Posts Tagged ‘Bryan Collier’

The Second Need of Leadership: Wisdom

(This is installment 3 of Leadership Lessons from the Kings)

Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around.  And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong…(1 Kings 3:7-9)

Solomon, the boy king, was offered a “blank check” by God and instead of cashing it on material possessions, fame or power he asks God for wisdom.  I am not sure that Solomon at his age knew what he was asking for.  In fact it was likely out of desperation that made his request.  No doubt, his court was full of advisers and wise men who would have gladly filled the request.  For some reason, Solomon did not think their wisdom sufficient and so he asks God for it for himself.

If the first need of a leader is a relationship with God, the second need of a leader is the wisdom that comes from God.  There will always be plenty of people who offer their opinion and call it wisdom, but the leader has to be able to discern what is foolishness, what is worldly wisdom and what is God’s wisdom on the matter.  Leaders often find themselves surrounded by people who want what they want for the leader or they want what the leader wants for the leader, but finding people who want what God wants for the leader even thought it may cost them is a rare thing.  The leader who can claim such an adviser can certainly count themselves as blessed.

However, there is another level of wisdom that cannot be assigned to advisers.  When decisions come, surveying the data is important, listening to wise counsel is equally important—but seeking God’s wisdom is the key to leading wisely.  Sometimes the data and counsel both point to something that make sense in the moment, but only God can see clearly the outcomes.

Bryan Collier

Bryan Collier

The Israelites, under Joshua’s command found themselves in this position when they made a peace treaty with the Gibeonites (9:14).  The Israelites examined the “data” and did what seemed right and faithful, but the telling words are “…but they did not consult the Lord.”  The consequences of what seemed like a wise decision were substantial.

Solomon asked for godly wisdom, for a constant consultative relationship on the front end of his tenure.  He didn’t wait for a crisis or for a specific incident in which he needed God’s wisdom.  He knew given his task and responsibility that his need for godly wisdom was going to be a constant.

The godly leader understands the need for wisdom beyond the data, and beyond wise counsel…it is a wisdom that only comes from God.  Blessed is the godly leader who asks for it before they need it.

The First Need of Leadership

Bryan Collier

Bryan Collier

The book of 1 Kings is a study in leadership.  Adonijah, whom we read about in chapter 1 (and in my last post) was an agent of his own demise and other’s demise because he had never been disciplined.

Chapter 2 and 3 introduce us to a child king whose story is very different.  From the undisciplined passions of David came Solomon whose great restraint in chapter 3 honors God and therefore God honors him.  However, a key conversation between Solomon and David occurs in David’s last days that are recorded in chapter 2.

As the time of King David’s death approached, he gave this charge to his son Solomon:

 “I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man.  Observe the requirements of the LORD your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go.  (1 Kings 2:1-3)

One wonders what might have become of Adonijah if David had instructed him as he did Solomon.  Solomon was only a child but he heeded his father’s charge about what the first need of a leader was – a relationship with God.  David did not tell Solomon to pursue wisdom or provision, or blessing—but to pursue the One who was the Source of those things and more.

I am often tempted as a leader to pursue the “thing” and not the “Source.”  I can gain understanding through study, provision by effort and blessing by courting the favor of those who can bless me.  But there is something dangerous in my pursuit of the “thing”—it becomes my god.  When I pursue understanding for understanding’s sake I elevate the importance of knowledge and judge (and often belittle) those who don’t possess as much knowledge or regard knowledge as highly as I do.

The same thing can be said for provision and blessing.  If provision is my pursuit then I make an idol out of the level of provision I desire and I become a slave to favors I owe when blessing comes by human favor.

Solomon, as his inheritance, already had more than enough provision and blessing and his decrees would have been obeyed even if they were unwise.  But he wanted something more.  He wanted the life that he had seen his father David enjoy in relationship with the living God.

There is a reason that David is regarded as the greatest king the nation of Israel has ever known and a reason that Solomon is regarded as the richest.  Solomon lost his way as he began to revert to his own idea of blessing and provision—and in doing so he laid Godly wisdom aside.  How different his life might have been if he had finished as he began.

We see both in David’s end and in Solomon’s beginning the first need of a leader—a relationship with God in which the Source, not the thing is pursued.  For what we pursue will not only determine our beginning, it will determine our ending.

 

Seek Boundaries and Discipline

Now [Adonijah’s] father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, “why are you doing that?” 1 Kings 1:6

Bryan Collier

Last year I worked my way through Scripture; as I finished one book I would let my heart and the Holy Spirit lead me to the next book to read. As I finished Matthew’s Gospel and asked God for a leading, it was clear that I was being led to 1 Kings. “1 Kings?” I asked God, “are you sure?” I knew there was that great story about Solomon offering to divide the baby between two quarrelsome women, but other than that, “1 Kings?”

Only six verses in, however, I begin to find plenty of interesting guidance for my circumstances and these truths cropped up twenty-two times in twenty-two chapters.

Adonijah was never disciplined.  In fact, as the text points out, he was never questioned. This is dangerous for a child, but the consequences for the adult who was treated this way as a child are devastating. Adonijah moved into a position that was not his and his life was endangered—simply because no one ever told him “no.” He never received discipline or the discipline of boundaries that keep us back from the bottomless pits of self-destruction.

I wonder how many times I assume roles and positions that were not meant for me. For lack of discipline, both “being disciplined” and “acting disciplined,” I end up in places that are not only a danger to me, but endanger others and God’s will for them. Patience, waiting, listening, and seeking need to be a part of any leader’s discernment. The humility to received discipline and the seeking of those who will administer it in our lives is a Divine necessity in any next steps that we would take in furthering God’s Kingdom. Discipline and boundaries are to be sought, not avoided if we are to help someone take Next Steps…or take them ourselves.

 

 

 

 

Bryan CollierI read with great interest Dr. Dunnam’s recent blog post “The View from Here General Conference: A Balancing Act of Responsible Action. I not only deeply respect Dr. Dunnam’s observations but also wholeheartedly agree with each of them. I wonder, however, if the work of pruning might be simplified by an equation we use around The Orchard. It goes like this—“If we will do what is right for the Kingdom of Christ it will always be what is right for the church.” That is the equation, but then we tack on a reminder—but the equation won’t work the other way. If we do what is right for the church we have no assurances that those decisions are right for the Kingdom. One equation is Christ-centered and world focused; one is self-centered and preservation focused.

Now I know at the General Church level we have sharp disagreements about what is right for the Kingdom. In truth, sober-mindedness about the severity of this divide might be the thing that ultimately separates us. We want different things. Some want to preserve the United Methodist Church and yet are making decisions that are killing it. It is only as we make decisions about what is right for the Kingdom and act in accordance with those decisions that The United Methodist Church continues to be a useful instrument in the hand of God to accomplish his purposes in the world. When we lose this usefulness we should expect to be laid aside by God. Wesley and his friends tried desperately to reform the Anglican Church and when it would not be reformed, something new was born—a Holy Club that became the seed of Methodism. We should work for reform, but not be surprised, if this church will not be reformed, that something new is born. Only “something new” that is focused on doing what is right for the Kingdom of Christ and that understands the equation doesn’t work the other way, will see the vibrancy that Christ intended for his Body because it is aligned with His purposes.

People ask me all the time why we are experiencing exponential growth at The Orchard. One of the reasons I give them is that we desperately want to do what is right for the Kingdom of Christ—knowing that is what will be right for the church. Some of our greatest failings have come when we got the equation backwards—because it is a one-way equation. I fear most of our denominational failings can be attributed to the same mistake.

Bryan Collier

He hung around after the service to ask me an important question. Jack wanted to know if he would be “welcomed here.” I answered that I hoped he already had been since we were through with the service. But he pressed on to tell me about how he was a misfit. He fit the part: disheveled, clothes worn thin, thinning hair, in need of a bath and walking with a severe limp, feeling as much a relational misfit because by his own admission Jack was homosexual. He was moving from a town, to our town because there was no place for his “kind” and he began looking for a church where he could attend because he had promised his daughter he would attend church if they would just relocate.

What was as unusual as Jack’s story was the way he found our church – he and his daughter went to the local library to search online for a church where “misfits fit.” After hours online Jack didn’t feel like there were any churches that looked promising, so, after telling his story to the reference librarian he quizzed her if she knew a church where they would be welcomed. Her response is one of the most prized compliments our church has ever received. She said, “You need to go to The Orchard. They take anybody.”

What made this statement even more complimentary, is that the reference librarian attended a different church!

At The Orchard we understand that it takes an incredible amount of patience with people who are coming to faith. While we will never tell people that a lifestyle of life-taking habits are acceptable, we will walk with them in patience as God coaxes them toward his life-giving way.

Several times a year, a new family to The Orchard will make an appointment to talk to me about membership. By now, after several of these appointments, I am well prepared for the conversation that is about to happen.

Generally the couple will come in, sit down and begin with compliments about our church. “We really love the music.” Or “We really enjoy the sermon” or some other encouragement. Eventually they get around to saying, “We really love The Orchard; we just can’t join. See, we live next door to some people who say this is their church home. In fact they invited us. But do you know what they do during the week? If that is the kind of church this is then we can’t join.”

My response usually shocks them. “I do know what they are doing during the week. I know it seems inconsistent for someone who goes to church and calls The Orchard their church home. But you should have seen them last year!”

My point is that we cannot expect people who are not Christians to act like Christians until they are. And, furthermore, we cannot expect new Christians to act like mature Christians when they aren’t. They don’t know they shouldn’t act a certain way, go certain places, or do certain things until someone tells them and the Holy Spirit convicts them!

One of the problems Christians have in reaching people who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus is that after having been a Christian for a while they don’t know anyone who is not a Christian. They spend most of their time with Christians and sooner or later Christian behavior becomes the expected norm so much so that they cannot tolerate anyone who does not act like or sometimes even think like a Christian.

The problem is no less prominent in churches. Too often our churches expect that people who come to church will behave themselves both inside and outside the church. The church needs to be reminded that we cannot expect people to act like Christians until they are and then only as the church takes the responsibility to teach them everything Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:20).

It is easy to understand why Jesus had to emphasize that he came for the sick, because religious leaders forget that truth in light of their preference for the whitewashed. Therefore, those who do attend church feel the need to pretend and those who cannot pretend simply do not attend! Churches must communicate loudly and clearly, “you don’t have to have it all together to attend here.” And then they have to communicate Christ’s promise that with the Spirit’s guidance, we will figure it out together.

This means that we may spend more time reading the felony arrests than the obituaries. We may spend late nights picking up parishioners from bars or visiting them in jail. But the church that communicates “we take anybody” through relationship and through the constant affirmation that “there is a place for you here” will find that they have a ministry in the nature and character of Christ.