We have this amazing truth—Jesus is constantly interceding for us even now. His prayer is that we would be connected to God the Father, connected to one another, and living as His servants in the world. As we encourage people to live fully on mission with God, we need to remember that we’re not alone, but are protected and prayed for by Jesus.
John 15:9-25 (NLT) [Jesus said] “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’”
Leaders need to understand that they won’t be treated any better than Jesus was treated. Life in Christ is truly a case of descending into the greatness of God, of emptying ourselves, just as Christ emptied himself for us, all for the glory of God. Godly leaders reproduce leaders who understand the way of the cross, the way of suffering, the way of giving of oneself for God’s people and God’s purposes.
John 15:1-8 (NLT) [Jesus said] “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”
The natural consequence of life in the Spirit is spiritual fruit. A disciple is one through whom God produces other disciples. Through leaders, God produces other leaders. True leaders try to work themselves out of a job, passing leadership on, and letting the fruit-bearing process happen. They concentrate on watching where things need to be pruned, and holding people accountable, and being held accountable themselves. Our hope is to call people to be people of fruitfulness, of reproduction, as God keeps passing the faith on to the next generation in a healthy way.
Matthew 23:1-12 (NLT) [Jesus said] “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’
“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
You reproduce who you are. One of the most important aspects of leadership is raising up other leaders; to do that we need to be aware of how we lead, and what we are teaching the next generation of leaders. The Apostle Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” In other words, don’t follow me when I’m not following Christ. Spiritual leadership is all about God leading through us. It is not about doing a certain right way of living, but letting the Spirit live and love through us. Leaders need to constantly be thinking about what the reproduction side of their leadership looks like.
Matthew 18:15-20 (NLT) [Jesus said] “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
When one Christian brother or sister sins against another, creating relational discord, the Christian’s responsibility is to not push them away, but rather to lovingly confront them. And leaders must lead the way, modeling how to rebuild trust in broken relationships. We have to protect the relational unity of the church.
Mark 6:6b-13 (NLT) Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick—no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.
“Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”
So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.
Jesus gives a clear task to his disciples before sending them out, combining responsibility and authority. And he never sends them out alone. but always in community with others (a partner in this case). This guidance is an important part of godly leadership. Spiritual leadership needs to help people see what the mission of God looks like for them, and encourages them to walk in the Spirit.
Matthew 24:45-51 (NLT) [Jesus said] “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
First and foremost, Christian leadership must embrace accountability, both before God and before the family of God. As this passage tells us, those whom the Lord finds faithful will be given more responsibility, while those who prove unwilling to be faithful and accountable will be pruned from leadership, to clear the way for real leaders to emerge and for God to grow His church.
Luke 12:1-5 (NLT) Meanwhile, the crowds grew until thousands were milling about and stepping on each other. Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy. The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!
“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.”
There will always be those who claim to have faith, but don’t support those who would follow God’s leading into sacrificial service. But remember that “Where God guides, God provides.” Don’t fear the criticism or fear-mongering of those who would discourage you from boldly serving God, wherever and however that may be. Trust the guidance of God every time.
James 2:14-17 (NLT) What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Good works in our own strength, to help earn our salvation, is not what James is recommending here. Rather, when we are living in faith under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we recognize that when we “see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing”, that is God calling our attention to a need which he has prepared us to meet. When we act in God’s strength, we serve willingly and gladly; since God is doing the work, the only thing that can stop that is when we say “no.” So let’s say “yes” instead, let God lead our lives today, and live in true faith.
Luke 18:9-14 (NLT) Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
As we think about God serving the world through us, it’s very important to remember that all the good we do is God’s doing. We must remain humble like the tax collector, knowing there is nothing good in ourselves. When God shows up and does something amazing through us, remember to give God all the credit and glory.