontaneous moves devoid of anxiety or apprehension; they were filled with hope, expectation and high optimism.
1.A momentary setback is not an indication of a wrong move
While you are on course, you may experience a setback, challenge or delay; never mind, it does not suggest that the move was wrong. Paul’s missionary work was punctuated with some prison experiences. Some Bible scholars argue that Paul could have avoided at least one of those prison experiences, if he took heed to the warning of Prophet Agabus that he would be bound in Jerusalem. However, his trials and imprisonment afforded him the opportunity of appearing in major palaces in his time, captivating the attention of world rulers who were then kingdom or empire rulers. He witnessed to them the testimony of the good news. In Philippians 1:12-14(MSG) for example, Paul stated“I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else too, found out that I’m in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the Christians here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah”.
- Consistently affirm and maintain your Vision
The events that led to Joseph becoming the Prime Minister of Egypt started out very dangerously, and filled with life-threatening activities. In Genesis 37:5,when Joseph shared his dream with his parents and his jealous siblings, his siblings hated him the more. As you may be familiar with the story, after he shared two of such dreams of greatness with them, they got enraged and ganged up to kill him. After he was sold into Egypt, Joseph remained unwavering in his faith, and refrained from sinning against God. He was eventually imprisoned then moved to the palace in Genesis chapter 41.
Joseph never mistook the opportunities ahead for a misfortune waiting to unfold. For some others, it may appear to be too risky sharing and affirming such revelations. Even if we are bold to share our vision with others, we may be intimidated to continually affirm what God has revealed to us, especially if we are scolded the first time. But in Joseph, we see a fearless and focused individual who was ready to follow as the Lord leads.
- God will manifest His will when you move (act) in obedience.
In Acts 16: 9-40 (GW), Paul’s obedience to God’s instruction led to an unprecedented move of the spirit with signs and wonders. People gave their lives to Jesus, and the demon possessed was let loose. Though they were thrown into prison after being openly beaten and humiliated, this led to massive conversion of souls through the earthquake experience in the prison where Paul and Silas were jailed. When Paul set out to obey the instruction in the vision at night, he never had the inclination that events were going to turn out such that they will stand before magistrates to witness Christ and convert a soldier with his family.
“During the night Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia. The man urged Paul, come to Macedonia to help us. As soon as Paul had seen the vision, we immediately looked for a way to go to Macedonia. We concluded that God had called us to tell the people of Macedonia about the Good News… One day when we were going to the place of prayer, a female servant met us. She was possessed by an evil spirit that told fortunes. She made a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes… Paul became annoyed, turned to the evil spirit, and said, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her! As Paul said this, the evil spirit left her. When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them to the authorities in the public square. In front of the Roman officials, they said, these men are stirring up a lot of trouble in our city… The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas. Then the officials tore the clothes off Paul and Silas and ordered the guards to beat them with sticks. After they had hit Paul and Silas many times, they threw them in jail and ordered the jailer to keep them under tight security… Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly, a violent earthquake shook the foundations of the jail. All the doors immediately flew open, and all the prisoners’ chains came loose. The jailer woke up and saw the prison doors open. Thinking the prisoners had escaped, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul shouted as loudly as he could, “Don’t hurt yourself! We’re all here! The jailer asked for torches and rushed into the jail. He was trembling as he knelt in front of Paul and Silas. Then he took Paul and Silas outside and asked, Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved? They answered, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your family will be saved. They spoke the Lord’s word to the jailer and everyone in his home. At that hour of the night, the jailer washed Paul and Silas’ wounds. The jailer and his entire family were baptized immediately. He took Paul and Silas upstairs into his home and gave them something to eat. He and his family were thrilled to be believers in God…”
When God orchestrates such moves termed ‘risky’ by humans, there is always an expected end, or a future plan; the results are always dumbfounding. Therefore, rather than becloud your mind with the thought of misfortune that may be associated with a nudging by the spirit of God, forcefully advance with the thought of enormous possibilities.