This is a presentation from LDC 2014. To learn more about the LDC, please visit LDC.io.
It was a crucial moment when Jesus appointed the Twelve. He left no instructions in writing and when he ascended to heaven He put the mission He gave His life to initiate into their hands. They were to be the Church’s first leaders. Their selection was so important that Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before appointing them. After selecting the Twelve, Jesus taught them a powerful parable that outlined His view of a leader’s role and responsibility (Luke 6:39-49). In this session we will work through Jesus’ leadership parable together. Parables require us to grapple with their teachings. Jesus knew that truth discovered is far more powerful than truth told. Following His teaching example, we will read, reflect and discuss the parable together in a workshop approach. The goal of the seminar is to open this essential parable up to us for a lifetime of meditation and learning from its bottomless depth.
Nobody expects us to be perfect, but everybody expects us to be progressing. If this Christian thing “ain’t working” for me, how can I tell if it’s working for you? Notice the key point here is, “Take out the speck that’s in your eye so that you can take out the log in your own eye. Then you can see clearly to take out the speck that’s in your brother’s eye.” We’ve got to model it, but sometime we’ve got to sit down with a guy, and say, “Buddy, you’ve got a problem. We’re going to work on that problem. The way you treat your wife just isn’t right.”
I buy that ability to tell you that you need to work on something by you seeing me and hearing me say, “I’m working on my stuff. I’m pulling the logs out of my own eye.” And so if I come to you as the perfect guy, “I don’t need mouthwash; I don’t need deodorant; I’m the pastor; I’m the leader. You need help – not me.” They’re going to say, “Get off my case, Bubba.” But if you come and they know from your life and the things you pray about, and the illustrations you use in your conversations and asking them to pray for you, and asking them to help you with some of your own flaws… Then you come to them and say, “We’re in this together, man.” But this is the leader as therapist. It’s about helping other people grow. It’s helping other people say, “You know the values you’re working by are really screwed up, man. You’re living your whole life for that promotion, to be a VP down at the plant. Ignoring your wife, ignoring your family, ignoring your ministry – ignoring everything else. You’re burned out.” So sometimes it’s that tough, confrontational ministry because people aren’t perfect, including us.
And then He says, “There’s no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor bad tree which produces good fruit. Each tree is known by its own fruit. Men don’t gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.” They’re saying you’ve got a lousy tree, you’re going to get lousy fruit. So you’ve got really three options He gives us here. You can produce good fruit, you can produce bad fruit, or you can be like a briar and a thorn, which produces no fruit. I mean, why are we talking about trees, Jesus? I don’t know why we’re talking about trees. “I’m setting you up here … this is what I’m really talking about.” Just like the tree, a good person, out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good. And the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil, for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. If you’re a lousy person, you’re going to be a lousy leader. Then there is a leader where people say, “You know, he doesn’t do a lot of things right. But boy, he’s somebody I’ll follow. He loves the Lord. He’s’s got that one right.”
But I would say one thing you can never neglect as a leader – as a transforming leader – and that’s what Jesus Christ is doing in your own life. Good people have a better chance of being good leaders than bad people. Bad people just – they’re bad people, and they’ll be bad leaders. I don’t think Jesus is saying, “All you need to be is a good person to be a good leader.” You do need other skills. But all the other skills – you can become as good as you want at those. But if you’re not a good person, you will not produce good fruit. And then verse 46 logically introduces the fifth parable. By this time, it’s, “Okay, but how can I become a guide who sees? Who’s enlightened? Who’s a visionary? Who sees? Who can take people to better places, and who’s worth modeling? How do I become a leader who is worth modeling, and then who can take out flaws? Who else will get involved with me in the process of dealing with this stuff, and who’s a good person? How do you do that?” Well, Jesus said to them, “Now, I’m going to tell you how all this works.” He logically introduces the fifth parable. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Jesus said, “I’m giving you two options. Not three. Two. One, call Me ‘Lord’ and do what I say. Two, do what you want and don’t call Me ‘Lord.’ But there’s not a third option of calling me ‘Lord’ and not doing what I say.”
Don’t do that. The whole shooting match falls down in a heap in terms of transforming leadership if people see you speaking one thing and living another. Telling them to obey the Lord, and you don’t; telling them to work with the flaws in their own life, but you’re not working on the flaws in your life. Telling them they have to live by Biblical values, and you don’t live by Biblical values. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I say?” And then He said to them, “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, he calls Me ‘Lord’ and does what I say. I’ll tell you what he’s like: he’s building a ministry, building a family, building a life on My teaching. And it’s like a guy building a house who dug down deep on a solid foundation. And when the storms come against that life and against that organization, against that church, it can withstand it because it’s been built on My teaching.”
You’ve got a leadership team who has said, “We’re going to follow Christ. We’re going to live by His values. We’re going to lead this organization by those values.” We’re talking about churches and organizations saying, “If the business model goes down, are we going to withstand that? Can we adjust and keep on with our ministry, in spite of what goes on in the culture?” And He said, “Now, you know, some of you are a little bit slow, so I’m going to tell you the story in the opposite way. The one who has heard and has not acted. The one who calls me ‘Lord’ and doesn’t do what I say. It’s like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation, and a torrent burst against it and immediately, it collapsed.
This is about leader as obedient follower.
This is where we started out in that first parable about the blind leading the blind. Is it telling us about picking a leader, or is it talking about being a leader? And the answer is “Yes.” And this is where Jesus ended up. Two major tenets of servant leadership: no one can be a good leader who is not first a good person. If you’re a lousy leader, you’ll be a lousy person. The work of God’s Spirit and Word are essential to forming a good leader – you can’t be a good person apart from Me. If you don’t do what I say, you won’t be a good person. You won’t be a person who knows how to take logs out of your eyes and specks out of other people’s eyes. You will not be a good model. You will not know where to lead people.
The fundamental requirement for leadership in God’s kingdom is instant and total obedience to God’s will and Word. Summarizing principles: Jesus’ essential question for leaders is not “Whom do we lead?” What is it? “Whom do we follow?” The blind leading the blind. The only way I know to be a leader who isn’t blind is to say, “Whom do I follow? Do I call Him ‘Lord,’ and do what He says?” I think this is one of the most important passages of scripture that we have, as leaders. As transforming leaders. I pray with you that you’ll spend some time meditating through it, working through it. Living it out, as a leader.
Father, we do thank You for this parable. We thank You for all the teachings that You’ve given us about how to follow, how to lead, how to parent, how to be a human being, how to be a neighbor, how to be a spouse, how to be. And as leaders, you’ve called us to guide other people to better places. And I pray, Lord, that they will follow us, because it’s obvious and clear to them that we follow You. They will trust us because they know that we trust You. Amen.