Taking Bethlehem to Seattle

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Rollin Erickson, Tom Steller and I flew on your prayers to Seattle last weekend. Between Seattle and Tacoma lies Lake Retreat, the beautiful camp of the Columbia Baptist Conference. Two hundred and thirty men gathered for three days to think about spiritual leadership. I gave four addresses on that topic. Tom and Rollin went with me to pray for me and support me in that ministry. We prayed together before every session. Those times were sweet and a great encouragement to me. At mealtimes we never sat together so that we could have as much exposure as possible to the men. Rollin and Tom were able to answer questions for men who could not get to me. It was a great team-ministry. How I love these two men!

In a nutshell, here is what I tried to get across. Friday night I tried to show that there is a biblical mandate for strong individual spiritual leadership in the church and home. The main point was that God aims to be the ultimate leader in the world and the church. But it becomes clear that he has always chosen to exercise his leadership through people—like Moses and Joshua and Gideon and David and the apostles. So the implication emerged that if a human leads, he should lead in such a way that the ultimate leadership of God is not contradicted but highlighted.

The definition of spiritual leadership I used was: knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to use God’s methods to get them there in reliance upon God’s power. So the second talk Saturday morning asked: Where does God want people to be? I surveyed the Old and New Testaments to see what God’s goal is in history. I assumed that human leaders should try to take people to the place where God is going. The Bible makes plain that God’s goal is to glorify himself in all that he does. Therefore, I concluded, human leaders should have as their goal always to help people glorify God.

Then Saturday night I spoke on the relationship between sexuality and leadership. Does it make a difference if you are male or female in the roles of leadership you take? I argued that men do have a greater responsibility for spiritual leadership in relation to women than women do in relation to men. I tried to drive home that these men should go back to their homes and churches and be the servant-leaders God means them to be.

Finally, on Sunday morning I picked up on the first two talks. If there is a biblical mandate for spiritual leadership, and if the goal of such leadership is to lead others to always glorify God, then how can we reach that goal? What must a leader be or do so that others glorify God? The answer came in four stages: we must love friend and foe (Matthew 5:14-16), for then men will see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven. In order to love we must trust God and hope in his promises, for it is faith that works through love (Galatians 5:6) and hope that frees for love (Colossians 1:4-5). In order to trust God we must meditate on and pray over the Word, for faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). And in order to be willing to seek God in his Word we must acknowledge our helplessness and weakness, for it is not the well who need a physician but the sick (Mark 2:17). Therefore, all great leadership must begin with desperation and humility. As Hudson Taylor said, God looks for men weak enough to be used for his glory.

Rollin and Tom and I saw evidences of your prayers being answered. Come next Sunday night to hear their reports in our “Spotlight on Ministry.” Thanks for sending us.

Glad to be back,

Pastor John