By Tim Sullivan


Numbers 27:16-17:
16: Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 
17: Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.

These words were spoken by Moses when he ordained Joshua to assume the leadership of the tribes of Israel. What was true yesterday is true today: the people of God are sheep, and as sheep, they need a shepherd to lead them. Now I realize some people are offended by this idea. They will tell you with no small amount of indignation, "I am no sheep!" To them, a sheep is the someone who mindlessly follows the crowd. And while it is true that many people are guilty of this, that doesn't change the truth that God's people are sheep. So for a Christian, the question is not, are you a sheep? The question is, who is your shepherd?

In a best-case-scenario, the job of leading God's people is done by the Holy Spirit. But even so, the third person of the Trinity is the Spirit of the LORD working through people to carry out God's will. Authentic Christian leadership is the result of the Holy Spirit's work in and through a submitted vessel. But there is no way to eliminate the human component, and whenever humans are involved, things will be less than perfect. Human frailty in ourselves and others is something we will contend with all our mortal days.

People need to be led, and certain people are born to bear that fearsome yoke of leadership. And just like Abraham, Moses, David... and every other human being... they will come short of the glory of God.

Unless he is content to lead his people in circles, a leader must know where he is going. Like the wise men of the east, he must know what star he follows. At our home church here in Baton Rouge, our pastor is faithful to his ideals. Evan wants to lead a congregation in which each member participates in mutual ministry; he wants to oversee a church led by the Holy Spirit and not someone's agenda-of-the-week. So in a manner of speaking, Evan's goal for our church is that it has no goals. I believe this is one of his strengths - he can smell out someone trying to "steer" the Holy Spirit. Our congregation is very grateful for his stedfast leadership and faithful service. I am certain there have been times when Evan was tempted to walk away from the responsibility of leading a fellowship week-after-week, month-after-month, and year-after-year, but like all true servants of God, for him it is nothing less than an addiction.

1 Corinthians 16:15:
I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)

I thought of these things during my November mission to Tanzania. I realized that concerning my work with the Maasai, I have been reluctant to bear the yoke of leadership... not because of laziness or fear, but because I was not clear on my direction. As much as anything, I have been guided by the hurtful practices I've experienced in other ministries, things I pledged not to repeat. But knowing what not to do is not enough. The "thou shalt nots" of the Ten Commandments are fairly meaningless without the "shalts": thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The shalt part of my mission has been a gradual unfolding to me.

In the end, my goals are so simple that you might scratch your head and think, "It took you ten years to figure that out?" Well... yes. My mission statement comes from this passage:

2 Timothy 2:2-5:
2: And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 
3: Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 
4: No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 
5: And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

Before you can teach faithful men you must first find them. Just like the servant of Abraham who was sent to find a bride for Isaac, one cannot succeed in such a quest without help from God. Faithfulness cannot be taught or mandated. Faithfulness to God comes from within, born of a desire to please him that borders on obsession.

And so I must seek out faithful believers. But once they've been found, what should they be taught? Behold the endless array of titles at any Christian bookstore. How true are the words of the Preacher!

Ecclesiastes 12:12:
And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

There is a difference between what is necessary and what is interesting. No one will fail God for a lack of Biblical trivia. My mission is to teach faithful men the things they need to know in order to live free and serve God. But once again, this conclusion leads to a question only God can answer: what does a person need to know to live free and serve God? At least part of the answer is found in this same section of Second Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:3:
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 

Perhaps the first lesson in enduring hardness is to expect it. Learning to endure hardness does not come easy to anyone, but it is especially difficult for those who think that a Christian should live a trouble-free life, taking dominion over this and claiming that every step of the way! The people who expect life to be a bed of roses will be scratched by the thorns. We need to be strengthened for the fight.

I think every generation believes they are more squeezed by the pressures of life than any other generation before them. It has always been a challenge to live a sanctified life. The entanglements of life are the greatest threat to our servitude.

2 Timothy 2:4:
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

It is a leader's burden is to help others lay up much treasure in heaven. God forbid we labor in vain. We must strive according to good doctrine.

2 Timothy 2:5:
And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

Such a high calling is impossible for fulfill by our natural ability. Thankfully, anything that God asks of us, he will enable us to fulfill. Let us strive together for the masteries as workers together with the Lord.



December 2013