Can I Use My First Initial?

Over on the ol’ Twitter machine I posted one of my favorite new books, Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders* (buy it here). First of all, how smart and/or accomplished do you have to become to start using your first initial when you teach or publish? S. Ray Brannon? Just doesn’t necessarily have a good ring to it. Guess I don’t have anything to worry about either way…

Anyway, I did want to give a quick post on a small excerpt from that book that I thought was especially profound. Sanders takes his readers to Mark 10. In this section of scripture, the disciples are asking (arguing) over who would sit on the glorious throne with Jesus. As an only child, I too would probably be guilty like James and John’s sneaky attempts to take advantage of their outspoken mother who was ambitious about the topic.

When Jesus teaches us of leadership, it is such a revolutionary idea that it cannot be understated for those of us men and women serving in ministry today. The primary principles that Jesus teaches in Mark 10 are this:

The Suffering Principle of Spiritual Leadership Mark 10:38

Jesus was never one to use non-confrontational or diffusive language and this is certainly not the case here either. If I were Jesus, I would be much more likely to skirt around issues, find positive ways to offer new information, or maybe even tell an illustration in such a confusing way that my listeners didn’t even understand. Not Jesus. Not here. He comes straight at His closest followers with hard truth. If you are going to follow Me, and you are going to be a spiritual leader in the decades to come, you must understand there will be suffering.

In the words of Sanders, “The task was magnificent and difficult; men and women leading in that task must have eyes wide open, and hearts willing to follow the Master all the way.” As both aspiring and current spiritual leaders, our greatest cause of suffering comes both from within and without. Let’s resolve to commit to fighting the temptation of sin and no longer exacerbate the cause of suffering by our own volition. May we not “shoot ourselves in the spiritual foot” by our own love of sin and self. And may we also make a daily commitment to understand that following Jesus in our society, the day in and day out ground of our secular culture will bring suffering. Sanders (again), “True leaders must be willing to suffer for the sake of objectives great enough to demand their wholehearted obedience.” But my, how that suffering is but a dissolving vapor incinerated by the glory of God.

The Sovereignty Principle of Spiritual Leadership Mark 10:40

Jesus tells the guys, “Whoa, whoa, whoa fellas, it is not my job to determine who is Varsity and JV. That’s not for me to decide. God already has decided to whom He will grant the blessing of spiritual leadership and reward.” (all of that quote, of course, in the RSE – Revised Stephen Edition). The Bible is full of men and women who are spiritual leaders with shortcomings and flaws. But the Bible teaches us that in God’s great sovereignty He uses any and all who have a humble and contrite hearts. Sanders writes, “The Bible shows us that when God does find a person who is ready to lead, to commit to full discipleship, and take on responsibility for others, that person is used to the limit.” Man, doesn’t that just give you goosebumps?! It’s not about me – it’s about God and His sovereignty surveying the landscape and seeing me worthy of His workmanship.

So whether you are thinking about stepping up your ministry game, joining full-time ministry, or have already devoted a lifetime of vocational ministry, my hope is these twin principles as taught by Jesus in Mark 10 will renew your spirit and commitment to be healthy Christ-following, spiritual leaders.

*my apologies. a late night post was bound to cause a late-night typo…”Slippy, Slappy, Swanson…Samsonite!”