Hello! My name is Joseph Franks. I am a minister, and I am a struggling leader.
As a leader, I struggle with pride. I am consistently tempted to focus on myself. In my mind, I am the sun about which all the other planets rotate. I am legendary and prestigious in my own eyes, and I desire to be so in your eyes as well. The faster you can think about me, that which I think about me, the better off we both will be.
Because I like myself so much, I am consumed with praise. I want to be like God. I want to be worshiped and lauded. I am addicted to your performance reviews and applause. I need your pats on the back, for I must go home each day feeling like a winner. At the end of each month, when I look at the scoreboard, I need to know how fantastic I am, and it doesn’t hurt if you know it as well and talk about it among yourselves. Truthfully, if I am honest, I am much more concerned with my approval, and your approval, than I am with the approval of the Holy Judge.
I am also fixated on popularity. Some people may have souls like flint and not mind enemies, but that is not my makeup or mindset. No, I have never been a “kick butt and take names” sort of individual; there is not much Donald Trump in me. In contrast, I have the natural tendency and pathetic ability to be the morphing, people-pleasing, politically correct chameleon. For some reason, it is overly important that people like me. According to the Meyers-Briggs and Strength Finders assessment tools, I do have a fairly HIGH-D mark, but my relational HIGH-I is off the charts.
Sure, I am a minister, but do not think for a moment that I do not pant for personal profitability. Like most, financial wealth and worldly trinkets are far too important to me. And when push comes to shove, I am tempted to lead in such a way that contributes well to my bottom-line, padded-wallet, and net-worth. Profitable pragmatism will quite often outweigh spiritual principles.
And what do I want to do with my wealth? Some may want to tuck their assets away and build bigger barns, but that is not my inclination. No, I am consumed with pleasure. I want to milk the most out of life. Even though I have Toyota Camry money, I want to drive, dine, drink, and dance with the Mercedes-Benz crowd. Hedonistic voices are always calling my name. As a matter of fact, I hear Italy telling me to come back, or is that Scotland I hear?
Therefore, I find myself consumed with power. Because I wish to be the proud one who makes sure I get my fair share of praise, popularity, profitability, and pleasure, I find the consistent tendency to manipulate and control people and processes. I fear I might not be able to control my destiny if I let go, therefore I squelch questions, avoid healthy criticism, put people in their place think contrary to me, and surround myself with clapping comrades.
Wow! Now that I have taken a moment and considered myself, I may indeed be a leader, but I am certainly not a healthy leader. I may know what God’s Law says about being a leader, and I may teach such principles to others, but I am one puffed up with knowledge and pathetic and putting God’s precepts into practice.
Oh, on the outside, there are friends and followers who may give me some credit. Perhaps they are thinking, “Joe, don’t be so hard on yourself.” However, they cannot see my heart, and they are giving me much more credit than I deserve. They are not judging me according to God’s high standard. No my friends, I am not a healthy minister inside and out. I am not a law-keeping leader. I am not what my followers deserve. I am not what my Heavenly Father intends. I am not like Jesus.
My name is Joseph Franks. I am a minister, and I am a struggling leader.
Are you any different? Perhaps you should pause and ask yourself some tough questions. Are you a good leader? No, are you a great leader? No, are you a perfect leader? Are you keeping God’s leadership laws at the office, at school, at church, and at home? Are you consistently selfless day-in and day-out? Are you spiritually principled and never politically pragmatic? Do you ever find yourself overly aggressively or distantly passive? Can you say you really love Jesus, Jesus’ vision, and Jesus’ followers more than you love yourself? Am I odd? Do you not also struggle with over-valuing praise, popularity, profitability, pleasure, and power?
Oh wretched leaders that we are, who will save us from our bodies of death?
Thanks be to Jesus Christ. Thanks be to our selfless, sacrificial, and most healthy leader.
Regarding praise, He came to do the will of his Father. All He longed to hear was “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Or, “This is my Son, and in him I am well pleased.” Prestige was not His aim. No, He was the one who took the form of a servant, took up the towel, bowed the knee, and washed the feet of His friends and enemies.
Regarding popularity, He was not intoxicated by the masses. He was tempted but not so interested in the applause of men.
Regarding profitability, He modeled the leader who put not confidence in the rusting trinkets of this earth.
Regarding pleasure, He had no greater desire than to love His Father and his neighbors. Sure, there were days when He danced, dined, and drank. He was found at weddings, parties, and at the table of notable community leaders, but living the high-life was never at the top of His agenda.
Regarding power, never has one stooped so low as did Jesus. He, who had all-power, emptied Himself of such benefits by adding to Himself a human nature. He became subject to lesser governmental authorities. Then He allowed those He created to buffet His body and affix Him to a Roman cross. As the song goes, “He could have called forth ten-thousand angels,” but He chose not to exercise His prerogative and power.
And why did our leader do so? it was because He was leading us out of darkness and leading us into righteousness. He paid for all our sins — including our pathetic leadership, and He posted to our accounts His leadership credit. Now, when the Righteous Judge looks at us, He does not see our sin, for all of it was placed upon the shoulders of our substitution leader. No, when the Father looks at his children now, He sees Christ’s leadership righteousness draped around us. Because of Christ, and because of Christ alone, and not because of any leadership works we have done or ever will do, the Father says to us, “Well done, my good and faithful leaders.”
Oh friends, let us pause for a moment and talk with God about His good law, our gross sin, and our great Savior. Let us have a solemn moment of mournful tears which then lead to hilarious laughter. We are sinners saved by our great leader. Take a moment and freshly apply the Gospel to your sin-wounded souls.
What’s next? Jesus bids us “remember, repent, and recover.” Jesus bids us lead! Therefore let us pray and adjust our practice:
Oh Holy Spirit, please help us cherish the Father’s delight more than the praises of men. May we live more faithfully by the mantra, “We have nothing to prove and only one person to please,” and may that one person be you.
Please assist us to value purity more than popularity. May we be like Jesus, interested in leading the masses, but not interested in courting them. May we leave popularity and numerical success completely in your hands.
May the lyrics that say, “Take the world, but give me Jesus,” be true of us. Help us to value spiritual riches over temporary toys. Help us to be increasingly sacrificial — ready to let go of both potential and actual prosperity.
Spirit of God, teach us to be pleasured most by holiness. Great delight is found in good worship. It is our chief calling to glorify you and to enjoy doing so. Using the terminology of John Piper, can you help us be the best Christian hedonists? Can the pleasure of pleasing you and profiting our followers be increased in our hearts?
Finally, help us not to be control freaks. Lord, please help us to lead from our knees with our towels in hand. Help us not to be a manipulating monarchs, power-grabbing presbyters, micromanaging managers, or fear-filled fathers. Help us to be leaders who enlist, educate, exhort, and empower. Help me to be leaders who humbly point people in the proper direction, give them some direction, and then get out of the way. Then help us continue to lead by speaking truth into their lives that set them up for further success as leaders.
Lord, hear our prayer and our commitment to walk differently today. We want to be healthy leaders. We want to lead well at home, at work, at church, and in our neighborhoods. We want to lead well from pulpits, within session meeting rooms, and in personal correspondence with our followrs. We want to lead people by preaching, teaching, and through evangelism. We long to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and have them far outshine us. However, we are not the Messiah; we are not the Christ. Sadly, in practice, we are not the leaders we need to be. But we take great confidence in this, you have a great track record of using sub-par leaders to accomplish your glorious work.
So here we are, here we stand, and we are ready to walk forward.
Today, because of your Gospel, we stand less fearful and more bold.
Today, because of your Gospel, we stand more humble and ready to be more helpful.
Today, because of your Gospel, we are compelled to lead.
And tonight, we will again have to confess our sins afresh. Why? Because like Joseph Franks, we are struggling leaders.
Embers to a Flame is a ministry of church revitalization. We equip and encourage healthy church leaders to build healthy churches that make healthy disciples. We teach individuals our conferences and writings. We coach through 14 month engagements with teams. And we mentor ministers through in one-on-one relationships. If we can be of any assistance to you, please make contact with us.
Our upcoming conferences are:
Ada, Michigan (Grand Rapids Area)
September 27-289, 2018
Redeemer Presbyterian Church. OPC
Katy, Texas (Houston Area)
November 15-17, 2018
Christ Church, PCA
January 17-20, 2019
Briarwood Presbyterian Church, PCA