To be beheaded, and satisfied…

Back in the early 1990s when I started out in pastoral ministry and church leadership there was a popular teaching used to inspire Christians to greater heights of service and vision.

‘There came a man sent by God, and his name was John’ reads John 1:6, speaking of John the Baptist.

We were asked to replace the name ‘John’ with our own to encourage us to believe we too had been called by God to do great things. Just as John the Baptist strode out into the Jordan and Judea in response to the call of God, so to we would make our mark on the world.

Of course there is a fine line between an ultruistic desire to change the world and egotistical need for recognition and I’m not entirely sure which was more developed by this reference.

That is not to say that God does not call people and that we should not have an unaffected, humble and life-changing sense of the purpose of God in our lives. Each one of us is significant beyond our comprehension, in terms of our seen and unseen influence on others but mostly because we matter to God.

But I don’t recall us, as we discussed this verse, following on from this starting point with John the Baptist through to the outcome of his call. John lived in the desert, wore animal skins, ate locusts, languished in prison, watched his finest disciples leave to follow another and was beheaded.

While Jesus called him greater than any Old Testament prophet, his entire ministry was designed to make way for another. One of John’s best known statements was that Jesus should become more, and himself less.

Serving God is ever the selfless act and if we substitute our own ambition for his glory we cross over into something different.

None of us carry off selflessness to perfection – even John the Baptist acknowledged a gradual retreat of his own name and a rising up of Christ’s. And many of us forget selflessness altogether and pursue ministry for selfish gain, cloaked in a spiritual mantle.

The telling will be in our ability to lay it down and celebrate its picking up by another. To be beheaded and satisfied that we have done well is the mark of Christian greatness. Now there’s a line we don’t see too often in leadership classes… PH

PS There might be something in this post for Kevin Rudd??!!

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Gillard: trust, consensus and sleeves rolled up

In announcing today a breakthrough agreement over the controversial mining tax, Prime Minister Julia Gillard emphasised consensus over confrontation and ideals such as trust and hard work. She also made a point of sharing the glory with her colleagues Wayne Swan and Martin Ferguson.

While she may have moved away from an early faith in God, it would seem she has gained some positive values from her Welsh Baptist upbringing. It remains to be seen how some other influences on her life will come to the fore.

For details of the mining tax outcome and to hear Julia Gillard answer the question, ‘Do you believe in God?’ check out my other blog  Australian Christian Voter.

How will Julia Gillard appeal to Christian voters?

Julie Gillard’s rise today to Prime Minister came just a few days too late for the thousands of Christians who watched Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott perform in the Make it Count webcast on Monday night.
Now it is back to the drawing board for Christian voters with a new Labor leader and Christian leaders, churches and commentators will be anxious to see where Gillard stands on various issues of importance to the Christian community.
Learn more about our first female and first foreign-born Prime Minister at Australian Christian Voter.

Jesus making news for his leadership example

What would Jesus do? doesn’t always appear to be the question at the top of the list for politicians but businessman Lindsay Fox says it should be when it comes to leadership.

He’s advised Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to take a leaf out of Jesus Christ’s unwritten book of leadership and delegate some authority to his disciples.

Speaking on ABC Television today, the trucking boss, one of Australia’s most respected and richest business leaders, said Mr Rudd needed a lesson in delegating.

‘You have to delegate some authority [to ministers],’ Mr Fox said.

‘In the case of Jesus Christ, he had 12 disciples and those disciples carried his message long after he was gone.’

Not enough was being heard from Mr Rudd’s ‘disciples’, as his standing with voters tumbles in opinion polls.

‘You can’t run a government unless you’re a total democratic dictator and there’s only been a few of them in the world in the last 50 years,’ Mr Fox said.

While Mr Fox is correct in saying Jesus did not write down any of his leadership principles – making his success all the more impressive – his followers did record his words and actions.

They can be found in four eyewitness accounts, named after their authors, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you are an inspiring leader, read them for yourself by clicking on the links or leave a comment asking for written copies, and I’ll get them to you. PH

Imagine beyond what we think we’ve learned

When Jesus reiterated the command to love God  (Mark 12:30)with everything we have he included the mind in the sense of our faculty for deep thought or imagination.

The human capacity to see something first in our imagination before seeing it formed (by the work of our hands or words of our mouth) is drawn from the very image of Creator God who spoke into being what he held in his heart.

Mark Youens, speaking this week in Port Macquarie, challenged the church to rediscover imagination. Just as Einstein’s creative approach to physics led to many of his great discoveries such as the theory of relativity, so too church leaders need to look afresh at the church to see what the real ‘constants’ are. Perhaps, Mark said, it is not Sunday services and church buildings but the making of disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).

Imagination is the ‘playground of the prophetic’ but there are also vain imaginations, such as the kind that led to the Tower of Babel. These imaginations are empty and profitless, manipulated as they are by human ambition.

Too often the church fails in imagination, Mark said, because its leaders have become institutionalised, begging the question, ‘Can we imagine beyond what we think we have learned?’ Another cause is that our imagination is manipulated by our own reason. We take what God has given creatively and make it less so we can hold it more easily in our hands. ‘Some things are never meant to be held in our hands,’ Mark said.

It is a season to re-imagine the kingdom of God as opposed to being preoccupied with the singular goal of building large churches.

Imagine if… PH

Finding our way forward

“Scars remind us of where we have been but do not have to determine where we are going.”
David Rossie (Joe Mantegna), Criminal Minds

“What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Leaders order their hearts and minds so as to acquire more than what they currently need, because they know they will need more than they now possess.”
Pastor Timothy Jack

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”
Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:12

“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 26:39

Temptation comes and SMH falls

The Sydney Morning Herald has today run an article about an upcoming defamation case in the Supreme Court involving the Annandale Anglican Church and an aggrieved former member.

Easily succumbing to the temptation to take a swipe at Sydney Anglicans and conservative Christian belief in general, the story almost entirely advocates the former member’s position. While that may be in part due to the reluctance of the Anglican Church to comment on specifics, the emotive language chosen and widening of the target to include the “strict Anglican doctrine of the Sydney diocese” shows another agenda at work.

Even the heading places responsibility for the “Anglican stoush” with the “Pastor’s ban” when in reality the ban came only after a long period during which concerns escalated.Read More »