Third Theological Reflection Paper Revelations on Responsibility: The Burden-Blessing Carried by Leaders in Godâ€™s Kingdom Braden Lane East Oklahoma Baptist University
Christian Leadership: Undergraduate Dr. Galen Jones April 2, 2018
East 1 Introduction The expectation of evangelism and discipleship is innate in the Great Commission. More than that, the responsibility to act with Christ’s authority is obvious. Christ vested his power into the disciples as he sent them. “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18, NLT) and “as the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21, NLT). Christian leaders who are not living and preaching the gospel daily should expect to feel unfulfilled and distant from God. To live in this way would be to deliberately blind myself to the world’s desperate need for our King and his grace. So, as I lead, I am to foster Kingdom health and catalyze Kingdom growth. One part of this I have discovered is the apostolic succession through discipleship and intentional leadership. Such a vision involves a belief in the transformative power and virality of the gospel. Another way I am learning to nurture and lead the Kingdom of God is through gospel-centered action. I live in active pursuit of God by living in response to his perfection and grace. The burden of caring for a flock and teaching them in the Spirit My Thoughts on Apostolic Succession Before our discussions in class, I had never heard of Apostolic Succession. I am beginning to understand the idea, and it offers a new and exciting way for me to frame discipleship. I see the apostolic succession as a fundamental process of the Church and the community of believers. It is present leaders reflecting Christ so brilliantly that future leaders catch their vision. Biblical theology, the pursuit of truth, and pieces of the map to walk with God are passed down from leader to leader through intentional discipleship. Like Tichy’s (2002) “Virtuous Teaching Cycle,” it “keeps the teaching and learning continuously happening” (p. 70). Apostolic succession looks like me identifying that student who shows integrity and zeal for Christ, and taking him out for lunch to talk about our walks with Christ. At the same time, it
East 2 looks like me seeking wisdom from those I respect and admire in God’s kingdom. It is the impartation of wisdom. It begins with simple, transformational leadership and ends with a worldwide priesthood of all believers. But my mission to continue the succession is not an additive process. Rather, it is an exponential one, which can be seen, as Wright (2006) demonstrates, in the Old Testament long before the Great Commission was given. In Chapter Seven of The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative, Wright addressed how God’s message of the gospel was imparted pointedly, but not exclusively to Israel, and how his chosen people were to catalyze its spread. He stated, “the tension between the universality of the goal (all nations) and the particularity of the means (through you) is right there from the very beginning... It is a tension that is fundamental to our biblical theology of mission” (p. 222). Israel was specifically chosen by God to share who he is; his message was not limited to them. Wright also looked at Old Testament implications of gospel universality to demonstrate how God’s intention from the beginning was to plant in Israel a “viral” blessing (a relationship with the Creator) that would reach every nation. One such example is in God’s covenant with Abraham. “So these foreign nations come not only to experience blessing but to be ‘a blessing on the earth.’ …[T]he Abrahamic promise is a self-replicating gene. Those who receive it are immediately transformed into those whose privilege and mission it is to pass it on to others. (Wright, p. 236) Israel failed, but God’s plan did not. Although Israel could not present an accurate picture to the nations of God’s character, God still fulfilled his promise and sent his Son (the perfect image of God because he was God), to be born as a descendant of Israel’s David (Vanderstelt, 2013). Leaders in God’s Kingdom can infer a truth from this attitude toward
East 3 mission. I must preach the gospel with the knowledge and expectation of its virality. When the story of creation, the fall, and redemption is told in the Holy Spirit and takes root, it is powerfully transformative and impossible to contain. Every effort to preach the gospel ought to be underlined and punctuated by the knowledge that it carries Christ’s authority and the expectation that those hearing it will take it to others. Responsibility of Action Most of all, Christ’s call must be acted upon immediately and fully. Not all great leaders are necessarily men of action, but the gospel requires an active response from a repentant heart. God revealed his glory to Saul on the road to Damascus in Acts 2. After this encounter, the narrative of Saul’s life was radically changed and his eyes were literally and metaphorically opened to the truth of the gospel. Now Paul, the apostle’s receptivity to and desire for God led him to immediately begin preaching about Jesus in the synagogues (Acts 9:20). An encounter with God’s glory was so powerful that Paul could not help but declaring his glory and the transformation he experienced directly and personally. Paul’s leadership was enormously effective because of the immediate action he took following his encounter with God (and of course, the work of the Holy Spirit). In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer (1948) discussed a concept he called “spiritual receptivity.” He observed that saints and men of God (Biblical and recent) shared this common quality in their lives and their relationships with God. “[T]hat they had a spiritual awareness and that they went on to cultivate it until it became the biggest thing in their lives. They differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing they did something about it.” (Tozer, p. 31)
East 4 Tozer goes on to say that receptivity is not a passive, independent quality, but a combination of affinity and desire. Like a Paul’s physical training, being receptive to the leading of God must be improved and strengthened through exercise and practice. Response to the calling of God is something lived. It is a lifelong act, which cannot be performed in a stagnant or stationary way. A key aspect of leadership to foster this, which cannot be overlooked, is investing in oneself. As I preach the gospel, minister, and serve, I am always responsible for the health and growth of my own walk with Christ, as well as those of my flocks. My body and mind are also parts of the system which must be maintained in the best condition possible. In my experience and learning, mental health, physical health, and spiritual health are not independent of each other, and the degradation of one affects all others. Paul said something similar of his own selfimprovement: “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:26-27). Healthy physical and mental routines are important, but I must make every effort to prioritize spiritual health. As Christian leaders, “we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day” (Ryan Johnson, personal communication, Mar. 28, 2018). As I saturate others’ lives with the gospel, my own life ought to become saturated as well. This is how I am formed into the image of Christ. The gospel is my identity. If I am not waking up every day reminding myself of the complete work of Christ on the cross, I will soon forget God's goodness and turn against him during temptation and trials. To help myself do this, I have started using the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer as a guide for daily scripture reading, study, and reflection. I also have created a “Coffee List,” which is an action point for me in my walk with Christ and my journey
East 5 to seek wisdom. On this list, I write down the names of men and women I respect and admire, with whom I would like to sit down and discuss our faith. As a leader in Christ, I have a responsibility to live a gospel-centered life; to God and to my flocks. The most reassuring truth of this responsibility is that because Christâ€™s work is complete, I am operating in his power and grace, not my own weakness and self-righteousness. The byproduct of an identity rooted in the gospel is that living my theology daily and investing it in others comes naturally.
East 6 References Howell, D. N. Jr. (2003). Servants of the Servant: A Biblical theology of leadership. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers. Tichy, N. M., & Cardwell, N. (2002). The cycle of leadership: How great leaders teach their companies to win. N/A: HarperCollins Tozer, A. W. (1948). The pursuit of God. Middletown: Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications. The Episcopal Church. (2007). The book of common prayer (PDF ed.). NY: Church Publishing Incorporated. Retrieved from: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/book_of_common_prayer.pdf Vanderstelt, J. (2017). Gospel fluency: A practical guide for speaking the truths of Jesus into everyday life. Bellevue, WA: Saturate Publishing. Wright, C. (2006). The mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's grand narrative. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.