What may be considered great in the eyes of men may be an abomination to a holy God. Living a life that is pleasing to God is not about great accomplishments in the eyes of men. Greatness in the eyes of God begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ and is lived out day by day to the leading of the Holy Spirit according to the word of God.
“First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.” – Martin Niemöller
Today life seems a little bigger and a lot more designed. Today is a bold reminder that life is bigger than I even imagined. Today marks the end of a struggle and the realization of something far bigger than me. Today the struggles of Foster parenting come to an end; you are finally home. You will never have to be frightened when we pack a bag or when a stranger shows up at our home. You are home. No more brave faces when we drive across town, once and for all you are home. No more will I have to put on a brave face when a stranger drives away with you on a visit, you are home. Today brings with it the assurance that I won’t have to wait by the phone to hear how my life, your life, our life will change because of what seems like the arbitrary decisions of a few strangers. Today, a judge will confirm something bigger, God’s plan. I wasn’t there when you were born. I wasn’t there when you took your first steps or said your first words but today a judge confirms that even then, when I didn’t know you and you didn’t know me, you were my girls. Today marks the end of your struggle of getting to me and the end of my struggle getting to you. Today is the realization that despite all that you have been through, God in His infinite love and wisdom has worked out His plan to bring you home. Today is a reminder that family is bigger than biology and genetics, family is the work of God. The Apostle Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5). The picture that Paul uses to help his readers understand what happens when a person comes into the family of God is adoption. Adoption is something that is received. I will adopt you today. What happens today it is the realizing of the plan of God from eternity past; you have always been mine. Today I realize that years ago sitting in class hearing my favorite college professor talk about his love for his children (some biological and some adopted); God was bringing you to me, even before you were. I realize that those key conversations standing outside of a Shoney’s or that unexpected conversation with a friend from the past; God was brining you to me. I realize now, looking back, just how intricate that God’s plan truly is and even as there are some things that I cannot explain, “the fullness of time has come”, and you are finally home. Today we all get to see what God has been working since before time began you are my daughters, always have been always will be.
Although a leader must lead every person with value and dignity, a leader must never forget that all people are sinners. As a personal testimony, the apostle Paul wrote, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” (Romans 7:14-15). People sin because they are sinners. Being a “sinner” is a state of existence not a description of action. Even as people have been made in the image of God, they are fallen. Millard J. Erickson wrote, “The Bible’s depiction of the human race is that it today is actually in an abnormal condition… In a very real sense, the only true human beings were Adam and Eve before the fall, and Jesus. All the others are twisted, distorted, corrupted samples of humanity. It is therefore necessary to look at the original human state in Christ if we would correctly assess what it means to be human.” As a leader, is important to remember that people are to be treated with value and dignity even as they act in contradiction to that value and dignity. Furthermore, a leader must remember that it will not be his first instinct to treat people with value and dignity but rather because he is a sinner leading sinners he will have a desire to live a life that is self-serving. The natural tendency for all people, including the leader is to seek their own well-being and to live out their own desires. As stated above, the human existence is a twisted one, deeply marred by sin. People do not naturally follow leaders, and leaders don’t naturally seek the well-being of others.
A leader must practice the discipline of viewing others as individuals made in the image of God. The way the leader views people will result in the way he treats people. In order for a leader to view people correctly and treat people correctly he must submit to God’s leadership. A leader who submits to God’s leadership will correct his thoughts on all things by the Word of God. A leader must submit to God’s leadership in how he leads other people. The apostle Paul wrote, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interest, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4). A genuine leader is not one who functions by his own ability but is one who submits to God’s leadership. J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “Spiritual leadership requires superior spiritual power, which can never be generated by the self. There is no such thing as a self-made spiritual leader. A true leader influences others spiritually only because the Spirit works in and through him to a greater degree than in those he leads.” A genuine spiritual leader must be one who submits to God’s leadership out of an understanding of dependence that the task of which he has been called is one in which he is truly inadequate.
A leader must live with the awareness of his inadequate view of people apart from God, his inadequate ability to lead people apart from God and his ignorance on where to lead apart from God. Every leader must live in constant awareness of his sinfulness and inability to lead other people in the tasks that are pleasing to God. Henry and Richard Blackaby wrote, “The primary purpose of spiritual leaders is not to achieve their goals but to accomplish God’s will… spiritual leaders have a God-given responsibility to do all they can to lead their people on to God’s agenda.” A genuine spiritual leader is a leader who is dependent on God. A leader must be willing to submit his ideas, his strategies and his goals to accomplish the will of God. R. Scott Rodin wrote, “Godly leadership is the miracle of God’s use of our earthen vessels for the glorious work of His kingdom.” A leader has a task that is greater than himself, it is a task that requires the instruction, direction and power of God to accomplish. A leader is one who is aware of his personal sinfulness and is dependent on God for a correct view of others and on the power of the Holy Spirit to treat others as Christ would treat them.
There are many definitions of leadership but all of them have a single common denominator, people. Of all the things that are addressed in leadership theory, among all of the applications of leadership principles, they all ultimately involve people. Leadership is about people. The way the leader views other people matters. If a leader has a low view of people, it will be reflected in virtually every area of his leadership. The way a leader views people, in the most difficult situations, that view will be demonstrated in the decisions he makes. Every aspect of the leader is reflected in his view of people. It is on this basis, the individual value and dignity of all people, that a leader must find his mooring. All people, regardless of circumstances, possess indelible value and dignity. The value and dignity of every human life has been ascribed to every person without exception by God Himself. Moses wrote, “God created man in His own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27). The value of each person has been ascribed to them by God because of how God created mankind.
God created man in His image. Biblical scholars offer various contributions as to the meaning of being made in the image of God, but what is clear is that this image makes man unique among all of creation. Also, the image of God is directly connected to the reason for man’s existence. Moses wrote, “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28). Because God made man in His own image, God instructed man to, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth…” God’s instruction for mankind was to fill the earth with the image of God through reproduction and his position was to subdue creation under the authority given to him by God. Man has been distinguished from animals by God through his position as one created in God’s image. People have been distinguished from animals by God because each person bears the image of God.
Every person is of value and bears individual dignity because they were created in the image of God. Moses wrote, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” (Genesis 9:6). In this passage, the highest punishment for murder is prescribed by God, death. Murder is punishable by death because every person bears the image of God. Every person bears the image of God and is of the highest value because of the way in which they have been created. All people have been created uniquely by God because every person bears God’s image and a leader must view every person with value and dignity. The image of God is to even affect the way that people speak of one another (James 3:9). People cannot be viewed as a commodity or as a dispensable resource. People are not a means to an end. Henry and Richard Blackaby wrote, “There is a difference between giving God your best and giving God the best. Excellence generally describes tasks, and tasks are usually a means to an end. People are the end. Churches that concentrate more on their tasks than on their people are missing what God considers most important.” The way a leader views people will determine his priorities and the way those priorities are carried out. A leader cannot disconnect the way he views people and the way he leads people. Every person is created in the image of God and every person must be led with value and dignity.
Six years ago today Dr. Jerry Falwell died. He was my pastor as well as boss and mentor. On May 15, 2007 as I was working on the Fall and Spring Schedule for 2007/2008 I received a text that said lots of rescue personal at the Mansion – it appears to be related to Dr. Falwell. A few minutes later I receive the notice that indeed it was him and shortly the word came that he was now in the presence of the Lord. Today we remember a man that had as a personal desire that God would have all of him. Millions have been impacted by his life and ministry. Before you in my Tribute to him.
My Tribute to Dr. Falwell
Emerson wrote – great men exist that we might have even greater men. The following is a tribute to a great man who made me a better man.
I learned first from Dr. Falwell to be a person of faith. Dr. Falwell can be described in many ways, with many terms. I think without question he first and foremost should be described as a man of FAITH. He believed God. He believed in the power of prayer. He stated that nothing of eternal significance ever happened apart from prayer. He preached many times from Heb. 11:6 – reminding us that it was impossible to please God without faith and that God was a rewarder of those who did express faith. Without question Dr. Falwell was a man of great faith.
Dr. Falwell was a man who had a great Attitude. Over and over he would repeat the quote, “You don’t determine a man’s greatness by his wealth or his talent, as the world does but rather by what it takes to discourage him.” He also said that we should, “remove all negative people from your inner circle.” I believe his faith in God made him always look at life with a positive view. He just believed God could do the impossible. One of his favorite sayings to live by was, “life is filled with glorious opportunities brilliantly disguised as insolvable problems.” I will always remember his positive attitude and his challenge to face life optimistically.
Dr. Falwell was without question a Leader – He was a visionary and he dreamed big dreams – He had his BHAG. He had numerous ideas and then he implemented those ideas. He made things happen. While there was clearly the leadership of his family, TRBC, LCA LU, the Moral Majority and many of the other organizations he started, what will have the greatest impact on me most of all was his leadership of himself. I am convinced that the greatest leaders lead themselves first. You never had to ask Dr. Falwell if he had his quiet time – early in the morning he was alone with God, reading through a one year Bible – reading the devotional My Utmost for His Highest – writing out his prayer requests. He led himself in the area of integrity – being very careful of never giving the appearance of evil. He was a phenomenal Christian leader, but I will take from his life the importance first of leading myself before attempting to lead others.
Dr. Falwell was a dynamic WITNESS for the Lord. Over and over on TV he would share the gospel. I loved to watch him being interviewed by Larry King or some other reporter, knowing that he would be sharing the gospel. He witnessed personally – he started a church by going house to house. He would witness in front of grocery stores. Sometimes he would talk with a person, sharing the glorious story and sometimes he witnessed with a handshake. That is how he impacted me – the first time I met him I was 18 and was very involved in a sinful lifestyle – (I jokingly say that he created Moral Majority because of people like me). I was in a store purchasing beer when I came face to face with him. He, seeing my long hair and seeing the beer in my hand, moved toward me and then to my surprise stretched out his right hand toward me and said “how are you doing, young man?” I will admit to being a little taken back – I expected a sermon – not a hand shake. Later, after getting saved, I read in Luke 15 about how Jesus was known as a friend of sinners. I thought about my meeting Jerry Falwell for the first time and concluded he was acting like Jesus – being friendly toward sinners. He would challenge us to create our own Top 10 Most Wanted List of people we wanted to see saved. Dr. Falwell was truly a witness for Christ.
Dr. Falwell was an Exhorter who poured out encouragement. He believed that people could be Champions for Christ. He knew how to get you to want to excel at whatever you were doing. I know that what I miss most from him is his encouragement. I am one of thousands that will state “he believed in me when I did not believe in myself.” I can tell of several times in which he called to just see how I was doing. He did that with so many people. I will take away from his words to me that he wanted me to be all that I could be for Jesus Christ – a CHAMPION FOR CHRIST!
Dr. Falwell was a man who loved to Laugh. He told jokes – he pulled pranks – he loved to hit you – when he was in his truck he would love to try to run over you or to blow his horn at you. It did not matter who you were either – I saw him pull pranks on the Chairman of the Board. My children will remember him for grabbing them at baseball games and tickling them. I often thought that Dr. Falwell was a man who truly enjoyed life.
Lastly, Dr. Falwell was a man deeply in Love. He loved his Savior. I cannot prove this, but I think his favorite song was My Jesus, I Love Thee. He loved his wife. Hardly anyone ever saw Dr. Falwell cry. The first time I did was in a convo in the early 90’s when his wife was sick and had to be hospitalized – as he talked about her he choked up. You could tell he loved her deeply. Some of the greatest words ever spoken to me from Dr. Falwell were words that challenged me to keep my relationship with Donita a top priority and keeping it fresh. I can truly say I have had a role model in being a husband. He not only loved his wife, he loved his children. Over and over he stated “what does it profit a man if he gained the world and lose his family.” I not only learned from his example and teaching about being a husband but about being a father! He loved his church – TRBC – but let me quickly say that it was not the building – it was the people. Because of my role with the viewings that took place after his passing I was privileged to see thousand of people walk past his casket. I marveled at how many people just stood and wept. Some would come over to me and tell a story of something that Dr. Falwell did for them. It was so clear that the people of TRBC loved their pastor because he loved them. I will never forget the love he showed me and my family when my mother died. He and his wife drove out to my father’s home to visit with us and pray with us. He truly showed love. And yes – he loved Liberty University. He was its #1 fan. He attended as many events as possible – howbeit sports or musicals or plays or debates. But above all, as stated above he loved his Savior most of all, of whom he now worships face to face. And though he is not here his works live on.
I will never be same because of meeting – knowing – ministering with Dr. Jerry Falwell. And may that be true of all who knew him. I conclude my reflection by giving this challenge
May we all find ourselves living by FAITH
May we all daily have a positive ATTITUDE
May we strive to be a mighty LEADER
May we always be a WITNESS
May we strive to exhort and ENCOURAGE
May we enjoy life with much LAUGHTER
May we be known for demonstrating LOVE.
It is easy to lose focus on the fundamentals, the building blocks, as we carry out the mission to which God has called us. Each of us has a mission to which God has called but our daily activity can be like a snow ball, picking up clutter along the way. In the life of a leader, there is a constant need for the discipline to refocus our lives to ensure that we continue to carry out the mission to which God has called us. Refocusing maintains the aim of the original mission.
It is easy to lose focus of the fundamentals within pastoral ministry; there are always projects to work on, people to call and lessons to prepare. In the midst of all of this good work, fundamentals can easily be overlooked. A leader must maintain the discipline of returning to the fundamentals which are the building blocks of greater things. The late, great Coach of the UCLA Bruins, John Wooden, was a master at emphasizing the importance of fundamentals. Wooden wrote, “…on the first day of practice I personally showed players how to put on their sweat socks to prevent blisters…Socks, put on correctly, may prevent a turnover, which in turn may win a game. What if that game is for the national championship?” The stakes are much higher in pastoral ministry only the results are not as readily seen as the wins and losses of an athletic competition. One of the simple fundamentals of pastoral ministry is discipleship.
The pastoral ministry is too important to not personally make disciples. The calling of God is too great not to personally make disciples. The Pastoral ministry is too demanding not to practice the discipline of removing the clutter that accumulates with the task and returning to the simple task of putting your socks on correctly and teaching others to put on their socks correctly as well. A Pastor must be a disciple maker, not just from the pulpit but on an individual basis. The task of disciple making does not come with fanfare and does not happen with a crowd but it is the way that great men and great churches are built.
Jesus was a disciple maker. Jesus commanded His disciples not to go but to make disciples, they were already going. If you make a close study of Jesus’ disciple making process, you will see that He taught His disciples in life, as they were going, not in an institutionalized class. I was struck by this statement by Warren Wiersbe in my personal time with God. He wrote, “The older generation must provide for the next generation, not only materially but most of all spiritually. “Senior saints” must be examples of believers and encourage the younger generation to trust the Lord and wholly follow Him.” Maybe you read these words and as you assess your life you do not see a faith that reproduces a life worth emulating. If that is the case, please be willing to ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, only in failing to grow. Personal growth takes an investment.
Pastor, wipe away the clutter and begin to pour into someone’s life. Do you want to see the church of which God has made you a steward to make an impact on your community? In order to make an impact you must build men, leaders, and disciples to multiply your effort. Pastor, return to the fundamental task of “…teaching them to observe all things…” Let’s impact the world for Jesus’ fame!