Recognize and articulate the value of faith in caring for needs. Grow in understanding of how faith resources and insights work together. Work together on a theology of training. Explore and deal with feelings of inadequacy as training. Gain a deeper sense of how God meets deeply-felt spiritual needs.
Lord God, what a wondrous treasure you have given us in our Christianity! Forgive us for sometimes belittling its value and potential for our Leadership. Give us the grace in understanding and practice our own faith – orientation without stopping to the level of cutting down others. Help us always be faithful to you in all our training interactions, in Jesus name.
We desire to be caring Christians. Your participation demonstrates this. We want to lead effectively as possible. Drawing from the resources of Christianity is an important part of giving quality care. Also important is the use of Christian resources God has given us. The Christian Trainer, using both sets of resources under God is able to meet quite effectively the deepest needs that people have. In this session we will look at our need for both; the secular and the spiritual. We will see how God meets peoples deep needs. We will grow in our understanding of the ways in which God meets our own deep needs and gain a greater appreciation of how God meets needs through us.
In this Bible study, Simon Peter is invited to take the plunge. After sharing his experience, you’ve got some decisions to make.
God My talents are SO FEW and I am SO WEAK and there are SO MANY with SO MUCH more to offer than me. God I have CONCLUDED it is BETTER for me to do NOTHING about ANYTHING for fear I might do SOMETHING wrong. I sometimes get this feeling when…
Read Mat. 14:22-33 John’s unfair execution disturbed Jesus deeply, but he could not escape either the crowds of people or his disciples. Yet, Jesus showed compassion on the people and met their needs. “Come on” is the invitation. And Peter doesn’t have to be told twice. It’s not every day that you walk on water through waves that are taller than you are…. The first few steps go well. But a few strides out into the water, and he forgets to look to the One who got him there in the first place, and down he plunges…. Peter knows better than to bite the hand that can save him. His response may lack class – it probably wouldn’t get him on the cover of Gentleman’s quarterly or even Sports Illustrated- but it gets him out of some deep water: “Help me!” And since Peter would rather swallow pride than water, a hand comes through the rain and pulls him up. The message is clear. As long as Jesus is one of many options, he is no option. As long as you can carry your burdens alone, you don’t need a burden bearer. As long as your situation brings you no grief, you will receive no comfort. And as long as you can take him or leave him, you might as well leave him, because he won’t be taken half-heartedly. (From The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado)
Imitate Christ’s compassion by putting the needs of others ahead of your own. Be willing to stay up late with a disappointed friend rather than getting your sleep. Let your schedule be interrupted to comfort or listen to somebody else. When it comes to risking how would you describe yourself?
Where do you feel God is inviting you to “get out of the boat” right now?
If God could help me deal with this situation, what would he do?
Would you be more likely to stay in the boat or step out of it?
What do you see in your own life that parallels Peter’s attempt to walk on water?
If God could help me deal with this decision, what would he do? If you had been Peter how would you have responded if Jesus invited you to “come?”
When you are apprehensive about the troubles around you and doubt Christ’s presence or ability to help, you must remember that he is the only one who can really help. To maintain your faith when situations are difficult, keep your eye on Jesus’ power rather than on your inadequacies.
We may not walk on water, but we do walk through tough situations. If we focus on the waves of difficult circumstances around us without looking to Jesus for help, we too may despair and sink.
Develop the discipline of spending time alone with God it will help you grow spiritually and become more and more like Christ. Spending time with God in prayer, nurtures a vital relationship and equips us to meet life’s challenges and struggles.
Read Mat. 20:1-16 Jesus traveled toward Jerusalem for the last time. He refuted the Jewish leaders’ ideas that their heritage would ensure them membership in heaven. His disciples were also slow to learn and argued over kingdom status for themselves. Jesus emphasized that salvation depends on God’s love, mercy, and kindness. No one deserves it.
A certain landowner needs workers. At 6:00 A.M. he picks his crew, they agree on a wage, and he puts them to work. At 9:00 he is back at the unemployment agency and picks a few more. At noon he is back and at 3:00 in the afternoon he is back and at 5:00, you guessed it. He’s back again. Now, the punchline of the story is the anger the twelve-hour laborers felt when the other guys got the same wage. That’s a great message, but we’ll save it for another book.
I want to hone in on an often forgotten scene in the story: the choosing. Can you see it? It happened at 9:00. It happened at noon, it happened at 3:00. But most passionately, it happened at 5:00. Five in the afternoon. Tell me. What is a worker still doing in the yard at 5:00 in the afternoon? The best have long since gone. The mediocre workers went at lunch. The last string went at 3:00. What kind of worker is left at 5:00 p.m.?
All day they get passed by. They are unskilled. Untrained. Uneducated. They are hanging with one hand from the bottom of the ladder. They are absolutely dependent upon a merciful boss giving them a chance they don’t deserve.
So, by the way, were we. Lest we get a bit cocky, we might take Paul’s advice and look at what we were when God called us. Do you remember? Some of us were polished and sharp but paper-mache thin. Others of us didn’t even try to hide our despair. We drank it. We smelled it. We shot it. We sold it. Life was a passion-pursuit. We were on a treasure hunt for an empty chest in a dead-end canyon. Do you remember how you felt? Do you remember the perspiration on your forehead and the crack in your soul? Do you remember how you tried to hide the loneliness until it got bigger than you and then you just tried to survive? Hold that picture for a moment.
Now answer this. Why did he choose you? Why did he choose me? Honestly. Why? What do we have that he needs? Intellect? Do we honestly think for one minute that we have – or ever will have – a thought he hasn’t had? Willpower? I can respect that. Some of us are stubborn enough to walk on water if we feel called to do so… but to think God’s kingdom would have done a belly-up without our determination.
How about money? We came into the kingdom with a nice little nest egg. Perhaps that’s why we where chosen. Perhaps the creator of heaven and earth could use a little of our cash. Maybe the owner of every breath and every person and the author of history, was getting low on capital and he saw us and our black ink and….
Get the point? We were chosen for the same reason the five o’clock workers were. You and me? We are the five o’clock workers. That’s us leaning against the orchard fence sucking cigarettes we can’t afford and betting beers we’ll never buy on a game of penny-toss. Migrant workers with no jobs and no futures. The tattoo on your arm reads “Betty.” The one on my biceps is nameless but her hips bounce when I flex. Se should have given up and gone home after the lunch whistle but home is a one-bedroom motel with a wife whose first question will be, “Did you get on or not?”
So we wait. The too little, too lates. And Jesus? Well Jesus is the guy in the black pickup who owns the hillside acreage. He’s the fellow who noticed us as he drove by leaving us in his dust. He’s the one who stopped the truck, put it in reverse, and backed up to where we were standing. He’s the one you’ll tell your wife about tonight as you walk to the grocery with a jingle in your pocket. “I’d never seen this guy before. He just stopped, rolled down his window, and asked us if we wanted to work. It was already near quitting time, but he said he had some work that wouldn’t wait. I swear, Marth, I only worked one hour and he paid me for the full day.” “No, I don’t know his name.” “Of course, I’m gonna find out. Too good to be true, that guy.”
Why did he pick you? He wanted to. After all, you are his. He made you. He brought you home. He owns you. And once upon a time, he tapped you on the shoulder and reminded you of that fact. No matter how long you’d waited or how much time you’d wasted, you are his and he has a place for you. (From And the Angels Were Silent by Max Lucado)
If you are a Christian ask yourself, “What are my special skills or abilities?” List your answers: administration, technical work, or cooking. Now that God has brought you to work in his Kingdom, how can you use these gifts for him?
This parable speaks especially to those who feel superior because of heritage or favored position, to those who feel superior because they have spent so much time with Christ and to new believers are reassurance of God’s grace. Instead, of being jealous, focus on God’s gracious benefits to you, and be thankful for what you have; then repay him by serving God.
The Advantages of Quality of Life All other factors being equal, Christian leaders has significant advantages over any other method. The primary advantage is that of depth. Here is why. All too often, Christian leaders/trainers consider the impact of their training to be comparatively insignificant. They believe that they are inadequate because they are not as well trained as secular professionals. Specifically, they think that without extensive secular training, they cannot relate deeply to those they train. Not at all!
Christian trainers need to feel good about their training. They need to realize that the distinctive Christian approach is the deepest system available. The best content and framework on which to build is the Christian one. We have God as our chief trainer and coach, our guide and co-trainer, our control of the world.
In his book “The Minister as Diagnostician” Paul Pruyser notes that church people often avoid theology, but he maintains its usefulness. He stresses that Christian trainers should return to their own, including grace, repentance, Christian vocation and love.
As you live a life of Christian training, you might occasionally run into situations in which you feel as if you are in over your head. The problems of the person you are training may be more than you can handle alone. The individual may need the services of another trainer/caregiver – or other trained professionals. Find the best resource for the person in your community and make the referral. When the trainee’s problems are too deep or complex for you to handle on your own make the referral without feeling guilty or worrying that your faith is inadequate.
There is no need to doubt your calling or ability as a Christian trainer. The professional might offer acquired skills which you might not have, and you offer Christian training, caring and resources which many other professionals don’t have. Remember that the person may still need your love, support, and Christian training. The individual needs as much love and support as before – may be more. Furthermore, he or she still has spiritual needs which can only be filled by a faith relationship with God, and your Christian training enables God to speak directly and lovingly to that need – always being careful not to compete or conflict with the other caregiver.
In years to come theology will play an increasingly greater role, enabling us to understand better the nature of human deficiencies, problems, potentials, and joys. This will affect not only Christians but also those outside Christianity. Psychology, sociology, and medicine cannot give the entire answer to the human condition. There is a significant gap left for theology, and it benefits our God, not to forget His authority and to step in and fill that gap.
Training for Relational Problems
Many of the problems which will bring people to you are the results of their having missed the plan of God. A person traveling from San Francisco to New York may have successfully traversed the highways for two thousand miles (like a person with twenty-five good years of marriage), yet if he takes a wrong turn in Chicago (perhaps betraying his spouse). He may eventually end up in Toronto (or with a broken home).
Having taken wrong turns, having made poor choices, at times having signed, we have to readjust our paths and take new directions. Everything that happens within the confines of a home affects all the members of that family because a family is an intricate pattern of relationships. It can only follow that much of our training involves relationships with people, especially those in our families.
In a family of four, their are at least sixteen separate relationships. the relationship of each person to the other three as well as an individual relationships (how we feel about ourselves) which affects our emotional health and happiness.
No wonder family living is complex. Illnesses, career reversals, accidents, financial problems, the birth or death of a child, even aging which changes our appearance and outlook are part of the tapestry of relationships. These generally have nothing to do with personal failure, nor are they the result of individual sin; nonetheless, they are issues which often require training and help to cope with.
The application of God’s Word, though, is a very positive thing which gives hope in a broken world. It takes away the despair of those who see no way out of their situation. It allows a broken person to see light at the end of a dark tunnel. At times the people you help will have grown up in homes where a knowledge of right and wrong is clear. They may not always do the right thing, but at least they know what it is.
A growing number of people, though, especially those under age forty, have been raised by permissive parents and have very fuzzy ideas about right and wrong. Our role models and heroes today are often individuals whose integrity is tainted. They seem to be admired more because of what they do or get away with rather than what they are.
“Integrity,” says Ted Engstrom in his book by the same title, “simply put… is doing what you said you would do.” When it comes to marriage, it includes a monogamous commitment. In the family, integrity includes loyalty and trustworthiness. In friendships, it means support and acceptance.
When people don’t do what they said they would do, or what the other person thinks they said they would do, conflict results and relationships are broken. At times broken relationships are the result of unkept promises. At times they are the result of wrong choices which damage relationships, and, at other times, they are the result of misunderstandings or different points of view, which have to be reconciled through better communication and understanding.
Every time a person makes a statement there are three components: What you said (the face value of the statement). What you meant to say (which may not be what you actually said), and What you implied (which you may not have actually said at all).
Jesus said, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…” (Matt. 7:12). This requires maintaining a keen awareness of how our actions affect other people. Working through conflict situations demands this.
A Framework for Christian Training
The following points are matters which you as a trainer need to resolve firmly in your thinking before you even begin to others work through personal problems.
God is a good God; Therefore, what He tells us in His word is His plan for living. Of course, this cuts across the grain of secular images of God as a bully, or a cosmic policeman, out to get you when you are bad. Or the Great Enforcer whose black book (The Bible) was designed to make you miserable and is totally unrealistic and out of harmony with our world today.
Another version of this is that the Bible may be well and good, but it is only a lofty guide of something to shoot for, the “impossible dream” of old men with long gray beards who wrote it long ago. When you train in a Christian perspective, you use the Bible to enlighten, to guide, and to encourage as well as to reprove and censure (when necessary).
Healing broken relationships instead of dissolving them is working in harmony with God’s plan. God could not be a good God realizing that there will be conflicts in relationships unless He had given us a means of resolving those conflicts. The conflicts which destroy relationships today are not new. Infidelity, broken communication producing hostility and anger, premarital sex, jealousy, dishonesty, and deceit – all of these are pictured in the lives of those whose stories are told in the Bible.
Those who think there should be no conflicts in our relationships are about as realistic as expecting all Christian wives to be a combination of Betty Crocker, Mother Teresa, and Farrah Fawcett, and expecting every man to walk on water and leap over tall buildings in a single bound.
When two people come together in marriage, they “become one flesh,” in the words of Scripture, but their union in marriage doesn’t for a moment mean the bounding of their emotions or personalities.
Every person is a collage of customs, emotions, family traditions, idiosyncrasies, and personalities; there is also the baggage of heredity which links you to your ancestors. The “becoming one” is the weaving of all these different ingredients into the tapestry of a new relationship forming the structure of a new family.
It is not without elements of struggle which affect relationships. Helping to resolve these conflicts is all part of the training ministry of Christ. Some conflicts are not the result of personal failure but are the result of living in a broken world.
Today there is a widespread belief which just won’t go away: “If what happens to me is good, it’s obvious that God is blessing me; and if it’s bad, it’s the judgement of God or the devil who did it.” An imperfect world means that we are confronted with brokenness for which, at times, we bear no direct responsibility. People will ask “Why did God let this happen to me? Why did He fail me?” and you will have to answer, “God did not fail you – your husband failed you,” or “your wife failed you!”
At times even searching for an answer is futile, yet a person tells something of his belief in God by the questions he asks of God. You can go crazy trying to come up with adequate explanations for situations. It is much better to help the hurting person realize God will meet us at the point of our deepest needs.
Learning to cope with situations we cannot alter is part of the healing process and some situations – the result of living in a broken world – cannot be resolved.
To bear anger or bitterness toward another, or even toward God, is part of what destroys lives.
Through training, you help your trainee to forgive those who have hurt him or her and to understand it was not God who failed. You help him or her to see God as a stronghold in times of trouble (see Nah. 1:17). and a hiding place in times of distress (see Pss 32:7; 61:2) In so doing we learn to cope with what cannot be changed. *
God promised to be with us in times of difficulty, not to exempt us from them. When a problems confronts a couple, one of two things will happen: the problem will either drive the two closer to the Lord and each other, or the problem will cause division and bitterness.
Isaiah 43:2-3: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….”
Nahum 1:7; “The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”
Ephesians 1:11: “In (him) also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”
Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
The issue of Forgiveness
What does God’s forgiveness mean and why seek it?
Almost always when there is a broken relationship with another person, an individual’s relationship with God is affected. Harsh words produce bitterness, and anger produces sin. In dealing with the needs of people, great healing comes in recognizing, confessing, and forsaking that sin.
When people pray with you, they begin to vent their emotions and a tremendous catharsis takes place. Tears replace anger, and the brokenness which results helps to restore fractured relationships.
Finding God’s forgiveness is part of phase three; the restoration phase of counseling.
1 John 1:9; “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Psalm 103:12, 13: As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.
Isaiah 43:25; “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”
Micah 7:19: “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
When people have hurt others, especially when children are involved, they often feel that they are beyond God’s forgiveness.
You could point out that Moses killed a man prior to God’s calling (see Exod. 2:11-13).
Rehab the prostitute who befriended the spies sent out by Joshua to investigate the land of Palestine, was grafted into the lineage of Christ (see Matt. 1:5).
David known as a man after God’s heart, was an adulterer and a party to murder (see 2 Sam. 11).
Even the apostle Paul had a stained background prior to his conversion, for he caused the persecution and death of many Christians. God forgave all of them and changed their lives just as He will forgive the trainee you are counseling. No individual is beyond the hand of God to bring forgiveness and healing to his troubled heart and life. In helping people understand, I often quote Psalm 103:12, which says that our sins are far as the east from the west, and then as, “How far is the east from the west?” After thinking for a minute, people usually remember that the east and the west never meet. Had the psalmist said the north from the south (the north and south poles are some 12, 420 miles apart), our sins would have been a measurable distance.
Again Isaiah 44:22 mentions their sins being blotted out as something which God will never remember against us. God’s forgiveness, which was the result of Jesus’ shedding His blood and dying in our stead, means we are forgiven, brought into the family of God.
Forgiving Each Other:
Broken relationships mean broken people, and through forgiveness we find the grace of God which mends and heals. Like the scalpel in the hand of a surgeon which can bring healing or harm, confrontation can have positive healing force by observing the following: * Choose the Time, Place, and manner of Confrontation This gives you time to release your anger and pray about the encounter. It gives you time to think through what you want to say and don’t want to say.
There are times when you need to get a handle on your emotions before you deal with issues. It’s O.K. to say, “John , I’d like to talk with you about… after dinner this evening. It will give me the time to get a handle on my feelings so I can say what I’m thinking and not say the wrong thing.”
Deal with the issue:
Don’t attack the person with whom there is a broken relationship. Saying, “Your brother is a no-good bum!” will make sparks fly. After all, your wife was related to the brother – who came to visit and has stayed three months, eating your food, drinking your cokes, munching potato chips in your easy chair in front of your TV – long before she became your wife. But saying, “What can we do to help your brother find a job?” focuses on the problem of unemployment, not his personal habits.
Express feelings in a non-threatening way Saying, I feel that…” is better than saying, “You… (did such-and-such.”
When you say, I have a problem and I need your help,” the person whom you are confronting stops being a combatant and becomes part of the problem-solving process.
Learn to negotiate
Another term is “compromise,” but that word has a connotation we try to avoid. Life is a matter of give and take (not “I give and you take”), and a harsh, unbending attitude does not resolve conflicts.
Such a person may win the battle and lose the war. Forgiveness means you surrender your right to hurt someone because they hurt you. It means that you extend the right to be wrong to someone else because God has done that very thing for you.
Matthew 6:14, 15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Luke 17:3; “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”
Ephesians 4:32; “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.”
Matthew 18: “moreover if your brother sins against you, go an tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”
Most of us want to avoid the confrontation necessary to go to someone and say, “I’m sorry; forgive me.” Yet Jesus said that is exactly what we need to do, and your part as a trainer-leader is to provide the support and encouragement to help someone do this.
It is often easier to seek and find the forgiveness of God than to forgive ourselves for what we have done, especially when we feel our mistakes have been visited on our family. In some cases our failures do affect our family, to say nothing of the harm we inflict on others.
Yet when we have genuinely repented and found God’s forgiveness, and sought and received the forgiveness of the one we have Hurt, we have no alternative but to forgive ourselves as well.
Loneliness is a common problem which has been described as “one of the most universal sources of human suffering.” It has been called an “almost permanent condition for millions of Americans …. knowing no limits of class, race, or age.” It hits everyone periodically and may persist for a few moments or for a lifetime.
Loneliness is the painful awareness that we lack meaningful contact with others. It involves a feeling of inner emptiness which can be accompanied by sadness, discouragement, a sense of isolation, restlessness, anxiety and an intense desire to be wanted and needed by someone. Lonely people often feel “left out,” unwanted, or rejected, even when they are surrounded by others.
There is sometimes a sense of hopelessness and a strong desire for almost any kind of a relationship which would end the awful pain of involuntary aloneness. It should not be surprising that many lonely people also feel a sense of worthlessness and a conviction that “since nobody wants to be with me, I guess I’m not worth anything.” To avoid facing the fact that they may be unwanted or worthless, many people deny their loneliness and rush to bars, encounter groups, or church meetings in a vain attempt to escape from their isolation. But such people often remain isolated and unattached. They appear to be unable to build significant relationships or to gain emotional satisfaction from the relationships which they do have.
Christian psychologist Craig Ellisonn has suggested that there are three kinds of loneliness: emotional, social, and existential. Emotional loneliness involves the lack or loss of a psychologically intimate relationship with another person or persons.
The emotionally lonely person feels utterly alone and can only recover by establishing new in-depth relationships with others.
Social loneliness is the feeling of aimlessness, anxiety and emptiness. The person feels that he or she is “out of it” and on the margin of life. Instead of an in-depth relationship with a specific companion, the socially lonely person needs a supportive group of accepting friends and skill in relating to others.
Existential loneliness refers to the sense of isolation which comes to the person who is separated from God and who feels that life has no meaning or purpose. Such persons need a committed and growing relationship with God, preferably within the confines of a concerned community of believers.
Before continuing, it is important to distinguish solitude from loneliness. Solitude is a voluntary withdrawal from other people; loneliness comes when we are forced to be alone. Solitude can be refreshing, rejuvenating and enjoyable; loneliness is painful, draining and unpleasant. Solitude can be started and terminated at will; loneliness sweeps over us and hangs on in spite of our best efforts to cast it off.
The Bible and Loneliness
Shortly after God created Adam, he declared: “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Adam and God had talked together in the garden, but the Creator knew that human beings need other humans if they are to get along effectively. So God created Eve and instructed the couple to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” In fellowship with God and with each other, Adam and Eve were neither alone nor lonely. When they fell into sin, Adam and Eve broke their communion with God and a wedge was driven between husband and wife.
Selfishness and interpersonal tension came into their relationship and feelings of loneliness must, at that point, have entered the human race.
Loneliness is rarely discussed in the Bible, but it is seen repeatedly, even in the lives of such giants of the faith as Jacob, Moses, Job, Nehemiah, Elijah and Jeremiah. David once complained that he was lonely and afflicted. Jesus, who knows all of our “infirmities,” surely was lonely in Gethsemane. John ended his life alone on the Isle of Patmos, and the Apostle Paul apparently spent his last days in prison, mostly alone. Writing to Timothy, the aging Paul noted that his friends had left, that some had forsaken him, and that he needed his young colleague to “make every effort to come to be soon.”
The entire Bible focuses on our need for communion with God and for people, especially Christians, to love, help, encourage, forgive, and care for one another. A growing relationship with God and with others becomes the basis for any solution to the problem of loneliness.
But how do individuals build a relationship with God or with others? To begin, it is helpful to consider the causes of alienation and loneliness.
The Causes of Loneliness
Loneliness can have a variety of causes which we might group into five categories: social, developmental, psychological, situational and spiritual. Any combination of these can create loneliness in an individual.
1. Social Causes.
“Loneliness,” writes Paul Tournier, “results from the spirit of our age.” Most observers agree that rapid social changes in our era of history have isolated people from close contact with each other and have made loneliness more widespread. The social influences which increase our loneliness include the following:
As government, business and education get “bigger ” and more impersonal, people feel smaller and less needed. As efficiency and convenience have become more important, there is less time for developing deep, satisfying relationships. Complex technology increases the need for specialists, and these people sometimes have neither the time nor the ability to communicate with nonspecialists. As a result, relationships are shallow, understanding decreases, and loneliness becomes more prevalent.
Modern transportation which makes moving easier, the development of large corporations, and perhaps the lure of a better life elsewhere have contributed to widespread mobility, especially in the United States. This tears up friendships, separates families, eliminates neighborhood or community spirit, and causes people to avoid close friendships which would end later in painful separations.
As people have moved close together, especially in cities, there apparently has been a tendency to withdraw from others. Often there is a fear of strangers which leads to suspicion and withdrawal. There is a discomfort in the midst of crowded conditions, and a desire to avoid the noise and commotion. As a result, thousands of people can live in close proximity to each other, but with intense isolation and loneliness.
These modern inventions enhances separation both by contact habits of people who use them, seldom communicating directly with each other. Caught up in the unreality of media, it is easy to live one’s life through the media instead of interacting with neighbors and relatives.
The list could go on, but I hope a point has been made. Along with many benefits, our changing, dehumanizing, technological society has disrupted people, shattered our traditional sources of security, and created the potential for greater isolation and loneliness.
In his perceptive survey of the literature on loneliness, Ellison concluded that there are three basic developmental needs which must be met if loneliness is to be avoided. These are the need for attachment, acceptance, and the acquiring of social skills.
An impressive body of literature has supported the conclusion that people, especially children, need to feel close bonds with other human beings. When children are separated from their parents there is anxiety and an emotional aloofness. If one parent remains, or if the separated parents return, the child clings to the mother or father, apparently afraid that separation will occur again. When we consider the increasing divorce rate and the alarming prevalence of child abuse, it is easy to recognize why many young people feel alienated and unattached. These people often grow up feeling lonely.
Parents communicate acceptance in a variety of ways; by touching, by spending time with their children, by listening, by disciplining, by showing affection. When these clues are missing, or when children are ignored or excessively criticized, they begin to feel worthless. They conclude that they don’t belong and they either withdraw from others or force themselves onto others in a way which brings more rejection. It becomes difficult to trust people and this inability to trust prevents the forming of close relationships. Low self-esteem and a feeling that one is unaccepted are at the basis of much loneliness.
(c) Acquiring Skills.
All of us know people who are social misfits. They are insensitive to the needs or attitudes of others, and they do not manipulate or force themselves on others but this only brings rejection, frustration and increased loneliness. Such people have never learned how to get along. They keep trying, fail continually, and remain in their loneliness.
Closely connected with the above are psychological tendencies within the individual which create and maintain loneliness. These include low self-esteem, inability to communicate, self-defeating attitudes, hostility and fear.
(a) Low self-esteem.
This refers to the opinion we have of ourselves. If it is low, we underestimate our value and withdraw or, if it is too high, we exaggerate our value to the point of conceit. Both reactions hinder closeness with others. When we have little confidence in ourselves it is difficult to build friendships. The person is unable to give love without apologizing; neither can he or she receive love without cutting oneself down. According to one writer, good self-esteem helps in forming close relationships which in turn build good self-esteem and a resulting decrease in loneliness. In contrast, low self-esteem makes the person feel weak or shy and there is an excessive need to depend on others. When others are not available there is intense insecurity and deep loneliness.
(b) Inability to Communicate.
Communication breakdowns are at the root of many, perhaps most, interpersonal problems. When people are unwilling to communicate, or when they don’t know how to communicate honestly, there is a persisting isolation and loneliness even though individuals may be surrounded by others.
(c) Self-defeatin Attitudes.
Shortly after World War II, Paul Tournier, the Swiss counselor, wrote a penetrating book on loneliness. Its message is surprisingly relevant today. Loneliness comes, Tournier wrote, because we have developed – parlamentary attitudes in which we see life as a big tournament with success as the winner’s prize and competition as a way of life; – independent attitudes which cause us to act as if we were each rugged individualists, absolutely autonomous, independent of God and of others; – possessive attitudes by which we are driven to get what we can for ourselves; and – demanding attitudes which cause us to fight for our rights and demand “fairness.”
All of this implies something which has not yet been mentioned. Loneliness, at least to some extent, may be one’s own fault. People increase the potential for loneliness when they are caught up in intense competition, struggling for self-sufficiency, self-centered in a preoccupation with themselves and their success, critical or intolerant of others, holding onto grudges or demanding attention from others. Such attitudes often lead us to use other people to meet our own needs or satisfy our own egos. Nothing drives others away more quickly, and this creates loneliness.
Have you ever noticed how some people appear to be innately angry? Even when they smile, there is an underlying attitude of vengeance and hostility. The causes for this are complex but sometimes angry people feel thwarted, frustrated or resentful because of real or imagined injustice.
On occasion the anger comes from self-hatred which is turned outward to others. When such thinking is accompanied by negative attitudes and constant complaining, others are driven away and this creates both loneliness and continuing unhappiness.
There is a proverbial saying which reads, “People are lonely because the build walls instead of bridges.” Of course, this isn’t the only reason for loneliness, but sometimes individuals do erect barriers to keep others out. Often this is done because of fear of intimacy, fear of being known, fear of rejection or fear of being hurt – as we may have been hurt in the past. The loneliness is painful but for such people it is no less painful than the fear and insecurity of reaching out to others.
4. Situational Causes.
Sometimes people are lonely because of the special circumstances in which they find themselves. Surveys have shown, for example, that the most lonely people of all are those who are single or widowed, living alone, grieving, and/or elderly. People in leadership positions are sometimes lonely because they have moved ahead of and away from the group. University students who are away from home, affluent people who seem to be in a financial class all by themselves, foreigners and newcomers to an area, extremely talented people, homosexuals – all have been identified as people who are especially prone to loneliness.
Then there are those people whose bodies are deformed or diseased. “You’re different,” or “I don’t know how to act around you.” As a result of this rejection, handicapped people tend to withdraw. Their physical condition often prevents easy access to others and a self-centered loneliness can result.
5. Spiritual Causes.
In a famous prayer Augustine once expressed our need for God: “Thou hast formed us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” God created human beings for himself, but he respected us enough to let us rebel. This, of course, is what we have done, and ever since our hearts have been restless because we have been cut off from our Creator.
Rather than turning to God in repentance (change), thousands of lonely people have sought meaning in drugs, sex, encounter experiences, work, sports, or a host of other activities which fail to remove the inner restlessness. Loneliness, especially existential loneliness, comes because of sins which we have not acknowledge or confessed, guilt for which we feel no forgiveness, rebellion against God, or sometimes a convenient casual ignoring of God’s concern for us or his claims on our lives.
The Effects of Loneliness
What does loneliness do to people? What are its symptoms? How can it be spotted by a trainer? Because of human uniqueness each person will exhibit loneliness in a different way, but some combination of the following is likely to be seen.
First there is the isolation from others which often, but not always, indicates loneliness. This is often accompanied by periodic but frequently futile attempts to reach out for contact with others. Poor self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness can be a symptom as well as a cause of loneliness. Failure, in relationships or in activities, further lowers self-esteem and creates greater loneliness. Unable to relate to others, such lonely people sometimes withdraw into discouragement, self-centeredness, a “poor-little-me attitude,” and a belief that no one understands.
Hopelessness, which sometimes leads to despair and even thoughts of suicide, can all characterize loneliness. When loneliness is too great, suicide becomes a “way out” which also gives a clear message to the people who didn’t seem to care.
Alcoholism and drug abuse often are ways of escape, and people often turn to these in an attempt to avoid isolation or to find friends in other drinkers. Then there are those who lash out in violence. Backed by research reports, one author has suggested that “further investigations will bear out this tentative conclusion: very lonely people, who get angry rather than be depressed, will be prone to express their lonely frustration in destructive ways. I do not think it is mere coincidence that we are witnessing an unequalled rise in violence and at the same time loneliness is so pervasive and intense.”
Apparently loneliness can be expressed in violence and delinquency, which become a release from pain and a cry for attention.
Training and Loneliness
Richard Wolff has summarized some of the suggestions which have been given to help people deal with their loneliness: Change jobs, join a club, be positive, become aggressive, get married, get remarried, travel, move, have fun, never be alone, use the record player, listen to the radio, watch television, enjoy the movies, read a good book, take up a hobby, pursue cultural interests, expand your horizons, play, increase leisure, develop hobbies, renew goals, volunteer – and all of these activities may temporarily remedy the pain of loneliness but they fail to meet the problem on the deepest level and do not produce the desired lasting results.
How, then, do we help lonely people “meet the problems on the deeper level” and experience “the desired lasting results”?
1. Admitting the problem.
Loneliness has a somewhat negative connotation in our society. For many people, admitting that they are lonely is like admitting that they are social misfits, unattractive or unable to relate to others. Trainees can be reminded, however, that everyone is lonely at times. When people feel lonely the first steps toward recovery are to admit the loneliness to acknowledge that it is painful and to decide to do something about the problem.
2. Considering the Causes..
Loneliness, as we have seen can arise from a variety of causes. if these causes can be identified (through discussion with the trainee and through probing questions), then it is possible to work on the source of the loneliness rather than trying to eliminate the symptoms. Prior to training, the trainer might wish to review the causes of loneliness listed earlier in this lesson. By keeping this information in mind, the trainer can be alert to similar causes in the trainee’s life and thinking.
3. Accepting What Cannot be Changed.
In considering the causes, it is important to recognize that while some things can be changed (such as a poor self-concept or self-defeating attitudes which produce loneliness) there are other issues that are unchangeable. The lonely widow, for example, cannot bring back her husband; neither can we stop the modern tendency of people to move frequently – with the alienation and loneliness that this produces. Even when circumstances cannot be changed, however, trainees still can be helped to change their attitudes toward loneliness.
In his book Loneliness: Understanding and Dealing with It, Harvey Potthoff suggests that there are three major resources for dealing with loneliness. Each of these involves the trainee’s attitude, and each could help even when loneliness-producing circumstances cannot be changed. People can be encouraged to develop “an inner life” of positive interests, appreciation for what IS “Quality of Life,” and a sense of humor. This is more than an attempt to muster up the “power of positive thinking.” It involves a rejection of self-pity and a willingness to see the bright side of life, even in the midst of disturbing social change, loneliness and discouragement.
Potthoff emphasizes the development of “a life style of keeping in touch.” If people avoid relationships with others or withdraw into a life of inactivity, then loneliness is intensified. In contrast work, play, involvement in creative activities, awareness of the daily news, worship – all these can keep trainees in contact with those people and events which can pull them out of loneliness and a tendency to brood.
Potthoff writes about a religious faith which helps people see life in its wholeness (Quality of Life), which helps all of us find purpose or meaning, and which undergirds individuals with the assurance of God’s presence and sovereignty even when surrounding circumstances seem to be unchangeable but they can change their attitudes with God’s power and often with the trainer’s gentle encouragement.
4. Altering What Can be Changed.
Although some causes of loneliness cannot be changed, other casual situations can be altered, corrected or removed. People can, for example, watch less television, spend more time in family activities, or move into useful church activities. All of this involves reaching out to others, but for some people this is very difficult because they lack the self-esteem, lack the courage and/or lack the social and communication skills.
(a) Developing Self-esteem.
Lonely people must be helped to see and acknowledge their strengths, abilities, and spiritual gifts, as well as their weaknesses. According to one psychologist many people go through life talking to themselves (not out aloud) and convincing themselves that they are not good-looking, are incompetent or disliked by others. Often we compare ourselves with people who are more popular or successful and in so doing, we convince ourselves of our inferiority. As a result we develop a low self-esteem and lack the confidence which enables us to tackle new situations.
Trainees must be reminded that in God’s sight every human being is valuable and loved, that every sin can be forgiven, that each of us has abilities and gifts which can be developed, and that all people have weaknesses which can be lived with and for which we can compensate.
Trainees can be helped to see that no one ever attains perfection in what he or she does, so we should quit trying. We must learn to do the best we can with God’s supernatural help and with the abilities and circumstances that we have been given. Self-esteem is considered more fully in a future lesson. If this is a problem for the lonely trainee, it might be good to work on the self-esteem problem as an important way of tackling loneliness.
(b) Taking Risks.
Even when people do have a positive self-image, it sometimes takes great courage to reach out to others. What if others criticize or reject us, or fail to respond? That can be embarrassing and threatening. It is here that a trainer can provide the encouragement and support which the trainee needs as he or she reaches out to make contact with others. There can be ongoing consideration of questions such as “To whom can you reach out?” “How specifically can you reach out, to contact others?” “What have you done (or failed to do) in the past to prevent close contact with others?” As trainees risk “getting involved,” the trainer can give encouragement and provide opportunities to discuss how this social outreach is working and where it might be failing.
(c) Learning Skills.
As we indicated previously, some people are social cripples. They are insensitive to others and lack basic communication skills. Trainers can point out social errors, teach trainees how to relate to others, and evaluate the effectiveness of the individual’s attempts to interact. A later lesson of this course discusses interpersonal relationships and may be of further help to trainers who are working with lonely people who lack basic communication skills and social finesse.
5. Meeting the Spiritual Need.
A popular Christian song once began with the words: “Why should I be lonely? I have Jesus only.” As we have seen, God himself declared that people really need each other if they are to avoid loneliness. Regretfully, however, some writers have concluded that human contact is the only solution to loneliness. They have failed to realize that loneliness never disappears completely until, in addition to human companionship, an individual is introduced to Jesus Christ. He loves each of us unconditionally, died for us, makes it possible for us to come to him by confession of our sins, welcomes us as adopted children, and becomes a friend who sticks closer than a brother. His Holy Spirit lives inside of every believer, helps us, prays for us, and makes us more Christlike.
God is very real and his presence can be sensed. He communicates through his Word even though we cannot hear him with our ears. But God also is intangible body, the church, enters the picture. The church should be a healing, helping community which radiates love, acceptance and support. As a member of this community and a follower of Jesus Christ the trainer should radiate this loving acceptance and point the trainee both to Christ himself and to the local church – which the Bible calls the “body of Christ” here on earth.
The local church can and should be the best antidote to loneliness that individuals ever encounter. But this is only one of several ways by which the causes of loneliness can be attacked and the experience of loneliness reduced.
Building the Local Church.
To prevent loneliness, individuals can be encouraged to worship in the church, to get involved in church activities, and to accept the fellowship of church members. Regretfully, not all church members are open to receiving new people and some churches are cold and indifferent. In preventing loneliness, therefore, the church leader must stimulate individuals to be involved with the church, and must stimulate the church members to love, accept, forgive, are for and welcome individuals in the fellowship.
There must be opportunity for meaningful activities, especially on weekends, when lonely people so often rush to bars, encounter groups, casual sexual experiences, and intimate experiences with strangers, all in an effort to find love and companionship.
Coping with Change.
In his book, We, the Lonely people, Ralph Keyes writes that most of us wants a sense of community with others, but there are three things which we want more – mobility, privacy, and convenience, “which are the very sources of our lack of community.” Is it possible to be people-centered and intimate with others in an age which prizes technology, mobility, urbanization, television, and other dehumanizing influences?
Probably the answer is “yes – with qualifications.” We can get really close to only a few people, and to do so we must make up our minds to give the time and effort needed for building relationships in an era where superficiality is more convenient.
Seminars, sermons, classroom presentations, and training sessions can all be used to help people manage their time or relationships , and thus prevent loneliness. Instilling Acceptance and Competence. From the public platform, but even more in family settings, people must be taught that they are valuable, worthwhile and able to relate to others.
As indicated above, when children feel attachment and acceptance, they are less inclined to be lonely. In like manner, when children and adults learn social skills, communication ability, and healthy, realistic attitudes toward life, they are better able to relate to others and avoid loneliness. These things should be taught in the home but they also can be taught in churches, schools, trainer’s offices and through courses, books, articles and media.
Strengthening Family Ties.
Since loneliness so often begins in the home, it is at home where the problem can be most effectively attacked and prevented. Teaching family members to communicate openly, to respect and care for one another, to play, worship, and eat together – these are among the ways in which trainers and church leaders can stimulate loneliness-prevention at home.
Training and Prevention.
Loneliness, as we have seen, sometimes arises because people are hostile, afraid, or self-defeating in their attitudes or actions, and immobilized by a poor self-defeating in their attitudes or actions, and immobilized by a poor self-concept. By working on these problems, the trainer and trainee not only reduce loneliness, they prevent its increase or reoccurrence.
Once again we return to the basic spiritual issue. Loneliness is reduced or prevented when individuals are helped to build intimate relationships with God as well as with other humans. Helping people to grow spiritually, therefore, becomes a significant way to prevent loneliness.
Conclusions about Loneliness
It may be that we live in a loneliness-producing society where rapid change and modern technology discourage intimacy and stimulate loneliness. Even in homes and churches, people avoid each other, only to throw themselves blindly into open sharing with strangers (other students, casual sexual partners, fellow drinkers or seat-mates on airplanes, for example) in the hope of finding closeness and escaping their inner sense of isolation. But human togetherness, per se, is not the solution. We need to help people develop an intimate relationship with God and build strong involvements with at least a few people, including family members, where there can be mutual openness, acceptance and respect for each other’s uniqueness.
Quality of Life
A Life That Moves Others to Follow
The predominant challenge for leaders is how to get people to follow them. Leaders without followers are not leaders. Yet many would-be leaders fail because they cannot inspire people to follow them. We have encountered many frustrated would-be leaders who had noble aspirations and grandiose dreams but who could not enlist anyone to support them or their vision. For some people, the greatest challenge is becoming the kind of person that others want to follow.
The issue of influence is critical, especially in Quality of Life. In people’s attempts to enlist a following, some have resorted to developing the appearance of a leader rather than developing the character of a leader. They have image but no substance.
Illegitimate Sources of Influence.
The catchword for leadership today is influence. But how do people achieve influence over others? Personal influence can come from several sources, some legitimate, others questionable. Influence in itself is not evidence of true leadership if that influence is gained improperly. Following are three illegitimate ways people gain influence over others.
Previous generations generally associated authority and influence with position. In spiritual matters, people trusted their ministers implicitly and offered them reverence as a matter of course. As a result, would-be leaders pursued positions and offices of prominence in order to gain the respect they desired. Each call to a larger, more prestigious church brought greater dignity to the aspiring minister.
This manner of gaining influence through one’s station has inherent flaws. For one, this approach lends itself to flagrant abuses. People can achieve influential positions without developing a character to match their assignment. The sad truth is that many Christian organizations and churches are led by people who sought an office for all the wrong reasons. These people directly associated the size of their ministry with their own self-worth.
This is the age of the “knowledge worker.” Knowledge is the currency of today’s workplace. To gain knowledge, one must have an education. In previous generations, the local minister was often the most educated person in the community. Today, average church members often have as much or more training and experience in their fields as pastors have in theirs. These educated church members have access to Bibles in numerous translations, as well as software that holds more scriptural information than traditional ministers have typically possessed in their entire libraries. The Christian community is inundated with information.
No longer do congregations meekly accept the minister’s word unchallenged. Church members now have the knowledge with which to critique their minister’s views. In both the secular and the religious domains, the assumption that position guarantees respect is no longer valid. If there are any leaders who should not rely upon their position for their influence, it is Christian leaders.
Quality of Life is based on the work of the Holy Spirit and on spiritual character. Without the guiding empowering presence of the Spirit, leaders may hold positions but they will not be Christian leaders. The Holy Spirit will not confirm their authority with their people. For example, gaining a position as the pastor of a church does not make one Spirit-filled. Graduating from seminary does not make one a Christian leader. Holding a leadership position in a Christian organization does not automatically come with God’s anointing.
Many a misguided minister started out with the mistaken assumption that people would follow his leadership merely because he was their pastor assumed the people were unspiritual and leaves to find a more “spiritually responsive” church. Some leaders, realizing that position alone doesn’t automatically bring them authority, will pursue influence over their people by using force and manipulation. Such insidious bullying carries with it even more disastrous consequences.
Power Christian leaders also invite rebellion when they use force to achieve their organizational goals. The my-way-or-the-highway approach fares no better in the church than in business. Pastors have used numerous strong-arm tactics to get their way. Some have volatile tempers. They are charming and cordial as long as church members submit to their leadership. But when challenged, they become angry and lambaste anyone who dares oppose them.
Others use the pulpit as a soapbox from which to castigate those who disagree with them. Some church leaders lobby for support from influential church members as if they were seeking to get a bill passed through Congress. Some are so misguided that they ostracize their detractors, treating them as wolves rather than as sheep in need of a shepherd.
Pastors who bully their people into submission will eventually find themselves in one of two positions: preaching to empty seats or searching the want ads. Incredibly, when this happens, many pastors will still stubbornly blame the people for refusing to follow their God-appointed leader. Christian dictatorship can be the most oppressive form of tyranny.
Some Christian leaders believe that God delegates his authority to leaders and that followers are obligated to submit to them unquestioningly as if they were obeying God. Cult groups demand absolute obedience to their leaders. They denounce independent thought by their followers. Nothing could be more unbiblical!
Christians are commanded to voluntarily submit to those in positions of authority because God has, out of his sovereignty, allowed those leaders to hold office (Rom. 13:1-2). Scripture is clear that all people must give an account to Christ for everything they have done, regardless of who told them to do it (2 Cor. 5:10). Christ does not deed a mediator to exercise his lordship over people. The Holy Spirit dwells within every believer, leaders and followers alike, guiding, teaching, and convicting every Christian.
When leaders claim that God bypasses their followers and speaks directly to them, they greatly diminish all God does through the lives of believers. He exercises his lordship directly over his followers. People who obey leaders as though they were responding to God are in danger of committing idolatry.
As every child learns, there is usually more than one way to get what you want. If it doesn’t come automatically (position) and if bullying doesn’t work (power), you can always turn on the charm! (personality).
People often follow leaders strictly because of their charisma and winning personalities. The popularity of a leader is not in itself a bad thing, but it cannot be the only thing. Followers need competence and a sense of direction from their leaders. Churches have blindly voted to follow their pastors into disastrous projects because they loved their leader, not because they heard from God. Numerous churches have ultimately dismissed their pastors with this sad commentary: “We loved our pastor. He was a wonderful Christian. He just couldn’t lead!”
By itself, an engaging personality is not enough to constitute spiritual leadership. Great leaders, build great organizations, not necessarily great reputations. This important principle is relevant for churches seeking new pastors. Christ said he would build his church (Matt. 16:18).
In fact, choosing a pastor based solely on personality is choosing to build a church on a person rather than on Christ. They seldom accomplish anything of substance. Position, power, and personality are all misconceived sources of influence for leaders.
Christian leaders should demonstrate specific characteristics that confirm their legitimacy as Christian leaders.
Legitimate Sources of Influence
There are several ways leaders can exert influence on others through their life, but none is as powerful as when God chooses to affirm leaders before the eyes of their people. The first and most important test of legitimacy for spiritual leaders is God’s authentication.
It is imperative for Christian leaders to evaluate their lives to determine whether God is confirming their leadership. There should be ample evidence of God’s affirmation. For one thing, God will fulfill his promises to the leader and the leader’s organization. Leaders who continually present new ideas and visions for the future but who never see those dreams come to fruition are clearly presenting their own visions and not God’s.
Second, when God affirms a leader, God will vindicate that person’s reputation over time. All leaders suffer criticism during the course of their work. Criticism is not necessarily a sign of poor leadership.
A third sign of God’s presence in a leader is changed lives. When someone leads in the Spirit’s power, lives are changed. People are moved to experience God in a new dimension.
Leaders may entertain people, or impress people, or even motivate people, but if there is no spiritual advancement in the people they lead, their leadership originates from the leader’s talent, but not necessarily from God.
A fourth characteristic of God-inspired leadership is that others recognize God as the driving force behind the leader’s agenda. When God chooses a leader who is willing to submit to his will and to trust him to do what he promises, God is pleased to work powerfully through that leader. If nothing unusual or divine is happening under a person’s leadership, the leader may be operating in his own strength rather than by the power of the Holy Spirit. Leaders who are led by God will be willing to lead their people to accept God-sized assignments.
Finally, the unmistakable mark of leaders who are authenticated by God is that they are like Christ. They function in a Christ-like manner and those who follow them become more like Christ. A person is truly a Christian leader when others are moved to be more like Christ. How does one attain God’s authentication? There is nothing a leader can do that will guarantee God’s affirmation. All a leader can do is submit. Some spiritual leaders try to be more committed. When they need is to be more submitted.
All Christian leaders have a point in their lives when they yield to Christ as their LORD and Savior, but the greatest leaders also have subsequent encounters with Christ in which they fervently, unconditionally yield every aspect of their lives to him. The more these people come to know God, the more they recognize their own limitations and the more compelled they are to yield to God.
Encounters with God
People do not choose to become Christian leaders. Quality of Life flows out of a person’s vibrant, intimate relationship with God. You cannot be a Christian leader if you are not meeting Christ in profound life-changing ways.
They need to be more yielded in faith to trust God and to do his will. With their absolute submission to God came a profound assurance of God’s presence. Their amazing success as Christian Leaders should be able to be traced to their consummate submission to Christ. These people should be going far deeper than the initial submission most Christians experience at their conversion. They and many others like them, determined that if they were to follow Christ, they would do so with abandon. They are determined to hold nothing back from Christ’s absolute lordship over their lives. God will be pleased with their humble submission and choose to exercise his power dramatically through their lives.
Most Christian leaders never reach this depth of submission to God. Many make commitments; few offer absolute submission. God continues to look for those who are radically yielded to him in every part of life so he may reveal his power to a watching world.
Leadership is ultimately based on trust. Since people choose to follow leaders they trust, their confidence must have a foundation. The foundation is honesty. Kouzes and Posner claim that “credibility is the foundation of leadership. Period.” They go on to say, “The ultimate test of leaders’ credibility is whether they do what they say.” Christian leaders, of all people, ought to be known for their honesty. Yet many are not.
Many ministers think nothing of embellishing the truth or misrepresenting the facts to present their view to their congregation in the best possible light. When people see their leader stretching the truth or strategically glossing over problems, they lose confidence in that leader.
Followers don’t expect their leaders to be perfect, but they do expect them to be honest. Integrity must be paramount in the life of a leader. Integrity means being consistent in one’s behavior under every circumstance, including those unguarded moments. If leaders are normally peaceable and well mannered, but they throw violent temper tantrums when things go wrong, their lives lack integrity. If leaders are honest and moral in public, but discard those standards in private, their lives lack integrity. When leaders have integrity, their followers always know what to expect. An unmistakable sense of authority accompanies leaders with integrity.
Integrity alone is not sufficient to ensure successful leadership. A leader must also have competence. But integrity will gain a lead the benefit of the doubt from followers who do not yet see the vision as clearly as the leader does. Integrity is not automatic. It is a character trait that leaders consciously cultivate in their lives. Integrity doesn’t happen by accident. It happens on purpose.
A Successful Track Record.
Few things bring a leader more credibility than consistent, long -term success. Success can be a sign that God is blessing a leader. Leaders cannot demand respect. They can only earn it. The biggest obstacles young leaders face is garnering respect among their followers when they do not yet have previous successes to their credit. This situation magnifies the need for small accomplishments by leaders. New leaders are remiss if they immediately undertake large projects with their organizations. Better to first tackle smaller projects that can be completed successfully. When people experience a string of small victories with their leader, they will be more willing to attempt something larger.
The first place to demonstrate small triumphs is in the leader’s self-mastery. Leaders who are frustrated that God is not blessing their zeal to do great things for him should examine their recent track record. Have they been faithful in the smaller assignments (e.g., cleaning the bathrooms, etc.)? They should also be sure they are measuring success the way God does.
“More” in God’s economy does not necessarily mean greater numbers of people, more money, or enhanced prestige. It may mean that God entrusts them with a more difficult assignment, or greater suffering. God’s Son received the highest assignment and it culminated in a cross.
Knowing and experiencing God is a progressive endeavor that depends on obedience. As God’s servants obey him in each stage of their lives, no matter how humble the task, they will come to know God in a more intimate way and their faith in him will increase, giving them the spiritual maturity to handle whatever assignment God gives next.
Eventually, through this pattern of obedience and growth, Christian leaders will attain a higher degree of influence among those they lead. Followers are much more motivated to support leaders who demonstrate faithful service to God. The evidence that God has honored such leaders serves to solidify their credibility. Leaders who enthusiastically invest their energies into each new assignment God grants them will enjoy success where they are, but they will also develop the character God looks for to use for further, expanded service.
It is crucial for those in Quality of Life to recognize what “success” means in God’s kingdom. The measure of leaders’ success is whether or not they accomplished God’s will. The accomplishment of God’s purposes is the only complete and infallible indication of success.
Warren Bennis observes: “Leaders, like anyone else, are the sum of all their experiences, but, unlike others, they amount to more than the sum, because they make more of their experiences.” In other words, experience is not the end factor; it is merely an avenue to reveal and develop character. It is character that enables a person to lead.
The Christian leader’s personal growth is the accumulation of God’s activity in his or her life. Leaders who are faithful in every assignment God gives them enjoy a tremendous sense of peace and confidence.
Preparation brings profound confidence to leaders. The most successful leaders have been the ones who did their homework thoroughly. Preparation for leadership also involves training. Good leaders take time to learn. Leaders who make the effort to obtain proper training are not only better prepared for their leadership role; they also have more credibility with those they lead.
Those who cannot carry through with their training often prove they cannot stick with assignments and jobs later in their careers. The way people handle their preparation for leadership is a strong indicator of what kind of leaders they will eventually be.
The leaders who have made a lasting difference in their society have been those who have diligently studied the Scriptures. They have persistently sought to know God. They have relentlessly pursued his will for themselves and for their society. They have taken advantage of opportunities to discipline their minds to think. These Christian leaders have come to understand that their ways are not God’s Ways (Isa. 55:8-9).
Out of their intimate relationship with Christ, God chose to reveal to them what was on his heart for their generation.
Messages from God.
2 Corinthians 5:10
Proverbs 2:7; 10:9; 20:7;
2 Peter 3:14
Dear heavenly Father, I so often do what I know you do not want me to. Forgive my foolishness and disobedience. Help me to heed your will, and not my own.
1. Christianity claims that “Christian training has significant advantages over any other method; the primary advantage is that of depth.” What do you understand this to mean?
2. If we are to understand our identity and be truly competent, we must be well versed in our Christian field, just as secular trainers are in theirs. What kind of “homework” do you think is necessary to be a competent Christian trainer?
3. What are some basic questions of life, death, spirituality, and meaning? Spend five minutes brainstorming and recording as many questions and concerns in these deep areas as you can.” 4. Take 10 minutes to discuss how Christian faith and insights have provided answers to one or more of these questions for you. Share one issue and some possible answers.
5. “Christian trainers” – whether nonprofessional, semiprofessional, or professional – might be well-versed in their own area of expertise. Otherwise the potential may be there, but it will never be realized.
Which leads to the following question: What is it you think you need to know more of to be a better trainer?
Write down one area where you wish you had more knowledge, more information, more training – whatever it would require to make you a better Christian trainer. Take a couple of minutes or so to enter it down.
Read James 4:13-17 It is good to have goals, but goals will disappoint us if we leave God out of them. There is no point in making plans as though God does not exist, because the future is in his hands. How will you react if God steps in and rearranges your plan.
Put God’s desires at the center of your planning he will never disappoint you. Don’t be deceived into thinking that you have lots of remaining time to live for Christ, or to do what you know you should. Live for God today. Then, no matter when your life ends, you would have fulfilled God’s plan for you.
It is a sin of omission, to know the truth and not tell it. It is also a sin of omission to avoid him or her when you know he or she needs your friendship. We should be willing to help as the Holly Spirit guides us.
If God has directed you to do a kind act, to render a service, or to restore a relationship, do it. You will experience a renewed and refreshed vitality to your Christian faith.
6. Never omit God in Your planning?
7. How do you specifically involve him?