If we're not careful, we can believe that if we get better as leaders, then everything we lead will be successful. But what if God were to assign people to lead ministries that were important but unlikely to see any type of success. Would you be willing to lead something like that?
Think of how subtly addicted we as leaders are to growth and success. We're willing to step into leadership for success. Let's look at 3 stories of leaders who struggled.
Wess Stafford tells that Stephen Sundar was not able to get a visa to come to the US for the Summit so he will tell the story. This world is not our home--the Kingdom is upside down. The weak are strong. The servant is the leader. There will be great surprises in heaven when we discover the real heroes who were among us.
During Ethiopia people were starving and Christians were persecuted. The Church was forced underground. They had a deep hunger for the Word and were willing to talk for hours about it. They were bruised and scarred and Wess would feel like a boy among men.
Wess tells of a pastor who would not give up his faith under great persecution. His specialty was preaching at funerals, which was illegal. He was put in prison where he preached to the prisoners. They decided to electrocute him in the public square. They rigged up a crude device for this and when they threw the switch all the fuses blew and he survived. That night he preached in the prison again. The next morning they tried it again and threw the switch and again it failed. So they finally just released him. Wess met him a few hours later and the pastor was on his way to preach at a funeral. He told Wess that they pray for the suffering of those of us in the West who are so comfortable that we don't pray all day long or worship regularly. He told Wess that they tore up the only Bible they had and gave each person pages to memorize so they wouldn't be caught with it. During this oppression their church grew five-fold. Now Ethiopia is the channel for the growth of the Church in the middle east. When they are glorified in heaven, God grant that we would be somehow worthy to stand beside them.
Egypt--hot, surrounded by volatile nations, politically volatile. A group of people eke out their living by collecting garbage and recycling. Christians are shunned or persecuted by the Islamic majority. Maggie Gobran taught at the American University in Cairo and was when her aunt who served the poor passed away she was drawn to take her place.
She set up Stephen's Children to help the poorest of the poor with a holistic approach. Stephen's Children has 1400 staff members for 80 community centers. Children are fed, given health care, and a Christian education. Mama Maggie has been called the Mother Teresa of Egypt.
My soul magnifies the Lord for He has done great things for me. Story of a girl who she took to get shoes and the child instead chose shoes for her mother. "We don't choose where to be born but we DO choose whether to be sinners or saints--to be nobody or to be a hero. To be a hero, do what God wants you to do."
Egypt has had the highest number of martyrs in all history. Twenty-five years ago Maggie heard His call and took her step by step. First, as she read the Word she fell in love with the world. Jesus said, "My Words are spirit and life."
The second step was to sell everything. As the child of a doctor she had lived an affluent life. Later she learned to be elegant comes from inside--from love. And true love is to give and forgive--to give until it hurts.
She was teaching the brightest students in the country and God called her to the poorest of the poor. With God's grace she left everything and found Him waiting for her with a crown of love. "It's the moment when you die to yourself that you discover the beauty, the power."
The poor children are hungry for bread and for love. They are naked from lack of clothing but also lack of dignity. "When I touch the poor child, I am touching Jesus. When I listen to a poor child, I am listening to God's heart beating for all humanity." (Such a reminder of the work God calls us to in Operation Christmas Child) "We went to help them to have a better life, today they help us to be better people."
The third step is to have a pure heart and so she practiced the discipline of silence on a regular basis. In silence we discover eternity.
Secrets of silence--silence your body to listen to your words. silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts. silence your souls to listen to your heart beating. silence your heart to listen to your spirit. silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit. In silence you leave many to be with The One.
If God has chosen someone like me, believe me when I say I am the least of you here, He will do greater things in you.
Jeremiah (told by Bill Hybels)
God told Jeremiah to take His word to the godless people who had become corrupt and greedy. Jeremiah agreed and he thinks since he's doing it for God it will probably turn out well. But nothing goes well--no one will repent. One day he is beaten and tied up so people can spit at him and slap him. Jeremiah chapter 20 he gives God a piece of his mind "you deceived me. Cursed be the day I was born."
Jeremiah is torn between his calling and his ache for success. It's tearing him apart. Finally he decides to continue speaking God's words again. Now people throw him into a cistern and leave him to die. Some time later people had pity on him and get him out.
Jeremiah feels he has to give up his need for success so he goes out again to speak God's words and the people never change. One day the enemy comes to take everyone, including Jeremiah, into captivity and he then writes Lamentations. Writes out his disappointment and disillusionment but in Lamentations 3 he asserts "God's mercies were new every morning." He felt the sweetness of God's relationship underneath it all. In the end he says, "Great is Thy faithfulness."
Bill Hybels says "I had an easy calling, really. Got to lead a suburban church and people there already know how to lead. When we need a building built millions of dollars come in. My office looks like an office in any company and I drive a car like any CEO. I have had very little hardship."
If you watch on episode of news you know our world is broken. The fixes for these will take decades or lifetimes and God is looking for some strong-shouldered leaders who will be available. God is looking for someone who will take a tough calling.
Bill was on the board of World Vision and was on the selection committee to find a new president for the organization. Talked about the selection of Richard Stearns who left his job as CEO of Lenox to take this new challenge.
Bill asked him recently what the hardest thing is about leading World Vision and Rich said it's having your heart broken again and again and again.
Linda Lindhout, a reporter, who went to Somalia to report on what was happening there and while there she was kidnapped and held for 15 months. When released, God called her to go back to give humanitarian aid to the children of Somalia. She returned to serve there in Somalia.
"I stand in awe of leaders who get tough assignments." Bill gives a challenge to businesspersons and leaders to reach out and provide leadership for a tough calling of some sort in the community.
Jeremiah was asked by God to go buy a jar and then told him to gather a crowd. God told him to tell the crowd if they don't stop mistreating the poor I will smash their country and then smash the pot as an illustration of how they will be smashed. Jeremiah knew he would then probably be smashed. But Jeremiah takes a deep breath and smashes the jar and he's grabbed and beaten.
Take the piece of pottery you were given and write something on the clay to signify you're available for a tough calling.