Powerful Spiritual Leadership Is Not Limited to the Spiritual Environment
Attending a church where spiritual leadership depends solely upon the thoughts, impressions and decisions of a single leader or group of leaders is depressing and sad. It often presents an illusion of freedom that is in truth bogged down by a limited vision of Jesus, worship and freedom. Such “restricted” guidance may seem dedicated to the preservation of sound doctrine and reliable church principles, yet it is in fact a source of dogmatism.
Leadership that ignores growth loses touch with true Christianity. A judgmental spirit of censorship limits freedom of discussion. Both Sunday school and preaching is limited to an isolated spiritual environment wherein the technology, knowledge and resources of the secular world are totally and completely ignored, resented and repressed. The church mission is off-center, out of touch with both sinners and saints, and eventually rejected by both. A limited range of spiritual influence ensures an imploding church assembly.
Now such a statement surely brings to mind the words recorded in Romans 12:2 wherein we are commanded to reject the patterns of the world in favor of renewing our mind through the power of the Word. But when interpretations of this scripture are limited to the rejection of sound teaching principles and training tools merely because they were first developed and used by the secular world, the ministry is merely promoting a bias and self-serving rejection.
Such dogmatic spiritual leadership is what moved reformer Martin Luther to oppose the traditions and the “Scriptures as interpreted by tradition” that exited in the 1517 Roman Catholic Church. This church used spiritual influence not to help people grow but rather to impose tradition upon its followers (1). Martin Luther had come to grasp the fourth most important truth in the entire Bible: “…the just shall live by faith.”
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith,” (Romans 1:16,17).
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Bible is not intended to be limited to the understanding of a chosen few. In the times of Luther, Scripture was confined to Latin and used as a tool to dominate less informed individuals. In this modern age, the men seek to confine understanding to a particular version of the King James script. Yet even in such arrogance, those who hold this “absolute” translation see fit at times to change the meanings of the words. Do they not understand? Can they not see? If God uses the Scriptures to reveal Himself to all men, why then would He limit the understanding to the crew of King James?
Yet I do not condemn the King James script, for it is as useful by the Spirit as is any other translation. In fact, I take great pleasure in the poetic style of that ancient translation. Yet I also understand that the Bible exist not as a dogmatic selection of words but rather as a means by which men may understand the thoughts, intends and purposes of God.
The problem is simple: When Holy Scripture is interpreted by tradition bullies rule the pulpit. This is not because all tradition is bad, but rather because some spiritual “masters” demand obedience to tradition above Holy Spirit revealed Scriptural truths. Thus the Catholic Church encountered the error of such teaching when they refused to accept any translation other than Latin. Earnest men will seek God’s truth, and no amount of denominational dogmatism will hinder that process.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).
Strong Spiritual Leadership Has Faith In The Interpretative Powers of the Holy Spirit
Some may say, “Be in the world, but not of the world” and they fully understand the God-intentions of those words. Others use the words to develop a dominant church management that refuses to acknowledge reliable methods of teaching merely because those methods involve secularly developed practices. The use of videos, audio and study guides should never replace the words of Scripture. However, refusal to use proven methods of learning displays spiritual ignorance rather than spiritual leadership.
Furthermore, refusal to examine Bible viewpoints that are outside of the traditionally accepted denominational interpretations reveals a certain fear of being caught in error. With understanding comes greater illumination and with greater illumination comes greater spiritual growth. You, oh man may try, but you will never constrain the spirit of a true Christian for “he who is free is free indeed.” The greatest service any spiritual leader can offer is that of teaching those within his or her range of spiritual influence how to hear the God who speaks through Scripture – be that Scripture translated via the King James interpreters, the authors of the Catholic “Free Man’s” paraphrase or the teaching of a God-gifted leader using all the tools made available to modern man.
Likewise, the foolish concept that the Holy Spirit’s powers of illumination are limited to any particular translation of Scripture fully ignores the ability of the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and error to those who trust in His leadership. A good study guide presents Scripture in the format that best suits the occasion. Wise teachers pull text from whatever translation best helps the students comprehend the thoughts, intents and purposes of a living God. A great spiritual leader strives not to enforce tradition but rather to find the best means of helping both the saved and the unsaved grasp, understand and apply the written Word of God in its entirety.
Now we know that not all Scriptural translations adhere to the thoughts, intends and purposes of God. Some are crafted and designed by demons. Yet we are not so ignorant as to ignore sound doctrine in any translation. Faith in God demands that we also trust His ability to reveal to His children what is truth and what is error. If you are God-lead, teach as the Spirit leads and learn to trust the power of the Holy Spirit for illumination.
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you,” (John 16:13-15 KJV).
High Stakes Demand Adaptable Leadership
At times, Christian leaders function entirely within the realm of spiritual environments. At other times, those leaders may be required to function within a secular environment. Now we know that compromise on the core Christian principles cannot be accepted. However, we should also take a lesson from the book of Daniel wherein a young man stands on Godly principles but never purposefully evokes the wrath of the secular leaders. Have you ever asked yourself why Daniel wrote of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah using the pagan names that were imposed upon them? Could it be that a bit of compromise with the secular society strengthened and preserved his position of spiritual leadership and spiritual influence?
“Among those chosen were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all of whom were from the tribe of Judah. The chief official gave them new names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” (Daniel 1:6,7 “Good News Translation.”
Yea, even our Lord and Savior revealed a teaching method that included the words and terms that were applicable to the age. The high stakes of reaching a lost world and of teaching Christians how to best understand and apply the Word of God demands an adaptable form of spiritual leadership. Use your spiritual influence to reach people in a manner that they can understand. Seek to guide rather than to control.
You cannot define to the unlearned the principles of a television by insisting upon reading from a technical document. Neither can you explain salvation without first penetrating any existing language barriers.Your job is to reach anyone within your range of spiritual influence by whatever honest and just means remain available. Use training books such as “The Smart Guide to the Bible” series, quotes from powerful Christian writers, and any translation of the Scriptures that is necessary to meet the learning and reading level of your students (2).
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” (2-Peter 1:19-21 KJV).