“Brothers, chose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word.”
What principle here could help you free the church for a wider mission?
Each person has a vital part to play in the life of the church. If you are in a position of leadership and find yourself over-whelmed by responsibilities, determine your God-given abilities and priorities and then find others to help. If you are not in leadership, you have gifts that can be used by God in various areas of the church’s ministry. Offer these gifts in service to him!
People who carry heavy responsibilities and work closely with others should be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We must look for spiritually mature and wise men and women to lead our churches.
The ministry of the Word should never be neglected because of administrative burdens. pastors should not try, or be expected to try to do everything. Instead, the work of the church should be spread out among it’s members.
Jesus as a leader was: Compassionate, Healer, Just and good, Servant, and King over all creation.
Qualities of good leadership Proverbs
Trustworthy messengers 13:17
Don’t penalize people for integrity 17:26
Listen before answering 18:13
Able to discern 18:15
Listen to both sides of the story 18:17
Able to stand up under adversity 24:10
Able to stand up under praise 27:21
Shalom. Have you ever noticed that no matter how much you possess, something always seems to be missing? God’s response to that frustrating human condition is his offer of wholeness. Jesus said that he came so that we might have life and have it “over-abundantly,” and to help others do the same.
In this lesson we will discuss and experience wholeness. We will look at ourselves to discover some of the blocks keeping us from wholeness. We will learn to minister holistically to others. We will ask for and experience God’s help to these things.
Providing for the Whole Person
Jesus Christ taught and practiced a holistic approach 2000 years ago. Earlier, the Old Testament writers emphasized the unity of the person.
Holism and the Old Testament
Old Testament writers continually present a holistic view of the human being. The Hebrew understanding sees the person as a total being, without soul-mind-body divisions.
The account of Adam’s creation is a good example of holism in the Old Testament. Genesis 2 states that God created Adam, forming him from dust. God then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam “became a living being” (Gen 2:7). It also shows that the first person really was incomplete until the physical element was united with the breath of God.
Brokenness and Healing
In the Old Testament the person was viewed as a whole. Brokenness for the Hebrews meant spiritual, emotional, and physical brokenness all at once. The cause and result of all such brokenness was a broken relationship with God. Before healing could take place, the relationship with God had to be restored, or made whole. When the Hebrews were healed, they were made whole. There were no separate cures for the physical, spiritual, and emotional. Health was a divine, holistic gift.
The concept of peace provides even more insight into the Old Testament’s holistic view. Peace conveyed the idea of wholeness in relationships, health, welfare, prosperity, and spirit–all of them. The Hebrew word shalom, used by Jews and adopted by many others today as a greeting, means “peace be with you” and is used for both “hello” and “good-bye.” It connotes completeness. Old Testament peace occurred when things were as they should be in the eyes of God and in the world. The peaceful life is life as it was when God created the world, life in the Garden of Eden. There no barriers existed between God and people: complete harmony existed in every aspect of life. When you greet another with “shalom<” you convey a blessing for a continued holistic life.
Holism in the New Testament
Jesus teaches a holistic approach to our relationships with God and others. Central to Jesus’ teachings is love, which is to characterize all interactions. This love is not merely physical or emotional; it completely embraces the whole person.
Jesus teaches, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37. Jesus teaching about love for God suggests complete devotion. Jesus breaks away from any distinctions in a person’s nature, calling for complete, holistic dedication to God.
Jesus also teaches that relationships with others need to be holistic. Following the great commandment to love God with our whole being. Jesus says that we should love others as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:39). We can have holistic love for ourselves. We don’t need to separate love for our spirits from love for our bodies. We don’t need to separate love for our social being from love for our emotional being. We love our whole person.
Following Jesus’ teaching involves meeting people where they are and treating them as Jesus Christ himself: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, comforting the sick and visiting the imprisoned (Matt. 25:35-38). The parable of the good Samaritan emphasizes this concretely (Luke 10:29-37)/ The Samaritan first met the victim’s immediate needs. Next, he took care of the man’s future needs, providing him a place to stay and someone to take care of him. Such care is holistic because it meets the needs of the whole person.
Jesus practiced what he preached, providing holistic care for all people. Hemet people at the point of their special needs, including their spiritual needs, because they were one and the same. On the way to raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead, a woman who suffered from severe bleeding for 12 years touched Jesus’ robe. Instantly she was healed. In one action Jesus met both the needs of her body and her spirit. Her physical healing was stopping her flow of blood, and her spiritual healing was the gift of faith (Luke 8:43-48).
“A similar incident occurred when a paralyzed man was lowered through the roof into the room where Jesus was teaching Jesus made the man spiritually whole by forgiving his sins and physically whole by healing his paralysis (Mark 2:1-12). In John 7:23 reference is made to Jesus’ holos healing of a man on the Sabbath day. The use of holos with the noun hygies, meaning “healing” or “soundness” indicates that Jesus healings are complete, permeating the entire person” (Christian Caregiving-Kenneth C. Haugk).
Many other actions of Jesus were holistic, each making a less-than-perfect person or situation whole. The feeding of the 5000, the healing of the 10 lepers, and the stilling of the storm are three examples. Even on the cross, suffering with a crown of thorns on his head, nails piercing his hands and feet, and the crown mocking him, Jesus holistically reached out to touch his mother’s brokenness by providing for her present and future needs (John 19:17-42).
Salvation in the New Testament
“The salvation that Jesus brings to the world is his ultimate act of holism. Sin resulted in brokenness and separation from God. Fragmentation destroys families, friendships, and individuals. We erect walls that alienate ourselves from others and seal off hopes for reconciliation. Into the shattered remains of God’s perfect creation comes the message that Jesus Christ brings the gift of wholeness to anyone able to accept it. It is the gift of salvation won by Christ’s death and resurrection and received through faith that has torn down the separating wall of sin and restored our relationship with God. The Greek word for “to save” (sodzo) also means “to heal” and “to make whole.” It is a gift of life offering to make people whole forever, beginning right now. It is this salvation, this healing, that takes broken, shattered lives and recreates them infinitely “Better than now” (Christian Caregiving – Kenneth C. Haugk).
Jesus abundantly offers wholeness to our world. In John 10:10, he says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Diagnose the Problem but Treat the Whole Person
Perhaps the greatest danger confronting those of you who want to help people is that you leap to conclusions as to what people’s problems are before you have given them an adequate chance to get to the bottom of their troubles.
In the first phase of training, the exploratory phase, you as trainer-Leader, are trying to get a handle on what the issue really is. Our tendency is to isolate the spiritual problem-whatever it may be-nailing it to the floor with a Bible verse or two when, actually, the problem is a combination of the emotional, the easier if we could really deduce that all the problems requiring training to cope with were spiritual in nature and find Bible verses to neutralize the acid of discontent.
Consequently, we tend to put life in neat little boxes which we label as “emotional problems,” “Physical problems,” or “spiritual problems.” One of the first things you must learn, however, is that when someone suffers, though the first things you must learn, however, is that when someone suffers, though the primary cause may be more directly related to a particular one of these three areas, all three are going to be affected.
Diagnosing the Physical
A wise leader works in cooperation with medical science.
How do you know when a problem may have physical roots? Much of the time you quickly identify mood changes, depression, exhaustion, or boredom. The individual seems to be on good speaking terms with God. You can’t really see a spiritual conflict; you can’t see any root problems which are emotionally caused. The individual is not in conflict with anybody. He seems to like his job. He doesn’t feel trapped in a hopeless situation, such as working for someone he doesn’t like and not wanting to quit for fear of not getting another job. You can suppose that there may be a physical problem resulting in these mood shifts.
“How long has it been since you have had a complete physical?” should be asked. And the usual reply is, “I don’t remember, but a long time.”
“O.K., before we get together again, I want you to go see your doctor, and I especially want him to check your blood sugar.”
Why? Your diet and your blood sugar affect your emotions and your moods. For example, hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, may produce lethargy and even depression. Or a husband’s inability to function sexuality may not be emotional; it may be the result of sugar diabetes which has been undiagnosed and untreated.
Telling people that God loves them and has a plan for their lives is good, but what they sometimes need is to realize part of that plan is to let the doctor show them the physical problems and how to deal with them.
When you hurt physically, your spiritual life is also affected. The life of Elijah demonstrates forcibly that even spiritual giants get tired and discouraged and feel like quitting when they are exhausted physically. That’s something we often forget.
The story of Elijah’s confrontation with the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal is the stuff that missionaries like to put in their prayer letters. Tremendous victory! Fire from heaven falls and vindicates the lone prophet of God. Even Lee Iacocca, who turned Chrysler around, couldn’t brag about about one like that. It was definitely a win-win situation. But the next morning Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them, by tomorrow about this time” (1 Kings 19:2). Suddenly, Elijah’s sky turned gray, and the man of God turned and ran for his life. Is this the spiritual giant who prayed down fire from heaven and single-handedly withstood the hundreds of false prophets? A giant, or a gnat who flees?
Same man, all right, but one who was physically and emotionally exhausted. “Elijah was a man just like us,” says James (5:17), and in that statement there is a tremendous insight. You aren’t an iron man or an Amazonian woman! When you are physically exhausted, your emotional outlook and your relationship with God will be affected, which is why James instructed us to “pray for one another” (5:16). It happened to Elijah along with scores of other biblical greats, and you must understand what’s happening when you are affected the same way.
Diagnosing the Spiritual
Dr. Paul Dubois, a psychotherapist, says, “Religious faith is the best powerful medicine we have ever discovered for curing them.”
Disciplines that fail to recognize the essential spiritual nature of mankind are bound to be impotent when it comes to treating the maladies of the spirit. When we have stepped outside of the will of God, we have a spiritual problem. The answer is to deal with what it really is – sin, and get back into harmony with the will of the Father.
Jonah, the prophet, has been reproduced in the lives of millions of men and women who want to church as children but “outgrew” their faith in their teen years or in college. The turned their backs on God and lived as though there were no God, no accountability, or no eternal hereafter.
Dealing gently but insistently with people as you help them gain God’s perspective during phase one, opens the door for the person to evaluate the options in phase two, and then turn the corner spiritually in phase three, choosing the path of God’s will.
Undiagnosed and ignored, spiritual afflictions result in a great deal of emotional suffering and even physical pain for people. The apostle Paul recognized this in the Corinthian church:;” …many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep (are dead)” (1 Cor. 11:30).
Dr. Jack Kelly, one of Scotland’s finest cardiologist,, was once talking about the emotional and spiritual needs of people. He related how on one occasion, he had been asked to examine a patient who was suffering with “heart pains.” He found no physical malady. Being a dedicated believer, however, he began to question his patient further, only to discover that the patient had recently returned from Paris and was suffering an acute case of guilt because of sexual misconduct. Although most cardiologists’ skills run out when the electrocardiogram looks normal, Jack Kelly knew how to treat both problems.
The answer to spiritual guilt lies in applying the resources of forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of Jesus Christ, a solution which you can prescribe freely as a layman.
Guiding a person into the will of God means “deprogramming” a lot of the ideas which have permeated our society, such as:
My fulfillment is the most important thing in the world.
My happiness is imperative.
Enough money would solve any problem.
Someone else could probably better meet my needs.
Sex may not be everything in life, but it’s way ahead of whatever is in second place.
If I were only more beautiful, I would be loved.
If you really loved me, you would know what I think.
In a secular world believers are bombarded by philosophies and ideologies which run counter to God’s plan and purpose for their lives. At the same time, our earthly nature constantly wars against God’s plan for our lives.
If the person who came to you for help fully saw this and understood the implications of his past actions, he or she probably would not be faced with the present difficulties. Recognizing the cause, however, will help him arrive at a solution.
Another failure resulting in improper diagnosis is not hearing what the person you are training is really saying. Your communication skills are important, and if there are lacking, you can develop them. Obviously, you can’t be listening at the same time your mind is going ahead of what the person is saying. Neither can you listen very well if you are thinking about the responsibilities you carry and how you really ought to be doing something other than listening to the person who hurts.
Take time, listen, ray, and evaluate, and only then will you be ready to respond to the question, “What do you think I should do?”
Pitfalls in Being Holistic
When holism is misunderstood or misapplied, difficulties can arise for both the trainer and the training receiver. These pitfalls need to be avoided so as not to short-circuit the training relationship.
The Splitting Pitfall
This pitfall is encountered when a trainer attempts to split apart the person receiving training. For example, a trainer who treats the spiritual separately from the physical and the emotional, has stumbled into this pitfall. An example is the trainer who keeps all Scripture, prayer, and talk about God separated from the training receiver’s personal problems. When this occurs, the spiritual has been split apart from the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of the person. As trainer we can also stumble into this splitting pitfalls in dealing with ourselves. We can compartmentalize the various aspects of our personhood. For instance, at one time we might let emotions dominate our behavior when we are extremely angry. At another time, we might let the spiritual part of us dominate, while suppressing physical or emotional needs. A holistic perspective unites all aspects of the person, while neither denying part of self nor artificially emphasizing some aspect of self.
The Ranking Pitfall
This includes the compartmentalized approach, but also involves setting the compartments against one another by ranking them. The tendency for us Christians might be to rank the spiritual nature over the mental, emotional, social, and physical. To call this ranking a pitfall is not to say that being spiritual is in any way wrong, since God wants your relationship with him to be foremost in your life. But we also need to remember that God does not simply want your spiritual self. He wants your heart, soul, and strength (Deut. 6:5). God wants your whole person because we are whole persons, not parts that rank one over the other.
The Perfectionistic Pitfall
The perfectionistist pitfall is the most pernicious of all for Christians. Concentrating on the way life ought to be, we may continually strive for perfection. We might try to be all things to all people. We may want to be the infallible spouse, friend, neighbor, employer, employee, church member, or Christian trainer. Many of us are seduced by perfectionism-seduced into thinking that since we ought to be perfect, we therefore can be perfect. perfectionism then becomes the driving force in our lives.
As a Christian trainer you need to realize that you cannot be all things to all people. Perfection is impossible. You are probably not a combined physician, business person, psychologist, teacher, farmer, provider of every need all wrapped up into one. Neither can you be a perfect trainer. Thinking along these lines all too easily leads to the perfectionist trap. Caught in the impossible mission of trying to make every aspect of your person and vocation perfect, you become dejected – even burned out – in your training and relating.
The Self-Punitive Pitfall
There is no question that holistic thinking and treatment is therapeutic. Holistic treatment is successful. Its benefits are obvious. Because of its positive effect, some holistically oriented caregivers feel a tremendous responsibility for their own continued health and healing. Since they take the holistic approach seriously, they know that their own physical health is largely under their control. Therefore, when a disease like cancer strikes, there is the tendency to blame themselves for failing to be in touch with their whole person, for having too much stress, or for exposing themselves to carcinogens. And if healing does not take place, there is a further tendency to blame themselves for not holistically effecting a cure. This results in self blame and guilt. These people become victims of the self-punitive pitfall.
It is important to understand the grace of God and the concept of forgiveness. When Christians stand under this comforting blanket, freely given to them out of love, the Christ of the cross shoulders the pain, the responsibility, and the consequences of the pitfall. Christians are free to live train, and be trained holistically.
Christian Training is Holistic
It ought to be clear by now that a Christian must be holistic. The Christian trainer follows the example of Christ, who was holistic as he ministered to others.
A Christian training relationship meets people at the point of their unique needs, just as Christ himself did. A holistic Christian leader would not provide what would be considered spiritual care alone to someone in desperate need of food or water. Here, a specifically physical need, rather than a traditionally spiritual need must be satisfied immediately.
The Christian training relationship touches the whole person. It is not limited to the physical, or the mental, or the social, or the emotional, or the spiritual. Christian trainers follow the example of Jesus Christ and cannot avoid being holistic to the best of their abilities. Christian trainers understand that the whole person needs ministry. Christian trainers understand that the whole person needs ministry. Christian trainers realize that some needs are more immediately compelling than others. Christian leaders know that God alone is the one who takes broken individuals and makes them whole.
Anger is an emotional state, experienced at times by everyone but impossible to define precisely. It occurs in varying degrees of intensity – from mild annoyance to violent rage. It begins in infancy and continues through to old age. It may be hidden and held inward or expressed openly. It can be of short duration, coming and going quickly, or it may persist for decades in the form of bitterness, resentment or hatred. Anger may be destructive, especially when it persists in the form of aggression, un-forgiveness, or revenge. But it can also be constructive if it motivates us to correct injustice or to think creatively. Anger is aroused when our progress toward some desired goal is blocked. It involves a physiological reaction as well as a feeling which usually is conscious but sometimes is buried behind a calm and smiling facade.
Early in their careers, most counselors encounter people who are angry. Anger, openly expressed, deliberately hidden from others, or unconsciously expressed, is at the basis of a host of psychological, physical and spiritual problems. Anger, along with hostility, has been called “the chief saboteur of the mind,” “a significant factor in the formation of many serious diseases,” and “the leading cause of misery, depression, inefficiency, sickness, accidents, loss of work time and financial loss in industry…. No matter what the problem – marital conflict, alcoholism, a wife’s frigidity, a child’s defiance, nervous or physical disease – elimination of hostility is a key factor in its solution.” These are strong words but probably not an overstatement. An understanding of anger, including the trainer’s own anger, is one of the basics for effective Christian training.
The Bible and Anger
Divine wrath and human anger are mentioned repeatedly in the Bible. In the Old Testament alone there are almost six hundred references to wrath or anger, and this theme continues into the New Testament as well. Anger clearly is an attribute of God and a common, probably universal, experience of human beings.
Since anger is a part of God’s nature, we cannot conclude that anger, per se, is bad. Indeed, since God is completely good and holy, we must conclude that divine wrath is also good. This divine anger is vigorous, intense, consistent, controlled, and invariably an expression of indignation at unrighteousness. According to Leon Morris, the biblical writers “habitually use for the divine wrath a word which denotes not so much a sudden flaring up of passion which soon is over, as a strong and settled opposition to all that is evil arising out of God’s very nature.” Divine anger is directed not only at sin but at individual sinners as well. Repeatedly he was angry with the unfaithful Israelites, and his son Jesus, whose wrath clearly is identified in Mark 3, was angry at “the hardness” of the religious leaders in his day. It should be added that divine wrath is always justified and completely consistent with God’s love and mercy.” Boice writes that
On the basis of Christ’s death, in which he himself received the full judicial outpouring of God’s wrath against sin, those who believe not come to experience not wrath (though we richly deserve it) but grace abounding. This is the day of God’s grace.
Grace does not eliminate wrath; wrath is still stored up against the unrepentant. But grace does eliminate the necessity for everyone to experience it.
God is forgiving and compassionate. For this reason he at times restrains the full expression of his wrath to give human beings time and opportunity to repent. Romans 1:18 speaks of a divine wrath that is revealed at present “from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” but the Bible also speaks of a wrath to come in the future.
An understanding of the divine wrath of God is necessary if we are to comprehend the biblical teachings about human anger. The Bible never criticizes the anger of God but it warns against human anger repeatedly. That is not evidence of a double standard. Anger against injustice is right and good in both God and human beings. Because God is wise, sovereign, powerful, perfect, and all-knowing, he never misinterprets a situation, never feels threatened, never loses control, and is always angered by sin and injustice. In contrast, we humans misinterpret circumstances, make mistakes in judgement, react quickly when we feel threatened or hurt, and sometimes respond with vengeance and vindictiveness. As a result, human anger can be harmful and dangerous. It provides an opening for Satan, and is something against which we are cautioned. “Be angry,” we read in Ephesians 4:26, “and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” From these and similar scriptural passages we can reach several conclusions about human anger:
1. Human Anger Is Normal and Not Necessarily Sinful. Human beings created in the image of God, were given emotions, including anger. Such anger is a necessary and useful reaction which was seen in Jesus and is not sinful in and of itself.
2. Human Anger Can be Harmful. Like other emotions, anger can be destructive if it is not expressed in accordance with biblical guidelines. According to Jay Adams:
Paul distinguishes between sinful and holy anger, he warns: “Be angry and sin not.” Righteous anger can become unrighteous anger in two ways: (1) by the ventilation of anger; (2) by the internalization of anger. These two opposite extremes are known more popularly as blowing up and clamming up. When one blows up, his emotional energies are aimed and fired at someone else. When he clams up, bodily tensions are released within oneself. In both cases, the emotional energies of anger are wasted. In both they are used “destructively.” In neither instance are they used constructively to solve problems.
Because of its harmful potential, anger is often condemned in the Bible. Anger, we are warned, rests in the bosom of fools. We should, therefore, “cease from anger,” or at best “be slow” in getting angry. In the Book of Proverbs alone, anger is accepted with qualifications in one reference, but soundly condemned nine times. Anger isn’t wrong, but it can get out of control and cause problems.
3. Human Anger Often Results from Distorted Perception. In a stimulating article, one Christian psychologist has suggested that “every instance of God’s anger is a reaction of righteous indignation at some form of unrighteousness.” Likewise “every man’s anger is righteous indignation in his own eyes.” Because people are imperfect we see each situation from out own perspectives. We are not able always to judge between real injustice (as perceived accurately by an omniscient God) and apparent injustice. As a result we become angry over things which we think are wrong but which, in fact, would not be considered wrong if we had all the facts. It doubtless is true that “the fall of man into sin produced multiple sources for distortion…. Most of the distortion wrought by sinful desires can be subsumed under a heading of selfishness or narcissistic self-interest.” Because we feel vulnerable, threatened or inclined to be critical, we misperceive the actions of others and jump to angry, perhaps unjustified conclusions.
4. Human Anger often Leads to Sin. This is implied in Paul’s previously quoted warning: “Be angry, and yet do not sin.” Such sin can be expressed in a variety of ways.
Vengeance. Bitterness, hatred, revenge, and an attitude of judgment all result from anger and all are condemned in Scripture. Vengeance is God’s responsibility alone. There can be no scriptural justification for human revenge or lashing out in anger.
Verbal Abuse. Christians are responsible for controlling their words, but this is especially difficult when we are angry. In the Old Testament the person who ventilates verbally and losses his or her temper is described as a fool.” In the Book of James, the dangers of verbal abuse are clearly outlined and in the same sentence readers are urged to be “slow to speak and slow to anger.”
Dishonest Sharing. The Bible teaches that there is value in expressing anger if it will lead another person to repent and change for the better. That is a proper use of anger. But what if we pretend to be concerned about the other person’s own good but use this as an excuse for expressing our own hostility? That is dishonest – a form of subtle and sinful vengeance.
Refusal to Share. Since we are instructed to express anger when it is for the good of another, then it is wrong to deny, ignore, distort, or refuse to share our feelings because this is more convenient. It is not easy to express anger in a way that lets others know that we feel hurt. As a result, some people gloss over their feelings in an attempt to maintain peace. The motivation may be commendable, but the result can be harmful. The other person never realizes that he or she made someone angry and why. Thus there is no opportunity to change for the better. In turn, the person who represses anger is more open to a growing bitterness and to depression. The Bible even calls such repression a form of lying.
5. Human Anger Can be Controlled. It is unlikely that God would have instructed us to control anger if human anger-control is impossible. Several Bible passages imply that control is possible and indicate how this can be done.
Anger Must Be Acknowledged. Before we can “put away” our bitterness, wrath, anger and malice, we must admit, at least to ourselves, that such feelings exist.
Outbursts Must Be Restrained. The man or woman of God thinks before acting. There is quiet meditation before verbal explosions.
Sometimes there is value in pouring out one’s feelings to God. Such activities often lead to new perspectives which dissipate anger before it is expressed and allowed to harm others or damage relationships.
This is seen clearly in Psalm 73. The writer gets angry and “embittered” because the wicked seemed to be so happy and successful while the godly were having trouble. Instead of exploding in anger the psalmist came into the presence of God and began to get a fresh new perspective on the apparent injustice in the world. His anger, as a result, subsided and was replaced by praise.
Confession and Forgiveness Must Be Resisted. It might be assumed that when Jesus was persecuted he had every right to become angry. But notice that “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to him who judges righteously.” People who are angry often enjoy ruminating on their difficulties, thinking vengeful thoughts and pondering ways to “get even.” This tendency must be resisted and replaced with an attitude of entrusting oneself to God.
In summary, therefore, anger is seen as a universal emotion which is good when expressed against real injustice, harmful when expressed for self-centered motives, and clearly an emotion to be controlled. Wise King Solomon stated the issue concisely: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, the he who captures a city.”
The Causes of Anger
Over half a century ago, one researcher asked a group of college students to keep a record of the things which made them angry during the course of one week. The resulting lists included a sampling of irritations and frustrations such as being scolded or criticized, not getting work done, losing money or being awakened at an awkward time. Almost 80 percent of the anger came because of the actions of other people rather than because of circumstances or events. People we especially inclined to become angry when their self-expression was thwarted and their self-esteem was threatened or attacked. All of this would suggest that anger is a reaction of indignation in response to some person or situation. The Bible gives several illustrations of this. Herod, for example, became indignant and angry when he saw that the wise men had tricked him; the ten disciples “began to feel indignant toward James and John” when they asked for a special place of prominence in the kingdom; and Jonah became indignant and angry when God spared Nineveh – largely through Jonah’s reluctant preaching.
Perhaps there are as many causes of anger as there are situations and human actions that make people angry. Nevertheless, most of these causes could be summarized under a few headings.
Injustice. This, as we have seen, is the reason for divine wrath and should arouse anger in believers. Consider, for example, the actions of Jesus when he drove the money-changers from the temple. The Bible does not state that he was angry, but his overturning their tables and his criticisms of their disrespect for God’s house surely imply anger. And it was anger because wrong was being done. Undoubtedly this is one of the most valid reasons for anger (perhaps it is the ONLY valid reason-religious people doing non-religious things in the name of religion), yet it probably is one of the least common causes of anger.
Frustration. Several years ago some researchers at Yale University concluded that anger and aggression arise primarily in response to frustration. A frustration is an obstacle (an event, person, or physical barrier) that hinders our progress toward a goal. How much we feel frustrated depends on the importance of the goal, the size of the obstacles, and the duration of the frustration. When we are late for church because of a flat tire, we are mildly frustrated; when we fail an important exam, are denied a promotion, or have an illness which does not get better, the frustration is greater. It does not follow that anger increases automatically as one’s frustration level goes up, but the potential for anger probably increases as frustrations increase.
Threat and Hurt. When a person is rejected, “put-down,” humiliated, unjustly criticized, or otherwise threatened, anger often is aroused. Threats challenge our self-esteem and make us feel so vulnerable that anger and aggression become ways to fight back. Sometimes when we are threatened and made aware of our own imperfections we respond in anger toward those who fail to meet our expectations of them. This directs attention away from ourselves, hides the fact that we are hurt or threatened, and lets us feel better at someone else’s expense. According to one psychologist, hurt and anger almost always go together. “Seconds after the event which arouses the hurt feeling, another feeling skyrockets into awareness – anger.” The anger comes so quickly and is so apparent that it is easy to miss the hurt which comes first.
Learning. To some extent, anger may be a learned response. most people have had the experience of being aroused to anger by the speech or actions of someone else and it is widely accepted that television violence increases the tendency of viewers to tolerate and often engage in aggressive acts. By watching or listening to others, people learn to become more easily angered and more outwardly aggressive.
The Effects of Anger
All people do not respond to an anger-producing situation in the same way. Our reactions depend on such issues as:
The attitudes and example of parents. Mothers and fathers teach their children how to act in response to anger. If parents explode in rage, or express their anger mildly, children learn to respond in a similar way. In Ephesians 6:4 fathers are instructed not to discipline in a way that provokes anger in the children.
Family status. Children from lower socioeconomic levels, only children, and the youngest children in large families all tend to express anger openly and more violently.
Personality. For reasons which are not completely understood, it may be that some people are more sensitive to frustration or injustice, more inclined to get angry and less able to control their reactions. To some extent this relates to maturity level. As maturity increases, uncontrolled angry outbursts become less frequent.
Perception. How we view a situation largely determines how we react. It is probable that stressful events in the environment are less likely to arouse anger than are our perceptions and interpretations of these events. This explains why the same situation can make one person very angry and hardly ruffle another person. Differences in perception can also explain both why one person can calm another or why one angry person can arouse another’s anger. If we can persuade someone else to change his or her interpretation of an event or situation, we can often change the other person’s emotions.
Religious experience. This can affect the experience and expression of anger in three ways. First, there is the issue of one’s past background. People with extensive religious training tend to repress rather then express anger. Second is the influence of present religious beliefs. While these do not appear to be as influential as some might hope, it is true that many people try to act in accordance with their moral standards. For the Christian it should be remembered that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. Third, people tend to adopt the opinions of their religious group.. Quakers, for example, believe that violence is wrong and this influences how a Quaker might respond to an anger-arousing stimulus.
One writer has suggested that people have four basic ways of dealing with anger. They can repress it (refusing to admit its presence), suppress it (deliberately keeping it hidden from others), express it (in either destructive or relatively harmless ways), or confess it to God and others. Perhaps another way to summarize the effects of anger is to suggest that we can withdraw from an anger-producing situation, turn our feelings inward, attack a substitute, or deal directly with the source of the anger. These four approaches overlap and each of us may shift from one to the other, depending on the individual and the anger producing situation.
1. Withdrawal. Perhaps this is the easiest but least effective way to deal with anger. Withdrawal can take several forms:
leaving the room, taking a vacation, or otherwise removing oneself physically from the situation that arouses anger;
avoiding the problem by plunging into work or other activities, by thinking about other things, or by escaping into a world of television, internet or novels;
hiding the problem by drinking or taking drugs – behavior which also could be used to “get back at” a person who makes us angry; and
denying, consciously or unconsciously, that anger even exists. With people who believe anger is wrong, such denial helps them, at least temporarily, to withdraw from both the anger and its resulting guilt.
2. Turning Inward. Problems are not solved by denying them or by withdrawing. At bext, the relief is only temporary and in time the pressure builds until it bursts out to create more difficulties.
This often happens when anger is held in and not expressed. There may be calmness and smiling on the outside but boiling rage within. This internal anger is a powerful force which may express itself in:
physical symptoms ranging from a mild headache to ulcers, high blood pressure or heart attacks;
psychological reactions such as anxiety, fear, or feelings of tension, and depression (which often results from held-in anger);
unconscious attempts to harm ourselves (seen in accident proneness, in a tendency to make mistakes or even in suicide);
thinking characterized by self-pity, thoughts of revenge, or ruminations on the injustices that one is experiencing; and
spiritual struggles which come because we wallow in bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander, thus “grieving the Holy Spirit of God” by ignoring his spiritual guidance and direction in our lives.
3. Attacking a Substitute. Introductory textbooks in psychology often describe the common human tendency to blame innocent people when things are not going well. The man who is angry with his boss may stifle his anger at work (lest he be fired), but he “takes it out” on his wife or children at home in the evening because this is a safe place to ventilate. The family may not have caused the anger but they bear the brunt of the angry person’s feelings.
Anger is especially difficult to handle when we cannot identify who is to be blamed or when we cannot reach the person who created the situation. If inflation decreases our spending power, who do we blame? The grocer or drugstore manager may be charging higher prices but they alone are not responsible for inflation. If we decide that the real source of the problem rests with some government leader, this may be an aloof, distant person who is difficult to contact and never available to hear our anger and criticism. As a result, we verbally, physically, or cognitively attack some largely innocent but accusable person. Sometimes there may even be an illegal or criminal “acting out” against innocent victims who nevertheless are part of the society. Angry revolutionaries who burn and loot stores in an attempt to bring down a political leader, often do nothing to change the leader but, in giving vent to their anger, they destroy the innocent store owners.
4. Facing the Sources of Anger. This can be done in either a destructive or a constructive way. Regretfully, the destructive approach probably is more common and clearly is less effective.
Destructive reactions, which are directed toward the person or situation that causes the anger, may include verbal and physical aggression, ridicule, cynicism, refusal to cooperate, or involvement in things which will hurt or embarrass someone else. Drinking, failing in school, or having an extramarital affair, for example, sometimes are really subtle ways to attack and get even with parents, a mate, or some other person who has made us angry. In all of this, the person is engaging in the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” philosophy of vengeance which Jesus clearly condemned.
Much more helpful is an approach which admits that there is anger, which tries to see its causes, and then does what is possible to change the anger-producing situation or perhaps to see it in a different way. This is a constructive, anger-reducing approach, which some people only learn with the help of a trainer.
Training and Anger
As we have seen, anger can be a sin and it can harm a person physically, psychologically, spiritually and socially in the form of strained interpersonal relations. But if anger is so harmful, why do so many people seem to take delight in hostility and persist in harboring grudges? Anger often makes people feel powerful, superior and right. Handling the anger maturely and “turning the other cheek” seem to imply that we are weak, inclined to back down, and willing to be “pushed around.” Therefore, in the guise of maintaining our self-esteem or standing up for our rights, we often refuse to take those actions which will change situations and eliminate misunderstanding. Stated briefly, many people apparently enjoy being angry. Training won’t help much because there is little real desire for change. When such an attitude is encountered there can be value in stating your suspicion that the trainee really does not want to change. Be prepared for the trainee to disagree, but this can open further discussion about the trainee’s desires and motives for changing.
When there is a desire for change, however, training can take several forms:
1. Helping Trainee Admit Anger. Anger that is denied will never be eliminated, but sometimes the most difficult goal in training is to help people see and admit that they are angry. Such an admission can be threatening, especially for people who are angry at a loved one or who believe that all anger is wrong. It may help to point out that anger is a common, God-given emotion which, for most people, gets out of control periodically. Point out some of the previously mentioned signs which often indicate hidden anger (e.g., depression, physical complaints, criticism, impatience, and so on). If the trainee persists in denying the anger, even after hearing the evidence, perhaps he or she will admit the possibility that anger is present.
2. Considering the Sources of Anger. Even when denial of anger persists there can be value in asking, “What kinds of things make you anger persists there can be value in asking, “What kinds of things make you angry?” From this general beginning, move to the specifics: “I’d like you to think of a time when you were really mad. Tell me about it.” In discussing concrete examples, the trainee can begin to see what caused the angry feelings, and can understand why he or she reacted in anger. In considering the sources of anger with a trainee, watch for attempts to make excuses. Comments like “I am Irish, so how can I help being angry?” or “My father had ulcers from being angry so I guess it runs in the family” are often attempts to excuse the anger and to avoid facing its real source. As a result, the anger persists.
3. Teaching Trainees the Art of Evaluation. When we begin to feel angry, there is value in asking ourselves some questions.
What is making me feel angry?
Why am I feeling anger and not some other emotion?
Am I jumping to conclusions about the situation or person who is making me angry?
is my anger really justified?
Is it right for me to feel inferior or threatened in this anger-arousing situation?
How might others, including the person who is angering me, view this situation?
Is there another way in which I could look at the situation?
Are there things I could do to change the situation in order to reduce my anger?
The questions listed above, may not dissipate the anger immediately, but it will help it to leave sooner and it will help to stop it from erupting into physical symptoms or in impatience at home or work. Anger which is studied and evaluated loses much of its power.
4. Emphasizing Humility, Confession and Forgiveness. Anger, as we have seen, often leads s to sinful thoughts, desires, words and actions. Teaching people to admit and evaluate their anger can be a first step in dealing with sin, but this is not a permanent solution. Humility, confession, and forgiveness also are of basic importance.
Humility. It is a humbling experience to admit that we are or have been angry, or that we have lost self-control. Some people apparently prefer to remain angry rather than to risk admitting weakness or failure. Others, however, are willing to acknowledge the reality of their anger along with any accompanying sinful side effects. This attitude must come before confession.
Confession. The Bible emphasizes the importance of confessing to God and the value of confessing to others. When we confess to God we can know for certain that we are forgiven. If we confess to one or more fellow believers, they can support, encourage and pray for us.
Forgiveness. Some people know intellectually that they are forgiven, but since they don’t “feel forgiven,” they continue in their guilt. Perhaps one way to feel forgiveness is to meditate repeatedly on 1 John 1:9. An additional technique to be sure that we consistently forgive others.
When Jesus was asked about this one day, he said that we should forgive repeatedly. Then he told a story about forgiveness and anger, concluding that people who refuse to forgive others, in turn will not be forgiven. This has great relevance for those who hold grudges. Their anger is certain to continue, with all of the accompanying misery and tension. in the final analysis, “forgiveness seems to be the chief precedent set in Scripture for the ultimate disposition of angry feelings…. Forgiving can be extremely difficult, especially when the situation remains unjust, but it can be done if responsibility for the situation and our life is abdicated to God’s conntrol.” He can give us the ability to forgive and forget.
5. Teaching Self-Control. When a person gets angry, reason often gives way to feeling, and something is said or done which might be regretted later. There are at least four ways which can help trainees to gain greater self-control when they are inclined to become angry.
Slowing One’s Reactions. The old idea of counting to ten before speaking sometimes helps one to gain control before reacting in rage. Others have suggested the value of speaking slowly, not raising one’s voice, pausing periodically (if possible), flexing the muscles (so they relax), and mentally telling oneself to relax. Certainly “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Dealing with Feelings of Inferiority. Hostility and anger, including prolonged hostility, often indicate that a person feels inferior, insecure and lacing in self-esteem or self confidence. If someone is made to feel inferior, he or she often reacts with anger and an attempt to assert his or her superiority. This is seen in arguments and each trying to make the other feel inferior. As a result there is anger and sometimes a loss of self-control.
Trainees are better able to control their anger when they are helped to develop a healthy self-esteem, based on their value as God’s special creatures/children. In addition, there can be value in the practice of asking oneself, “Am I really as inferior as this situation might suggest?” Then learn to think of the other person’s feelings of inadequacy. One psychiatrist has suggested, for example, that “whatever anyone belittles, acts superior, or is hostile, to you, think of who or what’s been bugging them. No matter how great the provocation or how obnoxious a person seems, your awareness of the forces responsible for any person’s behavior will help you feel less inferior – and thus, less hostile.”
Avoiding an Angry Mind-set. Some people look for the worst in almost every situation. They are perpetually critical, always negative, and invariably hostile. Most people find themselves slipping periodically into a negative mind-set, and unless this is resisted, we get caught in what has been called a “hostility trap.” The Scriptures instruct us to think about things which are right, pure, good and praiseworthy. Surely it is impossible to think such thoughts repeatedly and, at the same time, to wallow in anger, bitterness and hostility. The Apostle Paul had a positive mind-set and an attitude of thanksgiving and praise to God. As a result he avoided anger, even when circumstances were difficult.
Growing Spiritually. Self-control is not something which must be done completely on our own. Self-control is not something which must be done completely on our own. Self-control is listed in Galatians 5 as a fruit of the Spirit. Believers who sincerely desire to be led by the Holy Spirit will discover a slow decline in strife; jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes and other “deeds of the flesh.” With God’s help we can learn love, patience, gentleness and self-control. Only the Christian lifestyle trainer can share such teaching and model it in his or her own life.
6, What about Catharsis? In the preceding paragraphs little has been said about the popular idea that “letting off steam” or venting one’s hostility will decrease feelings of anger. There is no clear research to support this idea and it is never suggested in Scripture. In contrast, some writers have concluded that intense expressions of anger increase instead of decrease hostility.
Acknowledging and dealing with anger is different from venting it, in hopes of “clearing the air.” The former can be an effective approach to the problem. The latter is of questionable value and may intensify the very feelings that the training is attempting to control.
Anger is a God-given emotion which in itself cannot and should not be eliminated or prevented. There are several ways, however in which the unhealthy, destructive, and nonbiblical aspects of anger can be prevented.
1. Biblical Teaching. The Bible, as we have seen, says a great deal about anger, both human and divine. But how often are these teachings shared in a theologically clear and practically relevant way? In the absence of such instruction Christians are confused by the seeming contradictions between the anger of Jesus and the biblical admonitions to control anger. On a practical level there is an uncertainty about one’s own anger and how it can be handled. Repeated teaching about anger and self-control can help individuals to better understand these concepts, to distinguish between righteous anger and personal reactions, and to avoid the lon-lasting destructive effects of anger and hostility.
2. Avoiding Anger-arousing Situations and People. Problems are never solved if we avoid them in an attempt to maintain peace. Sometimes duty or wisdom demand that we squarely face frustrating situations or deal directly with difficult people. But there are times when one can stay away from situations, events or people which are likely to arouse unnecessary anger. The Book of Proverbs states the issue concisely:
Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
lest you learn his ways,
And find a snare for yourself.
3. Learning to Evaluate Situations. It is difficult to control emotions, but we can control the thoughts which give rise to feelings. In the home, but also in the church and school, people can be taught – by words and by example – to evaluate the anger-arousing situation, to realize that they are hurt or disappointed as well as angered, and to respond calmly – without blaming or making statements which will be regretted later. All of this is not something which will be learned completely by hearing a lecture or reading a internet page. Nevertheless, instruction cn be helpful if it gives guidelines for evaluation and self-control. Further learning then will come slowly and by experience, interspersed with failures, which in turn, can teach more about ourselves and about anger-control.
4. Building Self-esteem. It is true that “we can no more insulate ourselves from irritating remarks, attitudes, and actions than we can hide from germs. But we can protect ourselves by maintaining a healthy resistance: a healthy level of Self-Respect. Anger is less destructive and more easily controlled when a person is secure as an individual and not plagued by excessive feelings of inferiority or self-doubt. When Christians have a realistic picture of their value as persons, there is less need or inclination to get angry.
5. Avoiding Ruminating. Here again is the issue of thought-control. When people get angry they often go through the day meditating on the cause of their anger. As this ruminating continues, the original causes are blown up into false proportions and anger increases, especially when critical people associate with other critical people and share their criticisms. In this way, some people develop a whole mind-set of negativism and bitterness which grows worse as they get older.
This kind of thinking can be fun, at first, because it lets the thinker fantasize about his or he own superiority. But since this thinking is destructive and harmful it must be resisted and replaced with thinking which is positive and less critical. This message should be taught and modeled in the church and at home. Such teaching can prevent the harmful built-up of anger.
6. Learning to Confront. Conflict and disagreement are a part of life which cannot be avoided. But people can be encouraged and taught to tell each other how they feel, what they want and what they think. This can be done in a critical confrontation which stimulates anger, but truth may also be spoken in love. This is biblical, and when people learn to communicate honestly and effectively there is a prevention or reduction of destructive anger.
Conclusions about Anger
Within recent years, Christian psychologists have had an increasing interest in the integration of psychology and the Bible. Can biblical teachings and psychological insights combine to help people cope more effectively with the problems of life?
The answer surely is yes. In this lesson, our discussion of anger has shown that the Bible and psychology can combine to increase our understanding pf anger, and can help trainers to be more effective in working wit people who struggle with anger and self-control.
Quality of Life
How Leaders Lead
The fundamental question for leaders is, “How can I move people to do what needs to be done?” For some people, exerting influence seems to come naturally. We all know people like that. When they merely enter a room, they immediately become the focal point. Others defer to them automatically as though instinctively bestowing leadership status upon them. Then there are those who struggle desperately to be heard and followed. They do all they know to do to wield influence on others, but their efforts are in vain. They grow more and more frustrated because no one listens to them. No one seems to value the expertise and wisdom they have to offer.
The ability to influence others is undoubtedly a pivotal requirement for leadership. To quote Oswald Sanders: “Leadership is influence, the ability of one person to influence others.” But what do leaders do to influence people once they assume a new leadership position? In other words, how do leaders lead?
A Christian leader, no matter how gifted, or qualified, has not led unless people have shifted to God’s plan for them. How do Christian leaders accomplish this? First, they need to know what God’s plan is for themselves and in general for others. Christian leaders must take very seriously the weighty responsibility of learning to hear from God themselves before they can hope to equip others to do so. In this regard, the first thing leaders should do is, sadly, the last thing many leaders actually do. The single most important thing leaders should do is pray.
The leader’s prayer life is critical for several reasons. First, nothing of eternal significance happens apart from God. Jesus said it clearly: “Apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5). Leaders who neglect a close relationship with Christ will be unable to accomplish God’s will through their organizations. It’s that simple. Leaders are doer. The challenge for many is that they think of prayer as too passive. Taking time to pray can seem liking wasting precious time. Prayerless leaders can keep full schedules, but they will look back over their activity and realize that, despite their best efforts, nothing of eternal consequence occurred. Biblical praying can be the most challenging, exhausting, laborious, and yet rewarding thing leaders ever do.
Second, prayer is essential because to be a spiritual leader, one must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Leaders cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. Only God can do that (Eph. 5:18). While all Christians have the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives, the condition of being filled by the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives, the condition of being filled by the Holy Spirit comes through concentrated, fervent, sanctified prayer, trustful and committed servant living. God’s promise is: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart: (Jer. 29:13). Without the Spirit’s activity, people may be leaders, but they are not Christian leaders.
God’s wisdom is a third reward for dedicated praying. God is infinitely wiser than the most astude leader (Rom. 8:26-27; 1 Cor. 2:9). He knows the future. He knows what the leader’s opponents are thinking. He knows what the economy will be like. God knows what he wants to accomplish and how he intends to do it. God’s invitation to leaders is “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jer. 33:3). For leaders to have this kind of relationship available to them and then choose not to communicate with the one who wants to guide them is a gross dereliction of duty (Luke 18:1-8).
God is all-powerful. That is a fourth reason leaders should pray. God’s promise is open ended: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7 NIV). The most powerful position leaders assume is when they kneel.
A fifth reason to pray is that prayer is the leader’s best remedy for stress. Scripture encourages leaders to cast “all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). When leaders allow Christ to carry their emotional and spiritual loads, this takes enormous pressure off them and allows them to face even the most difficult assignments with peace.
Finally , God reveals his plans through prayer. Jesus modeled this truth in his life (Mark 1:30-39). More than any other single thing leaders do, it is their prayer life that determines their effectiveness. if leaders spend adequate time communing with God, the people they encounter that day will notice the difference.
There will be times when leaders will come to the end of their own resources. There are simply some things that can only be achieved through prayer (Ps. 50:15).
Leaders Work Hard
Leaders dramatically influence the culture of their organizations through their own work habits. Leaders should set the pace for others. Leaders should not ask their people to undertake tasks they are unwilling to perform themselves (e.g., cleaning the toilets, changing the diapers in the nursery, etc.).
A willingness to sacrifice gives leaders much more authority with their people than does their position in the organization. History is filled with examples of great leaders who enjoyed ultimate success only after enduring great suffering. Life offers few shortcuts to greatness.
If leaders want their people to arrive at work on time, leaders must set the standard for punctuality. If leaders want their people to go an extra mile, leaders must go two. If leaders need their people to work late to complete a project, their people should not see their leaders leaving the parking lot promptly at quitting time. Leaders influence others by their example.
Wise leaders are sensitive to model a good example before their people. It is because astute leaders understand that one of their greatest sources of influence over their followers is their example.
A leader’s reputation is developed over time. Destroying a reputation only takes an unguarded moment. People will naturally conclude that whatever their leader talks about the most is what they consider to be the most important.
The bottom line is this: Leadership is hard work. Some people look for easy paths to leadership positions. They are the ones who seek jobs that require minimum effort but provide the maximum pay.
The reason there are not more great Christian leaders in our day is that there are not more men and women willing to pay the price. Christian leaders are people who serve the King of kings (Who better?). Their work is kingdom work. The results of their work are eternal. Having such a responsibility ought to compel them to labor far more diligently than those whose labors are only for the temporal.
Most leaders may not have the eloquence of Churchill or Martin Luther King Jr., but they can still be effective communicators The key to successful communication is clarity, not verbosity . Robert Greenleaf suggests this poignant self-check for speakers: “In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?” Greenleaf also cautions, “From listening comes wisdom, from speaking comes repentance.” Leaders ought to be students of language and communication (Communication is covered in depth, within the Pastor training course).
Perhaps the greatest Christian influence on leadership theory has been in the area of “servant leadership.” Leaders cannot truly serve people they do not love. They may perform acts of service but their followers will rightly perceive their actions as insincere and manipulative unless they are done because of genuine concern.
Leaders come to Christian organizations filled with righteous zeal to see the Lord’s work accomplished. Because they are striving to achieve God’s goals, they can assume no price is too great. When leaders stop loving their people, they stand tempted to use them, to neglect them, and to discard them.
Leaders who are unable to love their people and who are unwilling to consider their needs, are insecure in their own identity. Why was Jesus able to humble himself and wash his disciples’ filthy feet? Scripture says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God ….” Jesus knew where he had come from and where he was going. He was not insecure about his identity. His self worth was not on the line. He was dead center in his Father’s will and he knew it. That made all the difference.
The second requirement for servant leadership, therefore is self-knowledge. Leaders must know and accept who they are. Insecure people worry about how other people perceive them. They fear that serving others may cause people to take advantage of them or to think less of them. People who are secure in their identity are not enslaved by the opinions or affirmation of others. They are free to serve.
Third, Christlike servant leaders must understand whom they serve. On the topic of servant leadership, there is some confusion about whom leaders actually serve. Christian leaders are not their people’s servants; they are God’s. Even as Jesus served his disciples, there was no question in anyone’s mind that he was still their Lord.
Christian leaders ought to serve their people. But their acts of service should be motivated and directed by the Holy Spirit. When leaders are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and serve their people, they encourage a corporate culture in which people willingly serve one another. When people serve each other ungrudgingly, they forge a unity that enables their organization to accomplish far more than if individuals worked on their own. Servanthood breaks down barriers and eliminates turf wars. Jesus’ disciples needed to understand that they were servants of the Lord and because of this, they would be called upon to serve one another. When the disciples learned this lesson, they were ready to turn their world upside down.
Leaders Maintain Positive Attitudes
A pessimistic leader is a contradiction in terms. Leaders, by virtue of their role, are obligated to nurture positive attitudes. True leaders understand that no matter how difficult the task before them, a group of people being led by the Holy Spirit can accomplish anything God asks of them (Rom. 8:31).
It is a natural inclination for people to get discouraged in the midst of adversity, but a fundamental role of leaders is to maintain a positive attitude under every circumstance. Good morale is intrinsically linked with a good sense of humor.
Great leaders don’t make excuses. They make things better. They are not unrealistic or blind to the difficulties they face. They simply are not discouraged by them. They never lose confidence that the problems can be solved. They maintain a positive attitude. Great leaders don’t blame their people for not being where they ought to be; they take their people from where they are, to where they need to be. Great leaders never lose faith that this is possible.
Leaders should pay close attention to their attitudes, for these serve as barometers to the condition of their hearts. When leaders become pessimistic, cynical or critical, they need to evaluate the causes. Perhaps they have been focusing on what people are doing rather than on what God has promised. Maybe pride is corrupting their thoughts, or insecurity is causing them to be overly defensive. Whatever the reason, a wise leader will recognize these attitudes as symptoms of an unhealthy relationship with God. Busy leaders neglect their prayer life and wind up overwhelmed with anxiety. Such people need a fresh encounter with God. A wise practice for those in leadership roles is to invite a few trusted friends and associates to help monitor their attitudes. Making oneself accountable to a small group of trusted people can ensure that unhealthy attitudes and actions are dealt with before they harm both the leader and the organization.
Effective leadership does not happen by chance. It happens on purpose. There are certain leadership practices that anyone can exercise if they are serious about becoming an effective leader. Those who diligently follow these five guidelines are well on their way to becoming influential Christian leaders.
Stewardship of Influence
Influence is a powerful thing. With influence comes a tremendous responsibility. When people trust their leaders, they give them the benefit of the doubt. Influence used for selfish purpose is nothing more than crass manipulation and political scheming. People need to know their leaders have their best interests at heart.
When leaders experience moral failure, the repercussions are devastating. Leaders are symbols of their organizations. They are the repositories of their people’s trust. When they prove untrustworthy, they shatter the faith and confidence of their people. People need to know they can trust their leaders. Leaders assume a higher level of accountability because there is more at stake if they fail. When God entrusts Quality of Life to people, he also holds those leaders accountable for their stewardship of influence. Christian leaders should never accept new leadership positions without much prayerful consideration.
The responsibility of leading people carries with it a frightening sense of accountability (2 Cor. 5:9-11). Failing to lead well not only affects the leader but it also can cause irreparable harm to many other people both inside and outside the organization. On the other hand influencing people to achieve God’s best for them and for their organization brings an irrepressible joy and a sense of satisfaction that makes all the efforts to lead others a worthwhile endeavor. Paul knew that if he led well: “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day …” (2 Tim. 4:8).
Messages from God.
1 Peter 5:7
Exodus 4:10-12; Isaiah 6:5-7; Jeremiah 1:9
2 Samuel 23:15
Open my heart, Almighty God. Give me knowledge which is beyond ordinary knowledge. Teach me more about your love, your Word, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
1. What do you understand “holism” to be?
2. What do you think about the Hebrew idea that all brokenness in our lives is the result of a broken relationship with God?
3. People who let physical needs and desires dominate their lives are fairly obvious. Can you describe someone who lets the intellectual part dominate? The social part? The emotional part? The spiritual part?
4. Have you ever fallen into one of the “Pitfalls in being holistic” in your relating with someone? What happened to that training relationship?
5. What are some examples of how you could train the needy in your community, nation, and world in a holistic manner?
6. Broken/Whole – 25-30 minutes.
Take about five minutes each to share two things:
1. Examples of wholeness in your life.
2. Examples of brokenness in your life.
7. Causes and Effects 10-12 minutes
Share a physical problem you are experiencing now, or have experienced in the past. Then I want you to explore the question of how other persons affliction might have emotional and spiritual effects or even causes. For example, you might suffer from chronic lower back pain. Could there be any relationship between your back pain and the anger you feel towards your children, but don’t express? Could both the back pain and the anger be related in turn to a struggle with keeping Christ at the center of your life? Any questions about what we’re doing? take about five minutes to explore other person’s problem. Go ahead.”
8. Strengths/Weaknesses – Time 10 minutes
Take about two minutes to tell the things you do best.”
“For the next four minutes, share those things you do worst. Take four minutes.”
9. Finally, close your time together with prayer for your class, thanking God for your classes strengths and weaknesses and for the overall wholeness God has given your class.