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Course: Leading Healthy Church Culture
Lecture: 2 – Remembering Our Leaders
There are special people in our lives: mothers, fathers, pastors, mentors and others that have helped and led us through life’s difficulties.
A. Remember Your Leaders
Well, as we think about the exhortation from the Book of Hebrews, ‘remember your leaders.’ It would be remiss if we just walked away from it just now. I would like us to remember our leaders; stored in your brain are images of some leaders from your past. Even as we have read this verse, you may recall one or two leaders or more that have had an impact on your life. Now, when I say the word leader, maybe the faces of certain people appear in your mental screen. And maybe he or she is still living or perhaps that leader is a believer serving faithfully in the market place. Maybe that leader is a leader in the church or in business or in education or in the military. Perhaps this leader doesn’t have a formal position, a formal title, but has influenced you personally and profoundly. As you think of that leader put him or her in your mind and then think about this one question; what is the one leadership characteristic that was special about this person? In remembering our leaders, we are actually remembering Jesus’ faithfulness to us and others. So, think about this and have someone definitely in mind with specific characteristics that you remember about them. There is actually a church in Kansas City that has a wall of rocks; they do this exercise and it is an exciting thing to see. Examples can be mothers with her Godly principles; another example would be a man and his perseverance and commitment to excellence. Another person, a mother who was the religious leader of the family; she lived a Christ-centered life. A friend of mine who makes it safe for me as to who I am and for Christ who comes out of who I am. There is also kindness and compassion and someone who you can talk to any time. Another example includes a college pastor who was a great mentor of mine. This person was important to my growth a person said. A pastor is another example; a person who is very authentic. There was a college roommate of one lady who was confident in the Scriptures. There were also a couple of guys who were convinced of the truth of Jesus Christ.
As you look at those descriptors of the things that so impacted you in your lives, what do you see above and what did you hear as you heard the examples given? What patterns did you notice amongst them? There were words like relationship, investment; someone who believes in you enough and a commitment to Christ. Other words include consistency. Are these about skills or character? Would it be character, because skills would include how they went about doing what they do? Yes, what is often seen are the character traits of people; almost all the time. They talk about the things, like who that person was; they believed in me, they loved me, they were people of character and of perseverance and consistency. This isn’t to say that leadership shouldn’t learn skills. But things that impact us the most has to do with the character of leaders and people. It is about who they are and how that comes about on a consistent basis to us. As we consider the people that has helped us, none of them are famous or known to others; this is common in our lives. These people are simply ordinary folks. Understanding this is an important part of this process because it says to us that God is faithful and he is changing the world. We often put high profile leaders on pedestals, these famous leaders and that is not to criticize them because they have their place. But the people that are really impacting the world today are people like you and me; the ordinary people around us. They are the people that live and breathe beside us every day. I get so emotional and excited about these verses. In thinking about this and going through this exercise; we see that Jesus is faithful today, just like he was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Jesus is raising up leaders in our lives that have impacted us and guess who he is going to use to impact others? You! He is faithful and continuing to raise up leaders like you and like me in order to impact the world around us. That is how it happens. As I have said, the high profile leaders have their place, but it is really about people like you that have that opportunity and influence in the lives of others.
B. My Personal Story
For my own story; I was in seminary in South Carolina and I had first graduated from Bible College where I had studied the Bible and theology and pastoral courses and Greek and Hebrew, etc. I applied to my denomination to go into a pastor’s position and wrote to a lot of people and didn’t get one letter in response. I didn’t know what else to do so I went to seminary. The second year in seminary, I was just really so fired up and I wanted to share all that I had learned with somebody. I convinced a little church, about seventy miles from the school, to take me on as their pastor. They needed a weekend pastor with forty five members of the congregation, farmers with their church out in the middle of a cornfield. So, I showed up at this little church and began to preach which I did four times every Sunday. I preached during Sunday school and in the Morning Service and during Training Union at night and then again in the evening. I started in John chapter 1 and I started sharing all of this shard with these farmers. The church decreased from forty five to thirty five and then to twenty five and then to fifteen and then finally it got down to six people. I had no idea what the problem was and the less people that was there, the more I screamed. I just kept giving it to them. During the time I was at school during the week, they decided that they were going to have a revival in this little church. They invited an evangelist, a great big guy who had been a wrestler at one time. He didn’t have any teeth nor any education, but he began to preach to these people sharing the Gospel with these people and people began to come to Christ. They kept coming to Christ and the revival went from one week to two weeks and then to three weeks. I had no idea what was going on and I resigned from the church. I decided that I didn’t want to be a pastor or involved with church ministry at all. Well, they then invited this guy to be their pastor and in turn, they had to become a Baptist church instead of a Methodist church. The church began to grow and the building was enlarged. To my great sadness, all this was happening. I returned to seminary for my last year and decided at that point that I didn’t want to be in ministry at all.
My wife and I decided that I would go to graduate school where I would get a counseling degree. So, I had been accepted to go to Trinity in Chicago. That would have been a horrible mistake because I am not a counselor. Anyway, I was getting ready; my wife was graduating from her undergraduate school and I was finishing this seminary. Well, we had just graduated and we were just about to pack our truck to go to Chicago when my phone rang. It was a pastor that I had never met before; somehow he had gotten my name from some other distance person and rang me on the phone. He was looking for an assistant pastor; he lived in York, Pennsylvania. You know that I had grown up in the Raleigh, North Carolina area and had attended school in Georgia and then in South Carolina and had never traveled up to the northern states. He said he was looking for a youth pastor and asked whether or not I was interested. I replied quickly, no, I wasn’t. I don’t have any interest in being in the ministry. Are you sure, he asked? Again, I replied, yes, I’m sure. He said that I was now ready to learn. Again, I replied, brother, I am just not interested. Well, would you be willing to come up to visit the church? There is nothing to lose; I was a poor seminary student and he was going to give me a free weekend with good food, etc. in Pennsylvania. This guy’s name was David Mueller and he said something to me that changed by life. If you come here to be my assistant pastor; it will be more what we can do for you. I get emotional everything I tell that story because that experience transformed my life and that is why I do what I do today. As I went to work with this pastor, he invested his life in me; he had three years of Bible College and I had this seminary degree; this didn’t bother him. He poured his life into me; he loved me. He was a disciplinarian and wasn’t easy on me but guided me sternly. I will never forget the first sermon I preached; he said that I had all the right tools and did the correct exegesis but asked what exactly was I trying to say? That was the kind of relationship we had. We pushed brooms together; I learned to serve with him as we built an addition on the church.
I have gone on to serve in various capacities around the world, but in so many ways, what I do today is a debt of gratitude. Several years back, David had a stroke and was put in a wheelchair. When I rang him on the phone, he was just beaming, talking about the young man that he was mentoring at that time. He was still doing it and he never left Pennsylvania. He impacted the planet through people like me. So that is the power of remembering leaders and God’s faithfulness in our lives. Thank you for letting me share that; David passed away about two years ago and it was amazing to see the number of people that came and were sharing their gratitude for a person who had never travelled outside of Pennsylvania. I remember he did take a trip to Mexico once and got so sick; he said that he would never travel again. So, I think God for these memories of people in my life.
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