Leading Those Little Stars
I have been spending all kinds of time talking about relationships, and living as family. I talked about BIG Stars and LITTLE Stars, and how we live within our Stars. (Ooh, sounds rather esoteric, doesn’t it?) Well anyway, once we start a little star, we need to discuss how we need to organize and lead those groups?
If we are going to examine the role of leadership in all of this relationship stuff, we need to discuss the importance of Christian leaders to not just talk about it, but to do it themselves. Then you also need to examine the structure of government within a church body.
First, it is important for the lives that the leaders model to be consistent with the Scriptures they so fervently proclaim. As we have already seen, Jesus ministered to the masses, but he gave most of his time privately to the Twelve, and out of the Twelve he seemed to give particular attention to an inner circle of three. In the book of Acts it was not unknown men who emerged to take leadership in the new church, it was the Twelve. Out of the Twelve particularly Peter, James, and John, came the three to whom Jesus had given the most intimate attention.
How did Jesus disciple this select group of men? Repeatedly, he withdrew from the crowds to spend time with his inner circle.
Mark 3:7: “Jesus withdrew with his disciples . . .”
Mark 3:13: “Jesus went up into the hills and called to him those he wanted . . .”
Mark 7:17: “After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable . . .”
Mark 9:28: “After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately . . .”
Mark 9:33: “When he was in the house, he asked them . . .”
Ooh, so if we are going to follow Jesus’ example, Christian leaders should see their ministries grow in direct proportion to the quality time they have poured into an inner circle of disciples. Think of Miss Henrietta Mears. She was a dynamic leader of Christian education at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. The young men she discipled (some even living in her home) have multiplied her ministry many times over. Such ministers as Bill Bright, Dick Haverson, Louis Evans, Jr., Don Moomaw, Don and Ted Cole, Bob Munger, and many more.
To illustrate the point, here is an excerpt from a letter from one of her spiritual sons in seminary:
“Just the other day a friend took me aside and asked me to tell him very frankly about Miss Mears. As in the past, I confessed an almost uncritical and naive love for and loyalty towards this woman who has meant so much to me and to my closest friends. All of us here at Princeton from Hollywood rise up and call her blessed at every remembrance.
“It was because she yielded to the Christ whom she loves above all else that we met Him, that we are here today training for the ministry. Interestingly, there are over a dozen here right now who could specifically point to her as their ‘mother’ in the faith. There are also here approximately another dozen and a half, who are direct, spiritual descendants of Dr. Robert Munger, her own ‘son in the faith.’ And this is just one year’s class!
“I learned yesterday from a graduate of 1952 that during his stay here there were roughly comparable numbers from the two churches just mentioned. This ‘spiritual blood-line’ extends back to the very first year of her Christian ministry”
I am convinced that the effective pastor, counselor, or Christian administrator is also to be a Christ-like discipler. His love, faith, love for God—even through struggles, weaknesses, frustrations and failures—must be constantly rubbing off on hand-picked people close to him, people who will in turn influence others (II Timothy 2:2).
Now, discipling is a general term that has many levels of meaning. Preaching the Word on Sundays, Sunday school teaching, Bible class teachings are all forms of discipling, but not at a very intimate level. Pastors and other church leaders need to give themselves to ministering to large crowds if they have the gifts to do so, but no one should be exempt from discipling small groups. Only as the leaders set the example can they expect the church members to follow.
First, Christian leaders need to recognize that their families are their primary disciples, their closest, most intimate small group. If a Christian husband sees his wife and children as merely his wife and children, he will treat them as any non-believer does: He will see that they are properly clothed and schooled and marry the right people . . .
On the other hand, if a Christian husband sees his wife and children as his chief responsibility among those he is discipling, he will realize he has a limited amount of time (perhaps less than twenty years with each child) in which to live intimately with them. This is how he can reproduce godliness in the next generation. Then he will carry out Matthew 28:19 in their lives, making sure they are baptized and teaching them everything Jesus has taught him.
If we see our family in this light, family devotions will take on fresh motivation. Teaching our family to tithe, worship, having their own quiet times, and witnessing to the unsaved—everything will become part of the total picture of discipling. And the commitment and perseverance that they will learn within this special inner circle when things are rough will carry over into the larger circle—the church as a whole—when things get rough there.
But discipling for Christian leaders should not stop with their families. It is also important for them to take the lead in discipling small groups outside the family circle. On rare occasions, you might have a Moses-and-Joshua, or an Elijah-and-Elisha type of discipling, one-on-one. For me, it is Nickolas-and-Lyle. But mostly it will be within the context of a small group.
Jesus concentrated on a few, selected them carefully, and built them together into a loving unit. When he commanded them to love one another, in the same way that he loved them, they could understand very well all the patience, care and commitment that would be required! The bottom line of discipling is love, and small groups are God’s perfect laboratories for working out that love in everyday relationships.
Whatever you do in life, don’t do it solo! Do it in the company of brothers and sisters in Christ! It is the New Testament pattern, and it is what keeps the body of Christ whole and loving and self-corrective. To attempt to unify people on a theological basis—on a doctrinal creed—is a pipe dream. You have got everybody agreeing on three and a half years, and then somebody changes his mind and thinks seven years, and everybody becomes all shook up because it threatens the unity of the group.
We only have unity because we have a common life. One of the greatest hindrances to directed unity is that people think they can have it by prescribing a certain form of church government or creed. But you only get unity of spirit by having the Spirit. And only Jesus ministers the Spirit to the church.
Our unity is Christ’s, not ours. We don’t work it up; he sends it down. We are his; therefore, we are one. He is our common life. As Ephesians 4:4 says, when we know Jesus, we are a throbbing, living, vital organism. That is biblical teaching, and when we experience any break in fellowship it should shock and repel us.
In the introduction to our study, I explained that every Tuesday night during the summer my wife and I would attend a concert of the Kalamazoo Symphony. And as we were sitting on the grass, listening to the orchestra, I realized that there were probably hundreds of us, very diverse in our lives and philosophies. There were probably Republicans and Democrats, Catholics and Protestants, people of faith and people of no faith, yet we were still brought together to enjoy the same thing. That is what we are supposed to experience in our church. Christians need to minimize their differences and be caught up together in their worship of Jesus Christ.
When I was in high school, I saw a football player make a sudden move during a game and throw his knee out of joint. He was in so much pain he literally slithered across the grass! He was taken to the hospital where they reset his knee. I will never forget seeing the agony on his face when one member of his body was out of joint with another member.
That is how we must feel in the body of Christ! When a hurt comes, “tell it not in Gath.” Don‟t let outsiders know. It is a family matter. Preserve, guard and keep the unity of the Spirit! Ephesians 4:13 says that we are to be built up “until we all reach the unity of the faith.”
If you are a teacher, don’t teach alone. You need those around who are ministering to you, so that you teach in fellowship with others. They know what you are teaching; they know what you are saying. They know your difficulties; they know your strengths and particular traits.
If you are a pastor, Acts 2:14 says “Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd.” I used to scratch my head wondering how Peter could preach with the Eleven.
Well, when a pastor preaches, it should never be the sound of a single voice; he is not there to say whatever he pleases. It is to be the united alleluia of the entire church. He is not only speaking to them—but for them, on their behalf, correctly reflecting their doctrines and their views. I am not saying that he is a people-pleaser. But there should be a common belief and common heart.
Christian leaders have a special problem. The tendency, and what has become the standard practice in many churches, is for the pastor to come into the body willing to help, but never to unmask themselves enough to be helped! Big Christians (by Big Christians I mean those who have big responsibilities and are looked up to—big wheels) tend to operate in the body at the advisory level. What they are saying is, “I don‟t need you, but you very much need me.” Pastors and other Christian leaders can easily fall into the trap of functioning by always teaching other Christians what to do!
I have been told that is the “Bible way” of doing things. “The leaders cannot get too close to the people because then the people won’t receive from the Pastor’s ministry anymore.” Dangerous thinking there. Unbiblical to say the least. I have seen it destroy more than one body.
The people have to learn that the leader is no different than they are. He is just flesh and blood, with weaknesses, failures, strengths and gifts. As soon as they try to place him on a pedestal, he better crawl off it as fast as he can.
Keep your relationships in the body two-way. Let others minister to you. Be willing to be ministered to. Are you always on the side of giving correction, or do you allow a brother to correct you? It is very important that we not only give advice, but that we also ask for it, (and receive it). Pastors, you need to be in at least one support group of which you are not the leader. As John Calvin said:
“No member of the body of Christ is endowed with such perfection as to be able, without the assistance of others, to supply his own necessities!
“It is no exaggeration to say that Christ’s decision to select the Twelve was one of the most crucial decisions of the world. There is no reason to suppose that we should ever have heard of the gospel apart from this carefully conceived step . . .
Then Elton Trueblood shared this:
“Since Christ wrote no book, he depended entirely upon the faithfulness of the prepared group. Not all of them proved faithful, yet in the end, the method succeeded. The precious existence of the church is evidence that the method was fundamentally sound.” —from Elton Trueblood‟s book, “The Lord’s Prayer”
Unity in the Body of Christ is God-made. It is unity based on the mystery of the glorious unity of the Father with his Son (see John 17:22). Through the interaction of God with his people at close range, we learn that we are truly members one of another. We learn to act out this unity. We learn to visibly and audibly love each other, to break down those barriers of pain and by the grace of Christ to fight our way to each other.
Sometimes it takes the physical act of getting down on our knees to pray to bring some of us to humility and oneness. And at that point there is added the glory of God!
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.