Christmas is over and we are days away from 2015, but we want to extract maximum value from the description of the birth of Christ presented to us in the Word of God. There are powerful truths embedded in the Biblical narrative that go far beyond a traditional understanding of Christmas. These truths reveal that God expects leaders to hear His voice with a certain dimension of clarity and direction, and that must affect the structures of our families and our churches. It also reveals a powerful contrast between two different systems of leadership.
In the previous two articles we addressed two primary things. First, that the birth of Christ was a clash of Kingdoms in which God initiated movement into the earth to redeem mankind. The enemy opposed this movement and deployed his own resources to motivate Herod and others to try and kill Christ. Secondly, the primary resource God used to secure His people and accomplish His purpose was the prophetic.
As we complete this series we note two additional areas of insight relating specifically to the areas of leadership. The birth of Christ demonstrates what it means to 1) Hear as a Leader, and 2) A Contrast of Leadership Systems.
1. Hearing as a Leader
In the previous article we looked at the reality that the prophetic is for all of God’s people. Moses prayed this very thing when some of his leaders thought it would be a good idea to limit who could receive the spirit that was on Moses and prophesy (Num 11:29). Paul described his own desire that “You may all prophesy one by one” (1 Cor 14:31). Some have interpreted this to mean that we should all go to church and give a prophecy, but it is the ethic of the prophetic that Paul was getting to. When he said that “you may all prophesy” he was declaring that each one of us has access to God’s mind. The prophetic is for all – each one of us must hear the Divine requirements for our lives and be led by the Spirit in order to be sons of God (Rom 8:14). Distributing the prophetic to every person and causing them to grow into full Christ-likeness is a key objective of SWM and of Congress WBN of which I am a leader.
Yet each person doesn’t hear God with the same scope of responsibility and spiritual authority. Each person hears within the defined placement God has allocated them. Leaders hear not just for themselves, but for the wider company they are called to lead. This is a key insight described in the Christmas Story as we see both Mary and Joseph interacting with the voice of God.
1a) Hearing as a Husband/Father
The first speaking of God was to Mary when Gabriel told her of the imminent birth of Christ (Luke 1:26). This deeply personal move of God in Mary’s life required her to respond in faith and obedience which she was quick to do. Mary subjected her life to a very rigorous process that would include ridicule and misunderstanding and ultimately to seeing her son assassinated before her eyes. But her response was “I am the Lord’s servant…may it be unto me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).
But after that, it is Joseph who is spoken to repeatedly, including: a) Confirming that the pregnancy was supernatural and not a result of sin; b) That he should follow through with his plans to marry the girl; c) He should relocate his family to Egypt due to impending danger; d) The timing to relocate his wife and child back to Israel; e) Clear direction about where he should locate his house and business in a far northern town, etc.
The word Mary received required that Joseph hear a direct command from the Lord to affirm that she was hearing correctly. There is no indication that the inverse is true.
If Joseph had not heard the Lord clearly and taken the pregnant girl into his house to be his wife, and then taken his family to Egypt and back to Nazareth after Herod’s death, the entire process of redemption would have been put at risk. Mary heard God and she walked in obedience, but she needed a context in which to fulfill what God had spoken. She needed a husband who clearly heard and obeyed the Lord in order to lead her and the child into safety and prophetic fulfillment. The word Mary received required that Joseph hear a direct command from the Lord to affirm she was hearing correctly, but the inverse is not true (Matt 1:20-22). Joseph was given prophetic insights that radically change the direction of his family life, and while Mary expressed complete agreement by journeying with Joseph to Egypt, there is no Biblical record that God affirmed to her that Joseph had heard from heaven.
If the same thing happened today I fear some men would have been intimidated by the fact that their wife had been spoken to by an angel. Others would be spiritually lazy and lethargic towards the things of God, allowing their wife to lift all the spiritual load of the house. In many homes today the wife and mother does most of the praying and crying out to God, and provides much of the spiritual instruction for the children. If Joseph had done that Mary would have become the prophet of the household and that would have violated God’s design for marriage. We could say that as powerfully prophetic as Mary was, Joseph had to be the most prophetic person in his family in order to build a household that was consistent with God’s design for marriage.
There is something called spiritual headship, and men must lead their families not out of natural competence or carnal strength but from the resource they receive from God that directs and nurtures their family in the ways of the Lord. We see in Joseph and Mary’s relationship all the correct components of a healthy family: a) spiritual compatibility in which both were righteous and feared the Lord; b) willingness to have their individual lives and their marriage hijacked by the will of God; c) strong partnership in which both heard the voice of God with clarity; d) spiritual headship that directed their household and secured God’s purpose; e) birthing and raising of children who walked in the same spiritual pathways.
1b) Hearing as a Senior Elder
In the same way that a husband/father is required to be prophetic to lead his house, a Senior Elder or SE (the term we use to describe a pastor who is responsible for a church) must be the most prophetic person in his church in order to provide guidance and superintendence. That doesn’t mean that the SE has to receive every single word that comes from God for his church, but it certainly indicates that he is responsible to weigh and discern all prophetic inputs and determine what the direction of the Lord is.
This reality changes some of the historic definitions and rigid boundaries we have held in the church in which pastors declared “I’m not prophetic”, and instead a small group of people or intercessors who are recognized as prophetic were seen to be the ones who receive words from God. At the very least that sets up the possibility of two competing leadership systems in the church. What is a pastor to do when those prophets or intercessors have input he doesn’t agree with? Some SEs are so intimidated that they quickly accept anything that is brought forth, effectively yielding their leadership responsibility to others. Even if the direction the prophetic people bring forth is correct, it is made incorrect by the SE abdicating his place of spiritual oversight of the entire Kingdom Community given by God.
Beyond getting direction for the church every Senior Elder is called to be prophetic in their daily function – in how they lead a service and discern where God is going; in the process of who they select for leadership and how they move each person towards maturity; in determining God’s design and the correct timing for specific initiatives; in determining what is coming back from the people as they teach and minister the Word of God and are led by the Spirit, etc.
As we consider the reality that leaders must hear God within the scope of responsibility and authority God has allocated to them, it raises questions for us to consider: What about rigid definitions of the five ministries, and pastors who are convinced they are not prophetic? How is an SE/pastor supposed to interact with prophetic people in his church? In what way should the prophetic function within leaders in order to build a healthy church? What is the Biblical basis and examples of leaders being “more prophetic” than those with a powerful prophetic gifting?
In future writings we will elaborate on this issue more fully, especially to provide instruction and training for pastors who desire to grow in their ability to hear God and be authentically prophetic.
2. A Contrast of Leadership Systems
The Biblical narrative of Christ’s birth also demonstrates a clear contrast between two very different systems of leadership. On the one hand we see leaders of the Roman Empire and their colonial vassals in Palestine. On the other a poor family who lived in the dependent colony but who were empowered by hearing and obeying the voice of the Lord. One of the prophetic indicators about Christ was that he would be born in Bethlehem, for ““Out of Bethlehem would come a ruler who will shepherd My people” (Matt 2:6). When Christ was birthed into the earth it wasn’t just a Savior being born to take away our sins, but also a ruler or a system of leadership that stood in stark contrast to the nations and systems of the earth.
The word for ruler is the Greek word hegeomai, from which we get the English word hegemony. Modern use of the word describes a nation that is being aggressive in putting forth its agenda and therefore has a leading role among the nations. In the Greek New Testament it means to have a predominant influence that others follow. It is translated as a guide, ruler, prefect, president, chief, general or commander. Christ is our ruler, but his rulers-ship comes through shepherding the people. A shepherd feeds and leads the flock so there is a clear description of leaders having a primary responsibility to feed and care for those they are responsible for.
|The use of power must always be for the purpose of human development, never for the sake of perpetuating the power structure itself.|
That description is in total contrast to Caesar and Herod who were abusive in their use of power. Rome colonized and imposed imperial policy upon far flung subjects and extracted tribute to build up their empire. Herod was murderous and so acutely aware of any threat to his power that he ruthlessly committed mass genocide. But the Ruler of the whole earth is a shepherd. He tends to, nurtures and feeds his flock. One leadership system is exploitive and the other is empowering, and the lesson for us is that the use of power must always be for the purpose of human development. Political power must never be used for the sake of perpetuating the power structure itself. Christ’s birth into the earth is a radical re-definition of political leadership, and a denunciation of oppressive forms of rule as well as all leadership based upon an ethic of selfishness, greed or love of power.
Questions to Consider:
- What are points of difference between how an empire is led as opposed to the Kingdom of God?
- What ethics and principles are foundational to accurate leadership?
- What examples does the Bible provide of Kingdom leaders building a wider society and implementing principles that are more correct and effective than political leadership?
We will follow up both topics in future writings. In the meantime, I hope these articles have directed your attention to the Eternal and all powerful Kingdom of God, and caused you to consider the nature of your focus during this holiday season.