Spiritual Life of the Leader - Lesson 1

Christian Activism

Christian activism involves Christians addressing societal issues and needs. Historically, Wesleyans ministered to the neglected in the 1700s, embodying that every Christian is a minister. This lesson explores 1800s sociological and ecclesiological issues, emphasizing Christian activism's rise and Alexander Maclaren's balance of Christ's work for us (justification) and in us (sanctification). It critiques modern church practices and advocates for active ministry by all members.

Stephen Martyn
Spiritual Life of the Leader
Lesson 1
Watching Now
Christian Activism

I. Personal Introduction

II. Sociological and Ecclesiological Issues

A. 1800's in England

B. Rise of Christian Activism

C. Definition of Christian activism

D. Sermon by Alexander Mclaren 1901

1. What Christ does for us

2. What Christ does in us

3. Everyone should be involved, not just the clergy

4. Life is the root of work and more important than work

5. In some cases, the works of the churches generate activity but mask death

6. Martha has her own way now (See Maclaren's sermon, Lesson 2)

  • Dr. Martyn has surveyed church leaders around the world to understand their responsibilities and pressures. He aims to use his experience to help them develop a model of ministry that encourages spiritual formation, discipleship, and worship in a healthy way. His class is comprehensive on topics such as spiritual formation, discipleship, leadership principles, and worship. Listening to this class could benefit anyone regardless of whether they have an official leadership position or not.
  • This lesson covers the involvement of Christians in societal issues, using historical examples and emphasizing the balance of Christ's work for and in believers, while critiquing modern church practices and advocating for active ministry participation by all members.
  • This lesson teaches the importance of balancing Christian service with receptivity to God's word, using the story of Martha and Mary to illustrate the need for prioritizing spiritual union with Christ over mere activity, emphasizing the consequences of a divided heart and the necessity of both justification and sanctification.
  • Learn to identify red flags in your ministry, distinguish between serving God and personal ambition, and address anxiety, self-pity, and control issues by trusting God and adopting humility.
  • Understand the theological concept that your essence is divinely created and precedes your existence, contrasting this with Sartre's existentialism, and learn the importance of receiving God's guidance over defining your life by accomplishments.
  • Learn to critically evaluate your motives, distinguish between self-serving and God-serving actions, understand the role of community in avoiding self-deception, recognize the significance of Christ's atonement, handle red flags, and balance people's expectations with God's calling.
  • The lesson teaches you to balance spiritual renewal and active ministry by self-reflecting on weekly activities, ensuring you receive God's grace and effectively respond to His directives, thus preventing burnout and sustaining a healthy ministry.
  • Learn to live like a reservoir, receiving spiritual replenishment before giving, through prioritizing key practices like prayer and scripture, and avoiding depletion by maintaining a constant spiritual reservoir and making essential practices an integral part of daily life.
  • This lesson teaches you to live by integrating core Christian principles daily, maintaining foundational practices like loving God, building relationships, serving vocally, and caring for your body, while emphasizing the importance of following Jesus closely and avoiding the pitfalls of church leadership.
  • Learn about the eight deadly sins, their historical and spiritual context, and the importance of overcoming them through spiritual disciplines, while illustrating the consequences of these sins through biblical examples, especially emphasizing the dangers of anger and depreciation of God's goodness.
  • Learn about dealing with inordinate sadness and grief in ministry, understanding the importance of acknowledging suffering, supporting others compassionately, handling difficult relationships with integrity, and addressing unresolved anger constructively.
  • You learn the importance of gratitude, the dangers of sadness and acedia, the need for internal well-being through a relationship with God, and the power of infused hope in overcoming ministry challenges.
  • Gain insights into the dangers of vainglory and pride, the importance of humility, prayer, and community support, and the significance of recognizing God's sovereignty in overcoming self-centeredness and narcissism.
  • Integrating sermon teachings into your heart is crucial, all sins are deadly, and you should submit worries to God, rejoice, and take every thought captive for Christ, using early church wisdom to overcome temptations like gluttony for spiritual growth.
  • This lesson teaches you how to identify and combat the eight deadly sins using virtues like temperance, chaste love, poverty of spirit, meekness, appreciation, infused faith, hope, love, and humility, relying on divine grace to transform these vices into a deeper spiritual life.
  • Understand that crises, whether personal or ministry-related, are opportunities for spiritual growth by seeking God's refuge, understanding forced detachment crises, maintaining healthy life rhythms, and recognizing divine purification amidst challenges.
  • This lesson teaches how crises reveal the light of Christ, illustrating the transformative power of faith through biblical examples and personal experiences, emphasizing reliance on God's resources and presence, and portraying ministry as a pressure cooker demanding quick maturity and resilience.
  • Explore Christian anthropology, understanding God's image in us, and the dimensions of human life, roles, and spiritual longings, emphasizing the balance between physical, functional, and spiritual aspects guided by the Holy Spirit.
  • This lesson continues the study of Christian anthropology through Adrian Von Comm's field theory, emphasizing Christ at the center of interconnected aspects of human existence—interior, relational, here and now, and global life—encouraging balance, cooperation with the Holy Spirit, and harmonious Christian living.
  • Learn that as a leader, worship is central to your role, involving a holistic response to God's love and guidance, emphasizing discipleship, biblical understanding, and aligning with God's purpose through praise and adoration, preventing apathy and enriching your leadership journey.
  • Understand that true worship according to the New Testament is about honoring and serving God alone, avoiding idolatry, and leading a life of genuine service and love toward Him, while recognizing and addressing the major obstacles to authentic worship within contemporary church practices.
  • Understand the importance of genuine worship leadership, personal worship alignment, the significance of historical church traditions, the dangers of overloaded worship services, and the mission to uphold true worship against global falsehoods.
  • Learn about the core aspects of worship in Revelation 4, emphasizing humility, submission, and the connection between future and present worship, encouraging heartfelt adoration and genuine worship practices in church leadership.
  • Learn how a leader's spiritual life impacts their ministry, the necessity of comprehensive discipleship, the integration of gospel content into daily life, and the importance of articulating and practicing core theological doctrines.
  • Explore the dynamic nature of spiritual life and leadership, emphasizing shifts from traditional to transformative ministry, clergy-centered to congregation-empowered roles, and solo to team leadership, advocating mature discipleship and active laity engagement.
  • Learn the importance of integrating sermons into discipleship, focusing on high commitment, contextualization, personal mentoring, and a family-like atmosphere, while emphasizing biblical and theological grounding for a solid foundation.
  • Biblical and theological grounding, genuine discipleship, and the formation of life-giving dispositions are crucial for spiritual growth and active participation in God's mission, leading to personal joy, communal fulfillment, and a global impact.

What do you think the priorities should be for a leader in the Church? How do you cultivate your personal spiritual life in a way that keeps you emotionally healthy and helps you avoid choosing sin? What is your measure of success for your church? How does that compare with a biblical measure of success? What is a disciple? What should the process of discipleship look like? What principles can you learn from the way Jesus interacted with his followers that will help you to encourage spiritual formation of the people in your sphere of influence? What are sins that people in leadership have commonly struggled with over the past 2,000 years? How do you recognize them in your own life and what are some practical ways to avoid them or repent and recover from them? What is the essence of worship? How do you live your life so you are worshipping God authentically in everything you do? How do you lead worship in a group setting in a way that encourages others to worship authentically? 

These are a few of the questions that Dr. Martyn poses to begin a conversation regarding the subject of the spiritual life of the leader. As a pastor for more than 20 years, Dr. Martyn asked and answered these questions in the context of loving and serving people personally. As part of his current position of teaching future pastors at Asbury seminary, he and some of his colleagues have conducted extensive surveys of church leaders throughout the North America and the world to get a better understanding of the responsibilities and pressures that church leaders face every day. His goal is to be able to understand biblical principles and use his experience to help leaders develop a model of ministry that helps them develop their personal spiritual life and give them a model to disciple and encourage the people they work with in a way that is healthy and encourages their faith and practice. 

Whether you have an official leadership position or not, you will benefit from listening to this class. It is one of the most comprehensive classes on spiritual formation, discipleship, leadership principles and worship that you will ever hear. If you listen and reflect on each of the lectures from beginning to end, you will be glad you did. 

Dr. Stephen Martyn
Spiritual Life of a Leader
Christian Activism
Lesson Transcript

Christian activism is Christians seeking to be involved in the issues and needs of the day and time. Wesleyans in the 1700's in England sought to minister to people that others didn’t care about. To be called by Christ is to be called into the body of Christ. A biblical model is that every member is a full-fledged minister of the gospel without distinction between clergy and laity.

I. Personal Introduction

I was a pastor for twenty-eight years ministering all over the United States and I am now at Asbury Theological Seminary. After being a pastor for so long, now I am training pastors. We are going to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and bless and use this for God’s glory and his kingdom. I pray that there will be something here that the Lord will use to help you wherever you are and whenever you are. I hope these lectures will better equip you as a minister of the Gospel whether ordained or not. I pray during this teaching series that the Holy Spirit leads and that God’s goodness will contain and keep everything from any error. We want to hear from God, his life and liberty and his great love for all of us.

II. Sociological and Ecclesiological Issues

A. 1800’s in English

I want to start out by looking back at some sociological issues and ecclesiological issues. Ecclesiology is the whole church and how the Lord works through his body, the bride. I want to look back at some trends that go back to the 1800's to get an overview of what happened in England at that time and why that matters to us today. There are dynamics behind the history that we find ourselves in at this moment, especially in how we work and think about ministry. I am going to post a sermon that was by a famous Baptist preacher by the name of Alexander Maclaren. He has a whole volume of preaching and teaching messages that is great exegetical work with solid material behind it. I want to go back and look at this closely. Maclaren lived until 1910 and was a pastor of Union Chapel in Manchester, England. It was a great leading church during of that day. This was a time of no electronic projection which would require him to have a booming voice. You had your main Anglican Church that wasn’t a part of the mainline church of that day. Keep in mind that key ministers during the time of Queen Victory; the whole world was getting better and better and England was expanding all over the globe. It was a great time. Yet, there were some issues then.

B. Rise of Christian Activism

Christianity made a sociological jump in Great Britain in the 19th century. This was the rise of Christian Activism. This word activism is part of some of the words they used then. In the century before this, there was a great revival that took place in the 1700’s, specifically from 1739 to 1790 in Great Britain that was led by John and Charles Wesley. Even during their day, there were no public schools and so John and Charles Wesley starting the public school system. They were literally kicked out of the established Anglican Church; they then preached in the streets and city squares and you can see historic markers today in where they preached. They led common people to Christ; people who wouldn’t necessarily end up in an Anglican Church. They didn’t have the clothes to go to an Anglican Church for one thing. Besides schools, they started Orphanages; medical dispensaries and they educated people on how to read. They developed ways to take care of widows and established other types of Christian ministry. These things were always tied to the presentation of the Gospel and in-cooperated into God’s church. Good works were never disassociated or cut off from the Gospel. Then by the latter part of the 1700’s, they were starting to send missionaries out as were the Anglicans. Actually, the Anglicans had been sending out missionaries long before this time.

C. Definition of Christian Activism

But now in the early 1800’s, this thing starts to expand and this business of Christian Activism; in other words, Christians seeking to be involved in the needs and in the issues of the day and time. This was all a very good thing. Are we not as Christians called to be involved in whatever the needs of the day and time are. The whole dynamic of the Wesleyans sought to minister to the poor, to the downcast, otherwise to people that others didn’t care about. There is nothing wrong with Christian Activism as such. But we are now going to see and also in the coming sessions that there are some issues in regards to who we are in Christ. So, there were organizations and missions and benevolent societies. A lot of people became involved in outreach into the lives of others in England. You can look back in registries in cities such as Bristol. Of the twenty-one such societies registered early in that century, by the end there were a hundred and sixteen registered religious and benevolent institutions. This was during the time of the Salvation Army with Booth which is even today in China. This was one of the great miracles that we have seen in the last decade coming out of the Methodist Church. Their target audiences were working with the poor. All of these institutions were doing good work in the name of Jesus. In that day and time, the high water mark of attendance in Anglian Churches happened in 1859. After this, attendance started to erode in these churches. There was an invention that came in 1859 that involved activity and movement; this was the bicycle. People started to disassociate from going to church on a regular basis. And today in the States regular attendance is around once a month. This trend started in 1859 with the dominant church in England, but at the same time mission activities increased.

D. Sermon by Alexander Maclaren 1901

On Monday, October 7, 1901, Maclaren gave the opening address to the autumn assembly of the Baptist Union. The address was a classic sermon which I was able to get. It is a beautiful address and definitely worth us looking at. He was in Edinburgh, Scotland at the time and at the beginning of the address, he starts off by talking about a sane and wholesome mysticism. This is not a word that we normally like to use today because of some of the present day movements in the Christian tradition which are not grounded and solid at all. But Maclaren was a solid biblical person and his understanding of mysticism includes that which is at the heart of Christianity. He is talking about a certain sense of what he would later define as the direct communion of the human with the divine Spirit. The Holy Spirit is at work in my life; I have a relationship with Jesus and I am following Christ and the Holy Spirit is pointing me toward Christ. He continued to say that we tend to think of Christ for us as the whole of the Gospel. Theologically, in talking about what Christ does for us includes atonement and substitution; it is anything to do with the Cross. This is a free gift to us.

So what did substitution accomplish for us? We are justified which paved the way for the use of the word justification. When we look at what Christ does for us, it really comes under this huge broad heading of justification. This involves the merits of Christ which has accomplished for us what none of us could do. This made possible a relationship back with the Father. But Maclaren is pointing at a historical classical Christianity here. He is going to try and make a case giving us a fairly sharp word and critique. He says that we must also take into account the other half of this business of what Christ does in us and what he accomplishes not only for us but in us. Because, what he is saying: this whole business of taking on the character and nature of Christ is paramount. You need both of these in your life, not just one. When we think about what Christ does for us in justification; so what is it that he does in us? This is sanctification. So we have justification, what Christ does for us and we have sanctification, what Christ does in us. This is the work of Christ which is his nature, his love and his goodness literally being poured into our lives, to where we are being conformed to his image. And that which destroys life, which is sin is no longer ruling and reigning in us. Justification breaks the hold of sin in our lives and allows for forgiveness to come and allows relationships to be restored.

Maclaren moves on when he talks about Christ in us. He comes to a climatic point which says that we must all rejoice in the manifold activity of the church. He is talking about all of this involvement that he saw throughout English, but this doesn’t just include Baptist Churches but also the Anglican Churches. There was a renewal movement happening in the Anglican church as well. He says that none of us would have these diminished but rather would wish that they would increase a hundred-fold until an inactive Christian was as much a rarity as people are always a walking contradiction. To be called to Christ is to be called into the body of Christ. This is not a two-tiered system where you have the pastors and the ministers doing all the work and the people receiving all the work and doing little. This wasn’t an early church model and it isn’t a biblical model at all. And regards to the reformation, the reformation isn’t finished for we have a long way to go in terms of understanding every member of Christ being a full-fledged full on minister of the Gospel. If you delineate it out where you have ministers and members; this is not a biblical mode of church. There will be some pastors and some that are called and hopefully gifted to specific things. This great old Baptist preacher is now pulling out a double edge sword and it is very sharp.

He says that life is the root of work and more important than work. We will be working on unfolding this in this teaching series. He is calling into question priorities in how we live and how we invest our time and how we walk and move. He is saying that life has to be hierarchical; in other words, there has to be a priority and what he is saying is that sadly our activities for God is not going to be at the top of the hierarchy. This is somewhat counter cultural. It was counter cultural then and also now. So life is the root of work and more important than work; and it is open to doubt that the abundant work of the churches, the local congregations, at present are the outcome of life that comes from God or whether they are not in some cases galvanic movements that stimulate vitality and mass death. He just puts the sword into the very heart of the world view of pastors and leaders in that day and age. When you galvanize something, you shoot an electrical current through it and it doesn’t rust or corrode. It takes a lot of energy to do this. So, he is saying that you are generating a lot of energy, you are burning a lot of fuel, pushing a large program but I’m not sure in the long run that this is kingdom work. So, we ask the Lord to give us this kind of prophetic courage in this day and age as well. The church still stands in need of reformation so we are asking for the ability to see the world views that are driving us to do the types of ministry and the kind of involvement that we have today. Maclaren goes to Luke 10 and says, ‘Martha has her own way now;’ we will look at this in the next session.