How can Christian leaders persevere over the long term?

Can you think of one Christian leader who has significantly influenced you? What was it about them that had such an influence on you?

As many of you know it’s a great privilege to serve in churches, to serve the true and living God, to serve the risen Lord Jesus as he builds his church. It’s a privilege to see God working in your life, and working in the lives of others. Sometimes leadership seems to involve just being amazed as you see God doing his work in people’s lives. Most of the work that happens in churches is done by people who are doing it for nothing, they do it because they love serving Jesus.

Yet that’s not the whole story is it? Serving in a leader can be difficult, it can be messy. You see your own sin, you see other’s sin, you see pride, you see anger, you see conflict, it can leave you feeling drained physically, and emotionally and spiritually. How do you keep going over the long-term?

It’s important to take care of our body physically –  exercise, take days off, take holidays etc., but they can’t keep you going if your heart’s not in it. What is it that keeps people going in leadership over the long-term?

When the Bible talks about the qualifications for leadership, it often talks about character. A Christian leader will lead by example as they pursue godliness. Yet what is it that drives godly character in a leader?

The Bible says, one of the requirements for an elder is that: He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine (Titus 1:9)

One of the requirements of deacons: They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. (1 Timothy 3:9)

The Christian leader finds passion in the great truths of the Christian faith, and especially in the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one who has truly experienced the transforming and redeeming power of the gospel can think of life without passion… the Christian leader is driven by the convictions that give all of life its meaning. (Al Mohler)[1]

Steve Jobs was driven by a passion for technology, NRL captains are often driven by a passion for football, Michael Clarke is driven by a passion for cricket, even that’s not enough for the Aussies at the moment!, but Christian leaders are driven by the convictions that give all of life its meaning.

Paul says that when he came to the Thessalonians: our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. (1 Thessalonians 1:5)

One of the main things that keeps Christian leaders going over the long haul, is deep conviction. Deep conviction is what keeps them motivated. What are the things that Christians leaders have conviction about, the convictions that give all of life meaning?

Let consider Four convictions of a Christian leader:

1. God’s love for us in Jesus Christ

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

See how warm and personal that verse is, Paul says: The Son of God loved me, and gave himself for me. Paul knew plenty of struggles and hardship, he was shipwrecked, he was imprisoned, he was flogged, and stoned, left for dead, yet his conviction of Jesus love for him, kept him going, and made him willing to die for Christ.

It is heaven to serve Jesus….If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, even lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in Him. These forty years and more have I served Him, blessed be His name! And I have had nothing but love from Him. I would be glad to continue yet another forty years in the same dear service here below if so it pleased Him. (Charles Spurgeon)

Spurgeon knew plenty of hardship, he had many critics, his wife battled a life long illness, he struggled with depression, and yet he has a conviction of  Jesus love for him. He has felt nothing but love from Jesus.

Polycarp was a bishop of Smyrna in the second century when the church was facing persecution. He was arrested, and brought before a Roman proconsul who tried to get him to deny his faith in Jesus. He threatened him with wild beasts, and then with being burned at the stake. But Polycarp said: Eighty and six years have I now served Christ, and he has never done me the least wrong; how, then, can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?

There’s a conviction there, that has kept this leader going. He knows Christ personally, he’s convinced of his love for him, and enables him to persevere even in what for many would be the most stressful circumstance.

2. The authority and power of God’s word

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

You can see the seriousness and the passion in this charge. Two verses before this he tells us the word, he’s referring to – Scripture, the Bible the word of God that is able to make us wise for salvation, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The Conviction Paul is passing onto Timothy here, is a conviction of the authority and power of the word of God.

Martin Luther is recognised as a great leader. God used him as a leader in the reformation that has had such a huge impact on the history of our world. He was called to a meeting in the western German town of Worms, there he was asked to recant his writings, or risk being excommunicated or even killed.

Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe: Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen. (Martin Luther)

In the face of immense pressure to recant, Luther was driven by his conviction in the authority of the word of God.

3. The ongoing power of the gospel

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.(Romans 1:16)

The good news about Jesus comes to us in words, but it is more than words, it is a power. Paul had conviction of the power of the gospel to change lives.

Charles Spurgeon is known as one of the most successful preachers in history, thousands came to his church in London, both morning and night to hear him preach. Yet he was very clear about where the power lay for his ministry.

I have long worked out before your very eyes the experiment of the unaided attractiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Our service is severely plain. No man ever comes her to gratify his eye with art, or his ear with music. I have set before you, these many years, nothing but Christ crucified, and the simplicity of the gospel…we have proved successfully, these many years, this great truth, that the gospel plainly preached will gain an audience, convert sinners, and build up and sustain a church. (CH Spurgeon).

He lead his church with a conviction of the ongoing power of the gospel.

Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish rulers and questioned about some of their activities. Peter and John were ordinary unschooled men, standing in front of  the most powerful of the Jewish rulers, men, who were better educated, wealthier, and politically far more powerful than they were. It was an intimidating audience, yet they had a conviction of the power of God and his gospel. Here’s what they said about Jesus:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

The leaders told them to stop telling people about Jesus, But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20). In the face of great intimidation, these ordinary men showed great conviction in the power of God, and the message of Jesus – the gospel.

4. God’s love for the local church

Paul shows his conviction of the significance of the local church, when he charges the Ephesian elders with these words: Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

You can’t place a higher value on a local church than that can you? He’s referring to an ordinary local church, the church at Ephesus, and he calls it, God’s church, Jesus’ church, the church he bought with his own blood.

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 3:10)

Paul is convinced that the church has a significant role in God’s plan, displaying God’s wisdom.

Give yourself to the Church. You that are members of the Church have not found it perfect … Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us… the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, need all the help they can derive from … their fellow Believers. The Church is…the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family. (Charles Spurgeon)

When I think of Christian leaders who’ve influenced me and I think what it was about them, that had such an influence. I would say for all of them, it was their conviction. Sure their character was important, but it was a character, driven by conviction, by what they believed, about Jesus and his word, and the gospel, and the local church.

Our church needs leaders. God’s placed us in an area, where we are growing, yet there are so many around us who don’t know about Jesus. If we’re going to reach people, and if we’re going to build up Christians, we need leaders. People who will lead in their homes, and families. We need people who’ll lead in home groups, and discipleship groups, and music, and youth, and children’s ministry and administration, and in all sorts of areas at church. We need leaders with conviction. People convinced that loving God is more important than earthly comfort. It’s my prayer that these three weeks will be used by God to encourage you if you are leading, and grow more leaders for the glory of God.

[1] Albert Mohler, The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters


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