C. S. Lewis’ quote, “nothing is really ours… until we share it,” primarily talks about fellowship, relationship and partnership. It could also lay a solid foundation towards empowering leadership.
When we feel we have done our best and never seriously considered investing in others, it is no wonder that sufficiently empowered second-line leaders are found wanting when it is time to pass along leadership. We have difficulty finding successors who will wait on the Lord to ask “a double portion of the Lord.” The need of the hour is to step out, explore options, identify areas that will unite rather than break us, and strengthen loopholes so that we can all arise as one body. Doing so in no way undermines the many strides that have been made; we still have ample room to grow!
Models Worth Emulating
In his book, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, George Barna says:
“The probability of someone embracing Jesus as his or her Savior was 32% for those between the ages of 5 and 12: 4% for those in the 13-18 range; and 6% for people 19 or older. In other words, if people do not embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior before they reach their teenage years, the chance of their doing so at all is slim.”
While this survey was USA-based, we can safely imply similar conclusions in multiple contexts. In India, there are 540 million in the age group of 18-35 years. If this generation is going to be on the front, be it in politics, economics, social circles, or churches, committed to making a difference and positive impact, we need to present them with models they will consider worth emulating. We want willing people to share their expertise, struggles, and successes. And to top it all off, we want them to gracefully quit at the ripe time.
In my limited years in the Christian walk, I have learned that there needs to be two pivotal elements of a true Christian heart: input and output (excellent phrases in the health and development world). For those who are exposed to those sectors, we know international funding organizations are no more interested in lengthy proposals for funding, but limit their reviews to the input and output, ensuring that resources are well spent.
I am indebted to (the late) Dr. Selwyn Hughes, who helped me to see input as
experience and output as expression. Campbell Morgan says, “There are two ways to kill the ministry of a preacher. One is to kill his experience of God, the other to kill his expression of God.” While this predominantly applies to preachers, it can also apply to us as individuals. When you and I do not have the experience of Christ, we will be at a loss of words when it comes to expressing Christ to others.
If we have not experienced godly leadership while we were coming up through the ranks, chances are there is no way for us to express godly leadership to the next generation. Even if you mask yourself, sooner or later that mask will be torn off.
Let us delve a bit deeper.
John 4:28-29 talks about two principles: GO – TELL and COME – SEE. The Samaritan woman went to the town, and invited people to come and see the Messiah. I think we have all done very well with the former, with various models for outreach evangelism, but surely we all struggle with the second one. We struggle to show Christ to others, because we have not experienced Him. Worse, many times we are not even able to show case models for new believers who want to be nurtured. Going/telling and coming/seeing must be interwoven and interdependent; they need to go hand in hand.
J.B. Philip’s translation of 2 Corinthians 9:10 says, “He gives seed only to the one
who uses it.” If we don’t use it, we don’t receive it. The story of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) also points in the same direction.
The following areas are worth considering:
Learning to Listen: We must learn to listen to the still voice of God, as well as to our pastors, mentors, and other leaders who disciple us. A German theologian once said, “Whoever can no longer listen to their sister or brother will soon no longer be listening to God either.”
In a lecture on Development Journalism, then-editor of Prajavani (the leading daily newspaper in Karnataka, India) told how he ignored his teaboy, who claimed to have the budget papers that were to be presented at the Vidhan Soudha the next day. The editor thought, if he, with all is high connections, influence, and networking, could not acquire those papers, how could an errand boy do so? But because the boy persuaded him, he tucked those papers into his briefcase and forgot about it. Subsequent to the budget presentation the next day, out of curiosity, he compared what the teaboy had given him. He could not believe his eyes. The budget was there, word for word. Be it in relationships or in leadership, we need to learn to listen – listen to that inner voice, listen to the colleague who shares without ulterior motive.
Oiling with love. Anybody who owns a motorcycle knows how important it is to invest in servicing it and oiling it regularly, ensuring uninterrupted service. Many of us oil ourselves with resentment; hence many times it does not work, or worse, it stops. We are called to oil our relationships with love at regular intervals; more so, if we are in the mentoring process and investing on the second generation.
Sharing God’s faithfulness. The things He reveals during our time with Him should be shared with our family, colleagues, and other believers. Doing so edifies the body of Christ and also builds the faith of our people. It should not be shared in a haphazard manner, but shared with discipline. Often, in beginning to share these things, our associations develop into accountability partners, resulting in a sounding board. When we do not have such opportunities, we end up as spiritual orphans.
Relationships. We must maintain horizontal relationships with others, vertical relationships with God. I am sure many of us have seen this quote that adorns many homes: “When you are comfortable with yourself, you will be comfortable with everyone.” We will be comfortable with ourselves only when we are comfortable with God.
In the final analysis, one may scale great heights, but in the event of failed relationships one cannot savor success. People are remembered not for the positions they held, but for the relationships that were built, nurtured and brought to fruition.
Make an effort. Greater awareness and understanding of God with positive thanksgiving together as a community can make us more receptive to God’s power. God has a two-fold plan for all of us – to be conformed to the image of His Son and to reproduce the life of Christ in others.
I used to think that spiritual maturity was to preach without referring to notes, to quote Scripture from memory, to pray for hours and dialogue convincingly. These could be components, but the measure of real spiritual maturity is summed up beautifully by Dr. Stanley Jones: “The measure of our spiritual maturity can be and is measured by the breadth and depth of our capacity and willingness for fellowship.”