This sermon was rewritten on 27th February 2011. Much appropriate for sharing in leadership circles.
Image by: Ezyan Y.
With great power comes great responsibility (Spider Man – Year 2002)
Leadership is not dictating or controlling. But every leader inherits certain powers and privileges as God equips every man and woman whom He calls to take the responsibility of leading His church.
As messiah Jesus was anointed with the power of the Holy Ghost by God Himself. Jesus needed this power to complete his earthly ministry before dying in the cross.
When Satan tempted Jesus, the main scope of the temptation was to make Jesus abuse these powers and privileges for personal gain. There are many other servants of God in the Bible who abused their powers and privileges (Ex: David, Samson, Saul and Solomon…) Unlike them Jesus used his powers with a great sense of responsibility and overcame the tempter also.
Today we are challenged with the same temptation. God’s leaders are giving into the temptation of abusing ministerial privileges and powers.
Today’s sermon is about recognizing the culprits that make leaders to abuse the powers of leadership and how to overcome them.
Related Bible verses: Matthew 4:1-11
1. Don’t seek to satisfy your own needs, (Matthew 4:1-4)
Jesus was hungry after fasting and praying for 40 days. He was like any other human and it was natural. The Tempter seized the opportunity and told Jesus to take a stone and turn it into bread if He is the son of God.
Did Satan really challenged Jesus to prove that He is indeed the son of God?Definitely not. Rather he reflected on Jesus’ powers and privileges as the son of God and suggested that He use these powers and privileges to meet His own needs.
There were two basic principles at work here.
A. Satan enters into the scene when Jesus was most vulnerable. (Jesus had fasted for 40 days and now he was hungry)
B. Satan brought forth an undeniable excuse. (Jesus was hungry – there’s nothing wrong with using His powers to fill the stomach)
Let me use a real life scenario to further explain my point.
I. Helen and her husband were committed Christians.
II. But They had a little secret. Bob was hooked on gambling (They compromised and it would leave them vulnerable very soon).
III. He called it “gaming” not gambling (sounds reasonable)
IV. Spend he did, but win he didn’t. That’s when Helen got desperate. (Helen actually becomes vulnerable)
V. Helen was the accountant of the local church (She has some degree of power and privilege)
V. She found herself tempted to “borrow” funds from the church for temporary support-fully intending to pay them back (The temptation to abuse her privileges and powers meet her own need plus another excuse for doing so).
VI. Finally she took funds from the church but could never pay back until her sin was exposed (temptation was completed).
Jesus was supposed use His power to meet the needs of the people he ministered to and for God’s greater purposes.
This is true not only in the realm of Spiritual leadership or Christian stewardship but also to the secular leadership. Do you abuse the powers and privileges of your leadership by using the resources (that the organization has kept under your dispensation) to meet your personal needs? It’s true that nobody is watching. But God is watching and we are accountable to God for everything that we do.
2. Get rid of celebrity mentality, (Matthew 4:5-7)
Again what Satan told Jesus was true. The angels will come and save Jesus indeed, but no one would want to crucify Him, and God’s plan for redemption will be sabotaged. Jesus sticked to His goal instead. Jesus knew that He came to the world to do the Father’s will not to become a stunt man or a super star.
Christian leaders can and in the past have used their leadership authority to receive unhealthy attention. Today many Christian leaders represent an unhealthy, celebrity-centered approach to ministry. They are becoming a substitute for the Lord and his word.
I know pastors who boast about their ministerial achievements, educational qualifications, personality when they stand behind the pulpit to preach God’s word. Some even make it a place to blame other pastors whom they don’t agree with.
These are sure signs of spiritual pride. Spiritual pride is one of the deep pitfalls leaders must be aware of. It isn’t wrong to feel satisfied after successfully accomplishing a ministerial task. God wants you to serve Him with gladness and sense of satisfaction (Serve the Lord with Gladness Psalms 100:2 – KJV).
For instance I feel very joyful,
A. When some one leaves a comment in this blog
B. When a visitor emails one of these sermons to a friend
C. When there are new subscribers
D. When someone sends me an email appreciating my hard work
E. When some one purchases ad space in the blog or receiving a payment for my AdSense revenue generated through this blog gives me a great sense of achievement.
The problem occurs when we don’t know to discern between spiritual pride and sense of achievement. Often Christian Leaders who stand under the lime light are prone to this error.
Another danger is that such leaders think they are bullet proof, untouchable and thus tend to walk on the edge. Let me conclude this point by sharing another story (Names are not real).
Shawn a youth pastor, wanted to help Jenifer. She was trapped in a destructive dating relationship and had no support at home. Her divorced parents were so busy trying to hold their own lives together that they had no time for their daughter.
Shawn began to spend a disproportionate amount of time with Jenifer. He was warned about his risky behavior; He justified his actions saying that Jenifer needs to know Christ’s love, and he wasn’t about to let her down as everybody else had.
Several years later, after Jenifer had gone away to college, the head of Shawn’s church board received a call from Jenifer’s campus Pastor. Jenifer had experienced a significant spiritual awakening and had confessed to being sexually involved with Shawn.
The consequences were devastating to Shawn, to his wife and young child, to Jenifer and her family, to the church and the community, and to the denomination in which Shawn was just beginning to move into significant leadership.
He was removed from the church, and his ordination was revoked. He would never again serve in ordained ministry. (taken from “Moody Magazine”, January/February 2001)
3. Don’t take shortcuts, (Matthew 4:7-10)
Satan offers the kingdoms of the world and their “splendor” without showing their sin. Jesus, however, came to remove sin. Here was a temptation to achieve power by taking a shortcut to fullest messianic authority, side stepping the cross and introducing idolatry.
In the modern era ministry has become a competitive way of ascending one’s self Thus many ministers seek to take shortcuts to stay on top of the ladder.
Why is it wrong to take shortcuts? Why do something the harder way when you can do it the easy way? The problem is, taking shortcuts in ministry and the spiritual realm may require compromising.
This is a temptation that will definitely appear cloaked in the context of Ministry. In reality ministry is a task in which God’s servant has to thrive with the help of His grace. There are no shortcuts in ministry. In ministry you can’t rush the work of the Holy Spirit.
How do we compromise in ministry?
A. A common problem is pastors picking members from other churches in the neighborhood.
B. Backbiting the fellow minister to prevent Him from reaching the full potential of his ministry so that he wont become a problem for me in the future.
C. Surrounding my self with “yes men” in order to feel more secure in ministry.
D. Investing my time devoted to family and to spend at the feet of Jesus in ministerial tasks hoping it will improve things.
When we compromise for the sake of ministry the ministry itself becomes an idol worship.
4. In conclusion, (Matthew 4:10-11)
Jesus’ source of wisdom
The Bible was Jesus’ source of that helped Him to overcome the tempter and the temptation for abusing power. Jesus quoted from scriptures each and every time Satan attempted to confuse Him. Every leader must recognize his or her utter dependence on God’s word. Jesus’ food is to do the will of His Father who sent him.
Resisting the devil
Jesus submitted unto the authority of God’s word and rebuked the devil without letting him to fool around anymore. The author of James recognizes what Jesus did as resisting the devil, (James 4:7). This takes spiritual discipline and a leader is not a leader until he learns to lead himself.