During the past few years I pursued a fundamental question for Christian leaders in faith communities. How does my Christian faith inform and guide the way I lead a faith community — local church congregation, Bible College, Christian university, a unit at the Global Ministry Center, or my family, a classroom, the monthly board meeting?
Other questions flow from this fundamental question for Christian leaders. Questions such as: If “in Christ all things are made new,” then how does my relationship with Christ convert or transform the way I view and lead the faith community for which I am responsible? How do we communicate within a community of faith so that the Christian faith we profess is witnessed not just an intellectualized belief system to be learned, but a life to be lived, and the driving force compelling us in the way we lead?
Ephesians 4:11-16 enunciates such a model for leading decisively and leading faithfully. The passage outlines the context, task, goal, dynamic, and purpose for us as Christian leaders in our passion to equip those for whom we are responsible to shape as “Christ-like“ disciples in communities of faith, regardless of their sizes, locations, and spheres of influence.
The context…is “God’s people” (Ephesians 4:11). The key focus is participation.
Since all Christians are called to serve others in Jesus’ name, all Christians are also called to give witness to this lifestyle of service. The “bias” to serve others in Jesus’ name permeates all of the different roles and responsibilities to which we commit ourselves.
All of us are on a spiritual pilgrimage and are in process of becoming what God the Father, Creator, and Redeemer envisions for us. On the basis of a person’s testimony of faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, I relate to her/him as a sister or brother in Christ who is a graced, blessed and gifted child of God. To this person and other believers, I am privileged and empowered by God to participate with Him in the shaping of these individuals as the people of God for their ministry to each other and their witness to the world. This is the context and perspective within which I minister.
The task…is to “prepare God’s people” (Ephesians 4:12). The key idea is formation.
Christian formation or “preparing God’s people” means enabling and equipping the individuals for service to others and growth in Christ-likeness. This responsibility on my part demands an acquaintance with the Christian tradition, an awareness of world issues, development of personal faith, competence in vocational skills, a philosophy of life, a global perspective and growth in community life. Our lives lived before others must radiate a love for the Bible, reflect the Christian hope and communicate grace through the words we use and the actions we take in relation to others.
Our lives lived before others must also reflect our own continuing need for guidance in developing a lifestyle of devotion to Christ. We also are being shaped as we nurture our own spiritual lives, relate to other world citizens, develop personal and professional leadership qualities, and inculcate biblical values by which we live and die. These qualities and values must characterize us at our best and convict us at our worst.
The goal…is “works of service” (Ephesians 4:12). The key thought is expression.
Our “works of service” or mission is a function and expression of the entire faith community. Our goal is to prepare God’s people to participate in this mission, which is to proclaim the kingdom of God, nurture the people of God, and serve the whole human community.
The Church of the Nazarene has captured this mission in very succinct words: “To make Christlike disciples in the Nations.” We must be captured by this vision. In a local church setting, this means transcending service to the congregation and for the congregation, to service with the congregation and by the congregation. And so it must be in and with every community of faith.
The dynamic…is “love within the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:15-16). The key concept is interaction.
Interaction is defined as an intimacy or closeness of relationships between members within the Body of Christ. In every New Testament passage where the Body of Christ is discussed, there is a relational context in which this kind of mutual nurturing takes place.
Passing on information does not produce a servant of Christ. Trust needs both to be explained and demonstrated in an intimate relationship context. Love and trust free us to know and reveal ourselves to one another. Modeling, rather than indoctrinating, is the method of leadership for lifestyle change.
The purpose…is transformation for a “holiness lifestyle” (Ephesians 4:13). The key issue is Christ-likeness.
The purpose of Christian leadership is, by grace, to participate with God in the reconciling and transforming of humankind so that holy people may be equipped and shaped for their Christ-like ministry of service to others in Jesus’ name as they fulfill their vocational responsibility. A holiness lifestyle of the leader focuses on the progressive transformation of the Christian toward the character, values, motives, attitudes and understanding of God Himself.
Christian leadership, I believe, is humble service to others, for the purpose of enabling them, through teaching and example, to live their lives under the Lordship of Christ, and to understand, accept, and fulfill their ministry to each other and their mission in the world.
I welcome your comments to this blog.
Edward LeBron Fairbanks