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March 29, 2010 / beidson

Pure Progress: Moving Forward in Ministry Without Being Pushy

One of the greatest difficulties Christian leaders must face is learning to get what they want without grasping for it.  We all have a sinful urge to grasp and clamor after the things we think we need, and for leaders especially, nothing will be so tempting as to use your leadership to push your way to success.  But this is demonic, the stuff you would find in books on leadership written by Satan (if he were to write such books).

James is quick to point out that great leaders have wisdom that is from above.  He asks rhetorically, “Who is wise and understanding among you?”, then answers, “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” (3:13).  True leadership is evidenced, not by claiming to be wise and understanding, savvy and cutting edge, but by displaying the meekness of wisdom.  “Which one of you is a leader?” James asks.  “Prove it in meekness.” he answers.

Easy to say, hard to do.  The moment you begin to think you are not that guy, you are becoming that guy.  Not that you can’t seek to be humble–you can and should seek to display true humility.  But we are often more eager to be recognized by others than to serve others, sometimes even as we claim to be serving them.

James says, “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” (v. 14).  He goes on, “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual demonic.” (v.15).  How many of us as “spiritual” leaders are marked by a sort of grasping after what we want, like the kid at the birthday party who sees the last piece of cake and knocks everyone down to get to it?  How many of us are unsatisfied with what God has given us and are obsessed with some other ministry model or person or gadget, to the point that it causes us to use others?

Is your ambition selfish?  Just ask yourself that question.  What in the world is driving you to succeed?  Is your goal to outdo others in being honored, or would you submit to the Scriptures, “Outdo one another is showing honor”? (Romans 12:10b).  Do you have bitter jealousy in your heart, the kind that eats away at you and compels you toward a malignant sort of aggressiveness, because you are afraid of being left in the dust and forgotten?  James warns us, where these things exist, there will be disorder and every sort of evil practice (v. 16).  So don’t point fingers when your work is unfruitful, unless you’re willing to point them at yourself.

We are all driven this way apart from Christ.  And this isn’t a momentary affliction either–it is perennial.  We are like those who wandered in the desert, grasping continually for what we didn’t have and thought we should have.  And to make it worse, we often disguise our grasping as asking.  But who are we fooling.  Selfish ambition doesn’t ask; it demands.

But we have the mind of Christ, right?  “Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and goof fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (vv. 17-18).  Godly leaders are marked by wisdom, and wisdom is recognized by its fruit.  There is no jealousy, but purity.  There is no grasping, but giving.  There is no bulldozing and bullying, but mercy, reasonableness and sincerity.  And most importantly, wise leaders make peace because they sow peace.  Like Jesus, wherever they have been, they have put away disorder and replaced it with peace.

There is no need to be pushy and to barge your way through life, unless you want to be a disciple of demons.  Move forward in the meekness of wisdom.  This is progress, pure and simple.

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